Our Team

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Marilyn Jones, EdD

Founder/Executive Director

Dr. Marilyn Jones is the founder and Executive Director of Because Black is Still Beautiful, a 501C3 nonprofit organization that is committed to promoting excellence in the Black community.  She has several years experience conducting academic and professional research on formerly incarcerated men and women, as well as teaching this population.  

She has previously worked as a consultant for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Strategic Planning Team, a group comprised of key stakeholders with a collective goal of reducing the county’s recidivism rate.  Her publications include:  Nowhere to go: How stigma limits the options of female drug users after released from jail (2009)theSanta Clara County Adult Reentry Strategic Plan - Ready to Change: Promoting Safety and Health for the Whole Community (2012), and From Crack to College and Vice Versa (2013).  

Dr. Jones holds a BS in Health Education, an MA in Adult Education and she recently completed an EdD in Educational Leadership at San Francisco State University.  In addition to her academic and professional experience, she has over 20 years life experience in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.


Dani Johnson, BA

Board Member

Dani Johnson has overcome many obstacles in her life, such overcoming recidivism other unhealthy choices. Through determination against all odds Ms. Johnson was able to beat the odds and she graduated with her Bachelor degree in Interdisciplinary studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. She is currently pursuing a Master Degree in Community Mental Health at CIIS. She is also employed with The Housing Rights Committee where she works as an advocate for tenants living in  public housing to help insure they have a healthy, habitable living environment. Her interest lies in decreasing violence among the youth in her community, particularly involving young Black men, and helping women heal from the various intersections of trauma.

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Sonja Tonnesen

, JD

Board Member

Sonja is the Deputy Director of Program Innovation & Strategic Partnerships and a founding staff member of Root & Rebound, a reentry legal resource center that provides expertise in all areas of reentry law to individuals with past justice system involvement, families with incarcerated loved ones, and community-based organizations and agencies, so that the United States can become a society that supports opportunities for all. In just four years, the organization has reached almost 40,000 people through its California programs and services, and is working to expand its model nationally.

Prior to Root & Rebound, Sonja received her J.D. from Berkeley Law, where she worked in advocacy for survivors of violence, criminal justice reform, and youth justice. She was an editor for two law journals, the California Law Review and the Berkeley Journal of General, Law & Justice. In 2013, her piece, “‘Hit It and Quit It’: Responses to Black Girls’ Victimization in School” was published in the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, exploring connections between the school-to-prison-pipeline, and race, gender, and implicit bias. Prior to law school, Sonja received her B.A. in Urban Studies and African Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked for an urban nutrition nonprofit in Philadelphia.


Robyn Fisher,Ed.D.

Board Member

Dr. Robyn Fisher serves as President and C.E.O. of R.T. Fisher Educational Enterprises, Inc. (RTF). Since founding RTF in 1999, Dr. Fisher has subsequently co-founded and chaired an umbrella of initiatives directed towards academic excellence in the Bay Area’s communities of color, including both The African American Regional Educational Alliance, Inc. (AAREA), and The Choose College Educational Foundation, Inc. (CCEF). Dr. Fisher's educational consultancy and curriculum design work have impacted students across the state of California for nearly 20 years.

Her ever-evolving curriculum and programming models target students' college readiness through the lens of cultural responsiveness and relevance, presently culminating in the RTF network's STEM S.T.E.P.S. (Strategies to Empower and Prepare Students for Success) program, which is currently in its fourth year following years of rigorous field research. Dr. Fisher holds an BA and M.P.A. from San Jose State University and an M.Ed., and Ed. D. from Mills College in Oakland, California.


Nate Williams, BA

Board Member

Nate Williams is the Founder and Executive Director of Choices for Freedom, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping at risk youth with changing their lives. At the age of 17, Nate received a life sentence in the California Department of Corrections.  He made great strides to change his mentality while incarcerated, and with the help of Michelle Alexander, the author of the New Jim Crow, he was able to return to society six years ago. 

He is an activist, inspirational speaker, and advocates for juvenile/criminal justice reform nationally. He has earned a Bachelor degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA in Interdisciplinary Studies.

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D'Andrea Robinson, MA

Board Member


D’Andrea has a passion for social justice and equity within the public education system for all students --specifically ensuring that black students receive the same quality of education as their counterparts.   She has worked as an elementary school teacher throughout the San Francisco Bay Area for over a decade.  Her commitment to equity does not end in the classroom.  She understands that many black students living in the Bay Area do not have access to the same resources and opportunities; therefore, she volunteers with organizations that develop black youth’s leadership and civic engagement skills.  Her social justice activism was ignited during her undergraduate years at the University of California, Berkeley where she majored in Political Science and volunteered at elementary schools in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland.  She was inspired by the young people she worked with and pursued teaching as a platform to expose students to education as a tool of liberation and opportunity. D’Andrea earned her teaching credential and master’s degree at California State University, East Bay and is currently interested in research focusing on transforming the interactions and relationships between school leaders: administrators, faculty, and staff and the black female student population through professional development.