Aaron Belkin

Executive DIrector

Aaron Belkin is a scholar, author, and activist. He has written and edited more than twenty five scholarly articles, chapters and books, the most recent of which is a study of contradictions in American warrior masculinity and the ways in which smoothing over those contradictions makes U.S. empire seem unproblematic. The book, titled Bring Me Men, was first published by Columbia University Press in 2012 and then picked up by Oxford University Press in 2013.

Since 1999, Belkin has served as founding director of the Palm Center, which the Advocate named as one of the most effective LGBT rights organizations in the nation. He designed and implemented much of the public education campaign that eroded popular support for military anti-gay and anti-transgender discrimination, and when "don’t ask, don’t tell" was repealed, the president of the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund observed that, "this day never would have arrived (or it would have been a much longer wait) without the persistent, grinding work of the Michael Palm Center." Harvard Law Professor Janet Halley said of Belkin that, "Probably no single person deserves more credit for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’"

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Diane Russell

Campaign Manager

Diane served in the Maine House for eight years where she championed working families, many of whom have been left behind and forgotten in a system rigged for the elite.   She was a key leader in reforming Maine’s political system as a long-time champion of Ranked Choice Voting. Last year, she took on the DNC’s out-of-touch Superdelegate system on behalf of Sen. Bernie Sanders, where she delivered a powerful speech about the importance of fixing our broken political systems.  Additionally, she used her position in the Legislature to launch and help lead the fight to legalize marijuana. In 2011, she was named the Most Valuable State Representative in the country in the Nation Magazine’s Progressive Honor Roll.


Carisa Cunningham

Media Relations Consultant

Carisa Cunningham is a long-time non-profit communications professional specializing in legal advocacy, LGBTQ rights, public health, and HIV/AIDS advocacy.
As director of public affairs and education for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) from 2004-2016, she used research-backed and story-based communications to power the drive to nationwide marriage equality, advance transgender rights, and promote the organization.

She has been director of public relations for AIDS Action Council (Washington), Wheelock College, and AIDS Action Committee (Boston), and worked in public relations for Gay Men's Health Crisis at the height of the American AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. Internationally, she worked for the Harvard AIDS Institute in Botswana, handling communications surrounding the first HIV vaccine trial to take place in Southern Africa. 

As a consultant, her clients have included Prisoners' Legal Services, Campaign Legal Center, the American Political Science Association, and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. Carisa has taught non-profit public relations at Boston University, and sits on the board of the New England Innocence Project.


Sean McElwee

Director of research & Polling

Sean McElwee, co-founder of Data for Progress, is the 1/20/21 Project's Director of Research and Polling. He has spent half a decade bringing cutting edge data analysis to progressive advocacy and his work has been cited by politicians at the national, state and local level.

His writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation, Vox and The Washington Post.  


Alicia Barnes

Digital director

Alicia Barnes joins this project after working as an organizer and digital strategist on the Be A Hero campaign led by Ady Barkan. She is a Navy Veteran of the Iraq war and became a social justice activist fighting for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Alicia served for three years as the Twitter Account Manager for the non-profit organization founded by Glenn Close, Bring Change to Mind.

Alicia has built and optimized digital ads for over 200 businesses and candidates for office using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Spotify.

She is a graduate of Purdue University, Emerge Maine, and the Veterans Organizing Institute.