2017 Featured and Invited Speakers

Born and raised in Missouri, Cori Bush has been a Ferguson Frontline organizer since the police murder of Michael Brown in 2014. A Pastor of Kingdom Embassy International, she is – with PJSA Board member David Ragland – the co-director of the Truth Telling Project, and a Nonviolence 365 Ambassador with the King Center. Herself the victim of police assault, she is a leader of the Ferguson Women’s Caucus, a radio talk show host, and a nurse. She ran an intense 2016 race for the Senate, and is recipient of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation’s 2015 Women of Courage award. For more information: http://truthtellingcollective.org/cori-bush/

“ . . . it is evident that there is another logical alternative: that there can be societies in which difference is not necessarily equated with inferiority or superiority.”

Riane Eisler was born in Vienna, fled from the Nazis with her parents to Cuba as a small child, and later immigrated to the United States. Eisler wears many “hats,” those of a cultural historian, systems scientist, educator, attorney, speaker, and author whose work on cultural transformation has inspired scholars and social activists. Her research has impacted many fields, including history, economics, psychology, sociology, education, and healthcare. She obtained degrees in sociology and law from UCLA, taught pioneering classes on women and the law at UCLA, and now teaches in the graduate Transformative Leadership Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies and at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) as a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology. Eisler is Editor-in-Chief of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership Studies and President of the Center for Partnership Studies, which is dedicated to research and education on the partnership model introduced by Eisler’s research. Eisler is the author of groundbreaking books such as The Chalice and the Blade, which has been published in 26 languages, and The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics. Eisler has received many honors, including honorary PhDs and peace and human rights awards. She lectures worldwide, with venues including the United Nations General Assembly, the U.S. Department of State, Congressional briefings, universities, corporations, conferences, and events hosted by Heads of State.

La Trina Jackson is a Georgia native who serves as the Fellowship of Reconciliation’s National Council Chair. A board member and Imam/community leader for her local mosque, Muslims for Progressive Values, Jackson served as a delegate of the inaugural Israel/Palestine African Heritage Delegation of Inter-faith Peace-builders. She teaches high school science in Atlanta, where her grassroots organizing includes human rights work in the US criminal justice system, local food security issues, connecting #Black Lives Matter with internationalist and US anti-imperialist issues, and many other concerns. A 2015 Atlanta LGBT Pride Parade Grand Marshall, Trina lives with her spouse on an urban farm raising food, goats, chickens, and bees.

Ashley M. Jones is the author of Magic City Gospel, an acclaimed collection of poems exploring what it means to be African-American in the Deep South. Through personal reflections on family, tradition, religion, and racial divides, Ashley paints an intimate picture of life growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, otherwise known as the Magic City. Jones received an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University (FIU), where she was a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fellow. She served as Official Poet for the City of Sunrise, Florida’s Little Free Libraries Initiative from 2013-2015, and her work was recognized in the 2014 Poets and Writers Maureen Egen Writer’s Exchange Contest and the 2015 Academy of American Poets Contest at FIU. She was also a finalist in the 2015 Hub City Press New Southern Voices Contest, the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award Contest, and the National Poetry Series. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in the Academy of American Poets, Tupelo Quarterly, Prelude, Steel Toe Review, Fjords Review, Quiet Lunch, Poets Respond to Race Anthology, Night Owl, The Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, and many others. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and a 2015 B-Metro Magazine Fusion Award. She was an editor of PANK Magazine. Her debut poetry collection, Magic City Gospel, was published by Hub City Press in January 2017, and it won the silver medal in poetry in the 2017 Independent Publishers Book Awards. She currently lives in Birmingham, Alabama, where she is a faculty member in the Creative Writing Department of the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Ynestra King is an ecofeminist writer, teacher, oral historian and activist. She is a native of Selma, Alabama where she first observed the practice of nonviolent resistance, which was to become a lifelong preoccupation. She is an originator of ecofeminism and she is currently working on a book collection of her many publications in response to requests from climate activists around the US, and in Europe, India and the Middle East, as well as a memoir. She cofounded Women and Life on Earth, and convened the first ever ecofeminist gathering in 1980, which organized the antimilitarist Women’s Pentagon Action, and contributed to the ecology and peace encampment movements of the 1980s and 1990s. Ynestra has taught at several colleges and universities including the New School and Columbia University. More recently, she has written about disability, and originated and directed an oral history project at Columbia University, interviewing people living with significant disabilities and physical trauma (“Listening With the Whole Body in Mind”). Her work continues to be concerned with feminism, climate change, embodied politics, community, and the practice of radical nonviolence. She continues to be affiliated with the Institute for Social Ecology, where she has taught for many years. She is active in Writers Resist and the Board of the A. J. Muste Foundation and strives to live a life of radical amazement.

Margaret Koshal was born and raised in Kenya and hails from the Maasai community. As a young Maasai girl, she was lucky to receive a modern education and escape the negative practice of Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M); a violation and practice that continues to be practiced in the Maasai community. Having witnessed firsthand the negative effects of this practice, which includes early marriage and lack of  an education, she has dedicated herself to ensuring she rescues and educations as many Maasai girls. Together with her husband, she founded Mara Learning & Development Centre in Maasai Mara, which is giving young girls from her village an opportunity to explore their potential. They also recently opened a conservancy adjacent to the world famous Maasai Mara known as Nashulai Mara conservancy, where she serves as the Family, Gender and Education Coordinator. She is passionate about mentoring and empowering women in her community since she strongly believes women are the back bone of the society and thus when you empower a girl, you empower the whole community. More information about Maggie can be found at her website: http://margaret-sakian-koshal.strikingly.com

Ramah Kudaimi is the Director of Grassroots Organizing at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, where she works on Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaigns in support of the global struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. Ramah is a member of the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum, serves on the national council of the War Resisters League, and is a board member of the Washington Peace Center. She has been active with other community organizing and antiwar groups including the Arab American Action Network and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and has worked on projects to fight back against Islamophobia. Ramah’s work centers around her strong commitment to resist war, and to make the necessary links between racism and militarism at home with destructive wars abroad. Ramahs’s work to help found the Syrian Solidarity Collective highlighted for her the importance for antiwar movements to be clearly and principally against all oppressive regimes and structures and the essential need to follow the leadership of impacted communities in order to truly achieve collective liberation.

Matt Meyer, a native New York City-based organizer, author, and educator, is the International Peace Research Association’s United Nations representative and an executive council member of that body; he serves as War Resisters International Africa Support Network Coordinator. Affiliated with both the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Resistance Studies Initiative and Durban’s University of KwaZulu-Natal, South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in commenting on Guns and Gandhi in Africa (Meyer’s first book co-authored with Pan-African pacifist Bill Sutherland), wrote that “Sutherland and Meyer have looked beyond the short-term strategies and tactics which too often divide progressive people . . . They have begun to develop a language which looks at the roots of our humanness.” Recently retired after thirty years of service to the NYC Department of Education, Meyer’s work as a classroom-based peace history teacher, district-wide multicultural coordinator, and professor of education earned him many city and state awards and citations; he co-edited We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America, which Dr. Maya Angelou to noted was “so needed” for its “investigation of the moral issues of our time.” Meyer is also co-editor of the recently-released Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st Century Revolutions (PM Press, 2017).

Oldarpoi Mara Camp is owned by the local Maasai community and has been set up to create a sustainable future for economic and social development and empowerment. The income through the Oldarpoi Mara Camp funds many projects in the Maasai community. Nelson Ole Reiyia, son of Maasai nomads, is the creative initiator of the camp – but his visionary passion for his culture, people and community go much further. He holds a BA from Kenya Methodist University and certificates from the United Nations University for Peace. He started a program called the “I See Maasai Development Initiative” (ISMDI) which focuses on bringing poor children into school and providing them with education and skills, and thus opening up opportunities for their future. Especially Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage are still a problem in the traditions of rural life, which the Initiative is fighting against with education and alternatives. The ISMDI sponsors the education of mainly young girls, creates jobs and employment opportunities in the village through sustainable tourism and has set up the infrastructure for clean water and health care for the whole community.

“What it means to be humans. We live in a very diverse world, and to talk about what it means to be humans, is to talk with a simultaneous tongue of universality and particularities. So as a black person to talk about what it means is to talk about my experience as an African American person, but also to talk about my experience that transcends being an African American to the universal experience.  So I think it — we’ve got to stop speaking about humanity as if it’s monolithic. We’ve got to wrap our consciousness around a world where people bring to the world vastly different histories and experiences, but at the same time, a world where we experience grief and love in some of the same ways. So how do we develop theologies that weave together the ‘I’ with the ‘We’ and the ‘We’ with the ‘I?’”

Ruby Nell Sales was born in Jemison, Alabama and grew-up in Georgia attending  segregated school. In 1963, she enrolled in Tuskegee University, an all-black college in Alabama. The timing and location of her studies exposed her to the Civil Rights movement. While at Tuskegee University, Ruby participated in several solidarity movements, joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and took part in several African American voter drives.  An event that would change her life took place following her arrest for participating in a SNCC voting rights demonstration. Ms. Sales and a few friends walked to a convenience store where Deputy Tom Coleman threatened her with a shotgun. Jonathan Daniels, a seminary student and fellow SNCC activist, pushed her out of the line of fire and was shot dead by Coleman. This traumatic event compelled Sales to dedicate her life to the promotion of equality and human rights. Sales attended Episcopal Theological School (the same school Daniels had attended). She now works as an Episcopal theologian and social rights activist. Sales founded the nonprofit organization, SpiritHouse, which works to bring communities together across racial and gender divides.

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou—public intellectual, documentary filmmaker, theologian, author and organizer—was born in St. Louis, MO, raised in the rural Arkansas Delta, and is now considered one of the foremost religious leaders of his generation. He was a 2014 Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Education and Research Institute at the time of Michael Brown Jr.’s killing, and traveled to Ferguson, becoming a central supporter of the Ferguson front-line resistance. Rev. Sekou is a founding national coordinator of Clergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq (CALC-I), and served on the National Political Hip Hop Convention Platform Committee. Based in New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina, he founded the local Interfaith Worker Justice Center; in 2006, the Institute for Policy Studies appointed him their Associate Fellow in Religion and Justice. A leading Pastor for congregations in Boston and New York, Rev. Sekou received the Keeper of the Flame Award from the National Voting Rights Institute and Museum in Selma, AL. He has lectured widely, including at Princeton University, Harvard Divinity School, the University of Virginia, and the Sorbonne in Paris; he is a Professor at the Graduate Theological Urban Studies Program, Seminary Consortium of Urban Pastoral Education, Chicago, IL. Rev. Sekou is the author of two collections of essays: urbansouls (a meditation on working with at-risk youth, hip hop and religion); and Gods, Gays, and Guns: Essays on Religion and the Future of Democracy. Along with Jay-Marie Hill, Sekou penned and recorded The Revolution Has Come, a symphony of gospel, blues, soul, funk and freedom songs laced with sanctified blues and lyrics that range from religious to risqué; they toured under the auspices of Rev. Sekou & the Holy Ghost.

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons is currently a Senior Lecturer in African American and Islamic Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville. During her early adult life, Simmons was active with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), becoming active during the 1960s Sit-In Movement as a student at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga where she studied from 1962 to 1964. It was during this time that she met Dr. King, visited his church and marched with him in several desegregation demonstrations in Atlanta, and left college to work full time with SNCC in the summer of 1964 as a volunteer in the historic 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. Immediately after her work with SNCC, Simmons was hired by Ms. Dorothy Height to serve as the National Council of Negro Women’s (NCNW) Mid-West Field Director of their “Project Woman Power.” Additionally, Simmons has a long history of work in the areas of international human rights and peace and for 23 years, she served on the national staff of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international Quaker peace, justice, human rights, and development organization.  Her work with AFSC took her throughout S. E. Asia in the 1970s to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to help determine the level of humanitarian assistance the organization should undertake in these war torn countries. Simmons led the AFSC’s Delegation to China for the 1995 Fourth United Nations Conference for Women. She has been on two interreligious peace delegations to the Middle East working with peace groups in the region to bring an end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Simmon’s primary academic focus in Islam is on Islamic Law and its impact on Muslim women. A founding member of the National Council of Elders group, Simmons is a sought-after speaker throughout the US and the world.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War is Never Just, War Is A Lie War No More, and When the World Outlawed War. In War is Never Just, Swanson builds a case that war simply cannot ever be justified. Swanson has been interviewed on CNN, PBS, C-Span, Democracy Now!, Free Speech TV, Fox, MSNBC, Link TV, RealNews.com, RT, Press TV, and on many other programs. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org and hosts Talk Nation Radio. Swanson has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the last three years running. Swanson is on the National Committee of the War Resisters League, the advisory board of Nobel Peace Prize Watch, and the advisory board of Veterans for Peace.

Tara Tabassi serves as National Organizer for the War Resisters League, joining WRL with a background in community organizing with queer and trans youth of color communities, and Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement building in food cooperatives and LGBTQ spaces. Tara is Iranian-American, raised in the Hague, the Netherlands. Tara holds a BA from the Evergreen State College in Gendered Human Rights and an MA in Conflict, Reconstruction and Human Security from the Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University in the Netherlands. Tara likes political art-making, plant-medicine, as well as growing, cooking and eating food.

Dhoruba Bin Wahad was a leading member of the New York Black Panther Party (BPP), a Field Secretary of the BPP responsible for organizing chapters throughout the East Coast, and a member of the New York Panther 21. Arrested in June 1971, he was framed as part of the illegal FBI Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and subjected to unfair treatment and torture during his nineteen years in prison. During Dhoruba’s incarceration, litigation on his behalf produced over three hundred thousand pages of COINTELPRO documentation, and upon release in 1990 he was able to bring a successful lawsuit against the New York Department of Corrections for all their wrong-doings and criminal activities. Living in both Ghana and the U.S., Dhoruba – an uncompromising critic of imperialism and capitalism – continues to write and work promoting freedom for all political prisoners and revolutionary Pan-Africanism. His is author, with Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu Jamal, of Still Black, Still Strong: Survivors of the War against Black Revolutionaries (Semiotext(e), 1993); and contributor to Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st Century Revolutions (edited by Matt Meyer and dequi kioni-sadiki, PM Press 2017).

Dr. Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams is an assistant professor of Africana Studies and Education at Gettysburg College. He also teaches conflict resolution at Columbia University, from where he received his doctorate in international educational development and peace education. His research and consultancy centers around school violence, educational inequity, youth and community empowerment, and restorative circles.