Aug. 30, 2017 12:55 pm

Power Moves: Accessibility expert Ather Sharif is leaving Philly

The ExoXLabs founder is heading to Chicago for personal reasons. Plus, the city named 13 members to its Police Advisory Commission, and United Way has a new board chair.

Ather Sharif at the 2016 Philly Geek Awards.

(Photo by Clever Girl Photography)

Editor's note: This story has been updated with further comment from Nigel Charles. (8/31, 11:25 a.m.)

Power Moves is a semi-regular column chronicling leadership movements within Philly’s social impact community. Send announcements to

1. ExoXLabs founder Ather Sharif is moving to Chicago.

The Comcast technologist and 2015 Geek of the Year is leaving for personal reasons, and to try out a new part of the country before heading off to Seattle in 2018 for grad school. His accessibility-minded, volunteer-run startup, EvoXLabs, will live on, though — it was never meant to be Philly-centric, with interns working remotely from all over the country.

Sharif has some parting advice for the local nonprofit and startup communities working in accessibility: Get united for stronger impact.

“There are a lot of people doing a lot of different things, and they’re not connected,” Sharif said. “In social impact but specifically in the area of accessibility, it’s so broken [in Philly]. That’s why every time somebody said the word ‘accessibility,’ my name popped up. [Visually impaired tech consultant] Austin [Seraphin]’s name popped up. But we’re not the only people.”

Fun fact: Generocity gave EvoXLabs its first piece of press ever. Bon voyage!

2. The city named 13 pros to the revamped Police Advisory Commission.

Per Executive Order 2-17 and as detailed by a statement from the City of Philadelphia, members of the commission charged with improving community-police relations “were chosen based on recommendations from civic, advocacy, legal and law enforcement organizations as well as City Council and relevant city agencies, including the Office of Black Male Engagement, the Office of LGBT Affairs and the Commission on Human Relations.”

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The commission also recently announced its new executive director to be Hans Menos, currently the senior director of New York City-based Safe Horizon Crime Victim Assistance Program. He’ll take over from Interim ED Erica Atwood on Oct. 2.

The new members are:

  • Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania (chair)
  • Shawn Aleong, advocate for civil rights and disability rights
  • Erica Atwood, CEO of First Degree Consulting, LLC
  • Mujeeb Chaudhary, president of the Ahmadiyyat Muslim Community
  • Ben Geffen, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center
  • Marvin R. Lazenbury, interim director of community engagement for CUA 1 NET Community CARE in the Department of Human Services
  • Michael Rahming, violence intervention counselor for the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia
  • George D. Mosee, Jr., executive director of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network
  • Bilal Abdul Qayyum, president and executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, Inc.
  • Naiymah Sanchez, transgender advocacy coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
  • Sonia E. Velazquez, former inspector for the Philadelphia Police Department
  • Dr. Michael M. Wehrman, strategic research manager for The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Sarah Yeung, director of planning and senior project manager at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation

Here’s’s case for the commission upping its impact.

J. Gordon Cooney. (Courtesy photo)

3. J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. will head up United Way’s regional board.

Cooney, head of the global litigation practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, began his tenure as chair the board of directors for United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey in July. He has served on the board since 2009 and previously chaired its impact strategy committee.

The attorney also serves on the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

The announcement comes on the heels of the news that Jim Cawley would be stepping down from his role as president and CEO to become Temple University’s new VP of institutional advancement. United Way board member Mike DiCandilo will serve as interim president and CEO.

4. Bread & Roses hired Nigel Charles for its Giving Project.

The community fund recently hired Philadelphia LISC’s former community development assistant as its new project manager to co-facilitate the Giving Project program, a new grantmaking model that trains socially minded community members to raise and distribute money for its Racial and Economic Justice Fund and Future Fund.

“Our current political climate calls for organizations fighting for racial and social justice to continue in their labor of creating an equal and equitable society, and I am privileged to work on [Bread & Roses’] behalf every day,” Charles wrote in an email.

“This position feels like it was designed personally for me. In it, I am able to fully express my passion for racial and social justice, utilize my past experiences with community organizing, and facilitate conversations that engage different populations throughout the city of Philadelphia. Finding ways to provide necessary funding to community organizations has always been a goal of mine, and now I get to do just that.”

Charles is also a member of the city’s inaugural Millennial Advisory Committee, where he serves on the group’s neighborhood change committee.

[Full disclosure: This editor will be participating in the Fall 2017 Giving Project.]

5. Nora Elmarzouky left Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture to work on her own consultancy.

The Arab culture organization’s former director of education said via email that she’ll “continue working in the field of experiential education and urban space, expanding a program I designed that addresses young people as representatives of their communities that turns the city into the classroom — called “My Future, My City – My City, My Future.”

The program is part of a research and design consultancy Elmarzouky cofounded called collaborative, which “seeks to uplift people with the built environment to create a more just city during urban transformation processes.”

She’ll also be speaking at this weekend’s inaugural YallaPunk conference and music festival, for which tickets are now on sale.

6. Dan Comly left his post as marketing director of FringeArts.

Comly joined the contemporary arts organization in 2010 and managed its brand identity through its 2013 expansion into a year-round performance venue. The longtime director stepped down this summer before the start of the 21st annual Fringe Festival, happening Sept. 7 to 24.

7. Angel Rodriguez is the new ED of the Philadelphia Land Bank.

The current VP of community economic development for Asociación Puertorriqueños En Marcha was appointed executive director last week following a drawn-out launch for the government entity, which handles titles for vacant, tax-delinquent land and properties in Philly.

Mayor Jim Kenney also appointed three new members to the land bank board: Dominique Casimir, deputy commissioner for real estate management at the Department of Public PropertyChristian Dunbar, deputy city treasurer; and Lauren Vidas, a community advocate with South of South Neighborhood Association.


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