Speakers 2020

Panels are free to attend, but registration is required.

Day 1: Monday, September 14

Sponsored by the Center for New Deal Studies

David Faris is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University. Professor Faris focuses his research on American political institutions, elections and foreign policy.

In April 2018 he published a book on progressive power and American institutional reform called It’s Time To Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. The New York Times called it "a short, bracing polemic." The Guardian wrote, "American democracy could disappear altogether within our own lifetimes. Every one who wants to avoid that catastrophe must read his book." It's Time to Fight Dirty has been featured on Vox, Vice, Mic, Pacific Standard and more.

Faris's first book, Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt (I.B. Tauris, 2013)– focused on the use of digital media by Egyptian opposition movements. With Babak Rahimi, Faris is the co-editor of and contributor to Social Media and Iran: Politics and Society After 2009 (SUNY Press). His academic work has been published in the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Middle East Policy, Arab Media & Society and Politique Etrangèr.

In addition to his academic work, Faris is a contributing writer at The Week, an international journal of opinion, as well as the Middle East-focused blog Informed Comment. He has published op-eds with USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, NPR.org, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily News Egypt, the Philadelphia Citypaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer and more.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Esq., Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi

He is the son of two life-long community activists—the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba. Throughout his life and career, he has maintained a consistent presence in community projects and displayed a genuine commitment to justice. Attorney Lumumba began his community work early on—serving as co-director of the Malcolm X Grassroots Day Camp and acting as an assistant coach for the Jackson Panthers Basketball Organization. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 2005 from Tuskegee University where he served as president of both the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society and the Tuskegee Political Science Association. As an undergraduate, Attorney Lumumba also represented the institution on a national level as a member of the Tuskegee Bio-Ethics Debate Team and was honored as the 2005 Gwendolyn M. Patton Student Scholar Activist.

Attorney Lumumba earned his juris doctorate and a certificate in sports & entertainment law from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas in 2008. After law school, he immediately returned to Jackson, Mississippi and began his work as a junior associate at Lumumba, Freelon, & Associates. His dedication to justice and commitment to community is further demonstrated by the numerous pro bono cases he undertook for clientele who struggled to afford legal services yet deserved justice and adequate representation all the same. He is a member of the Mississippi Bar Association as well as the Magnolia Bar Association. In 2013, he launched his own firm, Lumumba & Associates. Attorney Lumumba’s deep-seated commitment to his community expands beyond his career. His talent for organizing has been a vital component to previous city elections. Attorney Lumumba acted as a campaign coordinator for his father’s successful bid for Mayor in 2013 and was instrumental in co-crafting The People’s Platform.

In 2017, Attorney Lumumba defeated nine other viable candidates in the Democratic primary for mayor with a total of 55% of the vote. He went on to win the city’s general election by 93% on June 6, 2017. As Mayor, he was recognized as one of Mississippi’s Top 50 Most Influential Leaders and was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans of 2017 by the Root. In February 2019, Mayor Lumumba received the Frederick Douglass 200 Award in the area of politics, an honor bestowed upon him by Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington, DC.

Attorney Lumumba is a faithful member of Free Christian Ministries and serves on the church’s leadership team. His lifelong objective is to continue to struggle on behalf of oppressed peoples worldwide, so that they may eventually obtain the self-determined lives they so justly deserve. He firmly supports the concepts of community and family and the belief of the community as a family and pledges to do all that he can to make that concept live. Chokwe Antar is married to Ebony Lumumba and the couple has two daughters, Alake’ Maryama and Nubia Ngozi.

Day 2: Tuesday, September 15

Sandra Frink is an Associate Professor of History and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. She is a cultural historian of the United States who specializes in the study of gender, race, ethnicity, and urban public space. Her publications, including those in American Nineteenth Century History and The Journal of the History of Sexuality, focus on the nineteenth century United States, but her teaching and research interests also extend into the colonial period and the twentieth century. She teaches courses on women’s history, race and slavery, immigration history, oral history, and on the history and memory of the Civil War. Her current research analyzes identity, race, and culture in the urban streets of nineteenth-century New Orleans.

Professor Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History at The Johns Hopkins University.

She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy.

Professor Jones is the author of Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (Cambridge University Press, 2018), winner of the Organization of American Historians Liberty Legacy Award for the best book in civil rights history, the American Historical Association Littleton- Griswold Prize for the best book in American legal history, and the American Society for Legal History John Phillip Reid book award for the best book in Anglo-American legal history. Forthcoming in 2020 is Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Fought for Rights for All (Basic.) Professor Jones is also author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900 (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), together with many important articles and essay. Today, she is at work on a biography of US Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney.

Professor Jones is recognized as a public historian, frequently writing for broader audiences at outlets including the Washington Post, the Atlantic, USA Today, Public Books, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Time, the curatorship of museum exhibitions including “Reframing the Color Line” and “Proclaiming Emancipation” in conjunction with the William L. Clements Library, and collaborations with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Charles Wright Museum of African American History, the American Experience, the Southern Poverty Law Center, PBS, Netflix, and Arte (France.)

Professor Jones holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law. Prior to the start of her academic career, she was a public interest litigator in New York City, recognized for her work a Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York at Columbia University.

Professor Jones currently serves as a President of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and on the Executive Board of the Organization of American Historians.

Lisa G. Materson is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California at Davis, and a specialist in U.S. women’s political history.

She is the author of For the Freedom of Her Race: Black Women and Electoral Politics in Illinois, 1877-1932 (UNC 2009), which analyzes black women's involvement in southern, midwestern, and national politics in order to undermine institutionalized racism. She is currently completing Within the Regime, Against the Regime: Ruth Reynolds and the Battle for Puerto Rico’s Independence. The book combines a feminist biography of Ruth Reynolds (1916-1989) with a history of her multiple activist communities to examine the gendered and transnational history of the Puerto Rican independence movement. Materson is also co-editor, with Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, of The Oxford Handbook of American Women’s and Gender History (2018), and the author of articles on Puerto Rican women's independence activism and African American women's internationalism.

Lynn Weiner is professor emerita of history at Roosevelt University, where she began teaching as an adjunct in 1983 and retired in 2017. In addition to teaching she served as the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Interim Provost, University Historian, and Assistant to the President.

She has co-authored a photo book, Roosevelt University (2014) and an article published in Chicago History (“Pioneering Social Justice”) on the founding of the university (2019). She has also written a book on women’s labor history and numerous journal articles on topics in American social and cultural history. Since retiring she has served on the Board of Directors of the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, and is currently writing a book exploring how Americans understand their past.

Day 3: Wednesday, September 16

C. Riley Snorton, Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago

Snorton is a cultural theorist who analyzes representations of race and gender throughout history. He is the author of Nobody Is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) and Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity (University of Minnesota Press, 2017), winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction and an American Library Association Stonewall Honor Book in Nonfiction. The book has also been recognized by the Organization of American Historians and the Institute for Humanities Research.

Snorton’s next monograph, tentatively titled Mud: Ecologies of Racial Meaning examines the constitutive presence of swamps to racial practices and formations in the Americas. Currently, he is coediting Saturation: Racial Matter, Institutional Limits and the Excesses of Representation (New Museum / MIT, forthcoming) and The Flesh of the Matter: A Hortense Spillers Reader (forthcoming). He has also coedited several special issues of journals, including “Blackness” for Transgender Studies Quarterly (2017), “The Queerness of Hip Hop / the Hip Hop of Queerness” for Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International (2013), and “Media Reform” for the International Journal of Communication.

Snorton has been a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Pomona College, and two fellowships at Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication with graduate certificates in Africana studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies.

Camilla Taylor, Director of Constitutional Litigation

Camilla B. Taylor is the Director of Constitutional Litigation for Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest national legal organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of all lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people with HIV. She spearheads Lambda Legal’s litigation challenging the Trump/Pence administration’s assault on LGBT rights.

Most recently, Taylor has worked on Karnoski v. Trump, challenging the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender people; and Marouf v. Azar, a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on behalf of a lesbian couple denied an opportunity to apply to foster a refugee child. Taylor was the National Marriage Project Director at Lambda Legal from 2011 through 2015. In 2015, the Marriage Project concluded its work as a result of victory in the consolidated cases titled Obergefell v. Hodges. This decision struck down all laws banning same-sex couples from marriage in the United States and territories.

In addition to her work as a litigator, Taylor has contributed to legislative efforts concerning marriage and parenting around the country, and has testified multiple times before state legislatures in support of marriage bills and in opposition to measures that would permit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Prior to joining Lambda Legal, Taylor was a staff attorney with the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the Legal Aid Society of New York City and a litigation associate with Shearman & Sterling.

Taylor received her J.D. from Columbia Law School and her B.A. from Yale College. She has taught LGBT Law at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and the University of Chicago Law School, is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and serves on the American Constitution Society Chicago Chapter Board of Advisors. In 2009, she was named one of Crain's Chicago Business's "40 under 40." Recognition for her work also includes induction into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame (2015), the American Constitution Society Ruth Goldman Award (2012), Columbia Law School Public interest Initiative Distinguished Graduate award (2012), Laurel School Young Alumna of Distinction Award (2009), and Matthew Shepard Scholarship Award for Leadership (2009).

Modesto Valle
Modesto Tico Valle is the Chief Executive Officer of Center on Halsted, the most comprehensive community center in the Midwest dedicated to advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in Chicago.

A native of Chicago, Valle is a longtime community activist and organizer. He founded the Chicago Chapter NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1990 and was instrumental in bringing the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the National Mall in 1996. He has served as both a volunteer and staff member at a number of Chicago-area non-profits including Chicago House, Test Positive Awareness Network and Open Hand Chicago, where he served as the organization's first Volunteer Services Director.

Valle was named CEO of Center on Halsted in 2007, where he oversaw the opening of the 175,000 square foot community center. Since taking the helm, Center on Halsted has grown into a full-fledged community center with an annual operating budget of more than $7 million. Under his leadership, more than 1,400 community members visit the Center every day. Patrons participate in the wide variety of programs and services offered ranging from the arts, volleyball, cooking classes and yoga to HIV testing, group therapy and job training. Valle was instrumental in bringing several landmark efforts to the Center, such as the first LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing project for seniors and the nation’s first LGBT clinical psychology internship with Northwestern University. In the spring of 2016, Valle led the launch of the Center’s Youth Housing Initiative, as well as the fall 2017 launch of the Get to Zero campaign.

Valle attended DePaul University and Notre Dame's Seminary School. In addition, he holds certificates in nonprofit management from Harvard Business School and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. He was recently appointed to the CenterLink Board of Directors and has served on the board of the NAMES Project Foundation, Equality Education Project, City of Chicago LGBT Health Council, Illinois Violence Prevention Authority Board, City of Chicago Employment Task Force, Welcoming Committee NATO, Illinois HIV/AIDS Advisory Council, Board Member of Horizons Community Services and the Chicago Children's Choir. In recognition of his work, Valle has been named Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine, inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, honored by the national NAMES Project Foundation and the Norman Bobins Leadership Award and he received a Red Ribbon Leadership Award from the State of Illinois.

LaSaia Wade is an open Afro-Puerto Rican Indigenous Trans Woman, the founder of Tennessee Trans Journey Project (TNTJ) and the founder and director of Brave Space Alliance.

Described as the first “Black-led trans-led LGBTQ Center located on the South Side of Chicago,” Brave Space Alliance is “designed to create and provide affirming and culturally competent services for the entire LGBTQ community of Chicago.” Recognized for its work providing resources, including meals, during the Covid-19 pandemic and racial justice protests, Brave Space Alliance serves as a “safe haven” according to a recent Chicago Tribune article featuring Wade.

In addition to her work as director of Brave Space Alliance, she is a member of Chicago Trans Gender Nonconforming Network Collective and the Trans Liberation Collective as well as the business owner of Mystical Bee Hive, which facilitates training on advocacy work.

One of the organizers for the largest march for trans rights ever-held in the Midwest, she is the first Trans woman in Illinois History to be honored in Women's History month for the work she is doing.

Wade graduated in 2010 with a BBA in Business Management and has spent more than a decade in organizing and advocacy work with black, indigenous, trans and gender nonconforming folx around the world.

Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of Roosevelt One Book, One University novel Into the Beautiful North. Hailed by NPR as a “literary badass” and a “master storyteller with a rock-and-roll heart,” Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.

A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 17 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”

Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 novel, is a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts and has been chosen by more than 50 different cities and colleges as a community read.

Day 4: Thursday, September 17

Lori E. Lightfoot is the 56th Mayor of Chicago.

Since assuming office following her historic election, Mayor Lightfoot has undertaken an ambitious agenda of expanding opportunity and inclusive economic growth across Chicago’s neighborhoods and communities, with early accomplishments including landmark ethics and good governance reforms, worker protection legislation, and closing a record $838 million budget gap, as well as key investments in education, public safety and financial stability. Mayor Lightfoot also placed Chicago on the path to a $15 minimum wage by 2021.

In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, Mayor Lightfoot has led a coordinated, citywide response across government, business, and community organizations to effectively address its spread and broader public impact, including the creation of the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, among other actions.

Prior to her election, Mayor Lightfoot most recently served as a senior equity partner in the Litigation and Conflict Resolution Group at Mayer Brown. Previously, she served as President of the Chicago Police Board, as well as the Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force.

Mayor Lightfoot also served as Chief of Staff and General Counsel of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, interim First Deputy of the Chicago Department of Procurement Services, Chief Administrator of the Office of Professional Standards, and as Assistant United States Attorney.

A native of Massillon, Ohio, Mayor Lightfoot has been a resident of Chicago since 1986 and lives on the Near Northwest Side with her wife Amy Eshleman and their daughter.

Judge Ann Claire Williams Retired Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge.

Judge Ann Claire Williams served in the federal judiciary from 1985 until her retirement from the bench earlier this year. The first woman of color appointed to the Northern District of Illinois, first and only person of color to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and third woman of color to serve on any federal appeals court, the Detroit native has been committed to creating opportunities for diverse students from grade school through law school and has also led many national and international training initiatives for judiciaries, lawyers and law students. She is currently of counsel at Jones Day leading its Rule of Law in Africa Initiative.

Ameshia Cross is a leader in advocacy, public policy and progressive politics. Currently a liberal commentator for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Cross writes and produces her own show, Cross Point, featuring daily commentary on hot button political issues. She has experience across many policy arenas. At the Pretrial Justice Institute Ameshia leads state policy and coalition engagement for bail reform throughout the country

Cross is often cited in education circles for her work in P-12 and higher education, where she has developed innovative strategies for Congressional leadership, school districts, and local governments.

No stranger to community organizing she led the summer fellowship program for Organizing for America, President Obama’s flagship non-profit training young progressive leaders in advocacy and community action.

Cross also led advocacy efforts for the sanctuary movement to limit local law enforcement from actions based on immigration status, and delivered testimony before Congress on gun policy.

A Chicago native, Cross has worked as a campaign consultant and a communications lead for elected officials at the city and state levels. She also was a White House fellow and served as an editorial staffer for former Vice President Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth. In addition, Cross has worked with progressive organizations that include the National Urban League, the Truman National Security Project, the Rainbow Push Coalition, and the NAACP.

She has appeared on CNN, C-SPAN, the Armstrong Williams Show, America this Week, Roland Martin Unfiltered and delivers a weekly commentary for WVON1690 AM in Chicago.

Cross holds a B.A. in political science and journalism from Belmont University and a master’s in public administration from Roosevelt University.

Julia Doh is a Cameroonian American second-year doctoral student of Clinical Psychology at Roosevelt University. She is from Maryland and moved to Chicago for graduate school. Julia is the co-president of the Psychology Diversity Committee and therapy intern at City Colleges of Chicago. She aims to be a culturally competent psychologist who works with underserved communities, especially Black populations, and wants to help de-stigmatize mental health care across the African diaspora.

Troy Gaston is a senior political science major at Roosevelt University. He was born and raised on the south side of Chicago, specifically Robert Taylor. He now resides in Englewood. Gaston is a human rights activist.

Khaliya Jackson is a junior double major in Sociology and Political Science with a minor in Social Justice Studies at Roosevelt University. Being driven by their love of community, Khaliya became an RA (Resident Advisors) at Roosevelt University in addition to being the current sitting President of RU Proud, Roosevelt’s LGBT+ Student Organization. Khaliya is motivated in their work by the complexities of the world around them. Khaliya approaches life and their work as a community organizer with a love ethic, as we all should because love is the most revolutionary act one can commit.

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