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Dear Friends,


Gazing out at this snowy day, I ponder the thrill of sledding born of powerlessness. I am more of a distance runner, which is a better fit at TJC. Even though TJC’s outsized impact over the past 28 years has never been easy sledding. It has often felt more like a long, uphill slog toward an uncertain future. This past year felt like a continuation of the same marathon in many ways, but with a crucial difference. It was finally clear that TJC is here to stay. For the first time, we could trust that we will be around for as long as it takes to make Tennessee the just and inclusive state, we all long for it to be.


2023 saw hard times for the Tennessee families that TJC is privileged to serve. Thousands lost vital health coverage, the foster care system was in crisis and food assistance that was supposed to reach hungry children within days routinely took months longer than expected to materialize – if at all. TJC ran all out, all year long, trying to address these injustices.


And yet, there was much to celebrate. We moved into our forever home decorated with beautiful, donated art and equipped for the first time with new furniture and up-to-date technology. The space is filled with light, hope and energy, and we are surrounded by inspiring neighbors and partners.


As the state prepared to reassess the TennCare eligibility of 1.7 million children and adults, TJC issued an urgent “Call to Collaborate” to help families maintain coverage. More than 2,000 volunteers, professionals and community agencies responded. With a series of webinars and ongoing technical assistance, we equipped partners to assist tens of thousands of families through the maze of paperwork. They helped us identify systemic glitches and get the state to correct them before more people were hurt.


The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides nutrition assistance to pregnant and post-partum mothers, infants and pre-school children. WIC has been shown to have a lifelong impact on children’s learning, earnings, health and longevity. Sadly, Tennessee’s WIC program ranks 50th in the nation, with only 40% of eligible children receiving benefits. TJC’s expertise and track record enabled us to win a large competitive federal grant to identify and address systemic barriers to WIC participation, so that more moms and babies can get the nutrition they need to thrive. For school-age kids, we launched a campaign to win universal school meals, so that all kids can eat healthy and be prepared to learn. And a year-end campaign won state acceptance of a new federal program to supplement children’s nutrition during summers.

A.M.C v. Smith case plaintiff, Ava, and her mom, Crystal Harp

Pictured: A.M.C v. Smith case plaintiff, Ava, and her mom, Crystal Harp

In November pro bono co-counsel and national nonprofit partners moved to town for 2 weeks, and we put on proof in federal court in a TennCare case about the irreversible consequences of losing health care. It was the first major trial in TJC’s 28-year history in which I was not directly involved. I got to attend as a spectator. Watching our team and heroic clients, my heart almost exploded with pride. They rose to the challenge and provided world class proof that people with disabilities deserve accommodation before losing coverage and demonstrated why no one should be deprived of coverage without fair notice and a chance to correct the state’s mistakes. While we don’t expect a decision in the case for months, the lawsuit has already pressured the state to make reforms in the TennCare eligibility process. These systemic reform efforts are grounded in the insights and inspiration that come from deep personal connections made with thousands of clients, neighbors and partners, as we work together to confront injustice.


Amid a marathon of a year, there were moments where we jumped on the sled and the ice took us on spectacular rides full of sublime gifts and triumphs that we could have never imagined or orchestrated. More quickly than we had dared to hope, the new office has become a place for building community and is now the community’s building. In October, the mayor and other leaders dedicated the building and its moving mural depicting the sixteen first graders, several of whom joined us for the dedication, who in 1957 faced down angry mobs to desegregate Nashville’s schools. Since, the building has hosted church services, a bar association gathering, arrest record expungement clinics, TennCare and SNAP enrollment fairs, and a listening tour convened by the head of the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Neighbors used our commercial kitchen to prepare over 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for the neighborhood. Our new food pantry, stocked by city schools and churches as well as One Generation Away and Second Harvest, has made the building a valuable resource in Nashville’s most food insecure area. Sleeping under the snow and ice are 1,500 tulips planted by enthusiastic volunteers.


Thank you for being part of the magical, diverse community of love that comprises the Tennessee Justice Center and makes its work possible. Whether we’re running or sledding, your solidarity and support keep us going.

Our Executive Director, Michele Johnson, running along the beach.
Letter from our Executive Director, Michele Johnson

Michele Johnson

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Our Executive Director, Michele Johnson, sledding in Nashville.


To relentlessly protect and improve the laws, policies, and programs that secure dignity

and opportunity for all Tennesseans.


The ideals that guide our work and drive our daily efforts towards justice for all Tennesseans: Compassion, Excellence, Knowledge, Courage,  & Joy. 


Help families navigate systemic barriers that often deny them vital services like healthcare and nutrition. We advocate for public policies to make Tennessee a more just, compassionate, & inclusive state for all.


New partners added
Total cases acquired
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