During more than two decades experience as a non-profit executive, Matt Cherry has led advocacy organizations in three different countries. Before joining Death Penalty Focus in 2014, Matt had served three terms as president of the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, where he led hundreds of religious groups and civil society representatives in efforts to protect the basic human right to freedom of thought and conscience. Matt also served 5 years as executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and then 8 years as executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies.
In these leadership roles, he recruited, funded and mobilized powerful movements for human rights and social change. He achieved this through a wide range of successful initiatives, which included: pioneering outreach programs using new media to reach untapped audiences; initiating successful collaborative programs, including the creation of the first secularist lobbying group in the US; launching a student program that has resulted in more than a thousand campus groups since its launch; and creating successful fundraising campaigns that raised millions of dollars.
Matt has always opposed the death penalty because he believes that it is unjust, discriminatory and dysfunctional. But his human rights work at the United Nations also showed him that when the US deliberately kills its own citizens it gives moral support to the worst tendencies of the worst regimes in the world. He therefore believes the abolition of the death penalty in the US is an urgent and vital step towards a more just and peaceful world. He looks forward to using his skills to help build and mobilize a broad-based movement that will end the death penalty for good.
A graduate of Mills College, Juanita Carroll Young has more than ten years of experience nonprofit fundraising, grants and institutional giving. She has worked with board and staff members at National Radio Project, the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, and Crisis Support Services to ensure funding for cultural programs and social justice, including prisoners' rights.
In addition to a career in development, Juanita also organized with Residents United for a Livable Emeryville, a community action group started by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. A practicing Catholic, Juanita has felt personal horror and shame each time her tax dollars went to put people to death.
Chelsea first became opposed to the death penalty in the 3rd grade, after writing a research paper on the history of the death penalty in the United States. Many years later, she is grateful to be working to create a better system of justice in California and the United States. Chelsea is a graduate of Chapman University, where she studied Political Science and Peace Studies, focusing on restorative justice in Latin America. She has worked for progressive political organizations, focusing on women's rights and prison reform. Chelsea has traveled extensively, studying the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, researching sustainable development in Costa Rica, and helping provide legal assistance to domestic abuse victims in Ecuador. Chelsea lives in San Francisco with her cat, Sid, and enjoys reading, rooting for the Phoenix Suns, and exploring all that the Bay Area has to offer.
Yoko was born and raised in Japan. She moved to the United States in December 2001. While she was in Japan, she dedicated her spare time to the volunteer organization Soroptimist International America Japan Region Venture Club. She served as a board member, vice chairperson and the chairperson for several years. Yoko has worked with the elderly, the disabled, homeless people and battered women. Through this work, she became aware that many serious social issues were being overlooked by society. After immigrating to San Francisco, she earned a B.A. in Psychology from San Francisco State University. In school, Yoko became increasingly concerned with the cruelty of the U.S. prison system and with racism in the U.S. Before joining Death Penalty Focus, she volunteered her time helping vulnerable youth both in public and private school settings in San Francisco. In her private life, she loves hiking, reading books and listening to music.
As the Program Coordinator of Death Penalty Focus, David helps facilitate the organization’s various projects and is primarily responsible for its Youth Outreach Program. Before joining Death Penalty Focus, David earned his M.A. in the History of the United States and the History of Ideas at San Francisco State University, with special emphases on the histories of race, class, and capitalism in the US. During his time at SF State, David also coordinated a tutoring center that focused on the academic success of students from first-generation and other underrepresented backgrounds. He currently lives in Oakland and enjoys learning about the diversity of experience offered by life in the Bay Area.
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