Exhale is an organization with leaders at every level, and we have a commitment to supporting experienced leaders while developing new ones. Our leaders’ unique talents and strengths are leveraged to meet organizational goals and needs. A community-led nonprofit, Exhale’s volunteers, staff, and board members work in partnership with the broader Pro-Voice Movement to implement fresh ideas that improve our programs; adapt technology to meet the changing needs of our communities; and take important risks to deepen the impact of the Pro-Voice Movement.
Reverend Susan Chorley, Executive Director
Rev. Susan Chorley (B.A. Wake Forest University 1994, M.Div/M.A. in Feminist Theology American Baptist Seminary of the West/Graduate Theological Union, 2002) is an ordained American Baptist minister who has served congregations in NC, WA, CA and MA. Susan joins Exhale after serving as the Associate Director and Minister of Programs at the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry in Roxbury, MA where she oversaw programming focused on domestic violence and out-of-school enrichment for high school students. Rev. Chorley has a deep history with Exhale, as a co-founder and long-time board member. Susan is also a co-founder of the Massachusetts Restorative Justice Collaborative and founder of “Partners in Faith” a roundtable for individuals, organizations and congregations who are engaged in faith based organizing around intimate partner violence. In her 17 years of involvement with Exhale, Susan has held deep relationships with staff, volunteers, and others in the Exhale community, serving as an advisor and thought leader. Susan is also a public storyteller, having first shared her personal abortion experience in a 2016 Parent’s Magazine article featuring the stories of mothers who have had abortions. This publicity led to the launch of Exhale’s Pro-Voice Sermon Tour, during which Susan shared her story as a means to create space for bringing abortion into church communities. Building on the success of the tour, The Daily Beast published her op-ed in October 2016. Susan was named a “2017 Faith Leader to Watch” by the Center for American Progress, receiving praise for her boldness in preaching about her abortion to congregations around the country, and was featured in a recent CNN.com piece about Exhale’s groundbreaking pro-voice work. Susan speaks, consults, leads workshops and writes frequently on topics including faith, domestic violence, restorative justice and being an effective ally/accomplice to communities targeted by racism as well as LGBQ/T communities. Susan and her 15 year old son live in Boston, MA.
Board of Directors
Exhale’s Board Members are leaders whose volunteer service to Exhale is critical to engaging more people and communities in the Pro-Voice Movement. Board members are role models for pro-voice values and practices in every facet of their personal and professional lives; and as organizational culture carriers, they put our strength-based approach to decision-making into regular practice. Strategic, experienced, and always learning and adapting through experience, Exhale Board Members spread the pro-voice message through their networks and communities as ambassadors, fundraisers, and leaders.
Natalia Koss Vallejo, Seattle, WA, President
Natalia Koss Vallejo was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. Her mother, a Colombian immigrant and mental health professional, and her father, an electrician member of IBEW Local 494 and long-time activist, instilled progressive values in her from a very young age. After her own unplanned pregnancy and abortion at age 17, Natalia spent the next 13 years of her career devoted to reproductive justice and advocacy, working with organizations like Exhale, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL. Through her work with Exhale, Natalia was trained as a story sharer and public speaker, and has since shared her abortion story with many media outlets including MTV, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Al Jazeera, and the Huffington Post. In addition to her abortion story sharing work, she has also worked as a consultant and field organizer for several grassroots campaigns in WI, and after graduating from Public Allies (an Americorps program) worked in several community based nonprofits. She earned her degree from University of Wisconsin with a dual major in Latin American Studies and Women’s Studies, with minor certificates in LGBTQA and Caribbeans/U.S. Latino studies. Natalia moved to Seattle, WA in 2016 after falling in love with the Pacific Northwest’s gloomy weather. She loves gardening, cooking, and playing pool and when she’s not fighting for progressive policy, she’s obsessively watching Game of Thrones or Star Trek: The Next Generation. After spending her first year and a half working as the Statewide Field Organizer for NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, she accepted a new position as Executive Director for the King County Democrats in August of 2017. She now lives with her partner, Daniel, and their cat, Newton, in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood.
Sally Steenland, Washington, DC, Secretary
Sally Steenland is a writer and consultant whose work focuses on women, work and family; reproductive justice; religious liberty; and the influence of religion on politics and culture. For 11 years she directed the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Policy, where she led national and state-based work on religious liberty, reproductive justice, economic inequality, anti-Muslim bigotry and more. While at CAP, Sally created the Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute, wrote a weekly column, Faith in Values, and served as a national spokesperson on issues of faith, values and culture. Before working at CAP, Sally was a frequent op-ed columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where she wrote a syndicated column on critical social issues. She spent a decade at the National Commission on Working Women and Wider Opportunities for Women, where her work focused on women in nonprofessional jobs and the image and employment of women in the media.
Genevieve Brennan, Brooklyn, NY
Genevieve Brennan is a digital publishing professional, working with media and technology partners at Google. She focuses on enabling news and magazine publishers grow their audience and innovate for our digital, mobile world. Whether it’s a breaking news article, a live video, or a nice long novel, she wants to know about it, and she wants you to have access to it too. A graduate of Wellesley College, Genevieve is a strong supporter of women’s rights around the world, and believes that storytelling is one of the most important ways of understanding ourselves and one another.
Laurenellen McCann, Washington, DC
Laurenellen McCann is an educator and organizer known internationally for their work on power-shifting approaches to civic engagement, reform, and innovation. In 2014, they started the movement to prioritize community-leadership in civic tech under the banner, “build with, not for”. Currently, Laurenellen participates in DC local efforts to support resilience, resistance, and protect human rights during our new political regime and the hereafter. In the past, they’ve co-designed community impact evaluations (New America DC, Smart Chicago Collaborative), taught local governments how to structure projects for meaningful public contribution (Sunlight Foundation, Open Technology Institute, Funk Parade), lead anti-oppression and bias discovery trainings for institutions (New America, Code for America Brigades), lobbied on the freedom of information act (Sunlight Foundation), and “gave birth” to a giant cardboard dinosaur/community mascot. L(e) is the author of “Experimental Modes of Civic Engagement in Civic Tech” (2015) and a contributor to the (Re)Building Technology zine. In 2013, TIME Magazine named them one of 30 folks under 30 changing the world. More at laurenellen.com and @elle_mccann.
Mariya Taher, Boston, MA
Mariya Taher has worked in the anti-gender violence field for nearly a decade in the areas of research, policy, program development, and direct service. She received her Master of Social Work from San Francisco State University in 2010 where she pursued a qualitative study titled, “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the United States.” Since then, she has worked on the issue of domestic violence at W.O.M.A.N., Inc., Asian Women’s Shelter, and Saheli, Support and Friendship for South Asian Women and Families. In 2014, she was a Women’s Policy Institute Fellow for The Women’s Foundation of California and her team successfully passed legislation to provide low-income survivors of domestic violence with basic needs grants. She has been an adjunct lecturer at San Francisco State University where she taught “Gender, Sexism, and Social Welfare Institutions.” In 2015, she cofounded Sahiyo, an award-winning, internationally recognized organization to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting. In 2017, she joined the Topos Partnership, an organization with the mission to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out, as their Narrative Liaison.
The Manhattan Young Democrats named her a 2017 Engendering Progress honoree and ABC news did a special feature on her, entitled: Underground: American Woman Underwent Female Genital Mutilation Comes Forward. Her story was nominated for a 2016 Webby Award for Individual Short or Episode. NewsDeeply has named her 1 of 6 FGC experts to watch.
Mariya is also a prolific writer in fiction and nonfiction with essays and short stories appearing on NPR, Ms. Magazine, Huffington Post, Brown Girl Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, The Express Tribune, The San Francisco Examiner, The Flexible Persona, Cecile’s Writer’s Magazine, and more. Follow her on Twitter @mariyataher83
Ayesha Kazmi, Boston, MA
Ayesha Kazmi is the Director of the Amal Women’s Center, a transitional home serving Muslim women survivors of domestic violence in Boston, Massachusetts. With a background as a Community Organizer, Ayesha organized on a variety of issues such as affordable housing in low income neighborhoods, Islamophobia and challenges to Muslim civil rights under the US Federal Government’s Countering Violent Extremism program (CVE), as well as on issues of race and racism. She currently provides her expertise serving as an Adviser to the Muslim Justice League (MJL) and as a Fellow at the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), having gained her expertise on the War on Terror and related issues previously working in London, England as a journalist, researcher and analyst. In 2011, Ayesha’s findings in her report on British stop and frisk laws were provided to the UK government as a policy recommendation. Ayesha’s research and expertise has featured in many outlets such as The Guardian, the BBC and the New York Review of Books.
Jessica Robinson, New York, NY
Jessica Robinson is Founder and CEO of PurePoint International helping people and companies to be safe by bridging the gap between physical and cyber security. She is owner of the #1 security company of choice for women-led and/or owned businesses and organizations globally and is the winner of the JCI Philippines-New York ICON of IMPACT Award for International Affairs and Women’s Security. As a business cyber security and personal security expert, she supports clients with outsourced Chief Information Security Officer, CISO services including cyber security board governance, incident response, creating cyber security policies and procedures, conducting security assessments and employee training on cyber security prevention, information security, and threat prevention. PurePoint International provides affordable training and consulting focused on creating a safe and empowered workplace for startups, middle market companies, and international non-profits up to 1000 employees. Jessica is co-author of the #1 Amazon best seller “Mission Unstoppable.”
Volunteers and Consultants
Aspen Baker, Exhale Founder
Aspen Baker is an award-winning author, leader and speaker. She is the author of Pro-Voice: How to Keep Listening When the World Wants a Fight, and the Founder of Exhale. She served as Exhale’s Executive Director for 15 years.
Aspen gave the first TED talk on abortion in 2015, which has more than 1.5 million views. Her book “Pro-Voice,” also published in 2015, received Living Now Award’s 2016 Evergreen Gold Medal for World Peace and an IPPY Bronze Medal for Current Events (Humanitarian Issues). She has written for Elle.com, New York Times, TED.com, New York Daily News, Refinery29, Huffington Post, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review, among others. As a spokesperson for Exhale, Aspen has been featured by media outlets across the country, including CNN Headline News, Fox National News, Ladies Home Journal, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and many more. Her essay “My Abortion Brought Us Together” was featured in the anthology Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection.
Aspen was named “Miss Body Positive” by Mashable and called a “fun, fearless female” by Cosmopolitan. She lives in Oakland, California with her family.
You can find her on Twitter: @aspenbaker
Mara Kassoff, Lead Finance Consultant
Mara Kassoff, MBA, has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, specializing in human-centered program design, operations, and financial management. Mara began her career as an educator, with a focus on designing social justice programming to meet the needs of Bay Area vulnerable communities. Bringing a human-centered approach to the operations side of nonprofit organizations, Mara is uniquely positioned to provide nonprofits of all sizes with tools and coaching that create effective and efficient communications between the programming and operations sides of “the house.” She works with nonprofits to help them optimize their organizational infrastructures. She’s thrilled to be supporting Exhale’s financial management needs.
Roxanna Curiel, M.Ed. Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies, A sister, daughter, tía, prima, comadre, student, educator, and advocate—her community guides her heartwork. She is inspired by the labor and visions that women of color and QTPOC (continue to) gift the world. She has served as the youth program coordinator at a sexual violence, domestic violence, and HIV prevention organization in Boyle Heights, CA, has conducted research on sexual and reproductive health access and education, and supports racial-economic-gender-sexual-reproductive-disability justice movements. She is a member of the Utah Reproductive Justice Community Advisory Board, co-founder of the Utah RJ Fund Project, and emerging funds cohort member with the National Network of Abortion Funds. She offers her language skills (Spanish, Portuguese, & Spanglish) to strengthen community building projects.
She hopes to gain more skills to provide doula support for young people, immigrant communities, and folks who are incarcerated. She loves to eat chilaquiles, enjoys reading bilingual children’s books, and believes in the power of storytelling as an organizing tool in collaborative social justice efforts. Recently, her curiosity has weaved together conversations about collective healing and (re)defining love and intimacy. Rox resides in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in Cudahy, California. ¡En la lucha!
Rox es una hermana, hija, tía, prima, comadre, estudiante, educadora y organizadora. El amor hacia su comunidad guía sus proyectos políticos y sociales. Ella está inspirada por las visiones de justicia social que las mujeres de color y la comunidad LGBTQ ofrecen para crear un mundo mejor. Se ha desempeñado como coordinadora de un programa de jóvenes en contra de la violencia sexual, violencia doméstica y educación sobre la prevención del VIH en Boyle Heights, CA. Ella ha realizado investigaciones sobre el acceso y la educación en salud sexual y reproductiva durante su programa de maestría en educación. Ella apoya los movimientos sociales que se enfocan en la justicia racial, económica, sexual, reproductiva y de la discapacidad. Es miembra de “Utah Reproductive Justice Community Advisory Board”, cofundadora del Proyecto Utah RJ Fund y también está involucrada con proyectos de la Red Nacional de Fondos de Aborto. Ella ofrece sus habilidades lingüísticas (habla español, ingles, portugués y spanglish ) para fortalecer los proyectos del desarrollo de la comunidad.
Su interés incluye desarrollar más habilidades para brindar apoyo con servicios de doula para los jóvenes, comunidades inmigrantes y personas que están encarceladas. Le encanta comer chilaquiles, le gusta leer libros bilingües para niños y cree en el poder de la narración de historias como herramienta para organizar. Recientemente, su curiosidad se ha enfocado en un tejido de conversaciones sobre la sanación colectiva y el proceso de despatriarcalizar el amor y el compañerismo.
Rox vive en Salt Lake City, Utah y creció en Cudahy, California.
¡En la lucha!