Ryan P. Haygood, Esq.
President and CEO
Ryan Haygood is a nationally respected civil rights lawyer. He became the third president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in 2015.
In this role, Ryan leverages his national legal expertise to advance the Institute’s work in empowering New Jersey’s urban communities where residents are connected to full-time, meaningful jobs, have access to affordable housing, credit, and the democratic process, and are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
Prior to leading the Institute, Ryan served as the deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. (LDF), where he worked for more than a decade. At LDF, Haygood litigated some of the most important civil rights cases of our time. In two of those cases, he defended a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as one of the nation’s greatest pieces of civil rights legislation, before the United States Supreme Court.
A passionate advocate, Ryan speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law, social justice, and democracy. He is frequently interviewed by media outlets, including: the Star Ledger, WBGO, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and the New York Times. Prior to joining LDF, Ryan was a litigation associate in the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, and was a recipient of the prestigious LDF/Fried Frank Fellowship. At Fried, Frank, Ryan represented clients in a variety of complex commercial and civil rights matters before federal courts.
Ryan received his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law and B.A. in American History and Political Science cum laude from Colorado College, where he was nominated for the Rhodes scholarship and earned academic and athletic All-American and hall of fame honors as a football player. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Colorado College in 2011.
Click here to read Ryan's work.
Teresa Brown is the Administrative Director for the Institute.
Teresa is responsible for the Institute's administrative services, information technology, facilities, operations, office services, and Board governance.
Before joining the Institute, Teresa worked for various major law firms, managing legal support services, training, and information technology globally in US, European and Asian offices. Teresa has extensive legal management experience; she introduced and implemented process innovation and best practices across multiple service departments, increasing efficiency, productivity, and profitability margins.
Teresa is a Leadership Newark Fellow, Class of 2016. Teresa has a BA in Business Administration & Management (Concentration in Organizational Leadership) from Pillar College graduating Summa Cum Laude. She also has certificates in Business Analysis and Project Management. Teresa serves in various leadership and administrative positions in local churches and youth development organizations.
Philip Webb, Ph.D.
Chief Operating Officer
Philip Webb is the Chief Operating Officer at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
His career has moved between the academic work of research on urban social policy and the nonprofit world of management and planning in community and social justice organizations. Prior to the Institute, he was the Executive Director of Making It Possible to end Homelessness in Edison, NJ. He has taught on homelessness, urban social problems, and social justice at Emory University, Georgia Tech, DePaul, and the University of Oklahoma. He was a Fellow at Emory’s Center for Community Partnerships and a Foundation Fellow at the University of Georgia. His book Homeless Lives in American Cities: Interrogating Myth and Locating Community was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.
Beyond this scholarly work, he has run homeless prevention, transitional housing, and affordable housing programs for homeless families in the Atlanta area and worked at a homeless advocacy agency in Boston. He has consulted with and trained nonprofit boards and staff in development, operations, and planning. Philip has a Ph.D. in urban studies and social theory from Emory University and a Master’s in Social Ethics from Harvard University.
Andrea McChristian, Esq.
Law & Policy Director
Andrea McChristian is the Law & Policy Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice ("NJISJ"). In this capacity, she leads the implementation of the strategic vision and the direction of the law and policy program. Andrea oversees the programmatic function of the Institute’s three pillars of social justice: democracy & Justice, economic justice, and criminal justice reform. Prior to becoming Law & Policy Director, Andrea served as the Director of the Criminal Justice Reform initiative and was the primary author of Bring Our Children Home: Ain't I A Child, which forms the basis of the 150 Years is Enough campaign. Andrea's writing on juvenile justice and racial justice has been published in the Star Ledger, the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, and NJ Spotlight.
Before joining the Institute, Andrea served as a Litigation Associate at the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson ("Fried Frank"). During her time at Fried Frank, Andrea worked on complex commercial litigation and pro bono cases.
Andrea is a 2008 graduate of Yale University, graduating with distinction in the major of Political Science. At Yale, Andrea served as co-President of the Yale NAACP, co-reactivating the chapter after a years-long absence from campus. After graduation, Andrea joined Teach for America, teaching Head Start for two years in the Las Vegas Valley. Andrea then attended Columbia Law School where she participated in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, interned in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the law school's Human Rights Internship Program, and interned at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 2013 as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Andrea clerked for Chief Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Human Resources & Benefits Associate
Jeanette Tindel is the Human Resources and Benefits Associate at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Prior to joining the Institute, Jeanette worked for corporate organizations in Banking, Global Shipping, and Financial Services. As a member of Society for Human Resources Management, Jeanette leverages a broad and diverse knowledge base of current and topical Human Resources and Benefits issues, across multiple industries.
Retha Onitiri, PMP
Director of Community Engagement
Retha Onitiri is the Director of Community Engagement at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
She leads the 150 Years is Enough campaign which seeks to transform New Jersey's youth incarceration system into a community-based system of care by closing youth prisons and reinvesting in a community-based system of care.
Retha is also responsible for building a coalition for change on issues pertaining to criminal justice, economic mobility, and civic engagement. She lead efforts to establish local advocacy coalitions in major cities across New Jersey, host community events, and identify issues and community-based solutions.
Prior to joining NJISJ, Retha worked in the private sector and was responsible for Readiness Project Management of complex telecommunications High Leverage Networks and Services and Training and Skills Development projects for a Software Integration organization. Retha is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has a Masters of Science Degree in Management from Stevens Institute of Technology.
Democracy and Justice Fellow
Ron Pierce is the inaugural Democracy and Justice Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
The Fellowship, which is awarded to an advocate who has been formerly incarcerated, focuses on restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions. Ron is a frequent commentator and lecturer on issues related to voting rights, reentry, and the human rights of the incarcerated. His writing has been published in NJ Spotlight and Truth Out. Ron graduated from Rutgers University-Newark Summa Cum Laude in 2018 and was a recipient of the Vera Institute Scholarship.
Brooke Lewis, Esq.
Trustee Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow
Brooke is the Trustee Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Throughout law school, Brooke gained significant experience working in public interest law, with a particular focus on areas related to criminal justice. As a certified legal intern at the Rutgers Children’s Justice Clinic, she represented New Jersey children facing delinquency charges in Camden’s juvenile court and provided post-disposition representation to youth at several of New Jersey’s secure facilities. In addition to working as a legal intern at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender and in the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
As a graduate of the Rutgers B.A./J.D. Dual-Degree Program, Brooke received a B.A. in Political Science Summa Cum Laude from Rutgers University—Camden, and a J.D. and Certificate in Criminal Law & Procedure Cum Laude from Rutgers Law School. Following graduation, Brooke served as a law clerk in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Patricia D. Williamson
New Jersey Counts Project Director
Patricia D. Williamson is the New Jersey Counts Project Director at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Patricia will be leading the Institute’s work to ensure that is a complete and accurate count of New Jersey’s urban communities in the 2020 Census.
Patricia is a Diamond Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, where she is currently the New Jersey Coordinator for the Eastern Region Social Action Committee. As the State Social Action Coordinator, Patricia leads the advocacy arm of the New Jersey-based sorority chapters.
Prior to this position, Patricia worked for over 20 years as a systems engineer in the optical networking field. She is also an adjunct professor at Bloomfield College.
Patricia is a lifelong resident of Central New Jersey. She earned a BA in Mathematics from Hampton University, an MS in Computer Science from Howard University, and an MA in Education and Human Development in the Educational Technology Leadership Program at George Washington University.
Tiara Moultrie is the Program Associate at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Before joining the Institute, Tiara worked in education, volunteer management and healthcare. While pursuing her BA in History at St. John’s University, Tiara was an active Ronald E. McNair Fellow and member of Phi Alpha Theta. She received her MA in History from Stony Brook University in 2014. Tiara serves as an executive member of the NYC Health+Hospitals Corporation Gotham/Morrisania Community Advisory Board.
Lynda C. Seward
Director of Development
Lynda Seward is the Director of Development planning and directing the NJ Institute of Social Justice’s fundraising initiatives including managing individual, foundation and corporate donations as well as annual giving campaigns.She is formerly the Grants Manager for the NAACP managing compliance for the national advocacy program initiatives which included managing relationships with funders, writing proposals, narrative reports, budget development as well as identifying new prospective funders. During her six year tenure, she managed approximately $35m in grants and wrote nearly $25m in proposals. She brings over ten years experience in grant writing and administration having previously worked with the YWCA of Bergen County in Ridgewood, NJ as well as the City of Newark Prosecutor’s Office.
As the grants administrator with the YWCA, she served as a member on the search committee for the YWCA Northeast Regional Council in the selection of a regional grant consultant. She has also served as a grant reviewer for the Division of Criminal Justice State Office of Victim Witness in Trenton NJ.
She managed the overall administrative and program responsibilities for the Newark Victim Witness Advocacy Program funded by the State of NJ Attorney General’s Office of Victim Witness. During this time she administered the grant as well as monitored staff providing crisis intervention counseling and making recommendations to the Court on the victim’s behalf. She assisted Prosecutors in preparation for trial as well as resolving issues in moving cases forward with judges, prosecutors, public defenders, private attorneys and court administrators. She implemented several new citywide initiatives in Newark by facilitating the first Evening with the Community Panel Discussion on victimization (later adopted in the Department of Justice/Office of Victims of Crime resource manual). She also initiated a Dating Violence Mobile Clinic to Newark high school seniors and an Elder Crime and Victimization Mobile clinic into senior citizen complexes in Newark.
In further demonstration of her commitment to social change she currently works with community committees and serves as Board President for the Fair Housing Council of Northern NJ located in Hackensack, NJ; and served as Chair of the Artist Selection Committee for the Martin Luther King Monument Committee in Bergen County.
Henal Patel, Esq.
The Honorable Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Legal Fellow and Associate Counsel
Henal Patel is as an Associate Counsel and Katzenbach Legal Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
She works in the Institute's Civic Engagement pillar. Before joining the Institute, Henal was an associate at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.
Previously, Henal had the honor of serving as a law clerk to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner on the New Jersey Supreme Court. While in law school, Henal was an Eagleton Institute of Politics fellow, participated in the Constitutional Litigation Clinic, and served as an assistant to the Chairman of the New Jersey Redistricting Commission. Henal received her J.D. from the Rutgers University School of Law – Newark and B.A. from Rutgers University.
Jayne Johnson, Esq.
Jayne Johnson is Senior Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Previously, Jayne was Counsel to the New Jersey Law Revision Commission, a state legislative commission tasked with proposing legislation to clarify and update existing NJ statutes.
On behalf of the Executive Director and the nine commissioners, who included elected officials, the deans of the NJ law schools and a former NJ Supreme Court Justice, Jayne authored reports, testified before the NJ Legislature, and conducted outreach to foster collaborative working relationships with organizations, members of the bar, and the public.
Jayne led the collective effort of advocates and nonprofit organizations in authoring a report recommending removal of pejorative terms regarding persons with disabilities and persons with substance use disorders from NJ statutes. The report resulted in an introduced bill which was later enacted by the NJ Legislature as P.L.2017, c.131.
Jayne worked extensively on a wide range of issues while with the Commission, including proposed revisions to NJ’s Underground Facility Protection Act, NJ laws governing notaries public, as well as recommendations to address public safety concerns and economic loss in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Later, as a public interest attorney, Jayne represented Hurricane Sandy survivors in consumer and housing law matters, including successful appeal of federal recoupment.
Following law school, Jayne was a judicial clerk and court mediator in the NJ Superior Courts. Jayne received a J.D. from Rutgers University Law School and a B.A. in International Studies summa cum laude from Oakwood University.
Laurie Beacham, Esq.
Director of Communications
Laurie Beacham is the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Laurie began her career practicing law, followed by ten years as a television producer at Court TV where she covered trials of well-known figures including Jack Kevorkian, Michael Jackson, and President Bill Clinton (for impeachment). After working in television, Laurie moved to non-profit work, first serving as Communications Director at the Center for Justice & Democracy, an organization devoted to protecting the civil justice system. After that, Laurie headed up the Media Relations Department at the national ACLU, where she garnered coverage of the organization’s work in major print, TV and radio outlets, and worked on issues including racial justice; immigration; voting rights; reproductive freedom; and national security. Before joining the Institute, Laurie led the Strategy & Campaigns Department for the national ASPCA where she oversaw animal welfare campaigns that incorporated communications, marketing, legislative, regulatory and litigation initiatives.
Laurie also served as Media Director for NJ 11th for Change, a grassroots organization that advocates for constituents of the 11th Congressional District.
Laurie received a B.A. degree in sociology with a minor in women’s studies from Brandeis University, and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.
Nadia N. Rush
Administrative & Development Associate
Nadia N. Rush is the Administrative Associate at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Before joining the Institute, Nadia worked as Director of Career Services assisting a diverse community of students in obtaining employment in their fields. Nadia guided students to meet their career and life goals. As Director of Career Services, Nadia assisted with coaching students and graduates on career search strategies, personal branding, interview skills, and self-promotion methods. Nadia also worked as a Professional Development Instructor and as an advisor for different committee meetings within local educational organizations. Nadia has a B.S Degree in Business Administration Management and Entrepreneurship from Berkeley College, New Jersey. Nadia has a wide range of administrative and management experience; Nadia also has certificates in Business Administration, Accounting, and QuickBooks. Additionally, Nadia holds a New Jersey Substitute Teacher license as well as a New Jersey Notary Public credential.
Aaron Greene, Esq.
Aaron Greene is an Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Aaron is a native of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and is a recent graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations from the University of South Carolina in 2016. During his undergraduate years, Aaron served two terms as the President of the Association of African American Students.
Aaron held numerous leadership roles as a law student including: President of the Matthew J. Perry Chapter of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA), National Director of the Earn Our Vote movement, recruiter for the Admissions Office, and a member of the Law School’s Pro Bono Board. During his tenure as president of NBLSA, the organization received the regional chapter of the year award for its work in the community and throughout the country.
Aaron served as the 2017 Diversity Initiatives Summer Intern at the Law School Admission Council, in the summer of 2018 was an Ella Baker Legal Intern at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and was a coordinator for the Right2Vote Movement in 2019. In December of 2018, he was the youngest facilitator selected to participate in the biannual Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference.
Kira Shepherd, Esq.
Director, Criminal Justice Reform
Kira Shepherd is the Director of Criminal Justice Reform at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Kira’s work focuses on closing New Jersey’s youth prisons and policing reform.
Before joining the Institute, Kira worked to advance reproductive freedom and LGBTQ rights as the Racial Justice Director at Columbia Law School's Law, Rights, and Religion Project. Prior to joining Columbia Law School, Kira served as the Executive Director and Director of Campaigns at The Black Institute, an action think tank based in New York City. Kira also worked at ColorOfChange.org, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Pubic Policy Center.
Kira graduated from Rutgers Law School, Newark with a Juris Doctorate degree.
Director, Economic Justice Program
Laura Sullivan, the Institute's Director of Economic Justice, is an experienced policy researcher who specializes in analyzing the long-term financial well-being and vulnerabilities of households, with a particular focus on assets and racial wealth disparities.
She has co-authored and led the quantitative analysis of national survey data for a number of publications and policy briefs. Most recently, she was a Senior Research Associate at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University. Her work exposing the trends and drivers of the racial wealth gap has been covered by major media outlets. Dr. Sullivan has also taught graduate-level quantitative methods and policy analysis courses at American University. Previously, she worked in policy advocacy for economic development in low-income communities and communities of color in California and served as an AmeriCorps member coordinating literacy programs in the Bay Area.
She holds a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in Social Policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
Manager of Community Engagement
Phone: (973) 775-9909
Ashanti’s life experiences with the New Jersey foster system's challenges, her MSW from Columbia University, and her experience as an administrative social worker are the foundation for her work with families, organizations, and communities of color concerning issues of access and equity. Ashanti’s journey has included work with re-entering citizens, children and adults with developmental disabilities, strategic planning, education advocacy, as well as developing programs to strengthen families and better communities. Ashanti is an emerging social work professional with a goal of empowering underserved communities to be the strongest advocates for the change they deserve to see.
Ashanti has worked for the last couple of years as the Director of Community Engagement at Newark’s South Ward Children’s Alliance. She previously worked at the Community Chest in Englewood, Delaney House in Newark, and interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. Ashanti is a member of the Network for Social Work Managers.