We are excited to welcome six new staff and Board Members to the Community Vision family. These individuals join the organization with exceptional professional backgrounds, a diverse range of experiences, and a commitment to serving their communities. We are thrilled to welcome Xóchitl Cortez, Laurie Gibbs Harris, and Shayon Lashgari to our staff and Carolyn Johnson, Luisa Medina, and Pamela Merchant to our Board of Directors.




Xóchitl Cortez
Chief Operating Officer

Xóchitl joins Community Vision as the Chief Operating Officer, a role introduced in response to recent strategic growth of the organization. In this role her priorities include strengthening our internal systems and human resource functions. She brings more than 25 years of management and administration experience in small businesses, real estate, as well as education and affordable housing industries. Prior to joining Community Vision, Xóchitl served as the National Director of Operations at the National Nurses United/California Nurses Association, a labor union representing 85,000 healthcare workers, where she supervised asset management. Raised in East Oakland, she is active with several East Bay nonprofits that advocate for positive change in schools, healthcare, affordable housing, community safety, and fair immigration policies. Xóchitl holds a B.A. in American Studies with an emphasis in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters in Business Administration from Mills College.

Shayon Lashgari
Administrative Assistant

Shayon joins Community Vision as Administrative Assistant. Shayon partners with our staff to support operations, technology, and compliance. He brings more than a decade of experience in administrative assistance, sales, and customer service to his role. Shayon holds a B.A. in Political Science from San Francisco State University, a Certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from the City College of San Francisco, and is working towards a Masters in GIS from Penn State University, focusing on geospatial programming and web map development. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Shayon is active in his community, volunteering for BayGeo and the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Laurie Gibbs Harris
Portfolio Manager

Laurie joins Community Vision as Portfolio Manager, primarily responsible for leading The REAL People’s Fund. She is a finance professional with more than 20 years of experience in corporate and small business lending and commercial real estate investments and brings an in-depth understanding of microlending and structural inequities of financial systems to her position. Serving as a bridge between financial institutions and community partners, she is devoted to advancing racial equity within the finance industry. Laurie is skilled at building consensus and facilitating action around a common mission; particularly with opening up access to capital for entrepreneurs of color and women. She has served on numerous Boards including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Working Solutions. As a Board Member of Working Solutions, she established the East Bay Advisory Board and plays a leading role in advocating for and creating opportunities to increase lending to historically disinvested communities. Laurie also served as a business mentor through Main Street Launch’s Entrepreneur in Residence program, where she supported black entrepreneurs to develop and implement strategies for business growth. She holds a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University and a MBA in finance and real estate from The Wharton School. Raised in Jersey City, NJ, Laurie has been a resident of Oakland for 27 years.




Carolyn Johnson
Executive Director, East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collective

Carolyn Johnson joined our Board of Directors in February 2020. Formerly a Community Vision staff member, she served as a Loan Officer from 1999 – 2003 and as Director of Consulting and Grants Programs from 2003 – 2005. In 2019, Carolyn joined the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone Collaborative as its first Executive Director. Prior to this role, she was the Broker and Director of Commercial Real Estate at the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), a close partner of Community Vision. Carolyn, a tenured Professor of Business in the Peralta Community College District, brings more than 30 years of experience in commercial and community development, creation and preservation of cultural spaces, nonprofit operations, and consulting and coaching to our organization. She holds a Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley, an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business, and a Doctorate in Education from St. Mary’s College. Carolyn, a proud graduate of Castlemont High School, was born, raised, and still maintains her family’s home in East Oakland.

Luisa Medina
Director of Development, Central California Legal Services Inc.

Luisa joined Community Vision’s Board of Directors in January 2020 after serving on our Central Valley Advisory Council since 2016. Based in the Central Valley, she brings more than 40 years of local and community organizing expertise to her role. Luisa is currently the Director of Development at Central California Legal Services Inc and previously served as Executive Director of Centro La Familia de Fresno and as the Chief Operating Officer at the Fresno Private Industry Council. Committed to social justice and the Fresno community, she has served various commissions, oversight committees, and coalitions, including the Fresno Planning Commission, California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, and was the first woman to serve as Board Chair for the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission in the mid-1980’s.

Pamela Merchant
Principal, Pamela Merchant Consulting

Pamela rejoined Community Vision’s Board of Directors in January 2020. Previously serving for more than a decade, she was active on our Executive Committee and served as Chair of the Development Committee. Pamela brings more than 20 years of experience in the conduct and management of complex state and federal litigation. Previous positions include serving as a prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, Special Counsel for the California Department of Justice, and Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where she specialized in white collar prosecutions. She currently advises human rights nonprofits on strategy, leadership, and governance, and provides legal services to public clients. Pamela is a resident of San Francisco and is active in her community, serving in leadership positions on numerous human rights and social justice nonprofit Boards. She holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School.