Our Staff Team
Aleah Bacquie Vaughn, Director
Aleah was a member of the Quill and Dagger Honor Society and Recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award from Cornell University, where she was a leader in the Student Divestment Coalition. She went on to become the Program Director then Interim Executive Director at the American Committee on Africa and the Africa Fund. There she championed campaigns demanding the release of political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, and divestment from companies doing business in South Africa.
She lived in South Africa in the period leading up to and immediately following the country’s historic first democratic elections. There she worked for the South African Council of Churches on a team devoted to decreasing the violence in the East Rand, one of the bloodiest regions during that time; on the Independent Electoral Commission where she helped educate communities about registering and voting in the country’s historic elections; for the World Council on Religion and Peace, which first called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and for the Women’s Development Foundation, which championed and supported the election of women to national government positions.
Upon her return to the United States, she worked on the Jubilee campaign promoting cancellation of African debt to rich nations and demanding medication for African nations in the devastating fight against HIV/AIDS. She then worked as the Director of Social Justice Ministries for the historic Riverside Church, guiding 13 social justice ministries, including a fund for the Prison Ministry and the creation of Sojourners, a ministry for people detained in U.S. facilities. During a demonstration that she helped organize, she was illegally arrested, detained and strip-searched by NYPD. The action was intended to highlight Columbia Presbyterian’s testing of serotonin levels in black and Latino boys, using fenfluramine, a dangerous substance later withdrawn by the FDA due to its association with heart failure. She subsequently sued and won a case against the NYPD. Aleah is the granddaughter of Irene Morgan, of the Morgan v. Virginia Supreme Court decision against segregation in interstate travel, which enforcement of the Freedom Rides were organized to ensure. She is the fierce mother of two black boys. She has been a member of the CJI Circle since 2003.
Danielle Freire, Associate Director of Development
Danielle Freire joined CJI in October 2018 as Associate Director of Development. In this role, she manages all fundraising activities and works to increase CJI's donor and support base. Danielle has a passion for promoting programs that empower communities of color. She began her development career in 2013 as a fundraising specialist for Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of New York City, a housing nonprofit that empowers residents through home ownership education, financial counseling, and community leadership training. After NHS, Danielle joined Student Leadership Network (formerly Young Women's Leadership Network) as a development associate and then as manager of institutional giving to secure funding for college counseling and girls' education programs that serve over 19,000 young people across New York City. Most recently, Danielle served as senior manager of institutional giving for an education nonprofit, Blue Engine, and managed a $2.3 million institutional giving portfolio.
Danielle is excited to join CJI and increase resources for social justice collaborative grant making to end mass incarceration and criminalization in the United States. Danielle was raised in Jersey City, NJ and is the daughter of Ecuadorian immigrants. Danielle is committed to applying an equity-based lens to fundraising and looks forward to inviting more long-lasting partnerships for CJI grounded in empathy and trust. Danielle received her BA in Political Science from New Jersey City University and MS in Nonprofit Management from the the New School.
Lizan Highland, Operations Manager
Lizan was born in Barbados and moved to New York, where she currently resides in Brooklyn. She is an active volunteer for New York Cares, where she dedicates her time and efforts to ending hunger and providing meals to those in need. Her dream is to start an organization for young immigrants to guide them to better opportunities and ultimately naturalization. A former graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Lizan is passionate about improving the justice system, including ending discriminatory practices like stop and frisk. Her ultimate life goal is to design a communal atmosphere where justice is fair for all.
Ekeythia Dunston, Executive Assistant
Ekeythia is a former New York City Police Officer, who dedicated over 10 years of service to the organization. She believed her purpose was to protect and serve communities and to enhance the quality of life. Unfortunately, her private life, containing a toxic domestic relationship, got in the way of her promising career, and she was subsequently incarcerated. During Ekeythia’s incarceration she became an advocate against domestic and sexual violence against women. She played a leading role in the development of “Rock Your Lips” and PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) videos that are shown Nationwide at all correctional institutions to educate on sexual safety and victim services. Ekeythia was also a peer educator on HIV/AIDS/STIs. Ekeythia looks forward to the next chapter in her life, because the best is yet to come, because of her relentless determination to improve the quality of life for herself and others, even at the lowest points in life. In conclusion, she leaves you with this quote:
“A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her” – Author Unknown