VOCAL-NY Names Jennifer Flynn Executive Director; Alyssa Aguilera to Head Political & Lobbying Arm VOCAL-NY Action Fund

Press Release | 7/23/14

VOCAL-NY Names Jennifer Flynn Executive Director; Alyssa Aguilera to Head Political & Lobbying Arm VOCAL-NY Action Fund 

A Co-Founder & Former Director Returns, Bringing Significant Experience in Advocacy, Community Organizing and Coalition Building on HIV/AIDS, LGBT, Economic Justice & Drug Policy Issues 

(Brooklyn, NY) VOCAL-NY announced today that Jennifer Flynn is returning as the Executive Director, while Alyssa Aguilera will serve as the Executive Director of the organization’s affiliated 501(c)(4) electoral and lobbying arm, VOCAL-NY Action Fund. VOCAL-NY is the leading grassroots organization working on HIV/AIDS, drug policy and mass incarceration in New York.

Jennifer and family

Jennifer (on the right) with her partner Bela and their two kids, Flynn and Rock.

Jennifer co-founded the organization, then known as the NYC AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN), in the late 1990s and served as the director for nine years. In the wake of highly effective new medications to treat HIV/AIDS, Jennifer steered the organization to address the root causes of the epidemic in poor communities, developing an innovative community organizing model and expanding the mission to encompass work to end the drug war and mass incarceration, always with an emphasis on promoting community leadership and a commitment to broader social justice goals. Most recently, Jennifer served as the Managing Director of Health GAP, an international advocacy organization working to ensure all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to life-saving treatment.

“From door-knocking in shelters to recruit new members to knocking down doors to government agencies and corporations to demand accountability, Jennifer has demonstrated a relentless focus on justice for marginalized communities,” said Wanda Hernandez, VOCAL-NY’s Board Chair. “She has the proven experience to manage a growing organization while maintaining grassroots leadership and uncompromising integrity in our goals.”

Alyssa headshot

Alyssa Aguilera

Alyssa joined the organization last year as the Political Director, leading campaigns to reform discriminatory policing practices, create alternatives to the drug war, and address the collateral consequences of mass incarceration. She also coordinated the Action Fund’s electoral organizing last year that helped produce our progressive-led City Council and increased the number of LBT Council members. She’ll continue serving as the Political Director for VOCAL-NY in addition to running the Action Fund.

“If policymakers make decisions about our lives and we’re not at the table, the results are usually bad for our communities,” said Bobby Tolbert, a Board member of VOCAL-NY Action Fund. “Alyssa’s commitment to citizen lobbying and electoral organizing will help ensure the voices of New Yorkers on the frontlines of the drug war, mass incarceration, and HIV/AIDS epidemic are heard and taken seriously.”

This past year, VOCAL-NY led the way to create an affordable housing protection for 14,000 homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, respond to the overdose crisis by expanding access to a lifesaving antidote called naloxone, improve access to hepatitis C testing, among other campaign victories. Jennifer and Alyssa will now lead VOCAL-NY as it pushes for a bold plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020, statewide legislation to decriminalize marijuana and require racial and ethnic impact statements for future criminal justice policy proposals, a NYC law reducing employment discrimination against people who are formerly incarcerated, a health-based approach to ending overdose deaths, and more.

Jennifer’s first day at VOCAL-NY is September 1, and Alyssa has already taken her position at the VOCAL-NY Action Fund. The current executive director, Sean Barry, is stepping down to attend law school.

Contact: Jennifer Flynn, 917.517.5202, Jennifer (at) vocal-ny (dot) org | Alyssa Aguilera, 917.200.1446, Alyssa (at) vocalnyaction (dot) org.

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Biographies

Jennifer Flynn

Jennifer Flynn will become the Executive Director of VOCAL-NY on September 1, 2014, returning to a role she held for nine years after co-founding the organization (formerly known as the NYC AIDS Housing Network) in 1998 and leading highly successful community organizing and grassroots campaigns to win affordable housing, welfare rights, harm reduction services and criminal justice reform. Jennifer continued on the Board of Directors at VOCAL-NY and has remained actively involved with fundraising, program oversight and staff development. She currently serves as the Managing Director of Health GAP (Global Access Project), an international advocacy organization that has led campaigns to deliver lifesaving treatment to over 7 million people living with HIV/AIDS in low and middle income countries. She has also been a Taproots Fellow at the Center for Community Change, a consultant for the Open Society Institute, and an outreach worker at the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center.

In addition to VOCAL-NY, Jennifer sits on the Board of Directors for the North Star Fund, Met Council on Housing Education and Research Fund, QUEEROCRACY, and Health GAP, and she co-chairs the North Star Fund Community Funding Committee. She is a past recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award, Union Square Award and New York City Council Hero Award, and was named one of the most promising AIDS activists by Poz Magazine in 2001 and one of the country’s 25 leading LGBT AIDS activists by HIV Plus Magazine in 2009. She is a former member of ACT UP NY, Fed Up Queers and other direct action groups, and was on the steering committee of the first US Social Forum and the Still We Rise Coalition.

Jennifer has written numerous articles on HIV/AIDS and social justice issues, including “The Drug Users Organizing Manual” (OSI, 2005) and a chapter in “That’s Revolting: Queers Strategies for Resisting Assimilation” (Soft Skull Press, 2004). She has been interviewed and quoted extensively in the media, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, New Yorker, CNN and the O’Reilly Factor.

Jennifer holds a MS from the New School for Social Research and was the first US-based activist selected for Columbia University’s Human Rights Advocates Training Fellowship.  She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her spouse, Bela August Walker, their 2 kids, and their 2 dogs.

Alyssa Aguilera

Alyssa Aguilera has been the Political Director for VOCAL-NY since March 2013, with primary responsibility for directing our issue campaigns on economic justice, mass incarceration, and police reform. While she will continue in that role, she will also become the Executive Director of our affiliated 501(c)(4), the VOCAL-NY Action Fund, starting in June 2014. Alyssa has already been serving as the Political Director for the Action Fund, where she coordinated candidate endorsements during the 2013 NYC elections and electoral organizing to build support for the Community Safety Act.

Prior to VOCAL-NY, Alyssa spent four years as a Community Organizer in the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), where she developed community organizing campaigns to improve access to quality health care for the publicly insured and uninsured, created community education efforts on patient rights and health disparities, and led policy initiatives through lobbying, earned media and coalition building. She has also worked for the Boston Workers Alliance and SEIU in Houston, TX. She serves on the Board of Directors for Brooklyn Perinatal Network and Communities United for Police Reform Action Fund.

Alyssa graduated from Harvard University cum laude with a BA in Government and a secondary in Latin American Studies. She was selected for the Coro Immigrant Civic Leadership Program in 2010 and the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service at NY’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2011-2012. She is fluent in Spanish.

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