Speakers

Kiran Ahuja

Kiran Ahuja serves as CEO of Philanthropy Northwest, a six-state network of foundations and corporate giving programs, based in Seattle, Washington. Kiran has more than two decades of public service and nonprofit sector leadership experience, including senior positions in the Obama administration. Kiran has made it her life’s work to serve diverse communities. She began her career as a civil rights lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice, litigating long-standing desegregation cases, and filing the department’s first student racial harassment case. From 2003 to 2008, she served as the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, an advocacy and membership organization with regional chapters around the country, including NAPAWF Seattle. She spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal services, resources and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). In that role, Kiran assembled a historic gathering of philanthropists at the White House in 2012 to discuss the state of AAPIs and leverage resources and public/private partnerships between foundations and government to support AAPI communities. She went on to serve as chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where she played a key role in building a dynamic senior leadership team at a critical juncture for the 6,000 person-agency. Kiran grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where her family immigrated from India. Her parents ran a medical clinic in Savannah’s inner city, first exposing her to entrenched challenges faced by impoverished communities. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Georgia.

 

Aimee Allison is the Founder of She the People, the national network elevating the political voice and power of women of color. By bringing together the most promising women of color candidates, strategists, and movement leaders, Ms. Allison is one of the primary architects for the electoral successes in 2018 that made it the “year of women of color in politics.” In September 2018, she convened the first summit to focus on women of color in politics to show that social justice can, in fact, become the law of the land. A democratic innovator and visionary, Ms. Allison has led forums and initiatives on race and gender at the Democratic National Convention and Politicon, among others. In conjunction with her leadership of She the People, Ms. Allison is the former President of Democracy in Color, dedicated to empowering the multiracial progressive electorate through media, public conversations, research, and analysis. She has led national efforts to build inclusive, multiracial coalitions, expand the electorate, and support leaders who advocate for a progressive future. A thought leader, a speaker, and a writer, Ms. Allison's acclaimed podcast, “Democracy in Color,” has featured some of the best and brightest political leadership, including Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Congressman Ted Lieu, and Senator Cory Booker. In the early 1990’s, Ms. Allison was one of the first women of color to be honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector and works today to support courageous, moral leadership. Aimee Allison holds a B.A. in history and M.A. in education from Stanford University. Author of Army of None, she has written for the New York Times, The Hill, and ESSENCE Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @aimeeallison.

Aimee Allison
 
Dawn Bennett

Dawn Bennett has been an advocate for children and teens throughout her career. As a basketball player and coach, gang prevention specialist and caseworker for the city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools, Dawn has worked to support those who might otherwise fall through the education gaps. During her work on political campaigns and as a community organizer, she co-founded the Multicultural Education Rights Alliance (McERA) in 2011 with Kerry Cooley-Stroum to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline through education and action. Dawn is one of those people that when you are in her presence you immediately feel loved and inspired to be a better version of yourself. With her passion for the rights of those who have been marginalized, coupled with a true community advocate’s heart and a cool young auntie’s soul, when you’re near her you know she has most of the answers, but her beauty shows up as she patiently and willingly arrives there with you. For adult leaders and educators navigating difficult conversations of race, class and power intersecting, specifically in education, Dawn never runs from what is right. William P. Young wrote, “You don’t play a game or color a picture with a child to show your superiority. Rather, you choose to limit yourself so as to facilitate and honor that relationship. You will even lose a competition to accomplish love. It is not about winning and losing, but about love and respect.” Dawn Bennett is respect, and Dawn Bennett most definitely is love. Dawn’s love for self, her love for community, her love for advocacy, her love for education, educators, families and most importantly children, radiate from her pores. If and when you ever get the opportunity to be near Dawn Bennett, you leave better than when you came. Dawn Bennett is indeed what Maya Angelou famously stated: “Phenomenal Woman.” And Dawn Bennett is the embodiment of Black history, today.

 

At the intersection of social justice, political empowerment, human development and the cultural arts one will find LaTosha Brown. As a catalyst for change, thought leader and social strategist, her national and global efforts have been known to organize, inspire and catapult people into action—not just lip service—enabling them to build power and wealth for themselves and their community. Honored to receive the 2010 White House Champion of Change Award, the 2006 Spirit of Democracy Award and the Louis Burnham Award for Human Rights, it is more than evident that LaTosha is passionate about leading social change for the purpose of advancing humanity, creating a more equitable redistribution of wealth and power around the globe. Where other leaders see nothing but poverty, despair and destitution, this 2018 Bridge Jubilee Award and Liberty Bell Award recipient sees great opportunity. To her, there is more than enough resources on the planet to comfortably sustain every human being. Affectionately known by many as a “Black Renaissance” woman, her southern roots, coupled with her global thoughts toward people, ideas and money, have opened doors for her to maximize her voice in the U.S., as well as over 30 countries abroad. In addition to being recognized as a well-respected leader in the South who has led numerous initiatives, campaigns and special projects to empower marginalized communities, LaTosha is leading several international efforts to provide training, support and funding for women-led institutions based in Guyana, Senegal, Belize and Tanzania. Having raised millions of dollars for a variety of causes throughout the U.S., she is most known for her philanthropic efforts as an effective fundraiser and resource person. From creating community-led funds to establishing donor networks, LaTosha has raised millions of dollars to support social justice causes and created projects that bring more investments into marginalized communities. As the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute, LaTosha is adamant about ensuring that all human beings have access to quality education, safety, security, peace, love and happiness. Striving daily to hear the voices of women in leadership amplified and supported, she is also working to eliminate human suffering through her vision of the Southern Black Girls & Women’s Consortium. Recognizing that her work is not rooted in strengthening political systems, governments or institutions—but in the advancement of people—LaTosha serves as an authoritative figure in the lives of thousands, if not millions. More than ever, she’s crystal clear that she is called to remind people of the power they hold within, pushing them through the birthing process of vision to manifestation. Transforming culture through her singing and songwriting, this innovative storyteller is shifting the narrative of African-Americans through media, campaigns and nonprofit projects. Featured on CNN, HBO, MSNBC and Fox, to name a few, Latosha also proudly serves as the founder of Saving OurSelves Coalition, a community-led disaster relief organization that helped hundreds of families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Currently, she serves on the board of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the Southern Documentary Fund, the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center. After having worked with her, clients, colleagues and friends alike gain more clarity about their vision and life’s work, connection to quality resources, and a deeper sense of their own humanity after having encountered the incomparable LaTosha Brown.

LaTosha Brown
 
Khalilah L. Brown-Dean

Khalilah L. Brown-Dean is an Award-Winning Scholar, Accomplished Author, and Visionary Community Leader. A tenured Associate Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University and former Faculty Co-Coordinator of the Health Policy and Advocacy concentration in the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine, her work is published in numerous scholarly and public outlets such as The New York Times, Politics, Groups, and Identities, the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, the National Political Science Review, Political Science Quarterly, PS: Political Science and Politics, and The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Dr. Brown-Dean is co-author of “Fifty Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics” for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a contributing researcher for the Urban League of Southern Connecticut’s “State of Urban Connecticut” project. With a keen eye toward the practical implications of democratic conflict, Dr. Brown-Dean is a preeminent expert on issues of criminal punishment, mass incarceration, voting rights, and U.S. elections. Her work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Prosperity Foundation. Brown-Dean’s forthcoming book, Identity Politics in the United States, will be published in September 2019 by Polity Press. The book moves beyond the headlines to examine how issues of identity and difference shape every aspect of American politics from debates over immigration to the rise of the Religious Right. Dr. Brown-Dean has earned numerous accolades for her scholarship and public service. In 2009, she was named a Senior Justice Advocacy Fellow by the Open Society Foundations and previously served as Research Advisor to the National Presbyterian Church’s Voting Rights and Electoral Reform Committee. The findings of her research helped guide community mobilization efforts during death penalty abolition campaigns in multiple states. She works with legislators, community organizations, and activists to center the experiences of victims and their families within criminal justice reform efforts. She is featured in two documentaries, “The Color of Justice” and “Extinction.” In 2014, Connecticut Magazine named Dr. Brown-Dean one of its “40 Under 40,” the best and brightest among Connecticut’s Generation Next. Diverse Magazine also lists her as one of its “Top 25 Women in Higher Education and Beyond.” Dr. Brown-Dean is a highly sought-after public speaker who is committed to helping universities, corporations, community organizations, non-profits, and philanthropic institutions deepen their commitment to civic engagement and equity. She serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven; one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the country. Previously, she served on the Board of Prison Policy Initiative and was an Appointed Member of the Women and Girls Policy Committee for Connecticut’s Gubernatorial transition team. In addition to serving as an advisor to numerous government, educational, and community organizations, Brown-Dean has held elected and appointed positions in a number of organizations including the American Political Science Association, the National Association for Ethnic Studies, and the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. She is a recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Outstanding Community Service Award, the Game Changer Award in Public Safety and Criminal Justice, and the National Association of Blacks in Law Enforcement’s Justice Advocate Award. Dr. Brown-Dean’s commentary has been featured in numerous outlets such as The New York Times, Vox, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, Crisis Magazine, Fox News Radio, Democracy Now, TheGrio.com, Uptown Magazine, Ebony.com, The Washington Post, the American Urban Radio Network, Dominion of New York, and the New York Daily News. Dr. Brown-Dean is a weekly contributor to Philadelphia’s WURD Radio and pens a weekly column for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. Dr. Brown-Dean is committed to making her work relevant, accessible, and informative to myriad audiences. She earned her BA in Government from The University of Virginia and a Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University.

 

Vanessa Daniel is the founder and Executive Director of Groundswell Fund, the largest funder of the U.S. reproductive justice movement and of Groundswell Action Fund, the largest fund in the country centering giving to women of color-led 501c4 organizations. Under her leadership, Groundswell has moved more than $50 million to the field, with a focus on grassroots organizing led by women of color, low income women and transgender people, and ninety percent of its total giving going to work led by women of color. Vanessa’s roots in labor and community organizing inspired a unique funding model at Groundswell: a program staff team of women of color who come directly out of grassroots organizing and who support grantees through grantmaking, capacity building, and funder organizing to raise the visibility of grantee work in the broader funder/donor community. Groundswell’s work includes the only fund in the country dedicated to supporting access to midwifery and doula care for women of color, low income women and transgender people, and a robust, women of color-led Integrated Voter Engagement training program. In 2017, Groundswell received the National Committee of Responsible Philanthropy’s “Impact Award” for smashing issue silos and Vanessa was featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy as one of 15 “Influencers” who are changing the non-profit world. She is also the recipient of a 2012 Gerbode Foundation Fellowship, and the 2017 National Network for Abortion Funds’ Abortion Action Vanguard Award. Prior to Groundswell, Vanessa supported LGBT rights, economic and environmental justice grantmaking at Tides Foundation; organized homecare workers with SEIU; helped win a landmark living wage law with the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE); and conducted research to support the organizing efforts of welfare mothers with the Applied Research Center (now Race Forward). Vanessa currently serves on the Board of Directors of Common Counsel Foundation. She has a B.A. in American Ethnic Studies from Smith College and is a graduate of the Center for Third World Organizing’s Movement Activist Apprenticeship Program.

Vanessa Daniel
 
Abigail Echo-Hawk, M.A.

Abigail Echo-Hawk, M.A., an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, is the Chief Research Officer for the Seattle Indian Health Board, a Federally Qualified Health Center serving American Indians and Alaska Natives in King County, Washington. She also serves as the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), a Tribal Epidemiology Center whose mission is to support the health and well-being of urban Indian communities through information, scientific inquiry, and technology. UIHI assists a national network of Urban Indian Health Programs, which are private nonprofit corporations that provide native people in select cities a range of health and social services, from outreach and referral to full ambulatory care. Ms. Echo-Hawk directs a staff of public health professionals who work on multiple ongoing research, evaluation, and disease surveillance projects to benefit American Indian/Alaska Natives in urban and rural settings. She received the University of Washington Bothell’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2013 for her dedication to eliminating health disparities and was also recognized in the 2015 class of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s (NCAIED) Native American 40 Under 40. As a dedicated community volunteer, Ms. Echo-Hawk has concentrated on policy and institutional change to eliminate disparities for women of color locally and nationally. She focuses on policy advocacy in areas such as maternal and child health, domestic violence, sexual assault, and health disparities. Volunteer memberships include the Native American Women’s Dialogue on Infant Mortality, Hope Heart Institute, the Center for Indigenous Law and Justice, the Children and Youth Advisory Board of King County, and the Coalition to End Gender-Based Violence. Ms. Echo-Hawk’s greatest joy is her place within her extended family. She is a wife, mother, auntie, daughter, granddaughter, friend, and community member. She strives to serve her family, friends, and community with love and to be a small part of ensuring a great future for the next generation.

 

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