JusticeAid Board of Directors

JusticeAid boasts a Board of Directors whose diverse lived experiences and accomplishments put them at the forefront of the legal, communications, arts, and activist communities. Our Board members share a passion for helping those most in need, but their abilities to effect positive change don’t hold them back from having a good time. When they aren’t winning major court cases, assisting public defender services, advising nationally renowned nonprofits, and creating art themselves, you can find them at any of our events…usually dancing in the front row.

Dr.  N. Kamèron Akhéru
Professor 

Bio

Dr. N. Kamèron Akhéru (né Cameron Van Patterson) is a multi-hyphenate writer, artist, intellectual activist, action researcher, and emancipatory educator who employs critical race structural competency and literacy, design thinking, and the praxis of decolonization through creative lenses to advance reparatory justice initiatives aimed at social transformation.

Currently, he serves as the Director of Programs for The Judge Alexander Williams, Jr. Center for Education and is a Faculty Specialist/Professor African American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. In these complementary roles, Dr. Akhéru directs strategic initiatives and programs aimed at improving outcomes and opportunities for people from vulnerable or disadvantaged communities.

Dr. Akhéru is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Achievement America, LLC, a consulting company that empowers a new generation of American leadership by advancing excellence and equity in education.

In addition, Dr. Akhéru is the Founder and President of The Center for Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI), a not-for-profit dedicated to advancing the principles of institutional accountability, civic responsibility, and ethical movements for the transformation of society. Dr. Akhéru is also Co-Founder of Black Creative Enterprises, LLC (BCE).

Prior to joining the University of Maryland, Dr. Akhéru served as the Director of Foundation and Government Grants at The Ellington Fund; as the Director of Academic Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and as National Director of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools program.

In addition to his academic interests, Dr. Akhéru is passionate about the global influence of African cultural history and mythology, the visual and performing arts, social justice entrepreneurship, and the empowerment of youth cultures in promoting civic engagement and leadership development.

Born and raised in Long Beach, CA, Dr. Akhéru has been recognized for numerous achievements in education and is a two-time recipient of the Pedro Noguera Volunteer of the Year Award. He earned his BA at the University of California at Berkeley and a PhD from Harvard University. Dr. Akhéru and his family reside in Maryland.

Steve Anderson
Executive VP, ESPN, retired

Bio

Steve Anderson retired after a 35-year career at ESPN and ABC Sports. Steve joined ESPN seven months after the network launched in 1979, and in a few years became a producer. He then served over 25 years in various senior management roles overseeing TV, Radio, and International Production and Operations departments, as well as productions including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, College Football, and Basketball live events and studio shows. Steve was also a proud member of ESPN’s Editorial Board, the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and was the Executive Champion of ESPN’s Women’s Employee Group. He was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2019.

After graduating from The College of the Holy Cross, Steve worked two years as an assistant basketball coach at Fordham University. During those six years on college campuses, his love and appreciation for many different genres of music including Rock, Blues, Jazz, Reggae, Folk, and Country was explored and developed. His passion for all types of music continues today.

Since 2016, it has been Steve’s honor to be a member of this important board dedicated to celebrating and financially supporting organizations engaged in the fight against injustice.

Kim Duckett Coaxum
JusticeAid President
Attorney

Bio

Kim Duckett Coaxum is a proud Southern girl from Atlanta, Georgia who now lives in New York and has somehow become a Yankees and Knicks fan.  She has loved music and the arts her entire life.  Unfortunately, as happens with so many musical prodigies, Kim peaked early and flamed out after becoming first chair clarinet in middle school.  With music off the table as a career path, Kim turned to the law.  She attended Howard University School of Law and served as an intern and law clerk to the Hon. Stephen Milliken—JusticeAid’s Co-Founder.  She then spent several years as a corporate litigator.  Kim has since transitioned from a practicing attorney to a practicing mother of two amazing daughters.

Ray Conley
Owner, Brave Dog Productions

Bio

Ray Conley currently owns Brave Dog Productions, where he edits, produces and directs long-form storytelling. His most recent project is the documentary In A Different Key, an exploration of autism airing in 2022 on PBS. Previously he contributed to films for ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls and the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, among many others. Ray worked for over thirty years for ABC / ESPN / Disney in the news and sports divisions. He received 4 Emmy Awards, most notably for Our Greatest Hopes, Our Worst Fears: The Tragedy of the Munich Games. During the world’s recent hiatus from live events, Ray delved into the confluence of music and charitable-giving — producing, editing and directing online fund-raising concerts for the Saratoga Jazz Fest, Gilda’s Club, JusticeAid and WBGO — validating again the model of bringing people together for positive change through the power of music. Ray has been a music lover since the early 1970s, starting with progressive rock influences and evolving through jazz and blues to singer / songwriters and an eclectic assortment of Americana. He considers himself a lapsed bass player. Ray has devoted his time, expertise and his voice to JusticeAid since 2017, crafting video profiles for events and forums of JusticeAid and grantee partners including the Mental Health Project of the Urban Justice Center, Civil Rights Corp, Essie, Election Protection and NDS. Economic inequality has been a particular concern since his months spent in Bolivia in his teens, where he witnessed economic disparity firsthand. He feels privileged to contribute through JusticeAid to the fight for social justice in its many forms.

Blair Fishburn
Operations and Finance Executive

Bio

Blair is an operations and finance executive with extensive government/public sector experience.

He began his professional career with IBM and went on to provide 20 years as the Chief Financial Officer for four nationally prominent transportation organizations.

Moving beyond his roles in strategic leadership and executive financial management, Blair has turned his focus to helping nonprofit organizations achieve long-term financial success and sustainability.

He is VP of the Board of Directors and liaison for state government funding of Hero Dogs, Inc., a Maryland nonprofit that provides highly-trained service dogs to disabled veterans and first responders at no cost for the lifetime of the partnerships. He is also a member of MD Comptroller Peter Franchot’s Business Advisory Council.

Blair’s mission-oriented service enthusiasm dates back to high school in the early 70s, where he volunteered with disabled veterans at the Bronx (NY) Veterans Administration Hospital.

His lifelong love of music includes tickets to “too-numerous-to-count” live concerts, from Richie Havens, Traffic, and New Riders of the Purple Sage to The Band, Dave Matthews, and Sting,

Blair rose through the ranks from Disc Jockey to Program Director at his college radio station (WRTC-FM Trinity College, CT). But the real highlight was freshman year in ’73. Working stage security at a Mahavishnu Orchestra campus concert, he escorted to the stage a then-little-known warm-up band named…Aerosmith!

Blair is both deeply honored and humbled to serve alongside his renowned and highly accomplished JusticeAid Board members, who dedicate their time leveraging art and music to bring action in the fight against injustice.

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Brandi Harden
Harden & Pinckney, PLLC

Bio

Brandi Harden is the Managing Partner at Harden & Pinckney, PLLC, a boutique law firm located in downtown Washington, D.C., that specializes in criminal defense litigation, contract, and divorce and family law. She is also an adjunct professor at Howard University School of Law, where she coaches the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Moot Court Team.

Before Brandi began her private practice, she was a trial attorney at the Public Defender Service, maintaining a homicide caseload and supervising attorneys who litigated general felony cases in D.C. Superior Court.

She was a Chair of the 2004 Criminal Practice Institute and has served on the faculty of the National Student Leadership Conference, the Georgia Honors Program, the Southern Public Defender (SPD) Training Center, the Bronx Defender’s Trial College, and Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop. Prior to her work at SPD, Brandi worked for the Southern Center for Human Rights, the United States Department of Labor, and the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division Computer and Finance Section. A native Texan, Brandi obtained both her Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from Howard University.

Tazewell Jones
Attorney

Bio

Tazewell (“Taz”) Jones is a 2010 graduate of American University and a 2020 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. Taz joined the JusticeAid team long before he set off for law school, first leveraging his career in communications and later lending his legal education to JusticeAid’s mission.

In law school, Taz took on an array of leadership roles, particularly through the Student Bar Association and the Innocence Project at UVA School of Law. Taz clerked for several federal judges after law school. Today, he’s an associate at Latham & Watkins, LLP in Washington, DC. In his free time, Taz enjoys live music of all sorts and exploring the outdoors with his dog, Levon.

Natalie Jowett Agoos, JusticeAid Secretary
Documentarian

Bio

Natalie Jowett began working for The Baltimore Sun newspaper while still in college, but eventually found her way to television.  12 years at ABC Sports showed Natalie that video could bring issues of social justice to large audiences in a very accessible way.

When Natalie was introduced to JusticeAid she was thrilled to help share the stories of organizations who bridge divides and fight for justice. With 25 years of network television experience and multiple Emmy awards behind her, Natalie is thrilled to focus on helping JusticeAid amplify the stories of our beneficiaries and the critical, selfless work they do to create a more just and fair society where everyone can thrive.

Brian Lockhart
Vice President and Executive Producer, ESPN+

Bio

Brian Lockhart currently serves as vice president and executive producer of Original
Content for ESPN+, where he oversees strategy and development for all original
programming initiatives.

Prior to joining ESPN in 2019, Brian was vice president and executive producer of
Original Content for NFL Media. He was the driving creative force behind the
development of the original NFL Network documentary series The Timeline, highlighted
by the critically acclaimed installment “America’s Game and the Iran Hostage Crisis.”
His work at NFL Media earned him three of his eight career Emmy Awards, including
the groundbreaking multiplatform experience JFK: The Untold Story of That Day in
Dallas and the digital series The NFL Season: A Biography.

Prior to his NFL tenure, Brian spent the early part of his career at ESPN, ABC Sports,
and HBO Sports. Among his notable productions from the field was Larry Merchant’s
news-making interview with Nelson Mandela in Mozambique.
He was the team captain for the basketball team at College of the Holy Cross, where he
earned his B.A. in Mathematics in 1996. He has remained active as a member of his alma
mater’s President’s Council, and ALANA (African-American, Latino, Asian-American
and Native-American) mentor.

Brian’s personal experience with a family member struggling through the justice system
has drawn him to Justice Aid. He is inspired by the organization’s mission that focuses on
social impact by exciting the ears and igniting the heart.

Anne Messner
JusticeAid Treasurer

Consultant

Bio

Anne Messner has worked as a Vice President in Foreign Exchange Sales & Trading with HSBC and Jefferies in New York City, and as Executive Director of the non-profit organization The Roots of Music in New Orleans. In addition, she has consulted with various businesses in real estate and retail in New Orleans, assisted the producer for a film, obtained a yoga instructor certification, and continued her education at Tulane University.

Anne was born in Boston, MA. and spent her youth in New York, California, and Kansas. She went on to graduate from Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Business and a minor in Spanish. Anne moved to New York City after college and began her career with one of the top teams in the Global Markets Sales and Trading industry. She specialized in Foreign Exchange Institutional Sales and was quickly promoted from Assistant to Vice President during her eight years with HSBC.

At The Roots of Music, a free after school music education program for 9-14-year-old youth in New Orleans that seeks to empower students through music and mentorship, Anne served as a board member then Executive Director for 3 years. As the Executive Director, Anne focused on increasing the visibility and transparency of the organization. By establishing strategic partnerships and performance opportunities, Anne deepened the connection between supporters and the community served. She guided the non-profit through many challenges as it grew from a grassroots program into a program with long-term organizational sustainability in a safer new home in the Marigny neighborhood.

Anne first encountered JusticeAid in 2015 when students from The Roots of Music opened for Ani DiFranco at a House of Blues concert to benefit Innocence Project New Orleans. In 2019 Anne was asked to join the board and is now co-head of Institutional Advancement with Kim Coaxum. Anne is passionate about JusticeAid’s mission to provide resources to grassroots organizations in pursuit of equality in social justice issues such as immigration reform and voter empowerment. Anne’s focus will be to use her fundraising experience and financial expertise to increase the impact of JusticeAid grants.

Hon. Stephen G. Milliken, JusticeAid Co-Founder and CEO
Judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Retired

Bio

Stephen Milliken served as a Judge for more than 20 years in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he worked at Phillips Brooks House (Prison Committee), assisting court-involved children released into community-based treatment—a program that cut re-arrest rates by nearly half. After college, he signed onto the night shift at a reform school in upstate New York to explore corrections alternatives. Following law school and a stint at the Department of Justice, he continued his commitment to public defense and legal services as a Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center and as a founder/partner of Milliken, Van Susteren, & Canan. Steve also taught for over 20 years at Harvard Law’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.

Steve is thrilled to be promoting justice through the arts, especially by the music he loves. As a judge, he created the “Juried Art Show,” a competition for District of Columbia public school art students held in the Jury Room of the Superior Court, and judged by, among others, the Dean of the Corcoran School of Art. With 10,000 potential jurors viewing their work, the students received great exposure, and winners earned scholarships to continue their studies.

Now that Steve has retired from the bench, he has turned to painting at the Washington Studio School. He is the driving force behind the founding of JusticeAid to leverage the community-building power of art and music to transform awareness into action in the fight against injustice.

Neil Parekh
Vice President, Events and Communications, Digimentors 

Bio

Music, musical theater, and social justice figure strongly in Neil Parekh’s life experience.

His earliest influences included Fiddler on the Roof, John Denver, and Sha-Na-Na. Classic and Folk Rock are mainstays. He has been known to livestream his Karaoke performances.

Neil walked a picket line when he was 7 (for District 1199 in New York City). Thirty years later, he was working for the Service Employees International Union 775 on behalf of home care and nursing home workers. For nine years at United Way, he fought for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. These experiences, combined with positions at USAID (Cairo), the Washington state legislature, and a newspaper serving the Indian immigrant community, led to a focus on policy, communications, and marketing. He currently serves as Vice President of Events and Communications for Digimentors, a hybrid/virtual events and digital consulting firm based in New York City.

A graduate of Wesleyan University and a native of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Neil lives outside Washington, DC with his wife and 8-year-old daughter.

Joining the Board gives Neil the chance to combine his love of music and his passion for social justice in support of JusticeAid’s mission.

Johnny Perez
Advocate 

Bio

Drawing on the wisdom of thirteen years of direct involvement with the criminal justice system, Mr. Johnny Perez works as the Director of the U.S. Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith membership organization comprised of 325 religious organizations working to end U.S.-sponsored torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Through his leadership, Mr. Perez coordinates NRCAT’s existing campaign efforts to end the torture of solitary confinement, adding value and strategic insight to building the capacity of faith leaders and directly impacted communities to engage in education and legislative advocacy across the United States.

He adds insight and guidance as a proud participant on the Board of Directors of the Juvenile Law Center and the Urban Justice Center, both nonprofit public interest law firms advocating for the rights, dignity, equity, and opportunities of underserved populations. Additionally, after three years in solitary confinement, he now leads a national movement to end the practice in coalition with the Unlock the Box Campaign. Mr. Perez recently joined as an advisory board member and research consultant of the Urban Institute’s Prison Research and Innovation Initiative, a comprehensive effort to spur innovation to make prisons humane, safe, and rehabilitative environments.

A sought after speaker and organizer, Johnny has been invited to provide major presentations, and guest lectures, on criminal justice reform at law schools and institutions of higher learning nationwide, including various state, regional, and national conferences on topics including the perpetual consequences of justice involvement, access to higher education, and solitary confinement. His commentary has been published by The New York Times, The Fordham Law Journal, Ebony Magazine, USA Today, and the Daily News. Mr. Perez has made appearances on Now This, Capital Tonight, and the Sundance Film Festival.

He was recent named a 2020 USA Today Leader of Change, where he also serves as a contributing opinion writer. Johnny is a father to a teenage daughter and a three-year-old son. He lives in New York City and obtained his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from St. Francis College of Brooklyn where he continues mentor formerly incarcerated students.

Heather Pinckney
Director, DC Public Defender Service

Bio

Heather is the Director of the DC Public Defender Service, where she began her career as a trial lawyer and rose to serve as the Deputy Chief of the Trial Division. Heather’s entire background is in civil rights. She has served as a defense attorney in both public service and in private practice.

Prior to beginning at DCPDS, she worked for the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and for TransAfrica. More recently, Heather served as the Executive Director of the national Black Public Defender Association.

Well known for her accomplishments as a litigator, Heather co-founded Pinckney & Harden with her colleague Brandi Harden, and together they represented clients in both the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and in the United States federal courts.

Heather is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the National Black Lawyers Top 100 and also the proud recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award from D.C. Law Students in Court, in recognition of her commitment to pro bono criminal defense work on behalf of indigent clients. A native Washingtonian, she received her B.A. from Marymount University and her J.D. from George Washington University School of Law.

Preston Pugh, JusticeAid Vice President
Member, Crowell & Moring

Bio

Preston Pugh is a native of Chicago, home to more musical “firsts” than anyone can count.  Music has had a central role in his life: it was jazz that brought his family to the city during the Great Migration, house music that brought him and wife together in D.C. for the first time, and he even had his own short-lived stint as a drummer, until keeping a different beat going on the snare and bass proved to be too much (ugh).

Even more important, social, economic, and criminal justice are central parts of his life.  From taking part in sit-ins at Cornell, leading union organizing campaigns in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi for ACTWU (now UNITE-HERE), helping to teach criminal justice to high school youth in New York City, and today serving as a mentor to underrepresented youth, Preston has been committed to helping others who have been unfairly targeted—and sometimes equally worse, forgotten—by our system.

Preston is excited to be a part of promoting justice through the arts and continues to share his love of “real” music with his two teenage daughters. Now a resident of the Washington, DC area, he is a trial and appellate lawyer at Crowell & Moring. He is honored to be a part of the JusticeAid board.

Mark Rochon
Member, Miller & Chevalier

Bio

Mark Rochon has been with JusticeAid since its inception and currently serves as Board President. Mark is a citizen of three cities: Detroit, where he was born; Washington, D.C., where he has lived most of his adult life; and New Orleans, which holds his heart. All three have forged his commitment to using music and the arts to promote justice.

Growing up in the Detroit area Mark listened to Motown, and he became obsessed with music, especially live shows, at an early age. He also became actively political at a young age, and he always connected music to politics and justice.

When he was 17 years old, Mark enlisted in the Navy (he ended up on a nuclear submarine), and his service enabled him to attend college on the GI Bill. He graduated from Stanford Law School and then moved to the District of Columbia, first to work at the D.C. Public Defender Service, and then in a small firm. He tried countless criminal cases, always for the defense.

Mark fell in love with New Orleans when he attended his first JazzFest in 1998. That love has continued to this day, and he gets to New Orleans whenever he can: for the music, the culture, the food, and the people. He has combined his love of justice with his love of New Orleans and donates his time and effort to justice and music organizations, in addition to handling several pro bono criminal cases in Louisiana.

Among other responsibilities with JusticeAid, Mark is the principal scribe on the Protest Songs blog, where he highlights the intimate connection between justice and music.

Addy R. Schmitt
Member, Miller & Chevalier

Bio

Addy R. Schmitt is Vice Chair of the Litigation Department at Miller & Chevalier, where she represents individuals and corporations in criminal and civil litigation. She has significant trial experience in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland federal courts, and extensive experience representing clients facing parallel proceedings in multiple jurisdictions. Her expertise in white-collar criminal defense and internal investigations has been recognized by a number of publications, including Chambers USA, Legal 500, Best Lawyers in America, and Washingtonian Magazine.

Previously, Ms. Schmitt served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from January 2010 to January 2014. She began her legal career as an Associate for Dickstein Shapiro, LLP and also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Emmet G. Sullivan on the U.S. District Court.

Ms. Schmitt is active in the community at national and local levels. In 2018, she was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. In 2017, President Barack Obama appointed Ms. Schmitt to the District of Columbia Judicial Nomination Commission. She recently completed two terms on the District Court’s Committee on Grievances and is a member of several local legal organizations, including Edward Bennett Williams Inn of Court and the Lawyers’ Club of Washington. 

Ms. Schmitt has been an Adjunct Professor at the American University Washington College of Law. From 2006-2019, she served on the board of directors of the Abramson Scholarship Foundation, where she remains active today.

Therese Steiner
President, Therese Steiner Consulting

Bio

Two events in 1968 left a deep impression on Therese Steiner: Riots in her hometown of Cincinnati and her first live music concert—Aretha Franklin rocking the house down at Cincinnati Gardens.

Therese is thrilled to join the JusticeAid Board, combining her love of the arts and a desire to have an impact in the area of social justice. Therese comes to JusticeAid through ClassAct—a non-profit made up of members of Therese and Steve Milliken’s class at Harvard dedicated to social change. After Harvard, Therese spent two years at art school in Paris (where she got her true education), before returning to the states to complete graduate work in Creative Writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts.

When she’s not dancing, Therese is a consultant with media, entertainment, and early-stage companies. Clients include ESPN, FX, Showtime, seriouseats.com, among others. Previously, Therese was Deputy Director of the Production Center at WNET/ Thirteen—public television in New York, where she oversaw programs such as the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, Great Performances, Nature, and American Masters. She was a Field Producer on the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series Heritage: Civilization and the Jews with Abba Eban.

In addition to serving on the JusticeAid Board, Therese is a Founding Board member of ClassACT, on the Executive Board of Classic Stage Company, and is Board Chair Emeritus and Co-Founder of GlobalGirl Media—a non-profit teaching journalism and leadership skills to girls from under-resourced communities, empowering them to have a voice in the global media landscape.

Jennifer Turner
Talent Manager, Filmmaker, Teacher

Bio

Jennifer Turner, raised in Washington, D.C., credits her high school teacher’s social justice class with shaping her personal approach to social issues from a young age. Her instructor was notorious for posing the question, “Where are your wounds? Was there nothing worth fighting for?” Those principles remain with her as she looks to combine both her personal and professional background to further the mission of Justice Aid. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Jennifer accepted a position working at Def Jam Records, where she worked in A&R, tour production, marketing, and talent management. Since then she’s booked both domestic and international tours, co-developed artist mobile apps’, created  e-commerce stores to sell artist merchandise globally, and negotiated film and television roles. She now works in a management capacity for multi-platinum hip-hop artist, DMX, and as an indie filmmaker. Simultaneously since moving back to Washington, D.C., Jennifer also works at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.