Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar was born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the author of American Dervish, published in over twenty languages worldwide and a 2012 Best Book of the Year at Kirkus Reviews, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine. He is also a playwright and screenwriter. His stage play Disgraced played at New York’s LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in 2012, and won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His latest play, The Who & The What, premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2014, and opened in New York at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in June 2014. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has been the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo, as well as commissions from Lincoln Center Theater and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate of Brown and Columbia Universities with degrees in Theater and Film Directing.
Allyson Hobbs

Allyson Hobbs is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Director of African and African American Studies at Stanford University. Allyson’s first book, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life, published by Harvard University Press in October 2014, examines the phenomenon of racial passing in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present. A Chosen Exile won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book in American History and the Lawrence Levine Award for best book in American cultural history.
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Bonnie Jenkins

Ambassador Jenkins has focused on a U.S. coordinated effort on threat reduction in Africa, culminating in a “Threat Reduction in Africa” U.S. interagency engagement program working closely with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and AFRICOM. She also works closely with relevant international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
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Andres Resendez

Andrés Reséndez is a historian and author specializing in colonial Latin America, borderlands, and the Iberian world. Andrés Reséndez’s work has long been concerned with the dynamics of borderlands in North America, whether in terms of the emergence of ethnic or national identities or the prevalence of labor coercion and enslavement of indigenous peoples. He has also been interested in the earliest exploration of the Americas and the Pacific Ocean, and the role of technology in these early voyages of exploration.
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Ayad Akhtar

Ayad Akhtar was born in New York City and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is the author of American Dervish, published in over twenty languages worldwide and a 2012 Best Book of the Year at Kirkus Reviews, Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness, and O (Oprah) Magazine. He is also a playwright and screenwriter. His stage play Disgraced played at New York’s LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in 2012, and won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His latest play, The Who & The What, premiered at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2014, and opened in New York at LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater in June 2014. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has been the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo, as well as commissions from Lincoln Center Theater and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate of Brown and Columbia Universities with degrees in Theater and Film Directing.
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Danyel Smith

Danyel Smith was born in Oakland and is the culture editor of ESPN’s Undefeated. Smith was the former editor of Billboard and the first African-American editor of the magazine. She is the former chief content officer of Vibe Media Group and former editor-in-chief of Vibe and vibe.com. She was the first African-American, and first female editor of Vibe. Among other outlets, Smith has written for Elle, Time, Cosmopolitan, Essence, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, CNN, Rolling Stone, Condé Nast Publications, Ebony and NPR. 
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Eva Lewis

Eva Maria Lewis, 18, is an activist and artist from the south side of Chicago, Illinois, and co-founder of Youth for Black Lives, a Chicago-based youth activism organization focused on racial justice. This summer, she helped organized two Black Lives Matter protests, including the Chicago Youth Sit-In and March, bringing over 1,000 youth to the streets of downtown Chicago to protest police brutality. The Sit-In was featured in Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine. Eva also wrote about her experience organizing and participating in the March for Teen Vogue.

A Girl Scout for ten years in an all African­ American troop, Eva has been exposed to Black girl empowerment since before she could fully understand its true meaning. In addition to Girl Scouting, Eva was always involved in the arts through dance, literature, and music. Entering high school, after the death and injustice of Trayvon Martin, she became interested in acting against social inequality. During her freshman year of high school, at Walter Payton College Prep, she became involved in Young Chicago Authors ‘Louder Than A Bomb’, the world’s largest poetry competition and festival. Spoken word poetry brought her interests in art and social justice full circle. After studying abroad in France the summer before her junior year, using interviews and footage shot in France, she created a short film on privilege called “Redefining Opportunity”. Soon after, she created The I Project, which combines art and activism to advocate for intersectionality. Eva now writes for Teen Vogue about social justice and equality for all peoples, specifically people of color. In Fall of 2017, she will be attending the University of Pennsylvania on a full ride with the Questbridge College Match Scholarship.

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Jason Roberts

Jason Roberts is the founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, an originator of the Better Block Project, and co-founder of the Art Conspiracy and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff. His focus on revitalizing inner-city neighborhoods was recognized with a Champions of Change award from the White House in 2012. Jason’s consulting firm, Team Better Block, has been widely recognized, including being showcased at the United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
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Javier Zamora

Javier Zamora was born in La Herradura, El Salvador in 1990. His father fled El Salvador when he was a year old; and his mother when he was about to turn five. Both parents’ migrations were caused by the US-funded Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). In 1999, Javier migrated through Guatemala, Mexico, and eventually the Sonoran Desert. Before a coyote abandoned his group in Oaxaca, Javier managed to make it to Arizona with the aid of other migrants. His first full-length collection, Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, September 2017), explores how immigration and the civil war have impacted his family. Zamora is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University (Olive B. O’Connor), MacDowell, Macondo, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation (Ruth Lilly), and Yaddo. The recipient of a 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, the 2017 Narrative Prize, and the 2016 Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award for his work in the Undocupoets Campaign.
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Kate Schatz

Kate Schatz (pronounced ‘Shots’) is the New York Times-bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide, as well as My Rad Life: A Journal and Rid of Me: A Story.She is the co-founder of Solidarity Sundays, a nationwide network of feminist activist groups. She’s a writer, organizer, public speaker, educator, and left-handed vegetarian Bay Area-born-and-bred feminist activist mama.
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Mona Charen

Syndicated columnist Mona Charen got her start as a writer at National Review magazine, and went on to join the White House staff in 1984 as Nancy Reagan’s speechwriter. During her time at the White House, she also served as associate director of the Office of Public Liaison and held a position in the Public Affairs office. Her current syndicated column began in 1987, and has become one of the most widely read columns in the industry. Charen has also served as a commentator on CNN’s “Capital Gang,” and continues to appear as a regular guest on various television and radio shows. She has served as a Pulitzer Prize judge, as well as a fellow at the Hudson Institute and the Jewish Policy Center. Her own writing earned her the Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism in 2010.
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Victor Rios

Victor M. Rios was born in Mexico and immigrated to Oakland with his mother when he was 2 years old.

Growing up in a single-parent household Mr Rios lived in several Oakland neighborhoods in his youth, including West Oakland, the Fruitvale District and Elmhurst. He grew up in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Oakland. Growing up around drug dealers and gangs, he was forced to join a local Latino East Oakland gang when he was 12 years old for protection from rival gangs.

Being part of the gang brought Victor Rios into a life of crime, stealing cars, sometimes living in them, selling drugs, getting into fights with rivals, going in and out of Juvenile Hall. When Victor was 15 years old one of his best friends was named “Smiley.” Smiley was shot and killed in the Fruitvale district by a rival gang and he literally died in Victor Rios’ arms. It was around this time that a teacher who Victor Rios called Mrs Russ began helping and mentoring him. An Oakland Police Officer also gave him a break from catching a major case with severe charges.

Victor Rios began Changing his life from gang member to college student. He enrolled at Uc Berkeley and would eventually earn a PhD in Sociology. He began mentoring Oakland youth and working with them to get out of a life of crime and into college.

Victor Rios wrote 2 books. One was about his life growing up in Oakland in a gang, called Street Life: Poverty, Gangs, and a Ph.D. The second book he wrote was a study on Oakland black and Latino youth and how the local justice system and school system systematically sets up kids for a life of punishment and jail time instead of helping youth get out of that life style. The book is called Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys.

Today Victor Rios is a Professor at UC Santa Barbara. He still works with at risk youth in the Santa Barbara area.

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Charlie Warzel 

Charlie Warzel is senior technology writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Missoula, Montana. He covers the information wars. 
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Brittney Cooper

Brittney Cooper is a writer, teacher, and public speaker. She thinks Black feminism can change the world for the better. Her most recent book is Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower. She is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University. She is co-founder of the popular Crunk Feminist Collective blog. And she is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com and a former contributor to Salon.com. Her cultural commentary has been featured on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes, Melissa Harris-Perry, Al Jazeera’s Third Rail, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, PBS, Ebony.com, Essence.com, TheRoot.com, and TED.com.

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