Dr. Clarence Lusane is a full Professor of Political Science and International Relations, and the former Program Director for Comparative and Regional Studies in the School of International Service at American University where he teaches and researches on comparative race relations, modern social movements, comparative politics of the Americas and Europe and jazz and international relations.
Tim Wise, whom scholar and philosopher Cornel West calls, “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (abolitionist) John Brown,” is among the nation’s most prominent antiracist essayists and educators. Wise appears regularly on CNN and MSNBC to discuss race issues He graduated from Tulane University in 1990 and received antiracism training from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, in New Orleans.
Chicago native Michael Fosberg has been working to create a national dialogue on race and identity since 2001 when he launched his one-man autobiographical play Incognito. The author-activist has used the unique presentation, along with engaging interactive training sessions and speeches, to embrace diversity in an effort to change corporate and organization cultures
Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of twelve, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings online and in print. He wrote, produced, and directed the autobiographical 2013 film, Documented, which CNN Films broadcast in June 2014.
Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be an activist; she did not even involve herself in politics much. But after the Supreme Court ruled against her, she decided it was time to start. The first piece of real legislation Barack Obama signed as the 44th President of the United States helps ensure that workers discriminated on the basis of gender have a fair chance to sue their employers. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named after a woman who was paid less than her male co-workers at an Alabama tire factory.
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, professor, former Black Panther leader and political prisoner. For the past 25 years, she has lectured throughout the United States, where her extraordinary life experiences have enabled her to speak on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women and children, youth, education, incarceration, and the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting change.
Bill Shannon is an internationally renowned dance and media artist who defies definition and gravity. Through storytelling, dance, physical comedy, visual art and live video of street performances, Shannon shares with his audience how his dance/mobility form with crutches and a skateboard slowly evolved into a linguistic project. He documents how he created dance techniques on crutches while performing, speaking and showing his work around the world.
Dr. Cross is “old school” and his involvement in the racial-cultural discourse dates back to 1971. He exited the Graduate Center-CUNY in 2008 as professor emeritus, with the intention of retiring, but as he tells his friends, he is a total failure at retiring, and has since held positions at UNLV and is currently at the University of Denver. Dr. Cross took his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1976 and has held positions at Cornell University, Penn State University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Graduate Center-CUNY, UNLV and the University of Denver. His most recent work is an edited volume on black identity [Meaning Making, Internalized Racism, and African American Identity] on SUNY Press and is due to be published in the spring of 2016. Jas Sullivan, Ph.D., of the LSU Political Science Department, is co-editor.
Marsha Aizumi’s work in the Asian & Pacific Islander and transgender communities has taken her around the United States and overseas to China as she shares how her shame, grief, and fear moved into unconditional love and acceptance for her son, Aiden. Marsha and Aiden have written a book, Two Spirits, One Heart, which was published in 2013 by Magnus Books. Together or individually, Marsha and Aiden have spoken to over 100 organizations around the country. She co-founded and is current President of the San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG and in 2014 she co-chaired Okaeri (which means welcome home in Japanese) a Nikkei LGBTQ gathering which drew close to 200 people from across the nation and Canada.
Growing up in a little alley in Manila, Philippines, Geena Rocero knew that she was different from her childhood friends. At a young age, she told her mom that her gender assignment at birth did not fit her identity. Via a random encounter during a town fiesta at the age of fifteen, a pageant manager approached her to join a beauty contest. This opportunity led her to the world of TransWomen Beauty Pageant in the Philippines. As a young teenager, she then became one of the most prominent figures in the Trans Beauty Pageant world. Geena is currently traveling the globe as Gender Proud’s Founder, meeting with trans communities all over the world. Her speaking engagements in the US focus on starting a new, more enlightened conversation about the transgender experience.
Dr. Rosemarie Allen has served as an educational leader for over 30 years. Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate. Rosemarie has served in directorship roles with the Colorado Department of Human Services, most recently in the Division of Youth Corrections. Dr. Allen recently launched a new non-profit; Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence (IREE) which will serve as the lead agency for ensuring equity in educational practices throughout the nation.
Representative Leslie Herod (HD-8) was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the General Assembly, while receiving the highest number of votes of any candidate running in a contested election. She serves as the Chair of the House Finance Committee, Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Chair of the Committee on Legal Services. Rep. Herod also chairs the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus and the Arts Caucus.
Since her election in 2016, Herod has sent 68 bills to the Governor’s desk, marshaling through numerous pieces of legislation addressing criminal justice reform, mental health & substance abuse, renewable energy, youth homelessness, and civil rights protections. Her legislative agenda underscores her commitment to improving the lives of all Coloradans, especially those caught in the cycle of poverty or mired in the criminal justice system.