The Advisory Circle
What We Believe
1. We believe that human relations can replace the work of institutions
2. We are invested in shifting power
3. We believe in doing no harm – not further victimizing people who have been victimized in the search for funding. We seek to keep an open door relationship with those who look for funding
4. We believe in interdependence and creating a culture where we do not pit one against another
5. We strive to build connections between restorative justice, transformative justice, and indigenous peacemaking
6. We hold an intersectional lens
7. We emphasize the underlying spirit and values of the work rather than the categories we use to define our work
8. Our vision is rooted in lived experience – as community activists, formerly incarcerated people, crime survivors, indigenous persons, and people of color— and has led us to 115 years of experience in restorative justice, transformative justice and indigenous peacebuilding
Who We Are
Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice Emeritus of the Navajo Nation
Associate Professor of Law Advocate | Navajo Technical University
The Honorable Robert Yazzie served as the Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation from 1992 through 2003. He practiced law in the Navajo Nation for 16 years, and was a district judge for eight years. He is now teaching Navajo Law at the Navajo Technical University. He was the Director of the Diné Policy Institute of Diné College (Navajo Nation), developing policy using authentic Navajo thinking. He is the author of articles and book chapters on many subjects, including Navajo peacemaking, traditional Indian law, and international human rights law. He is a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law, an adjunct professor of the Department of Criminal Justice of Northern Arizona University and a visiting member of the faculty of the National Judicial College. He recently taught Navajo law at the Crownpoint Institute of Technology. Chief Justice Yazzie continues a career devoted to education in formal participation in faculties, lectures and discussions of traditional indigenous law at various venues throughout the world. He has a global audience and he has frequently visited foreign lands to share his wisdom about traditional indigenous justice and governance.
Sheryl R. Wilson, MLS
Director | Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR)
North Newton, KS
Sheryl R. Wilson is a mediator, trainer and educator. Her dedication to the practice of restorative justice has led her to work with individuals, non-profits, academic institutions, two Fortune 500 companies, and public agencies. In her work, she has facilitated restorative justice dialogue in various venues, has worked as a community mediator and as a researcher. Her experience also includes community outreach and defense-initiated victim outreach in capital cases. She currently works as the Executive Director of the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Sheryl is currently serving as Board President of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ).
Johonna Turner, PhD
Co-Director | Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice
Dr. Johonna Turner is a teacher, facilitator, public speaker, and trainer. She serves as assistant professor of restorative justice and peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and a faculty associate at the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice. Her twenty years of service as an educator have been enhanced by her ongoing work in activist research, community organizing and the arts. Beginning in 2003, Johonna served as a leader in grassroots campaigns that led to the transformation of Washington D.C.’s juvenile justice system, increased alternatives to incarceration for local youth, and supported the training and development of young people as community organizers. With support from a 2007 Soros Justice Fellowship, Johonna founded the now-defunct Visions to Peace Project to engage Black youth in learning about, creating and promoting community-based strategies for challenging violence. From 2004 to 2009, she taught at the University of Maryland in the American studies, African American studies, and Women’s Studies departments and the Burns Academy of Leadership. She has also served as a high school special education teacher in the District of Columbia public schools. Johonna earned a PhD in American Studies and Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland, and a Graduate Certificate in Urban Youth Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Johonna is a sexual abuse survivor, prison abolitionist, and radical Christian who is passionate about rooting justice praxis within faith and spirituality. She resides in Harrisonburg, Virginia with her husband, Julian – where you might find her tending a garden on her balcony or learning how to make her own clothes.
Director | The Ahimsa Collective
Sonya Shah initiated the Ahimsa Collective in January 2016. She has 20 years experience in social justice education and 10 years experience in restorative justice. She is an associate professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has trained hundreds of facilitators in trauma healing and restorative justice practices across the U.S. She’s worked closely with survivors of violent crimes, people who have committed violence, families impacted by violence. Central to her core values are creating belonging and beloved community in every aspect of her work and life, and balancing her relationship to self, others, the community and nature. She is a first-generation immigrant from the Northwestern part of India. She speaks at national conferences, colleges and on the radio, and occasionally writes short articles on the Huffington Post.
Senior Staff Attorney | Native American Rights Fund
Brett Lee Shelton is a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and a Senior Staff Attorney at the Native American Rights Fund. His work at NARF focuses on the Indigenous Peacemaking Initiative, Boarding School Healing work, Sacred Places protection, and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also occasionally serves as an Associate Appellate Justice for various Tribal Courts.
Prior to his current employment, he was in private legal practice primarily representing and advising Native American tribal governments, agencies, and enterprises in a wide variety of areas. He has also worked as a policy analyst for the National Indian Health Board, as a grassroots organizer for international indigenous peoples in biotechnology evaluation, and assisting domestic violence victims in civil court for a nonprofit based on his home Reservation, the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and Nebraska. He received his law degree from Stanford University, and a Master of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Kansas. The passion of his work is to create and protect space for the practice of lifeways rooted in worldviews that are more conducive to civil society and living in respect of the natural world.
Seth Lennon Nguyen-Weiner
New York, NY
I am a restorative justice enthusiast and advocate based in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, I came of age around incredible peacemakers and healers from the Shade Tree Multicultural Foundation, Homeboy Industries Watts, Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, the Western Gate Roots and Wings Foundation, the Community Self-Determination Institute and others. I earned a degree in Community Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz and later a JD from Loyola Law School, where I helped run the Center for Restorative Justice. I served as a program officer for the Porticus Foundation between 2013 and 2018 working on initiatives pursuing restorative justice, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, homelessness and wellness in indigenous communities around the US and abroad. I live with my wife, Ngoc, and two baby boys, Shem and Sol.
Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks
Attorney and Tribal Court of Appeals Justice
Cheryl Demmert Fairbanks, Esq. works in the area of Indian law as an attorney and tribal court of appeals justice. Currently she is the Interim Executive Director of the UNM Native American Budget and Policy Institute. She recently was in Oregon serving as the Walter R. Echo-Hawk Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at Lewis and Clark; and also she was a visiting Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico’s Southwest Indian Law Clinic. Formerly a Partner at Cuddy McCarthy LLP, she had a general practice in Indian law, including tribal-state relations, personnel, tribal courts, peacemaking and family conferencing, mediation, family, school, education, and indigenous law.
Also, Ms. Fairbanks was a partner with the law firm of Roth, VanAmberg, Rogers, Ortiz, Fairbanks & Yepa, LLP, where she specialized in Indian law. She also worked as senior policy analyst with the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs in the area of state-tribal relations. There, she was instrumental in establishing the Indian Child Welfare Desk, New Mexico Office of Indian Tourism, the University of New Mexico Indian Law Clinic, and the passage of the New Mexico Indian Arts and Crafts Act.
Ms. Fairbanks is Tlingit-Tsimshian and was born in Ketchikan, Alaska. She obtained her BA from Fort Lewis College in 1969 and her JD in 1987 from the University of New Mexico. Prior to her law career, she served as a teacher for the Albuquerque Public Schools, Zia Day School, and Administrator for Acomita Day School and the Albuquerque/Santa Fe Indian Schools.
Director | Impact Justice's Restorative Justice Project
Oakland, CA - Member from 2017–2019
sujatha baliga’s work is characterized by an equal dedication to victims and persons accused of crimes. She speaks publicly and inside prisons about her own experiences as a survivor of child sexual abuse and her path to forgiveness. A former victim advocate and public defender in New York and New Mexico, baliga was awarded a Soros Justice Fellowship in 2008 which she used to launch a pre-charge restorative juvenile diversion program in Alameda County. Through the Restorative Justice Project baliga helps communities implement restorative justice alternatives to juvenile detention and zero-tolerance school discipline policies. She is also dedicated to using this approach to end child sexual abuse and intimate partner violence. sujatha is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences; she’s been a guest on NPR and the Today Show; and The New York Times Magazine and The Atlantic have profiled her work. She earned her A.B. from Harvard College, her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and has held two federal clerkships. A long-time Buddhist practitioner, she is a lay member of the Gyuto Foundation, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Richmond, CA, where she leads meditation on Monday nights. She makes her home in Berkeley, CA, with her partner of 21 years, Jason, and their 12-year-old son, Sathya.
Oakland, CA - Member from 2017–2019
Troy Williams is a media expert who develops transformative stories for social change. As a 2018 Soros Justice Fellow with the Open Society Foundation, Troy will create a national multimedia platform and community engagement program that will help formerly incarcerated people document their experiences and engage the public. Williams is the founder of the San Quentin Prison Report, the first prison-based audio storytelling program in the United States. He spent the last seven years of his incarceration teaching his peers to produce audio works behind prison walls. Upon his release from prison, he established 4North22, a media production and consulting company dedicated to giving a voice to systems-impacted people. He sits on a number of nonprofit boards, including the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and UnCommon Law. Williams has been a columnist for the Post News Group and in 2017 served as editor in chief of the San Francisco Bay View.
All the members of the Advisory circle are practitioners connected to organizations and institutions and not grantees of Life Comes From It. We search separately for resources to grow and build our own work while being committed to advocating for other leaders so we can grow restorative justice, transformative justice and indigenous peacemaking.
The Ahimsa Collective is a nonprofit organization serving in the implementation of Life Come From It. Tasks such as organizing meetings of the advisory circle, collecting and collating grant applications for the advisory circle, designing the website, coordinating logistics for future grantees are under our domain. The Ahimsa Collective is not a grantee of Life Comes From It, but has a contract through the Tides Foundation to implement the fund.