Who We Are

  • Pronouns: (She/Her/Hers)
    Director of Operations

    When people ask how I came to do my work, I often tell an amusing anecdote about volunteering to work on a newsletter published by students in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and being recruited to a new job while sitting on a purple couch. However, as with most things in life, the truth is more complex than that. I would say I came to this space by taking a chance, by following a desire and curiosity to find more, to do more to create change. I would also say my upbringing in Minnesota had an impact, teaching me to care deeply for others, to recognize the humanity in everyone, and to honor the beauty of living things.

    I grew up believing in kindness and courage. I also grew up believing in books—in the magic of worlds that exist on something as thin and fragile as a piece of paper. I came to Emerson for higher education and changed my major several times. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I will probably never be able to answer that question with a definitive response. When I think of why I do the work I do and how I came to do it, I think about the moments in my life where there has been uncertainty or pain. In those moments, I turned to books, to the solace and hope and power of words. I have deep gratitude for words to share stories and connect beyond the page. It is through writing that I found my place, and I admire those who use words in community with others to honor humanity and find joy.  

    Alayne Fiore is Director of Operations and Special Assistant to the Vice President for the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.

  • Pronouns: (She/Her/Hers)
    Survivor Counselor/Advocate

    I identify as a biracial woman of color who was born and raised in beautiful Colorado. I’m a first-generation student and earned my degree from Colorado State University. Throughout my studies I have found my passion for understanding the complexities of how communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by power-based interpersonal violence. I am invested in supporting survivors of color who are navigating a patriarchal system that has been designed to work against survivors. I believe in having an intersectional approach to advocacy and have been providing confidential trauma-informed care to survivors of power-based interpersonal violence for over 5 years in various positions and settings within higher education. I am excited to bring my knowledge and warm energy to the Healing & Advocacy Collective as a confidential Survivor Advocate. Some of my interests include attending live music gatherings, going on road trips, and getting the chance to express my creative side by playing with clay and throwing on the wheel. 

    Courtney Kavanah is Survivor Counselor/Advocate with the Healing & Advocacy Collective in the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.

  • Pronouns: (They/Their/Theirs)
    Director and Counselor/Advocate

    My experiencing and witnessing systemic inequities drive my commitment to anti-oppression and liberation work. I believe in the transformative power of communities coming together in the service of work that holds space with one another, reduces harm, creates material change, and fosters individual and collective liberation for people on the margins. I have been an advocate and prevention educator for over 15 years. I enjoy exploring, learning, reading, being in nature, walking with my dog Truman, and facilitating trauma-informed yoga. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together” (Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland, 1970’s).

    Melanie is Director and Counselor/Advocate with the Healing & Advocacy Collective in the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.

  • Pronouns: (She/Her/Hers)
    Executive Director

    I have been in awe of the power of stories and silences my entire life. I grew up in the Tijuana-San Diego border region. Among my first teachers were elders who, forced to flee violence in their countries, had recently arrived in the United States from Vietnam, the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico. In this little place on the planet where people work hard for the American Dream, we knew that everything would not automatically be okay. My childhood city has walls and armed officers surveilling a border. It also has miles of Pacific Ocean where sea life knows no borders. This can teach us to look up for another horizon, something organically life giving, to ask what is possible?   

    Our elders’ kitchen tables, the most joyful wise places I have experienced,  taught me the responsibility of holding spaces to deeply listen. This listening is not just a matter of love — it is about survival. Here, I first learned that we make policies, practices and decisions based on stories we hear and share. 

    For thirty years, and in the last decade in Boston, I’ve been dedicated to what stories can do to disrupt structural violence. I worked as a human rights journalist in the Americas, Africa and Asia; an historian of legacies of slavery; faculty in history, Writing Studies and art; and in ongoing collaboration at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and with desplazadas and community leaders in Colombia. 

    In our world’s most powerful knowledge constructing spaces, people most impacted by violence rarely share stories in their own words for listeners they identifiy as important. I contributed to this silence by publishing stories that “spoke for” instead of by and with.  This inspired my dedication to story circles in visual and performance art, music, written word and other forms, led by people with deep knowledge about humanity, resilience, healing and community. We hold space for radical listening -- building authentic relationships to co-create paths for social justice and liberation. 

    Tam (Tamera) Marko is Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center in the Social Justice Center at Emerson College.