Mel Siltanen

  • Associate Director

About me

Mel’s critical understanding of the criminalization of poverty and gender comes from her own experience as a systems-impacted, single mother living in Oakland, California. Her journey with YWFC began in 2015, where she enrolled in YWFC’s Sisters on the Rise Program. 

Deeply impacted by her experience, Mel formally joined the Center as staff in 2019. In three years, she rose to leadership, starting as a Self Determination Advocate, before eventually leading the very program she had benefited from in 2015. From there, she co-created and implemented the YWFC Oakland location’s political strategy for the decarceration and decriminalization of girls and trans youth of all genders as Lead Organizer.

Mel is now co-leading the strategic implementation of Beloved Village across the State of California. She is also a founding member of the Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, and Oakland Chapter lead. 

Determined to ensure the spaces and support that were once offered to her as a participant continue to exist, Mel is part of the core leadership team tasked with overseeing and implementing the Liberation Institute and is a practitioner of Critical Pedagogy, combining theory with practice, to support learning and knowledge-sharing among staff.

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