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Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer, educator, and popular public speaker on criminal justice reform. Based in LA, Cullors is the Co-Founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and Founder and Board Chair of grassroots Los Angeles based organization Dignity and Power Now. She has been on the frontlines of criminal justice reform for the last 20 years and is leading Reform LA jails a ballot initiative that will be voted on in March 2020. In 2013, Patrisse co-founded the global movement with the viral twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which has since grown to an international organization with dozens of chapters around the world fighting anti-Black racism. In January 2016, Patrisse Cullors published her memoir, “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.” Her memoir became an instant New York Times Bestseller.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults. Mr. Stevenson has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. Mr. Stevenson and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced. Stevenson’s 2014 bestseller Just Mercy details his experience working to exonerate prisoners on death row, and was made into a movie recently.
Deanna Van Buren is co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, a nonprofit harnessing the power of design and development to transform people and communities. After starting her first company in 2011, she became a national leader in formulating and advocating for restorative justice centers, a radical transformation of justice architecture. Her passion for exploring the intersection of design and culture has been fueled by her work as a design lead on urban design, institutional, and education projects in the Bay Area, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Recent projects with DJDS include the Syracuse Peacemaking Center in New York and Restore, a multi-use hub for restorative justice and workforce development in East Oakland, California. Deanna is currently conducting the first design studios with incarcerated students and is a recent awardee of the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant to develop a prototype mobile resource village.
Alicia Garza is an Oakland-based organizer, writer, public speaker, and freedom dreamer who is currently the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. Garza, along with Opal Tometi and Patrisse Khan-Cullors, also co-founded Black Lives Matter. Since the rise of the BLM movement, Garza has become a powerful voice in the media. Her articles and interviews have been featured in Time, Mic, The Guardian, Elle.com, Essence, Democracy Now!, and The New York Times.Most important, as a queer Black woman, Garza's leadership and work challenge the misconception that only cisgender Black men encounter police and state violence. While the tragic deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown were catalysts for the emergence of the BLM movement, Garza is clear: In order to truly understand how devastating and widespread this type of violence is in Black America, we must view this epidemic through a lens of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Opal Tometi is a globally recognized human rights advocate, strategist and writer of Nigerian-American descent. She has been active in social movements for nearly 20 years, and is widely known for her role as a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and for her years of service as the Executive Director of the United States first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent – the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
Thandiwe Abdullah is a 17-year-old organizer with Black Lives Matter and Co-Founder of the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard. She helped to conceptualize and launch the Black Lives Matter in Schools campaign, adopted by the National Education Association. Her work is to create safe spaces for black youth to organize around racism and anti blackness particularly in schools. Thandiwe has been active with March for Our Lives, emphasizing what gun control must look like for Black youth.
Educator and activist Angela Davis (1944-) became known for her
involvement in a politically charged murder case in the early 1970s. Influenced by her segregated upbringing in Birmingham, Alabama, Davis joined the Black Panthers and an all-black branch of the Communist Party as a young woman. She became a professor at UCLA, but fell out of favor with the administration due to her ties. Davis was charged with aiding the botched escape attempt of imprisoned black radical George Jackson, and served roughly 18 months in jail before her acquittal in 1972. After spending time traveling and lecturing, Davis returned to the classroom as a professor and authored several books.
Civil rights attorney, social justice activist, and best-selling author, Michelle Alexander's eye-opening and notable work, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has been called the "secular Bible of the social movement." An interview subject in Ava DuVernay's 13th, Alexander's commentary in the documentary analyzes the corruption of America's criminal justice system. During her Tedx Talk conversation in 2013, the Union Theological seminary professor addressed the blunt reality of mass incarceration as a system of "millions of people, often poor people and people of color, locked in literal cages, often treated worse than animals, and then upon their release, they're stripped of the basic civil and human rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement."
Cited by President Barack Obama as a leader whose "voice is going to be making a difference for years to come," Brittany is an unapologetic educator, organizer, and writer. Her popular 2019 TED Talk on Confidence has garnered nearly 3 million views worldwide. Brittany is the author of the forthcoming book. Brittany is an NBC News and MSNBC Contributor and former Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics exploring social change and intersectional activism. A lifelong activist and proud member of the Ferguson Uprising, Brittany is co-host of the 2019 iHeartRadio Best Political Podcast, Pod Save The People. In 2018, Brittany launched Love & Power, a hub created to inspire, empower, and outfit everyday people to seismically shift society. Brittany was an appointed member of the Ferguson Commission and President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Today, she continues to advocate for urgent systemic change at critical decision making tables and through national and international media. She is a proud member of the Gucci Changemakers Council and Sephora Equity Advisors, and an advisory board member the National Voter Protection Action Fund, Rise To Run, and Erase The Hate, NBCUniversal's Emmy-Winning initiative to rid the world of discrimination. Ultimately, Brittany is a proud Black woman who believes that freedom is within our grasp- as long as we unleash love, and build our power, because “power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.” (MLK)
Marian Wright Edelman founded the Children's Defense Fund (CDF) in 1973, an organization that improves policies by advocating on behalf of children. Nearly 35 years after starting this organization, Edelman and the CDF launched a national summit to confront “America’s cradle to prison pipeline crisis.” The summit, which took place at Howard University, addressed the "national catastrophe" of mass incarceration among communities of color. It ultimately served as a “call to action to dismantle” the racially biased system that has continuously put black and brown children at a greater disadvantage than their white counterparts.