About the Center

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.

Our Mission

Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice.

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:

  • Negotiating a $172 million settlement with Mississippi and federal officials for the reconstruction and repair of over 5,000 low-income homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, following a lawsuit over Mississippi’s diversion of housing disaster funds to expand a state-owned port.
  • Protecting fair housing for hundreds of low-income residents in the Mississippi Delta by securing lower rents and better maintenance as the result of a lawsuit against the South Delta Regional Housing Authority.
  • Organizing a regional pro bono response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to help ensure equitable claims settlements for low-income persons.
  • Preventing 65,000 poverty-level, aged and disabled Mississippians (PLADS) from losing healthcare.
  • Dismantling a Jim Crow-era school board election system in the Mississippi Delta.
  • Ending the torture of juveniles in the state’s training schools, successfully fighting for their right to counsel, and helping pass sweeping juvenile justice reform.
  • Attacking predatory lending practices in the migrant poultry worker community and defeating legislation that would raise the rates on low-dollar loans statewide.
  • Preventing the funneling of children from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse by teaching grassroots community organizers and defense attorneys to navigate the state’s convoluted juvenile justice system.
  • Facilitating development of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate poverty by economic justice advocates from across the Deep South.

Our Staff

Vangela M. Wade – President and CEO


Attorney Vangela M. Wade is the President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), where she leads a team committed to advancing racial, economic, and social justice. She joined MCJ’s board in 2016, eventually serving as board chair. Wade became President and CEO in January 2020. Under her leadership, she successfully navigated the organization through a global pandemic, expanded its budget, doubled fundraising revenue, and enhanced its social justice brand nationally and internationally.

Before leading MCJ, Wade established her own practice, The Wade Law Firm, after building a distinguished legal career that included service as a law clerk with the Mississippi Court of Appeals, a special prosecutor for the Madison/Rankin County District Attorney’s Office, a corporate defense attorney with local and national employment law firms, and an adjunct law professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

Wade has received numerous honors, including an appointment to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Planning Committee for Empowering Justice 40 Communities. She has received the following awards: Nonprofit HR 2024 Social Impact Women to Watch Award, Magnolia Bar Association Legal Services Award, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Edwin D. Wolf Award, and the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division 50th Anniversary Impact Award. Wade has also been named Metro Jackson Black Women Lawyers Association Attorney of the Year.

Wade served on the Board of Directors of Pulitzer Prize-winning Mississippi Today from 2020-2023 and continues on its Advisory Board. Her dedication to fighting Mississippi’s culture of injustice is rooted in her experience, education, and service. Wade earned a BA from Mississippi State University and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi School of Law. With nearly 30 years of experience in Mississippi law, she is committed to seeking systemic solutions to ensure equity for all Mississippians.

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Stacey Moore Buchanan– Director of Operations/ General Counsel 


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 – Director of Advocacy and Policy


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.

Tonya F. Adams – Director of  Finance and Accounting


Tonya F. Adams is the Director of Finance and Accounting at the Mississippi Center for Justice. Tonya received her Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University, where she was a member of the Women’s Basketball Team, and her Master of Business Administration from Mississippi College. Tonya is also a certified Nonprofit Accountant Professional. An excellent leader in the financial space, Tonya has served in several key positions including Associate Director of Administration and Finance at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Director of Finance for the United Way of the Capital Area, and the Chief Financial Officer at My Brother’s Keeper, Inc. Tonya is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Beta Delta Omega Chapter.

A native of Jackson, Tonya is a graduate of Murrah High School. In her spare time, Tonya loves to travel with her family, and is an advocate sports fan. She and her husband are proud parents to one son.

Andrea’ Barnes – Director of Heirs’ Property 


Andrea’ Barnes is director of Heirs’ Property, 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.

Charity Bruce – Director of Economic Justice


Charity Bruce serves as the Director for MCJ’s Economic Justice campaign, overseeing the MCJ 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.

Linda Dixon – Director of Health 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.

Robert B. McDuff – Director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative


Rob McDuff is a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer who directs the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative of the Mississippi Center for Justice. He was one of MCJ’s founders in 2003 and served on its board for many years.

Rob joined the MCJ staff in 2017 to lead the newly formed George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative.  Under his leadership, Impact Litigation has undertaken a variety of matters, including cases involving voting rights, free speech, reproductive rights, and a seminal case criminal justice case securing the freedom of Curtis Flowers, who endured 23 years in prison in Mississippi despite significant evidence of innocence in a case marked by extreme prosecutorial misconduct.

Before joining the MCJ staff, Rob built a private practice in Jackson, which began in 1992, focusing on criminal defense and civil litigation, primarily civil rights, in Mississippi and elsewhere.  Even after joining MCJ, he continues his private practice part-time, representing clients outside of MCJ’s portfolio in criminal cases and some civil cases.

Rob has argued four cases in the U.S. Supreme Court involving civil and constitutional rights and has represented clients in a variety of matters over the years.  He has received many awards, including the William Robert Ming Advocacy Award of the national NAACP; the Frederick Douglass Award of the Southern Center for Human Rights; and the Pro Bono Service Award of the International Human Rights Law Group.

A native of Hattiesburg, Rob is a graduate of Millsaps College and Harvard Law School.

Ashley Richardson- Director of Housing Law


Ashley Richardson serves as the Director of MCJ’s Housing Law Campaign which focuses on providing legal assistance, advocating for fair housing policies, and combating housing discrimination to create a more equitable and just housing landscape for all individuals and communities. The campaign also provides education and outreach to Mississippians about their housing rights. 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.

Tosha Taylor – Director of Philanthropy


Tosha Taylor serves as the Director of Philanthropy at the Mississippi Center for Justice. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Tougaloo College, and earned her Master’s of Leadership degree from Belhaven University.

Taylor began her career in non-profit management in 2004, as Director of Cultural Health Initiatives with the American Heart Association. She spearheaded the implementation of Search Your Heart, a program aimed at educating African Americans in church communities about the risk factors and prevention of stroke and heart disease. Tosha has also served as Vice President of Resource Development and Marketing for United Way of the Capital Area, led in renowned organizations such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Smoke-free Mississippi, and American Red Cross.

Tosha is a proud and active member of Junior League of Jackson, Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Tara Y. Wren – Director of Communications


Tara Y. Wren serves as Director of Communications at the Mississippi Center for Justice. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Jackson State University, along with a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Relations from the University of Southern Mississippi. Tara has over 25 years of comprehensive experience spanning marketing, management, communications, fundraising, and strategic planning. She has spearheaded transformative initiatives at Mississippi Public Broadcasting, serving in various leadership capacities, including Director of Communications, Director of Underwriting Sales, and Director of Education.

Additionally, Tara has held positions such as Marketing Director at Jackson State University and Executive Director of an arts and cultural non-profit in her hometown of Port Gibson, MS. Outside of her professional pursuits, Tara finds joy in spending quality time with her family and adorable granddaughter.

Sierre Raphael Anton – Staff Attorney, Economic Justice


Sierre serves as a Staff Attorney with the Economic Justice Campaign, primarily handling expungements and foreclosure matters. Sierre was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he graduated with a Bachelors part of the first class of 3+3 students from the School of Applied Sciences. Sierre then received his JD from the University of Mississippi School of Law. During law school, Sierre worked with the Public Interest Law Foundation, where he organized expungement clinics and fundraising events to provide stipends to law students seeking to serve underrepresented areas in the South. Prior to joining MCJ, Sierre clerked with Judge Deborah McDonald of the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Sierre lives in Jackson with his wife.

Blake Feldman- Impact Policy Counsel and Staff Attorney


Blake Feldman is the Impact Policy Counsel and Staff Attorney 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.

Ian Gustafson – Equal Justice Works Fellow, Housing Law


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.

Lily Moens-Equal Justice Works Fellow, Education


Lily Moens serves as an Equal Justice Works Fellow for MCJ’s Education Campaign Project. She grew up in Virginia and is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard Law School. Prior to attending law school, Lily taught high school math in Byhalia, Mississippi. Her work at MCJ focuses on special education advocacy for students in the Mississippi Delta

Alecia Reed-Owens – Deputy Director of Health Law


Alecia Reed-Owens serves as an attorney in the health law and public benefits campaign, overseeing MCJ’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.

Paloma Wu – Deputy Director of the George Riley Impact Litigation


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.

Samira Abunemeh – Research Analyst


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 Antoine – Office Manager / Project Manager/ Student Coordinator


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 Atkins- Paralegal, Economic Justice


Marnesha serves as the paralegal for the Economic Justice 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.

Stephanie Davidson- Project Associate, Health Law


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.

Patrick Ervin- Project Manager, Civic Engagement and Government Accountability Project


Patrick Ervin serves as the Mississippi Center for Justice’s Civic Engagement and Government Project Manager. Patrick is a native of Greenville, Mississippi, and holds two degrees from Delta State University- a bachelor’s in journalism and a Master of Science in Community Development. Patrick has worked for a number of organizations over the past couple of decades, including the Delta Democrat Times, Delta Health Alliance, and ATH Solutions. In June 2014, he started Ervin Consulting, a sole proprietorship dedicated to helping local organizations improve their government contracting aspirations, organizing efforts, grant writing, and marketing capacities. Patrick, an Air Force veteran, is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Marilyn James – Paralegal, Economic Justice


Marilyn Denice James serves as a paralegal with the Economic Justice Campaign’s Justice Court Pilot Project. Prior to joining MCJ, she worked as an elementary school educator for five years. She earned her bachelor’s in education from Delta State University and has served on multiple committees that advocate for children and families for over twenty years.

Veronica Jenkins– Operations Clerk


Veronica Jenkins serves as the Operations Clerk 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 Jones – Senior Program / Office Manager and Community Outreach Coordinator


Yumekia serves as the Senior Program and Office Manager and Community Outreach Coordinator in the MCJ’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.

Kah’ya Loggins – Paralegal/Outreach Coordinator, Heirs’ Property


Kah’ya K. Loggins serves in the Indianola office as the Paralegal/Outreach Coordinator for the Heirs’ Property Campaign. As a native of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a B.A. in Paralegal Studies and a minor in English. Following graduation, she worked as a paralegal in various areas of practice such as family law, personal injury, negligence, criminal law, civil litigation, mass tort litigation, estate planning, and race/sex discrimination. Prior to joining MCJ, Kah’ya served as a documentation coordinator for Baxter Healthcare. Her background also includes serving as a deputy clerk for the Coahoma County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Equiller Mahone- Program Associate, Health Law


Equiller Mahone serves as Program Associate Health Law Campaign, focusing primarily on MCJ’s HIV initiatives. Equiller obtained two degrees from the University of Alabama-a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies and a Master of Science in the same area of study.  Equiller has over a decade of experience working in the non-profit sector, with five of those years spent in non-profit management. She primarily provided services to women, men, and children who experienced abuse. In addition to her non-profit experience, Equiller has also served as an adjunct instructor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department at the University of Alabama. She also taught courses in the Department of Human Sciences at Alcorn State University. Equiller is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.

Evelyn Mixon- Intake Associate, Heirs’ Property 


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.

Kyrstyn K. Newton – Executive Assistant


Kyrstyn is the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO at the Mississippi Center for Justice. She received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a minor in Education from Mississippi State University. With a career background in education and event planning, Kyrstyn has developed a deep dedication to helping others in need and applies a unique blend of skills and experience to every endeavor. An excellent leader in organizational efficiency, Kyrstyn’s prior positions have included ~ Program and Event Coordinator with the Mississippi Economic Council Program, Administrative Assistant at the Mississippi School for the Deaf and the Blind, and Appeals Coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Additionally, Kyrstyn spent two years as a dedicated teacher at Humphreys County High School in Belzoni, MS.

Kyrstyn is a Jackson native and a graduate of Murrah High School. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her family and is an avid sports fan. “Kyrstyn lives by the philosophy: “Success is like a beautiful waltz with your faith and your work is doing the dancing.” She is excited to be a part of the Mississippi Center for Justice and to contribute her abilities and experiences to MCJ.

Airriel O’Banner-Quinn – Donor Relations Coordinator


Airriel O’Banner-Quinn serves as the Donor Relations Coordinator with the Mississippi Center for Justice. Airriel brings her professional leadership experience to her role. As an executive assistant, college admission counselor, and volunteer for several impactful community organizations, she has honed her skills in managing stakeholder relationships, project management, data coordination, and event planning.

Her dedication to service, evident in her extensive community involvement, is a testament to her commitment to making a difference. Airriel serves as the 2023-2024 President of the Jackson Symphony League (JSL) and is an active member of several other impactful community nonprofit organizations. Airriel graduated from Millsaps College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Business Administration from Louisiana State University – Shreveport. She is married to Darryl Quinn, has a bonus son, Bryson, and a Yorkshire Terrier, Kash.

Francis Vaughn – Senior Paralegal/Outreach Coordinator, Heirs’ Property


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.

Kim Wiley- Education Policy Analyst & Project Coordinator


Kim L. Wiley serves as the Education Policy Analyst & Project Coordinator 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.


Board of Directors

Walter Boone

Walter H. Boone


Jackson, MS – Balch & Bingham

Gordon Greenwood

Gordon D. Greenwood

Vice Chair

Oakland, CA – Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood

Matthew Bergman

Matthew P. Bergman

Seattle, WA – Social Media Victims Law Center


Martha Bergmark


Washington, DC – Voices for Civil Justice

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Mike Espy

Jackson, MS – Mike Espy, PLLC, and AE Agritrade, Inc.

Judith Lichtman

Judith L. Lichtman

Washington, DC – National Partnership for Women & Families

David Lipman

David M. Lipman

Miami, FL – The Lipman Law Firm

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Ivy Parker-Snider

Board Secretary/ Treasurer

Edmond, OK – The Southwestern Companies

William Ray

William A. Ray

Jackson, MS – BankPlus

Donald Verrilli

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

Washington, DC – Munger, Tolles & Olson


Kimberly Jones Merchant

Greenville, MS- Kimberly Jones Merchant, P.A.

Jonathan Lee Headshot.png

Jonathan Lee

Jackson, MS – Vizient


David Baria

Bay St. Louis, MS – Cosmich, Simmons & Brown, PLLC

Employment Opportunities

Grants Manager

The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks an experienced Grants Manager to support MCJ’s robust legal advocacy and direct services programs. The Grants Manager duties will include developing, writing, administering, and monitoring financial activities of grant-funding opportunities to derive additional sources of income from local, state, and federal agencies or from private/philanthropic resources in support of MCJ’s legal and policy advocacy.

Health Law Administrative Assistant

The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks a talented Health Law Administrative Assistant to support the work of the Health Law Campaign.

Entry-Level Housing Attorney

The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks an entry-level Housing Attorney for our Gulf Coast office in Biloxi. MCJ seeks an attorney whose substantive law concentrations/educational background/clinical experience includes exposure to the Fair Housing Act and the Mississippi Landlord/Tenant Act.

Heirs' Property Staff Attorney

The Mississippi Center for Justice (“MCJ”) seeks a Staff Attorney. The Staff Attorney will work as part of the Heirs’ Property Campaign in support of MCJ’s legal and policy advocacy.

Legal Fellowships

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. MCJ 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. MCJ has offices in Jackson, Biloxi, and Indianola, where we work on racial and economic justice in the areas of economic justice, healthcare, housing, heir’s property, education, and public benefits. More information about MCJ can be found at: www.mscenterforjustice.org.

Practice Areas:

Children/Education/Juvenile Issues, Community Economic Development, Health Law/HIV & AIDS Issues, Fair Housing, Affordable Housing, Economic Justice, Re-Entry, Public Benefits, Heirs’ Property