Meet our board
Cheryllyn M. Branche is a native of New Orleans and has been an educator for over 40 years. Serving in several capacities during her educational career, Ms. Branche has worked in Michigan and Louisiana as teacher, coach, counselor, school site administrator, presently serving as Executive Assistant to the CEO at Moton Charter School. Cheryllyn’s church ministries have included Eucharistic Minister, Lector, RCIA
Director, Liturgical Dance, Social Justice, Parish and Council and Coordinator of St. Gabriel’s Parish School of Religion. Civic work in Louisiana and Michigan has included the Drexel Prep Foundation, NAACP, YWCA Board of Directors, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the GU272 Descendants Association.
Cheryllyn has a Masters Degree in Counseling and Guidance and certification in Educational Leadership. Ms. Branche was given an Educator Excellence Award for the State of Louisiana and recognized by the State of Louisiana by the State of Louisiana as a “Turnaround Specialist” trained through the University of Virginia’s national recognized School Turnaround Specialist Program.
Cheryllyn is the maternal great, great granddaughter of Hillary and Henrietta Ford, the maternal great granddaughter of Basil and Ann Richmond Ford who bore 19 children, one of which was Louise Ford, her maternal grandmother. Shortly after her lineage was revealed to her, Ms. Branche joined in the work of the GU272 Descendants Association
where she serves as president and board member of the Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation.
I have been very moved by the work of The Ministry and in particular the inspirational efforts of Sister Helen PreJean. I have followed her from afar for a long time and it was a great day when I met her in person recently.
I am involved with many other social justice organizations in a variety of capacities, but I believe this one surpasses all in terms of importance to the individuals involved and in a greater sense to all humanity.
City Attorney for New Orleans, working mostly in the Moon Landrieu Administration. City Attorney for Mandeville, Louisiana. Worked in Reentry of persons from prisons and jails for the past 30 years. Started the Reentry Alliance for Louisiana about 7 years ago which works with reentering citizens. Advocate for Criminal Justice Reform.
Susanne Dumbleton is Professor Emeritus and Former Dean at DePaul University. Her doctoral area is literature, but during her years as dean, she added study of leadership. As she read in that vast field, with thousands of articles published each year, she noted that little attention had been paid to leadership in the fight for human rights, in particular leadership by women, which she found curious, as the fight for human rights has been critical to the evolution of civilization over the centuries, and much of the fight has been done by women.
In 2008, she began to search among contemporary women who are challenging injustice within systems. This led her to study and then meet Sister Helen Prejean. Since then, Dumbleton has written and taught about Sister Helen and assisted DePaul University in hosting “The Prejean Papers” and becoming a center for study of her writing and advocacy as part of the ongoing fight for human rights.
Susanne is also currently on the board of Restore Justice, an advocacy organization focusing on, “fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal justice system, with a primary focus on those affected by extreme sentences imposed on youth.” Specifically, RJ presses for legislative reform and more humane care for incarcerated and newly released persons and their families.
Selections from Dumbleton’s work about Sister Helen include the following:
More of her writing on leadership for human rights can be found at http://www.susannedumbleton.com
Barbara Crain Major, BA, MSW, is an Anti-Racist community organizer and trainer with over Forty years’ experience in many local, national, and international community development efforts. Ms. Major is a native of New Orleans and Franklinton Louisiana. Her work includes nurturing leadership development and assisting institutions and organizations in developing strategies to identify, de-institutionalize racism and institutionalize Anti-Racism.
She was director of the St. Thomas Health Clinic, which was the first clinic in the nation to declare racism as the number one health risk in the African American Community.
After Hurricane Katrina, Ms. Major, was named by then Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Then President George Bush to Co-Chair the Bring Back New Orleans Commission. She continues to work as an Anti-Racist consultant and trainer locally, nationally, and internationally. She has also served on numerous boards and commissions locally and nationally. At present, she is the Co-Facilitator for The Collaborative, a local organizing effort to ensure economic equity in New Orleans, she is an Anti-Racism Trainer with numerous organizations including The Peoples Institute for Survival and Beyond, Board Chair of Robert R. Moton Charter School and Special Consultant to the Executive Director of the St. Thomas Health Center.
Michael L. Radelet is Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Colorado-Boulder. He completed his Ph.D. at Purdue in 1977 and post-doctoral training (in Psychiatry) at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and then spent 22 years at the University of Florida before moving to Boulder in 2001. From 1996-2001 he served as Chair, Department of Sociology, University of Florida, and from 2004-2009 was the Chair of the Sociology Department in Boulder.
He has written or edited eight books and some 100 scholarly papers focusing on such problems as erroneous convictions, racial bias, and ethical issues faced by health care personnel who are involved in capital cases and executions. His work on erroneous convictions (with Hugo Adam Bedau) is widely credited with introducing the “innocence argument” into contemporary death penalty debates, and the Bedau-Radelet list of erroneous death sentences (now numbering 186 cases) is housed on the DPIC web site.
In 2002, at the request of Illinois Governor George Ryan, he and Northeastern University criminologist Glenn Pierce completed a study of racial bias in the death penalty in Illinois that Governor George Ryan used in his decision in 2003 to commute 167 death sentences. Pierce and Radelet have also conducted studies of race and death sentencing in several other states. His most recent book, The History of the Death Penalty in Colorado, proved to be useful to several legislators in their successful effort to abolish the death penalty in Colorado in 2020.
Radelet has testified in 75 death penalty cases, before committees of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and in legislatures in seven states. He has worked with scores of death row inmates and gone through “last visits” with 50, and also works closely with families of homicide victims in Colorado. He was kicked out of three Catholic grade schools despite the fact that he was totally innocent.
I live in Allentown, Pa., where I spent most of my career in publishing, and more recently teaching at Lehigh Carbon Community College. I have been arguing against the death penalty for four decades.
Retired now, an adjunct at the community college, I coach students who usually take the side of the underdog and remind me, at times, of prisoners.
In 1983 I attended a Viewing of Robert Wayne Williams, first man whom the State of Louisiana killed when it resumed executions. There in the morning light was a young man with his head shaved for his electrocution–the outcome of a terrible decision and a faulty trigger on a borrowed shotgun. As we filed out the far aisle of the church, a toddler on his father’s hip turned back and asked insistently, “Why is that man sleeping in a suitcase?” No one had a rational answer for the child.
My hobby is writing short- and long-form fiction, plus getting people to talk about themselves.
Rachael Zafer (she/her) is a writer, educator, and social change consultant. She has collaborated and conspired with organizers, artists, and writers across the country to inspire reflection, dialogue, and action for nearly two decades. She is deeply committed to abolition of the death penalty and the carceral state, antiracist action, and mutual aid.
Rachael was the Director of the Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project and a project manager for Sister Helen Prejean from 2013 to 2015 and continues to collaborate with the MADP team. Rachael was the founding director of the Prison Education Program at New York University and was a co-founder of the Prison Arts Initiative at the University of Denver. She is a founding core organizer of Mourning Our Losses, a crowd-sourced memorial honoring the lives of people who died of COVID-19 while incarcerated in the United States.
Rachael has also written over twenty reading and discussion guides for prominent social justice texts including Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and We Do This ‘Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba. She has led hundreds of workshops and classes in prisons, jails, and schools in New York, Chicago, Michigan, and Colorado.
Rachael has a Masters in Public Administration degree from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She is a trained yoga and meditation instructor and an experienced facilitator. Rachael currently lives with her partner and menagerie in southern Colorado. You can learn more about her work at www.rachaelzafer.com.
Elizabeth Zitrin began her legal career practicing criminal defense law and is a pioneer in the collaboration between the death penalty abolition movement in the United States and the international abolition community. She is Vice Chair of the Board for Witness to Innocence, co-founded by Sister Helen as the organization of, by and for death row exonerees, and serves as an attorney-facilitator for its Accuracy & Justice project, which brings together exonerated death row survivors and prosecutors and other practitioners, to focus on the causes of wrongful conviction. Elizabeth is former President of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty and convened the World Coalition’s only General Assemblies held in the United States.