About the Summit
For nineteen years, YWCA Madison’s Racial Justice Summit has been a space and experience that has brought people in the Madison Community together for deep learning and invitation to action for racial justice. In the 2020 reality of COVID-19, as well as the immense shift in the national conversation around racism and the need for systemic change following the uprisings in defense of Black Life, we intend to build on the experiences of prior Summits to offer a virtual gathering place for even deeper learning, vision casting, and movement building.
This year’s theme is:
Reconstruction. Centering Blackness – A Path to Build Collective Power and Justice for All.
This theme invites us all to radically build on ancestral decolonizing ways of being, relating and co-creating in society, as well as to develop new paradigms. These new paradigms must be shaped by what we all deeply and collectively value in life — dignity, freedom of choice, justice, sacredness, and opportunity for wellbeing. These are times to stand together in dismantling and unlearning the white supremacist ideology and anti-blackness that is present in our current social structures and cultures. Centering Blackness offers us a profound opportunity to uproot the perpetuation of violence, scarcity, and economic order based on extraction and exploitation as determined by whiteness.
Centering Blackness guides us in shifting the direction of our future with bold, courageous, and radically creative actions today. We are on the brink of co-creating a new era of Reconstruction—this time with an understanding of our sacred interconnectedness as we envision new policies, systems, and institutions. Centering Blackness steers our bodies, minds, and imagination in a whole different direction—one where everyone can truly thrive and experience shared dignity, abundance, and joy.
2020 Summit BIPOC Attendee
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) is an internationally acclaimed author, orator, and activist that has devoted her life to protecting the lands and lifeways of Native communities. She works nationally and internationally on issues of Sustainable Development, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice. Winona is the founder and Co-Director of Honor the Earth, a national advocacy group encouraging public support and funding for native environmental groups.
In her own community in northern Minnesota, she is the founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based non-profit organizations in the country, and a leader on the issues of culturally-based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy, and food systems.
Alicia M. Walters facilitates transformation through her writing, art, coaching, and organizational consulting practice. She is the Creator of the Black Thought Project which transforms public spaces into sanctuaries for the expression of Black thought. The project’s interactive community installations are social experiments exploring what society would be like if we protected, witnessed, and honored Blackness. The project is unearthing new narratives that center Blackness, put us into the right relationship with each other, and reimagine society in a way that honors everyone’s humanity.
Alicia’s work has long been a practice of centering Blackness for personal and political, cultural, and systemic transformation. She is the founder of Echoing Ida which cultivates and uplifts Black women’s thought leadership to shift narratives, as evidenced by the growing collective of more than 30 writers, the publishing of over 500 articles, a podcast, and an anthology of work to be published in Fall 2020. In the policy realm, she authored groundbreaking legislation to prohibit the shackling of pregnant people in California jails and prisons that has since been replicated across several states. She led the multi-state participatory research project that resulted in Who Pays: the True Cost of Incarceration on Families, which influenced a cultural shift in understanding the damage of incarceration on Black women and families. Alicia and her work have been featured in the New York Times and the Together Apart podcast, The Guardian, Ebony, and CNN among other places. She lives, mothers, and builds community in the revolutionary city of Oakland, California.
Dr. john a. powell
john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, housing, poverty, and democracy. He is the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute that brings together scholars, community advocates, communicators, and policymakers to identify and eliminate the barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society and to create transformative change toward a more equitable world.
In addition to being a Professor of Law and Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor powell holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion. He has written extensively on a number of issues including structural racism, racial justice, concentrated poverty, opportunity-based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa, and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society. 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.
Charlene is the founder and executive director of the Chicago Center for Leadership and Transformation, a locally rooted and nationally connected learning community for political education, grassroots organizing, language, and strategic communications capacity building. Her work has been covered in several publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Chicago Reader, The Nation, Ebony, and Essence Magazines. She has appeared on CNN, Democracy Now!, BBC and MSNBC. Charlene has also written for theRoot.com, CRISIS Magazine, Teen Vogue, Truthout, Colorlines, and the Boston Review. She is recognized as one of the top 10 most influential African Americans by The Root 100, one of Ebony Magazine’s “Woke 100,” an Emerging Power Player in Chicago Magazine, and is the 2017 recipient of the YWCA’s Dr. Dorothy I. Height Award.
A believer in telling more complete stories about the Black Radical Tradition, Charlene provides critical analysis, political education, and leadership development training for activists across the globe. Charlene has served as a featured speaker at various institutions including Wellesley College, Shaw University, Princeton University, Northwestern University, and her alma mater Illinois Wesleyan University. Charlene also received a Master of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Charlene was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she currently resides and continues to lead and partake in social justice movements. Her inspirations include a range of Black women, including her mother, Ella Baker, Cathy Cohen, Marsha P. Johnson, and Barbara Ransby. In her free time, Charlene loves to cook and believes the best way to learn about people is through their food.
Charlene is the author of the bestselling book, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (Beacon Press).
The Real Young Prodigy’s
The Real Young Prodigy’s (TRYP) is a young Musical Educational Hip-Hop Group from Louisville, Kentucky. Their members Devon Pitney, Donielle Pitney, DeAngela McMillan, Jeriah McMillan, Renee Robinson, and Andrene Flowers together with the visionary support of adult educators Antonio Taylor & Nyree Clayton-Taylor are now together for 5 years. TRYP started when their members were in Elementary School and shared their passion for writing and music, their teacher Nyree saw their talent, and together with Antonio (Tony) they have been supporting their development since then. Nyree Clayton-Taylor has been awarded 2019 Kentucky Elementary Teacher of the Year at their hometown in Kentucky, and they have all been active and supportive of Breonna Taylor’s family and fight for justice.
Opal Ellyse Tomashevska is a poet, hip hop artist, community leader, and storyteller. Writing poems since she was 15 and performing spoken word pieces since her college days at The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, poetry has been a way for Opal to not only express herself but also work through her own thoughts and feelings as a form of art therapy. Since she knows many people can relate to this benefit of the spoken word she feels compelled to write and speak on certain subjects that touch her soul.
Her themes touch on all subjects from her own life and from the lives she has been blessed to observe. Her most touched on topic is social injustice of any form. The realities of American racial discrimination and the detriment of poverty world-wide are often explored and explained in ways that have double and triple meanings in her poems. Opal works for CUNA Mutual Group as a Sr. Manager of Multicultural Business Strategy, and has been able to use her poetry to teach content in new ways, motivate and engage employees, and show business partners their new direction in terms of creativity, innovation, diversity, and inclusion.
In 2019 Opal released a full-length Spoken Word poetry album entitled “My Name is Opal” the album is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, and everywhere music is streamed.
Rob Franklin, also known as Rob Dz, is the Media Projects Bubblerarian for the Madison Public Library. As a Kennedy Center certified teaching artist for the Making Justice program, his primary focus is on creating workshops on Hip Hop, Spoken Word, and Personal Branding as positive forms of self-expression. Rob has held residencies with Madison youth in elementary, middle, and high schools, community centers, the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center and Juvenile Shelter Home, Neighborhood Intervention Program, Madison Jazz Consortium, and with The Black Star Drum Line. As a musician, he has performed with the likes of Nas, Eminem, Common, Talib Kweli, Black Eyed Peas, Morris Day and The Time, and others. In 2017, he was inducted to the American Folklife Center at the Library Of Congress and The National Museum of African American History and Culture as a member of The Story Corps program.
Isha Camara is a twenty-year-old third year hailing from South Minneapolis and a proud Aries. She’s been writing and performing poetry since the age of thirteen. She really enjoys visual art, anime, and astrology. Most subjects she writes about circle thoughts and experiences of her identity as a Black Muslim woman and the ways in which she navigates in America; then understanding how America responds back to her. Isha’s purpose is to give a narrative that creates conversations driven by tenderness.
Circles of Community Learning, Practice and Action (CCLPA)
Transformative Justice for Healing Harm
This session hosted M.Adams, Zon Houa, and Mahnker Dahnweih from Freedom Inc. guided Summit participants in a dialogue to wrestle with the tough questions on how to approach ending violence without police and how to do justice work with survivors of violence at the center.
Electoral Justice and Community-Led Policy
This session by Angela Lang from Black Leaders Organizing Communities, BLOC based in Milwaukee, guided Summit participants to explore ideas and concepts of democracy as well as it’s shortcomings. Our democracy doesn’t allow for full 100% participation and there are often barriers to access. Summit participants discussed how authentic relational organizing helps expand access to democracy.
Centering Blackness as A Path Towards Economic Justice for All
This session hosted by Jaquelyn L. Boggess offered Summit participants an opportunity to understand how truly transformative efforts for economic justice and equity for all will require an antiracist focus on current policy that centers and punishes black people.
Food Access and Food Justice
This session hosted by Monica White used strategies consistent with Collective Agency and Community Resilience to offer Summit participants a historical analysis of agriculture in Detroit and other community-based food systems with particular attention to the work of Black farmers and the impact of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.
2020 Summit White Attendee
Thank You to our 2020 Racial Justice Summit Sponsors
Sponsorship Opportunities are no longer available for this year’s Summit. If you are interested in sponsoring our 2021 Racial Justice Summit, you may reach out to Jill Pfeiffer. THANK YOU!