Aaron "Showtime" Taylor
After spending 26yrs inside CDCR, I came home to a big splash in October 2020. Behind the scenes, away from the bright lights, it's been a consistent struggle to balance my public and private life. However, I was prepared- in part -by programs within that taught me how to manage my emotions. This has been the key to my current success.
Annelies Goger is passionate about closing the opportunity gap and recalibrating our economy and society so that it works for more people. As a Fellow at Brookings Metro in the Brookings Institution, Dr. Goger works with policymakers at federal, state, and local levels to reimagine various elements of our education, talent development, safety net, and career information ecosystem because we are leaving too many people behind. She is working with Brookings Senior Fellow Dr. Rashawn Ray on a project to scale access to quality educational opportunities, job readiness, and experiential learning for people transitioning from prison to employment using virtual reality technologies. Dr. Goger has a Ph.D. in economic geography and has published broadly in the areas of workforce and economic development, global supply chains, human-centered design of programs and services, and the business role in cultivating talent.
Anouthinh Choy Pangthong
Photographer + Storyteller
Anouthinh Choy Pangthong is a dope ass community servant, visual storyteller, freelance photographer, and social justice advocate. Choy graduated from General Assembly's User Experience Design Immersive in 2019, which led to an internship with Adobe. While incarcerated, Choy learned frontend and backend web development, however, he has found his passion in the visual arts. He believes that society can reframe how it perceives formerly incarcerated individuals when viewed through his captured lens. Choy lives in Stockton, CA, pursuing a degree in Multimedia.
Artist + Advocate + Inspiration
Born in San Jose, California, Bobby has developed a raw style of songwriting while serving a life sentence since age 16. His songz reflect remorse, accountability, and the unlearning of distorted beliefs that raised him in the alleys of Silicon Valley. In 2018, in a pre-concert sharing circle with Hollywood producer Scott Budnick, hiphop legend Common, and several incarcerated individuals, Bobby poured his heart out by speaking his truth and performing an original song with only the pounding of his fist and the snapping of his fingers. Bobby then was invited on stage alongside Common and live band that very night and rocked 4,000 of his peers. Governor Brown commended Bobby for his rehabilitative efforts leading up to this night and decided to commute his life sentence! Now he is waving the flag of creative sovereignty and ownership as well as setting precedents for current/formally incarcerated artists being given a second chance today.
Founder + CEO
Cheri Garcia is the Founder of Cornbread Hustle, a staffing agency for second chances. Cheri is passionate about helping people with criminal backgrounds and individuals in recovery find transformation through employment or entrepreneurship.
As someone who has re-invented her own life, Cheri wanted to create a company to help others do the same. Before starting Cornbread Hustle, Cheri found her first transformation and recovery through inventing a tanning bed and starting a career in the TV news industry. She later found recovery a second time, but through faith and a sober lifestyle.
With a strong background in marketing and PR, Cheri uses the skills she acquired to help individuals getting out of prison rebrand themselves to become the person they want to be and get noticed by the people they want to meet.
Native Hawaiian Spiritual Group member
Aloha, my name is Danny Darling. I spent 31 years incarcerated and 28
of those years being raised by Pacific Islanders. I was a part of the
Native Hawaiian Spiritual Group and have performed opening chants for
Merrie Monarch Ceremonies. I have learned to do hulas, Civa Taus, Laka
Laka and Haka. Aloha Oe!
In 2009, Dan co-founded Nehemiah Manufacturing, whose mission is to build brands, create jobs, and change lives through employment and whole life coaching. Nehemiah currently employs 200 people with over 140 employees being second chance citizens -- those that find it extremely hard to find sustainable employment because of having a felony or substance abuse issues. In April of 2016, the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance was formally launched, engaging leaders from business, government, churches and social services. The mission is to expose 2,500 new jobs each year to the Second Chance population by creating awareness, providing a proven process and easy access to an ecosystem of social support – so that everyone who wants to work and change their life can have that chance. Over 80 companies are involved while hiring over 600 2nd Chance citizens. In August, 2019, Nehemiah transitioned the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance to Cincinnati Works to take this Alliance to the next level.
Co-Producer + Co-Host + Co-Creator
Earlonne Woods was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. In 1997, he was sentenced to 31-years-to-life in prison. While incarcerated, he received his GED, attended Coastline Community College and completed many vocational trade programs. In November 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown commuted Earlonne’s sentence after 21 years of incarceration. Upon his release, Earlonne was hired by PRX as a full-time producer for Ear Hustle, and he continues to work with Nigel, contributing stories about re-entry.
The Bay Area native, Eddie Herena, got his start as a photographer for a prison newspaper in California, the San Quentin News. His work has been published in various publications including Rolling Stone, The Guardian, The Athletic, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He was also featured in SF Camerawork: Cell Signals and the Thacher Gallery, A Matter of Liberation: Artwork From Prison Renaissance, two exhibitions aimed at providing a narrative uncommon to what we see on TV and in the movies.
Chief Marketing Officer
Eric is Chief Marketing Officer at Nehemiah Manufacturing Company. Eric joined Nehemiah (August 2015) after 10 years at Procter & Gamble. Nehemiah is a purpose driven company focused on building consumer brands, while also creating jobs and bringing hope back to the inner-city of Cincinnati. Founded in 2009, Nehemiah now employs over 200 FTEs in the inner city of Cincinnati. Their primary focus is to hire individuals who need a second chance due to a past criminal record or having struggled with alcohol or drug addiction. Eric’s career at P&G included directly building brands both in the US and Globally (Crest, Oral B), driving retail partnerships and customer marketing, and developing and training best practices as part of a digital marketing center of excellence. Most recently prior to joining Nehemiah, Eric worked in P&G’s Global eBusiness Team, leading measurement learning plans in partnership with digital publishers such as Google and Facebook.
James "JC" Cavitt
JC has dedicated his career to addressing educational disparities and inequalities among people directly impacted by mass incarceration. A tireless advocate for communities impacted by the criminal justice system and returning citizens. JC spent the last several years working at California State University Fullerton, Project Rebound, a program that supports the higher education and successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Having spent over two decades of his life incarcerated, JC brings his firsthand experience with the criminal justice system and the carceral education system, as well as in-depth expertise with working with trauma survivors in confined spaces. Much of JC’s career has been dedicated to changing the narrative about incarcerated individuals and providing pathways for formerly incarcerated students to gain greater access into institutions of higher education. JC is currently completing his Master’s degree in Social Work at CSU, Long Beach.
Athlete + Student
Javay was a student star athlete with a promising future that was thwarted by engagement with Los Angeles style gangs that invaded Denver in the 1980s. Javay is the longest incarcerated juvenile in the state of Colorado, serving 33 years in prison.
With no formal education, Javay made a commitment to liberating himself from the gang ideology and began to seek education. He has his GED and is pursuing education at Northeast Junior College. He began to excel in the various positions of leadership and credits programs such as 7 habits of highly effective people, the Gang Awareness program, and Breakthrough for developing the skills he has now. He has made clear, transformative change in his own life and the lives of others.
Chief Creative Officer
Pure strategist, charismatic, and creative genius isn’t something you normally would think when you talk about a bank robber. But in the case of Joe Michael Nickson, a South Central LA native, his ability to turn media nightmares into marketing miracles allowed him to turn his life around. Growing up in the home of a logistics expert and a caregiver, Joe developed skills that took him places he could never imagine, and at 25 he ended up in Federal Prison. On June 6, 2005, he was sentenced to 20 years for having robbed 27 banks. While in prison he met Vincent who helped him to see the potential of his skills in the agency space and there they formed ConCreates. After 17.5 years, as he took his increased attention to detail, paired with his undeniable charisma, Joe went from navigating relationships inside to now finessing marketing tactics on the outside. Today that brilliance, once behind bars generating revenue driving campaign,s has moved beyond and the opportunities are endless.
Youth Mentor + Writer + Activist
John Tolliver is more than the “Criminal” he was once regrettably known as in the streets of Buffalo, N.Y. He is no longer robbing the world or even himself of his full potential. At 16, armed with his GED, he dropped out of college—this was the first in a series of bad decisions that eventually led to him being incarcerated for 25 years to life. On both sides of the bars, he has sought to encourage youth to remain in school and not replicate his mistakes. While incarcerated, John has earned a certificate as a legal assistant/paralegal from the Blackstone Career Institute and has spent over seven of his years in Attica working with the Inmate Grievance Program. The father of three awesome boys, John constantly strives to improve and to live as a contributing member of a healthy society. This is his second TEDx talk.
JoyBelle Phelan, a Colorado native, has been creative since childhood, playing piano, flute, violin, viola, and cello also using her vocal skills in the annual school musical and competing at State Championships as a senior in high school. She was incarcerated twice, for a total of seven years behind the walls. She passionately believes that no one should be remembered for their worst decision. She is using her lived experience to challenge the perceptions of what prison is like for women and what re-entry can look like. While inside, she completed Cosmetology, Defy Ventures CEO YNL, Art of Being Human, Inside-Out Prison Exchange, Beyond Thinking, and several arts-based workshops offered by the University of Denver Prison Arts Initiative. She is the first Outreach Fellow named at the Prison Journalism Project and participates in the first cohort of PJP Journalism School. She has been a guest on multiple podcasts focused on re-entry since her release in December 2020.
Oscar "Grand-O" Cuadra
Grand-O mixes style with lyrics in a way no other artist has before. His new age sound, with his classic twist of word play, along with some soul sprinkled on top, truly make him an eclectic force in the game. The San Francisco born native is a direct reflection of the melting pot of what is the Bay Area. The young artist serves as the bridge between where the art of hip hop has been and where it is going. For booking, shows, or any other inquiries he can be reached at TheGrandestO@Gmail.com. Follow Grand-O on Instagram @grando1k.
Quan Huynh has been described as a mighty warrior, a magician, and a mountain of goodness. He is the bestselling author of Sparrow in the Razor Wire: Finding Freedom from Within While Serving a Life Sentence. His book was written for men that are doing long or life term sentences, and in it, he shares how he found his freedom years before he was even paroled.
He works as the Executive Director for Defy Ventures in Southern California, a non profit whose mission is to shift mindsets, to give people with criminal histories their best shot at a second chance. After spending 22 years in and out of correctional institutions, Quan was paroled from a life sentence in 2015 and created his first company, Jade Janitors, Inc. six months later. The following year, he received the Peace Fellowship Award for his work with the Alternatives to Violence Project.
Quan has been featured in Entrepreneur, PBS Newshour, Talks at Google, and numerous other publications and podcasts.
Founder + Executive Director
Rudy is the Founder and Executive Director of United Playaz, a longstanding violence-prevention organization that has served the children and families of San Francisco and the South of Market since the early 90s. A native of the SOMA, Rudy came up in the 70s and 80s surrounded by the difficult realities of the neighborhood: drugs, gangs, and crime.
Inspired to effect positive change and spread love in the neighborhood and City that raised him, Rudy overcame the challenges of his SOMA childhood to develop a program of child-centric community work that is still going strong. In his quarter century of service, Rudy has established himself and his dedicated United Playaz team as indispensable stewards of the SOMA community, providing safe and reliable year-round spaces for kids to learn and grow, while simultaneously working with former prisoners to build job skills and welcome them back into community.
Stacey believes fiercely in challenging perceptions and in the power of transformation. Growing up in an entrepreneurial household, with a father who took full advantage of his second chance in life after recovering from addiction, Stacey has always been inspired to facilitate transformation in the lives of others. Stacey received a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Colorado State University and a master’s in social work from the University of Denver. She is currently the Executive Director of Breakthrough, a Colorado based 501c3 non-profit organization that prides itself in supporting people with criminal histories as they transform their lives and radically altering the community’s perception of the incarcerated population. Breakthrough’s holistic approach includes an in-facility career education program, community engagement, re-entry support, a fair opportunity hiring program, and criminal justice advocacy initiatives.
Thedo is a returning citizen, having spent 30 years inside the U.S. justice system. A former, and reformed, gang member, Thedo now works to help other men and women with his same background transition back into society and to rebuild their lives as law abiding members.Thedo is now an advocate for sentencing reform, social & restorative justice and providing opportunities for returning citizens to make meaningful atonement for their past crimes and positively impact their communities. It is his desire that his actions help to prevent any other person from having to suffer from the negative impact of crime in our communities, both perpetrator as well as victim, and to heal all those impacted. This is his search for redemption.
CEO + Founder
After being sentenced to several years in prison, Vincent Bragg quickly learned that some of the most outside of the box thinking happens inside the box.
During his incarceration he watched as his fellow convicts were able to make something from nothing – books, music, entire meals – all created between four barren concrete walls. It was here Vincent realized the cells meant to imprison them for 23 hours a day were actually breeding grounds for creativity.
Throughout the rest of his sentence Vincent naturally assumed a leadership role. Using his years of experience from the marketing and entertainment industries, Vincent organized think tanks, book clubs, led a cancer walk and developed an animated series.
Years later, he founded ConCreates: a creative agency that crowdsources ideas from incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women. Now the same skills that put his creative teams behind bars are helping them find careers, and become contributing, creative members of society.
Xavier McElrath-Bey serves as Co-Executive Director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) and is a co-founder of the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network. He has fought to abolish life without parole for children in America and has played a role in ending this practice in several states including Nevada, Utah, Arkansas, South Dakota, and North Dakota. At age 13, Xavier was arrested, charged with a gang-related murder, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. While incarcerated, Xavier decided to change for the better, and he was released after serving 13 years. Soon after, he earned a Master of Arts from Roosevelt University’s Counseling and Human Services Program, and, recently, he received the 2018 Justice Roundtable Excellence Award, the 2019 JustLeadershipUSA Leading with Conviction Award, and Bright Promises Foundation's 2021 Champion for Children Award.
Zach Moore is a software engineer at Checkr, a tech company based in San Francisco. Incarcerated at the age of 15, he spent the next 22 years of incarceration attaining an Associates degree and learning to code via The Last Mile program. Upon his release in 2018, he worked as a software developer for TLM before landing an internship at Checkr, and eventually converted to a full-time software engineer. He considers himself an ambassador for those currently and previously incarcerated, and looks for ways to increase opportunity and equity in Tech.