Building on the ongoing invitation and practice of centering Blackness as a path to build collective power and justice for all, YWCA Madison’s 20th Racial Justice Summit theme, this year, is Reimagining Us: Unapologetic Love, Transformative Justice, and Radical Imagination. Our invitation this year is the continuation of co-creating a legacy of racial justice and collective liberation for future generations by deliberately seeding who we need to be as whole people in relationship with each other and Nature. In this common imperative of Reimagining Us, we offer the practices of unapologetic love, transformative justice, and radical imagination as compasses for our journey towards co-liberation.
All virtual keynotes will feature American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and captioning in English.
Featured Keynote Speaker Bios
Valarie Kaur is a renowned civil rights leader, lawyer, best-selling author, award-winning filmmaker, educator, innovator, and celebrated prophetic voice. She leads the Revolutionary Love Project to reclaim love as a force for justice.
Valarie burst into American consciousness in the wake of the 2016 election when her Watch Night Service address went viral with 40 million views worldwide. Her question “Is this the darkness of the tomb – or the darkness of the womb?” reframed the political moment and became a mantra for people fighting for change. In the last twenty years, Valarie has won policy change on multiple fronts – hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detention, solitary confinement, Internet freedom, and more.
She founded Groundswell Movement, Faithful Internet, and the Yale Visual Law Project to inspire and equip advocates at the intersection of spirituality, storytelling, and justice. Valarie has been a regular TV commentator on MSNBC and contributor to CNN, NPR, PBS, the Hill, Huffington Post, and the Washington Post. A daughter of Sikh farmers in California’s heartland, Valarie earned degrees at Stanford University, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale Law School. Valarie’s debut book, SEE NO STRANGER: A Memoir & Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, was released in 2020 and expands on her “blockbuster” TED Talk.
Darnell Moore is the Director of Inclusion Strategy for Content & Marketing at Netflix. Moore’s advocacy centers on marginal identity, youth development, and other social justice issues in the United States and abroad. In 2018, his first book No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America was released, and he was named one of The Root 100’s most influential African Americans.
He is the former Head of Strategy and Programs (U.S.) for Breakthrough TV, editor-at-large at CASSIUS (an iOne digital platform), and senior editor and correspondent at Mic. He is the co-managing editor at The Feminist Wire and the writer-in-residence at the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice at Columbia University. Along with NFL player Wade Davis II, he co- founded YOU Belong, a social good company focused on the development of diversity initiatives.
He is the host of Mic’s digital series, “The Movement,” which was nominated for a Breakthrough Series: Short Form Award at the 2016 IFP Gotham Awards. He has led and participated in several critical dialogues including the 58th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington National Panel on Race, Discrimination and Poverty, the 2012 Seminar on Debates on Religion and Sexuality at Harvard Divinity School, and as a member of the first US delegation of LGBTQ leaders to Palestine in 2012.
A prolific writer, Moore has been published in various media outlets including MSNBC, The Guardian, Huffington Post, EBONY, The Root, The Advocate, OUT Magazine,Gawker, Truth Out, VICE, Guernica, Mondoweiss, Thought Catalog,Good Men Project, and others, as well as numerous academic journals including QED: A Journal in GLBT World Making, Women Studies Quarterly, Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology,Transforming Anthropology, Black Theology: An International Journal, and Harvard Journal of African American Policy, among others. He also edited the art book Nicolaus Schmidt: Astor Place, Broadway, New York: A Universe of Hairdressers (Kerber Verlag) and has published essays in several edited books.
Mia Mingus is a writer, educator and trainer for transformative justice and disability justice. She is a queer physically disabled korean transracial and transnational adoptee raised in the Caribbean. She works for community, interdependence and home for all of us, not just some of us, and longs for a world where disabled children can live free of violence, with dignity and love. As her work for liberation evolves and deepens, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence.
Mia has been involved in transformative justice work for almost 2 decades. She is a prison abolitionist and a survivor who believes that we must move beyond punishment, revenge and criminalization if we are ever to effectively break generational cycles of violence and create the world our hearts long for. She is passionate about building the skills, relationships and structures that can transform violence, harm and abuse within our communities and that do not rely on or replicate the punitive system we currently live in. Mia speaks and gives trainings about transformative justice throughout North America, and has supported numerous groups, organizations, individuals, intimate networks, families and communities in addressing harm, violence and abuse using transformative justice.
Mia helped to create and forward the disability justice framework. Her writings on disability have been used around the world and are a regular part of college and university curricula. Her blog, Leaving Evidence, has become a staple resource for anyone wanting to learn about disability and she has coined language and concepts such as “access intimacy,” “magnificence,” “politically and descriptively disabled” and “forced intimacy.” Mia has played a key role in connecting disability justice with other movements and communities and she has worked tirelessly to educate different communities about disability, ableism, access, disability justice and abled supremacy.
Dr. Joy DeGruy is a nationally and internationally renowned writer, speaker, social scientist, and educator in the areas of intergenerational/Historical trauma, mental health, social justice, improvement strategies, and evidence based model development. She holds two master degrees in Social Work and Clinical psychology. Her doctorate degree is in Social Work research, and she has over thirty years of practical experience as a professional in the field of social work.
Dr. DeGruy’s research focuses on the intersection of racism, trauma, violence and American chattel slavery. Her book Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing shows its readers how the persistence of this intersection suffuses our daily lives. Indeed, Dr. DeGruy travels across the globe to share this message and has held these aforementioned lectures almost everywhere.She has also graced her presence, time and thoughts with—Morehouse School of Medicine, Smith College, Stonybrook College, Harvard University, Tulane University, Everett Community College, Fisk University, Oxford University, the Essence Music Festival, and the County of LA department of mental health. She has also done consulting work with Oprah Winfrey.
For over two decades, she served as an Assistant Professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work, and now serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Joy DeGruy Publications Inc.
Tom DeWolf is an author, public speaker, trainer and workshop facilitator, and, since 2013, has served as Director/Manager for Coming to the Table, where he now serves as co-manager with Jodie Geddes. He has traveled extensively throughout the United States speaking and leading workshops and trainings at colleges, universities, conferences, and other venues. He exposes hidden elements of history and shows how traumatic, unhealed wounds from the past continue to impact everyone today. Such wounds are expressed on campuses and elsewhere as racism, sexism, and other forms of intolerance, separation, and hierarchies of human value. With compassion and humor, Tom illuminates a path toward healing and a more hopeful future.
Tom is the author of Inheriting the Trade (Beacon Press, 2008), the story of his experiences in the making of the Emmy-nominated, PBS documentary, Traces of the Trade, and co-author, with Sharon Leslie Morgan, of Gather at the Table (Beacon Press, 2012), which won the Phillis Wheatley Award for best Nonfiction/Biography & Memoir in 2013. The African American Jazz Caucus awarded Tom the 2012 Spirit of Freedom Award for Social Justice. Tom is also co-author, with Jodie Geddes, of The Little Book of Racial Healing (Skyhorse, 2019).
Tom and his wife Lindi live in Oregon.
Mariame Kaba is an organizer, educator, curator, and prison industrial complex (PIC) abolitionist who is active in movements for racial, gender, and transformative justice. Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots abolitionist organization with a vision to end youth incarceration. Mariame is currently a researcher at Interrupting Criminalization, a project she co-founded with Andrea Ritchie in 2018.
Mariame has co-founded multiple other organizations and projects over the years including We Charge Genocide, the Chicago Freedom School, the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women, Love & Protect, the Just Practice Collaborative and Survived & Punished.
Kaba is a current Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom fellow. Mariame is the author of Missing Daddy (Haymarket 2019). Her current book, We Do This Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice was published by Haymarket Press in February 2021 and debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.
Mariame’s leadership, organizing and influence extend widely as she offers a radical analysis that influences how people think and respond to how violence, prisons and policing affect the lives of people of color.
adrienne maree brown is the writer-in-residence at the Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute. She is the author of: Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation, We Will Not Cancel Us and Other Dreams of Transformative Justice, the NY Times Bestseller Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, the radical self/planet help book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, and is the co-editor of the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements with Walidah Imarisha. She is the co-host of several podcasts, including: How to Survive the End of the World, Emergent Strategy, and Octavia’s Parable podcasts. adrienne is rooted in Detroit.
She has helped to cultivate work and thinking about Octavia Butler and Emergent Strategy, gathering a loose knit global network of people interested in reading Octavia’s work from a political and strategic framework. This is currently practiced through Octavia’s Parables, a podcast in which adrienne and Toshi Reagon read Octavia Butler’s work chapter by chapter. adrienne is also working with a large team to produce a tarot deck honoring Octavia’s wisdom.
adrienne studied with generative somatics Teacher Training for a decade to deepen her healing, doula and facilitation work. She is part of the Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity team, at the intersection of political education, community organizing, somatics and Black love.
adrienne was the facilitator of the founding year of the Detroit Narrative Agency (DNA), supporting Detroiters to shift the narratives of the city towards justice and liberation. She has facilitated the internal healing and visionary development of organizations throughout the movement ; most recently BYP100, Movement for Black Lives, the Rising Majority and Black Lives Matter.
adrienne was awarded the Auburn Institute’s Spiritual Resilience Fellowship in its inaugural year.
Her upcoming books include Grievers (co-launching the Black Dawn Imprint of AK Press, Fall 2021), and Fables and Spells: Collected and New Short Stories and Poems (AK Press, Winter 2021). You can learn more about adrienne’s work and journey at: http://adriennemareebrown.net/
Tokata (Future) Iron Eyes is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and has been confronting injustice since she was 9 years old, when she testified against a uranium mine in the sacred Black Hills. As a youth leader in the climate movement, she continues to demonstrate her commitment to compelling the world to listen to Indigenous Nations— from the NODAPL movement at Standing Rock to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women across the US.
Tokata understands the power of the media and utilizes her voice to evoke change in complacent hearts. She travels all over the world lifting the collective consciousness in response to the human caused climate crisis.
Growing up on the Standing Rock and Pine Ridge reservations she has received both Western and Indigenous teachings, giving her the natural ability to relate to multitudes and share an uncensored perspective on the uncomfortable truths of colonization and capitalism.
Tokata was recently featured on the Marvel Hero Project on Disney+, a series shining light on young people who are changing the world. She is also a singer, songwriter and recently began attending college in January 2020. Tokata hopes to inspire more youth from indigenous communities as well as around the world to use their voice and confront injustice.
Raelyn Williams works as a Preventionist at a state coalition against sexual and intimate partner violence in Richmond, Virginia (occupied Powhatan land) focusing on youth justice and healthy sexuality. She has called Richmond her home for the past few years after graduating from undergrad where she studied art and activism. She has worked with SONG Richmond Chapter, RISE for Youth, and Performing Statistics where she continues to learn and grow in her political education. With these organizations she has been able to engage in art as a tool for social change, policy work, and program development. She also has collaborated with Project Nia’s Abolitionist Youth Organizing Institute to co-create Cosmic Possibilities: An Intergalactic Youth Guide to Abolition
Summit Closing Artists: Cosmic Possibilities
Sadé Swift is a queer Black Dominican who has been organzing for 10+ years. They were born and raised in Washington Heights and now reside in the Bronx. They are a worker owner and co-founder of two worker-owned cooperative businesses, Cards by De, a stationery cooperative, and Rebellious Root, a consulting cooperative working towards justice and social change through training, curriculum design and intentional conversations. Sade is currently the Advocacy Council Coordinator for the NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives (NYCNOWC). They believe that a big part of the worker co-op sector’s recent development has been deepening its understanding of the cooperative ecosystem and through growing base building and partnerships. They are currently on the US Solidarity Economy Network (USSEN) and Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City (CEANYC) board and hopes to continue building as an abolitionist and organizer across time, space, and sectors!
Naira Luke-Alemán is a printmaker from Yonkers, NY. She got her first taste of collaborative art practices at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, a co-operative printmaking workspace that reflected the spaces she began to imagine herself and peers in. Through the gracious members of the workshop, she became involved with AYO, NYC (Abolitionist Youth Organization, NYC) where she collaborated on the development of their workbook, Cosmic Possibilities: An Intergalactic Youth Guide to Abolition. Moving forward, she hopes to explore more collaborative art spaces within abolition that may serve forms of healing.
Erin Kong (they/them/theirs) is an interdisciplinary cultural worker based in so-called Phoenix, Arizona. They are co-founder of Desert Diwata, and a huge fan of soup. They were one of Project NIA’s 2020 Abolitionist Youth Organizing Institute Fellow and Uplift 2021 Organizing Fellow. You can find more about their work at www.erinkong.com or Instagram: @erin.kong
Baylor Andrews (she/they/he) is a Queer Black organizer from the Dirty South. They grew up between Atlanta, GA and Hardeeville, SC. Through their southern roots they have learned to tend to the earth through farming and foraging. Currently Baylor is in a mental health counseling program in NYC, but their dream is to move back to the South and live on a farm, herding livestock and growing fruit trees, teas, and herbs for their community.
Miguel Ramirez is an Afro Dominican poet, born and raised in the Bronx. He uses his voice as a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, as well as a retaliation against societal norms and standards, which seclude many. He uses his poetry to fight for these causes and express the generational frustration & trauma of those systemically casted away.
You can connect with him on Instagram @Miguelangel.76
Featured Artists Alice Y. Traore
Alice Y. Traore currently resides in Madison, WI, yet has deep roots in Peoria, IL. She is the daughter of Melba and Preston Jackson. Alice works at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a facilitator and curriculum designer of learning communities that assist faculty and staff in the exploration and implications of their social and cultural identities.
Alice describes herself as a self-taught watercolor artist. Her artist-life adds an additional layer of depth to her full-time work as it provides her further space to explore her own socio-cultural journey.
I describe myself as a self-taught watercolor artist who explores topics such as Black woman liberation and the centering of marginalized bodies. I often use the image of the mermaid as an aquatic presence who watched over the souls of enslaved people who did not survive their trans-Atlantic kidnapping. In my mind, she has reappeared in contemporary times in the wake of continued violence against Black humanity. Also, I have recently created several self-portraits. During the pandemic, many of us found ourselves turning our gazes inward.
The self-portraits reflect the thoughts I either welcomed or was forced to reckon with during this time of isolation. I thought a great deal about healing from racial trauma, mending broken relationships, and how I wish to journey through the rest of my life after the world reopens. The periods of time I spent in painting these portraits became time for meditation and reflection. As my skill and technique improve, I plan to evolve my subject matter so that my art becomes my activism. We all need our stories told so that we can better understand each other’s lived experiences, and we all need positive reflections of ourselves. My hope is to create art that encourages conversation. Where words fail us, images say more than we can ever imagine.