Essie Justice Group is excited to announce the newest members of our Board of Directors: Charlene Carruthers (Writer, Political Strategist & Cultural Worker), Vanessa Garrison (GirlTrek), Arisha Michelle Hatch (Color of Change), and Crystal Hayling (The Libra Foundation). The latest additions underscore Essie’s centering and celebrating the leadership of Black women. Please read more about each of them below.
Charlene A. Carruthers is a political strategist, cultural worker and PhD student in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. A practitioner of telling more complete stories, her research includes interrogating historical conjunctures of Black freedom-making post-emancipation and decolonial revolution, Black governance, Black feminist and queer theory. Her work spans more than 15 years of community organizing across racial, gender and economic justice movements. As the founding national director of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), she has worked alongside hundreds of young Black activists to build a national base of activists in a member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. She is the author of the book “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (available in English and Spanish language).
Vanessa Garrison is a passionate advocate of social justice issues and has focused her work on improving health outcomes and quality of life for Black women and girls. Prior to co-founding GirlTrek, Vanessa worked as a Program Coordinator for Our Place DC, a nonprofit organization that provides services to currently and formerly incarcerated women. Vanessa began her career working in digital media with Turner Broadcasting System. Inc. in Atlanta, GA. where she managed digital media projects for some the world’s most recognizable news and entertainment brands, including, CNN, TNT and Sports Illustrated. With GirlTrek, Vanessa has been a featured on CNN, in The Washington Post, The New York Times and named a “Health Hero” by Essence Magazine. Vanessa has received social innovations fellowships from Teach For America (2012), Echoing Green (2013), and the Aspen Institute (2015). Vanessa earned a Bachelor of Arts in World Arts and Cultures from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Arisha Michelle Hatch:
Arisha Michelle Hatch is the Vice President and Chief of Campaigns at Color Of Change and the Director of Color Of Change PAC, leading the organization’s civic engagement, advocacy, digital and organizing work across a number of racial justice issues; her portfolio of work includes criminal and economic justice reform, corporate accountability, democracy and elections. Arisha is a key leader, innovator and strategist in the racial justice movement. Since joining Color Of Change in 2012, Arisha, along with her team, have led groundbreaking campaigns that have pushed elected officials and progressive institutions to be more accountable to Black people; focusing on the district attorneys’ office, her team has led a coalition of national and local organizations who are determined to reimagine local law enforcement as bodies centered in decarceration strategies; she was worked to elect more than a dozen progressive prosecutors in Black communities across the country. On the national level, the Color Of Change team has forced corporate enablers of Trump to divest from the Republican National Convention and step down from Trump’s business council while also forcing Democrat and progressive leaders to cut ties with corporate lobbyists whose agendas conflict with improving the lives of Black people. Arisha was born in Texas and raised in Southern California. She has degrees in economics, creative writing and feminist studies from Stanford University and she received her doctorate in law from Santa Clara University. Before joining Color Of Change, Arisha left her job at a corporate law firm to become a volunteer organizer for the Barack Obama campaign in 2008. She later served as National Organizing Director for the Courage Campaign, a California-based progressive organization, where her focus was on movement-building and grassroots organizing in the effort to overturn Proposition 8.
Crystal Hayling has brought to The Libra Foundation a fresh vision of philanthropy that rejects business as usual and is responsive to the needs of frontline communities. Her focus has been on building strong relationships of trust with POC-led organizations working actively across the spectrum of racial and social justice issues. In September 2020, she founded the Democracy Frontlines Fund, a new aligned giving strategy that raised $36 million in unrestricted, multi-year support for an exemplary slate of Black-led organizations. She has served on the boards of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, Northern California Grantmakers, Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, and Grantmakers in Health and currently serves on the boards of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Justice Funders, and Community Change. A frequent speaker and author, Crystal was named to Inside Philanthropy’s Power List 100 in 2021. She is a graduate of Yale University and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Other board members include: Karen Shain, Chair, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; Chantá Parker, Neighborhood Defender Services of Detroit; Makis Antzoulatos, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Boston, MA; Hillary Brooks, Power California; Kirsten Levingston, Wellspring Advisory LLC; Tejinder Singh, Goldstein and Russell, P.C.; and Teresa Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women