MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Meet Fatima Angeles, the new Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation

FCAA recently sat down with the new Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation, Fatima Angeles, who was appointed in June. Learn about Fatima’s background and the important work of the Levi Strauss Foundation in the following interview.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

After earning my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, my first real job was running an HIV/AIDS prevention program for a nonprofit in the South of Market (SoMa) community in San Francisco. That particular nonprofit focused on Filipino Americans and Filipino immigrants, which is my community. My work in SoMa was transformative. The focus on public health and the commitment to communities of color and immigrant communities opened my eyes to inequities linked to race and class. I’m so grateful for that time because my experience in SoMa continues to inform my work to this day.

I went on to graduate school in New York for public health because I felt I needed more rigorous training to be more effective in my work. While in grad school, I applied to a fellowship program that matched graduate students of color with philanthropic institutions and I was placed in a corporate giving program at Pfizer. While there, I learned how philanthropy can be a powerful partner for change. The fellowship shaped the direction of my career. It showed me a pathway for how I—as an immigrant woman of color—could build a career as a leader in philanthropy.

I’ve spent the majority of my career at The California Wellness Foundation, and I’m proud to be associated with that amazing organization, and I worked my way up from program officer to vice president of programs. Now I’m at the Levi Strauss Foundation, and I’m proud and happy to be here.

What made it the right time to move into this new role?

I was attracted to the Levi Strauss Foundation, and also the company, because of their values— originality, integrity, empathy, courage—which are so aligned with my personal values. Secondly, I was attracted by the Levi Strauss legacy. For example, the company had an integrated workforce in the South years before it was mandated by federal law. It stood up against the pressure to segregate the workforce. It stood for inclusivity. It stood against racism.

When HIV/AIDS first emerged in the United States, the Foundation was one of the first corporate funders to act – providing a grant in 1982 San Francisco General Hospital. In that same year, Robert D. Haas, Chief Operating Officer at the time, and other leaders helped pass out leaflets at the company’s San Francisco headquarters in what may well have been the first corporate effort to educate employees about the virus.

Since those early days, the company has embraced a full-circle corporate strategy to address HIV/AIDS in the workplace and around the world through education, policy change and robust community engagement. Since 1983, the Foundation has also invested $78 million from the Levi Strauss Foundation and the company into frontline HIV/AIDS nonprofits in both the U.S. and more than 40 countries around the world. That bravery to stand alone—to serve as an example for other funders and companies—really moved me.

The Foundation’s focus on advancing rights and improving the lives of apparel workers is also connected to the worker rights program I led at the California Wellness Foundation.  Finally, over the last two years, the Foundation’s focus on voting rights—investing over $1.7 million to grassroots organizations working to bring more people into the democratic process—demonstrates that the Foundation is really living its values and standing up for justice. That’s attractive to me.

All of that, and I love jeans – especially Levi’s®. That’s what my father and uncle wore growing up in the Philippines.

What can you tell us about Levi Strauss Foundation’s current HIV/AIDS work?

We are as committed as ever to the issue of HIV/AIDS. We continue to be focused on Black and brown communities and women in the United States. Those are groups that have been neglected by funders, by researchers, and by community organizations. There’s a lot of work to do to ensure Black and brown people have access to information and care, as well as a voice in what shapes their health and well-being. Another focus is on policy and advocacy efforts to decriminalize HIV.

We’re not that big of a foundation, so we make every dollar count. We always want to be at the front end of the work. I’m looking to FCAA to help us figure out where that next place is, so we can continue to be pioneering in our work.

People may not know that you used to be on the FCAA Board of Directors. What drew you to the organization?

I joined FCAA for a number of reasons. HIV/AIDS prevention work was always important to me. When I joined the board, Cal Wellness had just begun to fund in HIV/AIDS, and I led that work. While I knew the issues from a prevention and community standpoint, I didn’t know it from a philanthropic standpoint. I wanted to do the work well, and FCAA was a place where I could learn, as well as contribute. It was a community of practitioners that I could connect with and learn from. FCAA offers opportunities for leadership for people who are early in their careers or learning the art and science of grantmaking. I was excited to be part of it.

What do you think about FCAA’s evolution and new strategic plan?

FCAA has evolved its work to focus on race, social justice, and equity. That was an inspired and strategic development that fits with the times and what’s needed to combat HIV/AIDS. FCAA is not only a resource and connector, which is so important, but also a staunch advocate. FCAA’s voice is valuable to the field and to the movement. By using its platform to advocate for change, FCAA has skin in the game. FCAA has also upped the ante for members by standing up for justice, because advocating for racial equity is part of HIV/AIDS work.