Yoga Session

OUR  TEAM

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Jeffrey Thomas
Founder & Executive Director 

Jeffrey, RYT-200, founder and Executive Director, is passionate about recognizing people of color for their capacity to effect positive change and transcend their circumstances. He is responsible for strategy, partnerships, fund development, and day-to-day operations. He first practiced lyengar Yoga and - after yoga teacher training - continued with Trauma-Informed Mind-Body (TIMBo) and Prison Yoga Project training. Over his career, he has partnered to deliver more than $550M in public and private funds to low-income communities. 

In his roles at MYP, he draws on his experience in the design of ambitious multi-stakeholder collaborations designed to resource low-income communities of color. He has been nationally recognized for his business plan for a nonprofit social enterprise called Ploughshares Nursery that has been in operation since 2005 offering employment training to individuals emerging from conditions of homelessness. He worked with formerly-incarcerated activists and a poverty law clinic at Berkeley Law School to co-create Clean State - a program that has assisted more than 14,000 people seeking to remedy their criminal records. In 2011, he co-designed a participatory action research project at a graduate school of public policy that examined barriers to civic leadership in low-income communities. The research resulted in the creation of a training program for women of color that seek to become elected policymakers. 

Emily Peterson

Program Director

Emily is Program Director at Mandela Yoga Project as well as yin yoga instructor, yoga teacher trainer, Reiki Master Teacher and lead trainer and senior facilitator for TIMBo (Trauma-Responsive Innovations for Mind/Body). 

In her position at MYP, Emily draws on 20 plus years of interdisciplinary practice, training and private consultation in yoga, the science of trauma, traumatic stress and post traumatic growth. She was most recently the lead trainer for TIMBo, a body-based trauma and stress resolution program which uses a proprietary system of accessible, trauma-informed yoga developed by marginalized women for women. 

 

In her role with TIMBo, Emily has traveled to Haiti, Kenya and Rwanda to train local facilitators at organizations focused on trauma-recovery and mental health. She also taught English in Mexico for several years, and then worked as executive assistant to a Harvard University Professor, where she was also attending graduate school.   Prior to this, Emily managed group homes for both women with mental illness and adolescent boys in state custody. 

Like MYP's founder Jeffrey Thomas, Emily discovered yoga's healing impact; as an elite competitive athlete she turned to yoga to manage chronic pain. Yoga, meditation, and dance have been integral to her recovery from an eating disorder, depression, drug-use and trauma. Emily a thesis-shy of Masters in Government with a focus on peace- studies and has a BA in Applied Psychology from University of Illinois, Chicago. 

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A yoga teacher and non-profit program director of The Mel King Institute for Community Building, for a statewide association of mission-driven community development organizations.

 

Shirronda Almeida grew up in affordable housing, Georgetowne Homes, in Boston, during the period of “white flight” and “urban renewal.” She experienced busing, the moving of the orange line, witnessed the tensions of segregated neighborhoods, and the severe disinvestment in communities of color. What is now Government Center and Copley Square Mall were both taken in the name of urban renewal, tearing down, for example, the West End, which was a vibrant low-income community. Almeida first learned of an alternative model — non-profit community development — more than a decade later.

 

Shirronda is now the director of the Mel King Institute, named after one of the pioneers in Boston’s community development movement.

Charlotte “Arikai” Tabeson’s role is to lead Mandela Yoga Project’s foundation grant research and to co-executive produce Mandela Yoga Studios at San Quentin — a high-quality, professionally-produced film series of yoga and breathing lessons to be practiced by humans in confinement as an integrative health intervention addressing the American public health crisis of racism.

 

Arikai has always appreciated the power of yoga in bringing her a sense of peace & transcendence and prioritizes service to the underserved communities from which she comes by bringing resources for their empowerment. From her introduction to yoga at GirlVentures to her practice at the donation-based studios “Yoga to the People”, she now finds peace in creating beautiful spaces for Black, Indigenous and People of Color as Program Manager at Mandela Yoga Project, Inc. 

 

Arikai draws on her experience as an African American practitioner of yoga in the mercantile studio system of yoga and in people-of-color, community-based yoga spaces. Her experience includes serving as an independent project specialist and public relations consultant for clients at the intersection of entertainment, film, and art/new media tech. Just before Covid-19 pandemic hit, Arikai worked at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival leading the festival’s press operations for the New Frontier Category, where she supported the premiere of +30 immersive films, virtual reality/augmented reality experiences, and experimental art pushing the boundaries of storytelling. 

 

Arikai has spent +5 years managing the business operations and project management side of the boutique PR agency Jessie Cohen PR & Consulting LLC. During that time, she jumped back into her community engagement work organizing the “Summer Sioreé”, a curated event reaching over 100 young entertainment professionals in Los Angeles to step outside of the grind of their careers and foster authentic relationships. Arikai also began working with the non-profit Compton Artists Alliance where she joined the 2019 South Africa community service trip and in 2020 to project manage its first-ever Under 3 Film Festival – she now sits on their leadership team as the Interim Treasurer.

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Lynn Eikenberry has used her professional experience and health communications background to advocate for gender and racial equity through a tapestry career that has taken me from fashion journalism in New York City to public health practitioner and facilitator of Mind/Body Trauma recovery curricula both in Boston and internationally.  Currently Lynn strives to further the mission of Mandela Yoga Project through strategic support in curriculum development, strategic planning and development and joy-making on zoom.

 

Lynn has dedicated my efforts, resources and passion in the past three decades to lifting up women and promoting racial equity through work in the nonprofit sector. She is a certified senior facilitator of the TIMBo program/curriculum (Trauma-Responsive Innovations for Mind-Body), 200-hour RYT yoga teacher, Rest and Renew Restorative Yoga teacher, Rape Crisis Counselor, Trauma- informed Yoga teacher and trainer.  Lynn facilitated TIMBo groups and taught proprietary, trauma-informed yoga classes to women in recovery, female veterans, women in homeless shelters, to both volunteers and women living in Yazidi refugee camp in Serres, Greece. Lynn has facilitated TIMBo intensive training with women and men in Kenya, Haiti and Rwanda.

 

As a lifelong learner, Lynn continues to uncover, unlearn and dismantle her own internalised white supremacy and patriarchal/dominant culture oppression and build fortitude to continue to do this work by focusing on the change in the nervous system through self-investigation, collective body-based work in learning spaces.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

FOUNDING NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD 

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A yoga teacher and non-profit program director, of The Mel King Institute for Community Building, for a statewide association of mission-driven community development organizations

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Member of Congress


A senior leader in the United States House of Representatives who is a psychiatric social worker

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Brand Identity & Media Strategist
 

A former healthcare industry marketing executive who now works with large healthcare organizations to strategically use social and digital media

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Executive Director,
Root Cause

 

The Executive Director of a national consulting firm for nonprofits and longtime data manager for a US Department of Labor national support center

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Founder & Managing Director, Blue Ridge Advisors
 

A former philanthropy executive who now advises national and global foundations and social impact organizations