2019 Summit Speakers

Congressman James E. Clyburn

Majority Whip, United States House of Representatives

James E. (Jim) Clyburn, representing South Carolina's 6th congressional district since 1993, is the House Majority Whip and the third-ranking leader in the United States House of Representatives.

Congressman Clyburn began his professional career as a public school teacher in Charleston, South Carolina. Before being elected to Congress he directed two community development programs, served on the staff of a South Carolina Governor, and ran a state agency under four South Carolina Governors – two Democrats and two Republicans. His memoir, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2015. It has been described ‎as a primer that should be read by every student interested in pursuing a career in public service.

His humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina as the eldest son of an activist, fundamentalist minister and an independent, civic minded beautician grounded Congressman Clyburn securely in family, faith and public service. He was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter at 12 years old, he helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader at South Carolina State College, and he even met his wife Emily in jail following a student demonstration.

Congressman Clyburn played an outsized role in changing the nation’s political landscape in the 2018-midterm elections by engaging and energizing voters in districts all over America. Thanks to Congressman Clyburn, the 116 Congress looks more like America than at any time in our nation's history.

Photo of Keith Ellison

Attorney General Keith Ellison

Attorney General of Minnesota

Keith Ellison is the Attorney General of Minnesota. Ellison was elected to the office on November 6, 2018.  Congressman Keith Ellison represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to his election as attorney general, Ellison served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Minnesota's 5th Congressional District from 2007 to 2019. Ellison served as one of the chief deputy whips of the Democratic caucus for the 113th Congress. Ellison also served as deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

As a member of congress Ellison was a member of the House Financial Services Committee. He also served on the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. In the past he served on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rep. Ellison was elected co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 113th Congress.
He was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, founded the Congressional Consumer Justice Caucus, and belonged to more than a dozen other caucuses that focus on issues ranging from social inclusion to environmental protection. Before being elected to Congress Rep. Ellison was a noted community activist and ran a thriving civil rights, employment, and criminal defense law practice in Minneapolis. He also was elected to serve two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.

Sherrilyn Ifill

President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

Sherrilyn Ifill is the seventh President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the nation's premier civil rights legal organization. LDF was founded in 1940 by legendary civil rights lawyer (and later Supreme Court justice) Thurgood Marshall. Ifill served as an Assistant Counsel for LDF from 1988-1993, litigating voting rights cases. She left LDF to teach at the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, where in addition to teaching in the classroom, she litigated civil rights cases alongside her students for 20 years. 
Ifill returned to LDF to lead the organization in 2013, and has emerged as one of the nation’s leading voices in the struggle for racial justice and equality. Under her leadership, LDF has intensified its litigation challenging voter suppression, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and housing discrimination, and has taken a leadership role in resisting federal efforts to roll back civil rights gains in areas such as affirmative action, employment discrimination and school discipline policies. The organization is at the forefront of civil rights organizations challenging unconstitutional policing practices in cities around the country.
A critically acclaimed author, her scholarly articles and her 2007 book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” reflect Ifill's lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ifill graduated from Vassar College in 1984, and from New York University School of Law in 1987, and has received honorary doctorates from New York University, Bard College, Fordham Law School and CUNY Law School. Ms. Ifill serves on the board of the National Women’s Law Center, the National Constitution Center and on the Advisory board of the Profiles in Courage Award. 


Rebecca S. “Becky” Pringle

Vice President of the National Education Association

The NEA is the nation’s largest labor union and professional association for educators. A middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience, Pringle has distinguished herself as a thoughtful, passionate advocate for educators and students, focusing on issues of educator empowerment and student success, diversity, and developing future leaders.

Pringle has a long and notable record of Association advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. She began her leadership journey as a local president, and then went on to serve on the Board of Directors for NEA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). She also served two terms as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee where she distinguished herself as a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the nation’s public school educators and students.

Barbara Ransby

Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Barbara Ransby is a historian, author and longtime activist. She has been involved in the Black freedom movement, feminist and women’s organizations, and social and economic justice projects for nearly forty years. Dr. Ransby received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Dr. Ransby is author of three books and numerous articles and book chapters.

Khalil Muhammad

Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. He is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library and the world’s leading library and archive of global black history. Before leading the Schomburg Center, Khalil was an Associate Professor at Indiana University.

Khalil’s scholarship examines the broad intersections of race, democracy, inequality and criminal justice in modern U.S. history. He is co-editor of “Constructing the Carceral State,” a special issue of the Journal of American History (June 2015), and a contributor to a 2014 National Research Council study, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences, as well as the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard), which won the 2011 John Hope Franklin Best Book award in American Studies.

Much of his work has been featured in national print and broadcast media outlets, including the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, The Nation, National Public Radio, Moyers and Company, and MSNBC. He has appeared in a number of feature-length documentaries, including the Oscar-nominated 13th (2016) and Slavery by Another Name (2012). Khalil was an associate editor of The Journal of American History and prior Andrew W. Mellon fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice. He is a member of the Society of American Historians and the American Antiquarian Society. In 2017, he received the Distinguished Service Medal from Columbia University’s Teachers College. He holds two honorary doctorates and is on the boards of the Vera Institute of Justice, The Museum of Modern Art, The New York Historical Society, and The Nation magazine, as well as the advisory boards of Cure Violence, Common Justice, The HistoryMakers and the Lapidus Center for the Study of Transatlantic Slavery.

Khalil is an award-winning teacher at Harvard and has received numerous honors for his commitment to public engagement, including BPI Chicago’s Champion of the Public Interest Award (2018), The Fortune Society’s Game Changer Award (2017), Ebony Power 100 (2013), The Root 100 of Black Influencers (2012-2014), and Crain’s New York Business magazine 40 under 40 (2011).

A native of Chicago’s South Side, Khalil graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Economics in 1993, and then joined Deloitte & Touche, LLP, as a staff accountant until entering graduate school. He earned his Ph.D. in U.S. History from Rutgers University.

Derrick Johnson

President and CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Mr. Johnson formerly served as vice chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors as well as state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Johnson is a veteran activist who has dedicated his career to defending the rights and improving the lives of poor and working people. As State President of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, he led critical campaigns for voting rights and equitable education. He successfully managed two bond referendum campaigns in Jackson, MS that brought $150 million in school building improvements and $65 million towards the construction of a new convention center, respectively. As a regional organizer at the Jackson-based non-profit, Southern Echo, Inc., Mr. Johnson provided legal, technical, and training support for communities across the South.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Johnson founded One Voice Inc. to improve the quality of life for African Americans through civic engagement training and initiatives. One Voice has spawned an annual Black Leadership Summit and the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute, a nine month training program for community leaders.

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

United States House of Representatives

Bonnie Watson Coleman, a long-time public servant and advocate for New Jersey families, was elected in 2018 to her third term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The first African American woman to represent New Jersey in Congress, Watson Coleman is passionate about the issues affecting working families of all backgrounds, including criminal justice reform, building an economy that works for all families rather than a wealthy few, and rebuilding infrastructure to improve this country and support job creation. She focuses on these priorities and other critical issues as a member of the House Committees on Appropriations and Homeland Security

The daughter of legendary state legislator John S. Watson, Watson Coleman has continued a family legacy of public service, fighting for women, economically and socially disadvantaged populations, ad other vulnerable groups in our society. Prior to her election a Representative for New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District, Watson Coleman served eight consecutive terms in the New Jersey General Assembly and shattered racial and gender barriers to become the first Black woman to serve as Majority Leader, and as the Chair of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. During her time as Majority Leader, Watson Coleman convened a year-long series of public hearings on reforms to prisoner re-entry programs while shepherding legislation through the Assembly that the New York Times called “a model for the rest of the nation,” on prisoner rehabilitation and release.

In 2016, Watson Coleman founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls alongside two of her colleagues, the first caucus aimed at bringing both the tremendous challenges and incredible successes of Black women to the fore in Congress’s policy debates. Watson Coleman is an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, The Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Watson Coleman is a graduate of Thomas Edison State College, and has received honorary doctorate degrees from the College of New Jersey, Rider University, and Stockton University. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and co-chair of the Girl Scouts of America Capitol Hill Honorary Troop. She resides with her husband, William, in Ewing Township. The two are blessed to have three sons: William, Troy and Jared; and three grandchildren: William, Ashanee and Kamryn.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee

United States House of Representatives

Congresswoman Jackson Lee is serving her eleventh term as a member of the United States House of Representatives. She represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, centered in Houston, which is the energy capital of the world. She sits on three Congressional Committees — a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and newly appointed by the leadership as a Member of the crucial Budget Committee. She is currently the first female Ranking Member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. 

She is the past Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Maritime and Border Security. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is also the past Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection. She was named by ‘Congressional Quarterly’ as one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress and the ‘U.S. News and World Report’ named her as one of the 10 most influential legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a founder, member, and co-chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus. She is also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Energy Braintrust, co-chair of the Justice Reform Task Force, a leadership appointed member of the International Helsinki Commission. She serves as Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus, past Chairperson of the Texas Congressional Democratic Delegation for the 113th Congress, and current Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Board. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee earned a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University with honors in the first graduating class including females, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School. She is married to Dr. Elwyn Lee who is also a Yale Graduate and an Administrator at the University of Houston. She has two children Jason Lee a graduate of Harvard University and Erica Lee a graduate of Duke University who is also a Member of the Harris County School Board in Houston, Texas. She is also the proud grandmother of two grandkids (twins), granddaughter Ellison Bennett Carter and grandson Roy Lee Carter, III.

Congressman Frank Pallone

United States House of Representatives

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) has represented central New Jersey in Congress since 1988. On January 3, 2019, Frank Pallone, Jr. was sworn in for his 16th full term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Pallone represents New Jersey's Sixth Congressional District, which covers most of Middlesex County, as well as the Bayshore and oceanfront areas of Monmouth County. In 2019, Pallone was sworn in as the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after serving as the Ranking Member in the 115th Congress. The Committee has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, health care, commerce, and telecommunications. Throughout his career, Pallone has been a leader in protecting the integrity of the Medicare guarantee and Medicaid programs, making the nation’s food system safer, strengthening laws to keep our air and water clean, making health care more affordable and accessible, and supporting initiatives that advance and protect the public health. From 2006 to 2014, Pallone served as the top Democrat on the Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. As Chairman during the 111th Congress, Pallone played a key role in authoring and passing the Affordable Care Act. The landmark law extends health care coverage to millions of Americans, while driving down health care costs and reigning in abusive tactics used by insurance companies to deny medical treatment. Frank Pallone, Jr., was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey, where he still resides. He is a graduate of Middlebury College, holds a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and earned his law degree at Rutgers University. Pallone began his political career in his home city of Long Branch, getting elected to the City Council in 1982 and winning re-election four years later. In 1983, he was elected to the state Senate, representing the Monmouth County coastline and was re-elected in 1987. On November 8, 1988, at the age of 37, Pallone was elected to the House of Representatives from New Jersey's former Third District and was re-elected in 1992 to the newly formed Sixth District. Pallone and his wife Sarah have three children; daughters Rose Marie and Celeste Teresa, and a son, Frank Andrew.

Congressman Andy Kim

United States House of Representatives

Congressman Andy Kim was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.  He represents the Third Congressional District of New Jersey, which stretches from the Delaware River to the Atlantic Ocean encompassing most of Burlington County and parts of Ocean County. 

Congressman Kim grew up in South Jersey, the proud son of Korean immigrants.  His father and mother raised Andy and his sister in South Jersey because of the top notch public school system and safe communities.  Andy attended public K-12 schools and credits the quality of his education with helping him become a Rhodes Scholar and leading national security expert. 

Andy is a dedicated public servant, who believes service is a way of life.  He worked as a career public servant under both Democrats and Republicans, and served at the Pentagon, State Department, the White House National Security Council, and in Afghanistan as an advisor to Generals Petraeus and Allen.

He currently lives in Burlington county with his wife and two baby boys

John H. Bracey, Jr.

Professor of History, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Professor John H. Bracey, Jr., has taught in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst since 1972. He is now serving a second stint as department chair, and is co-director of the department’s graduate certificate in African Diaspora Studies. His major academic interests are in African American social history, radical ideologies and movements, and the history of African American Women and more recently the interactions between Native Americans and African Americans, and Afro-Latinos in the United States. During the 1960s, Professor Bracey was active in the Civil Rights, Black Liberation, and other radical movements in Chicago. Since his arrival at UMass he has maintained those interests and commitments both on campus and in the wider world. His publications include several co-edited volumes, include Black Nationalism in America (1970); the prize winning African American Women and the Vote: 1837-1965 (1997); Strangers and Neighbors: Relations between Blacks and Jews in the United States (with Maurianne Adams, 1999); and, African American Mosaic: A Documentary History from the Slave Trade to the Twenty-First Century (with Manisha Sinha, 2004).

Professor Bracey’s scholarship also includes editorial work on the microfilm series Black Studies Research Sources (LexisNexis), which includes the Papers of the NAACP, Amiri Baraka, the Revolutionary Action Movement, A. Phillip Randolph, Mary McLeod Bethune, the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, and the Papers of Horace Mann Bond. Professor Bracey is a co-editor with Professor James Smethurst and Professor Emerita Sonia Sanchez of SOS: Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (2014).

Sheryll Cashin

Professor of Law, Civil Rights and Social Justice at the Georgetown University Law Center

Sheryll Cashin is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Civil Rights and Social Justice at the Georgetown University Law Center. She teaches Race and American Law, and a seminar about American segregation, among other subjects.

 She is working on a new book about the role of geography in producing racial inequality and American caste (The Descendants, forthcoming Beacon Press). Her book, Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White (Beacon, 2017), explores the history and future of interracial intimacy, how white supremacy was constructed and how “culturally dexterous” allies undermine it. Her book, Place Not Race (Beacon, 2014), recommended radical reforms of selective college admissions in order to promote robust diversity; it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction in 2015. Her book, The Failures of Integration (PublicAffairs, 2004) explored the persistence and consequences of race and class segregation. It was an Editors’ Choice in the New York Times Book Review. Cashin is also a three-time nominee for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for non-fiction (2005, 2009, and 2018). She has published widely in academic journals and written commentaries for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Salon, The Root, and other media.

Cashin worked in the Clinton White House as an advisor on urban and economic policy, particularly concerning community development in inner-city neighborhoods. She is a former law clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, Oxford, and Vanderbilt universities, and was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama where her parents we civil rights activists.

Melvin Coleman

United Automobile Workers, Director National CAP, Retired Workers and Civil and Human Rights Departments

Melvin C. Coleman, Director National CAP, Retired Workers and Civil and Human Rights Departments Melvin Coleman was a full time Recording Secretary at UAW Local 652 in Lansing, Michigan. He previously held the position of Civil and Human Rights Chairperson at UAW Local 652, where he managed complaints of discrimination and harassment. His work also included the facilitation of training in the areas of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, workplace violence and diversity. Resulting from his work and interest in the area of Civil and Human Rights for others, Melvin served as the Region 1C Civil Rights Council President, where he was responsible for the Civil Rights Chairpersons in all of Region 1C. This includes assuring training in areas of civil rights and assisting them in the facilitation of complaints as well as providing resources. Melvin served as President on the National Advisory Council on Civil Rights (NACOCR). As President, Melvin was responsible for all the Civil Rights Advisory Councils throughout the UAW. This necessitated his assistance with facilitation of the Advisory Council Convention, educational seminars and other activities. In 2006 Melvin came on staff at UAW Region 1C. In addition to servicing UAW facilities in the Region, he was also the advisor for UAW Region 1C’s Regional Advisory Council on Civil and Human Rights (RACOCHR). In 2015 he was appointed by President Dennis Williams as the Assistant Director of the Civil and Human Rights Department. In 2018, President Gary Jones appointed him the Director of National CAP, Retired Workers and Civil and Human Rights Departments. Melvin serves on several national boards, including APRI (A. Philip Randolph Institute) and LCCHR (Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights), is a past President of Lansing Branch NAACP, and a member of several different constituency groups.

Adrienne Eaton

Dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University

Adrienne Eaton is the Dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations. She has three current, long-term streams of research.
The first of those streams concerns union participation in management decision-making and the relationship of unions to direct forms of worker participation. Professor Eaton's work has been published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Labor Studies Journal, Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations and several book chapters. Most recently, she is co-author along with Tom Kochan, Paul Adler and Robert McKersie of the book, Healing Together: The Kaiser Permanente Labor-Management Partnership and several research reports on the Kaiser Permanente Labor-Management Partnership.
The second research stream concerns the negotiation, effectiveness and outcomes of neutrality and card check agreements. This research has been published in Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Perspectives on Work, in a book chapter, and in technical reports.
The third stream concerns the impact of unionization of particular groups of workers. This work includes papers on the unionization of managerial workers, including public sector supervisors and has been published in Labor Studies Journal and in book chapters. More recently, she has conducted research on the impact of unionization on graduate student employees.
Professor Eaton is a member of the editorial boards for Labor Studies Journal and the Journal of Workplace Rights. She is past Editor-in-Chief of the Labor and Employment Relations Association, a position she held from 2002-2009. She served as a member of New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission from January 2010 to June 2011. She is also a past President of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union of faculty and graduate student employees at Rutgers. The Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) named Adrienne Eaton a 2017 LERA Fellow in recognition of her research on union and worker participation in management decision-making; neutrality and card check agreements in union organizing; and other key labor issues.

Debbie Goettel

Hennepin County Commissioner

Debbie Goettel is Hennepin County Commissioner, representing District 5: Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Richfield. Before joining the county board, she served 10 years as Richfield’s mayor. During that time, she spurred significant redevelopment in the downtown area and south side of the city. Her collaboration with the city council and staff also led to the city’s first comprehensive five-year plan to repave all city streets.

In addition to her brick-and-mortar contributions to the city, Debbie is proud of her human rights initiatives. In 2011, she and the city passed an ordinance for partnership agreements, providing same-sex couples with the same rights as married couples. The success in Richfield paved the way for collaboration with other city mayors to pass similar partnership agreements. Debbie and her mayoral colleagues were proud to support the efforts that led to statewide equality in 2013.

Outside of her service in public office, Debbie has been an active participant in local and regional civics. Her passion for creating a brighter future led to service on the Richfield Foundation board, the Minnesota Environmental Initiatives Task Force, the Richfield 4th of July Committee, the Metropolitan Housing Policy Board, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Urban Land Institute's Regional Council of Mayors, and the Governor’s 2013 Local Government Aid task force.

Debbie has a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities) and completed graduate studies on environmental sustainability at Harvard and University of Minnesota. In her professional career, she worked for international companies in the area of Sustainability, Environment, Health, and Safety. Debbie is married with three children and five grandchildren.

Rucker Johnson

Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Rucker C. Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and faculty research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. As a labor economist who specializes in the economics of education, Johnson’s work considers the role of poverty and inequality in affecting life chances.

Johnson was one of 35 scholars to receive the prestigious 2017 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship. His research has appeared in leading academic journals, featured in mainstream media outlets, and he has been invited to give policy briefings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. His forthcoming book, Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works, will be published by Basic Books & the Russell Sage Foundation Press early next year.

Johnson is committed to advance his scholarly agenda of fusing insights from multiple disciplinary perspectives to improve our understanding of the causes, consequences, and remedies of inequality in this country. Johnson earned his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Michigan. At UC-Berkeley (2004-present), he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in applied econometrics and topical courses in race, poverty & inequality.

Douglas Massey

Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Doug Massey is Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, with a joint appointment in the Woodrow Wilson School. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, he is the current president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and is a member of the Council of the National Academy of Sciences and co-editor of the Annual Review of Sociology. He currently serves as Director of the Office of Population Research. Massey’s research focuses on international migration, race and housing, discrimination, education, urban poverty, stratification, and Latin America, especially Mexico. He is the author, most recently, of Brokered Boundaries: Constructing Immigrant Identity in Anti-Immigrant Times, coauthored with Magaly Sanchez and Published by the Russell Sage Foundation.

Freeholder Ashley Bennett

Atlantic County Freeholder

At 32 years old, Ashley Bennett made national news when she defeated an incumbent Atlantic County Freeholder who mocked the 2017 Washington, C.D. Women’s March.

Her victory was significant not only because she was the first woman and first African American to ever hold that office, but her district, an entirely suburban district, was considered unachievable for someone who looked like Ashely.

In 2018, Freeholder Bennet made news again leading a Women’s March on the Atlantic City boardwalk. This Women’s March, dedicated to the memory and struggle of Fannie Lou Hamer, marched into the historic Boardwalk Hall Convention Center where Ms. Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom delegates were denied entry and recognition 55 years ago.

At the rally following the march, Ashley said Ms. Hamer's story powerfully resonated with her "because she gave voice to the voiceless and visibility to those of us who have been made to feel invisible." 

Freeholder Ashley Bennett is a breakthrough leader and a powerful civil rights women.

Elise Boddie

Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law, Founder of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools

Elise Boddie is a Professor of Law and Henry Rutgers Professor at Rutgers Law School. She teaches constitutional law, civil rights, and state and local government law.  Previously, she was Director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. Boddie is an award-winning scholar and has published multiple articles and essays in leading law reviews. Her commentary has appeared in The New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate and various law blogs. She is a frequent public speaker and has appeared on MSNBC, NBC, National Public Radio and other television and radio programs. Boddie is the founder of The Inclusion Project at Rutgers Law School and a founding trustee of the New Jersey Coalition for Diverse and Inclusive Schools. She is a leader in the current effort to integrate public schools in New Jersey. She serves on the national board of the American Constitution Society and on the board of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. In 2017, she
was elected to the American Law Institute. She received her J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School, her B.A. with honors from Yale, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard.

Kali Bracey

Litigation Partner, Jenner & Block

Ms. Bracey began her career at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. In 2002, she joined Jenner & Block. At the firm, she worked on a wide range of cases including white collar investigations on behalf of government contractors, SEC investigations, FOIA cases.

In 2012, Ms. Bracey joined the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a senior counsel in the Office of Supervision Policy. In that role, she helped to craft the first federal nonbank supervision program. She worked in the areas of student lending, auto finance discrimination, and debt collection. She went on to work for Director Richard Cordray as a senior counsel.

In 2014, Ms. Bracey joined the US Department of Justice’s Civil Division, serving for nearly three years as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Torts Branch. She also managed the government’s tort compensation programs, including the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, the Vaccine Compensation Fund, and the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act Fund.

Ms. Bracey rejoined Jenner & Block in 2017. She is representing a deferred interest credit card company in an enforcement action before the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She is also working on an investigation into the sale of residential mortgage backed securities. She also serves on the team monitoring Citigroup’s provision of consumer relief following their settlement with the Department of Justice in the aftermath of the housing crisis. 

Kali currently represents a local labor union in a voting rights case involving the standards for list maintenance under the National Voter Registration Act and Fair Fight Action, an organization founded by Stacey Abrams, in litigation challenging Georgia’s election system.

John C. Brittain

Olie W. Rauh Professor of Law, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law

John C. Brittain joined the faculty of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, in 2009, as a tenured professor of law, and served as Acting Dean from 2018 to 2019. Prior to joining UDC Law, he served as Dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of law at Texas Southern University in Houston, as a tenured law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law for twenty-two years, and as Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., a public interest law organization founded by President John F. Kennedy to enlist private lawyers in taking pro bono cases in civil rights.

Professor Brittain writes and litigates on issues in civil and human rights, especially in education law. In 2015, the Mississippi Center for Justice honored him as a "pioneering civil rights leader and esteemed law professor who has inspired a generation of young attorneys." In 2013, he was named to the Charles Hamilton Houston Chair at North Carolina Central University School of Law, established to bring prominent civil rights law professors and litigators to the law school to teach constitutional and civil rights law for a year. Professor Brittain was one of the original counsel team in Sheff v. O’Neill, the landmark school desegregation case decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1996, chronicled in Susan Eaton’s book, The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial, in which he is frequently mentioned. He was a part of a legal team representing private plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the State of Maryland for denying Maryland’s historically black institutions of higher learning – Morgan, Coppin, Bowie and Maryland Eastern Shore Universities – comparable and competitive opportunities with traditional white universities

B.A., Howard University 1966; J.D., Howard University 1969

Clayola Brown

President, A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), AFL-CIO, Vice President, Workers United-SEIU

Clayola Brown began serving as National President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, located in Washington, D.C., in August 2004-- the first female to serve in that role. Ms. Brown’s lifelong commitment to labor activism began in her hometown of Charlestown, South Carolina, where she—alongside her activist mother—campaigned to organize the Manhattan Shirt Factory. She eventually became Education Director for Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. In 1991, she was elected International Vice President and continues to serve in that capacity. Clayola is also the Civil Rights Director under the repositioned union Workers United, an SEIU affiliate. She has served as a member of the General Executive Board of Workers United since its formation in March 2009; and served on the AFL-CIO Executive Council, for 10 years. Ms. Brown has also served as a Director of the Amalgamated Bank for 20 years. Ms. Brown’s tremendous commitment to her community and her fellow man is apparent through the many boards and organizations on which she has served, including her appointment to the National Commission on Employment Policy by President Bill Clinton for two terms. At the invitation of President Barack Obama under former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, she served as a representative member on the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy; and continued that role under former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. A graduate of Florida A&M University in Tallassee, Florida, Ms. Brown has done post-graduate work at American University in Washington, D.C.; guest lecturer with Trinity College in Washington, D.C.; and at Cornell University.

Rev. Timothy Tee Boddie

Summit for Civil Rights Faith Outreach Co-Director

Rev. Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie is the immediate past General Secretary and Chief Administrative Officer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention in Washington, DC. Prior to his pastoral ministry, Dr. Boddie served for 11 years as University Chaplain and Pastor of the Memorial Church at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. In 2007, Chaplain Boddie was elected to a one-year term as president of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, becoming the first African-American from a historically Black university to serve this capacity in the organization’s then 60-year history. Born in Raleigh, NC, Dr. Boddie was reared in Newport News, VA, and is the product of its public schools. Dr. Boddie majored in English at Morehouse College and also holds a master’s degree from Stanford University. He has done further study at New York University, and he earned his doctorate degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. 

Rev. Willie Francois

Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville

Willie Dwayne Francois III serves as Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Pleasantville, New Jersey and as the President of the Black Church Center for Justice and Equality. Francois' pastoral activism and literary witness take shape around racial equity, economic justice and criminal justice reform. Francois co-authored the book Christian Minister’s Manual: For the Pulpit and the Public Square for All Denomination—the most progressive and comprehensive clergy service resource for congregational and justice ministries. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion, holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Ministry from Emory University.

James Gee

Chief of Staff, the Honorable Bonnie Watson Coleman

James Gee has been around politics for most of his life. He began his career as an intern to then-Assembly Appropriations Chairman John S. Watson while still a student in high school. While attending Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia, Mr. Gee worked in the Georgia Senate, quickly distinguishing himself as a skilled political operative. In 1997, Mr. Gee’s career came full-circle when, after managing the unsuccessful congressional campaign of Georgia State Senator Ron Slotin, he returned to New Jersey and joined the campaign that elected Bonnie Watson Coleman, the daughter of his beloved mentor John Watson.

During the 2001 gubernatorial campaign, Mr. Gee became the statewide political director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. Following the election, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor James E. McGreevy, serving as the governor’s liaison to the Legislature.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Mr. Gee served as the national political director for celebrity Sean "P.Diddy" Comb’s Vote or Die campaign, which was designed to inspire a new generation to become part of the political process.

In 2005, Mr. Gee served as the statewide political director for then-Senator Jon S. Corzine's campaign for governor and recently served as Deputy Campaign Manager of Jon Corzine’s unsuccessful re-election campaign.

During the 2008, Presidential Campaign Mr. Gee moved to the Washington, D.C. area to serve as one of five Regional Political Directors on the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. During the hotly contested Democratic Primary James traveled to 10 different
states. Mr. Gee was lead Political Director in Texas and Pennsylvania where Senator Clinton won very close primary victories.

From 2006 to 2010, Mr. Gee worked in the New Jersey State Legislature as the Associate Director.

In 2014, Mr. Gee was the Campaign Manager for Bonnie Watson Coleman in her historic run in New Jersey's 12th Congressional District. Mr. Gee currently serves as Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman's Chief of Staff.

Bishop John Gandy

Senior Pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center Church

Bishop John R. Gandy is Senior Pastor of Abundant Life Worship Center Church, a growing and progressive ministry located in Egg Harbor City, New Jersey.  Bishop Gandy served in his father’s church as the minister of music, and worked at nearly all levels of leadership.  Bishop Gandy served in the United States Army.  He graduated from South Jersey  School of Business and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Garden State Bible School and a Masters of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary.

Senator Nia H. Gill

New Jersey State Senate

Senator Nia H. Gill has served the people of the 34th Legislative District in the State Senate and Assembly for almost two decades.  She is a tireless advocate for women’s rights, public education, human rights and expanding healthcare.

Senator Gill has stood up for core democratic principles her entire career.

As a champion for human rights, she sponsored the law which made human trafficking a crime in New Jersey.  In response to the genocide in Darfur, Senator Gill sponsored the law that made New Jersey one of the first two states in the nation to prohibit the investment of state pension funds in companies that conduct business in Sudan.

As a State Senator, Nia uses her legislative power for economic and social change. To ensure fairness for everyone, she authored the one of the first laws to ban racial profiling.

When New Jersey had the third highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection among children in the nation, and was one of only two states to ban needle exchange programs, Nia authored and fought for the passage of a law that allow these programs. The needle exchange bill helped to save lives and prevent the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the New Jersey.

Sen Gill is currently leading the charge to implement some of the nation’s toughest gun laws.  That is why she is sponsoring legislation that reduces the number of rounds in high capacity magazines from 15 to 10.  

As the sponsor of New Jersey’s early voting bill, Senator Gill is committed to making sure New Jersey is not left behind.  Early voting ensures that every New Jersey resident has a chance to cast a ballot, at a polling place seven days a week for at least two weeks prior to Election Day - making the process of voting more accessible, effective and efficient.

Senator Gill has been dedicated to expanding healthcare her entire career. Initially as the sponsor of the law that expanded health insurance coverage to young adults, ages 18 to 30, capturing more than 100,000 uninsured individuals in the State. A version of this provision was included Affordable Care Act.

Because of her action for equality, Senator Gill is the recipient of numerous awards. She was honored in Selma, Alabama as one of “100 Women in the 20th Century” who contributed to the struggle for civil rights.

Paul Jargowsky

Director, Center for Urban Research and Urban Education at Rutgers University

Paul A. Jargowsky’s principal research interests are inequality, the geographic concentration of poverty, and residential segregation by race and class.  His book, Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1997), is a comprehensive examination of poverty at the neighborhood level in U.S. metropolitan areas between 1970 and 1990. The Urban Affairs Association named Poverty and Place the “Best Book in Urban Affairs Published in 1997 or 1998.”  In August 2015, The Century Foundation published Dr. Jargowsky’s report, The Architecture of Segregation: Civil Unrest, the Concentration of Poverty, and Public Policy.  The report received much attention in the media an social media, summarized here.

Jonathan Kozol

Writer, educator, and activist

In the passion of the civil rights campaigns of 1964 and 1965, Jonathan Kozol gave up the prospect of a promising career in the academic world, moved from Harvard Square into a poor black neighborhood of Boston, and became a fourth grade teacher. He has since devoted nearly his entire life to the challenge of providing equal opportunity to every child in our public schools.

Death at an Early Age, a description of his first year as a teacher, received the 1968 National Book Award in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Among his other major works are Rachel and Her Children, a study of homeless mothers and their children, which received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Savage Inequalities, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992. His 1995 best-seller, Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 1996, an honor previously granted to the works of Langston Hughes and Dr. Martin Luther King. Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison wrote that Amazing Grace was “good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy.” Elie Wiesel said, “Jonathan’s struggle is noble. His outcry must shake our nation out of its guilty indifference.”

Ten years later, in The Shame of the Nation, a description of conditions that he found in nearly 60 public schools, Jonathan wrote that inner-city children were more isolated racially than at any time since federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. The Shame of the Nation appeared on The New York Times bestseller list the week that it was published.

Jonathan’s most recent book on childhood and education is Fire in the Ashes, a sweeping narrative that follows a group of children in a destitute community out of their infancy and elementary grades, through their secondary years, into their late teens, and beyond. Some of their stories are painful and heart-breaking, but others are dramatic tributes to the resilience and audacity of courageous children who refuse to be defeated by the obstacles they face and find their way at last to unexpected and triumphal victories.

The nation’s most widely read and highly honored education writer and one of our most eloquent advocate for children of low income and for racial diversity in our schools and universities, Jonathan has been speaking to overflow crowds as child poverty has risen to unprecedented levels and racial tensions have become the focus of urgent political concern.

To Jonathan’s friends and allies in the world of education: Jonathan wants to make it clear that he does not intend to give up the struggle for our children and the challenges our schools are facing in an era of persistent inequality and obsessive testing. He continues to visit children in their classrooms and to give encouragement to overburdened but devoted principals and teachers. He’s been doing that for over fifty years. He isn’t stopping now.

Mike Kruglik

Mike Kruglik, Board President of Building One America

Mike Kruglik is Board President of Building One America. Mr. Kruglik is a graduate of Princeton University (1964) and was Adjunct Professor of History at Northwestern and Roosevelt Universities in the early 1970’s. He has been developing grass-roots citizens’ power organizations since 1973 with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the Gamaliel Foundation and Building One America. In 1986 Mr. Kruglik was co-founder of the Gamaliel Foundation and from 1999-2009 served as its Director of Metropolitan Equity. 

Mike is probably best known for having hired, trained, and mentored Barack Obama as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side in the mid to late 1980s.

Stephanie Lawson-Muhammad

South Orange-Maplewood School District

Ms. Lawson Muhammad has been a professional executive and consultant in the communications and technology field for 19 years.

She is a resident of South Orange and a member of the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education and liaison to the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race. As an elected board leader, along with her colleagues, Ms. Lawson-Muhammad led efforts to further racial integration and maximize equitable opportunity for all students.

As a leader with Building One New Jersey, she led a coalition to advance strategies and policy approaches for Governor Murphy and Legislative Leadership to remediate New Jersey’s deep and shameful school segregation problem.

It should be noted that Stephanie, in her public role as an African woman overwhelmingly elected by a multi-racial constituency, has experienced and unprecedented level of scrutiny and withering attacks over an incident blown far out of proportion by people who do not share her commitment to integration.

Ms. Lawson-Muhammad is a courageous breakthrough leader and a powerful civil rights women.

Kimberly McGlonn

Councilmember, Jenkintown, PA

Dr. Kimberly McGlonn has always been committed to civil and human rights. Her experiences growing up Black in segregated Milwaukee, a girl raised Muslim in a diverse spiritual community, fostered a deep sense of compassion for everyone. Her appreciation of diversity, of story and tradition, her affection for humanity, has also been nurtured by her travels to 25 countries, her doctoral studies in Curriculum & Instruction in the deep South, and her role as Jenkintown Borough Councilwoman. These collective experiences color everything about her insights into conversations around civil rights.

Outside of this role, Kimberly is the Founder & CEO of Grant Blvd, a clothing brand creating sustainable employment opportunities in sustainable fashion for returning citizens because she wanted to be of service to not only marginalized people, but also to the planet. Ultimately, the mission of Grant Blvd is to design garments that are not only stylish, but to in doing so, teach returning citizens how to sew, employ them at a fair wage, and to support them in leading balanced lives.

Roslyn A. Mickelson

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

 Roslyn Arlin Mickelson is Chancellor’s Professor and Professor of Sociology, Public Policy, and Women & Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.    Inspired by her experiences as a former high school teacher in Inglewood, CA, Mickelson’s research examines the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, and social class shape educational opportunities, processes, and outcomes. Mickelson's longitudinal case study of desegregation and resegregation's influences on educational equity and outcomes in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools appears in Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte (Harvard Education Press, 2015, with Stephen Samuel Smith and Amy Hawn Nelson). Currently, with Toby Parcel and Stephen Samuel Smith, she is conducting a comparative case study of public opinion about integration and segregation in five Southern school systems.  Additionally, Mickelson and her colleagues are examining the social context and school organizational factors, including school and classroom racial and social class composition, that contribute to the success of women and underrepresented minorities in college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  

Myron Orfield

Myron Orfield

Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Director, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity University of Minnesota Law School

Professor Myron Orfield is the Director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity. He has written three books and dozens of articles and book chapters on local government law, spatial inequality, fair housing, school desegregation, charter schools, state and local taxation and finance, and land use law. The syndicated columnist Neal Peirce called him “the most influential demographer in America’s burgeoning regional movement.” Orfield’s research has led to legislative and judicial reforms at the federal level and state level reform in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon, and Maryland.

Lisa Rice

President & CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance

In her capacity as Executive Vice President with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA), Ms. Rice oversees the resource development, public policy, communication and enforcement divisions of the agency. NFHA works with over 200 member organizations across the country to eliminate barriers in the housing markets and expand equal housing and lending opportunities. Prior to joining NFHA, she was the President and CEO of the Fair Housing Center of Toledo, Ohio and the Northwest Ohio Development Agency where she created the state’s only anti-predatory lending remediation program. Ms. Rice has served on the state of Ohio’s Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board, State Farm Bank Consumer Advisory Council, and Federal Reserve Board’s Consumer Advisory Council. She is a current member of the JPMorgan Chase Consumer Advisory Council, Mortgage Bankers Association's Consumer Advisory Council, Freddie Mac Affordable Housing Advisory Council, and America’s Homeowner Alliance Advisory Board. 

Theodore M. Shaw

Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill

Professor Shaw was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of twenty-six years. He has litigated education, employment, voting rights, housing, police misconduct, capital punishment and other civil rights cases in trial and appellate courts, and in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Shaw’s legal career began as a Trial Attorney in the Honors Program of the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., where he worked from 1979 until 1982. In addition to teaching at Columbia and at Michigan Law School, Professor Shaw held the 1997-1998 Haywood Burns Chair at CUNY School of Law at Queens College and the 2003 Phyllis Beck Chair at Temple Law School. He was a visiting scholar at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia in 2008-2009. He is a member of the faculty of the Practicing Law Institute (PLI). Mr. Shaw served on the Obama Transition Team after the 2008 presidential election, as team leader for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.

William E. Spriggs

Chief Economist, AFL-CIO, professor in the Department of Economics at Howard University

William Spriggs serves as Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO, and is a professor in, and former Chair of, the Department of Economics at Howard University.  He also chairs the Economic Policy Working Group for the Trade Union Advisory Council to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Bill assumed these roles in August 2012 after leaving the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government.

 Bill was appointed by President Barack Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, in 2009 to serve as Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy at the United States Department of Labor, taking a leave of absence from Howard University to do so.  At the time of his appointment, he also served as chairman for the Healthcare Trust for UAW Retirees of the Ford Motor Company and as chairman of the UAW Retirees of the Dana Corporation Health and Welfare Trust; and on the joint National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Public Administration’s Committee on the Fiscal Future for the United States; and, as Senior Fellow of the Community Service Society of New York.

 Bill’s previous work experience includes roles leading economic policy development and research at the Economic Policy Institute, the National Urban League, positions at the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress and the independent federal National Commission for Employment Policy.

 While working on his PhD in Economics from the University of Wisconsin, Bill began his labor career as co-president of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 3220 in Madison, Wisconsin.

 He is a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and the National Academy of Public Administration.

Pierrette “Petee” Talley

Pierrette “Petee” Talley

Secretary-Treasurer, Ohio State AFL-CIO (retired)

Pierrette “Petee” Talley is the immediate past Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO and the first woman to hold one of the top two offices in the 56 year history of that organization.

Ms. Talley has been a leader in AFSCME and was the AFL-CIO’s state director in Michigan. She has been and is still a national leader of both the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

As the highest ranked African American leader in the Ohio AFL-CIO, Petee organized and mobilized tens of thousands of workers to fight and hold organized labor’s hard fought gains.

As the leader of the Ohio Unity Coalition she helped to create and lead Ohio's strongest labor/civil rights organization, playing a pivotal role in victories over anti-union attacks, including the repeal of SB 5.

Ms. Talley is a powerful breakthrough leader and a civil rights woman.

Richard Tolson

Director, New Jersey Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC)

Richard Tolson is a New Jersey labor leader who also serves on economic development boards of importance to the southern region and the state. Tolson is director of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) of New Jersey, which is the oldest continuous union in North America. As director, he is responsible for trustee pension, annuity, and health funds for the union, which has 5,000 members. He holds a number of other positions in New Jersey labor organizations, including: Vice President of N.J. AFL-CIO; Vice President of the New Jersey State Building Trades Council; a member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Executive Council; and a member of the International Masonry Institute Board of Trustees. Tolson received the BAC Craft Award for Outstanding Public Service by an Individual in 2004. In October 2007, former Gov. Jon Corzine appointed Tolson to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, a state agency charged with expanding New Jersey’s economic base through construction project financing and business support. Last October, Gov. Chris Christie named Tolson to the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the Atlantic City based state agency that invests casino revenue in economic revitalization projects in the resort and throughout New Jersey. Tolson has strong local ties to the Atlantic City region. He was born and raised in Ocean City and graduated from Ocean City High School in 1976. He still lives in Ocean City with his wife, Sonya.

Stephen M. Sweeney

President of the New Jersey Senate

Steve decided to enter public life after his daughter Lauren was born with Down Syndrome. As a Freeholder Director, he helped build schools and established parks that catered to children with disabilities. And as senator, he sponsored laws that removed references to “retardation” in state statutes and created a statewide registry of offenders who abused individuals with developmental disabilities.

A union ironworker by trade, Senator Sweeney has sponsored and supported measures to protect the rights of workers and support organized labor. Seeing firsthand the challenge of caring for a loved one without losing your job, Steve sponsored the state’s Paid Family Medical Leave Act.

A fighter for hard-working New Jerseyans, Steve led the effort to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage and continues to champion fair and equitable wages.

His father, also a union ironworker, taught Steve the value of loyalty and commitment. As a boy, Steve's father impressed upon him the importance of standing by your friends even when the going gets tough. It's a lesson that remains with him today and is the reason why he has been a die hard Green Bay Packers fan for his entire life.

Steve was born in Camden in 1959, and currently serves as General Vice President of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union. The Senator and his wife, Patti, were married in 1986 and have two children, Stephen and Lauren.

Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University

Amy Stuart Wells

Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Executive Director of Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Public Schools

Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she is the Executive Director of Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Public Schools, a professional development institute for educators in K-12 schools (see Reimagining Education July 15-18, 2019). She served as the President of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 2018-19. 

Wells is a nationally recognized authority on the intersection of racial inequality and educational policies aimed at serving the rapidly changing “public” of public education. She has conducted large-scale projects on school desegregation; charter schools; tracking; and, most recently, the relationship between the changing demographics of suburban and urban communities and their public school enrollments, opportunities, and reputations. Her current project, The Public Good, uses research to help sustain equitable and socially just integrated K–12 schools in gentrifying areas of New York City. She and her students have a forthcoming book on this project from Oxford University Press titled For the Public Good: Gentrifcation and the Goal of Integrated Education.

Wells is an AERA Fellow and a member of the National Academy of Education. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and the Russell Sage Foundation. She is the recipient of the 2016 AERA Presidential Citation for outstanding contributions to education research and the 2000 AERA Early Career Award.

Naomi Williams

Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations

Naomi R Williams received her PhD from the History Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her primary research interests include labor and working-class history, urban history and politics, gender and women, race and politics, and more broadly, social and economic movements of working people.  Naomi’s primary focus is on late-capitalism at the end of the 20th century and workers’ role in shaping U.S. political economy. Currently, she is revising a book manuscript, tentatively titled “Workers United: Race, Labor, and Coalition Building in Deindustrialized America,” on the transformation of class identity and politics in the second half of the twentieth century.