Through their confidential helpline, cross-sector partnerships, and public awareness campaigns, Parents For Peace cultivates, develops, and advocates for sustainable ways to counter extremism.
MEET OUR TEAM
Melvin Bledsoe is the Co-Founder of Parents For Peace. His family have lived in Memphis for generations, and he is proud of his hometown’s history and culture. He founded Blues City Tours to introduce that heritage to visitors to Memphis, and he has served as a guide to thousands of tourists, sharing insights on Blues music and more. Melvin comes from a family where many of his siblings and relatives served in the U.S. military. After his son Carlos was recruited by violent extremists and murdered a soldier in Arkansas, Melvin channeled his pain into advocacy. He has testified to Congress and been featured in numerous national media outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN.
Monica Holley is the Co-Founder of Parents For Peace. A Memphis native, she studied Mass Communications and Marketing at Stillman College in Alabama and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She previously worked at The Dallas Morning News and is now Director of Business Development & Marketing at Blues City Tours. Monica witnessed her younger brother Carlos drift into extremism and struggled to intervene before he committed an act of violence. She is the mother of two young boys, who can now only visit their uncle in jail.
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Myrieme Churchill is the Executive Director of Parents for Peace. She has over 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, working in variety of settings and with a range of populations in Europe and the U.S. Beginning her career in France, she intervened with first and second-generation North African immigrant sex workers on the streets of Marseille and facilitated group therapy in a juvenile detention center in Nice. In the U.S., Churchill worked as a group therapy counselor in an inpatient dual diagnosis unit at Beth Israel Deaconess and as program director of a dual diagnosis drop-in center in suburban Boston. She obtained several life coach and professional coach certifications and has maintained a coaching practice based in Monaco since 2000. She also developed and delivered training programs in the Institut Regional Administration in Nantes, France, teaching coaching strategies to improve leadership and management in the French regional government context, and conducting follow-up coaching sessions with officials who received the training. Her therapy and coaching background were essential to the development of the Parents For Peace helpline model, and her native language skills have aided in the organization’s growing connections with counter-extremism programs in Montreal, France, and Belgium.
Shalini Kasida is the Operations Director of Parents for Peace. Shalini has worked with numerous non-profit organizations that focus on health and education for at-risk youth and children in marginalized communities, both in the U.S. and internationally. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Doc Wayne and the Brookline Education Foundation. Shalini is also an active member of Partners in Health Engage, focusing on High Schoolers, and an advisor to the board-chair of Summits Education, based in Haiti. Prior to Shalini’s work in the non-profit sector, she worked for 25 years in leadership and management roles in the technology industry, working on product marketing and usability of software applications.
Justin O’Shea is the Program Coordinator at Parents for Peace. He has a dual-degree BA in Religious Studies and History from Connecticut College and an MA in International Relations and Religion from the Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies. Justin authored a graduate thesis entitled Evolving Strategies of the Syraq Jihad: A Comparative Study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. He focused on religious-based extremism and terrorism, particularly in the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Justin also led the Boston University team at a national competition for Countering Violent Extremism by the Department of Homeland Security and Facebook; the team earned an honorable mention. Previously, he resided in South Korea where he taught English at a private institution, and worked in the Sales Administrative Operations Division for a 3-D printing company in New York City.
Christopher Buckley of LaFayette, GA is an Afghanistan and Iraqi war veteran. When he returned from Iraq, he joined the Georgia White Knights as an Imperial Nighthawk, because their anti-Muslim and racist values were consistent with his worldview after returning from war. Arno Michaelis, a former white power skinhead, and Dr. Heval Mohamed Kelli, a Kurdish Muslim refugee, were able to teach Chris the error of his ways and helped bring him out of the movement. Today, he volunteers at The Haven in Georgia, a local organization that helps homeless and drug addicts. He also gives motivational speeches, trying to spread awareness and educate the public about the dangers of white supremacist extremism. Chris now works with Dr. Kelli on a program called Help, Heal, Love; where they work to repair flawed thinking in hate groups and spread a message of love and healing. He also created a deradicalization program designed specifically with veterans in mind, but is geared to work with all manners of hate and extremist ideology.
TM Garret is a German-American author, producer, filmmaker, marketing expert, radio personality, public speaker, human rights activist and founder of C.H.A.N.G.E, a Memphis-based non-profit organization which engages in community outreach programs, food drives, seminars, anti-racism campaigns, anti-violence campaigns, and “Erasing the Hate” a hate tattoo removal program. In 2018 he founded and organized the annual Memphis Peace Conference, which was first held at Withers Collection Museum and Gallery in Memphis on September 29, 2018. He is also an outspoken Interfaith activist and director and board member of World Religion Day Memphis, US ambassador for EXIT Germany and campus speaker against anti-Semitism for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has lectured at schools like Harvard, Boston Law School, Hotchkiss and Pomona.
Born and raised in Canada, Mubin Shaikh grew up with two conflicting and competing cultures. In 2004, he was recruited by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and worked several classified infiltration operations on the internet, in chat-protected forums and on the ground with human networks. He is now an external SME (Subject Matter Expert) on national security and counterterrorism to the Command Staff of CENTCOM, the United Nations Security Council & Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate and trains police, intelligence and special operations forces on relevant topics.
Meet Our Advisory Board
Shelagh Leahy began her career at ABC News, where she reported, wrote, and produced award-winning work for PrimeTime Live, Turning Point, and World News Tonight. In senior managerial and executive roles at CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and WGBH/PBS she has created and directed new programs, developed and executed digital + social campaigns, and managed partnership and programming strategies. As an independent consultant, Leahy has worked with Time, Inc., The Economist, The New Yorker, the Tribeca Film Festival, and WGBH. She has taught documentary journalism at Boston University, and serves on the Screening Review Board for the Alfred I duPont – Columbia University Awards. Shelagh has served as a Board Member of Parents For Peace since January 2018.
Ronald Schouten, M.D., J.D., is the Director of the Law & Psychiatry Service of the Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has served as a teacher, consultant to organizations, and expert witness in both civil and criminal matters. Dr. Schouten has served as a subject matter expert for the Biological Threat Classification Program of the Department of Homeland Security and has testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack. He was the mental health liaison for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America to the September 11 Victims’ Fund and served on consensus panels drafting guidelines on workplace violence for the FBI and the American Society for Industrial Security.
Tamara Meyer, the daughter of German Jewish Holocaust survivors grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust as she also straddled the upper crust German culture of her parents and the American culture of her birth. For the past twenty years she has been returning to Berlin, Germany to participate in dialogue groups with former Nazis, Holocaust survivors and their descendants. In the U.S. she engages with former Neo-Nazis, KKK members as well as those who have been scorched by the fire of hatred and violence. Tamara believes in building bridges through conversation and engagement. Tamara has been invited to speak in prisons, public schools, universities and conferences including Tikkun Long Island, Touro Law School, Hofstra University, Nassau Federal District Court, Living Lessons (in schools throughout NJ) and as an invitee to Renaissance Week, Charleston SC. She lives in Washington D.C.
Shanna Batten was a violent crimes prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, and transitioned to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, as a senior attorney, responsible for portfolios that included regions Central and South America, Western Europe, and Western Africa. Inspired by international efforts to address ideologically-influenced violence through non-securitized efforts, Shanna was detailed to the joint federal (U.S. DHS-DOJ) Task Force to Counter Violent Extremism as a legal adviser and international liaison. Most recently, Shanna served as program director for the Community Resilience Initiatives program at the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, where she oversaw the development of an innovative framework and multi-tiered curriculum designed to empower communities and to maximize authentically community-led violence prevention efforts through merged principles of emergency management, public health, and collective impact. In both her professional and personal capacities, Shanna has collaborated with governmental agencies and civil society to develop policy initiatives and programs to support multi-level, multi-disciplinary, and cross-sector approaches to prevent ideologically-influenced violence.