Who We Are

Founded by a father whose son committed an act of terrorism, Parents for Peace is an alliance made up of families whose loved ones were recruited into extremism; former extremists; survivors of extremist violence; and others who support our mission. We aim to translate pain into a positive way forward, sharing our experiences to encourage people struggling with a loved one’s potential involvement in extremism to reach out and find help. Click here to see videos of some of our stories.

We are grateful for the supporters and advisors that help make our mission possible.

Founders

Melvin Bledsoe
Melvin’s family has lived in Memphis for generations, and he is proud of his hometown’s history and culture. He founded Blues City Tours to introduce that heritage to visitors to Memphis, and he has served as a guide to thousands of tourists, sharing insights on Blues music and more. Melvin comes from a family where many of his siblings and relatives served in the U.S. military. After his son Carlos was recruited by violent extremists and murdered a soldier in Arkansas, Melvin channeled his pain into advocacy. He has testified to Congress and been featured by an array of national media outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN.
Monica HolleyMonica Holley
A native of Memphis, Monica studied Mass Communications and Marketing at Stillman College in Alabama and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She previously worked at The Dallas Morning News and is now Director of Business Development & Marketing at Blues City Tours. Monica witnessed her younger brother Carlos drift into extremism and struggled to intervene before he committed an act of violence. She is the mother of two young boys, who can now only visit their uncle in jail.
Muhammad Abdullah –In MemoriamMuhammad Abdullah
Muhammad grew up in Memphis and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King for the rights of sanitation workers. He moved to Detroit to work for Dodge and in 1971 converted to Islam. He received a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Masters in Social Justice from Marygrove College. After running several small businesses, he served as a Legislative Director and Legislative Supervisor for several members of the Michigan legislature. A father of seven, he tried to intervene when his relative Carlos Bledsoe became wrapped up in extremism. Through that experience, Muhammad learned the difficulty of intervening to counter extremism. Muhammad passed away in April, 2016. We are forever grateful for his contribution.

Parent Network

Julie Boada
Julie is a Native-American performance artist, a storyteller and a puppeteer. She uses art as a source of healing and reconciliation by telling stories about people that live on the fringe. She is a recipient of Minnesota State Arts Board grants for her creation “Hidden History” and has worked with L.A. Music Center, The Minnesota History Center, and The Fergus Falls Center for the Arts. Her son Troy was recruited by Al-Shabab militants and died in Somalia in 2009. Julie continues to wrestle with her son’s fatal choices. She urges parents to talk to at-risk children, warning them that their initial idealism can be exploited by extremists.
Christianne Boudreau
Christianne is an accountant and business manager by training and founded the Hayat Canada Family Support Foundation in 2014. As a mother personally affected by the impact of violent radicalization processes in her own family she decided to give her own experiences a voice and step forward for other families sharing similar problems. Christianne has been featured in international media on various topics related to prevention and intervention with violent radicalization and is now counselling other families. She is also coordinates the mothers network “Mothers for Life” with Daniel Koehler, which brings together mothers of radicalized jihadis to give them a stronger voice globally.
Deqa Hussen
A mother of eight, currently working for Voice of East African Women, Deqa has served the Minneapolis community as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse since 2004. As someone who devoted her life to helping prevent violence, Deqa was shocked when her son Abdirizak was arrested in 2015, charged with being part of a conspiracy to join ISIS. Even before her son’s arrest, Deqa was speaking out about the dangers of youth being recruited into violent extremism. In the months after his arrest, Abdirizak expressed remorse for his mistakes, first to his mother and then publicly in an interview on CBS’s60 Minute. Deqa is faithfully supporting him as he serves his prison sentence, grateful he is alive and encouraged by his new desire to warn other young people against taking this dangerous path.
Carole Mansfield
Carole found herself thrust into the media spotlight in 2013 when her granddaughter Nicole became the first American killed in Syria as part of the country’s on-going strife. Carole, who helped raise Nicole, saw her granddaughter become radicalized in Michigan but struggled to intervene. “She had a heart of gold, but she was weak-minded,” Carole explains. “I think she could have been brainwashed.” Carole’s unfulfilled mission is to bring back her granddaughter’s remains to the U.S. for burial. Carol is a mother of three, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. She retired after working 22 years in a chain of stores in Michigan.
Monica Mansfield-Steelman
Like her mother Carole, Monica played a big role in the life of her niece Nicole. She remembers Nicole in her younger years as someone who always “stepped in to help the underdog,” and she thinks this desire to help those weaker and less fortunate may have been exploited by extremists who helped her travel to Syria. Monica hopes that more people who have lost loved ones can come together to support each other through Parents for Peace. Today, Monica takes care of Nicole’s young nephew and enjoys volunteering in the annual local Toys for Tots drive.
Abdirizak Bihi
Abdirizak is the Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, a grassroots initiative to empower the Somali-American community. He founded the organization in 2008 after his nephew Burhan suddenly dropped out of Minneapolis’s Roosevelt High School to join the terror group Al-Shabab in Somalia, dying in battle several months later. Abdirizak has testified to Congress, met with top law enforcement officials, and been profiled by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and NPR. He is a pioneer in community engagement efforts to guide young Americans away from extremism.
Pardeep Kaleka
Pardeep is the co-founder of Serve 2 Unite, an organization that empowers student leaders to build inclusive, nonviolent climates in their schools and communities. Pardeep co-founded the organization as a way to heal from the murder of his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who was gunned down by a white supremacist during an attack on the temple on August 5, 2012. A former Milwaukee Police Officer and high school teacher and current counselor for victims of trauma, Pardeep has become a powerful voice against hate crimes and violence. He is the father of four children.
Arno MichaelisArno Michaelis
Arno co-founded one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in America and was once the lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion. Today he is a motivational speaker promoting tolerance and inter-racial understanding. A single parent, Arno has transformed his earlier hatred into a passion for coexistence. His book “My Life after Hate” describes this remarkable transformation, and his writing and speaking draws on his own journey to help protect young Americans from hateful ideologies. He is a contributor to the project “Serve 2 Unite” and has published widely, including in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.


Saliha Ben Ali

Saliha was devastated when in 2013 her 19-year son Sabri, the oldest of her three children, suddenly left their home in Belgium for Syria to join ISIS. She tried to convince him to return, but he died only 3 months later. Refusing to allow Sabri’s death to be in vain, she has become a powerful voice of education and prevention through her organization, SAVE Belgium.

Michelle Walrondnews-1
Michelle is the founder of NISA, the National Islamic Sisters Association. A grandmother and native of Philadelphia, she became a Muslim in the 1970s and has been dismayed to see the effects of extremist influences in various North American communities. The problem became personal when her own son fell under the sway of extremists in Ottawa and, in 2014, was even briefly arrested. She has spoken out against extremist ideology and is involved in various interfaith and anti-extremist initiatives.
Latifa Ibn ZiatenLatifa Ibn Ziaten
Latifa is the President of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, a grassroots organization in France promoting inter-religious understanding and nurturing young leaders. The association is named after Latifa’s late son Imad, a French soldier who was murdered in 2012 by Muhammad Merah during an extended terror spree. Vowing to dedicate her life to peace between religions and peoples, Latifa works in housing projects, prisons, and schools to engage those at risk of falling into extremism. She is the author of the book “Mort Pour la France,” a testimonial about her son’s service, and appears regularly in the French media.


Nicola Benyahia

Nicola Benyahia has extensive experience within the social care sector, spanning over 25 years with extensive work in the context of mental health provision. She is a fully qualified, registered BACP (British Association of Counseling and Psychotherapy) Counsellor with specific experience in mental health, brain injury and most recently working and counseling young people aged 14 to 25 years old. As a mother personally affected by the impact of violent radicalisation processes in her own family, she decided to give her own experiences a voice and recently stepped forward for other families sharing similar problems.

TM Garret

Tmgarret.jpg

TM Garret Schmid, publicly known as TM Garret, is a German-American author, producer, filmmaker, marketing expert, radio personality, human rights activist and founder of C.H.A.N.G.E, a Memphis-based non-profit organization which engages in community outreach programs, food drives, seminars, anti-racism campaigns and anti-violence campaigns. He is also the founder and organizer of the annual Memphis Peace Conference, which includes an Inter-Faith and a Community Panel and was first held at Withers Collection Museum and Gallery in Memphis on Sep 29, 2018.

Yusuf Abdurahman

Yusuf’s son Zacharia, attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS. He pleaded guilty to material support to an international terrorist organization, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He feels fortunate his son was caught before getting to Syria, knowing many other parents did not have the same result.

Elizabeth MooreElizabeth Moore

Elizabeth Moore was born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario. While attending high school, she was introduced to the white supremacist group, The Heritage Front. Moved by feelings of anger and ignorance about the racial, cultural and economic tensions in her school, she embraced the racist-right. Ultimately, after much soul searching, and with the assistance of Bernie Farber and the Canadian Jewish Congress, Elizabeth cut ties with the racist right. Since then, Elizabeth has participated in numerous anti-Fascist education initiatives, reaching millions. She has worked on anti-racist films, multimedia educational initiatives, and contributed to textbooks and a government report in an effort to educate people about the dangers of hate groups. Elizabeth is currently exploring new ideas and developing avenues to continue her educational and artistic endeavors.

Senior Staff

Executive Director – Myrieme Nadri-Churchill

Myrieme Churchill, Executive Director of P4P, has over 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, working in variety of settings and with a range of populations in Europe and the U.S. Beginning her career in France, she intervened with first and second-generation North African immigrant sex workers on the streets of Marseille and facilitated group therapy in a juvenile detention center in Nice. In the U.S, Churchill worked as a group therapy counselor in an inpatient dual diagnosis unit at Beth Israel Deaconess and as program director of a dual diagnosis drop-in center in suburban Boston. She obtained several life coach and professional coach certifications and has maintained a coaching practice based in Monaco since 2000. She also developed and delivered training programs in the Institut Regional Administration (Nantes, FR) teaching coaching strategies to improve leadership and management in the French regional government context, and conducting follow-up coaching sessions with officials who received the training. Her therapy and coaching background were essential to the development of the Parents For Peace helpline model, and her native language skills have facilitated Parents For Peace establishing connections with counter extremism programs in Montreal, France, and Belgium.

Operations Director – Shalini Kasida

Shalini Kasida, Operations Director of P4P has worked with numerous non-profit organizations that focus on public health and education for at-risk youth and children in marginalized communities, both in the US and globally. She is currently on the Board of Directors for Doc Wayne and the Brookline Education Foundation. Shalini is also an active member of Partners in Health Engage, focusing on High Schoolers, and an advisor to the board-chair of Summits Education, based in Haiti. Prior to Shalini’s work in non-profit, she worked for 25 years in leadership and management roles in the technology industry, working on product marketing and usability of software applications

Program Coordinator – Justin O’Shea

Justin O’Shea, Programs Coordinator at P4P,  graduated from Connecticut College with a double major in Religious Studies and History in May 2010. He graduated from the Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies with a Master of Arts in International Relations and Religion in May 2017, where he focused on religious-based extremism and terrorism, particularly the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.

Board of Directors

Susanna Stern, JD
Susanna is a partner at the law firm Landay Leblang Stern in Boston where she has a Latin American banking and finance practice. She speaks Portuguese and has lived, worked and studied in Brazil. Susanna has served on non-profit and educational boards and volunteers for community and social justice causes.

Shelagh Leahy
Shelagh Leahy has worked as a Producer, Showrunner, and Executive at ABC News, CNN, MSNBC and PBS. She’s taught Journalism at Boston University and serves on the Screening Review Board for the DuPont Awards at Columbia University.

Advisory Board

Mubin Shaikh
Dr. Born and raised in Canada, Mubin Shaikh grew up with two conflicting and competing cultures. In 2004, he was recruited by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and worked several classified infiltration operations on the internet, in chat-protected forums and on the ground with human networks. He is now an external SME (Subject Matter Expert) on national security and counterterrorism to the Command Staff of CENTCOM, the United Nations Security Council & Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate and trains police, intelligence and special operations forces on relevant topics.

Anne-Laurence Halford
A clinical psychologist educated at the University of Nice, Anne-Laurence contributes to the regions effort to prevent and counter extremism through her work for the Association EntrAutres and the Alpes-Maritimes Prefecture. Her responsibilities include training and supervising frontline workers, facilitating groups for families who have experienced or are concerned about the radicalization of a relative, and running prevention workshops for students and their parents at local schools.

Souleymane Konate, PhD
Souley is a ResearchFellow at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. He previously taught mathematics at the College of the Holy Cross and contributed to radiological imaging projects at UMass Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He now brings this technical expertise and data science background to the Chan School’s ongoing work of evaluating programs aimed at countering ideologically motivated violence.

Marik Fetouh
Marik Fetouh is the Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux, France. Educated in public health and law, Fetouh has dedicated his career as a public servant to addressing issues like diversity, equality, and discrimination. He is now responsible for overseeing the city’s Centre for Action and Prevention Against Radicalization of Individuals (CAPRI).

Herman Deparice-Okomba, PhD
Dr. Deparice-Okomba is Executive Director of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence (CPRLV) in Montreal. A political scientist and recognized expert in intercultural relations, radicalization, terrorism, discrimination, and community policing, he was responsible for social issues for ten years with the Montreal police service. He is also a lecturer on terrorism and emergency management at several universities.

*Parents for Peace members come together with the common goal of preventing violent extremism. Some members are also active in other organizations and initiatives outside of Parents for Peace. We respect our members and the diversity of personal experiences, perspectives, and beliefs they represent. The content provided on this website is for educational purposes. Statements made, views expressed, and opinions given by Parents for Peace members in other forums are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Parents for Peace.

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