25th Cascade Festival of African Films

Staff Changes

by Mary Holmström


With saddened hearts, we bid farewell to Allison Mobley, who served as CFAF Assistant Coordinator from 2012–2014 and as Interim Coordinator from August 2010–June 2012. In her place, we welcome Ronna Neuenschwander, artist, community organizer, and long-time CFAF Committee member, as the new CFAF Assistant Coordinator.

We are thankful to Allison for her years of service to the Cascade Festival of African Films. Allison arrived in Portland in June 1998 after serving in Malawi as a Peace Corps volunteer. She attended CFAF for the first time in February 1999 and joined the CFAF Committee two years later. In 2004 she moved to Uganda to do public health work in AIDS prevention. She returned to Portland in 2005, rejoined the festival committee, and volunteered to manage the after-film speakers, a job she did with great gusto and joy. After the 20th CFAF in 2010, when founders Mary Holmström and Michael Dembrow stepped down after 20 years as the festival’s co-directors, Allison agreed to serve as the interim coordinator until a permanent coordinator could be hired. In 2012, Tara Foster, PCC Cascade English and film studies instructor, took over as the CFAF coordinator, with Allison staying on as the assistant coordinator.

We are especially grateful to Allison for her stewardship of CFAF through the transitional leadership years, never an easy job. Her outstanding organizational skills, dedication, and hard work kept CFAF on a sure and steady path. During this time Allison created the CFAF Manual that captures in great detail all the information any current or future festival leader needs to know to run the Cascade Festival of African Films. She provided unflagging help and support to Tara when Tara became the festival coordinator.

At this same time, Allison had a full-time job in public health at her non-profit organization Behavior Works that promoted sexual and reproductive health. This spring, her contracts in Oregon ended. Since her career was in public health with a focus on international health communications, she felt this was the right time to return overseas and work in behavior change communications, most likely in Africa. She resigned from her job as CFAF Assistant Coordinator on June 21, 2014, in order to plan for a smooth transition in the event a job became available soon. We offer Allison our profound thanks and gratitude and our best wishes for happiness and success in all her future ventures!

We feel lucky and honored to have Ronna Neuenschwander on board as our new CFAF Assistant Coordinator. Ronna will continue to serve as CFAF’s Development Coordinator, a job she’s been doing for the festival for two years now. Ronna comes to CFAF with 25 years of experience and knowledge about the festival. She was the first after-film speaker at the screening of the Malian film Yeelen at the First Annual Cascade Festival of African Films in February 1991. She and her husband Baba Wagué Diakité became the first community members to join the CFAF Committee, also in 1991. Soon thereafter, Ronna and Wagué, along with their young daughters Penda and Amina, became the popular hosts of Family Film Day. Ronna also serves as the managing director of Ko-Falen Cultural Center, a non-profit organization founded by Wagué to create greater understanding and respect between people. In addition to all this, Ronna is a renowned artist specializing in ceramic sculpture that is deeply influenced by her love of her husband Wagué’s homeland, Mali. Her art is represented in many private and public collections including the Renwick of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and the Portland Art Museum. She is represented by Froelick Gallery in Portland.