Luis Garden Acosta is an American pioneer for community driven, human rights activism. He is the Founder and President of El Puente, a nationally celebrated, Brooklyn-based, community and youth development organization. Since 1982, El Puente has inspired and nurtured leadership to end community violence while organizing for democratic action, healing, and all human rights. Under his leadership and vision, El Puente—as the name implies in Spanish—“bridges” major initiatives in health, the environment, education and the arts, incorporating them all in a holistic, goal oriented membership for community members of all ages.
Angela Glover Blackwell is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, which she started in 1999 and continues to drive its mission of advancing economic and social equity. Under Blackwell’s leadership, PolicyLink has become a leading voice in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, education, and infrastructure. Prior to founding PolicyLink, Blackwell served as Senior Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation. A lawyer by training, she gained national recognition as founder of the Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council, where she pioneered new approaches to neighborhood revitalization. As a leading voice in the movement for equity in America, Blackwell is a frequent commentator for some of the nation’s top news organizations, including The New York Times, the Huffington Post, Salon, CNN and has appeared regularly on public radio’s Marketplace, The Tavis Smiley Show, Nightline, and PBS’s Now. Blackwell has also been a guest on the PBS series Moyers & Company and PBS’s NewsHour. Blackwell is the co-author of Uncommon Common Ground: Race and America’s Future (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010). Blackwell earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.
Charles M. Blow is the Visual Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, where his weekly column appears every Saturday. Mr. Blow’s columns tackle hot-button issues such as teen pregnancy, the national debt, the presidential race, gender roles, and the gay rights movement. Blow joined The Times in 1994 as the paper’s graphics editor; during his tenure he led the publication to win awards for work that included its information graphics coverage of 9/11 and the Iraq war. Mr. Blow is a CNN contributor, and also often appears on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He has appeared on Andrea Mitchel Reports, Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN’s American Morning, Headline News' The Joy Behar Show, Fox News' Fox and Friends, the BBC and Al Jazeera, as well as numerous radio programs. Charles' memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones, was released in September 2014. In this captivating book, he mines the rich poetry of the out-of-time Louisiana town where he grew up--a place where slavery's legacy felt close, reverberating in the elders' stories and in the near constant wash of violence. An isolated boy, Blow is fiercely attached to his mother, a woman with five sons, brass knuckles in her glove box, a job plucking poultry, a soon to be ex-husband, and a love of newspapers and learning. But the closeness doesn't protect him from secret abuse at the hands of an older cousin. It's damage that triggers years of searing self-questioning, and Charles explores how this affected his college life and beyond. It is a bravely personal, one-of-a-kind story of self-invention—an instant classic of African American storytelling from the South. Mr. Blow graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in Mass Communications. He lives in Brooklyn with his three children.
Shakti Butler is a multiracial African-American woman (African, Arawak Indian, and Russian-Jewish) whose work as a creative and visionary bridge builder has challenged and inspired learning for over two decades. Shakti is the producer and director of groundbreaking documentaries including The Way Home, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, and Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. Dr. Butler shares her holistic framework for conveying the interconnection between internal and external/structural components of racial inequity, and revealing how self-perpetuating systems reinforce disparities in institutions. Shakti’s work invites her audience to grapple with both the intellectual and emotional complexities of issues. Shakti is an inspirational facilitator, trainer and lecturer who uses her ability to listen deeply while asking critical questions that support self-directed learning in others. Her speaking and teaching styles enrich people’s abilities to expand their capacities for building community, an important first step in effecting change. Shakit Butler is the Founder and Creative Director of World Trust Educational Services. She received her doctorate from the California Institute of Integral Studies, holds an MA in Guidance and Counseling from Bank Street College of New York, and graduated magna cum laude from City College of New York.
Born in 1955 and raised in Mexico City, Guillermo Gómez-Peña came to the US in 1978. His work, which includes performance art, video, audio, installations, poetry, journalism, and cultural theory, explores cross-cultural issues, immigration, the politics of language, "extreme culture" and new technologies in the era of globalization. A MacArthur fellow, he is a regular contributor to the national radio news magazine All Things Considered (National Public Radio), a writer for newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and Mexico, and a contributing editor to The Drama Review (MIT). For twenty years, Gómez-Peña has been exploring intercultural issues with the use of mixed genres and experimental languages.
bell hooks (nee Gloria Watkins) is Distinguished Professor of English at City College in New York. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, hooks, received her B.A. from Stanford University in 1973, her M.A. in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. It took hooks’ eight years to publish Ain't I A Woman, which was part of her efforts to bring the cultural concerns of African American women into the mainstream feminist movement. hooks’ focus on marginality inside and outside of the academy led her to study more closely the nuances of domination found within popular culture. A passionate scholar, hooks is among the leading public intellectuals of her generation.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, syndicated columnist and author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Published worldwide in 2007, The Shock Doctrine is being published in 30 languages and has over a million copies in print. It appeared on multiple ‘best of year’ lists including as a New York Times Critics’ Pick of the Year. Her critically acclaimed new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, is the 2014 winner of the prestigious Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. An instant bestseller when published in September 2014, it debuted at #5 on the New York Times list and was named to multiple Best of 2014 lists, including the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014. This Changes Everything is being translated into over 20 languages.
Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a groundbreaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. It brings a new way of seeing the world, as our larger living body, freeing us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth.
Lynn Manning is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Watts Village Theater Company. He is also an award winning poet, playwright, actor, and former World Champion of Blind Judo. Lynn has written several critically recognized plays, and is the recipient of two Dramalogue Critic’s Awards for writing. Center Theatre Group's 2001 production of Lynn’s solo masterwork,WEIGHTS, garnered three NAACP Theater awards, including Best Actor for Lynn. He accomplished all of this after being shot and blinded by a stranger in a bar in Hollywood, at age 23. Originally an aspiring visual artist, Lynn turned his creative energies toward the literary arts. He now paints with words.
Michael Omi is a Associate Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and Associate Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the co-author of Racial Formation in the United States, a groundbreaking work that transformed how we understand the social and historical forces that give race its changing meaning over time and place. Since 1995, he has been the co-editor of the book series on Asian American History and Culture at Temple University Press. From 1999 to 2008, he served as a member and chair of the Daniel E. Koshland Committee for Civic Unity at the San Francisco Foundation. He is founding member of the faculty steering committee of the Center for New Racial Studies, a University of California Multi-Campus Research Project based at UC Santa Barbara. Michael is a recipient of UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor bestowed on only 240 Berkeley faculty members
Manuel Pastor is a Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California where he also serves as Director of USC's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and co-Director of USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII). Founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pastor holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has received fellowships from the Danforth, Guggenheim, and Kellogg foundations and grants from many distinguished foundations such as the Irvine Foundation.
Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and Co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign, has been organizing immigrant women workers since 1996. In 2000 she co-founded Domestic Workers United, the New York organization that spearheaded the successful passage of the state’s historic Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. In 2007, DWU helped organize the first national domestic workers convening, out of which formed the NDWA. As Co-director of Caring Across Generations, Ai-jen leads a movement that is inspiring thousands of careworkers, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, and lawmakers to work together to ensure that all people can mature in this country with dignity, security and independence.
john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights and liberties. john has written extensively and spoken publicly on race, structural racism, concentrated poverty, urban sprawl, fair housing, voting rights, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, with particular focus on the needs of citizens in a democratic society. john is a Professor of Law, African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley where he also holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion as the Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. john was formerly the Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University, where he held the Gregory H. Williams Chair at the Moritz College of Law. Professor powell also founded and directed the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, served as Director of Legal Services in Miami, Florida and was National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. john has served as a consultant to the governments of Mozambique and South Africa, and has lived in Africa, India, and done work in South America and Europe. He is one of the co-founders of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and serves on the board of several national organizations. Professor powell has taught at numerous law schools including Harvard and Columbia University. He is the author of several books, including his most recent work, Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.
Andrew Solomon is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology. Solomon’s newest book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, published on November 13, 2012, won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction; and a host of many other awards. It tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Yale University in 1985, graduating magna cum laude, and later earned a Master’s degree in English at Jesus College, Cambridge. In August 2013, he was awarded a Ph.D. in psychology at Jesus College, Cambridge, Faculty of Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies.
Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton is an associate professor of psychology as well as Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. Childhood experiences of living in Mexico, the United States, Ivory Coast, and Thailand cemented an early interest in cultural differences and intergroup relations. He received his B.A. from Yale University and his Ph.D. from Columbia University. Mendoza-Denton’s professional work covers stereotyping and prejudice from the perspective of both target and perceiver, intergroup relations, as well as how these processes influence educational outcomes. He received the Division of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013.
Judith Smith, Artistic Director and Founding Member of AXIS, has earned an international reputation in the field of physically integrated dance. Upon taking over artistic leadership of AXIS in 1997 she began commissioning works by some of the nation’s best choreographers and launched Dance Access Education Program. Judith teaches and lectures at community organizations, schools, universities and conferences. Judith received the 2009 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award, and KQED’s Local Hero and the Homer Avila danceAble awards in 2005. She was honored with an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement in 2014. In her spare time, Judith is actively involved in thoroughbred racehorse rescue and carriage driving with her team of Percheron horses.