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Executive Director Sara Totonchi to Step Down; Deputy Director Terrica Redfield Ganzy to Lead SCHR

Today, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) announced that Executive Director Sara Totonchi is stepping down after a 21-year tenure at the organization. On January 1, 2022, Terrica Redfield Ganzy, SCHR’s current Deputy Director, will be stepping into the role of Executive Director. Both Ms. Totonchi and Ms. Ganzy are long-time staffers at SCHR, and both extraordinary women have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of equality, dignity, and justice for all people impacted by the criminal legal system in the Deep South. 

“It is impossible to convey in words how deeply grateful I am to have spent the last 21 years as a member of the team at the Southern Center for Human Rights,” Ms. Totonchi said. “Over my tenure, SCHR has grown tremendously in size, breadth of work, and impact. We have built the Southern Center for Human Rights to become the flagship organization for criminal legal reform in the Deep South. I have had a firsthand view of the extraordinary work, rooted in love and propelled by a commitment to build a better world, carried out by our team every day. Together, we work to build a world that is free from mass incarceration, the death penalty, the criminalization of poverty, and racial injustice.  It has been an adventure, a joy, and a true honor. I am absolutely thrilled to now pass the baton and make space for an extraordinary new leader, Terrica Ganzy.”  

Ms. Totonchi was hired by former Director Stephen B. Bright in 2001 as the organization’s first-ever Public Policy Director. In 2010, she became the Executive Director. During her tenure at SCHR, the office doubled from twenty staff members to nearly forty. Her transformational leadership elevated the importance of multifaceted campaigns that combine litigation and policy advocacy. During this time, the organization saw–among many other things–three wins at the United States Supreme Court; the passage of transformational laws, including the Indigent Defense Act, which created a public defender system in Georgia; countless victories in the courts for SCHR’s incarcerated clients; and powerful alliances built with communities across Georgia. Under Ms. Totonchi’s leadership, SCHR has received numerous awards, including the Commitment to Equality Award from the State Bar of Georgia’s Committee to Promote Inclusion, the Gate City Bar’s R.E. Thomas Civil Rights Award, and the Martin Luther King Community Service Award from Emory University. 

In 2021, Ms. Totonchi was appointed by United State Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to serve on their Federal Nominations Advisory Commission. For the last three years, she has been named by Atlanta Magazine as one of the top 500 Most Influential Leaders of Atlanta. In 2017, Ms. Totonchi was selected as a Strengthening Democracy Fellow with the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Georgia Trend named Ms. Totonchi a “Notable Person” for 6 years in a row. Ms. Totonchi is an alumna of Leadership Atlanta, Class of 2012. 

“Sara Totonchi has been the ideal leader of the Southern Center for Human Rights over the past decade,” said SCHR Board Chair James Kwak. “Under her guidance, we have raised our national profile, deepened our relationships with community groups, increased our influence in the state legislature, grown our staff, strengthened our financial position, and, most importantly, won countless battles for equality, dignity, and justice in the criminal legal system. Sara has ensured that the organization has remained true to its core values as it has grown, and she leaves SCHR in the strongest position it has ever been in. I am deeply grateful to Sara for her accomplishments and for her dedication to justice, and I am equally excited about welcoming Terrica Ganzy to her new position. Terrica has dedicated her career to SCHR, first as a capital defense attorney, then as development director, and most recently as deputy director. She has been instrumental to our successes, and I look forward to working with her for many years to come.”

Terrica Ganzy was also hired by Mr. Bright, and in 2004 began her nine-year tenure as a Staff Attorney in the Capital Litigation Unit, where she represented people on death row in Georgia and Alabama. During that time, she served for five years as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ Death Penalty Resource Counsel, providing training and resources to capital defense attorneys across the country. Ms. Ganzy went on to serve for four years as SCHR’s Development Director, fueling a robust fundraising strategy that helped to double SCHR’s budget to support the organization’s rapid growth. Ms. Ganzy was appointed as Deputy Director of SCHR in 2018.

“Stephen Bright welcomed me into the SCHR fold in 2004, and since that time I have learned from and been inspired by its amazing leaders and our collective team,” Ms. Ganzy said. “As the first Black person to lead SCHR in its 45-year history, I take pride in following in the footsteps of Kung Li, SCHR’s first Asian-American and LGBTQ+ Executive Director, and Sara Totonchi, SCHR’s first Arab-American Executive Director. I am honored to build on the vision of SCHR’s founders and leaders, people who make a habit of seeking out, disrupting, and dismantling injustice. I am a native Southerner, a descendant of people who chose to stay and fight. I consider it my duty to carry that legacy forward, and I am grateful to do so by advancing SCHR’s ongoing efforts towards equality, dignity, and justice.” 

Ms. Ganzy is a member of Leadership Atlanta Class of 2022, a graduate of Leadership Clayton, a member of the 2015 Class of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits’ High Potential Diverse Leaders, a 2014 New Leaders Council Fellow, and a graduate of Georgia’s WIN List’s Leadership Academy. She has a long history in nonprofit leadership, having served for two years at President of the Board of the Georgia Legal Services Program, and currently serving as Vice-President of the Center for Death Penalty Litigation’s Board of Directors, Vice-President of the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, and as Mentoring Co-Chair for the Atlanta Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Ms. Ganzy’s service to the legal community includes her roles as Vice-President of the State Bar of Georgia’s Professionalism Committee and as a member of the State Bar’s Seeking Equal Justice and Addressing Racism and Racial Bias Committee. She is also a member of the Judicial Council of Georgia’s Access to Justice Committee. 

Ms. Ganzy obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Humanities from Tougaloo College, her Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law, an LL.M. in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Beasley School of Law, and a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Social Enterprise from Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Public Policy. 

“I echo James’s appreciation of Sara’s tremendous accomplishments during her time at SCHR, including her enormous contributions to the organization,” said SCHR Vice Board Chair C. Allen Garrett, Jr., partner at Kilpatrick Townsend. “Consistent with the breadth of her extraordinary leadership skills, Sara also mentored and partnered with Terrica, ensuring continuity of institutional culture while transitioning to a fresh leadership perspective. Terrica is an ideal leader for SCHR. She combines the knowledge, experience, and empathy of a former SCHR attorney with the business, development, and leadership skills necessary to ensure that SCHR continues to ensure equality, dignity, and justice for all members of the communities we serve for many years to come.”