Meet our dedicated team members.
Leseliey Welch, MPH, MBA
Co-Founder & Co-Director
Leseliey (she/her) is a public health leader with a business mind and a visionary heart, holding love as a guiding value, a way of being, an action and a politic. Leseliey is Co-founder of Birth Detroit and Birth Center Equity, a mom and a tireless advocate for work that makes communities stronger, healthier and more free.
Leseliey leads a team of birth workers, birth advocates and community leaders planning Detroit’s first freestanding community birth center Birth Detroit, and is proud of the launch of Birth Center Equity to grow and sustain birth centers led by Black, Indigenous and people of color across the country. She has nearly two decades of leadership experience in city, state and national health organizations. She served as interim executive director of Birthing Project USA, Deputy Director of Public Health for the City of Detroit, and consulted in the development of Michigan’s first comprehensive LGBTQ health center.
Leseliey has taught at the university level for over fifteen years, contributing to the development of Wayne State University’s Bachelor’s in Public Health Program and creating courses on numerous health equity topics for undergraduate and master’s level public health students, medical students and medical residents. Leseliey currently lectures in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the University of Michigan. She earned her undergraduate degree in Women’s Studies, Masters in Public Health with a certificate in Women’s and Reproductive Health, and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Michigan.
A Michigander by birth and a world citizen in spirit, Leseliey resides in Ypsilanti, Michigan, with her wife and two children and loves global travel.
Nashira Baril, MPH
Co-Founder & Co-Director
Nashira (she/her) is a biracial Black woman, the daughter and great-granddaughter of midwives, who birthed both of her children at home and has experienced firsthand the transformative experience and liberation of midwifery support.
Nashira is the founder of Boston’s Neighborhood Birth Center, the city’s first freestanding birth center start up. With a master’s degree in Maternal and Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health and nearly 20 years of experience designing and implementing public health strategies to advance racial equity, Nashira brings a structural analysis and somatic practice to the design and implementation of public health strategies that advance justice and equity. She has worked at the Boston Public Health Commission, Harvard School of Public Health, and most recently Human Impact Partners, and she maintains a small consulting practice focused on facilitating organizational development for equity.
A New Englander through and through, Nashira is from Connecticut, vacations in Vermont, and lives in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston with her husband and two kids.
Marinah Valenzuela Farrell
Director of Organizational Wellness
(she, her, ella)
Marinah identifies as a first generation indigiqueer Chicana daughter of a medicine woman from Chihuahua, Mexico, a Chicano musician father from the borderlands, and mother to mixed-race children and grandchildren.
Marinah is the owner of Phoenix Midwife and the founder of Parteras de Maiz, an umbrella organization for diverse advocacy and health justice projects which affirms the importance of traditional and indigenous midwives and assembles initiatives and coalitions nationally and internationally. She is also a sometime podcaster, public speaker and writer.
Marinah has served as consultant, facilitator, board member, midwife and executive for health justice projects in the U.S, North America, Central America, and Uganda, facilitating policy initiatives on public health responses, indigenous/immigrant reproductive and primary healthcare access, education programs, birth center development, and workforce development.
Marinah is a founder of Phoenix Allies for Community Health, a free clinic primarily serving immigrant families, a direct result of her active street medic work. Marinah is the past president of the Midwives Alliance of North America, and worked in a dedicated coalition with national midwifery groups for United States Midwifery, Education, Regulation, and Association (USMERA).
Marinah is a Culture of Health Leader, advisory board member for Birth Detroit, working on expanding the Medicaid workforce with the Institute of Medicaid Innovation, working alongside native communities on reclamation of birth sovereignty, and planning essential convenings for midwives and healers.
Marinah is a certified practitioner in Somatic Experiencing, with advance certification in the prenatal and perinatal period, as part of her dedication to traditional medicine and healing.
Jess F Gutfreund, LM, CPM, IBCLC, MSM
Director of Solidarity and Resource Generation
I have been a licensed midwife since 2009 and accompanied hundreds of families in the process of giving birth. I earned a Master’s degree in Midwifery from the National College of Midwifery in 2014. My work has extended into the development of a community birth place, policy work to transform the conditions of rural healthcare access, building a Birth Justice movement and training BIPOC birthworkers from New Mexican communities, among other things. Recently, I have stepped back from clinical practice to provide support to Breath of My Heart Birthplace and its new Indigenous leadership team. I continue to invest in the work of disassembling structural barriers to effective community birth models that serve low income communities of color and populations deprioritized by current health systems. Queer family has also rooted me in this geography, where I am accompanied by chosen family and raise my 2 children with folks who are doing the work of living our liberation politics through the relentless joy and exhaustion of parenting.
Founding Partner, Full Spectrum Capital Partners
Taj James (he/him) is a father, poet, strategist, ecosystem designer, & capital advisor. Taj is a Founding Partner at Full Spectrum Capital Partners and former Director and current Board President of the Movement Strategy Center (MSC), a 20+ year organization he co-founded.
Taj helped grow MSC into a $35M thriving social change community institution and network committed to creating a world that works for all. Taj has advised communities and foundations in the environmental and climate sectors, working to build and launch collaborations, partnerships and initiatives designed to accelerate transition to a regenerative economy. These efforts include the Climate Justice Alliance, Building Equity and and for Impact Initiative (BEA4 Impact), the Alliance for Climate Resilience, the Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity initiative of the Kresge Foundation, Pathways To Resilience Initiative and Community Climate Solutions Initiative. Taj is a graduate of Stanford University.
Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Devlabs
Founding Partner, Full Spectrum Capital Partners
Ruben (he/him) is the co-founder and managing partner at Devlabs, and Founding Partner of Full Spectrum Capital Partners.
Born in Honduras, Ruben is a American (California based) investor who has successfully raised, deployed and managed private equity, debt, grants, and venture capital across the Americas with specific focus in Southern Chile and Northern California.
Ruben has advanced the belief that all human beings must participate in the ownership and active sustainability of earth systems. He believes that money is a resource that must flow freely to enable humans to solve our most difficult challenges and live in harmony with earth and one another.
Ruben’s experience includes working as a management consultant with Accenture, managing a multi million dollar technology implementation projects for very large and multinational clients in North America, Mexico and Europe. In 2006, Ruben joined a team of software developers, artists, cooperative workers in a social enterprise dedicated to develop sophisticated and beautifully designed and custom technology platforms for nonprofits, foundations, municipalities and workers cooperatives in the United States.
In 2016, Ruben and his founding partners at Devlabs Ventures successfully raised and launched an $8 Million USD (Devlabs Fund I) early stage Venture Capital fund in Southern Chile. Currently Devlabs Ventures is designing, raising over $50 Million USD in funds to invest in indigenous communities of the Mapuche people of Southern Chile.
Founder, New Moon Collaborations
Julie Quiroz (she/her) is a creative strategist who draws on three decades of experience generating collective creativity that turns vision into reality. Julie helped spark the idea of BCE and has been a core team member since its birth. Julie envisioned and produced BCE’s story videos and plays a lead role in BCE’s narrative and communications.
Julie founded New Moon after more than a decade with California-based Movement Strategy Center, where she served in the MSC leadership team which created and implemented the MSC Transitions Initiative, playing a key role in the design and facilitation of MSC’s Transitions Labs and leading the Transitions Initiative narrative strategy and storytelling.
Julie is the co-founder of Untold Stories of Liberation & Love, an Ypsilanti-based women of color poetry collective. Julie edited and produced Untold Stories’ anthology Love & Other Stories: Poetry of Untold Stories of Liberation & Love Julie’s published creative work includes American Residence.
Julie has held leadership positions in national and regional social justice organizations and currently serves on the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute advisory group and on the board of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.