Taneeza Islam, Esq. - Executive Director
Taneeza Islam is a community activist, immigration and civil rights lawyer based in Sioux Falls, SD. Her immigration practice is focused on domestic violence survivors and unaccompanied minors. In 2017, she led the first coalition of Muslims, immigrants, and refugees to the state capital to be their own voice in fighting the Islamophobic and anti-refugee bill and resolutions. This coalition’s win record is 2-0. She educates communities on the impact of Islamophobia on SD, with several appearances in the media.
Taneeza has a BA from Albion College, MA from the School for International Training, and a JD from Hamline Law School. After law school, she was a complaint investigator for the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Director for CAIR-MN. She led a team to file the first complaint of discrimination against a public school district for racial and religious discrimination, where the school district has been under 8 years of monitoring from the Federal Department of Education. She negotiated religious accommodations with a large meat processing plant in MN where 300 employees walked off their jobs during the holy month of fasting, Ramadan. She developed religious accommodation training workshops for employers, such as Mayo Clinic, Macy’s National, WalMart, and the Metropolitan Airports Commission. And she investigated claims of discrimination made against the Minneapolis Police Department.
In 2017 she was awarded EMBE’s Woman of the Year in Law and Government, “17 people to watch in 2017” by the Argus Leader, and was a speaker at the Woman's March in Sioux Falls. She is a guest speaker at universities, conferences, and churches around the state.
Samantha Spawn - Policy Director
Mother, inter-sectional feminist, and activist, Samantha Spawn serves as policy and communications director for South Dakota Voices for Peace, in addition to her role as executive director for NARAL Pro-Choice South Dakota.
With experience in turning all the cogs within a nonprofit organization, she brings leadership, opposition research skills, and a working knowledge of navigating the political landscape of South Dakota.
Samantha has volunteered for reproductive and women’s rights campaigns for the past ten years, and also served on the Sioux Falls Pride Committee in 2015. She grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Lori Cannizzaro Miller - Research Director
Lori Miller is a native Californian who has made Rapid City her home for over 20 years. She was raised in a military family and has been exposed to people from different ethnicities, religions, and cultures her entire life.
Lori spent close to 25 years working in healthcare; five years as a certified nursing assistant and twenty years as a licensed practical nurse. As a nurse, she held positions as the diabetes program coordinator at a community health center, director of clinical education and wound care nurse at a nursing home, infection control nurse, immunization coordinator, and case management for adults with disabilities. Most of her positions involved focusing on developing and delivering education and training to patients, families and healthcare staff. She retired from nursing in early 2016.
Since retiring Lori has found a new passion for activism and community organizing. The political climate that has emboldened those who believe in nativism, bigotry and discriminatory practices is of great concern to her. The first Muslim Ban evoked a visceral response in her which led to her becoming a founding member of and the public relations person for Indivisible Rapid City in February 2017. Since then Indivisible Rapid City has become one of the most active grassroots organizations in South Dakota.
It was her position at Indivisible Rapid City that Lori discovered the number of anti-Islam activities that are occurring in South Dakota. Indivisible Rapid City continues to monitor these activities and sponsors protests at each one of these events in an effort to show unity with our Muslim community and to send a message to the organizers that there are people in Rapid City who do not support activities promoting misinformation and encouraging hate.
Board of Directors
Pamela is a native South Dakotan who left to teach English in South America and serve in the Peace Corps in Africa and then returned to bring her experience back to this great state.
Most recently, she spent 8 years supporting immigrant students and their families as a School/Home Liaison for the Sioux Falls School District.
She holds a B.A. from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD and an M.Ed from Seattle University in Seattle, WA.
Dr. Naomi Ludeman Smith:
Dr. Naomi Ludeman Smith’s personal vision statement is “To have an Impact for Peace.” This vision for living and leadership is motivated by a deep conviction that all people have the right to pursue safety, happiness, and prosperity. Ludeman Smith held a satisfying career in higher education as a professor of Socio-cultural and Reconciliation Studies. During her tenure, she conducted research, facilitated training and led students to study in several international locations, notably in the Middle East and Ukraine. She has also partnered with domestic organizations to support refugee resettlement.
In 2008, Naomi spent her sabbatical in Amman, Jordan, working for Global Professionals, Inc. In 2011, she was invited to attend the National Prayer Breakfast and serve as a delegate to the Middle East Interfaith Leadership meetings. Ludeman Smith served on Bethel University’s (MN) White House Interfaith and Community Service Challenge advisory board. Currently, she chairs the Aberdeen (SD) Area Diversity Coalition.
She also serves on the national board for Peace Catalyst International, a non-profit organization that seeks to build bridges between Muslims and Christians. Ludeman Smith holds a Doctorate of Ministry and Masters degrees in Global Leadership from Bethel University and Seminary and has authored several publications.
Dr. Micheal Saba
Dr. Michael Saba worked in Malaysia and Thailand in the 1960’s and was a training coordinator for Peace Corps programs in Africa in the early 1970’s. He joined Mobil Oil in the mid 1970’s and has been an international business adviser since 1980.
Dr. Saba served as the Director of International Development for Avera Health, Executive Director of Development for Sanford Children's Clinics, and Vice President for International Development for ALSAC/St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, among many other positions.
He was the first Executive Director of the National Association of Arab Americans based in Washington , D.C. and past president of the Attiyeh Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation promoting U.S.-Arab Relations.
Dr. Saba holds undergraduate degrees in Education and Biology from Minot State University in North Dakota . He received a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois in Cross-Cultural and Comparative Education and a Ph.D. in International Relations. He has written and published three books.
Sr. Lynn Marie Welbig
Sister of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Sr. Lynn Marie Welbig - is a South Dakota native. She has a Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education and Educational Administration, and a PhD in Leadership in Education as well as a Master of Arts in Canon Law [Code of Law of Catholic Church]. She has been an educator and a school administrator in Catholic schools in SD and MN for 25 years, and president of Presentation College for eleven years. She served the Diocese of Sioux Falls as the Director of Diocesan Tribunal with appointments of judge and defender of the bond for 25 years.
Sr. Lynn Marie has served on various boards of education and health care, including the board of Catholic Health Association of the United States and has chaired the board of directors of Avera Health. She has served on boards and committees of United Way, Chamber of Commerce Bank, and Good Shepherd Center vocational education. She currently serves on Avera boards in O’Neill, NE, Pierre, SD, and two in Sioux Falls. She is a lobbyist at the SD legislature on behalf of the Presentation Sisters who work for the alleviation of oppression and causes of justice.
Michael Huber grew up in Sioux Falls and graduated from the University of South Dakota with a Masters in Business Administration. He is currently a financial advisor and a yoga instructor in Sioux Falls.
Michael is a dynamic force, welcoming everyone he encounters into a journey of healing through both a gentle calm and an unwavering acceptance. It's his passion, his vocation. And Michael lives it daily through reaching out and helping people overcome the fear that holds them back from life and from developing rich relationships. He believes that through the right relationships, we can understand and learn from all cultures and beliefs.
Married and mother of 3 dynamic adults, Jeanie Conzemius has worked in the medical and humanitarian not-for-profit fields her entire career, advocating for those in need. For 9 years, she toured the world and led casts of international students with the multi-cultural organization Up With People. She co-founded and served as the first Executive Director of the Los Cabos Children’s Foundation. She currently works with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Hispanic Ministry and Harmony South Dakota.
Senator James Abourezk
Born and raised in Wood, SD, Senator James Abourezk was the first Greek Orthodox, first generation Lebanese-American to serve in the US Senate. He served as a Democrat in the US House of Representatives 1971-1973 then in the US Senate from 1973-1979. Abourezk also was instrumental in the creation of both the American Indian Policy Review Commission and the Select Committee on Indian Affairs. Deeply interested in representing the tribes in Congress to work toward better federal relations, he chaired the Policy Review Commission the entire time it existed. He took the gavel as chair of the Indian Affairs Committee from its creation in 1977 to 1979, when he retired.
His signature legislation was the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA, 1978), designed to protect Indian children and families from being torn apart. In 1978 he chose not to run for re election, and after his retirement founded the the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a grassroots civil rights organization in 1980. In 1989, he published his Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate (ISBN 1-55652-066-2). He is the co-author, along with Hyman Bookbinder, of Through Different Eyes: Two Leading Americans — a Jew and an Arab — Debate U. S. Policy in the Middle East (1987), (ISBN 0917561392).
Since his retirement from the Senate, Abourezk has worked as a lawyer and writer in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He has continued to be active in supporting tribal sovereignty and culture and is instrumental in social justice activities in SD.
Stan Adelstein is the first Jewish SD state Senator in the history of the state. A member of the Republican Party, Adelstein is a member of the South Dakota Senate, representing the 32nd district.
Adelstein was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota, but graduated from high school in Denver, Colorado, where there were more opportunities for him to connect with his Jewish heritage. He graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he majored in civil engineering and business. He served in the United States Army, and then returned to Rapid City in 1957. He went to work for his father's engineering company.
Adelstein was elected to the South Dakota House of Representatives in 2000, and served four years in the House before he was elected to the South Dakota Senate in 2004.
Betty Oldenkamp has served as the President and CEO for Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota since March 2006. LSS/SD is a diverse, multi-service agency touching over 50,000 lives each year with a presence in 30 communities. Prior to her service with LSS/SD, Betty served as the Cabinet Secretary for the South Dakota Department of Human Services for five years. Betty previously held the positions of Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities and Director of the Division of Mental Health. She began her professional career as a direct service professional in sheltered work settings, job placements and job coaching, residential services and case management. Betty continues to pursue her interest in public policy through her participation in a variety of committees and organizations.
Dr. Dave Kapaska, DO
Dr. Kapaska has served as Regional President and CEO of Avera McKennan University Health Center since October 2010 – the 16th administrator in the 100-year history of Avera McKennan. His regional span included the 545-bed tertiary hospital in Sioux Falls, 14 community hospitals, more than 70 primary and specialty care clinics, long-term care facilities, as well as fitness and sports centers. Dr. Kapaska also sat on the Avera Health Operations Council. Avera Health includes six regional health centers, 28 community hospitals, more than 200 clinic locations, 40 senior living facilities, as well as two health insurance companies, the country’s most robust telehealth operation and a multi-state home care agency. Avera Health has health care facilities across the five-state region and provides virtual health services in 15 states.
Dr. Kapaska is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, and went on to earn his master’s of business administration degree from Southern Illinois University, and medical degree from the University of Osteopathic Medicine in Des Moines, Iowa. He served as pilot in the U.S. Air Force before embarking on a career in both business and medical realms. After spending 10 years in family practice, Dr. Kapaska assumed various hospital administrative roles, including Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs at Avera McKennan.
During his tenure, Dr. Kapaska steered the growth of Avera’s primary care market in Sioux Falls, overseeing placement of clinics at Dawley Farms, West Benson Road, 69th and Cliff, and South Marion Road – home of the city and state’s first freestanding Emergency Department. New programs developed under Dr. Kapaska’s leadership include Gamma Knife, dialysis centers, liver transplant, and an Avera-owned orthopedic practice. World-renowned research grew vigorously at Avera under his leadership including cancer genomics, the Netherlands Twins study, Worldwide Innovating Networking (WIN) Consortium, Alumend, and the Avera Family Wellness Program, to name a few.
He was integral in bringing all six Avera cancer centers together as one Avera Cancer Institute that shares expertise and cutting-edge technology across the Avera system. He also shepherded the creation of the state’s only transitional care unit at the Avera Prince of Peace campus in Sioux Falls.
Dr. Kapaska was a champion in establishing Avera eCARE™ eICU® in 2004, which leverages technology to extend critical care expertise to rural locations and allows patients to be cared for near home instead of being transferred. He also played a lead role in starting programs for hospitalists, surgicalists and intensivists, which ensure that dedicated physicians are available in-house for patients with immediate or specialized care needs.
Dr Kapaska also played an integral role in working with Muslim physician leaders to develop the Muslims Community Center in Sioux Falls which has been a very successful program meeting the spiritual and community needs of our Muslim brothers and sisters.
Most recently, Dr. Kapaska was instrumental in developing a vision for the planned Avera on Louise Health Campus at 69th and Louise. This campus will include a surgical hospital, connected medical building and more, and will emphasize specialties including orthopedics and gastroenterology.
Dr. Kapaska is currently chair of the board for the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. A major focus of his Chamber leadership role was workforce development focused on education and opportunities for diverse and immigrant populations.
Musheera is an Assistant Professor as USD, and has worked as a child psychiatrist in Egypt. Her work was mainly with patients and families affected by mental illness and childhood psychiatric disorders. She was one of the founding members of a highly specialized Child Psychiatric Unit in her hometown. Some of her responsibilities included working closely with families of individuals with autism and ADHD, working with adolescents from high risk environments, and consulting parents on different childhood and teenage issues. As part of my advocacy for children and families with special needs she founded Mansoura Autism Support Association (MASA). MASA is a charity organization dedicated to providing financial and emotional support to families living with autism. Her current research includes a study of attachment theory in the USA, Egypt, and China. In addition, she works closely with two other researchers on a study about college students' motivation and engagement in academic tasks.
Mayor Mike Levsen
Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen has served as Mayor of Aberdeen since his election on June 1, 2004 and was re-elected in 2009 and 2014. Prior to serving the City of Aberdeen, Mayor Levsen was employed by the YMCA in Aberdeen, South Dakota as Youth Director from 2002- 2004. Previous to that Mayor Levsen worked as an Investment Representative from 1997- 2002. From 1967 -1997 Mayor Levsen was employed at KSDN Radio and was Station Manager for 20 of those 30 years. Some of Mayor Levsen’s leadership positions include serving as Chairman for meetings of South Dakota Class 1 Mayors, Member of the South Dakota Advisory Committee to U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Member of the South Dakota After School Partnership Steering Committee, President of the Aberdeen Family YMCA Board, President of the Aberdeen Boys and Girls Club Board, President of the Aberdeen All Star Games Committee, President of the Aberdeen Softball Association, and Manager of the National Champion Last Chance Softball Team. Mayor Levsen graduated from Northern State College in Aberdeen, South Dakota in 1972 with a BA in Political Science. The Mayor’s hobbies include history, politics, writing, physical fitness, and local sports. Mayor Levsen and his wife, Stacy, of 44 years, have two children, Teresa and Russell, and two grandchildren, Michael and Allie.
Valerie lives here with her husband Kurt and has three children: Daniel(26), Andrea(22) and Grant(17). Valerie is co-owner of Grand Prairie Foods, where every day she and 150 of the best people in town work together to “Make is Easy for their Customers to Enjoy Great Food!” At Grand Prairie Foods, she and Kurt have made an intentional and sincere effort to create a culture that welcomes and supports members of the immigrant and refugee communities. They greatly value the skills, insights and experience all Grand Prairie Team members bring to the company. Valerie is Founder of Dress for Success Sioux Falls which has supported over 1000 women on their path to economic independence. She has a Master’s degree from The Ohio State University in Health Administration. She loves to teach Kindermuik to wonderful young children and their families and she enjoys leading indoor cycling class with bigger kids.
Dr. Fathi Halaweish, Ph.D
Dr. Fathi Halaweish is a Professor of Chemistry at South Dakota State University.
His current research interests are focused on the chemistry, metabolism, synthesis, tissue culture production of the biologically active organic natural products and their utilization as pharmaceutical and agrochemical agents. The high degree of biodiversity of plants represents a wealth of novel organic natural com pounds to be explored. Our objective is to isolate active components from plant extracts which shows potential activity [such as antitumor and antiviral] through bioassay guided fractionation. He is currently studying acetogenins which have a potent cytotoxic, a potent antitumor against ovarian, leukemia and prostate cancer. Ribosome inactivating proteins (RIP) from cucurbits [a potential anti-tumor and anti-AID agents] is another research program he is pursuing. Another objective of his research is to evaluate the potential activities and toxicity of plants used in Native American medicine.
Dr. Halaweish is also a member of the South Dakota World Affairs Council.