Liberty’s Kitchen Names Calvin Johnson Chair, Kara Johnson Vice Chair

Hon Calvin Johnson Headshot
Calvin Johnson

NEW ORLEANS — Liberty’s Kitchen announced that the Hon. Calvin Johnson has been named the new chair of the organization’s board of directors, succeeding Tiffany Harvill, who will continue to serve on the board.

After retiring as a judge from the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Johnson was one of the founding organizers of Liberty’s Kitchen. He worked closely with Janet Gorence Davas, the organization’s founder and first executive director.

Liberty’s Kitchen first opened across the street from a New Orleans courthouse as a counterpoint to incarceration. The nonprofit’s vision was to create a place where young adults who had been neglected or criminalized could come for a hot meal, a job opportunity and a support system.

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Johnson received his undergraduate degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge in 1969, served four years in the United States Air Force, and then received his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in 1978. He was a professor of law at Loyola Law School for nine years and judge at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court for 17. He has received many awards in recognition of his commitment to working with individuals involved in the criminal justice system through every aspect of their recovery, including job readiness, housing stability and community service projects.

“Judge Johnson’s unwavering commitment to the youth of New Orleans is at the forefront of his civic service, and we are truly fortunate to have had his leadership for more than a decade,” said Liberty’s Kitchen CEO Dennis Bagneris. “His calming yet resolute presence is an asset to the organization. We look forward to leaning on his expertise in framing Liberty’s Kitchen’s vision and goals, especially as we continue to transition our programming to serve the opportunity youth of New Orleans who have experienced some of the most detrimental effects of the pandemic. As he assumes this new leadership role, I wish to express our deep gratitude to Tiffany Harvill, who has been instrumental in guiding Liberty’s Kitchen over the last several years.”

The board named Kara Johnson vice chair. Johnson, an attorney and entrepreneur, founded the Cook Shop, which produces a variety of seasonings inspired by her grandparents. She has served as chief of staff for New Orleans City Council Member Nadine Ramsey and in-house counsel for the Orleans Parish Sherriff’s Office. Born and raised in New Orleans, Johnson received her J.D. from the Tulane University Law School and her B.A. in mass communications from the University of New Orleans.

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Since 2009, Liberty’s Kitchen has served more than 1,000 youth through its Youth Development Program. The organization has more than 20 community partners helping to provide wraparound services to address barriers to employment ranging from housing to mental health care access to transportation. Additionally, it has forged relationships with nearly 20 active employment partners throughout New Orleans, all of whom are committed to providing opportunity and training through externships and employment.

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