Hooks Institute Leadership Team
Daphene R. McFerren, JD
As executive director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the
University of Memphis, Daphene R, McFerren is responsible for strategic initiatives,
program development and implementation, staff management and financial oversight of
Hooks Institute operations.
McFerren has produced or been a member of the production team on the following documentaries: Freedom’s Front Line: Fayette County, TN (2008), which tells the story of the grassroots civil rights movement in that county from the 1950s-1970s (2008 Director’s Choice Award, Black Maria Film and Video Festival); Duty of the Hour (2016; executive producer) a documentary film about the life of civil rights activist Benjamin L. Hooks, which was broadcast on WKNO-TV, Memphis and on KCET Los Angeles, one of the largest broadcast areas in the country (recipient of the 2013 Director’s Citation, Black Maria Film and Video Festival and 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust Recognition on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC; and The Civil Rights Movement: A Cultural Revolution (2014), which details the impact of the civil rights movement on the nation’s music, fashion and culture. (Silver Telly, Film/Video; People’s Telly; Bronze Telly, Cultural (2014 Telly Awards) and an Award of Merit, 2014 Best Shorts Competition). She is also the executive producer and producer of a documentary on Ida B. Wells, Facing Down Storms: Memphis and the Making of Ida B. Wells, which premiered in Memphis, TN, on April 19, 2022.
Before joining the Hooks Institute, McFerren was in private practice in Washington, DC; was senior counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission; was counsel to the late Attorney General Janet Reno; and was later Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Maryland prosecuting, among other cases, forced labor and involuntary servitude cases involving foreign victims.
The Memphis Business Journal selected McFerren as a Superwoman in Business in 2016. In addition, Bizwoman selected McFerren as one of “100 Women to Watch in the U.S.” in 2016.
McFerren grew up in Fayette County, Tenn., where she completed public high school. She attended Yale College and Harvard Law School.
Rorie Trammel, MS
Associate Director | HAAMI Director
Rorie Trammel is the associate director of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Trammel plays an integral role in the activities of the Hooks Institute, including administrative and operations duties, fundraising and donor relations, and coordination of the Institute's National Book Award. Trammel also oversees strategic planning and implementation of the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI). Trammel is a native of Rochester, NY, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Science, in Education, from the University of Memphis. She is also a former UofM employee, having worked in the Office of Development for fourteen years. Rorie worked for the YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South for fourteen and a half years, first as executive director of urban programming and later as vice president for advancement. Rorie was a volunteer radio reader for WYPL, the radio station at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, for many years. She is a member of the New Memphis Institute. Previously, she served on the boards of directors for Partners in Public Education (PIPE), the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Le Bonheur Center for Children and Parents, and the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy.
Daniel Kiel, JD
Daniel Kiel is the Fed Ex professor of law at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he joined the faculty in 2008. Kiel teaches constitutional law, education & civil rights, and property law. In addition to his record of publications focusing on disparities in education, Professor Kiel is the director of The Memphis 13 (2011), a documentary sharing the stories of the first graders who desegregated Memphis City Schools in 1961. The film has been screened at universities, film festivals, museums, and schools across the country and was made possible in part by a research grant from the Hooks Institute in 2010.
The university recognized Professor Kiel on campus with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights Award (2013), the Alumni Association's Distinguished Teaching Award (2017), and various honors within the law school. He has served on the Hooks Institute's National Book Award committee since 2012 and contributed a paper to the Institute's 2018 Policy Papers series. Professor Kiel is a native Memphian and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Law School.
Nathaniel C. Ball, MA
Assistant Director, Media Initiatives and Programs Support
Nathaniel C. Ball, MA, started as a graduate assistant at the Hooks Institute in 2013 and was later given the role of media and programs coordinator at the Hooks Institute in June 2015. In April 2021, Ball was named Assistant Director of Media Initiatives and Program Support, where he works to grow the Hooks Institute initiatives with a particular focus on media programs. Ball assists the Hooks Institute executive director and staff in creating, planning, and implementing Hooks Institute programs. Ball oversees the planning, writing, design, and implementation of Hooks Institute's social media accounts, websites, newsletters, press releases, and other materials. He is heavily involved in Hooks Institute films, where he has produced, written, and edited several documentaries and short films. Ball coordinates the Hooks Institute grant priorities and assists or authors Hooks Institute grants. Ball earned a BA in Communications focusing on Film and Video Production (2011) and an MA in History (2015) from the University of Memphis.
Ball is an executive producer, writer, co-director and producer of a documentary on Ida B. Wells, "Facing Down Storms: Memphis and the Making of Ida B. Wells," which premiered in Memphis, TN, on April 19, 2022. He is also a producer on an upcoming short film on the Fayette County civil rights movement titled "Freedom's Village," set to begin production in Summer 2023.
Jessyka transitioned her career to the University of Memphis from the private sector in 2002, when she assumed the role of Administrative Secretary in the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate in the Fogelman College of Business and Economics. In 2008, she received her Certified Professional Secretary (CPS) rating from the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP). She became the Administrative Associate for both the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate and the Department of Economics in the fall of 2020, before proudly joining the Staff of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change as Administrative Coordinator in the spring of 2022. Away from the University, Jessyka is also a writer with a creative bent toward music, art, and varied other ventures.
James Beasley, MS
HAAMI Project Coordinator
James Beasley is the Project Coordinator for the Hooks African American Male Initiative (HAAMI), a student success program of the Hooks Institute for Social Change. James is a native of Willisville, Arkansas and takes pride in his humble beginnings. As a military veteran of the United States Army, Beasley understands the importance of sacrifice and service to the community. Beasley received a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Management and Technology in Arlington, Virginia, a Bachelor’s of Professional Studies with a concentration in Social Work and African American Studies from the University of Memphis (both with honors, Magna Cum Lauda). James was an active member of HAAMI while an undergraduate student at the UofM. He was inducted into the Carson’s Circle, the highest award given to a University of Memphis senior. Beasley is committed to lifelong learning, and earned a Master of Science in Leadership and Policy Studies in May 2022.
M. Elena Delavega, PhD
Programs Research Advisor
Elena Delavega, Ph.D., MSW, is an associate professor at the Department of Social Work at the University of Memphis (UofM), where she teaches social welfare policy, advanced community practice, and poverty. Her research is complex and multifaceted and consists of three broad areas: understanding poverty, social and economic exclusion, and promoting social and economic development. Delavega evaluates the research component of the Hooks African American Male Initiative and plays an integral role in the writing and publication of the Hooks Institute's Policy Papers.
Filmmaker in Residence
Marty Lang is an assistant professor of film at the University of Memphis. He holds two Master of Fine Arts degrees: one in film production from Florida State University and one in screenwriting from California State University, Northridge. He has written and directed two feature films, Stay with Me, the opening night film of the 2022 Southeastern New England Film Festival, and Rising Star, released worldwide by Content Film in 2013.
Lang is a prolific independent film producer. His credits include the web series The Ride, featured at the 2020 Sundance festival as a world premiere; Out of My Hand, a 2016 Indie Spirit Award nominee; and Chompy & The Girls, featuring Udo Kier, released in 2021 by Freestyle Digital Media. Lang is also writing The Self-Sustaining Filmmaker, a book about obtaining crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and community-support for independent films (Focal Press, 2023).
As Filmaker in Residence, Lang and the Hooks Institute will collaborate on current and future Hooks Institute media projects. Additionally, Lang and the Hooks Institute will strategically create opportunities to showcase Hooks Institute and independent filmmakers’ projects.
Kat Robinson began as a Hooks Institute Graduate Assistant in September 2022. Robinson is completing a dual-degree program in the School of Public Health and the Department of Anthropology. As a student at the University of Memphis, Robinson has participated in various student-led organizations, most notably Safety Net and the Diversity and Inclusion committee in the Anthropology Department. As a member of these organizations, Robinson learned the importance of organizing and working with community members to strive for equity and safety for students and Memphians.
Robinson is currently conducting research at Friends for Life, a non-profit organization aimed at ameliorating HIV stigma; providing early intervention and education about HIV; and attempting to end cyclical poverty that often impacts those financially struggling to manage their HIV. Robinson hopes to graduate with two master’s and pursue a doctorate in Environmental Epidemiology in 2023.