ABOUT ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS - THE TAIFA GROUP, LLC
JESSELYN McCURDY, Advisory Board Chair
Jesselyn McCurdy is a Deputy Director at the Washington Legislative Office (WLO) of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she represents the ACLU before Congress and the executive branch and is a manager of the growing and dynamic Washington office. She covers various criminal justice issues, including federal sentencing, prison reform, drug policy, and capital punishment. Jesselyn was a member of the ACLU WLO staff before joining the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee as Counsel. While working for the Judiciary Committee, she was the lead House Counsel for the historic Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, the legislation that lowered the 100 to 1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine. Prior to joining the ACLU staff, Jesselyn was the Co-Director of the Children's Defense Fund’s (CDF) Education and Youth Development Division. Also, she authored the chapter entitled Targets for Arrest in the book From Education to Incarceration: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline. Jesselyn received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science from Rutgers University and her Juris Doctor from Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.
Wade Henderson served as President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights from 1996 to 2017. He led the premier coalition through the passage of every major civil rights law in the past 20 years, greatly expanded the footprint of domestic civil and human rights organizations in global human rights work, and led the Leadership Conference’s Education Fund’s work to build political will throughout the country for civil rights reforms. Wade is well known for his expertise on a wide range of civil rights, civil liberties, and human rights issues, and is the author of numerous articles on civil rights and public policy issues. He also is the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law's first Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Chair of Public Interest Law, and serves on several corporate boards. Prior to the Leadership Conference, Wade served as the Washington Bureau Chief of the NAACP, and Associate Director of the ACLU Washington Office. Wade has received countless awards and honors, including the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. He holds an Honorary Doctorate in Law from City University of New York School of Law.
In 1998 at the age of 21, Jason Hernandez was sentenced to life without parole for a nonviolent drug offense. While in prison he filed his own clemency petition along with a personal letter to then President Barack Obama. Obama granted his petition and after 17 ½ years in prison, Jason was released. He immediately began assisting prisoners serving life without parole file their clemency petitions, gaining freedom for nearly half a dozen of them. Jason is a Latino Justice Media Fellow in which he will complete his memoir which will focus on the Mexican-American experience with the War On Drugs and Mass Incarceration. In addition, he is a 2018 Soros Justice Fellow, which will support the creation of a Clemency Workbook and Study Guide that families and prisoners can use to create clemency petitions and lead campaigns for release from prison.
Pamela Kennebrew is a scholar activist, teaching “behind the wall” in Philadelphia area prisons as a member of the faculty at Goddard College and Lincoln University. Her research focuses on the economic resiliency of women of color and how the collateral consequences of criminal convictions threatens their financial stability. An expert in higher education prison, Pamela has been engaged in efforts to improve the state of prison education. She is the Founder and President of the Black Women’s Center for Carceral Empowerment, which is committed to the restoration of economic, educational and political rights of those whose lives have been adversely impacted by a criminal conviction. She is a transformational coach and has developed a theory of mindfulness for women of color, and offers workshops on justice and inclusion through her company, Kennebrew Integrated Success Seminars.
Gara LaMarche is President of the Democracy Alliance, providing overall leadership, strategic vision and management capacity for the organization. Prior to joining the Alliance, he served as Senior Fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and previously, as President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies. At Atlantic, he led the foundation’s efforts to embrace a social justice framework for grantmaking, and spearheaded the largest-ever grant made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign. Gara has also served as Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Foundations, launching the organization’s pivotal work on challenges to social justice and democracy in the United States. A longtime advocate for human rights at home and abroad, he has held various positions with Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union. LaMarche is a frequent commentator on progressive issues in the news, and is the author of numerous articles on human rights and social justice issues. He has taught courses on philanthropy, public policy, and nonprofit leadership at NYU’s Wagner School, as well as courses at the New School University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is a graduate of Columbia College at Columbia University in New York.
Founder of the People’s Advocacy Institute, co-coordinator of the Electoral Justice Project, and the successful Committee to Elect Chokwe Antar Lumumba for Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Rukia Lumumba is a transformative justice strategist and community organizer. Rukia was named a “New Activist” by Essence Magazine and an “Emerging Leader” by the Congressional Black Caucus. Rukia has worked within and outside the system to foster justice for all, especially as it relates to criminal justice disparities for people of color. She has served as director of two of NY state’s largest criminal justice nonprofits, CASES (Center for Alternatives Sentencing and Employment Services) and the Center for Community Alternatives, providing visionary leadership and building community and system partnerships to help break the prison pipeline. She served as the national coordinator of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and co-founded Katrina on the Ground, an initiative that organized over 700 college students for post-Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. Rukia currently serves as chair of the Democratic Visioning Committee of the Lumumba Administration, working to increase community access to city government and institutionalize People’s Assemblies as community governing models. Her assistance to elect her brother Chokwe Antar Lumumba as mayor of Jackson united people across generations and cities, moving as brilliantly among the grassroots as it did among the grasstops. Rukia received her JD from Howard University School of Law in 2006.
Laura Murphy is President of Laura Murphy & Associates. She is an influential national civil liberties and civil rights leader and a consummate policy strategist. She brings more than 35 years of experience in government and advocacy, including 17 years as Director of the ACLU Legislative Office where she advanced civil liberties legislation before Congress and the White House. She has testified more than a dozen times before Congress and has been celebrated for building effective bipartisan coalitions. Laura serves as senior advisor to Airbnb, helping the home-sharing company update its policies and leading its efforts against discrimination on its platform. In 2016, Harvard University selected her as one of its Advanced Leadership Initiative fellows, a year-long program for highly accomplished and experienced leaders who are interested in tackling new challenges in the social justice sector. In 2015 she received the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil Rights Award "for selfless and devoted service in the cause of equality" from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Mark Osler is the Robert and Marion Short Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas (MN). Mark has written extensively on clemency, sentencing and narcotics policy. In 2011, he founded the first law school clinic specializing in federal commutations, and trained hundreds of pro bono lawyers to file clemency petitions. A former federal prosecutor, he played a role in striking down a mandatory 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines by winning the Supreme Court case of Spears v. United States. His book, Prosecuting Jesus, is a memoir of performing the Trial of Jesus in 11 states. Most recently, he is the author of a casebook, Contemporary Criminal Law (West, 2018). The character of Professor Joe Fisher in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet was based on Osler. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School.
Cynthia Roseberry currently serves as Vice President of Institutional Advancement at Wilberforce University, and Executive Director of its Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. During the Obama administration, Cynthia served as Project Manager of the historic Clemency Project 2014. She served on the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, a nine-member, bipartisan, Congressional blue-ribbon panel charged with examining the federal corrections system. Cynthia was the first African-American female President of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Executive Director of the Federal Defenders of the Middle District of Georgia, Inc. Cynthia has also taught advanced criminal procedure and co-taught in the death penalty clinic at DePaul University College of Law, where she also founded the misdemeanor clinic. She earned her Juris Doctor from Georgia State University College of Law.
MALIKA SAADA SAAR
Malika Saada Saar is Senior Counsel for Civil and Human Rights at Google. She is also the Co-Founder and former Director of The Rebecca Project for Human Rights. As a human rights attorney, Malika helped end the federal practice of shackling pregnant mothers in U.S. prisons. As a human rights lawyer and advocate, she led the effort to shut down Craigslist sex ads that served as the leading site for the trafficking of children for sex, ended the federal practice of shackling pregnant mothers behind bars in U.S. prisons, and successfully advocated for millions in federal funding for treatment services for at-risk families. The Obama White House selected Malika to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and Essie Justice Group. She received a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and M.A. from Stanford University.