Alphabet Rockers isan intergenerational conversation about the world through hip hop music and dance. Partnering with anti-bias thought leaders and expert artists, their GRAMMY-nominated music is the soundtrack for social justice. They produce concerts, music and media to engage young changemakers and their adult allies. It’s time to be WOKE!
Shawn Ginwrightis a leading national expert on African American youth, youth activism, and youth development. He is an Associate Professor of Education in the Africana Studies Department, and Senior Research Associate for the Cesar Chavez Institute for Public Policy at San Francisco State University. In 1989, Dr. Ginwright co-founded Leadership Excellence, Inc. with his friend Daniel Walker. Leadership Excellence is an innovative youth development agency located in Oakland, California that trains African American youth to address pressing social and community problems. In 2002 he also created the Research Collaborative on Youth Activism, a network of scholar activists who study, advocate and support youth organizing efforts around the country. He is the author of Black Youth Rising, Activism and Radical Healing in Urban America, amongst other written works.
Tassiana Willis is a poet, singer, and actor from San Francisco. Tassiana has been writing and performing since she can remember and performed at her first Youth Speaks open mic at age 12. Since then Tassiana has performed at venues ranging from the Herbst Theater to the Warriors halftime show at Oakland Coliseum. Willis is a Youth Speaks’ Emerging Arts Fellow, and has continued to stretch herself, working as a facilitator in AnnaDeveare Smith’s Notes from the Field at Berkeley Repertory Theater, a teaching artist, and overseeing the youth leadership council in Alameda County. Currently Tassiana is organizing a Youth Leadership Team that has committed to provide input into the ongoing planning and progress of the Alliance for ALL Community Plan. Together with fellow youth leaders, she facilitates an ongoing Listening Practice to keep youth experience at the forefront, and sits on the Lead Action Team and Leadership Roundtable.
Yosi Sergant has worked in communications, public relations, brand management, marketing, community organizing and business development -- integrating art, music and culture into his work whenever possible. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Sergant engaged artists in a vast viral movement, supporting candidate Barack Obama, the most prominent of which is the now ubiquitous "HOPE" campaign he created with artist Shepard Fairey. Following the election, Sergant served in the White House Office of Public Engagement before accepting an appointment as the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 2010, Sergant launched TaskForce, a pro-social cultural organizing agency that engages leaders of the creative community in high-impact, strategic initiatives, designed to raise awareness and build momentum for organizations tackling our world’s most pressing challenges.
Carl Anthonyis an architect, author and urban / suburban / regional design strategist, is co-founder of the Breakthrough Communities Project. He has served as Acting Director of the Community and Resource Development Unit at the Ford Foundation, responsible for the Foundation’s world wide programs in fields of Environment and Development, and Community Development. He directed the Foundation’s Sustainable Metropolitan Communities Initiative and the Regional Equity Demonstration in the United States. Carl funded the national Conversation on Regional Equity (CORE), a dialogue of national policy analysts and advocates for new metropolitan racial justice strategies. He was Founder and, for 12 years Executive Director, of the Urban Habitat Program in the San Francisco Bay Area. With his colleague Luke Cole at the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, he founded and published the Race, Poverty and the Environment Journal, the only environmental justice periodical in the United States. He has a professional degree in architecture from Columbia University. In 1996, he was appointed Fellow at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Mariah Landersstepped out of the classroom in 2011 to step into teacher leadership at Alameda County Office of Education, supporting the goals of arts education in schools in the Bay Area. As Director of School Transformation Through the Arts, she is a visionary behind what teaching and learning has the potential to be and how schools can develop systems of practice that encourage narratives of inclusion. She’s a coach to educators at large to interrupt master narratives in favor of a systems whose outcomes are justice. She invites educators to critique established norms and return to spaces of love, joy and art centered education that responds diligently to the probing questions and needs of today’s young people. Mariah is sought out for her ability to design responsive curriculum centered in creative inquiry. She promotes and invites the educational system to redesign its purposes with the role of the contemporary artists at the forefront of how young people can develop the capacity for imagination, innovation, perception, and critical thought that will bridge and build a society that we all deserve. Mariah was particularly motivated by the musical “Hamilton, An American Musical” as a doorway to activate the changes in attitudes, assumptions and patterns of knowing that teachers and students should wrestle with. With a team of incredible educators and artists she has developed “Rise Up! An American Curriculum.” Mariah leads with conviction that if you tend to your heart, tend to the art that motivates you, and lead with love, that our schools can dissolve the oppressive systems they uphold and become the sanctuaries we all need to fully bloom and become.
Francisca Sánchez is a poet, “word weaver,” educator, and former English Learner. She began her 40-year career in education as a high school teacher and since then has served in a variety of leadership positions, including as Associate Superintendent for Hayward Unified School District and Chief Academic Officer for San Francisco USD.
In recognition of her continuing contributions to education, she was awarded a Presidential Excellence Medallion from CSU, San Bernardino in 2002, named as 2002 Inland Empire Educator of the Year, and inducted into the East Side Union High School District Hall of Fame in 2003. Francisca was selected as the recipient of ACSA’s 2005 State Valuing Diversity Award and CABE’s 2006 Vision Award.
Currently, she is CEO of Provocative Practice™, an educational consulting organization, and does strategic planning work with a variety of districts in California.
Mia Birdsong has spent more than 20 years fighting for the self-determination and pointing out the brilliant adaptations of everyday people. In her current role as Co-Director of Family Story, Mia is updating this nation’s outdated picture of the American family (hint: rarely 2.5 kids and two heterosexual parents living behind a white picket fence). Previously, Mia worked as the Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative, where she created and curated the Torchlight Prize. Mia, whose 2015 TED talk–titled, “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True”–has been viewed over 1.2 million times already, has been published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Salon, and On Being, and has guest lectured at UC Berkeley. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and an inaugural Ascend Fellow of The Aspen Institute.
Mia is also a modern Renaissance woman. She has spent time organizing to abolish prisons, teaching teenagers about sex and drugs, interviewing literary luminaries like David Foster Wallace, John Irving, and Edwidge Danticat, and attending births as a midwifery apprentice. She co-founded Canerow, a resource for people dedicated to raising children of color in a world that reflects the spectrum of who they are. These are some of the many reasons that Mia was recognized as one of Colorlines “15 Remarkable Women of Color Who Rocked 2015.”
Mr. Branch, born and raised by a single mother on welfare in Oakland, California, took the road less traveled to get out of the ghetto and attended one of California’s premier engineering colleges, California Polytechnic - San Luis Obispo. Ashanti studied Civil Engineering and worked as a construction project manager in his first career. After tutoring struggling students and realizing his true passion was teaching, Mr. Branch changed careers. He had suddenly found the “fire” that was missing in his life and he hoped to ignite a similar enthusiasm in his young students. In 2004 as a first year teacher, Ashanti started The Ever Forward Club to provide a support group for African American and Latino males, who were not achieving to the level of their potential. Since then, The Ever Forward Club has grown to serve both young men and women and become a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school and 93% of them have gone on to attend college.
With over 19 years mentoring youth and 10 of those years as a math teacher educating inner city youth, Ashanti was awarded with a Fulbright Exchange Fellowship to India, a Rotary Club Cultural Ambassadorial Fellowship to Mexico and a 2010 Teacher of the Year Award from the Alameda-Contra Costa County Math Educators. Mr. Branch is on a mission to change the way that students interact with their education and the way schools interact with students.
Originally from rural Oklahoma, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz completed the doctorate in History at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1974, specializing in Western Hemisphere and Indigenous histories. She is Professor Emerita in Ethnic Studies at California State University East Bay, where she created and taught the curriculum in Native American Studies and co-founded the Department of Ethnic Studies. She is author or editor of 12 books, including The Great Sioux Nation: An Oral History of the Sioux Nation; Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico; Indians of the Americas: Human Rights and Self-Determination; and the memoir trilogy: Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie; Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975; and Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War. Her most recent book is An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.
If you count all the languages learned and lost in her family’s discourse, English is Violet Juno’s seventh language. So it is perhaps no surprise that Violet combines a range of artistic languages including spoken word, movement, kinetic sculpture, visual tableaux, soundscapes, and three-dimensional mapping to create multi-sensory experiences for audience members. Violet's artwork explores the dynamic and intersectional relationships between language/languagelessness, disabilities/super abilities, binary/non-binary gender identities, and the creative process/neuroplasticity.
Since 1990, Violet has presented her transdisciplinary performance work at 75 venues in 40 cities in the United States, Canada and Scotland. Venues include MOMA, PS1 and PS122 in New York, LACE and Highways in Los Angeles, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Southern Exposure in San Francisco, Pro Arts and the Berkeley Art Museum in the East Bay, Center for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland, and the Banff Centre of the Arts in Canada.
In addition, Violet has taught as a visiting artist at 17 K-12 schools and 20 universities over the past 25 years. Passionate about the arts, Violet has served on the board of the National Performance Network, as well as participated in a wide range of art residencies, think tanks, fellowships, and collectives to support the national and international advancement of the arts and teaching artistry. Violet is currently working on three books that focus on transdisciplinary performance and how neuroplasticity creates a synergistic effect between art practice and healing. More information at www.violetjuno.com
Kenneth Wesson is a keynote speaker and education consultant for preschool through university level institutions and organizations. He speaks throughout the world on the neuroscience of learning and methods for creating classrooms and learning environments that are “brain-compatible.” Formerly an education consultant with Stanford Research Institute he also lectures on the subjects of early brain development, emotional intelligence, diversity in learning, design, and engineering, and curriculum development.
Shirley Brice Heath
Shirley Brice Heath is a linguistic anthropologist at Stanford University and studies learners across the life span in non-formal environments of learning. She gives primacy focus on the ways in which speakers, young and old, learn the structures and uses of language as well as the attitudes, gestures, and interactional ways called for in learning environments of all types. In community arts organizations, she has examined the learning outcomes that result when youth living in under-resourced communities participate in planning, creating, producing, and critiquing products and performances. She is the author of Words at Work and Play: Three Decades in Family and Community Life (2012) and the classic Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (Cambridge University Press, 1983/1996).
Sarah Crowell has taught dance, theater and violence prevention to youth and teachers for over 25 years. She is currently the artistic director at Destiny Arts Center where she has served in different capacities since 1990, including executive director from 2002–2007. She has been the artistic director of the acclaimed teen dance/theater company, the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company, since 1993. Sarah has authored a curriculum guidebook about her work with teens, and her work with the youth company has been the subject of two documentary films. Sarah has facilitated arts integration, violence prevention, cultural competency and team building professional development sessions since 2000 both locally and nationally. Sarah is the recipient of the 2013 Bay Area Dance Week award, the 2011 KQED Women’s History Local Hero award, the 2007 KPFA Peace award and the 2006 Purple Moon DreamSpeakers award.
Shakti Butler, PhD
Shakti Butler, PhD is a racial justice educator whose work is rooted in love and justice. She is a multiracial African-American woman (African, Arawak Indian, and Russian-Jewish) and her work as a creative and visionary bridge builder has challenged and inspired learning for over two decades. Using film and dialogue, she invites people to grapple with both the intellectual and emotional complexities of social justice issues. Dr. Butler is the producer and director of groundbreaking Word Trust documentaries including The Way Home: Talk About Race in America and Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, and her film Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. Dr. Butler is also the Founder and Creative Director of World Trust Educational Services, a nonprofit based in Oakland, CA.
Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science. The many dimensions of this work are explored in her books included in this partial list: Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age; Thinking Like a Mountain; Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory; Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World; Widening Circles; World as Lover, World as Self; and Pass It On: Five Stories That Can Change the World