Who We Are

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

NEIL WEARE, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER
nweare (at) equalrightsnow (dot) org

Neil_Weare.jpgNeil Weare is a civil rights attorney and non-profit entrepreneur committed to achieving equal rights for Americans living in U.S. territories.  Raised in the U.S. territory of Guam, Neil worked for Guam’s non-voting Delegate Madeleine Bordallo prior to attending Yale Law School.  In February 2015, Neil argued Tuaua v. United States before the D.C. Circuit, making the case for equal citizenship in U.S. territories.  Until 2018, he was an Associate at Trister, Ross, Schadler & Gold, PLLC, a boutique firm that specializes in political law for non-profit organizations. Prior to founding Equally American, Neil was Litigation Counsel and Supreme Court Fellow at Constitutional Accountability Center. Neil clerked on the Alaska Supreme Court for Justice Morgan Christen, now a Judge on the Ninth Circuit.  He was also a Thomas Emerson Fellow at David Rosen & Associates in New Haven, Connecticut.  As a law student, Neil successfully argued CCJEF v. Rell, a landmark case before the Connecticut Supreme Court recognizing a right to adequate education for Connecticut schoolchildren.  His commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN.com, the Huffington Post, and other media outlets.  Neil also competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics.  (Weare, high resolution image)

ZEN HUNTER-ISHIKAWA, TREASURER

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Zen Hunter-Ishikawa is the Chief Business Development Officer for The Wiseman Company, a commercial real estate firm in Northern California. He previously served as Vice President for Business Development at East West Resources Corporation, a private, international investment and business development company based in Washington, D.C.  Earlier, he was Vice President of Operations and Development for the El-Hibri Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization focused on peace education and social justice for youth in the U.S. and the Middle East. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and a Master’s Degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from the School of International Service at American University.

EDWARD "SMITTY" SMITH II

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Edward “Smitty” Smith is a partner in DLA Piper, a global law firm. Previously, he served as Legal Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He also served as Director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Victim Services. He is a graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School.

GRETCHEN SIERRA-ZORITA

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Gretchen Sierra-Zorita has focused her work on Hispanic and Puerto Rican issues, and has become a respected thought leader, sought by the media for her non-partisan insight and knowledge on the fiscal and social crisis affecting the island of Puerto Rico. She has worked tirelessly to bring attention in Washington DC to issues affecting Puerto Ricans on both the island and the mainland. She is a member of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Puerto Rico Working Group; a founding member of the National Puerto Rican Agenda - a national coalition of Puerto Rican leaders and organizations focusing on the economic crisis; creator of Puerto Rico en Serio - a non-partisan social media page which focuses on issues relevant to Puerto Rico and the diaspora; and one of the founders of Parranda Puerto Rico - a platform which unifies the diaspora and the Puerto Rican people. In addition to Puerto Rico advocacy work, she handles media diversity issues for the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, which promotes the participation of Latinos in the entertainment industry.

SUSAN ATKINS

Susan-Atkins.jpgSusan Atkins founded one of the most successful agencies in the United States providing investor and public relations exclusively to life science companies and organizations, selling her firm to Porter Novelli in 2005.  She is past-Chair of the Victory Fund, a political action committee dedicated to training and electing openly LGBT people to all levels of government.  She received her MBA from Pepperdine University, and MA and BA degrees in Mass Communications and Journalism from the University of Oklahoma.  She resides in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where she is unable to vote for the President of the United States.


 ADVISORY BOARD

THE HON. MADELEINE Z. BORDALLO (HONORARY MEMBER)

MZB_lowres_2.jpgMadeleine Z. Bordallo is a life-long public servant who has represented the people of Guam in Congress since 2003.  In her 2013 Congressional Address, Congresswoman Bordallo identified political status as Guam’s “single most important long-term priority.”  Her work in Congress builds on the legacy of her late husband, Ricardo J. “Ricky” Bordallo, who as Governor of Guam worked to bring national attention to the denial of voting rights in Guam.  Prior to serving in Congress, Bordallo was Lt. Governor of Guam for eight years.  She also served ten years in the Guam Legislature.  Throughout her life, Bordallo has helped pave the way for women in leadership as Guam’s first woman elected to Congress and the first woman elected as Lt. Governor of Guam. 

THE HON. CARL T.C. GUTIERREZ

Carl_Gutierrez_square.jpgCarl Gutierrez served as the Governor of Guam from 1995-2003.  As Governor, one of his top priorities was working with Washington to address Guam’s political status through a process of self-determination.  In 1998, Gutierrez hosted President Clinton’s historic visit to Guam as part of the centennial celebration of Guam’s relationship with the United States.  Born in 1941, Gutierrez spent the first years of his life enduring the brutal Japanese occupation of Guam—he is a survivor of the Manenngon concentration camp.  As a young man, he served five years in the U.S. Air Force before beginning a long and successful career in government and politics.  First elected to the Guam Legislature in 1972 at the young age of 31, Gutierrez was elected by the people of Guam to serve a total of nine terms, including two as Speaker.      

 THE HON. CHARLES W. TURNBULL

turnbull_square.jpgCharles Turnbull served as the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands from 1999-2007.  Born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in 1935, Turnbull has served as a member on four Virgin Islands Constitutional Conventions.  He has received numerous awards and citations for his outstanding contributions to public service, education, and cultural affairs.  A lifelong educator, Turnbull is currently a professor emeritus of history at the University of the Virgin Islands.  Turnbull earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Minnesota, and received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hampton University.

THE HON. DONNA M. CHRISTENSEN

DCC_Board_Pic1.jpgDonna M. Christensen represented the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands in Congress from 1997-2014.  A medical doctor by training, she was the first female physician elected to Congress.  She chaired the Congressional Black Caucus’ Health Braintrust, which oversees and advocates minority health issues nationally and internationally.  She is the daughter of the late Judge Almeric Leander Christian, the first Virgin Islander to be appointed to the federal District Court of the Virgin Islands.  Christensen earned her medical degree at George Washington University and is a graduate of St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

THE HON. KALEO MOYLAN

KaleoMoylan2.jpgKaleo Moylan served as the Lt. Governor of Guam from 2003-2007 – his father, Kurt Moylan, had previously served as Guam’s first elected Lt. Governor (1971-1975).  He is a leader in the business community as a Director at Moylan’s Insurance Underwriters, Inc., serving as the Chair of the Guam Chamber of Commerce in 2011. A two-term Senator in the Guam Legislature, he also served as a Delegate to the 2000 Republican National Convention.  He is a graduate of Puget Sound Law School and received his undergraduate degree at University of Colorado at Boulder.

RAFAEL HERNANDEZ MAYORAL

rhernandezmayoral.jpgRafael Hernandez Mayoral is Of Counsel at Morrison Foerster LLP, an international law firm, where he focuses on Latin America cross-border transactions and domestic and infrastructure projects.  He holds a B.A. and M.A. from Johns Hopkins University and is a graduate of Yale Law School, where he was Senior Editor of the Yale Law Journal.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of Fundación Bibloteca Rafael Hernández Colón, which serves as depositary of the records and documents of the three-term former Puerto Rico Governor, Rafael Hernandez Colon.

THE HON. VICENTE T. "BEN" BLAZ (IN MEMORIUM, 1928-2014)

BenBlaz.jpgBen Blaz was elected by the people of Guam to serve four terms in Congress as Guam’s Delegate, beginning in 1985.  Upon entering office, he was selected by his colleagues as President of the incoming Republican class.  His service in Congress followed a distinguished 30-year career in the United States Marine Corps, retiring with the rank of Brigadier General.  Born in Guam in 1928, Blaz was thirteen years old when the Japanese invaded and occupied the island on the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked.  Following the Liberation of Guam, he received a scholarship to attend the University of Notre Dame, and later received his MA from George Washington University.  Blaz was an accomplished writer and orator, and was the author of several books including Bisita Guam: Let Us Remember (Nihi Ta Hasso): Remembrances of the Occupation Years in World War II.  

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