The Story of Sila
SILA comes from the Arabic word for connection. We aim to strengthen the ecosystem for social change locally and nationally by fostering connections between leaders, resources and ideas. SILA came about because of the gaps we saw in the ecosystem - communities that were doing important work but lacked support to take their work to the next level; philanthropy that was trying to connect with local communities but didn’t know the landscape; influencers that wanted to amplify the stories of grassroots leaders but didn’t have access. SILA steps in as the intermediary - literally the connector - that helps increase the capacity of our social change network and maximize our overall impact. We specialize in working with vulnerable communities who require a unique set of skills because they often lack resources and infrastructure. As people deeply embedded in the principles of community organizing, we value the importance of relationships. We believe strong communities are the backbone for a healthy society and are privileged to support the work of those building a better world.
Marya Bangee, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Marya Bangee is passionate about helping build communities. She started her journey as a community organizer in the Muslim-American community, including leading a national advocacy campaign for the the protection of free speech on college campuses. Through her organizing, she has often represented the Muslim-American voice in national media like the New York Times and NPR.
After completing her baccalaureate degrees in English and Sociology at UC Irvine, she served as a Project Director at UCLA, working to increase access to higher education in impoverished areas of the city. Seeing the need for communal solutions to the challenges posed by poverty, she completed a six-month residency with the Industrial Areas Foundation. There, Marya studied the works of Saul Alinsky and Marshall Ganz while helping organize a mayoral town hall with a thousand Angelenos and carrying out a series of mobile enrollment clinics for the Affordable Care Act with low-income communities.
Marya was selected for the prestigious Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, where she worked on a national senate campaign, staffed California's Speaker of the Assembly, and helped develop part of the ten-year strategic plan for the California Community Foundation. Marya graduated as a Dean’s Merit Scholar from the University of Southern California (USC) with her Masters in Public Administration in 2015, specializing in nonprofit management and public policy. In 2017, she was selected by the Ford Foundation as a Public Voices Fellow, which aims to dramatically increase the impact of spokespeople from underrepresented communities.
RHONDA RAGAB, Chief Operating Officer
Rhonda Ragab has worked in the fields of research, communications, health, and development for the past 10 years and joined SILA to build its capacity for systems change work by developing its operational infrastructure. Rhonda earned her Bachelor degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine and her Master in Public Health with a concentration in Communications from the University of Southern California.
Rhonda served as the Managing Editor and Webmaster for the award-winning website VirtualMosque.com (formerly known as SuhaibWebb.com) for five years and established a three-tier editing system with 6 editors and 18 authors. She also served as a Communications and Development Associate at New Horizon where she designed a website, created processes and protocol for all donor relations and gift tracking, and established the organization’s social media presence.
Most recently, Rhonda worked in community-based participatory research at USC focusing on tobacco and cervical cancer. For 4 years, Rhonda was a researcher and project specialist at USC and studied how vulnerable and minority communities are heavily targeted by the tobacco industry. She conducted and developed focus groups, retail interview surveys, and store observations in 5 low-income ethnic communities (African American, Hispanic/Latino, Korean American, American Indian, and Non-Hispanic Whites) in the greater Los Angeles area. She was also involved in material development strategies from concept to production, developed educational materials, consulted on various educational materials, field-tested materials, and adapted materials to be culturally-competent. Through her experience at USC, Rhonda has extensive experience as a grant writer and has contributed to numerous grant applications which were funded by both private and government agencies.