Introducing our 2023 Winter Gala Guest Speakers

Patricia Okonta serves as Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Patricia is guided by a promise of freedom and justice and is committed to ensuring dignity for all people. At LDF, Patricia works on a variety of racial justice issues across the country, including opposing the usage of capital punishment, safeguarding educational equity and a right to an accurate and truthful education, challenging grooming policies that target Black people for wearing their natural hair, and advocating for individuals that formerly were sentenced as children to life without the possibility of parole.

Patricia also serves on the Max Berger ’71 Public Interest/Public Service Fellows Program, which supports a community of students at Columbia Law School who are passionate about effecting positive change in society. She also serves on the Board of the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition, which promotes ministry to all people affected by incarceration and detention, strives to create a more just and merciful criminal justice system, and upholds the dignity of every human person and advances restorative justice.

Prior to joining LDF as Assistant Counsel Patricia served as law clerk for Chief Judge Margo K. Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the Honorable Jane B. Stranch in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and a Skadden Fellow at LDF.  Patricia attended Columbia Law School where she served as the Executive Editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, clinical student in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, executive board member of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA), and competitor and coach of the Frederick Douglass Moot Court.

Introducing our 2023 Winter Gala Guest Speakers 1

Professor Terry Coonan is the founding Executive Director of the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and a practicing human rights attorney. Under his direction, the Center provides pro bono legal assistance to victims of human trafficking, asylum-seekers, and survivors of torture from around the world.

Professor Coonan teaches human rights courses in law, criminology, and film at FSU, and is one of the leaders of FSU’s new interdisciplinary major in Human Rights & Social Justice. He began his career doing grassroots human rights work with the mothers of the disappeared and survivors of torture during the military dictatorship of General Pinochet in Chile. He subsequently assisted the Chilean Truth Commission following the return of democracy in that country. Much of his teaching examines transitional and restorative justice and the role of survivors in the contemporary human & civil rights field. Under Professor Coonan’s direction, the FSU Center for the Advancement of Human Rights has been a strong supporter of the new FSU Civil Rights Institute. The Center also works closely with Joseph House in Tallahassee to enhance the opportunities available to returning citizens in the realm of higher education.

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