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At 40-Year Mark, Grassroots International Announces Co-Executive Director Structure

#News and Press Releases
September 2023

Today, Grassroots International is excited to announce our new Co-Executive Director structure, as former Director of Grantmaking and Advocacy Sara Mersha joins current Executive Director Chung-Wha Hong in leading our organization. This move is part of a broader restructuring embraced by the Grassroots International board and staff to make the organization stronger, more collaborative, and more sustainable in the face of significant growth in recent years. Grassroots International’s board chair Maria Aguiar reflects:

The theme of our anniversary year is “40 years of keeping it radical.” This is a radical move by Grassroots International to live up to its commitment of organizational health and wellbeing, as well as its commitment to distribute power and leadership. The board could not be more delighted for this role to be filled by the amazing duo of Sara and Chung-Wha, women of color and long-time organizers who are radical in their dedication, love, and visionary leadership in living out our principles as a movement support organization.

Sara Mersha steps into her new role building upon 13 years of leading Grassroots International’s programmatic work, during which time she collaborated with other staff to nurture extraordinary growth in our movement partnerships, grantmaking capacities, and social action. Born in Ethiopia, Sara has spent the majority of her life in the United States and brings years of experience in community organizing and movement building, including as former executive director of Direct Action for Rights & Equality in Providence, Rhode Island.

Chung-Wha Hong, who has served as Grassroots International’s Executive Director for the past eight years, states:

I have worked with Sara from my first day at Grassroots and have been deeply inspired by her incredible leadership. Her transition to Co-Executive Director will further institutionalize Grassroots International’s commitment to movement-centered solidarity philanthropy and long-term partnerships with social movements.  

Sara’s collaborative, fierce, strategic, and loving spirit is a rare gift to all of us – staff, board, movement and donor partners. I cannot express how thrilled and grateful I am to work with Sara as Co-Executive Director as we mark our 40th anniversary, and look to the future.

As Sara becomes Co-Executive Director, Jovanna Garcia Soto is stepping into the role of Program Director, after more than a decade as Grassroots International’s Senior Solidarity Program Officer for Latin America. Jovanna came to Grassroots with a long history of community organizing and movement building for ecological justice and sovereignty in Chelsea (MA), Puerto Rico, and beyond, and brings this experience to her deep relationships with our partners.   

Reflecting on these transitions, Miriam Miranda of Grassroots International’s partner Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña/Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH), a prominent organization of the Afro-Indigenous Garífuna people of Honduras, states:

As social movements, we understand the importance of shared leadership, and the leadership of women in struggles. With these transitions, Grassroots International is practicing important values. We have known Chung-Wha, Sara, and Jovanna for many years, and we trust that together, we will continue strengthening our common work in defense of our people, ancestral territories, Mother Earth, and life!

Our board and staff see the Co-Director structure as a critical step toward strengthening Grassroots International as we step into the future, as part of ongoing efforts to learn and evolve as an organization. Sara Mersha reflects on these developments:

I am deeply honored and humbled to be invited to become Co-Executive Director with Chung-Wha, who is such a conscious, kind, collaborative, and visionary leader.  And it’s amazing for our organization to have Jovanna stepping into the role of Program Director, bringing so much wisdom, heart, and experience. It means a lot to be working together through a model of collaborative leadership as part of our grassroots feminist praxis.

The stakes are high, as our movement partners continue to put their lives on the line to defend and protect land, water, territory, seeds, and the Earth, with courage, love, and a deep understanding of interdependence and reciprocity. There couldn’t be a better time to be part of this collective effort, with committed staff, board, partners, and our broader community. Together we will build on the foundation of 40 years of organizational history, strengthen our ability to accompany social movements, and meet this moment with the best of who we can be.

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