PRE Senior Fellows

PRE is proud to announce three incredible new PRE Senior Fellows for 2021–2022: Malkia Devich Cyril, Ben Francisco Maulbeck, and Makani Themba.

Each of these brilliant, experienced leaders bring decades of wisdom and deep understanding about the intersections of racial and social justice movement work, along with a perspective of philanthropy informed by their respective positions — as movement leaders, as fundraising executive directors, as re-grantors, as advisors to foundations, and, utilizing many of those hats, as organizers of money and other resources. They are each phenomenal communicators who will share knowledge and insights through projects to expand the collective voice of PRE’s constituency.

We appreciate the fellowship as a way to expand the collective voice of PRE’s constituency, and as an opportunity to glean some of the powerful insights of these former executive directors when they have a bit more space for this reflection while in transition.

Makani Themba

Malkia Cyril

Ben Francisco Maulbeck

We also want to thank our inaugural PRE Senior Fellow, Rinku Sen (2019–2020), another former longtime PRE board member and, while she was leading Race Forward, an active partner in collaboration on Catalytic Change: Lessons Learned from the Racial Justice Grantmaking Assessment.

Rinku Sen

Makani Themba

Makani Themba is chief strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies, and as a social justice innovator and pioneer in the field of change communications and narrative strategy has spent more than 30 years supporting organizations, coalitions, and philanthropic institutions in developing high-impact change initiatives.

Makani is the founder and served as executive director of The Praxis Project, a nonprofit helping communities use media and policy advocacy to advance health justice. Under her leadership, it raised tens of millions of dollars for organizations working in communities of color and provided training and technical assistance to hundreds of organizations and public agencies nationwide. She is also co-author of Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era, published by Praxis Media Productions.

Makani has published and contributed to numerous articles, case studies, and books on structural racism, class, media, policy advocacy, and philanthropy. She is author of Making Policy, Making Change: How Communities Are Taking Law into Their Own Hands, and co-author of Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention and Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice.

One of the longest-serving founding members of PRE’s board, Makani has worked on multiple projects and as senior editor and a contributor to PRE’s Critical Issues Forum. As a Senior Fellow, Makani will explore the development of “organic” intermediary institutions and their role in movement ecosystems, as well as philanthropic practice in relationship to Black power building infrastructure.

Malkia Cyril

Malkia Devich Cyril is a writer, poet, public speaker, and award-winning activist on issues of digital rights, narrative power, Black liberation, and collective grief.

A leader and widely published advocate on media justice issues for more than 20 years, Malkia spearheaded the national grassroots campaign for net neutrality as an issue central to the struggle for racial justice. Founder and former executive director of MediaJustice — a national hub boldly advancing racial justice, rights, and dignity in a digital age, Malkia now serves as a Senior Fellow at Media Justice.

A past contributor to PRE’s Critical Issues Forum on the importance of investing in leadership of people of color and a faculty member of PRE’s Racial Justice Funders Lab on narrative, Malkia is a leading co-author of PRE’s most recent report, Mismatched: Philanthropy’s Response to the Call for Racial Justice. Malkia’s poetry and short stories appear in such anthologies such as Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, and In the Tradition: An Anthology of Young Black Writers. Most recently, Malkia contributed the afterword to adrienne marie brown’s We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice.

As a PRE Senior Fellow, Malkia will examine new philanthropic strategies to support transformative grief and grievance within racial justice and equity movements in a time of rising conflict and inequality.

Ben Francisco Maulbeck

Ben Francisco Maulbeck is a consultant, writer, and leader for social change. Previously, Ben served as executive director of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, where they facilitated the launch of initiatives to increase resources for LGBTQ communities in the American South and for transgender communities across the country; helped found the Contigo Fund in response to the tragic Pulse shooting; and spearheaded a successful strategic plan to expand foundation funding for LGBTQ issues to $200 million.

Ben’s other previous work includes service at Hispanics in Philanthropy, the Philadelphia Foundation, and the William Way Community Center. For more than a decade, they were an active leader in CHANGE Philanthropy, helping guide its transition from the Joint Affinity Groups into an expanded coalition for the advancement of racial and social justice in the philanthropic sector.

Under the pen name Ben Francisco, their science fiction, fantasy, and magic realism stories have been published in Best Gay Stories, Fireside Magazine, Realms of Fantasy, and From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction.

Ben had been a longtime partner through his role as executive director of Funders or LGBTQ Issues and as a collaborator in our joint Intersectional Racial Justice Funders Lab in 2019. As a Senior Fellow, Ben is one of the researchers and authors of Mismatched; they are also exploring how communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ communities are using participatory grantmaking, mutual aid funds, and other philanthropic models to meet urgent community needs and build long-term political power.

Rinku Sen

After she ended her deeply impactful tenure as executive director of Race Forward and publisher of the award-winning daily news site ColorLines, Rinku continued her meaningful contributions to PRE’s work in a direct way before taking the helm at Narrative Initiative. During her PRE fellowship, A writer and social strategist, Rinku not only served as the lead co-author on Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens: A Practical Guide; she also contributed to two op-eds about the need for domestic and international funders to deepen their analysis and practice of applying racial equity and racial justice lenses to all of their COVID-19 grantmaking. These essays were published shortly after the start of the pandemic, when its racialized impacts were not yet obvious to all — but well-anticipated by any of us in these communities. 

Under Sen’s leadership, Race Forward generated some of the most impactful racial justice successes of recent years, including Drop the I-Word, a campaign for media outlets to stop referring to immigrants as “illegal” that resulted in the Associated Press, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and many more outlets changing their practice. She was also the architect of the Shattered Families report, which identified the number of kids in foster care whose parents had been deported.

Her books, Stir It Up: Lessons in Community Organizing and Advoacy and The Accidental American: Immigration and Citizenship in the Age of Globalization (with Fekkak Mamdouh), theorize a model of community organizing that integrates a political analysis of race, gender, class, poverty, sexuality, and other systems. As a consultant, Rinku has worked on narrative and political strategy with numerous organizations and foundations, including PolicyLink, the ACLU, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She serves on numerous boards, including the Women’s March, where she is co-president, and the Foundation for National Progress, publisher of Mother Jones magazine.