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Be Empowered and Know Your Rights: Equipping Clients to Thrive

Presented by Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands at Howard Office Building, Nashville TN

Sep 22 2022
Be Empowered and Know Your Rights: Equipping Clients to Thrive

This event will equip those who work in social services with the tools for helping clients navigate civil and criminal legal services.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Have you ever heard this response from one of your clients in crisis? Simultaneously, are you sometimes at a loss for how to assist them? If you’ve answered “yes,” you are not alone. In fact, those who offer direct social and community services may be unaware of the ideal options for helping their clients to become their own self advocates and thrive.

On Thursday, September 22, 2022, a coalition of equity advocates is hosting a workshop – Be Empowered & Know Your Rights: Equipping Your Clients to Thrive. This complimentary lunch-and-learn is designed to give Nashville community leaders, like you, tools and strategies to train your staff to support clients to thrive when interacting with the civil and criminal legal system.

As a result of attending this complimentary lunch-and-learn, you will empower your staff to:

  • Distinguish between navigating the civil and criminal legal systems
  • “Do life” as an immigrant or refugee – especially regarding language barriers or deportation fears
  • Engage Metro Government as a civil right and civic duty
  • Interact with law enforcement – with confidence & wisdom
  • Reclaim their voice and activate their power
  • Restore their voting rights
  • Handle evictions and unresponsive landlords
  • Expunge their records, and much more!

Meet Today’s Facilitator: Harriet Wallace

Harriet Wallace is an award-winning, multimedia veteran journalist. Included in her list of honors is recognition for being a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in journalism. She is one of the unique journalists who has excelled on all platforms – radio, print, TV and online. She covers all stories but has emerged as a prominent political voice in Nashville. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a candidate for her PhD in Public Administration with an emphasis on policy analysis.

She has been at the forefront of some of the nation’s biggest stories – Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech shootings, Hillary Clinton’s first announcement for president and the historic 2010 Nashville Flood. She was one of the first to break Hillary Clinton’s news of her first run for president. Nashville’s first female mayor Megan Barry came on Harriet’s talk show Pumps & Politics, announcing her historic run for the office.

Harriet’s style of journalism, which is blended with the right dose of passion and power, has helped transform legislation, restore hope and bring about change for some of America’s disenfranchised communities. She lives on the cutting edge of journalism, infusing technology and social media into every story she tells and interview she conducts. Her eye for detail, consistency, creativity and truth have won national awards, including three Emmy’s for newscast producing.

In 2018, she made history as the first African American to host an original talk show on WZTV Fox 17 News in Nashville. She is happily married to Scott Wallace with whom she co-owns Wallace Media Group. Together, they produce radio and television programming and have helped put dozens of kids through college by helping them realize their potential and attracting college recruiters to that potential.

Meet Today’s Panelists:

DarKenya W. Waller, Esq.
Executive Director
Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands
DarKenya W. Waller joined the Legal Aid Society in 2008. She became the Managing Attorney of its Nashville office in 2010 and the Executive Director in 2018. Her legal practice is focused primarily on family law. She is a graduate of the University of Mississippi – School of Law and earned a Master of Business Administration from Belhaven University. Mrs. Waller is a 2011 member of the Tennessee Bar Association’s Leadership Law Program for outstanding young lawyers. She was appointed to the Indigent Representation Taskforce by the Tennessee Supreme Court and is a fellow of the Nashville Bar Foundation. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Nashville Bar Association, the YWCA of Nashville, the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services and the Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) where she is Board Chair. She has been recognized as a 2016 Woman of Influence and 2018 Best of the Bar by the Nashville Business Journal, as a 2016 Cable Athena Award Nominee and as the 2015 Advocate of the Year by the NCADV. Mrs. Waller has held leadership positions with the Lawyers Association for Women – Marion Griffith Chapter and the Nashville Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She has served on the Tennessee State Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and as Chair of the Family Law Task Force of the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services. She is a frequent speaker across the state on the topic of Domestic Violence training judges, clerks, commissioners and the public on the impact of domestic violence. She is most proud of her work initiating the Civil-Legal Advocate Program which provides free legal representation to victims of Domestic Violence on the Order of Protection dockets in Davidson County, TN.

Martesha Johnson, Esq.
Chief Public Defender
Nashville Defenders 
Martesha L. Johnson was sworn-in as the Nashville Metropolitan Chief Public Defender on August 28, 2018. She is the first African American to be elected to this position and only the second woman. She has a heart for serving people and was determined to be a public defender since completing an internship with the Nashville Public Defender’s office in 2007. She has devoted her entire career to public defense work and believes people are worth more that the worse thing they have ever done. During her tenure at the public defender’s office, she has served in numerous leadership capacities. She has served as the training director and member of the special litigation unit, primarily focusing on serious felony representation. She has been the team leader in two criminal courts, summer intern coordinator, member of the hiring committee and member of several committees designed to review office policies and make recommendations for improvement. Martesha has been privileged to stand with thousands of low income people accused of crimes. She has told their stories and relentlessly advocated for fairness and equality in the justice system. She has handled a wide array of complex criminal cases-representing people from arrest to jury trial. Martesha ensures her clients are educated about their Constitutional rights and the criminal justice process. She has partnered with community agencies to secure housing, mental health and recovery assistance for those who are experiencing homelessness and co-occurring disorders.

Martesha passionately serves her clients, believing that people should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, socio-economic status, gender, sexual orientation or the nature of the charges against them. Her experience exemplifies dedication to the work she does, the people she represents and the community she loves. She is also an active participant in DEFEND Nashville, an initiative from the public defender’s office designed to partner with the larger Nashville community in the fight for equal justice for ALL. Martesha is a proud Nashville native! She was raised by a strong, single mother who taught her to work hard and see the value in all people. Because of her upbringing, Martesha’s character is deeply rooted in community, equality and justice. She believes she has come this far in her life through faith and hard work. Martesha graduated with highest honors from Tennessee State University where she received a Presidential Scholarship, was a Sophisticated Lady in the world renowned “Aristocrat of Bands”, and was recognized as the graduating student with the highest GPA in her major in 2005 along with many other honors and recognitions. She graduated from The University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law, where she was recognized as the Julian Blackshear, Jr. outstanding student and honored for her dedication to public service work. Martesha currently teaches trial advocacy at Vanderbilt Law School. She is a member of the Nashville Bar Association, the National Association of Public Defenders, the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Women’s Political Collaborative and the young leaders division of Women for Tennessee’s Future. She is a member of the Harry Phillips American Inn of Court, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women and the Community Corrections Advisory Board. Martesha was nominated and served as a member of the 2016-2017 Nashville Bar Foundation Leadership Forum Class and was recently selected as a member of the 2019 Tennessee Bar Association Leadership Class. She is a graduate of Gideon’s Promise, a program specifically designed to train and develop public defenders. Additionally, Martesha was a member of the inaugural class of Emerge Tennessee, the premier campaign training program for Democratic women, and a nominee for the ATHENA Young Professionals Leadership Award in 2012-2013. She has also taught at Volunteer State community college, coached high school mock trial and participated in numerous community “Know Your Rights” and expungment clinics. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Martesha loves spending time with her 8 year old daughter. They enjoy traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She is a member of the Temple Baptist Church where she sings in the choir.

Davie Tucker, Jr.
Executive Director
Metro Human Relations Commission 
Davie Tucker, affectionately known as “Tuck, has a legacy of being wedded to the principle of adaptive leadership and human flourishing. He has over 30 years of senior organizational leadership experience in governmental, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. Tucker’s background as a consensus building, results driven, transformational leader, committed to the fair, just, and equitable treatment of all people positioned him to advance the mission and vision of Metro Human Relations Commission and to protect the welfare and dignity of all people living in Nashville and Davidson County. Davie Tucker’s expertise with mobilizing communities is extensive. As the Senior Pastor of Beech Creek Baptist Church for 25 years, he manages a leadership team of over 30 church leaders in the spiritual care and administration of over 300 members. His crowning achievements as Senior Pastor are numerous, but among them are the development and implementation of a 501(c)(3) after-school program, The Center for Imagination – an initiative that consistently serves over 800 North Nashville youth, to date. Acutely aware of the impact of gentrification, Tucker facilitated the purchase of four contiguous parcels of property in North Nashville – increasing the Beech Creek campus footprint to nearly five acres. Simultaneously, Davie Tucker serves the historic American Baptist College as the Project Director. In this capacity he co-authored an initiative to engage congregations and justice-oriented organizations in the social transformation of the communities in which they are located. In this role, his vision and initiatives. Additionally, Davie Tucker is passionate community organizer and advocate. His advocacy expertise includes addressing a plethora of issues surrounding affordable housing, policing and public safety, LGBTQIA+ communities, immigration and refugees, education, and poverty.

Tamika White
Director of Programs and Special Projects
The Equity Alliance 
Tamika White is a native Nashvillian, pursuing her bachelor’s degree in business management and leadership. She serves as Regional Vice Chair for District 5 with the Davidson County Democratic Party. She’s been a part of the TEAm since 2016, beginning as a volunteer using her passion for connecting the dots to help people understand the political process. This eventually led to her becoming the statewide volunteer manager. As director of programs and special projects she researches, develops, and implements all TEA programs, while leading volunteer operations.

Kosar Kosar
Multicultural Organizer 
Kosar was born and raised in Nashville, TN to Somali refugees. He graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. At NYU, Kosar served as a senator for his college and was elected as the student body Vice President of the university. He led the efforts in establishing a university holiday for Election Day and successfully advocated for religious accommodations for Muslim students during the month of Ramadan. In summer of 2020, Kosar co-founded Safer Schools Nashville, a organization that advocates for safer alternatives to school policing and advancing the social, emotional, & intellectual development of MNPS students. Kosar serves as Multicultural Organizer, leading community education and outreach efforts about TIRRC’s campaigns and services. He is excited to lead TIRRC’s Black Immigrant Caucus, a group dedicated to creating space for Black immigrant community members and leaders across the state to connect and ensure Black immigrants are able to shape TIRRC’s campaign priorities and goals.

Source: Submitted


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Howard Office Building

700 2nd Avenue South, Howard Office Building, Nashville, TN 37210


    • Wheelchair Access

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The Event Organizer is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to attend this event.: No