Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum R&B recording artist and actor Deborah Cox made her Broadway debut in the lead role in Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical Aida. She most recently starred on Broadway in 2013 as Lucy in Jekyll & Hyde and as legendary Josephine Baker in Josephine at Asolo Repertory Theatre. Cox began her recording career as a background singer with Celine Dion; she has recorded six award-winning and critically acclaimed albums and has written and recorded on numerous celebrated soundtracks.
The Canadian-born star has an impressive list of #1 Billboard hit records, including twelve #1 songs on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart. In 2000 Cox collaborated with Whitney Houston to record the duet “Same Script Different Cast” for Houston’s Greatest Hits CD.
Cox has been recognized for her longstanding commitment to the LGBT community. In January 2015, she received the Out Music Pillar Award. In 2014, she received the California State Senate Award and in 2007, she received the Civil Rights Award from the New York Senate for her efforts in the fight for Human Rights and Equality. She was honored by the Harvey Milk Foundation at the 2015 Diversity Honors for her efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the LGBT community. In June 2016, she was given the Liberty Bell and Proclamation in Philadelphia by Mayor Jim Kenney to proclaim June 12 as LGBTQ Philadelphia Pride Parade and Festival Day.
At TEDWomen, she will be performing with the Lake Area Girls Choir, with some fifty members from all around New Orleans.
A 14-year blogging veteran, Luvvie Ajayi is the voice behind the blog AwesomelyLuvvie.com, where she covers all things pop culture with razor-sharp commentary and wit. Her debut book, I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual, was released in September 2016, and was an instant New York Times best-seller.
Luvvie is Executive Director and co-founder of The Red Pump Project, a national nonprofit that educates women and girls of color about HIV/AIDS. They’ve earned a Congressional Record from the U.S. House of Representatives and Resolutions by the Illinois State Senate as well as the City Council of Chicago. The University of Illinois alum is a sought-after speaker who has spoken at the Obama White House, MAKERS Conference, SXSW, Social Media Week, among others. She has interviewed bosses like Oprah Winfrey, Geena Davis and Shonda Rhimes. She also runs AwesomelyTechie.com, a site for writers, small business owners and everyday people looking to use technology to make their lives easier as an extension of her marketing expertise.
Luvvie >was selected to Oprah Winfrey’s inaugural Supersoul 100 list, voted as the Influencer of the Year at the 2016 Iris Awards and was chosen as a 2015 Black Innovator by XFINITY Comcast. She is committed to using her voice for pop culture critique and gender and racial justice.
Avery Bang built her first bridge when she was an undergraduate, experiencing first-hand how a simple footbridge can transform a community. She was hooked, and has spent the last decade addressing the global crisis of isolation in the rural last mile. Today, Avery is the President and CEO of Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), a social enterprise that has connected nearly one million people to essential health care, education and economic opportunities.
Before becoming a bridge builder, Avery was a self-proclaimed Lego nerd, which inspired her to study civil engineering and studio art. After discovering her passion for B2P’s mission, she wrote a Master’s thesis on bridge design for rural contexts and later pursued a business degree at the University of Oxford focused on leading social change. She was named one of the world’s top 25 most newsworthy engineers by Engineering News-Record, was honored with alumni awards from the University of Iowa and the University of Colorado and was the recipient of an honorary PhD from Clarkson University.
Liz Ogbu writes: "While I received my architecture training at a prestigious architecture school (Harvard), my vision of architecture has always been broader than just bricks and mortar. I believe that the very act of design is about creating places that enable people to be and feel acknowledged, to connect to one another, to heal and to thrive. For me, design solutions emerge not just from an aesthetic place but from also taking a human-centered approach in which people’s needs and desires drive the process; problems (and solutions) are looked at not at the level of isolated objects but from the perspective of systemic injustices. Ideas are prototyped rapidly, in real time, at human scale, and in collaboration with communities.
"I’ve intensely pursued opportunities to advance this vision throughout my career, from founding an innovative social impact design consultancy, Studio O, to projects like designing shelters for immigrant day laborers to advocacy work like Dick and Rick: A Primer on Social Impact Design to research around issues of equitable development in urban marginalized communities in Australia and South Africa."
Nancy Rabalais has worked in Louisiana ever since she got her PhD in 1983, studying aspects of marine ecology relevant to environmental health. As she writes: "I work on areas called 'dead zones' that are coastal waters lacking in oxygen in which animals such as fish, shrimp and crabs cannot live. I am also, since 2011, studying the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal waters and Louisiana wetlands.
"I fell in love with biology in the 8th grade and then marine biology in college. My education was not quite the typical 'academic' training. I worked my way through college, beginning at a two-year college, a regional university for my BS and MS, then worked at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas, for three years. My desire for further education sent me back to work on my PhD at The University of Texas at Austin. My first job as a PhD was at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, starting in 1983. I am now a professor and Shell Endowed Chair of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University."
Eve Abrams is an award-winning radio producer, writer, audio documentarian and educator. She produces the audio project Unprisoned, piloted through AIR’s Finding America initiative, which tells how mass incarceration affects people serving time outside and investigates why Louisiana is the world’s per-capita incarceration capital. Unprisoned received a Gabriel Award and was a 2017 Peabody Finalist. Abrams's 2015 documentary Along Saint Claude chronicles 300 years of change in New Orleans and received an Edward R. Murrow award. Her project Documenting Preservation Hall was exhibited at the Louisiana State Museum and became a book.
Abrams's writing appears in Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, Fourth Genre and Louisiana Cultural Vistas, and her radio works can be heard on a host of national programs including "Morning Edition" and "Reveal." Abrams is a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Artist as Activist Fellow. She has been teaching for 25 years and currently teaches for the Society for Relief of Destitute Orphan Boys.
Christy Turlington Burns is a mother, advocate, social entrepreneur, and founder & CEO of the innovative maternal health organization Every Mother Counts. Having endured a childbirth complication herself, Turlington Burns was compelled to direct and produce the documentary No Woman, No Cry about maternal health challenges that impact the lives of millions of girls and women around the world. Every Mother Counts aims to heighten awareness about our global maternal health crisis.
While advocacy remains a key focus, Every Mother Counts has evolved into a 501(c)(3), investing in programs around the world to ensure all women have access to quality maternal health care. Ninety-eight percent of deaths in childbirth are preventable, and as Turlington Burns says: “This is not an issue that needs a cure. We know how to save these women’s lives.”
Cleo Wade's poems, accessible and empowering, speak to a greater future for all women, people of color and the LGBTQ community, preaching love, acceptance, justice and peace. Wade's work is founded on the idea that art should not only be in the name of all people, but should serve all people, inspiring some of her larger-scale public art installations, including a 25-foot love poem in the skyline of the New Orleans French Quarter titled “Respect,” as well as her followup piece titled “She,” which was created in collaboration with graffiti artist Brandon Odums and is permanently installed on the face of a 50-foot warehouse building in New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood.
In the summer of 2017, Wade created the “ARE YOU OK” project, a public booth for free peaceful and loving conversation at the Hester Street Fair in New York City. Her latest public art installation, "Show Love Spread Love," is on view in Los Angeles on the facade of the Beverly Center.
Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya writes: "I am the child of immigrants. Growing up, I loved to dance, and I was a ballerina for many years until a knee injury forced me into early retirement. The challenges I faced in my recovery got me interested in how our brains work, so I majored in neuroscience and worked in an Alzheimer's lab. I realized that as much as I loved doing science, I was drawn more to ways I could communicate and help others understand what we were doing and why it mattered.
"I immersed myself in a new field: design. My career took me from agencies, to startups, to Fortune 100 companies. Today, I create projects like Beyond Curie, a poster series that highlights badass women in STEM, or Atomic by Design, a fashion line for young women centered around the atomic elements that make up our universe. Through writing, speaking and design, I am trying to help the world better appreciate the importance and wonder of science."
Dr. Nadine Hachach-Haram is a surgeon, lecturer and clinical entrepreneur. Hachach-Haram drew on her passion for innovation, education and global surgery to co-found Proximie, an augmented reality platform that allows doctors to virtually transport themselves in to any operating room anywhere in the world to visually and practically interact in an operation from start to finish. From marking up a patient to providing realtime virtual presence in assisting and instructing on an operation from start to finish overlayed with content and a rich palate of augmented reality they aim to provide safe, accessible and cost effective surgery to every patient around the world. Dubbed the "future of surgery" by CNN, Proximie has gone from strength to strength and won multiple awards including Foreign Press Association Science Story of the Year.
Proximie is designed by doctors for doctors and aims to revolutionize the delivery and education of healthcare by reducing the cost of that delivery while providing improved quality to the end patient, ensuring that every patient gets the best care the first time every time.
When Anushka Naiknaware was young, she would spend hours at the chemistry lab at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland and not leave until she had finished every experiment available. Her early interest was chemistry and mathematics, but she quickly learned that every branch of science is connected, including physics, biology and computer science. In fact, her winning Google Science Fair project loops together materials science, fractal math and biology.
Naiknaware has won many awards in notable science and math competitions. She was the youngest winner of the Google Science Fair in 2016, and she won the first-place Mathematics STEM Award at Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars), a premier competition run by the Society for Science and the Public. Naiknaware is inspired by Marie Curie, whose work contributed to major advances in modern medicine. Anushka admires her spirit and enthusiasm to continue her work in a time when women's contributions in science weren't appreciated.
Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes is a mother, daughter, wife, educator, author, event producer and community developer. Most know her by her many pursuits, but the way she knows herself and the world around her is through her exploration of “the word.” Rooted in the cultural soil of New Orleans and watered by the writings of her literary idols, including Kalamu ya Salaam and Toni Morrison, DeVan Ecclesiastes has grown to bask in the sun of her literary heritage -- from sages who transformed pharaoh to God in Ancient Khemet, to spy boys who chant the way clear for Big Chiefs on Mardi Gras day.
DeVan Ecclesiastes leads the place-based development of New Orleans's indigenous African-American neighborhoods, building partnerships, empowering community leaders and advancing work within the priority areas of economic opportunity, cultural preservation, affordable housing, transportation access and environmental sustainability -- realized in the New Orleans's new Cultural Innovation District. No matter her endeavor, DeVan Ecclesiastes continually seeks opportunities to forward her mission of creating a platform for equitable societal change and her vision of social justice for all humanity.
Wendy Suzuki writes: "Long before I wanted to be neuroscientist, I wanted to be Broadway star. I started my neuroscience career studying the parts of the brain important for memory. But after gaining and then losing 25 pounds by going to the gym I noticed how much exercise improved not only my attention and mood but my focus and my memory as well. Exercise was changing my brain, and I wanted to understand how -- so I started studying exercise 'on the side' in my lab. I became a certified exercise instructor so I could bring exercise into my undergraduate classroom, so the students could feel the effects of exercise as I taught them about what exercise was doing to their brains. Then I realized I wanted to study exercise full time. Today I give talks all over the world that include not only my neuroscience findings but live music and a great workout. It’s not exactly Broadway, but that spirit of audience engagement, excitement and enthusiasm inspired by the Broadway stage is now in every presentation I give."
When architect-turned-writer John Cary co-authored an oped, with partner Courtney E. Martin, on the design failures of the breast pump, it sparked an MIT Media Lab hackathon and the launch of multiple companies. It's a perfect example of his knack for linking good design and public good. He is the author of two books, most recently Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone, and his writing on design, philanthropy, and fatherhood is widely published.
Cary works as a philanthropic advisor to an array of foundations and nonprofits around the world, and he frequently curates and hosts events for the Aspen Institute, TED and other entities. He was proudly the first male session host of TEDWomen and is a member of the curatorial team for TEDWomen 2017. Deeply committed to diversifying the public stage, Cary is also a founding partner in FRESH Speakers, a next-generation speakers bureau that represents young women and people of color.
Jean Oelwang writes: "I live in awe every day at the wonders of this great planet and the wisdom of the interconnectedness of all living things, and in hope that we will figure out how to stop screwing up the world for future generations by learning how to partner and collaborate in time to co-create an operating manual for Spaceship Earth that recognises 'it has to be everybody or nobody,' as Buckminster Fuller stated so eloquently.
"Over the past thirty years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from: homeless teenagers in the US; the natural wonders of the Australian National Parks; teams helping to set up mobile phone companies in South Africa, Colombia, Bulgaria, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and the US; entrepreneurs creating new approaches to global issues; business leaders making their companies 100 percent human; and collectives of inspirational leaders like the Elders, the B Team, The Carbon War Room and Ocean Unite.
"All of this has led me to a deep belief (and slight obsession) with the power of partnerships to inspire a better world and better lives. Plus Wonder emerged over the last ten years as a journey to find and interview 50+ long-lasting, life-changing partnerships of all types that have brought wonder into their own lives and the lives of so many others. They shared over 1,500 collective years of practical, honest wisdom."
Chris Waddell writes: "I challenge myself to follow my passion, especially when it scares me, and I fail a lot. Facing my fear, learning to find my best and communicating that process are as important as the end result. Articulating my story forces me to understand the journey, the ups, the downs, the false victories, the crushing defeats, the friends and foes more fully. Hopefully my struggles help others avoid my pitfalls. I’ve adopted the mantra, 'It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you,' as a reminder in my times of weakness that there is always a way.
"As a Paralympic Athlete, I became the best monoskier in the world despite a significant disadvantage, putting the emphasis on skiing instead of disability. When I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in a four-wheeled handcycle, I attempted to turn perception of disability upside down by being the first unassisted paraplegic to reach the summit -- changing the narrative from 'that’s too bad' to 'what do you do?'”
As an author and curator, Deborah Willis's pioneering research has focused on cultural histories envisioning the black body, women and gender. She is a celebrated photographer, acclaimed historian of photography, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellow, and University Professor and Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
Willis received the NAACP Image Award in 2014 for her co-authored book Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery (with Barbara Krauthamer) and in 2015 for the documentary Through a Lens Darkly, inspired by her book Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth) and For Freedoms, which Thomas co-founded in 2016 as the first artist-run super PAC. For Freedoms was recently awarded the 2017 ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform.
Thomas's work has been exhibited throughout the US and abroad, including the International Center of Photography, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Musée du quai Branly and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Thomas's work is in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, among others. Thomas is also the recipient of the 2017 Soros Equality Fellowship. Current and upcoming exhibitions include Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp in New Orleans and The Beautiful Game at Ben Brown Fine Arts. Thomas is a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York.
For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade.
That same year, Guo co-founded CHOOSE with Vulchi to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currently on a gap year before attending Harvard University, Guo and Vulchi have been traveling to all US states and territories collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in fall 2018. Follow their journey on www.princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook.
For a collective future of racial justice, we must educate and empower our young generation now. Yet, the first time 18-year-olds Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo were required to talk about race in school was the 10th grade.
That same year, Vulchi co-founded CHOOSE with Guo to equip us all with the tools we lack to both talk about race and act toward systemic change. Their latest publication, a racial literacy textbook and toolkit for educators called The Classroom Index, has been recognized by Princeton University's Prize in Race Relations & Not in Our Town's Unity Award, featured in Teen Vogue, the Philadelphia Inquirer, & the Huffington Post, and called a “social innovation more necessary than the iPhone” by Professor Ruha Benjamin. Currentlyon a gap year before attending Harvard University, Vulchi and Guo have been traveling to all US states and territories collecting hundreds of powerful stories about race, culture, and intersectionality for another book to be released in fall 2018. Follow their journey on www.princetonchoose.org or @princetonchoose on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook.
Azim Khamisa writes: "I emigrated to the USA in 1974 to escape violence in Kenya, where we were a targeted minority. But 22 years ago, my only son, Tariq, who was a university student and worked a part-time job as a pizza delivery man, was killed by a 14-year-old gang member in a gang initiation ritual. Tariq was only 20 years old when he died, and needless to say it brought my life to a crashing halt. He was a good and a generous kid!
"However, even clouded in a deeply painful tragedy I saw that there were victims on both sides of the gun. Nine months after Tariq died, I founded the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF). Our mission is to save lives of children, empower the right choices and teach the principles of nonviolence — of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and peacemaking. I forgave my son's killer and invited his grandfather to join me in TKF's work. With the grace of God, TKF is 22 years old and has a safe school model and is successfully keeping kids away from gangs, weapons, drugs, crime and violence. The grandfather and I are still together doing this work, and the kid who killed my son is now 36 years old and he will join us when he is paroled in October 2018. I have authored four books and speak worldwide to students and adults. I am a passionate peace activist and a teacher of nonviolence, forgiveness and spawning peacemakers."
Ples Felix was a retired Green Beret, working in community development and raising his grandson Tony, trying hard to keep him safe and away from bad influences. But on one horrible night, Tony, in the company of older gang members, shot and killed a pizza delivery driver. It was a moment that changed many lives.
The delivery driver was Tariq Khamisa, a 20-year-old student in San Diego. His grieving father, Azim Khamisa, seeking to find meaning in unfathomable loss, started the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to address youth violence through education, mentorship and community service. And he invited Felix to join him -- because "there was a victim on both ends of that gun." Since 1995, Felix has co-led the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, developing mentorship programs that keep at-risk kids in school and on the right track.
Felice Belle is a poet, playwright and pop culture enthusiast. She has performed at Joe’s Pub, the Apollo Theater and the American Museum of Natural History. Belle was a featured poet at TED’s City2.0 conference and her young audiences play, Game On!, premiered at the Kennedy Center as part of the One Mic: Hip Hop Culture Worldwide festival.
Belle co-wrote and performs alongside Jennifer Murphy in Other Women, a two-woman show about the enduring nature of sisterhood that interrogates ideas about women as artists, lovers, and friends. A unique theatrical experience with stories, poems and images, Other Women invites audiences to choose what’s real, what’s fantasy, and what lies between. Other Women was created by Monica L. Williams and produced by #LoveHustle, a global dialogue and performance series.
Belle holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University, an M.A. in Individualized Study from NYU’s Gallatin School and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Long Island University. She spends her free time solving fictional crimes.
Jennifer Murphy is an award-winning writer and performer whose work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies. A recipient of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award honoring excellence in multicultural literature, she has performed at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, Knitting Factory and The Nuyorican Poets Café, among other performance venues. Murphy also maintains a parallel career as a private investigator, specializing in online investigations and threat monitoring for high-consequence events.
Murphy co-wrote and performs alongside Felice Belle in Other Women, a two-woman show about the enduring nature of sisterhood that interrogates ideas about women as artists, lovers, and friends. A unique theatrical experience with stories, poems and images, Other Women invites audiences to choose what’s real, what's fantasy, and what lies between. Other Women was created by Monica L. Williams and produced by #LoveHustle, a global dialogue and performance series.
Tiffany Kagure curates and creates knowledge on women and sexuality on the African continent, manages spreadsheets and creates conversations -- all the while trying to figure out how to adult. Founding and running HOLAAfrica helped to bring together her various skills as it demanded all of them, all the time.
A passion for making sure people had the orgasms and conversations that elude them whilst being given the comprehensive healthy knowledge of sexuality that eluded her meant that HOLAAfrica forced her to grow as a blogger, project creator and guru of excel spreadsheets. The need to have conversations about sex and sexuality, seeing what the novel ways this could be done whilst exploring what boundaries could be pushed meant that her life at the helm of HOLAAfrica and her personal consultancy work grew, and life got wild. Sometimes the best life choices come from trying to figure out how to get through your own existence.
Siphumeze Khundayi has found art to be a great tool for her to explore and express who she is. So she makes art about the experiences of African women and their sexuality. When she is not creating and performing, she is founder and Artistic Director of HOLAAfrica, where she gets to facilitate dialogues and make sure the site is looking pretty while annoying the curator for taking ages to reply to emails. She also dedicates her life to floating through the world having conversations with the universe, struggling through yoga poses, meditating, blowing bubbles and playing Candy Crush.
Joan Blades is a co-founder of LivingRoomConversations.org, an open-source effort to rebuild respectful civil discourse across ideological, cultural and party lines while embracing our core-shared values. She is also a co-founder of MomsRising.org and MoveOn.org. She is a co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When, Where and How to Work and Boost Your Bottom Line, winner of a Nautilus book award in 2011, and The Motherhood Manifesto, which won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize in 2007.
Last century, Blades was a software entrepreneur, a co-founder of Berkeley Systems, best known for the Flying Toaster and the game "You Don't Know Jack." A mediator (attorney) by training and inclination, she is a nature lover, artist and true believer in the power of citizens and our need to rebuild respectful civil discourse while embracing our core shared values.
John Gable offers a unique combination of technology and politics. He started in tech 24 years ago by joining the original Microsoft Office team, then became the PM team lead for Netscape Navigator. He also led ZoneAlarm at Check Point Software, and cofounded and sold Kavi Corp. Gable was previously a Republican operative, working for three Senate majority leaders (Howard Baker, Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell), the Republican National Committee and George H.W. Bush.
Now Gable and his multi-partisan AllSides.com team use technology to present news and issues from many angles to allow people to make up their own minds. Their mission: "free people from filter bubbles so they can better understand the world and each other."
Shameem Akhtar is a dedicated and enthusiastic development professional, with special interest in the field of gender, education, social mobilization, emergency/relief, management and literature. She is also engaged in research studies in rural development, doing PhD work at the University of Sindh. She is a member of the Individual Land Organization (Friedrich Naumann Stiftung), and was selected by Acumen Pakistan Fellows 2015 for their one-year course.
She frequently contributes to print media and literary magazines, work that has brought her close to the study of important social issues like malnutrition, child labor, marginalization and other core problems of the province. She has been active in the training of teachers, children, women and other segments of society in the fields of education, health, livelihood and disaster management under the banner of prestigious organizations in the social service sector.
Lera Boroditsky is an associate professor of cognitive science at University of California San Diego and editor in chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology. She previously served on the faculty at MIT and at Stanford. Her research is on the relationships between mind, world and language (or how humans get so smart).
Boroditsky has been named one of 25 visionaries changing the world by the Utne Reader, and is also a Searle Scholar, a McDonnell scholar, recipient of an NSF Career award and an APA Distinguished Scientist lecturer. She once used the Indonesian exclusive "we" correctly before breakfast and was proud of herself about it all day. You can follow Lera on Instagram.
Teresa Njoroge is the cofounder and CEO of Clean Start Kenya. She was pursuing her childhood dream, a career in banking, when she was falsely accused of a fraudulent transaction. Sentenced to imprisonment in the High Security Langata Women’s Maximum Prison, Njoroge was forced to bring her three-month-old baby with her.
What began as a loss of career and social standing led to her purpose in life, advocating for Kenyan women, youth and men trapped in a cycle of poverty, survival, petty crimes and life behind bars and equipping them with entrepreneurial skills, jobs and formal education. Later cleared of any wrongdoing, Njoroge is now a beacon of hope and second chances to thousands, with her mission to build up the bottom-of-the-pyramid economy and an inclusive Africa. As she writes: "I am an optimistic, self-driven social entrepreneur with over a decade of progressive experience in economic and social justice work, in my journey from 'I can do it' to 'I did it'!"
Jazz-based cellist, singer, composer and improviser Helen Gillet performs her own eclectic mix of French, contemporary jazz, North Indian, blues and classical styles. With a classical musical education, her training as an improviser began with North Indian Hindustani vocal ragas in 1998, which launched her into the worlds of free improvisation, jazz, funk, rock and French chansons. She has performed with Cassandra Wilson, Kid Koala, Smokey Robinson, Arcade Fire and more.
Gillet wrote and performed the music for the documentaries Living with Hurricanes: Katrina & Beyond and Living with Water, for the Louisiana State Museum’s Presbytere on Jackson Square.
Dixon Chibanda is the director of the African Mental Health Initiative (AMARI). He's based in Zimbabwe, where he works on the Friendship Bench program, a cognitive behavioral therapy–based approach to kufungisisa, the local term for depression, literally translated into “thinking too much.” At the Friendship Bench, patients receive individual problem-solving therapy from a specifically trained lay health worker.
Chibanda is passionate about connecting with ordinary people in ways that improve their lives using simple but effective programs that can be carried out by non-specialists or professionals. He likes to think outside the box as he explores ways of helping people with conditions such as depression, PTSD and ADHD.
Lindsay Stradley digs deep into the underlying complexities of urban systems, one community at a time. After studying cities as an undergraduate at Yale, Stradley joined Teach For America to become an urban changemaker. She taught high school math in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and co-founded a charter high school after the hurricane devastated the city. To hone skills in private-sector innovation, she joined Google, opening a new Sales & Operations office in Ann Arbor. Finally, her curiosity took her back to school, where she got an MBA from MIT Sloan -- and developed the crazy idea that is now Sanergy.
Stradley packed her bags, moved to Nairobi, Kenya and co-founded Sanergy, a pioneering social enterprise dedicated to building healthy, prosperous communities in Africa’s informal settlements by making hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible for everyone, forever. She now leads a group of more than 200 young changemakers at Sanergy, who are reimagining sanitation delivery for communities living in Nairobi’s urban slums.
Steph Speirs is a community builder with management experience in the Middle East, South Asia, and the United States. She is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of Solstice, an enterprise dedicated to radically expanding the number of American households that can take advantage of solar power. She was selected as an Echoing Green Climate Fellow, a Global Good Fund Fellow, a Kia Revisionary, a Grist 50 Fixer, a GLG Social Impact Fellow, and an Acumen Global Fellow, all of which recognize emerging leaders in social enterprise. She previously led sales and marketing innovation in India at d.light, a solar products company powering areas without reliable electricity; spearheaded Acumen's renewable energy impact investment strategy in Pakistan; developed Middle East policy as the youngest Director at the White House National Security Council; and managed field operations in seven states for the first Obama presidential campaign. She holds a BA from Yale, a Master in Public Affairs (MPA) with distinction from Princeton, and an MBA from MIT. At MIT, she received the Paul and Daily Soros Fellowship, Legatum Fellowship, Public Service Fellowship, and Dean's Fellowship.
Minda Dentler’s life is one of inspiration, courage and determination. As an infant in India, Dentler contracted polio, resulting in the paralysis of her legs, and was left at an orphanage. Adopted at three by an American family, she underwent a series of surgeries that enabled her to walk with leg braces and crutches. Undeterred by her disability, Dentler became an independent woman with the intention and drive to face and overcome the many obstacles she has encountered throughout her life.
Dentler is an accomplished athlete and is committed to inspiring people to move beyond their fear of failure and achieve their goals. She has been featured on CNN and NBC. She has written for Huffington Post and TIME, advocating for the eradication of polio. Dentler is a 2017 New Voices Fellow with the Aspen Institute and works for a large global insurer.
Judith Hill wrote her first song at the age of four and hasn't stopped writing and performing since. She's backed such artists as Stevie Wonder and the late Michael Jackson, and hers is one of the stories told in director Morgan Neville’s acclaimed 20 Feet From Stardom, a film that shines the spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary and a Grammy for Best Music Film. Hill is featured on the film’s soundtrack.
Hill has garnered praise for her live performance as opener for Josh Groban, John Legend and Prince both in the US and the UK. Her debut album, Back in Time, was co-produced with Prince and released on the NPG label. And you may have seen her as a contestant on season four of "The Voice."
Named one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2017, Gretchen Carlson is one of the nation's most highly acclaimed journalists and a warrior for women. In 2016, Carlson became the face of sexual harassment in the workplace after her lawsuit against Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes paved the way for thousands of other women facing harassment to tell their stories. Carlson's advocacy put her on the cover of TIME, and her new book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back, joined the New York Times best-seller list the week it was published. She became a columnist for TIME's online "Motto" newsletter in 2017, focusing on gender and empowerment issues.
Carlson's ongoing work on behalf of women includes advocating for arbitration reform on Capitol Hill; in 2018, she plans to testify before Congress about workplace inequality and forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts. Carlson also created the Gift of Courage Fund and the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative to support empowerment, advocacy and anti-harassment programs for girls and underserved women.
Carlson hosted "The Real Story" on Fox News for three years; co-hosted "Fox and Friends" for seven years; and in her first book, Getting Real, became a national best-seller. She co-hosted "The Saturday Early Show" for CBS in 2000 and served as a CBS News correspondent covering stories including Geneoa's G-8 Summit, Timothy McVeigh’s execution, 9/11 from the World Trade Center and the Bush-Gore election. She started her reporting career in Richmond, Virginia, then served as an anchor and reporter in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas, where she produced and reported a 30-part series on domestic violence that won several national awards.
An honors graduate of Stanford University, Carlson was valedictorian of her high school class and studied at Oxford University in England. A child prodigy on the violin, she performed as a soloist with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra at age 13, and in 1989, became the first classical violinist to win the Miss America crown.
Ever grateful for the opportunities provided to her and imbued with a "never give up" attitude, Carlson has mentored dozens of young women throughout her career. She serves as a national trustee for the March of Dimes, a member of the board of directors for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary in Newtown, Connecticut and a trustee of Greenwich Academy, an all-girls preparatory day school in Greenwich, Connecticut. Carlson is married to sports agent Casey Close and mom to their two children.
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C., the National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth and a former advisor on Native American affairs to Bernie Sanders. She advocates on behalf of tribal nations at the local and federal levels on a range of issues impacting indigenous peoples. She recently spent six months living and working in North Dakota fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. She is a co-founder of Not Your Mascots, a nonprofit committed to educating the public about the harms of stereotyping and promoting positive representation of Native Americans in the public sphere.
Mwende "FreeQuency" Katwiwa is a 26-year-old Kenyan Queer Womyn speaker and performer. Ranked third at the 2015 Individual World Poetry Slam, Katwiwa is an internationally touring author, host, youth worker, social-justice lecturer, teaching artist and workshop leader who has spent her life at the intersection of arts, education and activism. An award-winning poet and speaker, her work in reproductive justice, Black Lives Matter organizing, LGBTQ+ advocacy and poetry have been featured on Upworthy, OkayAfrica, the New York Times, For Harriet, Everyday Feminism and more.
As a writer, she has always centered storytelling as an avenue to create change and believes in "speaking things into existence." Her work is heavily influenced by her heritage and her pan-African upbringing, and centers "the other" and "the in between," places she has often found herself occupying as a black, queer migrant. Her experience of the power of words and stories to impact the lives of those sharing and receiving has pushed her to share and teach the craft from conferences to community gatherings to work with currently and formerly incarcerated youth and adults.
Clemantine Wamariya is a human rights advocate, social entrepreneur and public speaker committed to inspiring others through the power of storytelling. Her personal accounts of childhood in Rwanda, displacement throughout war-torn countries and various refugee camps have encouraged myriads of people to persevere despite great odds. With no formal education before the age of 13, Wamariya went on to graduate from Yale University with a BA in Comparative Literature.
Wamariya was recognized for her dedication to improving the lives of others, especially the underserved. In 2011, President Obama appointed her, as the youngest member in history, to the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and she was reappointed in 2016. She continues to share her experiences of adversity and seized opportunities as a way to reframe the way her audiences think, whether it be about their own privilege or basic human rights -- and she strives to catalyze development personally, locally and globally. Though still a nomad, she is based out of San Francisco, where she is writing her first book, due in spring 2018.
Justin Baldoni is an actor, director and entrepreneur whose efforts are focused on creating impactful media. He can be seen playing Rafael on CW’s award-winning phenomenon Jane the Virgin. In 2012, Baldoni created the most watched digital documentary series in history, My Last Days, a show about living told by the dying. On the heels of that success, Baldoni founded Wayfarer Entertainment, a digital media studio focused on disruptive inspiration.
In 2014 Baldoni started the annual Carnival of Love with a mission to improve the way the Los Angeles community views and interacts those experiencing homelessness. To support his work on Skid Row, he started the Wayfarer Foundation, which supports his work breaking the cycle of homelessness and supporting individuals facing terminal illness.
Sally Kohn has a powerful vision for a more united United States. She's a columnist and a political commentator for CNN, and she is working on a book about hate that will be published in the spring of 2018. As a former contributor to Fox News, this progressive lesbian sparred with some of the most conservative minds on television and has sifted through hundreds of letters of hate mail a day. But she deeply believes in finding our common humanity, political differences aside. Before we can achieve political correctness, we must first establish emotional correctness — and this will ignite conversations that lead to real change.
What does it take internally -- in the way we deal with our thoughts, emotions and stories -- that helps us to thrive in a complex and chaotic world? Susan David became fascinated by this question through first-hand experience of loss and resilience, while growing up in a country in which hate was legislated: apartheid South Africa. David's profound and insightful work teaches us that life's beauty is inseparable from its fragility.
David holds a PhD in the psychology of emotions, is an award-winning Harvard Medical School psychologist, and is one of the world’s leading management thinkers. Her new book Emotional Agility describes the psychological skills critical to thriving in times of complexity and change. She is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and a regular guest on national radio and television. Susan is CEO of Evidence Based Psychology, Harvard Medical School faculty and a co-founder of the Institute of Coaching. Described as "a powerful speaker, visionary thinker and inspirational personality," Susan is an unwavering believer in the power of people to bring the best of who they are to themselves, their children, their organizations and their communities.
Leah Chase, named the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," has been the executive chef at Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans since the 1940's. A longtime advocate for civil rights, her restaurant was a meeting place for the Freedom Riders and prominent civil rights activists, and one of the first places in the segregated south where blacks and whites could dine together. A lifelong resident of Louisiana, she is a patron of local artists, amassing a distinguished collection of African-American art displayed at Dooky Chase. The chef is widely considered to be a pioneer of soul food and an icon of American cooking.
Pat Mitchell began her media career in print (at LOOK) and transitioned to television as opportunities opened up for women in the early 1970s. She was among the first women to anchor the news (WBZ-TV Boston) and host a morning talk show (Woman 74). She was the first woman to own, produce and host a national talk show, the Emmy-winning Woman to Woman, which also became the first television series to be placed in the archives of the Harvard-Radcliffe Schlesinger Library on the History of Women.
As the head of Ted Turner's documentary division, the programs she commissioned garnered 37 Emmys, five Peabodys and two Academy Award nominations. In 2000, she became the first woman President and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System. She led PBS through the transition to digital broadcasting, sustained government funding and added many new original series to the national schedule. As head of the Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles, she guided an institution that leads discussion about the cultural, creative and social significance of media. Now as an independent consultant and curator, Mitchell advises foundations and corporations on issues of women’s empowerment and leadership development as well as media relations and governance. Mitchell is a trustee of the Skoll Foundation and Participant Media; chair of the Sundance Institute Board and Women's Media Center and a board member of the Acumen Fund.
In 2010, Mitchell launched and co-hosted the first TEDWomen and for the succeeding seven years, in partnership with the TED organization, Mitchell has curated and hosted TEDxWomen and TEDWomen conferences.
Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro is president and CEO of Global Fund for Women, one of the world’s leading publicly-supported foundations for gender equality. During her time at the Global Fund for Women, Kanyoro has seen the organization award nearly $150 million in grantmaking.
Before joining Global Fund for Women, she was Director for Population and Reproductive Health at David and Lucile Packard Foundation, managing a $30 million grantmaking portfolio. She has written and published extensively on matters affecting the lives of women and children. She was a visiting scholar at Harvard; in 2015, Forbes named her one of 10 women “power brands” working for gender equality.
After practicing as a corporate architect for 12 years, Deanna Van Buren left her job to become an activist architect, and for the past six years she has been designing restorative justice centers instead of prisons in order to end the age of mass incarceration. She's the co-founder and design director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, based in Oakland, California. She's also interested in designing virtual spaces for peacemaking and was the lead architect for The Witness.
Emerging from the musical womb that is New Orleans, Sunni Patterson combines the heritage of her native town with an enlightened modern style to create music and poetry that is timeless in its groove. She began her career as a full-time high school teacher, and much of her life since has been devoted to serving as a cultural worker and grassroots activist, using art and poetry to encourage dialogue and healing.
She has been a featured performer at many of the nation's premier spoken-word venues, including HBO's Def Poetry and BET’s Lyric Cafe. She also had the privilege of speaking at the Panafest in Ghana, West Africa and has collaborated with artists and performers, including Hannibal Lokumbe (singing lead vocals for his score, ”King and the Crescent City Moon"), Kalamu Ya Salaam, Sonia Sanchez, Wanda Coleman, Amiri Baraka, Mos Def, Eve Ensler, The Last Poets and many more.
Anjali Kumar writes: "I’m an idea acupuncturist, which means I (metaphorically) put long, thin needles into people and companies in order to find innovative solutions to business problems."
Kumar is the Chief People Officer and General Counsel at Cheddar, Inc. She was formerly the Head of Social Innovation and Founding General Counsel at Warby Parker, a transformative lifestyle brand offering designer eyewear at affordable prices while leading the way for socially conscious businesses. Prior to joining Warby Parker, Kumar was Senior Counsel at Google where she was a commercial and product attorney on areas ranging from Google X to YouTube. She is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School and Fordham University and serves as an advisor to prominent technology companies, luxury fashion brands, consumer products and non-profit organizations including Malala Fund, IDEO.org and organize.org. She serves on the Board of Directors of GloScience Professional, Amplifier Foundation, Edible Schoolyard NY, and GrowNYC and the Guggenheim museum’s Global Innovation Group.
She says: "I ventured into the spiritual backcountry in search of answers for my daughter, Zia, to questions like: What happens when you die? And: Is there a God? And she wrote a book about it -- Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search for Something to Believe In -- which basically means I’ve convened with the dead and had my eyeballs scrapped by a faith healer in Brazil."
Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson devoted 15 years to the research and writing of The Warmth of Other Suns. She interviewed more than 1,200 people, unearthed archival works and gathered the voices of the famous and the unknown to tell the epic story of the Great Migration, one of the biggest underreported stories of the 20th century and one of the largest migrations in American history.
The book was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors, and made national news when President Obama chose it for summer reading in 2011. In 2012, the New York Times named The Warmth of Other Suns to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time.
Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago Bureau Chief of the New York Times, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer and the first African-American to win for individual reporting.
What is the antidote to the rise in nationalism, polarization and hate in the US and around the globe? Social justice activist Valarie Kaur argues we need to claim love as a public ethic. She redefines love not just as an emotion but as labor that births and transforms: "Revolutionary Love." When it's released from the domestic sphere and practiced in public, Revolutionary Love disrupts the logic of capitalism, challenges structures of injustice and shifts collective consciousness.
Telling personal stories from the front lines of social movements, and drawing upon ethics, law and neuroscience, Kaur argues that the practice of Revolutionary Love -- for others, opponents and ourselves -- is the call of our times. Watch her viral speech: Breathe and push