Commissioner Bios

Headshot of HRC Commission Chair Susan Belinda Christian

Susan Belinda Christian, Chair

Commission Chair Christian is an Assistant District Attorney in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office where she is assigned to the Behavioral Health Court, a collaborative, multidisciplinary court providing treatment and rehabilitation for people whose offenses are tied to mental illness. She is a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and has served on the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice Task Force. Ms. Christian received her B.A. and J.D. from Yale University. She is a former Co-Chair of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, and has received that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She has also served on the boards of directors for Walden House / HR 360 and the Transgender Law Center.  Additionally, Ms. Christian served on the governing board of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, the national organization which led the successful legislative, legal and lobbying effort to fully repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".  She is proud to have been honored with an Alumni Achievement Award by the OutLaws, Yale Law School’s LGBTQ Student Association.

 

As an HRC Commissioner, Ms. Christian is deeply committed to identifying and working to eliminate systems of inequality and their persistent effects.  To that end, she conceived of and led the pilot program which resulted in Mayor Ed Lee’s establishment of Implicit Bias trainings for City employees.  A primary area of interest is the reform and restructuring of the criminal justice system so that it no longer perpetuates inequality and exclusion, or substitutes for meaningful and effective responses to these problems.

 

 

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Melanie Ampon

Melanie, a Bay Area native, is a passionate advocate for transgender and human rights. She has worked at San Francisco’s transgender cabaret dining club, AsiaSF since 2003. She was in a national television program in 2015-16 called Transcendent, that chronicled 5 trans women navigating their personal and professional lives in San Francisco. It was one of the first all-trans docu-series television programs. It helped give light and understanding of the transgender community from an entertainer’s point of view.

Melanie is co-chair of the HRC’s LGBT Advisory Committee (LGBTAC), a Community Advisory Board (CAB) member at the San Francisco Community Health Center (SFCHC), and is also a Transgender Advisory Committee (TAC) member at the Office of Transgender Initiatives. She has lent her voice to host numerous events for organizations such as Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), SF Trans March, The Trevor Project, and more.

Melanie comes from humble beginnings and hopes to inspire others to live as their authentic selves, fight for what they deserve and for what is ethically right. She is grateful and honored to be a part of the HRC’s work and will continue to advocate for all human rights.

 

 

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Eva Chan

Eva Chan has a long history working on issues related to people with disabilities. She has an adult sister with serious, developmental disabilities, and she previously spent nearly five years advocating for people living with HIV/AIDS and/or mental health issues, as a supervising attorney and staff attorney at PRC, a San Francisco-based non-profit. As part of this past work, she provided direct services to many different populations in San Francisco, including people who face housing insecurity or homelessness, immigrants, victims of trauma, and the LGBT community. Ms. Chan currently works in public service on disability-related issues at the Social Security Administration.

Prior to working in the non-profit world and for the federal government, Ms. Chan was a commercial litigator at Winston & Strawn LLP and Thelen LLP. At these firms, her pro bono work included tenant defense, asylum work, disability cases, and advocacy on behalf of a class of foster youth alleging due process violations. While in private practice, Ms. Chan also served on the banquet planning committee of the Asian Law Caucus.

Ms. Chan received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. While she was a law student, Ms. Chan was a co-chair for the National Asian Pacific American Conference on Law and Public Policy. During the year when she co-chaired the conference, it explored the legacy of the murder of Vincent Chin, whose unfortunate death in 1982 lead to a national discussion and awareness of hate crimes.

Ms. Chan grew up in the Richmond District, and now finds herself living on the other side of Golden Gate Park, in the Sunset, with her husband and young son.

 

 

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Hala Hijazi

Ms. Hijazi is a San Francisco Business and Community Leader with 20 years of public service, business, and social entrepreneurship experience collaborating with and representing high-level government, business, and diverse constituency stakeholders in highly charged and sensitive environments to address complex public policy issues, deliver economic and political solutions, and advance civil and human rights.

Ms. Hijazi’s proven ability to navigate and resolve complex matters stems from her 16 years of management experience with the City and County of San Francisco (1997-2014), as Special Assistant to former two-term Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr., as Deputy Director of Marketing, and as a critical manager of some of the City’s major economic, infrastructure, labor, and community programs, and primary liaison to key business and community stakeholders.

Ms. Hijazi is Founder and CEO of HKH Consulting Inc., a San Francisco-based, woman-owned, Certified Local Business Enterprise, full-service consultancy specializing in business development, strategic planning, government and legislative affairs, public relations, land use, large-scale infrastructure projects, event management for municipalities and corporations, fundraising, and diverse constituency engagement.

A community leader, Ms. Hijazi serves on San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission and the County Transportation Authority’s CAC, Chairs Mayor London Breed’s and the District Attorney George Gascon’s AMEMSA Advisory Groups, serves on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and is a Partner at the Truman National Security Project, working on opportunities for defense, diplomacy, development, and democracy.

In 2002, to address the lack of civic and voter participation amongst (ages 28-45), Hala created and continues to manage the Professionals VIP Network.  San Francisco’s first political and business networking organization which now has grown to 5000+, provides sponsored educational forums to engage diverse business professionals and public leaders in civic dialogue and to spring into action on key political, legislative, business and philanthropic initiatives.

From 2009-2016, Hala was honored to serve on President Obama’s National Finance Committee. She has assisted with fundraising efforts and organized receptions for President Obama and provided the White House and the Northern California Region with strategy, outreach (to Muslim & Arab Communities), and with securing of venues and surrogates.

From 2004-2016, she served on the Board of Directors of Emerge America and Emerge California, which recruits, trains, and creates a pipeline for democratic women to run for and to win appointed and elected offices.

A trusted and an effective philanthropic and political engager, Hala has raised over $1,500,000. For her work, she received League of Women Voters “Rising Star” HonorsKTVU Channel 2 Coverage, and recently was Interviewed by the NY Times.

 

 

Portrait of Maya Karwande  

Maya Karwande

Maya Karwande is an attorney at Keker, Van Nest & Peters, where she represents clients in high-stakes civil litigation.  She also has an active pro bono practice focused on immigration and criminal justice matters, including representing indigent women in asylum proceedings.  Maya's practice builds on her prior experience in the fields of international human rights and international criminal law.  She worked at the International Center for Transitional Justice on post-conflict accountability processes and efforts to inform the local public and victim populations of  these processes and encourage their participation.  She has also interned at the International Bar Association, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the Berkeley Law International Human Rights Law Clinic.  She has written published articles and a book chapter on international courts and outreach to local populations.

Maya has a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and a B.A. in political science and peace and justice studies from Tufts University.  After graduating law school she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Virginia A. Phillips of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

 

 

 MKelleher Headshot 3-12

Mark Kelleher

Mark Kelleher is Associate Vice-President of Development with San Francisco State University where he is helping to expand a successful new division focused on securing funding from individuals, foundations, companies and government sources to counter deep state budget cuts in recent years. Special areas of focus have included the development of community outreach programs, most targeting underserved individuals, such as the Family Acceptance Project which is designed to reduce suicide, HIV infection and other perils often faced by LGBTQ youth; Project Rebound boasting stellar graduation rates for previously incarcerated individuals; as well as initiatives to improve education access and success for at-risk youth including the Guardian Scholars Program and Metro Academies.

Prior to SF State, Kelleher was with the University of California, San Francisco where he launched the first full-time development program for the AIDS Research Institute, managed fundraising for the School of Nursing, and served as corporate and foundation relations director. Highlights include the development of community outreach programs, most targeting underserved youth, including Valencia Health Service, LINC (child-focused domestic violence prevention), Women’s Global Health Imperative and Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education and its Smoke Free Movie Campaign.  He served on the CTCRE advisory board after leaving UCSF.

During this period, Kelleher helped launch Magnet/Strut, a uniquely combined community space and gay men’s health service, now an internationally recognized model.  He remains an active board member focused on advocacy concerning the integration of personal community engagement approaches as a pioneering wellness strategy, contrasted with traditional HIV/STD prevention.  Kelleher also co-founded Plan C San Francisco, a community-based political action organization to enhance urban quality of life and served as a co-chair on the board of the Academy of Friends – a community foundation assisting individuals affected by HIV.

Although some of his direct ancestors were Bay Area pioneers beginning in the mid-19th Century, Kelleher was raised near Boston. Before moving to California in 1994 he managed several record-breaking reunion classes for the Harvard Law School Fund. Kelleher began his career at Boston University where he helped expand a pioneering partnership to reform public schools in nearby Chelsea, at the time one of the nation’s most socioeconomically challenged urban communities.

Kelleher earned his M.S. at Boston University and B.A. at St. Anselm College. He and his husband, partners of over twenty-five years, reside in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district.

 

 

Headshot of HRC Commissioner Jason Pellegrini

Jason Pellegrini

Jason is a born and bred San Franciscan. His love for the “City by the Bay” was evidenced early after the ’89 Loma-Prieta earthquake when, at a young age, he went through his neighborhood and loaded up his Radio Flyer with debris to help with the cleanup efforts. After attending Gonzaga University, he finished his education at the University of San Francisco with a B.S. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership. Jason worked as an account executive in facilities and property management services before becoming the regional manager for a large site service company. Desiring to do something different with his life, Jason decided to leave the private sector and join a non-profit team looking to better San Francisco and its residents. In 2012, he became Director of Facilities for Delivering Innovation in Supportive Housing (DISH) whose motto is “Everyone deserves a home” and provides permanent, supportive housing to San Franciscans who suffer from serious health issues. Wishing to make a difference in his own neighborhood, Jason was elected to the Marina Community Association’s board of directors in 2015 and currently serves as president of this organization whose mission is to preserve and enhance the quality of the Marina District in San Francisco. He is thrilled to now be part of the HRC and have the opportunity to improve the city and potentially change people’s lives. He and his partner live in the Marina with their two Norfolk terriers.

 

 

Photo of HRC Commissioner Abby Porth

Abigail Michaelson Porth

Abby is a public affairs veteran, managing complex and sensitive community relations issues and developing and executing effective organization-wide strategies to advance Jewish Community Relation Council's mission of pursuing a just society and a secure Jewish future.

Abby is an Officer of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, and a member of the Board of Directors of Congregation Emanu-El and Scattered Among the Nations, an organization that assists geographically and politically isolated Jewish or Judaism-practicing communities around the globe. She previously served on the Advisory Committee of San Francisco CARD, which trains social service agencies to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters, and was proud to serve on the Board of Directors of San Francisco Head Start.

Before coming to JCRC in 1999, Abby managed a Boston-based juvenile hate crime offender program that diverted children out of the criminal justice system.  She earned both her Master of Management and B.A. at Brandeis University.

 

 

Headshot of HRC Commissioner Michael Sweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headshot of HRC Commissioner Joseph Sweiss 

Michael Sweet

Vice-chair Sweet is a San Francisco native who earned his B.A. at Brandeis University and his law degree from UCLA. He is a Partner with the law firm of Fox Rothschild where he specializes in litigation, restructuring, and election law. He also is co-chair of the Firm’s Israel Practice Group.  He was first appointed to the Human Rights Commission by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2007.  He was reappointed by Mayor Newsom in 2010, by Mayor Lee in 2014 and by Mayor Breed in 2018.  Commissioner Sweet has served as Commission Chair from 2010 through 2013.  He is currently Commission Vice-chair, a position he has held since 2016.  He previously served as Vice-chair from 2008 until 2010. Commissioner Sweet is active in many communities. He is the Past-president of the Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club of San Francisco. He also serves as a member of the California State Democratic Central Committee and on the California State Democratic Party's Platform Committee.  For ten years he was a member of the board of directors of the San Francisco Metropolitan Jewish Community Relations Council. Commissioner Sweet Chair previously chaired the Rincon-Point/South Beach Citizen's Advisory Committee to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency and served as a member of the Port of San Francisco’s Cruise Terminal Advisory Committee. Commissioner Sweet and his family live in western San Francisco. He is an avid runner who has completed more than 15 marathons.

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Sweiss

Joseph Sweiss is a Bay Area native dedicated to advocacy for progressive causes. He served as Deputy Press Secretary for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, and prior, supported the Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, on a variety of high-profile civil liberties, human rights, and communications projects. Joseph is the founder and president of the Arab-American Democratic Club, which aims to improve local civic representation of San Francisco’s immigrant, mono-lingual, and marginalized communities. He currently serves on the board for the Alice B. Toklas Club. He has promoted bilateral relations and cross-cultural exchanges in the Middle East, including Israel (San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Delegation) and Jordan. Joseph has a B.A. in international studies and human rights from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.A. in conflict resolution and energy development from Georgetown University. He was sworn into the Human Rights Commission in 2018.

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