Who We Are
Board of Directors
Emmett Wariner is a musician, artist, and president of Jessi Zazu, Inc. For the past couple of years, he has been living in Nashville and working as a painter for the local company I Saw The Sign. He has also volunteered as a band manager at Youth Empowerment Through Arts and Humanities, Inc. (YEAH) programs Southern Girl's Rock Camp and Tennessee Teen Rock Camp for the past 8 years.
Emmett is Jessi's younger brother and leads the effort to continue her legacy through this nonprofit. Having played a key role in caring for Jessi after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, he is passionate about enabling more women to access vital health services. He is also committed to organizing events and supporting programs that enable Nashville and other communities to be welcoming environments for young women to express themselves through music.
Kathy Wariner is educated as a fine artist and has over 15 years experience in the design industry working as a graphic designer, illustrator, and surface designer. She was educated at Indiana University, Nashville State Technical Institution, Arrowmont School/University of Tennessee, Watkins Institute in Nashville, TN, and Indiana Vocational Technical College. Her Process is Mixed Media. She starts in her sketchbooks drawing in ink or pencil. Kathy draws from life and feels her relationship between her and her subject is what inspires her to draw. In the studio, she shares her enthusiasm for the process by working with others.
Kathy met Jessi Zazu the day that Jessi was born. As Jessi’s mother and friend, Kathy created art with Jessi throughout her life. Kathy founded this nonprofit with her sons to honor Jessi and the impact she had on countless lives. She is excited about the opportunity to work with students, an effort that gives her energy and inspires her to continue doing art.
Oakley Wariner was born in 1997 and is Jessi Zazu’s youngest brother. Oakley first started learning guitar at the age of ten. After two years of high school, he got his GED and went to college to focus on science for three semesters before moving to Nashville to support Jessi during her illness. Soon after he started learning guitar, he experienced his first band, “The Papas”, with band members Emmett Wariner, Jessi Zazu and Linwood Regensburg. They played an outdoor memorial benefit at the Moose and a benefit for New Roots in Louisville, Kentucky and then recently reunited for the Relativity art show in the fall of 2017. He later played in a second band “Slim Pickins” who played weekly at a tavern. He's also played solo for the farmers market, a winery, and a coffee shop. Oakley had his first experience recording as a back up singer on Jessi’s upcoming album.
Ever since Oakley went to his first rock camp in Nashville, he has been inspired to volunteer for YEAH's Tennessee Teens Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. Oakley loves working with kids, who he believes are the future of America.
Pat Blankenship is a retired attorney with 35 years of practice experience in Murfreesboro, TN. She was the managing partner for the law firm she helped found in 1979, Blankenship & Blankenship, Attorneys at Law, and she practiced corporate, probate and estate planning law. She formed and advised multiple corporations and limited liability companies every year, both for profit and not for profit, and often spoke at continuing legal education seminars on the topics of law office administration. Her work within the community included administering several not for profit arts organization, including Murfreesboro Little Theatre (two terms, Chair of the Board of Directors), Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, Inc. (two terms, Chair of the Board of Directors), and The Children’s Academy Theater of Tennessee (continuing terms as organizer, Chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Director). She served as the Development Intern for Tennessee Repertory Theater in 2012.
Pat is an experienced educator. She graduated from The University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, and has been leading children’s acting and theater classes, administering youth arts camps and teaching Business Law at Middle Tennessee State University and at The University of Tennessee at Martin (1992-2012). Pat currently teaches yoga at Middle Tennessee State University and serves as Secretary for Jessi Zazu, Inc., and acts as non-profit advisor to the Board of Directors for Jessi Zazu, Inc.
It was Pat’s work with Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, Inc., that brought her into contact with the very talented Jessi Zazu, and it is a privilege to work with her family and friends in carrying on her very ambitious legacy.
Kyshona Armstrong is a singer/songwriter with 16 years experience as a music therapist working with at-risk youth, the incarcerated, geriatrics, and mental health patients. She received her degree in Music Therapy from the University of Georgia. While living in Georgia, Kyshona spent years running an internship program for music therapists in collaboration with the University of Georgia as well as helped with the start of Girls Rock Camp Athens. In 2014, Kyshona moved to Nashville, TN to pursue songwriting full time and continue her passion of working with community outreach groups, such as Music For Seniors and Send Musicians to Prison, providing music therapy. Kyshona also dedicates her time to YEAH's Southern Girls Rock Camp and teaches a songwriting course to the women at the Davidson County Correctional Development Center.
Kyshona met Jessi Zazu in 2015 when Jessi asked her to be a part of the first "She's A Rebel: A Girl Group Tribute Show" in Nashville. They later reconnected that summer at Southern Girls Rock Camp where Kyshona's respect for Jessi grew even more when watching her teach the youth about Art and Activism. Kyshona hopes to continue Jessi's mission through arts and activism in the community.
Marie Campbell has spent the past 10 years in the non-profit sector working on issues of social, racial, economic, and environmental justice. For most of that time, Marie was an educator at Scarritt Bennett Center - a social justice education and retreat center - where she implemented a fellowship program for young women activists, planted an organic demonstration garden, and offered learning opportunities for people interested in engaging social movements. While at Scarritt Bennett, Marie also helped develop the Racial Equity & Arts Leadership program with Metro Nashville Arts Commission. Marie has worked with Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities (YEAH), Nashville Feminist Collective, Workers Dignity, and other local and regional grassroots organizations. She earned a Masters of Divinity from Vanderbilt University in 2012 and is currently studying rainforest conservation and decolonization through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly.
Marie met Jessi in 2015 at a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) meeting. The two of them became members of the founding steering committee of the Nashville chapter of SURJ. Together, they stewarded the cultural organizing focus of SURJ and dreamed up ways to build relationships between artists, musicians, and activists to support the role of creativity in social justice movement building. Marie hopes to put some of the many of the ideas that she and Jessi shared into practice to honor her visionary legacy.
Anna Carella is Co-Executive Director of Healthy and Free Tennessee, a nonprofit advocating for sexual and reproductive health and freedom in Tennessee through public education and state policy change. She is also a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt in Political Science. She has promoted human rights around the world while living and working in France, Senegal, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Afghanistan. Anna has been active in local feminist organizing for the past 4 years and during that time has worked with with the Nashville Feminist Collective, Advocates for Women's and Kids' Equality (AWAKE), and the Sexual Assault Center.
Anna met Jessi in 2015 at a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) meeting. Like Marie and Jessi, Anna was a founding steering committee member of the Nashville chapter of SURJ. She continues to center the dismantling of White supremacy in her role leading a nonprofit and in her activism and is excited to keep doing that work with JZI.
Leena Charlton was raised in and around Nashville by thoughtful, outspoken, and progressive immigrants. In 2008, she moved to New York City, where she earned a BA from Columbia University in sociology and human rights. In 2017, she graduated from Harvard Law School. She is awaiting admission to the New York Bar. For over a decade, Leena has worked in communications as well as the law, dabbling in journalism, creative writing, and marketing and awareness. Currently, Leena devotes time to pro bono projects focusing on women's rights. Her "favorite" policy issues center around economic justice.
Leena and Jessi met in their seventh grade language arts class and quickly became lifelong friends. They shared a love of all things strange&beautiful and believed the world can be transformed into a more just place.
Shelley DuBois is a Nashville-based writer. She is currently the editorial manager at a local healthcare strategic communications firm. Previously, she worked as the healthcare reporter for the Tennessean. Prior to moving back to Nashville, she wrote for Fortune.com and worked as a producer for NPR's weekly show "Science Friday."
Shelley met Jessi when she wrote a story about Those Darlins for Native Magazine in 2014. When Jessi was diagnosed with cervical cancer, Shelley helped coordinate her care at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center and Sarah Cannon Research Institute. Shelley also wrote a profile of Jessi that was one of the most widely-read cover stories for the Nashville Scene in 2017.
Meagan Hall is a Tennessee native and an artist, herbalist, and non-profit fundraising professional. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Tennessee Tech’s Appalachian Center for Craft, as well as a certificate in Fundraising Management from the University of Washington in Seattle. For the past several years, Meagan has been dedicated to the non-profit sector and has worked with a variety of organizations including the Vera Project (an all-ages music venue in Seattle), East Nashville's Pet Community Center, and local arts organization, Tennessee Craft. Meagan is also a certified herbal practitioner through the Appalachian Center for Natural Health and helps people to navigate health issues using medicinal plants and traditional healing. She is particularly interested in women's reproductive health, grief processing, and instigating self care and discovery through natural means.
Meagan and Jessi met through mutual friends and eventually became roommates at their house on Batavia Street. Their many inspiring and meandering conversations were frequently on the topics that would become the core values of Jessi Zazu, Inc. In working with JZI, Meagan hopes to honor Jessi’s passion, spirit, and incredible, enduring strength.
Molly S. Lasagna is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, a non-profit organization that brings college programming into prisons across the state of Tennessee. She graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2017 with Masters of Divinity degree, and in 2015 worked as a chaplain intern at the Tennessee Prison for Women. Previously, Molly served as a Policy Analyst for the American Institutes for Research (AIR), providing technical assistance for the Educator Quality Team. She is the co-author of Improving Teacher Quality: A Guide for Education Leaders. Prior to her work at AIR, she earned a Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy from Brown University, a Master’s in Teaching degree from the University of Virginia in Secondary English Education, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University. She roots for students every day.
Molly came to know Jessi while they served together on the Steering Committee for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Nashville. They shared a passion for liberation work, and Molly is excited to carry forward Jessi's legacy of helping folks get free.
Larissa Maestro is a multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer, composer, and educator. For more than 10 years she has worked to use music to strengthen Nashville's local community through fundraising, volunteerism, and non-profit work. She is the co-founder of the Nashville Concerto Orchestra, a volunteer-based community orchestra that offers opportunities to diverse soloists, conductors, and composers, and whose concert proceeds benefit local charities. She has organized many ambitious fundraisers for local, national, and international organizations, including Youth Empowerment through Arts and Humanities (YEAH), The Oasis Center of Nashville, Hurricane Haiyan Relief, and ACLU.
Larissa met Jessi years ago playing shows in the local rock scene, where they bonded over science fiction, their experiences as female musicians, social justice, and the girl groups of the 60s. They continued to become closer friends through the first “She's A Rebel: A Girl Group Tribute Show” in 2015, and Jessi convinced Larissa to volunteer at Southern Girls Rock Camp, effectively pulling her into a community that would change her life. Larissa hopes to continue pursuing Jessi's passion for the connecting threads between the arts and activism.
Julia Martin is a native Nashvillian and prominent figure in the city's art scene as both a visual artist and owner of the Julia Martin Gallery. Jessi and Julia first met through Veta and Theo, Owners of Ovvio Arte - a Gallery and studio/event space - where they both exhibited work. In the summer of 2017, Julia hosted the award winning UNDEFEATED exhibition by Jessi Zazu and Kathy Wariner. Mother and daughter created two bodies of work under the same roof during the year following Zazu's diagnosis. Zazu's UNDEFEATED works began in the cervical cancer treatment rooms of St. Thomas where they are now displayed in perpetuity, continuing to inspire and uplift future patients. As in all things, Jessi used her power to give power. That spirit continues to motivate Julia to use her gallery's platform to open hearts and minds, lift up our community and create opportunities for emerging artists of all walks.
Tiffany Minton moved to Nashville in 2003 to attend Belmont University. While earning her bachelors degree in Sociology, she met classmate and activist Marie Campbell. B.U. is also where she began her professional development as a musician. Drumming in bands resulted in a chance meeting at a local bar with some young feminist musicians, who shepherded her into community organizing, activism, and volunteering at YEAH's Southern Girls Rock Camp. It was at Southern Girls Rock Camp in 2005 that she met Jessi Zazu and her future Those Darlins bandmate, Linwood Regensburg. After graduating from college in 2008, Tiffany worked in the public sector for a short stint as a social worker in a mental health clinic. Feeling as though her career as a musician remained unfinished, Tiffany left social work to became a professional drummer and music educator. Since 2010 she has worked in both the private and voluntary sector, teaching and playing music.
Over their 13 year friendship, Jessi and Tiffany worked together on dozens of community organizing, activist, musical, and artistic projects together. Tiffany is honored to continue Jessi's work in tandem with the community of people who supported her in life and the ones who will carry her legacy into the future.
*Bio for Linwood Regensburg to come.*
Ariel Bui is a musical artist, activist and educator. Her music career as a guitarist singer-songwriter began in her teens, leading to a degree in Music and Piano at Rollins College in 2009. There she worked in community radio at WPRK 91.5 FM as Station Manager, Director, and DJ while doing activist work organizing with Food Not Bombs. After graduation, Ariel worked in environmental justice for Earthship Biotecture, constructing and educating the public about radically self-sustainable architecture based out of Taos, NM. In 2011, her skills in organizing, in-kind donations and partnerships nearly took her to Haiti to work with disaster relief NGOs, but a desire to pursue music again landed her in Nashville, TN. She has since become Founder of Melodia Studio, teaching piano to many students of all ages. In 2016, her self-titled album, recorded at The Bomb Shelter with Grammy-nominated producer Andrija, Tokic received local and international acclaim. She continues to work with many local non-profits, including YEAH! (Youth Empowerment Through the Arts & Humanities), Nashville B-Cycle, NAPAWF (National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum) and 101.5 WXNA LP-FM.
Ariel met Jessi performing together at “She’s A Rebel 2: A Girl Group Tribute Show.” The two volunteered at Southern Girls Rock’n’Roll Camp together. They collaborated on screen-printing Ariel’s self-titled album covers, radio shows at WXNA, cultural organizing meetings for Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), and eventually fundraising efforts for Jessi. It is Ariel’s mission to mobilize her passion for community partnerships in order to make the dreams Jessi shared come to life — like Arts & Activism workshops for youth, public art for social justice, and much more.
Tinsley Anne Dempsey was born in Atlanta and studied Studio Art at the University of Georgia, but started volunteering in non-profit work early on with the Foundation for Hospital Art, and served on their board. Her professional career has taken her from owning her own mural company for 10 years to working for developers here in Nashville. Her most recent passion project, OFF THE WALL Charlotte Avenue is promoting the importance of public art and creative placemaking in development. She is excited to work with JZI and continue to work for social justice and arts & activism.