Click HERE to learn more about the exemplary panels and workshops that were featured on April 18, 2024

Transforming Justice Conference Featured an Array of Prominent Speakers

In its fourth year, the Transforming Justice Conference was a huge success with more than 200 attendees and an array of prominent city and state leaders engaged in guided discussions focused on how we can collectively “Move Forward” fair and equitable systems of justice.

Held on April 18, 2024, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA, the conference opened with a compelling message on “The Role of the Church in Supporting and Advocating for Communities” from the church’s senior pastor, Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller. This was followed by a rousing talk on justice equality led by Former Philadelphia Chief Defender, current partner at Montgomery McCraken, and Uplift Board Member, Keir Bradford-Grey.

Uplift’s President and CEO, Atif Bostic then challenged attendees to explore what justice meant to them by sharing the Merriam Webster definition, “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” He then asked questions related to what it means to be “just”, and if we were a truly “just” society. Further, could we be “impartially just?” In closing, Atif introduced award winning filmmaker, Shuja Moore, who discussed the impact and opportunity of real fresh start afforded by a pardon.

Before leaving the church’s Family Life Center, attendees had an opportunity to view “Pardon Me,” Shuja’s award-winning documentary on the importance and impact of the pardon process. The film featured individuals that successfully navigated the pardon process and had gone on to achieve greatly, to include the former Pennsylvania Secretary of Pardon’s, Brandon Flood. Following the film Brandon, Shuja, and Executive Director of the Promise, Mike Banks would serve on a panel further discussing the pardon and expungement process.

The middle of the day was filled with a series of other breakout sessions that included:

Pennsylvania’s Role in Moving Forward with State Representatives Jordan Harris and Darisha Parker, as well as Deputy Director of State Policy at FAMM, Celeste Trusty.

The Restorative Justice Models and Practices breakout featured speakers Jack Drummond, Director of Restorative Practices at Penn Medicine and Rev. Dr. Donna Jones, Executive Director of the Christian Council of Philadelphia.

Designing a Youth Court was taught by Kathy Smith, Associate Professor of Law & Legal Studies at Chestnut Hill College and John Papiano, Youth Courts Coordinator for the School District of Philadelphia. “We had so many attendees in our breakout interested in how to start youth courts in their schools and communities. They understood how powerful it is to educate young children about justice,” says Smith.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation was led by Sister Cathy Nerney, SSJ, Ph.D. Director of the Institute of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. There was not a dry eye in that classroom as attendees went through a range of their own emotions that delved into how forgiveness or others, and oneself is the key to true freedom and peace. “This is how we move forward, by forgiving,” Nerney says.

The Narrative Justice breakout was moderated by Ryan Murphy, Associate Professor, Sociology, at Chestnut Hill College who brought in 2 of his students to share the capstone project in their Social Inequality course at Chestnut Hill College, where they are in teams to produce audio podcasts examining issues of social inequality in the City of Philadelphia. The students put emphasis on narrative and stories – as ways to illustrate course content, to dig deeper than statistics – to hear from real individuals grappling with these issues and/or trying to address them. After the presentation, the panel lead a discussion with attendees about the importance of stories and personal narratives to challenge existing stereotypes and social structures that may constrain or disadvantage certain populations. “It was a lively, and deeply personal conversation – with many folks in attendance sharing their own or their loved ones’ stories,” says Murphy.

Educational Justice was led by Sena Owereko, Vice President of Programming and Innovation at Graduate Philadelphia. The workshop focused on the importance of educational equity for our city and region. Sena spent time speaking with attendees about how Graduate Philadelphia is working to achieve educational equity and ways they could get engaged.

But perhaps the most compelling part of the conference was when attendees gathered for a Fireside Chat on Restorative Justice and what the future holds for safer Philadelphia. This passionate discussion was moderated by Pastor Waller who posed thoughtful questions to city leaders that included Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel and Philadelphia Chief of Public Safety, Adam Geer. While Bethel and Krasner vowed to work together for the common good of all Philadelphians, the biggest surprise of the afternoon, was an apology from Pastor Waller to Krasner and a subsequent apology from Krassner to Waller.

City Council President Kenyata Johnson rounded out the day with his personal story of what he was accused of and how staying focused on his family, faith, friends and job got him through this trying time until he was found innocent. “They say it is innocent until proven guilty, but for me it felt like guilty until innocent. That has to change!” Johnson said. He promised attendees he would be an agent for that change. Attendees left feeling empowered and ready to implement the changes Johnson called out.

Through collectively working together with fairness, honesty, kindness, forgiveness, owning one’s mistakes and constantly working to improve oneself … the City of Brotherly Love will be a beacon of light and hope and shining example of how we MOVE FORWARD.

For more information on the initiatives discussed please visit the speakers’ respective websites.

Transforming Justice Conference Background

The Transforming Justice Conference was founded in 2019 by Uplift Solutions CEO Atif Bostic, Sister Cathy Nerney, Executive Director of the Institute of Forgiveness and Reconciliation and Lauren Barrow, PhD., Chair of the Center for Education, Advocacy and Social Justice at Chestnut Hill College to create a space for raising issues of injustice, inequality, and inequity with local, regional, and national leaders; whereas they are actively engaged in the collectively problem solving necessary to address them. Fostering a dialogue between leaders and stakeholders is a critical component of this platform. Uplift Solutions would like to thank its sponsors for a highly successful 2024 event! Enon Tabernacle Church, Chestnut Hill College, and the Institute of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. “We look forward to start planning for 2025 so stay tuned for further information as we are exploring offering CEUs for attendees,” says Bostic.

Speakers include:


Michael Banks

The Promise


Kevin J. Bethel

Police Commissioner, City of Philadelphia



CEO and President, Uplift Solution


Atif Bostic

CEO and President, Uplift Solution


Keir Bradford-Grey

Partner: Montgomery McCracken

Malik Brown

CEO and President, Graduate Philadelphia

Sarah Byker James

Assistant Professor of English: Community College Philadelphia
Jack Drummond

Jack Drummond

Inaugural Director of Restorative Practices

Brandon Flood

Deputy Director for Government Affairs CeaseFirePA

Jordan A. Harris

House Majority Appropriations Chairman


Kenyatta Johnson

Philadelphia City Councilmember

Larry Krasner

Philadelphia’s 26th District Attorney


Joanna McClinton

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Shuja Moore

Shuja Moore

Writer, Producer, Director

Ryan P. Murphy, Ph.D.

Coordinator and Associate Professor, Law and Legal Studies


Sister Cathy Nerney

Director, Institute for Forgiveness & Reconciliation at Chestnut Hill College


John Papiano

Youth Court Coordinator, School District of Philadelphia

Christopher Rabb

Christopher Rabb

State Representative

Kathleen M. Smith

Kathleen M. Smith

Coordinator and Associate Professor, Law and Legal Studies


Celeste Trusty

Deputy Director of State Policy for FAMM

Reverend Dr. Alyn E Waller

Reverend Dr. Alyn E Waller

Senior Pastor at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church

Transforming Justice Conference Background

The Transforming Justice Conference was founded in 2019 by Atif Bostic, Cathy Nerney, and Lauren Barrow to create a space for raising issues of injustice, inequality, and inequity with local, regional, and national leaders; whereas they are actively engaged in the collectively problem solving necessary to address them. Fostering a dialogue between leaders and stakeholders is a critical component of this platform.  We ensure the impacted are well represented and have a significant role and voice in the conference.  Lastly, we walk away with actionable next steps.

Transforming Justice Through the Years

2023 Transforming Justice Conference
2022 Transforming Justice Conference

The 2022 Transforming Justice VIRTUAL Conference will focus on the powerful impact that a strong community can have on the justice framework. The conference features plenary sessions, panel discussions, and breakout sessions featuring local, regional, and national leaders in positions of influence. Also included are those impacted by injustice, inequity, and inequality. This year’s speakers and panelists will include: Judithe Registre, Keir Bradford-Grey, and many more to be announced shortly. Make sure you register today!

The day will begin with opening remarks, a panel discussing community interventions, a keynote, breakout sessions, and a town hall. Breakout sessions will focus on Narrative Justice, Participatory Defense, and Coalition Building (breakout session signups will occur on the day of the event.) The conversations at this conference will have an incredible impact on the justice community, and we look forward to having you join to participant in these innovative discussions.

Virtual platform information and participation instructions will go out to registrants prior to the event. Please contact [email protected] with any questions.

2020 Transforming Justice Conference

In its second year the Transforming Justice Conference held on November 13, 2020, was forced to occur virtually.  In the second year, attendance remained fairly level with more than 200 attendees.  2020’s conference focused on systems change, poverty and racism, education, healthcare and trauma training, and juvenile justice.  The roster of speakers included the Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, three State Representatives, Chief of Police for the School District of Philadelphia, Chief Defender for Philadelphia’s Public Defender’s Office, formerly incarcerated youth court trainer, formerly incarcerated founder of a nonprofit organization, and more.  

2019 Transforming Justice Conference

We hosted the inaugural event on November 15, 2019 at the Commonwealth Chateau at SugarLoaf in Chestnut Hill College.  The event had more than 200 attendees that included: impacted individuals, law enforcement, social workers, nonprofit leaders, business leaders, law makers, and more.  In its inaugural year the conferenced focused heavily on criminal justice.  The speakers included the Mayor of Philadelphia, the District Attorney for Philadelphia, three State Representatives, the Commissioner of Prisons for Philadelphia, Executive Deputy Secretary of Corrections for the state of PA, General Counsel for Koch Industries, a juvenile lifer, two exonerated individuals, a mother who lost her child, three formerly incarcerated individual (not exonerated, not lifers, etc.), and more.  

Featured speakers included: 

Mark Holden

Mark Holden serves as general counsel and senior vice president of Koch Industries, Inc. In addition, he serves as senior vice president of Stand Together, board member of Americans for Prosperity and Chairman of the Board of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, and is a long-time advocate for criminal justice reform. 

Larry Krasner

Larry Krasner is the 26th District Attorney of Philadelphia. Krasner was elected to the position in 2017 on a platform to reform elements of the criminal justice system, including to reduce mass incarceration, and took office in January 2018. 

Keir Bradford-Grey

Keir Bradford-Grey is the Chief Defender of the Philadelphia Defenders Association.  At the Defender Association, Ms. Bradford-Grey focuses on serving the citizens of Philadelphia through innovative programs that empower communities and ensure that justice is fair and final. Ms. Bradford-Grey has spearheaded initiatives to help clients develop skills to successfully re-enter their communities after serving their time in the justice system.

Sessions Included:

Poverty and Race: Agents in Justice Reform

A discussion on how poverty and race impact treatment within the criminal justice system to include new strategies and legislation designed to create equity in the system. 

Be the Loudest Voice: A Discussion on Advocacy

Be the Loudest Voice will explore the role of advocacy in the fight for equity within the criminal justice system.  The discussion will include example of how advocacy has helped to inform and shape legislation.  

Employment in Reintegration

Employment in Reintegration will discuss the current state of employment and how reform makes economic sense. 

Healthcare in Reintegration

Healthcare in Reintegration will cast a light on the hidden health issues related to successful reintegration. 

Housing in Reintegration

Housing in Reintegration will highlight the barriers to gaining housing for the formerly incarcerated, the work that is currently being done, and the reform required to improve the system. 

Town Hall Discussion: Criminal Justice Looking Forward

The Town Hall Discussion will focus on sharing the current strategies and work being doing at the state and national level; as well as the outlook on criminal justice reform over the next 10 years.