The Leadership Conference, The Education Fund Welcome New Managing Directors

Contact: Dena L. Craig, [email protected]

WASHINGTONThe Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund announced today that Erica Southerland has joined the organizations as managing director of communications and Kanya Bennett as managing director of government affairs.

“It is with pleasure that we welcome these new managing directors, both of whom bring invaluable skills to the organizations,” said Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and The Education Fund. “Their careers are a testimony to their commitment to protect civil and human rights.”

 Erica Southerland, Ph.D., is an accredited public relations practitioner with more than 15 years of experience across multimedia and diverse industries including nonprofit, higher education, government, and health care. She recently served as director, marketing and communications for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and presently serves as an adjunct professor. Southerland’s background includes communications work for organizations like the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Urban League, Howard University, and the Obama Foundation. She has published peer-reviewed research in public affairs, crisis communications, and social media theory and best practices as a former assistant professor of communications. Her work has been featured in spaces including the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, the Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, the Public Relations Society of America Diversity Study, Bloomberg News, and The Washington Post. Southerland earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Hampton University; a master’s in English, professional writing from Old Dominion University; and a doctorate in media and public affairs from Louisiana State University.

Kanya Bennett
has advanced a civil rights policy agenda in Washington, D.C., for two decades. Most recently, she challenged the criminalization of race and poverty as The Bail Project’s senior policy counsel and legislative coalition manager. Previously, Bennett was the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel. At the ACLU, she spent more than seven years advocating before the federal government on criminal justice reform. Bennett served as the director of policy development and programming at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, where she helped a diverse legal community debate and advance democratic and just laws and policies. She started her career on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation fellow and went on to serve as counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary for more than eight years, where she worked on a range of civil rights matters, including voting, housing, and employment. Bennett holds an undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and earned her law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 230 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal and state policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit