Kristin Fortier is completely outraged at the oppression and dehumanization happening in our country towards people of color and immigrants. Witnessing the racism happening to friends and loved ones compelled her commitment to backing local immigrant rights groups and their efforts to protect the vulnerable. Kristin has worked in the Windham, Mansfield, and Coventry Public Schools systems for over 15 years working with kiddos with autism and special education, as a Teaching Artist/Muralist and After School Coordinator. Kristin holds a bachelor’s degree in painting and printmaking and has been a muralist for over 20 years working in local schools, libraries, colleges and private residences. Kristin is also a member of the Windham Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Vania Galicia-Bacilio is an immigrant who has lived in Willimantic Connecticut since she was three years old. She first began organizing when she was 16 years old through a local organization called GROW Windham, which inspired her to become more involved in the immigrants’ rights movement. Since, she has been involved in the movement through several local organizations such as, Connecticut Students For a Dream, The Windham Immigrant’s Rights Coalition, Freedom at Eastern, and The Neighbor Fund. She is now attending Eastern Connecticut State University and working towards earning her English bachelor’s degree, and plans to use her degree to attend Law school in order to become an immigration lawyer.
Glenn Mitoma grew up in California and New Hampshire spending much of his time making photographs and falling off skateboards. He attended the UC Santa Cruz earning a BA in photography, and after several years working in the creative field in Seattle, Glenn returned to graduate school in California and earned a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies. Today, he lives in Mansfield, Connecticut, with his wife, two sons, three dogs, two cats, and flock of chickens, and works at UConn as a professor of human rights and education. Glenn is the grandson of Masako and Tatsuya Mitoma, who, along with their families, were incarcerated in the Topaz Relocation Camp during the Second World War because of their Japanese ancestry. This history grounds his commitment to building inclusive communities, combating racism and xenophobia, and working to promote a culture of human rights.
Kathleen Tonry grew up in New York and California. She now lives in Mansfield with her husband and three tall children, and is an English professor at UConn. Her commitment to immigration as a human right was formed during time spent in San Jose, CA, working for a state jobs program. Over two summers, she and her colleagues – (mostly) first-generation Vietnamese refugees – worked in solidarity with (mostly) young Mexican immigrants to find new solutions to housing, food, communication and legal needs. Her work on the Neighbor Fund is motivated by the diversity and energetic optimism of our community.
Chris Vials is Director of American Studies at the University of Connecticut and lives with his wife Cathy Schlund-Vials in Willimantic. He has been involved in a number of issues in Connecticut, including advocacy for unions representing carpenters, laborers, and public sector workers; he also served on the Windham Energy Commission to help bring more energy efficiency and solar power to the town. He got involved with the Neighbor Fund to help those who have been unfairly scapegoated for the failures of an economy that does not help the majority.
Ben Wiles is a shareholder at the law firm of Uptime, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. He is also a member of the Mansfield Economic Development Commission and the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Technology Council. In addition to basic human rights concerns, Ben is involved with The Neighbor Fund to help ensure immigrants' continuing economic contributions.
Kathy Pérez-Quiñones grew up in the west coast of Puerto Rico and later moved to San Juan for her undergrad studies in Political Science. Almost three years ago, she moved to Connecticut as a graduate student in the Latino and Latin American program at UConn. Living in Willimantic, she quickly felt and noticed the disparities that reign this unequal state, and also learned the importance of community-building and networks of support. Kathy spends a lot of time exploring around Willi, and currently works at GROW Windham. She is passionate about food sovereignty and liberatory practices. She is committed to leveraging her privilege as a Puerto Rican, to support and stand by the people in the community that support her everyday.