Kisha Bird, Program Consultant, Higher Education in Prison Program. Pronouns: she, her hers. Kisha is an independent consultant; prior to her work as a consultant she was CLASP’s director of youth policy. Kisha has expertise in youth development, workforce development policy, reentry and career pathways with an explicit focus on racial equity, opportunity youth, and individuals impacted by the criminal justice system. In her consulting work, she provides strategy, research and policy support to social justice organizations and coalitions. Kisha has also worked in the public and non-profit sector in a variety of roles, including as the director of the Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network at the Center for Schools and Communities and a program officer at the Philadelphia Foundation. She serves on several boards and advisory committees including the Institute for Educational Leadership, Forward Promise and Opportunity Youth United, and is a member of the social justice ministry at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Kisha holds a master of social service and master of law and social policy from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and earned a bachelor’s in sociology from Spelman College. She enjoys travel, movies and spending time with family and friends. She is the founder of Travel Deeper Inc., a small business that specializes in curated cultural travel experiences to West Africa, supporting local artisans and entrepreneurs, and connecting Black people across the diaspora.
Karen Carlton, Grants & Operations Coordinator. Pronouns: she, her, hers. After spending a good part of her career as an advocate for people with disabilities, Karen is thrilled to be working for Laughing Gull Foundation on the philanthropy side of the nonprofit arena, supporting other issue areas that she is passionate about. Karen’s work with First In Families of North Carolina and Community Partnerships provided a good foundation for her work with LGF, and Karen has increasingly focused her work on grants management and "all things data." Karen also loves getting to know LGF grantees. Karen has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from Meredith College. After spending 8 years commuting to Durham from Raleigh, Karen realized that Durham is "home" and moved there in 2015. She and her pack of three dogs love it! In her spare time, Karen loves watching her niece play beach volleyball at Louisiana State University. She also spends time with a young man with Down Syndrome, who crawled into her heart almost 30 years ago.
Christopher J. Cuevas, Program Officer, LGBTQ+ Equality Program. Pronouns: they, them, theirs. Christopher joined LGF in October 2020. A lifelong peace practitioner, educator, and community organizer, Christopher leads their work for cultural transformation by centering the unapologetic and unwavering power of radical love. A child of undocumented immigrants and a queer person of color, Christopher interconnects their lived experience and drives the necessary heart work of building a culture of peace, compassion, and change through advocating for LGBTQ+, immigrant, and racial justice movements. Through their work, Christopher has led conversations and facilitated campaigns addressing structural racism, health equity, and LGBTQ+ issues. In 2016, following the horrific massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, Christopher co-founded and served as the executive director of QLatinx, a racial, social, and gender justice movement working toward the advancement of intersecting LGBTQ+ Latinx issues. An avid peacebuilder, Christopher serves on the Board of Directors for the Peace and Justice Institute, a nationally recognized center for peace education. Christopher also served on the Advisory Board for the City of Orlando’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, working to highlight and address the needs of the City’s growing multicultural community. Christopher earned a Bachelor of Arts from Rollins College.
Dr. LaTonya Penny, Executive Director. Pronouns: She/her/hers. Dr. Penny is a longtime advocate for those who have been pushed to the margins. She brings over 20 years of experience leading organizations, serving as an executive director, consultant, and organizer. She founded Mary's Grace Incorporated in 2013 to assist faith communities and schools with creating safe spaces of inclusion with persons who are differently abled. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of Family Abuse Services of Alamance County, Inc. and the Associate Director of Church Services for All Belong Center for Inclusive Education. Dr. Penny is committed to giving time and talents to the community and does so by participating on the boards of North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness (NCCEH) and L'Arche North Carolina. Her commitment to inclusion led her and her partner to launch Belonging Fellowship, a ministry committed to creating a safe space for all to live out their faith and make an impact in their community through community service and giving. She is a published writer and sought after speaker. Dr. Penny earned a Bachelor of Arts from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a Master of Arts from East Carolina University, a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University and she completed her Doctor of Ministry from Campbell University. She is the mother of twins and enjoys spending quality time with family and friends.
Cynthia Renfro, Senior Program Consultant, Climate & Environment Program. Pronouns: she, her hers. Cynthia is the principal and CEO at Civis Consulting LLC, a consulting firm launched in 2012 to support philanthropic institutions and community-based organizations in developing and implementing strategic and intentional programs. Cynthia served as a consultant on LGF's LGBTQ Program Expansion project in 2016-2017 and managed LGF's LGBTQ Program from 2018 to 2020. Cynthia previously worked at the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Beldon Fund, and the Turner Foundation in Atlanta. Cynthia serves on the board of directors of the Public Citizen Foundation and Funders for LGBTQ Issues and has joined the Advisory Committee for Front and Centered. She previously served on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the National Network of Grantmakers, the Environmental Leadership Program, and the Neighborhood Funders Group, as well as on the Capital Campaign Advisory Committee at the Highlander Research & Education Center. Cynthia is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, and went on to become a Rackham Merit Fellow Ph.D student of American History at the University of Michigan. Cynthia loves to read sci fi, binge watch netflix with her partner, and sail in Puget Sound. But she is currently most excited about playing a role with some of the best social justice philanthropy in the South.