Media Contact: Jesus Chavez, Communications Manager, 559-213-6841, firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2021
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Centro Legal de la Raza’s Board of Directors has chosen Monique Juanita Berlanga as Executive Director, effective December 1, 2021.
Berlanga joined Centro Legal six years ago and has led Centro Legal’s Tenants’ Rights Practice as the Directing Attorney for the past three years. An East Bay native, she has personal and professional insight to the political, economic, and social climate in the East Bay. Berlanga holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and has over 10 years of public interest litigation experience. For Berlanga, Centro Legal has always been “home.” Berlanga has maintained connection to Centro Legal’s housing work since 2005, when she first began volunteering at Centro Legal’s legal clinics as a first-year law student.
Berlanga was selected from over 100 applicants in the nationwide search for Centro Legal de la Raza’s Executive Director.
Berlanga brings a multifaceted perspective, having represented low-income tenants in the East Bay for over ten years. Prior to joining Centro, she worked as a housing staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid where her practice focused on eviction defense in the context of subsidized housing and representation of tenants in fair housing matters. Prior to that, Berlanga spent five years as the managing attorney of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland, where she litigated over 1,500 cases on behalf of low-income tenants facing eviction from their homes in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
Most recently, Berlanga assumed the Interim Co-Executive Director role, leading over 100 staff at Centro Legal. Under Berlanga’s leadership, Centro Legal’s Tenants’ Rights Practice grew from a team of six to over forty, provided legal services to over 2,500 last year tenants in Alameda County, and recently expanded into Contra Costa County. The Practice has significantly diversified its funding sources, now managing 27 grants, and is partnering with Alameda County to administer over $130 million in federal rental assistance. The Tenants’ Rights Practice led advocacy efforts resulting in the Alameda County eviction moratorium–one of the strongest eviction moratoria in the country–which is continuing to save lives and prevent homelessness to this day.
Berlanga was the recipient of the Hon. Cruz Reynoso Social Justice Fellowship. She also served as co-chair of the La Raza Law Students’ Association at Berkeley School of Law—the organization out of which Centro Legal originated in 1969. Monique holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from California State University, Hayward. Berlanga was the first person in her family to attend college. Monique is a member of the East Bay La Raza Lawyer’s Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. She was recently elected to serve as a Board Member of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO). Berlanga lives in San Leandro with her partner and their three sons.
“The Search Committee and the Board of Directors were very impressed by Monique’s life experience and impact in serving the East Bay community,” said Sergio Garcia, Board Chair. “Centro Legal has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years to meet the increasing demand for legal services. Having worked closely with Monique, I am confident that she will continue to provide inspired leadership, passion and commitment at Centro Legal as the organization continues to grow in reach throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Monique is the right person to take this fifty-plus year organization to the next level and spearhead Centro Legal’s mission and vision in building a pipeline of extraordinary leaders, providing excellent legal services and advancing racial equity in our community.”
“I am humbled and honored to be named as Centro Legal’s next Executive Director. The heart of Centro Legal remains strong and resilient, we are well positioned to take our organization and our innovative movement lawyering oriented model to the next level,” says Berlanga. “Centro Legal is a community defender, where the needs of the community are centered and the community directly informs our program work. Having grown up in the East Bay, I am committed and honored to serve my community. My lived experience, legal experience, and Centro Legal experience make me well positioned to lead Centro Legal into the next chapter of our storied history.”
Founded in 1969, Centro Legal protects and advances the rights of low-income, immigrant, Black, and Latinx communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy. Centro Legal de la Raza combines quality legal services with know-your-rights education and youth development, and ensures access to justice for thousands of individuals throughout Northern and Central California.