The Braxton Institute Board of Directors
Rev. Dr. Joanne Braxton, CEO and President of the Board of the Braxton Institute, is an ordained minister with full ministerial standing in the Eastern Virginia Association of the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ. She is also a writer, educator, scholar, administrator, public speaker and workshop leader. Braxton is the author and/or editor of several published books, including Black Women Writing Autobiography.
As a young writer, Braxton taught poetry and writing in a variety of institutional settings, including prep schools, prisons, reform schools and senior citizens centers. She also directed the Connecticut Poets and Writers in the Schools Program for part of the time she was completing her doctoral work in American Studies at Yale University, where her primary field was life-writing and autobiography.
At the College of William and Mary, where she teaches interdisciplinary courses in narrative medicine, literature, and film and serves as a campus minister, Joanne has been instrumental in the formation of the programs in American Studies, Women’s Studies and especially Africana Studies. She also serves as an advisor to the university psychological counseling center.
Driven by the desire to serve, Dr. Braxton has earned degrees in ministry from the Pacific School of Religion and Virginia Union University, offering the practice of life-writing as a spiritual discipline for those in ministry as a tool of self-care and bulwark against depression and burn-out. Her seminary training included work in organizational systems theory, Social Ethics, Aging, Pastoral Care and end-of life issues. In addition, she has sought and received continuing education in narrative healing practices at the Duke University Center for Integrative Medicine and from Columbia University Medical School.
Committed to multi-cultural understanding, Braxton has served as a Senior Fulbright Professor in Germany, Italy ,Spain and France. She has traveled professionally to Brazil, Cuba, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal as part of her work with the Middle Passage Project. Braxton also accompanied a group of American seminarians from the Starr King School for the Ministry on a pilgrimage to Turkey as their life-writing coach.
As a servant-leader, Joanne Braxton is also a team builder. She has been a consultant to a variety of non-profit educational, civic and charitable institutions, including Pilgrim Press, the Unitarian Universalist Association Office of Multi-Cultural Growth and Ministry, the Library of Congress and the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. Her current work includes serving as principal investigator for the W&M-Eastern Virginia Narrative Medicine for Excellence team. In October 2014, Braxton put her NM skills to work teaching “Writing for Recovery” for chaplains working with vets suffering from PTSD and/or Moral Injury through the Soul Repair Center at Brite Seminary in Texas. Braxton is active in community and public life and has received several awards for teaching, humanitarianism and service.
Dr. Mark Osler, Vice President of the Board of the Braxton Institute, is a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas Law School. A graduate of the College of William and Mary and Yale Law School, Prof. Osler is a former federal prosecutor whose work has consistently confronted the problem of inflexibility in sentencing and corrections.
As lead counsel he won the case of Spears v. United States (2009) in the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court held that sentencing judges can categorically reject the 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine in the federal sentencing guidelines. Justice Stevens (in dissent) also quoted Prof. Osler in the seminal case of United States v. Booker (2005), which struck down the mandatory guidelines. As an appellate attorney, Osler has briefed or argued cases (often as Amicus for other sentencing experts) in six federal courts of appeal and in the United States Supreme Court, and as a sentencing expert he has testified in Congress (2009) and before the U.S. Sentencing Commission (2004).
He serves as the head of the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, and often lectures on issues relating to sentencing, ethics, and faith and the law. His work on one case is portrayed in the Samuel Goldwyn film American Violet, where the character of Prof. Joe Fischer is based on Osler’s role in working with a former student to address suspect practices by a District Attorney. His book, Jesus on Death Row (Abingdon, 2009), challenges the death penalty based on the experience of Christ as a criminal defendant. He has also authored over twenty academic articles and has been interviewed as a sentencing or Supreme Court expert on CNN, NPR’s Morning Edition, ABC’s Good Morning America, and in hundreds of newspapers.
In 2009 (while serving as a professor at Baylor University) he was named “Wacoan of the Year” by Wacoan Magazine. At St. Thomas University, Osler has created a law clinic where students use interviewing techniques to create personal narratives for individuals incarcerated under inequitable sentencing laws and to return them as productive members of their communities and society.
Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker, Secretary of the Braxton Institute and Board Member at-large, is an academic leader, a scholar and an educator, a fundraiser and communicator, an advocate for social change, a counselor and a builder of learning communities. The distinguished theologian is the author (or co-author) of several books, including Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire and Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering and the Search for What Saves Us, both with Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock. Dr. Parker is also president emeritus of the Starr King School for the Ministry and a founding board member of the Soul Repair Project.
Richael Faithful, JD, (they/them/theirs) is a multi-disciplinary folk healing artist and healing justice practitioner rooted in the African diasporic tradition of conjure. They were born in Washington DC and raised in Virginia, with a strong affinity to their southern family line in Georgia, Alabama and Texas. Faithful supports national and local activists of all backgrounds, particularly leaders of Black Liberation movements. They are known for creating spaces to help activist identify and process trauma and invest into healing justice frameworks. Their work has been featured in national publications, including in Colorlines, The Root, Everyday Feminism, Huff Post, among others. They also publish their own words in several books and law review articles, including Land Justice: Re-Imagining Land, Food, and the Commons. Faithful is former Shaman-in-Residence at Freed Bodyworks. Before formal shamanic initiation, Richael was a healing-oriented community organizer and peoples’ lawyer.
Dr. Nigel Hatton, Board Member at-large of the Braxton Institute, is an assistant professor of literature at the University of California, Merced. He is interested in how narrative theory and practice can help lower homicide and incarceration rates in impoverished communities. He has completed introductory and advanced Narrative workshops with the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. His work on the uses of story to end black on black homicide has gained influence in both the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Hatton’s “African-American Women, Homicide, and Human Rights: How Black-on-Black Murder in Oakland, California, Silently Affects the International Human Rights Movement” is based on a series of interviews over two years with women whose children were murdered. It was turned into a collaborative project with the photographer Susan Latham and named a semifinalist for the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor documentary prize.
Dr. Hatton began teaching literature and writing courses at San Quentin State Prison in 2003 through the Prison University Project and now volunteer teaches writing courses with the Prison Education Project at Central California Women’s Facility, the world’s largest women’s prison, located in Chowchilla, Calif. In his academic work, he is the author of several articles on the intersections of global human rights discourses and world literature, as well as the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard. He received the dual Ph.D. in Modern Thought & Literature and the Humanities with a political science (political theory track) minor from Stanford University. His MFA is from the Jesuit University of San Francisco.
Jerome Carter, Treasurer of the Braxton Institute and Board Member at-large, is a 2012 Honors graduate of the College of William and Mary with a double major in Neuroscience and Africana Studies. Jerome is currently enrolled for the M.P.H. and M.D. degrees at Drexel University. Jerome contributes to the Institute in multiple areas, but especially in the areas of Multi-Cultural Science Education and Wellness.
Eric Busse, MBE, Research Associate for the Braxton Institute, holds a master’s degree in bioethics from Harvard Medical School and studies contemplative practice, narrative, stigma, queer theology, and the ethics of care as an MDiv candidate at Harvard Divinity School. He studied performance and critical race theory as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse (UWL), where he received grant support for research at the intersections of performance, education, and healing. To this end, Eric studied Theatre of the Oppressed methodology with London's Cardboard Citizens theatre company, researched a community and performance-based human trafficking prevention program in southern Ghana, collaborated in the creation of accessible dance/movement programs for children and teens with disabilities in Hanoi, and studied a Keralan performance company preserving the ancient aesthetic theories of the Nāṭyaśāstra. He is a Fellow of the Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute, a Junior Fellow of the Science, Religion, and Culture Program at Harvard, and the National Director of Training at Scouts for Equality. He also trains as a chaplain through the Upaya Institute and as a meditation teacher with Inward Bound Mindfulness Education. As a bioethicist, artist, advocate, educator, and collaborator, Eric seeks to understand moral experiences of violence, trauma, and care— particularly the ways in which these experiences reveal the bioethics of stigma and structural inequities in health and education.