Chief Policy Officer at Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Inc.
Melissa is an equity-centered activist and intersectional social justice champion with a +20 year success record of fiercely advocating for diverse
communities at the local and national levels. Her career has been defined by a series of firsts including being the first person of Latino heritage, first
person of color, and first Puerto Rican woman to serve as Speaker of New York City Council where she presided over 51 Council Members and
negotiated a $72 billion annual budget.
During her 12-year tenure as New York City Council Member and 4-year tenure as Speaker, Melissa delivered landmark legislative, policy, and civic
engagement victories that included enacting the Unaccompanied Minors Initiative and driving the groundbreaking criminal justice reform initiative to
close Rikers Island. Additional successes span organizational leadership, coalition building, stakeholder engagement and political strategy across key
issue areas such as criminal justice reform, gender equity, LGBTQ+ rights, workers’ rights, housing, and immigration issues. Melissa has also initiated,
championed and co-founded a number of coalitions, task forces and organizations including 21 for 21, Power 4 Puerto Rico, the Young Women’s Initiative and East Harlem/El Barrio/Bronx LGBTQ Task Force. Prior to her political career, Melissa worked with several nonprofits
including ASPIRA where she served as Deputy Director.
Melissa recently served as interim president for Latino Victory. For more than 20 years, she has fought tirelessly for justice for Puerto Rican people
with a passion and tenacity that was inspired by her mother. Melissa is broadly known and respected for progressive and compassionate decision
making, challenging entrenched systems, and doing what is right as opposed to what’s most politically astute.