Melissa Sontag Broudo
Co Executive Director
Melissa Sontag Broudo is the co Founder and co Executive Director of the Sharmus Outlaw Advocacy and Rights (SOAR) Institute. She has been part of the sex workers' rights and harm reduction movements for over fifteen years, and co-founded SOAR to further policy, advocacy and capacity building efforts that support the rights of sex workers and survivors of human trafficking. Through her work at SOAR, Ms. Broudo has been featured extensively in the media regarding sex work and #metoo, the NYC Stripper Strike, and criminalization of sex workers. She has also been able to push for policies that further a rights-based approach to the sex industry.
Prior to SOAR, she was a Senior Staff Attorney at the Sex Workers Project (SWP) at the Urban Justice Center for seven years. She won the first ever vacatur motion for a survivor of human trafficking and provided technical expertise on these critical motions throughout the state and country. She focused primarily on criminal justice and appellate defense work during her time there, supporting survivors and sex workers through their experiences in the criminal justice system.
Ms. Broudo is currently on the board of the Best Practices Policy Project (BPPP). She has been an active member of the New York City Bar Association, having previously served on the Criminal Courts Committee. She has also served on the board of the PROS Network (Providers Offering Resources and Services to Sex Workers) and the Desiree Alliance, a national conference for sex workers and allies.
Ms. Broudo received her Bachelor of Arts from Brown University in Gender Studies in 2001. She received her Masters of Public Health from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in their dual degree program in 2006.
Co Executive Director
Crystal DeBoise is a licensed psychotherapist, a non-profit manager, and a community activist. She was the Managing Director of the Sex Workers Project (SWP) of the Urban Justice Center. She founded the Human Trafficking Services Program at New York Association for New Americans in 2002, one of the first human trafficking service programs in the nation. She then went on to found the social services division of the SWP, the only legal services program in the United States specifically for sex workers.
Ms. DeBoise has been published in the New York Times, On the Issues Magazine, Race Talk, and Smith College journal Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism. Crystal has been a guest on NPR's The Brian Leher Show, Freakonomics radio show, and a number of other radio and television segments. She has been a guest lecturer at a variety of universities including Columbia University, Smith College, and Harvard School of Law. She has taught a class on Sex Work and the LGBT community at the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy in New York City.
Juhu Thukral is a leading advocate on the rights of women, girls, and LGBTQ people. She is also an expert and strategist on narrative, framing, and digital storytelling. Her work focuses on sexual health and rights, gender-based violence, and the intersections of economic opportunity, immigration, and criminal justice.
Juhu is a founder of numerous ventures supporting women and LGBTQ people, and has been recognized as one of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women’s eNews, a Trailblazer by Re:Gender, and an Everyday Shero by NAPAWF. She was also selected to give the inaugural talk for the Anita Hill Lecture Series.
Juhu is the Program Director at the Narrative Initiative, where she is on the launch team to create and sustain a new global narrative network. The Narrative Initiative leads strategic communications + cultural advocacy programs and trainings addressing a wide range of human rights and social change concerns.
Prior to this, Juhu was the Director of Law and Advocacy at The Opportunity Agenda. Before that, she was the Founder and Director of the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. Juhu is a founding Steering Committee member of the NY Anti-Trafficking Network. In 2010, she co-founded the NYC Women’s Salon.
Juhu obtained her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she was awarded the Elaine Osborne Jacobson Award for Women in Health Care Law, and her B.A. from Rice University.
Born and raised in Park Slope Brooklyn, Ceyenne has been in the spaces where transphobia has no name. Ceyenne started her non-profit career as Transgender Coordinator at Jersey City Connections. She was also on the board of the Ryan White HIV Council. Ceyenne then partnered with Red Cross to provide emergency housing for transgender women. Having witnessed tremendous violence and discriminaton, Ceyenne dedicated herself to the well-being of trans sex workers.
Ceyenne is also a writer and performer. She authored Cooking in Heels, a cookbook of heartfelt recipes inspired by her life experiences. Ceyenne has starred in several Red Umbrella Diaries performances in New York City and was featured in a major film documentary. She was also featured in Daphne Chan’s photography project called Transparency.
Recently, Ceyenne founded her own organization called GLITS - Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society. Her goal is to create sustainable living solutions for the GLBTQIA community, from international relocation to mediation for justice. She is a board member of SWOP-USA, a member of SWOP Behind Bars (where she writes the monthly newsletter), and a member of NSWP.
Ceyenne has been the keynote speaker at two Desiree Alliance national conferences and one Philladelphia Transgender Health conference. Ceyenne’s Motto is, “Inspire yourself to inspire others”.
Criminal Justice Advisor
Johnny Perez is the Safe Reentry advocate at the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project (MHP), a nonprofit law firm providing pro bono legal services to underserved populations in NYC. Specifically, he works directly with people with mental illness and histories of incarceration, to connect them to the services in the community that will assist them to attain better measures of recovery and gain the stability necessary to avoid further contact with the criminal justice system.
Drawing on the wisdom of thirteen years of direct involvement with the criminal justice system, Johnny also works to change unjust policies and practices in the criminal justice system through his participation as a newly appointed member of the NY Advisory Committee to The US Civil Rights Commission. Johnny is also a member of the NYC Bar Association’s Correction and Reentry Committee and a member of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC).
Johnny is a sought after speaker and has been invited to speak by Cornell Law School, Fordham University, Amnesty International, The United Nations, and various state, regional, and national conferences on topics including Reentry, Prison Education, and Solitary Confinement. Johnny’s commentary has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ebony Magazine, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.
A recent collaboration with The Guardian for 6’x 9’, an immersive solitary confinement virtual reality experience yielded into its acceptance into last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Johnny has made appearances on Al Jazeera America, Capital Tonight, and his video for Now This on the misconceptions of prison life has over 1.6 million views. Johnny is a member of the 2017 JustLeadershipUSA Leading with Conviction Program and is now in the process completing his first nonfiction book: Uncuffed: Reflections on Criminal Justice after 13 years of incarceration. Connect with him via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter @Mrjohnnyperez
Alternative Sexuality Advisor
At the intersection of sex education and creativity is where you will find J. Leigh Brantly. A gender non-binary queer, J. Leigh has been a national fetish educator, media consultant, performance artist, as well as a professional Dominatrix.
As an advocate for sexual freedom rights, zhe regularly volunteers time in academic sex research, political activism, and teaching at national conferences/workshops on alternative sexuality. You can find many scientific and not-so-scientific opinions as zhe blathers away on various comedy podcasts. In 2018, J. Leigh plans to pursue a PhD in human sexuality research with an emphasis on sex work, disability, alternative sexuality, and LGBTQI.
Harm Reduction Advisor
My road to becoming a harm reduction advocate and activist was hard won and reflects my own personal story. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I grew up very poor and became a drug dealer and user at a young age. I was also involved with the criminal justice system and have been incarcerated. My life changed when I ran into an old friend who was dope sick and looking for drugs who led me to a legal safe place to get free syringes, which I later found out was the Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center (LESHRC). While there, I began talking with a staff member who explained that the purpose of the center was to keep users alive. I was fascinated and could not believe there were places and people that cared so much about drug users’ health and lives. He suggested I volunteer, and the very next day I was there learning and volunteering. That was about 15 years ago, and I have dedicated my career to furthering the harm reduction movement to ensure that all drug users can use safely ever since.
I started as a volunteer at LESHRC, and was eventually hired as staff. I also did some consulting for the Positive Health Project and later worked at the Washington Heights Corner Project. Most recently, I served as Director of Syringe Exchange Programs and Director of Naloxone Programs at Saint Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction. Since leaving SACHR, I have consulted with individuals and organizations throughout the country on naloxone, overdose deaths, fentanyl deaths, and fentanyl testing so that users can test what they are getting and stay safe.
Dara is an associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Her research and teaching interests span the field of international relations, including international security, civil war and the dynamics of violence, and gender and conflict.
Her first book, Rape During Civil War (Cornell University Press, 2016), examines the variation in the use of rape during recent civil conflicts; the research for the book draws on extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste and El Salvador. The book received the 2017 Theodore J. Lowi First Book Award from the American Political Science Association. Her current project is focused on the intersection of political violence, public opinion and gender in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
In 2011, Cohen was awarded the American Political Science Association's Award for Best Dissertation in Women and Politics, and in 2014, Cohen received the Heinz I. Eulau Award for the best article published in the American Political Science Review in the previous year.
Cohen received her Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and an A.B. in political science and philosophy from Brown University. Cohen served as a paralegal in the Outstanding Scholars Program in the Counterterrorism Section of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001-2003. Prior to joining the Kennedy School, she was an assistant professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.