New Year, New Leadership!

Dear Centro Legal Community,

Throughout the last couple of years we have been witnesses to an era filled with unexpected, difficult, and complex challenges. With new crises emerging everyday, it is necessary that we have our best and greatest minds steering the helm of our ship, guiding us effortlessly through the turbulent waters that often arise from our unfair and problematic legal system. 

This past summer our Tenants’ Rights practice continued to work tirelessly to advocate for Alameda County’s eviction moratorium (the strongest in the country) and expanded Centro Legal’s anti-displacement work into Contra Costa County. When Alameda county needed help during the COVID-19 pandemic, our practice met their call and distributed over $81,000,000 of emergency rental assistance. At the same time last year, we also continued to serve over 1,000 clients and were able to provide 39 “Know Your Rights Presentations” to 734 community members. At the helm of this ship, our amazing duo of Co-Interim Directing Attorneys, Henrissa Bassey and Samantha Beckett

I am excited to announce that they will now be stepping into the permanent role of Co-Directing Attorneys! 

“We are excited to co-lead the Tenants’ Rights team during a critical moment for tenants’ rights. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted vast inequities in our communities and how close so many of our neighbors — particularly those who identify as low-income, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or as having a disability — are to crisis without greater support and protections. The past few years forced our Tenants’ Rights team to be agile and creative to meet community needs and contribute to efforts to build community power. We are proud to have secured funding to sustain the expansion of our advocacy into Contra Costa County while we continue to work alongside Alameda County tenants to prevent evictions, increase community capacity to advocate for tenants’ rights, and fight for safe and affordable housing. 

“With the end of the Alameda County moratorium expected in coming months, we anticipate that the need for our services will reach unprecedented levels. We look forward to continuing to respond to the eviction crisis with agility and creativity, while remaining grounded in our values of client-centered and community-led advocacy, racial and social justice, holistic eviction defense, and both staff and community wellness to combat displacement and fight for safe, stable, and affordable housing for all.” 

-Henrissa and Sam

At Centro Legal we are proud of our strong leaders who push our organization to find solutions to intricate issues, understand our limitations and collaborate frequently with community partners, and who above all, always strive to raise the voices of our communities’ most marginalized members. 

I could not be more happy to have these two great attorneys spearheading and guiding our Tenants’ Rights program into this next year. I have full confidence that under their leadership we will continue to reach new heights and find success advocating and learning alongside our community.

In Solidarity, 

Monique Berlanga

Executive Director

Henrissa Bassey received her Juris Doctor from the American University Washington College of Law. Prior to attending law school, Henrissa attained a Master of Public Health from the Univerisity of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and worked as a research analyst at WestEd. Henrissa has represented historically marginalized and racialized clients in civil court, administrative hearings, HUD conciliations, and appeals. Henrissa has also litigated unlawful detainer actions for tenants facing eviction, illegal rent increases, retaliation, discrimination, harassment, and habitability violations.

Prior to joining Centro, Henrissa worked as a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid and a policy research associate at PolicyLink. She has had the opportunity to work alongside systems-involved young people from underserved communities in California, Washington, DC, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria to advance racial, social, and gender equity.

Henrissa is a member of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Racial Justice Task Force. Henrissa is passionate about using multi-faceted approaches to enforce the housing rights of all communities who have systematically been denied just and fair participation in our society and/or are often treated as if their lives and livelihoods do not matter. She looks forward to co-leading the Tenants’ Rights Practice with Samantha Beckett to disrupt the status quo, remove barriers to tenants living the lives they have envisioned for themselves, and enforce the rights of historically marginalized communities to live in safe, affordable housing, free from discrimination and harassment.

Samantha Beckett has represented low-income tenants in eviction defense and housing matters for over eight years. At Centro, she has litigated numerous unlawful detainer, rent board, and subsidized housing cases. Sam has assisted low-income tenants facing eviction, unlawful rent increases, uninhabitable conditions, and harassment in both the state court and before the Oakland Rent Adjustment Program. Prior to joining Centro, Sam was a supervising attorney on the housing team at Bread for the City, a non-profit organization in Washington, D.C.

Sam Beckett received her Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California. Sam is also a proud member of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Judicial Appointments Evaluation Committee.

Sam is fueled by her belief that housing is a fundamental human right, and is excited to co-lead the Tenants’ Rights Practice with Henrissa Bassey in responding creatively and holistically to the needs of our marginalized and underserved community members to ensure safe, stable, affordable housing, so that all of our neighbors can thrive.