Allison Riggs leads the voting rights program at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, an organization she joined in 2009. In March of 2020, she also took over as Interim Executive Director of the organization.
Her voting rights work over the last decade at SCSJ has been focused on fighting for fair redistricting plans, fighting against voter suppression, and advocating for electoral reforms that would expand access to voting.
She has litigated redistricting cases on behalf of State NAACP Conferences in Texas, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. In 2018, she argued the Texas redistricting case in the United States Supreme Court, and in 2019, she argued the North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case in the Supreme Court. Allison works closely with grassroots organizations and communities of color as they seek to advance their political and civil rights. She received her undergraduate, Master’s Degree and J.D. from the University of Florida.
Ryan Roberson joined SCSJ’s Board of Directors in 2016, where he has served as both Treasurer and Chairman. In 2020, he stepped down as Board Chair to become SCSJ’s inaugural Co-Executive Director for Administration. Ryan is the Founder of RER Capital, LLC, a Charlotte, NC-based proprietary trading company that focuses on intraday and longer-term market trends and movements. As Principal of RER Capital since 2005, Ryan has built the legal, technological and financial infrastructure required for this entity while conducting fundamental and technical security analysis on a daily basis. Prior to founding RER Capital, Ryan held various roles of increasing seniority for nearly a decade at Goldman Sachs, Inc. in New York City. As a Senior Vice President at Goldman, Ryan was responsible for providing primary international equity research and trading flow coverage for five of the Securities Division’s tier one accounts, including the International Division’s primary revenue generator.
Ryan received his undergraduate degree from Brown University, and his JD and MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Tazeen Dhanani joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in May 2020 as the Communications Director. Prior to joining SCSJ, she was a Senior Communications Specialist at the Public Health Institute, where she worked on a USAID-funded contract to develop partnerships and strengthen the capacity of global health professionals and organizations. Before that, Tazeen worked in strategic communications and marketing as a Senior Consultant working with, and for, U.S. veterans on public health and mental health issues, specifically PTSD. She also worked as an Events and Registration Consultant for both the 62nd and 63rd Commissions on the Status of Women with UN Women in New York, and before that, as an Internal Communications Coordinator at Amnesty International UK in London. Prior to moving to London in 2016, she worked in various communications-related roles at Washington, DC-based nonprofits in public health and health law. She has also completed human rights and communications internships at her alma mater, the London School of Economics (LSE), and at the World Health Organization in Geneva, respectively. At LSE, she was a Lead Editor for the university’s human rights blog.
Tazeen has volunteered with several organizations, such as LSE’s Student Union; Amnesty International UK; UN Women’s Empower Women; the UN Association of the National Capital Area; and the American Red Cross, among others. In 2017, she was honored with LSE’s Volunteer of the Year award. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Art History from Virginia Tech, a Master of Public Health in Global Health from George Mason University, and a Master of Science in Human Rights from LSE.
Tyler Whittenberg joined Southern Coalition for Social Justice in 2020 to lead the Justice System Reform program. Prior to joining South Coalition for Social Justice, Tyler was Deputy Director of Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse-to-Jailhouse Track project. In this role, he supported grassroots campaigns led by youth of color fighting to end the criminalization of Black and Brown students and create learning environments that are reflective of the world they envision for themselves.
Tyler’s entire career has been dedicated to ending the school-to-prison pipeline and dismantling oppressive structures systematically imposed upon Black and Brown youth. He began his career as an 8th grade social studies teacher in Columbia, South Carolina. He then received a masters degree in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, focusing on school-to-prison pipeline issues and the growing effort to privatize public education. Tyler subsequently advocated for students’ rights as an Education Policy Fellow with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education Law Project.
Tyler graduated from Tulane University Law School after completing an Ella Baker Fellowship with the Center for Constitutional Rights. Throughout law school, he co-directed Stand Up for Each Other (SUFEO)—a student-led organization representing youth who were suspended and expelled from public schools in New Orleans. For these efforts, Tyler was awarded the Louisiana State Bar Association’s 2014 Student Pro Bono Award. Tyler also advocated for the rights of youth in the justice and foster care systems as a Staff Attorney with the Youth Law Center and helped jurisdictions throughout the U.S. reduce racial and ethnic disparities in youth-serving systems while a Site Manager with the W. Haywood Burns Institute.
Jeff Loperfido serves as Senior Counsel with SCSJ’s Voting Rights group. His practice focuses on litigation and policy advocacy that ensures the fair and full participation of all voters.
Jeff graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Economics, and earned his J.D. cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Following law school, he served as a law clerk to the Hon. Norma L. Shapiro, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and then worked in private practice for five years at the New York City law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP. In 2015, he shifted his practice to government work, serving as senior counsel in the Special Federal Litigation Division of the New York City Law Department. Jeff returned to North Carolina in 2017 committed to dedicating his future professional efforts to social justice causes and is excited to have found that opportunity at SCSJ.
Hilary Harris Klein joined Southern Coalition for Social Justice in 2020 as Counsel for the voting rights program.
Hilary graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a Global Law Scholar and Pro Bono Pledge Recognition recipient. After law school, Hilary practiced commercial litigation, arbitration, and global investigations in the New York office of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where she co-lead the US Pro-Bono Associate Counsel and served as lead counsel in Prisoner’s Rights and Anti-Human Trafficking matters, for which she twice received the Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Public Award.
After moving to North Carolina in 2018, Hilary served as a term law clerk for the Honorable Catherine C. Eagles of the Middle District of North Carolina. Hilary also holds a B.S.E., magna cum laude, in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and served for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania before law school.
Chantel Cherry-Lassiter serves as counsel on the Justice System Reform team at SCSJ. She grew up in rural Northeastern North Carolina. She earned her M.P.A from Strayer University and her B.S. in Criminal Justice from Elizabeth City State University. Prior to attending law school, she worked for Elizabeth City State University in the Accounting Department. However, most of her ten-year career with the State of North Carolina was spent as a Child Support Enforcement Agent. She earned her J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law, where she also earned a Certification in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law. While attending NCCU Law she was President of the Civil Rights and Constitutional Law Society, President of Teens N Transition, and served as a Guardian ad Litem for Durham County.
During law school, she participated in over 700 hours of pro bono legal work. In 2018, she was awarded the Durham County Bar Association’s Adam Lischer Scholarship for her commitment to serving Durham’s underserved population. Chantel was also awarded North Carolina Central University’s Student Service Impact Award. She received a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of dedicated public service from the North Carolina State Bar Association. She was also honored to receive the H.M. Michaux Award for Public Service.
Mitchell Brown is a native of Fredericksburg, VA, but has familial roots in Greensboro, NC. Mitchell graduated from the New York University School of Law in May 2017 where he served as the Chair of the Black Allied Law Students Association (BALSA). Mitchell also graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in May 2012, earning a B.S. in Business Economics and a minor in Philosophy.
After graduating from law school, Mitchell clerked for the Honorable J. Michelle Childs on the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina and for the Honorable Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Mitchell’s inspiration for entering the legal field originates from a biblical and community standpoint. He believes that he has been called to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, to defend the defenseless, and to empower those who feel powerless.
Mitchell’s favorite quote is: “If purpose is present, then nothing can stop the determined individual from his/her rendezvous with destiny” (Anonymous).
Marcus Pollard joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice as a Staff Attorney with the Justice System Reform team in June 2020. Marcus is a licensed attorney in North Carolina as well as the District of Columbia. Before working with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Marcus worked with the Orange County Local Reentry Council advocating for fair housing and employment opportunities. Currently a board member of two reentry organization, Marcus continues to fight for change in post-release legislation.
A North Carolina native, Marcus attended North Carolina State University graduating with a B.A. in Communication, Public Relations in 2012. Marcus then attended North Carolina Central University School of Law, where he was the President of the Public Interest Law Origination, Board Member of the Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society, student intern with Southern Coalition for Social Justice Clean Slate Project, and recipient of the North Carolina Central University Student Service Impact Award. Marcus has a dedicated career of advocating for social justice and against racial inequality and lives by his fraternal moto “culture for service, service for humanity.”
Jonathan C. (“Jay”) Augustine serves as of counsel with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. He joined SCSJ in September 2020 and is a member of the Voting Rights team.
Jay is a former adjunct law professor who has extensive experience in litigation and governmental service. In addition to authoring The Keys Are Being Passed: Race, Law, Religion and the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement (2014), his scholarly articles appear in the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal, Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal, and the University of San Francisco Law Review, among others. His articles on the Voting Rights Act have been published in the Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, Cumberland Law Review, and Louisiana Law Review, while his scholarship on appellate practice and procedure has also been cited by the Louisiana Supreme Court in published opinion.
As litigator, Jay successfully represented a class of plaintiffs in Carter v. St. Helena Parish School Board, one of the oldest desegregation cases in the United States, having originally been filed by Thurgood Marshall, then-counsel for the NAACP. He has also tried many cases in state and federal courts, while also arguing before numerous courts of appeal. He previously served in the administration of Louisiana’s 55th governor, as executive counsel and director of legislative affairs for the Louisiana Workforce Commission, and in locally elected office as vice president of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, the governing body of Louisiana’s largest school district. He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and silver life member of the NAACP.
Jay Augustine earned an economics degree from Howard University, along with an active duty commission as an infantry officer in the United States Army. After decorated military service, Jay earned his law degree from Tulane University before serving as a law clerk to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary, before completing a fellowship at Princeton Theological Seminary, and earning his doctorate at Duke University. An ordained minister also serving in pastoral ministry, he is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
Amanda Ford serves as SCSJ’s Networks Director for Voting Rights and helps to lead the organizing efforts for the non-litigation work of SCSJ’s Voting Rights Team. Amanda specializes in grassroots organizing and base building having led several successful grassroots efforts in electoral politics across the South and Midwest. She has over 6 cycles of political campaign experience and 15 years of professional experience in politics and nonprofits. Amanda is a proud native of North Carolina who believes strongly in southern organizing and preserving the right to vote for all citizens.
Imade Borha joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in June 2020 as a Communications Advocate for the Justice System Reform team. Before joining SCSJ, she worked as an award-winning journalist and a communications professional at a mental health organization. Imade brings her expertise as a writer and a mental health advocate into her role by providing communications support to students and community partners.
Irving Zavaleta joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in August 2020 as the Communications Manager. He is a well-known and highly regarded leader, educator and speaker with in-depth knowledge and experience in the areas of inclusion and equity. Irving has firsthand experience and knows best practices for working with underrepresented populations including students of color, LGBTQIA communities and first-generation college students. Prior to joining SCSJ, he worked as an Assistant Director for the North Carolina Campus Compact.
He graduated from high school with honors and from Guilford College with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and French. He was recognized nationally as one of the best 25 Latinx college students by the Hispanic College Fund in 2007. Irving obtained his MBA at High Point University with a concentration in leadership and organization development.
Irving is a frequent speaker at meetings and conferences highlighting his work and the ongoing challenges within the Latinx and LGBTQIA communities. He currently sits on the board of directors of Fortaleza & Equality NC.
He founded the highly successful Soy un Líder (I am a Leader) Conference. Soy un Líder is a college prep and empowerment conference for students who identify as a Latinx, immigrant or refugee. It is the only conference of its kind in North Carolina, offering workshops on the college application and financial aid process while providing information for DACAmented, undocumented, and refugee status students. Soy un Líder has empowered students to dream big through a social justice lens for more than a decade.
Irving was a recipient of the 2017 Community Involvement Diamante Award, a statewide recognition of people and organizations that support the North Carolina Latinx population. He was also named a 2018 Community Game Changer by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro for his community involvement.
He participated in the 2018 Hispanics in Philanthropy Next Generation Latinx Líderes Program. He was one of only 29 Latinxs invited to participate in this highly acclaimed national leadership initiative.
Sala Abdallah is a formerly incarcerated man dedicated to righting his wrong through outreach to the youth, and bringing consciousness to the community by making them aware their voices are heard and opinions matter. Mr. Abdallah believes if the youth channel their efforts to the right causes, we can make a difference. He campaigns for Second Chance and Ban the Box, and he is a dedicated member/organizer for All of Us or None. His intention as a Community Organizer with SCSJ is to carry out the legacy of the late great Umar Salute Muhammad.
Christopher Ketchie serves as the Southern Coalition’s in-house demographer and data analyst, where he specializes in research, analysis, and spatial visualization of demographic and electoral data to provide an evidence base for advocacy, community organizing, and litigation. After completing his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002, he pursued his sense of adventure by moving out west to become a wildland firefighter for the United States Forest Service.
In 2007, he returned home to study at North Carolina State University, where he received his master’s degree in Forestry and Environmental Resources with a concentration in Geographic Information Systems. Christopher previously worked for SCSJ from 2011 to 2015 and, after spending a few years working for a land trust in Eastern North Carolina, he rejoined the ranks in October 2018.
Candela Cerpa serves as the GIS Specialist and Data Analyst at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She joined the team in August 2020.
Candela graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May 2020, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy. At graduation, she was named to the Maryland Medallion Society, a prestigious group that showcases the talents of 20 of the brightest and most capable undergraduate student leaders. She was also a NOAA Hollings Scholar, which recognizes and supports exemplary environmental science students across the country.
In college, she worked in community organizing for environmental and social justice issues. She has also interned at USAID, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Environmental Law Institute, NOAA, the National Park Service, and many research teams.
Katelin Kaiser serves as the Voting Rights Legal Fellow at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s voting rights program. She joined SCSJ in September 2020.
Katelin graduated with honors from North Carolina Central University School of Law, and was the recipient of the Floyd B. McKissick Award for Leadership and Scholarship and the Pro Bono Service Impact Award. She has experience and training in the areas of voting rights and election protection, indigent defense services, appellate litigation, expunction and driver’s license restoration, consumer protections, housing and workers’ rights.
Prior to attending law school, Katelin was the assistant director of the Parr Center for Ethics at UNC-CH, where she directed the National High School Ethics Bowl and developed public programing on ethics and society. Katelin received her Master’s degree in bioethics and medical humanities from the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, and her Bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in public health.
Katelin is dedicated to listening to and working with historically disenfranchised communities to ensure that they can cast a meaningful ballot.
Sabine Schoenbach joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in September 2020 as a Policy Analyst supporting the Voting Rights and Justice System Reform teams.
Prior to joining SCSJ, Sabine was a Senior Associate with the EITC Funders Network, a philanthropy supporting organization focused on equitable asset building policies, and worked with state and national economic justice nonprofits and consultants to provide research, writing and evaluation services. Previously, she held policy analysis and research positions at the NC Justice Center and at the Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute.
Sabine holds a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, an MA in social science research from the University of Chicago, and a BA from the University of Virginia.
Talia Ray serves as a paralegal at the Southern Coalition, where she assists the Voting Rights team on both litigation and non-litigation projects. After earning her Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York in 2013, her passion for community organizing lead her to political campaign work at the local and state levels. Just before joining the SCSJ, Talia worked as a campaign manager for a state House candidate in rural North Carolina, where she developed a keen interest in voting rights issues. When she’s not working with the team at the Southern Coalition to push back against structural inequality, Talia enjoys getting lost in a good book or playing with her dogs, Harley and Tigger.
Stacy Hamilton earned her undergraduate degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Management and Accounting from Shaw University, and she received her MBA from the University of Phoenix. She has served as SCSJ’s Office Manager since November 2015. In that capacity, she manages SCSJ’s finances, oversees office administration, and provides human resource services. Before joining SCSJ she provided accounting services for a number of small businesses. She is a lover of animals and spontaneous adventures.