Debbie Soto, Chair
Debbie Soto, of Argentine heritage, was born in Brooklyn, however raised in Detroit’s southwest neighborhood prior to moving to the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area in her early teens where she stayed to attend school. “Si Se Puede” (yes, it can be done) was an attitude Debbie learned early on as a child, her parents impressed upon her the importance of public service and were heavily involved in civic engagements, particularly fighting for immigrant rights, she had the honor of marching hand in hand with the late great Cesar Chavez and ever since has had a passion & drive to be an active steward for her community.
Debbie is a paralegal and has over 20 years experience in the legal arena having worked at Brinks Hofer Gilson and Lione’s one of the top 10 Intellectual Property Law Firms in the country as their Firm Administrator/Case Manager; the University of Michigan as their Dept./Case Manager with additional responsibilities in research and grant writing and most recently at a Fortune 500 company in the Orlando area as a corporate paralegal. Since moving to the Orlando area in 2008 she has continued her work as an activist with a variety of local organizations and her involvement with the Universal Zulu Nation and was one of the founders and subsequent President of the Orlando Charter.
Led by her personal convictions on justice and equality in civil rights and a desire to be of service against disparities and inequities that plagues all communities of color, led her to become formally involved with Organize Now, she views this as an opportunity to be of service in an organization working towards defending and upholding civil rights. Debbie is dedicated to uplifting and empowering her community, being an advocate to the people by giving a voice to many that do not have one and sincerely believes that giving back is a responsibility.
Ida Eskamani, Secretary
Ida Eskamani serves as Equality Florida’s North and Central Florida Development Officer based in Orlando. Ida joined the Equality Florida te
am in 2014, and assists in organizing and executing membership and development programs in Sarasota, Orlando, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee and the Panhandle.
Ida earned dual degrees from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Political Science and Sociology in 2012 and is currently pursuing a Master Degrees in Public Administration and a certificate in Nonprofit Management at UCF. She began her career in organizing as an undergraduate, active in several campus organizations, most notably serving as President of the College Democrats a UCF, building the organization to one of the largest and most active student groups on campus; and as well as a fundraising assistant to then-State Representative Scott Randolph.
Following graduation, Ida worked for the Orange County Democratic Party at a time when they broke fundraising records with her support. She also joined Senator Bill Nelson’s re-election campaign as a Press and Research Assistant, and the youngest member of the campaign team. Following the 2012 elections, Ida was selected among a long list of impressive applicants to serve as a White House Intern in the office of Presidential Personnel for the spring 2013 term. Following her time as a White House Intern, she returned to the sunshine state, as a Digital and Community Organizer with Florida CHAIN, an organization dedicated to increasing access to affordable healthcare; and as Finance Director for State Representative Joe Saunders’s re-election campaign.
In addition to her position with Equality Florida, Ida is a member of the team to elect Carlos Guillermo Smith to State House District 49, a volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, and an active member of Organize Now!, dedicated to advocating for Florida’s working families.
A first generation Iranian-American, Ida’s passion for public service is a direct result of the selflessness of her parents. Their efforts to ensure the success of their children serves as an unyielding commitment towards social justice and empowering communities in need.
Paul Heroux, Treasurer
Paul Heroux was born in 1951. He has called Orlando home for over 30 years, after living all over the US. He has work experience that includes corporate, small business, education and self-employment. He brings this experience, together with a lifelong love of studying history to his work with Organize Now.
Until he was in his late 40's, Paul describes himself as, "...a regular voter who talked about politics in the barber shop." Two things changed him into an activist: (i) A struggle with addiction resulted in a 5-year prison sentence, and (ii) he lost most of his hair.
Paul is part of the struggle to reform Florida's draconian felony rights restoration laws. He is also constantly involved in voter rights and social justice issues with Organize Now and FIRE. He also believes that political action is key to changing the vision people have of persons with felony convictions from pariahs to fellow citizens.
Paul finished his prison sentence in October of 2009. "My experience showed me that injustice in Florida demands that people stand up and speak out; I started looking for people and organizations to help me." That search was aided by the Occupy Orlando activity in the fall of 2011. His activity in Occupy led to involvement with Organize Now, FIRE, Jobs with Justice and many other groups. Paul credits FIRE and ON with giving him back his voice in the fight for social justice. He is joined in his commitment by his wife Jill and his son, Martin.
Ms. Coyuca Rae Jones, known by many as Coy, graduated from Hampton University in 2003 with her B.A. in English Arts and an emphasis in Psychology. While at college she started her involvement in community outreach serving as a tutor and mentor for at-risk youth in the H.U.S.H and R.I.S.E Movement programs. She also served as the Service Project lead for the Hampton University’s Service learning project where she helped African American youth learn skills to better students in the classroom and leaders in their communities. By the time Ms. Jones graduated, she became a published writer and musician, gave birth to her son Ernest, and began teaching locally.
In 2003, Ms. Jones, her mother and sister started a nonprofit, Love, Peace and Prosperity International where she still serves as the Executive Director. L.P.P.I. Inc. has sent local youth from New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the U.N. for the past 6 years, engaged youth in civic participation, humanities and community outreach. The organization has also participated in prison outreach, faith-based initiatives across the country as well assisting local communities across the U.S. on emergency awareness and preparedness.
Ms. Jones has worked in various capacities on local, state and national electoral and issue based campaigns in New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia and now Florida. In 2007-2008, Ms. Jones co-managed the Barak Obama Campaign office in the Town of Eatonville where she assisted many returning citizens in restoring their right to vote. Her efforts also led to a 91% voter turnout which helped to secure President Obama’s victory in the State of Florida. By the President’s second run for the Presidency in 2012, Ms. Jones was chosen as a Breakthrough Campaign Regional Coordinator for Central Florida. By October, she was supervising a team of 65 canvassers and impact organizers. Her team was a part of a statewide campaign that knocked on over a million doors, turned out hundreds of thousands of voters and was integral in the election of many of our local and state electeds in addition to the re-election of President Barak Obama.
Since then Coy has been remaining active in her community working on initiatives like Medicaid Expansion and Immigration reform, raising awareness on police brutality and income inequality as well as civil and LGBTQ rights. Currently, Ms. Jones serves as a Political Organizer for 1199SEIU Florida, a Healthcare workers’ union where she continues to fight for workers’ rights in Florida.
Lacresha "Sista Queen" Thomas, Co-Chair
Sista Queen fell in love with nonprofits when she and her family trained for 12 years with the Long Beach Dembrebra Community African Drum & Dance Culture Collective. She was impressed because the organization received community grants to preserve African culture through education and the arts. Since then, she has been involved with such organizations as the People’s Media Center and Parents Anonymous in Washington, D.C. This passion led her to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree program in Urban Studies/Community Development.
Sister Queen has resided in Orlando Florida for four yeas and has been a member of Organize Now for sixteen months, providing outstanding support and leadership dedication to the Organization. In addition to her position on the Board of Directors, Sista Queen has also been designated as the Pine Hills Community Organizing Chair, and is a dedicated member of the Organize Now Racial Justice Committee.