The Mississippi Center for Justice opened its doors in 2003 with a simple mission: dismantling the policies that keep Mississippi at the bottom of nearly every indicator of human well-being and deny African-American and lower-income Mississippians the opportunity to advance themselves.
Today, progress is being made. As a home-grown public interest law firm, the Center is advancing racial and economic justice through an approach that combines legal services with policy advocacy, community education and media outreach. The Center partners with national, regional and community organizations to develop and implement campaigns designed to create better futures for low-income Mississippians and communities of color in the areas of educational opportunity, financial security, healthcare, affordable housing and other vital issues.
Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
Mississippi Center for Justice was organized to address the urgent need to re-establish in-state advocacy on behalf of low-income people and communities of color. Since its beginnings, the Center has advanced social and economic justice in Mississippi by:
Attorney Vangela M. Wade has a long-standing connection to Mississippi Center for Justice, having joined the Board of Directors in 2016 and served as Secretary/Treasurer, Chair of the Audit Committee, and Chair of the Board of Directors. She currently serves as MCJ’s president and CEO. Vangela began The Wade Law Firm, PLLC, after building a diverse and distinguished résumé as a lawyer. Her background also includes working as a law clerk with the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a special prosecutor with the Madison/Rankin County District Attorney’s Office, and as a corporate defense attorney with local and national employment law firms. She has also served as an adjunct law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law. In addition to her legal experience, she advised public and private employers and organizations as a consultant in matters involving diversity and fair employment practices. Vangela currently serves on the board of Mississippi Today. She is a member of the International Women’s Forum – Mississippi Forum and of the Land Title Association of Mississippi. Previously, she served on the board of trustees of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School for eight years. She earned her BA from Mississippi State University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. With over 23 years of experience in Mississippi Law, Vangela is dedicated to the fight against Mississippi’s culture of injustice by seeking systemic solutions to ensure equity in the lives of all Mississippians.
Attorney Stacey Moore Buchanan serves as the Director of Operations and General Counsel for the Mississippi Center for Justice. Originally hailing from the Nation’s Capital, Stacey is now a committed Mississippian. After law school, Stacey clerked for the Honorable Henry T. Wingate of the U.S. District Court for the S.D. of Mississippi. Following her clerkship, Stacey practiced at an international firm in New York. Most immediately, Stacey was an attorney at a regional law firm, where her work focused on commercial litigation and bankruptcy. She is admitted to practice in both Mississippi and New York.
A recipient of the 2020 “Top 50 Under 40” Award by the Mississippi Business Journal, Stacey has always remained civic-minded. Her efforts in the legal arena are not limited to the confines of her office—she has been appointed to several committees and is active with several bar associations. The chance to do the work of MCJ and help positively affect the lives of fellow Mississippians is not one Stacey takes lightly. To now get to do such work in her dad’s hometown brings Stacey full circle. Stacey earned her Bachelor of Arts cum laude from the University of Maryland and her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She and her husband are the proud parents of three boys who keep them busy.
Harya Tarekegn is the Director of Advocacy and Policy. Harya brings with her a very diverse slate of experiences and perspectives shaped by representing indigent defendants in New York City, conducting bail reform in Nairobi, Kenya, and supporting incarcerated teens in Santa Clara Juvenile Hall. Harya joins us directly from her position as the former Senior Counsel to the Executive Director and Director of Policy and Advocacy for the nation’s largest independent police oversight agency, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). In her role, she was responsible for managing special projects for the Agency with the goal of improving the civilian oversight of the nation’s largest police force, while building an oversight model to be replicated across the nation. Harya specialized in strategic advocacy to find innovative ways to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. Harya also focused on connecting with community advocates and elected officials to increase police accountability and advance the Agency’s legislative agenda.
Prior to joining the CCRB, Harya worked as the Executive Director and Partner of Moreno Ocampo, LLC, a global consulting firm where she managed a team of global attorneys and communications experts focused on developing tailored strategies to manage complex conflicts including addressing the human rights violations perpetrated against Yazidi women and girls in Iraq. Harya’s commitment to public service is also evidenced by her work as a Founder and Strategy Director for Rising Leaders, Inc. a non-profit providing low-income or underserved students with high-quality mentorship and leadership development training.
Harya holds a Juris Doctor from the New York University School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Stanford University.
John serves as the managing attorney for the Mississippi Center for Justice office in Biloxi, MS and also serves as housing law director. He is a founding staff member of the Center’s Katrina Recovery Office, which opened its doors in October 2005 to provide legal advocacy to tens of thousands of residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In 2006, he received the President’s Award from the Mississippi Bar Young Lawyers Division for his legal work on behalf of renters in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. John’s pre-Katrina solo practice in Ocean Springs focused on consumer housing, employment discrimination, and personal injury law. He previously served on the pro bono panel of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and was project manager of the Fair Housing Education Outreach Project funded by HUD at South Mississippi Legal Services. During his 10 years with Southeast Mississippi Legal Services in Hattiesburg, he was a housing and consumer law specialist and served as litigation director. From 1994-95, John was a clinical professor in the University of Mississippi School of Law Housing Law Clinic. A graduate of Louisiana State University and the University of Mississippi School of Law, he began his legal career as a law clerk to Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Lenore Prather. He is the author of “Two Years After The Storm: The State Of Katrina Housing Recovery On The Mississippi Gulf Coast,” 77 Miss. L. J. 873 (2008).
Rob McDuff is director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative. The Initiative was launched by MCJ in 2017 to pursue litigation around issues affecting large numbers of Mississippians. It has filed cases relating to voting and election issues, racial discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, reproductive freedom, police misconduct, consumer protection, and prisoners’ rights. Its work includes the representation of Curtis Flowers, the charges against whom were dismissed after Flowers endured six trials and 23 years in prison despite significant evidence of his innocence and the prosecutor’s discriminatory pattern of striking African-American jurors. Rob is a graduate of Millsaps College and Harvard Law.
Linda Dixon serves as the health law director at the Mississippi Center for Justice, a position she has held since November 2008. Prior to joining the Center, she was the assistant secretary of state for elections for the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office, where she previously held the position of senior attorney and director of elections training and education. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Southern University at New Orleans and her law degree from Mississippi College School of Law. Linda’s work focuses on access to health care and HIV discrimination and stigma. Linda is a member of the Mississippi Bar and the Magnolia Bar Associations. Linda currently serves on the Southern Black HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, Mississippi HIV Planning Council, and the Access Care & Engagement TA Center Advisory Council. She serves on the Mississippi College School of Law Alumni Association Board. Linda previously served on the Southern AIDS Coalition Board of Directors, the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation, and the steering committee of the Southern HIV/AIDS Strategy Initiative.
Max leads the economic justice work as consumer protection director, overseeing MCJ’s work in predatory lending, foreclosure prevention, expungements, and justice court access. Max moved to Mississippi in 2010 and lived in the Delta for five years where he taught fourth and fifth grade in Sunflower County Public Schools and trained new teachers across several Delta counties. Max began at MCJ as a legal fellow after graduating from the UC Davis School of Law. He joined MCJ staff in 2019, first serving as an attorney on the immigration team.
Andrea’ Barnes is director of the Heirs’ Property Project, which provides legal assistance to families to clear title to their land in heirship situations, establishes current ownership to property, and educates communities around the state explaining what heirs’ property is and what one can do to protect it. Prior to joining the Center, Andrea’ practiced family law, estate and probate administration, and personal injury litigation. Andrea’s background also includes working as a law clerk with the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, a prosecutor with the Hinds County Attorney’s Office, and as an attorney with the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Andrea’ has also served as an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College. Previously, she served on the Spencer Perkins Center Board of Directors. Andrea’ earned a Bachelor of Arts from Tougaloo College, a Master of Business Administration from Jackson State University, and received her doctorate of jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Paloma Wu is the Deputy Director of Impact Litigation at the Mississippi Center for Justice. She has litigated cases challenging racial bias in policing and police hiring, discrimination against persons with disabilities, youth jail and prison conditions, and laws targeting LGBTQ equality, free speech, and the right to vote. She represents protesters and children in adult criminal proceedings, and she runs a statewide protester legal support network. Paloma was previously Acting Senior Supervising Attorney for Criminal Justice Reform at the Southern Poverty Law Center; Legal Director of the ACLU of Mississippi; and an associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, where she litigated international securities and antitrust matters. Before becoming a lawyer, she was an investigator for death-sentenced people at a capital habeas unit and was on a legal team representing all people with mental illness in California prisons.
Charity Bruce serves as the Deputy Director for MCJ’s consumer protection campaign, overseeing the Center’s expungement matters. She also oversees the Hinds County Justice Court Navigator Program, helping individuals involved in civil cases understand and navigate the Justice Court system. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Tougaloo College and her Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston, Texas. Upon graduation, she immediately returned to Mississippi and served as a law clerk for the Honorable Denise S. Owens of the Hinds County Chancery Court. Charity is a member of the Magnolia Bar Association, the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Society, and the Thurgood Marshall Mentorship program.
Alecia Reed-Owens serves as an attorney in the health law and public benefits campaign, overseeing the Center’s medical-legal partnership. She attended Jackson State University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. After graduation, Alecia returned to her hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi and served as a law clerk for the Fourth Circuit Court. She later served as the Chief Administrative Officer for the city. Alecia has previously served as prosecutor for the City of Tchula, Mississippi, and staff attorney for the Legal Assistance Clinic at Catholic Charities. She is married to Mark Owens and they have five children.
Ashley Richardson received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Rust College. She then attended the University of Mississippi where she received her Master of Criminal Justice and served as a graduate assistant for the Department of Legal Studies. Upon graduation, Ashley moved to Nashville, TN where she worked for the State of Tennessee and Monroe Harding, a non-profit organization. Ashley returned to Mississippi and earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law. During law school, Ashley served as President and Treasurer for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), Social Action Director for the Southern Region of the Black Law Students Association (SRBLSA), and Undergraduate Relations Committee Chair for BLSA. She interned with the Southern Center for Human Rights, Nashville Public Defenders, Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, The Washington Law Firm, PLLC, and served as a student attorney for the MacArthur Justice Clinic. Upon graduation, Ashley served as a judicial law clerk for the Fourth Circuit Court District of Mississippi for Judge Carol White-Richard. Ashley is a member of the Mississippi Bar, Young Lawyers Division of the Mississippi Bar, Magnolia Bar Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and she also serves as a TN Achieves Mentor.
Kim L. Wiley serves as the Education Policy Analyst for MCJ. She is a former Educator who served for ten years in secondary and higher education. She later transitioned from education to research development across various fields. Kim served for four years as a Medical Writer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the Department of Geriatrics as part of the NHLBI (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute) ARIC (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities) Study. She later served as a Program Evaluator with Professional Associates, Inc. evaluating state agencies and local programs across Mississippi who were part of the Mississippi Justice and Assistance Grant for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Before joining MCJ, Kim served as a Proposal Writer for YoungWilliams developing expansive bid proposals for privatized child support services for multiple government contracts across the U.S. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Belhaven College, a Master of Education from Mississippi College, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction from Mississippi State University.
Samira Abunemeh serves as the Research Analyst for MCJ’s campaigns. She has a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Mississippi and a Master of International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Prior to joining MCJ, she did research on a variety of international political topics with a primary focus on the Middle East. She is from Philadelphia, Mississippi.
Denise serves as a legal assistant with the Mississippi Center for Justice, a position she has held since August 2006. In her capacity with the Center, Denise provides critical organizational support for clinic outreach, client in-take and processing, and general case management. Denise has a long history of providing support to non-profit organizations, including experience with Back Bay Mission, South Mississippi Legal Services Corp., the South Mississippi AIDS Task Force, and Moore Community House in Biloxi, MS. Prior to joining the Center, Denise also gained valuable legal experience working with Gillespie & Blessey Law Firm on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Denise is also an active volunteer with numerous organizations that promote healthy choices for teens and youths.
Marnesha serves as the paralegal for the consumer protection division at MCJ. She is from the Mississippi Delta and volunteered at the MCJ Indianola office while in high school. After graduation, she went to Millsaps College, where she graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology and a minor in Secondary Education in which she is also licensed to teach. She is currently pursuing an M.S. in forensic psychology and is a member of the honor societies Phi Kappa Phi and Psi Chi. Marnesha is excited to be a part of the consumer protection team where she will primarily focus on foreclosure prevention work, community engagement, and financial knowledge dissemination.
Lekeshia serves a Grants Manager for MCJ. Lekeshia brings a diverse track record of initiative, creativity, and dependability to MCJ. Lekeshia joined MCJ as a highly motivated and progress-focused grant program director with a long-standing background in grant writing and management. In her previous role as Hinds Community College’s STEM Program Director, Lekeshia contributed management, leadership, and collaborative team efforts, as well as instituting significant business improvements to the grants department. Prior to entering the development arena, Lekeshia was a middle school science and health educator. Lekeshia Clark is a proud native of the MS Delta and the City of Indianola. Lekeshia attended the University of Southern Mississippi and Belhaven University where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science and a Masters of Arts in Teaching. Lekeshia is married to Dr. Andrew Clark and they have three children, Haley, Kaitlyn, and Andrew II.
Stephanie serves as a Project Associate for the Health Law Division. She is a graduate of the University of West Alabama with a degree in History and completed graduate studies at Mississippi State University with a Masters of Public Policy and Administration. Stephanie has worked in the areas of health, education, and nonprofits serving as Community Impact Director for United Way of East MS and adjunct instructor in American Government at East MS Community College. She was director of Wesley House Free Clinic and has served on various nonprofit boards. She taught World History and Advanced Geography in the Kemper County and Canton School Districts. Stephanie is a native of Meridian, MS.
Blake Feldman is the Impact Policy Counsel and Project Coordinator for the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative. Prior to joining MCJ, Blake served as Advocacy Fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mississippi office and Advocacy Coordinator for Criminal Justice Reform at the ACLU of Mississippi. Blake is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Georgia School of Law.
Shakyra serves as the HR Coordinator and Executive Assistant to the President and CEO. Prior to joining MCJ, Shakyra served as a deputy city clerk for the City of Yazoo City. She holds an associate of arts degree in pre-radiologic sciences from Holmes Community College and a bachelor of science degree in healthcare administration from Jackson State University. Shakyra resides in Clinton, MS.
Ian Gustafson serves as an Equal Justice Works fellow in MCJ’s Biloxi office. His project is sponsored by Walmart and the law firm Akin Gump. Ian’s work is focused on expungements and other legal services for formerly incarcerated Mississippians. He grew up in Illinois and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University Law Center. Ian first came to Mississippi in 2017 as a middle school teacher and basketball coach in Greenville, and quickly became enamored with the state.
Veronica Jenkins serves as the Office Assistant here at MCJ. She is a Jackson, MS native who loves fashion and serving others. She has obtained a B.S.B.A. in Business Administration (Entrepreneurship). B.S.B.A. in Merchandising, and a Communication Studies minor from The University of Southern Mississippi. Veronica’s goal is to help at least one person every day. She enjoys being a light for MCJ.
Yumekia serves as the Office Manager / Program Manager for Special Projects in the Center’s Indianola office. Before joining MCJ, she worked as an employment interviewer and Program Manager with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security at the Indianola WIN Job Center. In this role, she negotiated contracts with businesses to place unemployed persons back in the workforce. Jones also worked as the fiscal officer for the Delta Housing Development Corporation, an organization dedicated to providing safe and affordable housing to low-income families. Jones gained experience in office management through years of implementing Administrative operations for various organizations. Jones has a Bachelor of Arts in General Business Administration and Master of Business Administration from Delta State University. Jones spends her spare time with her family and volunteers for several Delta area organizations whose aim is to foster healthier communities
Evelyn serves as Intake Associate for the Heirs’ Property Campaign. Prior to joining MCJ, she worked for over 16 years with the Madison County Tax Assessor’s Office as the Real Property Valuation Clerk. Her background also includes working as a Public Safety Dispatcher with the Jackson Police Department, Public Works Dispatcher with the City of Jackson Traffic Engineering Division and as a Legal Assistant with Lowery & Castilla Law Firm. Evelyn earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Jackson State University and is a native of Camden, Mississippi.
Monica Spires serves as the donor relations and data coordinator for the Center. She joined the Center in February of 2020 as the administrative assistant to the President and CEO and the office coordinator of the Jackson office. Before joining MCJ, Monica served as a legal assistant and special programs coordinator for The Wade Law Firm. Monica is a junior at Jackson State University, where she is studying at the School of Business for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Monica holds an associate of arts degree in health care administration and a certificate in health and wellness from the University of Phoenix. Monica has served as a member specialist for Humana, office lead and customer service representative for Lineage Logistics, and customer retention specialist for Comcast. Monica has over 10 years of administrative, customer service, and office experience and is a member of the American Society for Administrative Professionals.
Francis Vaughn serves in the Jackson office as the Housing Campaign’s heirs’ property initiative. Prior to joining MCJ, Francis served as office manager and paralegal for The Wade Law Firm. Francis was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta and holds an associate of arts degree in pre-med from Coahoma Community College and a bachelor of arts degree in biology/pre-med from the University of Mississippi. Francis has a history of serving the community through nonprofit organizations, having done so in Indiana and North Carolina before returning to her home state of Mississippi. Francis is married and the mother of four children.
Clarence serves as the Fair Housing Test Coordinator for the Mississippi Center for Justice. In this capacity, he recruits, trains, and assigns Fair Housing testers. Clarence has a B.A. from Dillard University in New Orleans. Prior to joining MCJ, Clarence was the Community Development Manager for the City of Hattiesburg. In that capacity he administered all HUD grants, including CDBG and HOME Program grants. Clarence has served in similar capacities for cities in California and Alabama. He also served four years as the Director of Human Capital Development for the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. He has extensive experience in Fair Housing advocacy and involvement. He served eight years as a board member with the Long Beach Fair Housing Foundation in Long Beach, California. From 2004-07, he was the Fair Housing Test Coordinator for the Mississippi Legal Services.
Jackson, MS – Balch & Bingham
Oakland, CA – Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood
Seattle, WA – Social Media Victims Law Center
Washington, DC – Voices for Civil Justice
Jackson, MS – Mike Espy, PLLC, and AE Agritrade, Inc.
Washington, DC – National Partnership for Women & Families
Miami, FL – The Lipman Law Firm
Edmond, OK – The Southwestern Companies
Jackson, MS – BankPlus
Washington, DC – Munger, Tolles & Olson
The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks an experienced Director of Finance and Accounting (“DOFA”) to support MCJ’s robust legal advocacy and direct services programs. This hands-on role as Director of Finance and Accounting will have a range of responsibilities including, but not limited to, financial reporting, forecasting, and analysis of all aspects of the company’s accounting and finance activities; along with general oversight of the organization’s policies and procedures as they related to finance and accounting.
The DOFA reports directly to the President/CEO (P/CEO); acts as a thought partner to the P/CEO; serves on the P/CEO’s Leadership Team, and joins the P/CEO in supporting the Board of Director’s Finance and Audit Committees. The successful candidate should possess strong analytical skills, good strategic thinking, excellent communication skills, exceptional numerical proficiency, and strong leadership skills. The noteworthy Director of Finance and Accounting candidate should harmonize financial operations, guide efforts towards financial stability, monitor all financial activities, ensure compliance with accounting regulations, and maintain good relationships with stakeholders
The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks a talented professional to lead our development and fundraising program, including our annual giving program, special events, and increased overall contributions from individuals, corporations, and law firms.MCJ is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice statewide. Our lawyers work with community leaders to support their social justice campaigns and to channel the energies of the legal community to combat discrimination and poverty. With offices in Jackson, Biloxi, and Indianola, we seek systemic solutions that fight Black land loss due to heirs property issues, support a fair and just criminal justice system for juveniles and adults, protect the rights of consumers, secure access to healthcare, protect voting rights for all, and make fair and affordable housing available for all Mississippians.
The Director of Philanthropy will hold organizational responsibility for the success of fundraising programs, including foundation giving, government grants, special events, and individual giving; ensuring best practices are implemented consistently across all organizational development systems.This is an ideal leadership opportunity for a person who has a passion for civil rights and racial equity and the drive and skills to advance the organization’s growth. The Director of Philanthropy will report directly to our President/CEO and serve on the executive team and will coordinate with our Communications Director to strengthen our marketing and donor cultivation and outreach efforts and increase our brand and visibility. The ideal candidate must have a proven track record of managing and leading a development support team
The Mississippi Center for Justice seeks to hire an experienced housing attorney for our Gulf Coast office in Biloxi. The Center seeks an individual whose substantive experience includes, but is not limited to, working knowledge of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Mississippi Residential Landlord-Tenant Act.
The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) offers opportunities for current 3L law students or recent graduates interested in working with us to develop fellowship applications such as those offered by Skadden, Equal Justice Works, New Voices, and other law school-based fellowship opportunities. The Center is especially interested in developing projects having to do with community economic development and/or housing on the Gulf Coast; consumer protection, public benefits, and health issues in Jackson; and/or educational advocacy anywhere. The Center has offices in Jackson, Biloxi, and Indianola, where we work on racial and economic justice in the areas of predatory lending, healthcare, housing, education, and public benefits. More information about the Center can be found at:www.mscenterforjustice.org.
Children/Education/Juvenile Issues, Community Economic Development, Health Law/HIV-AIDS Issues, Fair Housing, Affordable Housing, Economic Justice/Consumer Protection, Re-Entry, Public Benefits, Heirs’ Property