MEET OUR TEAM
OneLife Institute is blessed by the servant-leadership of some amazing individuals. Each is a seasoned activist, committed to healing and justice in the community and the world.
Xan West (Executive Director) considers herself a street theologian, a messy mystic, radical ritual holder, and spiritual trauma healer. Prior to joining OneLife Institute, Xan was the Director of Student Ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church, where she enjoyed inspiring resilience, preaching liberation, and decolonizing scripture. Before that she worked in multimedia sound production and journalism. Xan holds a Certificate of Spirituality & Social Change from the Pacific School of Religion. She was a 2016 Black Theology & Leadership Institute Fellow at Princeton Theological Seminary, and in 2017 she facilitated a workshop on liturgical direct action for the Millennial Leadership Program at Union Theological Seminary.
Xan is a contributor to Resipiscence: A Lenten Devotional for Dismantling White Supremacy and Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Black Voices on Activism, Resistance and Love. She is a core member of Second Acts, an Oakland-based direct action group of Jesus followers and 'feral Christians,' and was part of the original Young Leaders cohort of the Mystic Soul Project. Xan is a frequent guest preacher at the intersections of social justice, healing, and scripture. She has been a participant and volunteer at OneLife for several years, and is part of the facilitation team for our Healing Black Lives retreats.
Born and raised in Oakland, Xan has over 20 years of experience in social justice movement work, mostly related to police accountability, queer rights, Black liberation, and community healing. She is the proud mama of toddler son Glory.
(Please note: We have discovered that there is another person who publishes erotica under the pen name "Xan West." This is a different person! To learn more about our Xan, the REAL Xan West, visit: https://therealxanwest.weebly.com)
Liza J. Rankow
Liza J. Rankow (Founder; Spiritual Co-Director) is an interfaith minister, educator, activist, and writer. Her work centers the personal and collective healing that is essential to authentic justice and social transformation. She holds a B.A. in Human Development from Hampshire College, Bachelors and Masters degrees in Health Sciences from Duke University School of Medicine, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Social Transformation from Union Institute & University.
Dr. Rankow practiced as a PA in pediatric hematology-oncology at Duke Hospital before receiving grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society to address health care access issues for marginalized populations of NC women. She worked as a trainer and consultant for medical professionals, Department of Health and Human Services agencies, and community based organizations in the provision of culturally competent care to diverse populations, and developed extensive resources for community and professional education.
Liza has provided spiritual counseling and offered classes and workshops in spiritual development for over 25 years. She is a popular speaker and teacher known for bringing compassion, creativity, and insight to the process of individual and cultural healing and transformation. As a scholar and activist, her main interest is exploring the powerful synergy between mysticism and social change. She maintains a special emphasis in the life and work of Dr. Howard Thurman, teaching a variety of classes on Thurman in both academic and community settings. Liza is producer and co-editor of the six-CD audio collection, "The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman" (Sounds True, 2010). Currently she is working on a book examining the theological and paradigmatic context of "mystic-activism" from an interfaith perspective, and offering practical applications of this wisdom for the critical issues of the present day.
Jakada Imani (Board President) is a spiritually-rooted consultant and coach with more than 20 years experience working in social and economic justice movements. He is currently a partner with the The Management Center, a national firm helping social justice leaders learn how to build and run more effective organizations.
Over the last two decades, Jakada has worked on a range of issues, including racial and economic justice, workers' rights, tenant organizing, and green jobs. In 2013, he received a ChangeMaker Fellowship from Pacific School of Religion, where he served for two years leading a center for spiritual and social transformation.
Previously Jakada served for six years as executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC), taking over from the center's founder, Van Jones. In his 13 years there, he served as the lead strategist for some of the organization's most high-profile campaigns and was a lead team member in the successful efforts to stop the construction of one of the nation's largest juvenile halls -- an enormous "Super Jail for Kids." He also led two successful statewide ballot measure campaigns (No on Prop 6 in 2008 and No on Prop 23 in 2010).
Jakada is on the board of the Comption Foundation and Greenpeace US. Born and raised in Oakland, California, he is father to four powerful and creative daughters.
Ashlee George (Board Secretary) is a healer, dancer, restorative justice practitioner, youth development specialist and Oakland, California native. She is deeply committed to social justice with an emphasis on healing.
Healing and connecting through community have been common themes in Ashlee’s life. Throughout her career, she has amassed expertise in restorative justice philosophy and practices, curriculum design and development, training, and youth diversion. These experiences have taught her to shift her way of approaching harm and healing from a punitive model into one that asks people, communities, and institutions to be in relationship with one another.
Ashlee is Associate Director of The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. Prior to joining Impact Justice, Ashlee worked as a Restorative Justice Coordinator at Community Works West, where she facilitated dialogues between youth who caused harm and the people impacted to bring transformation through accountability. Before that, she spent 12 years at Oakland Unified School District as a Restorative Justice Facilitator, Conflict Resolution Coordinator, and an After-School Director.
Ashlee also creates spaces of well-being as a professional dancer and teacher. She feels that dance allows her to connect with her deepest and sacred self, thus activating her innate ability to heal and recognize her own inner medicine. She has excelled in dance becoming the 2012 San Francisco Queen of Carnaval. Her philosophy is: Let your LIGHT shine on the DANCE FLOOR and in LIFE. Through all of this, Ashlee has learned that healing allows us to reconnect with parts, people, and emotions that we have been separated from, thus, making us whole by transforming our pain into relief and suffering into serenity.
Kamal Hassan (Board Member; Spiritual C0-Director) is a spiritual leader, educator, and community servant. He currently serves as Pastor/Teaching Elder at the Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond California, a position he has held since 2008. Before this call Reverend Hassan spent more than three decades as both a public and private school educator, community organizer and religious worker. He holds an AA degree in Radio Broadcasting from Los Angeles City College, a BA in History from California State University Los Angeles, and a Master of Divinity degree from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Kamal is a founding member of both the New Afrikan People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. He has worked for social justice and Human Rights locally, nationally, and internationally. He was also a volunteer programmer of a regular liberation focused program on radio station KPFK the Pacifica affiliate in Los Angeles for 10 years.
He firmly believes that, "Spiritual Communities must be critically engaged in the effort to mend the tear in our social fabric that has allowed so many of us to focus on our individual needs and ignore the sufferings of others. To be true to our prophetic calling, we must act locally for justice, freedom, and peace while considering the global implications of our commitments. At the same time we must each pursue our inner and outer journeys of faith." Rev. Hassan considers it a great honor have been invited to serve on the Board of OneLife Institute.
D. Jacquelyn Edwards
D. Jacquelyn Edwards (Board Member) is an ordained Centers for Spiritual Living (CSL) minister. She has over 20 years experience in public sector human resources. She has served CSL as a founding member and Chair of their Diversity and Inclusion Commission and is currently serving on the Spiritually Motivated Socially Engaged (SMSE) committee, which is responsible for preparing statements reflecting the organization's position on social justice and other issues.
Jacquelyn’s Vision is to create a world in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Through her business, Platinum Butterfly Ministries, she is a public speaker, spiritual counselor, coach and group facilitator with an emphasis on spirituality as a path to prosperity, justice and peace. Believing that everyone is Spirit at core, Jacquelyn focuses her work on cultivating the Spiritual nature of individuals, groups and organizations.
Rev Jacquelyn is a native of New York City and was raised in the Abyssinian Baptist Church; a community which has a long and continuing involvement in Civil and Human Rights. Her ministry includes a commitment to continue to hone and express her prophetic voice to co-create a society that holds love, equity, justice and peace as its core values. She is currently serving as the Sacred Activism minister at East Bay Church of Religious Science in Oakland, CA. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Human Relations, a Masters Degree in Organizational Change and a Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies. She is honored and very grateful for the opportunity to use the knowledge, love of community and wisdom that she has gained over the years to help advance the mission and vision of One Life Institute.
Chasejamison (CJ, she/they) Akilah Manar-Spears (Board Member) is a Pan-Afrikan, creative, community builder, and Auntie. She is an advocate for divine Black Womxnhood in all that she does.
Being born and raised on Ohlone land established their spiritual connection to bodies of water and revolutionary systems. These childhood seeds were watered by the tides of time and blossomed into the work they are called to do today.
CJ’s first short films Mis(s)interpreted and Green Green Grasses were produced in college with no budget and received multiple international awards. While studying Sociology, Leadership, and Cultural Proficiency, they found their passion for filmmaking and MadamCJda3rd was born. CJ is also a co-founder of Roots Collective GH, a worker owned cooperative with roots in Ghana and sustainable fashion. Roots goal is to honor the Ocean, and the communities that it connects. All their work is driven by a vision of radical Afrofuturism.
Having recently graduated from University into a world plagued by disconnectedness, CJ does their best to embody LOVE on the daily.