Our core staff and program advisors have strong ties and long-term connections with Cuban institutions and stakeholders in both Havana and the provinces. We have high-level experience working with political leaders, collaborating with scholars, and engaging with grassroots networks for transformative social change in North America, Latin America, Cuba, and beyond.
SARAH STEPHENS, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR
Sarah Stephens is the founder and Director of the Cuba Platform. She is also the founder and former Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas (CDA), where for ten years, she designed and led programs to educate and change hearts and minds about U.S. relations with Cuba. She has engaged hundreds of policymakers, business leaders, women philanthropists, artists, and cultural icons in supporting an end to the embargo. Ms. Stephens has led more than 70 official fact-finding trips, trade and cultural missions, and people-to-people delegations to Cuba over the past 17 years, including those of The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY) and Terry McAuliffe (VA); seven U.S. corporations from the Fortune 100 List, and dozens of Members of the U.S. House and Senate from both parties.
At CDA, Ms. Stephens created the weekly Cuba Central News Brief and supervised the publication of a series of reports on 21st Century Cuba, including “Cuba’s New Resolve: Economic Reform and its Implications for United States Policy” and “Women’s Work: Gender Equality in Cuba and Women’s Role in Building Cuba’s Future,” funded by the Ford Foundation and featured in The New York Times. Ms. Stephens has testified before Congress on U.S.- Cuba relations and the coup in Honduras, and continues to provide commentary and expertise to the media and in other public forums. Her current research and writing is focused on the intersection of neuroscience and empathetic societies.
JUSTINE WILLIAMS, MANAGING DIRECTOR
Justine Williams is Managing Director of the Cuba Platform, a cultural anthropologist, and a scholar of Cuban agrifood systems. Dr. Williams has a decade of experience working with NGOs, academic institutions, and grassroots organizations on issues of food sovereignty, social justice, and race. She has been working in Cuba since 2010, when she began researching agricultural systems and food sovereignty on the island. In 2014-2015, she lived in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba and conducted research on agroecology and permaculture movements through collaboration with the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation. Between 2015 and early 2017, she organized Food Sovereignty Tours to Cuba with the Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy. She is editor of the book volume, Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons in the United States, which takes inspiration from the Cuban experience of agrarian reform and land distribution. At the Cuba Platform, Dr. Williams is focused on facilitating meaningful experiences and supporting both Atlantic Fellows and her Cuban collaborators in their social, economic, and health justice work. She holds an MA and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
CATHERINE MURPHY, SENIOR FILM ADVISOR
Catherine Murphy, Senior Advisor to the Cuba Platform, is also an independent film producer and a leading U.S. expert on Cuban society. Ms. Murphy studied in Cuba in the 1990s, researching urban food production and obtaining an MSc at the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales [Latin American Department of Social Sciences] (FLACSO) of the University of Havana. Since then, she lived and worked across Latin America and the United States, focusing on multi-media campaigns and social documentaries. Ms. Murphy has organized dozens of academic and cultural exchange programs to Cuba with universities, non-proﬁt institutions, and cultural institutions with well-known figures including Dr. Patch Adams and Wynton Marsalis. She has worked on numerous films about Cuba including “‘Verde que te quiero verde”’ [The Greening of Cuba] by Jaime Kibben and “‘Que el verdadero terrorista se ponga de pie”’ [Will the Real Terrorist Please Stand Up?] by Saul Landau. She served as Senior Staff Producer at the TeleSur TV Washington Bureau in 2006 and has produced content for PBS, Radio Pacíﬁca, Avila TV, WBAI, KPFA, and Democracy Now! Her documentary “MAESTRA,” narrated by Alice Walker, has screened widely since a 2012 release.
MARIAKARLA NODARSE VENANCIO, PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio, Program Coordinator for the Cuba Platform, is a lawyer with a Master’s Degree in International Legal Studies, specializing in international business law and international organizations. With a proven track record of experience in policy and case analysis, research and communications content development, as well as the execution of awareness and relationship-building activities in multi-cultural environments, Ms. Nodarse has built her career at the intersection of issues relating to public policy with law and society, in both NGO and legal organizations. As a Cuban, she has a strong interest in the Latin America and Caribbean regions, which she has manifested throughout her academic and professional career, authoring several research papers and a thesis on NGOs in Latin America, focusing on how the barriers established by the legal frameworks were directly related to the effectiveness of organizations in the region.