Deon Haywood: Executive Director
Deon Haywood is the Executive Director of Women With A Vision, Inc. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has led the organization to a vibrant locally-rooted international network addressing the complex intersection of socio-economic injustices and health disparities. In 2009, Deon oversaw the launch of WWAV’s NO Justice Project, a campaign to combat the sentencing of women and trans* people arrested for street-based sex work under Louisiana’s 203-yr-old “crime against nature” felony-level law. This resulted in a federal judicial ruling and the removal of more than 700 women from the sex offender registry. Deon was also the representative from the U.S. South to the 2013 Frontline Defender’s Dublin Platform, has testified in front of the United Nations Global Commission on HIV and the Law and been honored with numerous awards by groups across the United States in recognition of her leadership at the intersection of HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and anti-criminalization and ending (mass) incarceration. At the 7th Annual 2020 Leading Women’s Society Awards, Deon received the Pandora Singleton Ally Award for 20 years of service as a non-positive ally in the movement. Deon was also part of the inaugural class of Public Voices Fellows with the Ms. Foundation (2016), and was the 2017 recipient of the 41st Ben Smith Award from the A.C.L.U. of Louisiana.
Shaquita Borden: Director of Research & Evaluation
Shaquita Borden has been working officially with Women With A Vision, Inc since 2008, and was a community volunteer with the group for two years prior. She was born and raised in New Orleans and was prompted, after volunteering with WWAV, to change careers and become a researcher in the Public Health field. She completed her MPH in 2010 after attending the LSU School of Public Health, and is working towards her PhD in Health Education and Health Promotion. She is passionate about working to improve the health of New Orleans’ citizens using a participatory approach to understand the structural drivers of women’s health disparities. She is on the Executive Committee of Black Pride Education-Empowerment (BPEE) Talks in New Orleans and is one of the co-principals of the Front Porch Research Strategy, a research group based at WWAV launched honor of the long legacy of southern women building community, speaking truths, and crafting analysis in the interstices between street and home, between public and private.
Nia Weeks: Director of Policy & Advocacy
A native of New Orleans, Nia has spent years fighting for the rights of women, children, and families. Nia received her bachelor’s degree in Communications with a minor in Women’s studies at Indiana State University, where her advocacy training began. After completing her undergraduate education, Nia worked in public relations before beginning law school. She graduated with a law degree from the Loyola School of Law in New Orleans in 2009. Nia then served as a law clerk for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, the Louisiana Public Defender Board, and Essence Music Festival. After passing the Louisiana Bar, Nia served as a law clerk for the Honorable Judge Angelique Reed in First City Court in Orleans Parish and was the director of a supervised visitation center for victims of domestic violence named Harmony House. Before coming to WWAV, she served as a public defender in Orleans Parish for two years.
Christine Breland: Director of Harm Reduction & Criminalization Programs
Christine came to Women With A Vision in the summer of 2014 to complete her practice experience for a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences at LSUHSC. Born in New Orleans, Christine has received a Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She loved working as a substance abuse counselor, but couldn’t ignore that the issues folks were facing were symptomatic of oppressive systems. She chose to change her career path and sought out WWAV to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work to reduce health disparities and promote social justice.
Dianne Jones: Harm Reduction and Formerly Incarcerated Women’s Outreach Coordinator & Community Organizer
Originally from the 6th ward of New Orleans, Ms. Jones is a formerly-incarcerated mother, community organizer, and advocate for currently and formerly-incarcerated women and mothers in New Orleans. A former volunteer at VOTE (Voice of the Ex-Offender) and a volunteer doing juvenile-justice work with youth in Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools, Dianne is currently an Outreach Worker with WWAV, coordinating our work with formerly-incarcerated women and girls. Dianne was first incarcerated at the age of 14. In the years following, she was trapped in the criminal justice system and sent to a number of institutions before her incarceration at Orleans Parish Prison in the early 1990’s (at a time considered by some to be the height of the jail’s most dysfunctional and inhumane treatment of prisoners). After her release from Orleans Parish Prison, and having witnessed the massive injustices facing prisoners, Dianne was moved to organize with currently and formerly-incarcerated women. She noticed a glaring need for services and a lack of support pre- and post-release. She founded Phenomenal Women, a collective of women making space for formerly-incarcerated women and helping them to get back on their feet and reclaim their dignity. She is also a member of Mothers of Tough Sentencing, a group of women advocates whose children are currently incarcerated in Louisiana.
Raven Frederick: Community Engagement Specialist & Event Coordinator
Raven is a native of New Orleans with several years experience as a case manager, community health worker, and outreach worker in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. Before coming to WWAV, Raven worked as a community health worker promoting women’s health through education and community resources by working to decrease the infant mortality rate among African-Americans in both Jefferson and Orleans Parish. Raven holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. and a Master’s Degree in Health Service Administration from Strayer University. Raven is a Certified Community Health Worker from Tulane University, and a Certified Medicaid Representative from the Department of Health and Hospitals. Whether helping one child, assisting one woman, or strengthening one family through women’s health promotion and prevention activities, Raven is committed to the health and wellbeing of New Orleans families.
Amanda Emily Smith: Administrative Assistant
Born and raised in New Orleans, Amanda is a single Mom, a poet, a sex-positive activist,a yoga and reiki practitioner, and community organizer. She earned her Associate of Arts in General Studies with Emphasis in English at Delgado Community College in 2008. She will receive her Bachelors of Science in English with a minor in International Business from Dillard University in 2018. She is also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Recipient for which she wrote “From Mamie to Modern Day: The Evolution of Black Female Sexuality from a Feminist Approach.” Her writing will also appear in “Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler” to be published by Twelfth Planet Press in June 2017. Amanda devotes my free time to liberation and justice through Mothering, community service, and poetry & performance on topics including Motherhood, Black womanhood, and sacred sexuality. She is proud to serve as the administrative assistant at Women With a Vision.
Lakeesha J. Harris:Reproductive Justice and Sexual Health Program Manager
Lakeesha J. Harris is the Reproductive Justice and Sexual Health Program Manager at WWAV. Previous potions held by Lakeesha include being a Health Educator, Community Health Worker, and Alternative Insemination Coordinator at Chicago Women’s Health Center, one of the last remaining feminist health centers in the country. As a community healer Lakeesha’s primary focus is on centering the complete health and health care access for Black people, specifically queer and trans Black people, who are often shut out of services that are culturally affirming, financially accessible, and whole being centered. Lakeesha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies from Northeastern Illinois University and Master’s level credits in Political Science. In 2011 she was selected as a Student Laureate of NEIU and received numerous awards for her work as a community activist, poet, and one of the Founders of Seeds Literary Arts Journal of NEIU. She is a Playwright whose collaborative political literary work, Spirit House, was commissioned by the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center for the educational engagement and healing of the community. As a practicing healer, her work has spanned more than two decades and evolved from her roots as a Certified Nurse Assistant, Doula, Apprentice Midwife and Community Health Worker. Lakeesha was recently trained as a Street Medic with Chicago Action Medical and is a practicing Reiki Master – Teacher.
Michelle Wiley: EMERGE Diversion Program Manager
Michelle is a Mississippi native who relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Michelle has worked over twenty five years in social services, mental health, and community advocacy. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Services and minor in Education from University of Southern Mississippi. Before coming to Women with a Vision, Michelle worked as a Case Manager in the medical field assisting individuals with mental disabilities who were not able to receive proper resources to manage daily living. Upon relocating she was hired at Women with a Vision where she oversees our Crossroads Diversion program. She helps to meet the needs of clients and their families by providing case management services, while facilitating group sessions. Michelle works diligently advocating for her clients to get their charges dropped once completing the program. Her passion is making sure they have the resources, proper skills that are needed to cope with the streets of New Orleans.
Mwende Katwiwa: Community Organizer, Young Women With A Vision Program Coordinator | Mwende@wwav-no.org
Born in Kenya and living in New Orleans since 2009, Mwende is a graduate of Tulane University with a dual degree in Political Economy with International Perspectives and Africa and African Diaspora Studies. After spending two years as support staff as an AmeriCorps members, she designed and now runs the Young Women With A Vision program, an afterschool and summer program focus on leadership development, social justice education and creating sisterhood among Black girls in New Orleans. Outside of her work with WWAV, she is also a poet known as FreeQuency on the National Poetry poetry scene and co-runs the New Orleans Youth Open Mic and the African Fashion & Culture blog Noirlinians, and is the founder of the Black and POC events listserv #IWillNotBeAHermitInNOLA.
Catherine Haywood: Community Health Promoter
A native of New Orleans and a long-time community health advocate, Catherine has worked in health education and community outreach for more than 25 years. She was one of the co-founders of Women With A Vision in 1991. Over the years her work has focused on addressing health disparities among under-served populations in New Orleans, centering on HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, women’s health issues, obesity, and physical activity promotion. Catherine is very passionate about making sure grassroots community members—not just heads of community agencies—are at the table and truly heard when public health research and programs are being designed. Her leadership experience includes heading several national and local committees. She is chair of the Louisiana Community Health Outreach Network (LACHON), a board member of the Louisiana Cancer Control Partnership, a board member of the American Cancer Society’s Circle of Friends for Education and Early-Detection Program, and the Co-Regional Director of the Southern Region for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Community Committee, to name a few. Currently, along with serving as the Community Health Promoter at WWAV, she is the Community Service Program Manager at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
Catherine Jones, MD: Harm Reductionist & Health Educator
Catherine was born and raised in New Orleans. She came to medicine after a decade of community organizing, harm reduction, and racial justice work in New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area. Catherine graduated from Tulane University School of Medicine in 2008, and then completed residency in internal medicine at Tulane. She is a board-certified internist. She works full-time at University Hospital and is on the faculty at Tulane, where she is Associate Program Director of the internal medicine residency program, and Director of the residency’s Primary Care Track. Her research and professional interests include healthcare access, medical education, and racial justice in healthcare.