Board & Advisors
J. Manuel Herrera, Board Chair
Manuel, an elected official in San Jose/Silicon Valley, envisions the transformation of the public square in our communities and an emerging 21st Century politics that is whole, generative, and personally transformative. His career is in public policy and administration, working with city managers, elected officials, and nonprofit agencies. Currently, Manuel is writing a book entitled The Reconciliation of Love & Power, which is about integrating principles of the spiritual quest with public leadership, politics, and the public process. “I’m excited to serve on the YES! board because it partners with young changemakers in a global network that is ever vibrant and emergent. YES! makes a difference by the way it brings heart and soul wisdom into its creative connections with young leaders.”
For Renee’, an actor, singer, songwriter, and filmmaker, living life to the fullest just comes naturally. Since leaving her hometown of New Orleans, she has worked on runways in New York, Miami and Los Angeles; taught acting, singing and songwriting internationally; starred in the Academy Award-winning film Ray with Jamie Foxx, co-produced and directed her first film; and released her debut CD, Voodoo Queen. Renee’ is also actively involved with life-changing organizations in the Bay Area, such as the Pride Foundation (the largest employer of people with disabilities), HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere), and YES!, where she is a Jam alum and facilitator. “I am very pleased to be a member of the YES! board. I am looking forward to doing amazing things with this community and continuing the work that has impacted myself and so many throughout the years. Thank you so much for this opportunity to serve and be in partnership with you. It is my privilege and honor.”
Julian is the Co-founder of Schools Without Borders(SWB), empowering a global network of organizations to deliver essential learning opportunities for young people outside the classroom. Julian has a decade of leadership experience working with communities as a facilitator, organizer and mentor. He has led initiatives ranging from corporate and community engagement, to youth employment and health and wellness projects across the Toronto Region and around the world. Julian brings collective leadership, organizational design, and multi-sectoral partnership expertise to his work. An Associate at Making Good, 2011 DiverseCity Fellow, Board Member at SWB and YES and consultant to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Julian is committed to establishing partnerships between corporate, government and community sectors in an effort to build “equity” for people, communities and society at large. “My first experience with YES! in the summer of 2008 was enough to win my heart for life. During the Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jam, I sat in community with a diverse group of souls deeply committed to a process of personal, interpersonal and systemic change. I was brought into a space where I was able to uncover some of my most powerful gifts and blatant blind spots. From grasping my personal power to exploring concepts of race, class, and privilege I found a more authentic self. My most profound realization was that being healthy, balanced and aligned at my core would ripple through every interaction in my life: that working from a place of love and abundance can only perpetuate more of the same. I’m honoured to be of service to this community.”
Alia grew up in Morocco and is constantly moving through different spaces looking to learn andunlearn, to grow, and to love. She has a master’s degree in international relations but has learnedeverything she knows outside the classroom. She is based in New York City and works as a freelance facilitator and consultant engaging individuals and groups around the world to achieve more connection, honesty, and depth. Alia is passionate about conflict transformation, freedom and identity, honesty, and joy. “At my first Jam, the Middle East Jam 2010, I was in awe at the power of simple things: true listening, being present, sharing from the heart, and uncompromised truth. I saw how these elements built a loving community able to support its members through difficult moments and deep transformations. I have since tried to bring a piece of the Jam to everything I do in life, and I am serving on the YES! Board to keep nurturing these precious spaces.”
Cynthia is the cofounder of InterPlay, an ambassador of play and an expert in the integration of body and soul. Starting in 1989, she developed the InterPlay practice and its curriculums with Phil Porter. They currently serve as executive directors of Body Wisdom, Inc, out of their studio and offices in Oakland, California, and provide leadership to people in cities and villages around the world interested in creative practices for healing, performance, leadership, and community development. In her writing, classes, performance and seminars, her goal is to foster freedom through a creativity that bridges people, cultures, and ideas. Cynthia has produced the “Unbelievable Beauty of Being Human’ and “Cultures of Peace” performances in Australia, India, and the U.S. Her books include What the Body Wants, Dance: A Sacred Art: Discovering the Joy of Movement as Spiritual Practice, and Chasing the Dance of Life. Cynthia delights most in being an artist, mom, spouse, and spiritual companion through Mystic Tech. Joining YES! she says, “A few years ago as I was dancing to discern about focus I suddenly knew I needed to do all I can to support young activists, artists, and leaders. I soon met these sane, wild and graceful young leaders who were calling for and implementing strategies that tap the golden hope of community: justice, beauty, and health. YES offers one of the best places to learn about and nurture this stream of activated dreamers. I am happy to be onboard.”
Austin is a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter who has toured extensively throughout the U.S and Europe as a member of The House Jacks, a multi-award winning a cappella rock band currently featured on The Sing Off on NBC and on Monday Night Football on ESPN. He is the director of ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group and has facilitated over 35 youth retreats, as well as four Leveraging Privilege for Social Change Jams for YES!. He donates his musical talent to a wide range of educational, social and environmental organizations. “As we get busier and busier, ever briefer exchanges pass for communication. Given the extent to which we are adept at not fully listening to one another, YES!’s work is more vital now than ever. I am thrilled to be able to support an organization that exists to host and create spaces wherein people communicate truthfully, deeply and fearlessly, because it will take nothing short of that to reshape the world we are living in into the world we want it, and need it, to be.”
Michele Bissonnette Robbins is excited to now be serving on the Board of YES!. She is a mother, singer/songwriter and transformational healing facilitator. As a teenager, Michele volunteered for peace in Russia, and studied ecological and spiritual communities around the globe. In 1994, at age 18, she joined “YES!”, with which she toured the United States speaking to more than 50,000 students in high school assemblies. In 1998, she became a founding partner in YES!’s birth as an independent non-profit organization and co-directed the organization with her beloved, Ocean, until 2006, when she left to give her time more fully to homeschooling/unschooling her twins with autism, exploring her musical path, growing her family’s garden and to the deep reflection and inner work that were calling to her. In 2010, as Ocean stepped back from YES!, Michele stepped forward as Managing Director. Now, she is honored to be serving in this role with the YES! community.
* * * * *
Tracy is joining the YES! team as our Development Advisor. Tracy is a nonprofit serial entrepreneur who has started and worked with others to build over 18 non-profits and multiple foundations. She is a donor activist and legacy advisor to many older and next generation family members, through her work with Inspired Legacies. Tracy is a long time fan and supporter of YES!, and aims to raise with others over a billion dollars for social justice during her lifetime. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with YES! Jam members and leaders is always an honor. We have a world to reboot. I cannot think of a better organization and team to partner with to make change happen intergenerationally. Count me in!”
Cesar Chavez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993), founder of United Farm Workers and a leading voice for the rights of farm workers in the United States and the rights of migrant workers worldwide, learned of YES!’s vision in 1990 and was inspired enough by our vision to lend his name on our board of advisors and to offer his love and blessing. His life and legacy are a source of profound inspiration to YES!, and we are deeply grateful to honor his memory through our work.
David Brower (July 1, 1912 – November 5, 2000), founder of Earth Island Institute, Friends of the Earth, League of Conversation Voters, and The Sierra Club Foundation, led the campaign to save the Grand Canyon and helped to establish the national wilderness preservation system. He was a supporter of YES! from our beginnings in 1990, participating in multiple board meetings, and speaking at our five YES! events and press conferences. At the 1996 World Youth Leadership Jam, guest presenter David Brower was asked what gave him hope for our planet’s future, and he responded: “This Jam and the young leaders here are what give me hope for our future. To overcome the challenges facing our world today, young people must take the future into their own hands. What inspires me most about this camp is that these young people are not working with false idealism. They are organized and practical in implementing positive programs that are really making a difference. And as of this Jam, they are working together.”
River Phoenix (August 23, 1970 — October 31, 1993), an Oscar award-winning actor whose performances touched hearts and inspired imaginations, River also had a deep commitment to animal rights and sustainability. Indeed, he looked at his career as having value insofar as he could leverage it to make a difference in the world. His family was among the first major financial supporters of YES!’s work, and his siblings and mother have continued to support YES! in the years since his passing. River’s life and work were among the many inspirations for YES!’s Leveraging Privilege for Social Change program.