MIANTA McKNIGHT, Director of Community Engagement at Justice Now
Mianta is the passionate mother of Aiko and an unrelenting advocate who strives for justice. She is a formerly incarcerated woman who, as a juvenile, was tried as an adult. She had just turned 17 years old two months before her arrest in 1995. Since she served 18 years and one day on a 15-to-life sentence, Mianta knows first-hand what the prison experience is like. She grew up within the prison industrial complex, and she is driven to work with people surviving and navigating imprisonment.
Mianta began working for Justice Now as the Legal Advocacy & Social Justice Fellow shortly after her release. In 2016, Mianta became the first woman of color to be a Co-Director at Justice Now, pushing the organization towards its goal of having directly impacted people lead the work to build a world without prisons. Additionally, she is a Certified Massage Therapist and is bringing holistic health and education to her social justice work. Mianta believes that self care is vital for being able to continue to do this line of work. As a massage therapist, she works to enlighten others about their health care options and, through healing touch, helps them get back to doing what they love.
MARGARET LAFFAN, Legal Advocacy Coordinator
Margaret is a white queer person who has been engaged in anti-prison work for over nine years, both in the Bay Area and on the east coast. In that time, Margaret has engaged in prison abolition from many perspectives, from legislative campaigns to direct services, to formulating legal writing curricula for people in prison, consistently within an anti-oppressive framework that focuses on taking leadership from and working in collaboration with people who are directly impacted by incarceration. Margaret is devoted to figuring out ways to dismantle the inherently oppressive structures that the legal system reinforces, to building toward collective liberation, and to bringing our people home.
Margaret holds a J.D. with a focus on Poverty Law and Economic Justice from Northeastern University, and a B.A. in Feminist Studies and Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
VIENNA KARINA ALVAREZ, Development Director
Vienna is an energetic queer Latina who grew up in the border cities of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. She was first introduced to grassroots organizing when she began working with Fondo Maria, a reproductive justice organization in Mexico City, during her undergraduate field research. Vienna has experience in designing self-care, sound therapy and art workshops, event planning, fundraising, screenprinting and grant writing. She has recently embarked on her journey as a DJ in which she aspires to bring diasporic music and sounds of resistance onto the dancefloors of the Bay Area and beyond. She obtained a B.A in Community Studies and a B.A in Latin American/Latinx Studies from the University of California-Santa Cruz while focusing her research on the growing gendered-violence in Mexico through a necropolitical lense. Being that she grew up in a border town and comes from a lineage of migrants she is extremely invested in her Latinx and migrant community. From detention centers, prisons and jails to the school-to-prison pipeline, our communities are constantly being dehumanized, stripped of basic human rights, relegated to cages and killed. Coming from a family with incarcerated members and experiencing the broken promises made by the State makes the work towards prison abolition a necessity for her. It is precisely these experiences that position her commitment to abolishing the prison industrial complex and the systems that uphold it. Vienna acknowledge the intersectionalities of violence that are perpetuated onto our communities which is why she finds it extremely important to creatively and efficiently sustain diverse networks of support.
Alexia A., Legal Advocacy Coordinator
Alexia was born in Brazil and grew up in a suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts. As a Brazilian-Venezuelan in an almost all white town, she witnessed and experienced immense inequality at a young age. These experiences ignited her passion for social justice and change.
As a twenty-one year old single mother, Alexia went from community college to UC Berkeley where she earned a BA in Rhetoric with a Public Discourse focus and a minor in Human Rights. Afterward, she went to UC Hastings College of the Law and obtained a JD with a Social Justice Concentration. All of her studies and activism focused on human rights issues within America and finding ways to attack the school to prison pipeline.
For almost ten years Alexia has been committed to helping impacted communities. She has worked and volunteered with immigrants, survivors of domestic violence, people who are homeless, and at-risk youth facing expulsions. It was in 2015 that she began her relationship with Justice Now and started to work with people inside women’s prisons, first as an intern and then a volunteer. As one of the two Legal Advocacy Coordinators, Alexia provides support and direct services regarding medical advocacy and Compassionate Release to people inside, as well as training and supervising intern cohorts to work toward a world without prisons.