Liberty’s Kitchen Announces Judge Calvin Johnson as new Chair and Kara Johnson as new Vice Chair


Contact:   Elizabeth Smith

May 2, 2022


New Orleans, LA – Today, Liberty’s Kitchen announced that the Honorable Calvin Johnson, retired judge, and long-time civic figure, has been named the new Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors, succeeding board member Tiffany Harvill, who will continue to serve as a member of the board.

After retiring from the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Johnson was one of the founding organizers of Liberty’s Kitchen in 2008. Working closely with Janet Gorence Davas, founder and first Executive Director, Liberty’s Kitchen opened the first location across the street from a New Orleans courthouse as a counterpoint to incarceration. Their 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.

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 of the 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.

Liberty’s Kitchen CEO Dennis Bagneris commented, “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. 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.”

In addition to naming Judge Johnson as Chair, the Board of Directors has named board member Kara Johnson as Vice Chair. Johnson, an attorney and entrepreneur, brings her culinary passion to her new Liberty’s Kitchen role. Johnson founded The Cook Shop, which produces a variety of seasonings inspired by her grandparents. The Cook Shop blends the flavors of traditional Creole and Cajun cuisine in a healthy and modern way. Previously, Johnson served as Chief of Staff for Council Member Nadine Ramsey and In-House Counsel for the Orleans Parish Sherriff’s Office. Born and raised in New Orleans, Kara received her J.D. from the Tulane University Law School and her B.A. in Mass Communications from the University of New Orleans.

Liberty’s Kitchen CEO Dennis Bagneris commented, “I am thrilled the Board of Directors voted to elevate Kara to a leadership position. Her passion for helping young people, business acumen, and collaborative nature are ideally suited to ensure the longevity of Liberty’s Kitchen and its instrumental Youth Development Program.

Since 2009, Liberty’s Kitchen has served more than 1,000 youth, investing in their potential to achieve their vision of success, through its Youth Development Program. The organization has more than 20 community partners helping to provide wrap-around services to address barriers to employment ranging from housing to mental health care access to transportation. Additionally, we have 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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