2021 Featured and Invited Speakers

Venice Williams is the Executive Director of Alice’s Garden Urban Farm and its visionary leader.  Alice’s Garden, located on the north side of Milwaukee, provides models of regenerative farming, community cultural development, and economic agricultural enterprises for the global landscape. Venice’s love of of cultivating plants rests in her ancestral Choctaw and African-American farming traditions.  She has a widely-celebrated herbal apprentice program, guiding her community in the reclaiming and celebrating of herbal traditions.  She is also an ELCA minister, leading a spiritual community called The Table.  In addition, she is the co-founder of the Kujichagulia Producers Cooperative, represented by a store inside of the Sherman Phoenix.

Venice calls herself a cultural and spiritual midwife, strongly believing she was put in Creation to help bring forth all that is good and whole in people and places.  She has been doing just that in Milwaukee for the past thirty-two years.

Adia Benton is an associate professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Northwestern University, where she is affiliated with the Science in Human Culture Program. Her first book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development Through Disease in Sierra Leone, won the 2017 Rachel Carson Prize, which is awarded by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) to the best book in the field of Science and Technology Studies with strong social or political relevance. Her body of work addresses transnational efforts to eliminate health disparities and inequalities, and the role of ideology in global health. In addition to ongoing research on public health responses to epidemics, including the 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, she has conducted research on the growing movement to fully incorporate surgical care into commonsense notions of “global health.” Her other writing has touched on the politics of anthropological knowledge in infectious disease outbreak response, racial hierarchies in humanitarianism and development, techniques of enumeration in gender-based violence programs, and racial capital in professional sports. She has a PhD in social anthropology from Harvard University, an MPH in international health from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, and an AB in Human Biology from Brown University. She has held a postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College and visiting positions at Oberlin College and in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Magdalene Moonsamy is a prominent international human activist currently serving as the Deputy Chair of the African Peer Review Mechanism, an instrument of the African Union. A former Member of Parliament of her native South Africa, Moonsamy is founder and director of the Women’s Justice Foundation, and lecturer of the Law Society of South Africa’s Legal Education and Development (LEAD) school. Moonsamy served as Chief Operating Officer of the National Youth Development Agency and was an editor for the World Federation for Democratic Youth newsletter. She has extensive experience as an advocate and solidarity representative for the peoples of Western Sahara and Palestine and has served on several United Nations-based advisory teams, including as a speaker at African Union hearings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Moonsamy is an Admitted Attorney of the South Africa High Court, and a member of the Black Lawyers Association of South Africa. She is chief proprietor of Magdalene Moonsamy Attorneys, and is a Council Member of the South African Iziko Museums.

Linda Sharp, MD, HEC-C (she/her pronouns) is a general internist and chair of the Acute Care Committee and Bioethics Committee at Martin Luther King, Jr Community Hospital in Compton, CA.  She attended UC Davis for her undergraduate training and has a BS in evolutionary biology.  She attended Georgetown University for her medical training, and since then she has been practicing medicine in South Los Angeles for over 15 years.  She has a special interest in social medicine, health and human rights, bioethics, and the relationship between poverty and health outcomes. At MLK Hospital, she runs the ethics consult service and provides palliative care support to patients as well as primary and inpatient medical treatment. She has been a part of Doctors for Global Health since 2007, a global collective of volunteers practicing liberation medicine- the conscious, conscientious use of health to promote social justice and human dignity.  She served as the president of the organization immediately after founding member Dr. Linnea Capps, whose life work will be honored in her presentation. She is also an advisor to the UCSF Health Equity Action and Leadership international health fellowship, and she works with a large international coalition of health workers on the Equal Health Campaign Against Racism.

Fernando De Maio, PhD, was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He received a BA (Hons.) degree in Sociology and Economics from the University of Toronto, and his MA (Sociology and Health Studies) and PhD (Sociology) degrees from the University of Essex. His research and teaching interests lie primarily within medical sociology and social epidemiology, with a focus on the concept of structural violence. His work has been guided by the notion of ‘radical statistics’ – the idea that statistical analysis can be used to not just describe the world, but to change it. He is the author of Health & Social Theory (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Global Health Inequities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and co-editor of Latin American Perspectives on the Sociology of Health and Illness (Routledge, 2018), Community Health Equity: A Chicago Reader (University of Chicago Press, 2019), and Unequal Cities: Structural Racism and the Death Gap in America’s 30 Largest Cities (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). His work has been published in the American Journal of Public Health, Critical Public Health, JAMA, the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, the International Journal of Epidemiology, and the New England Journal of Medicine. He is a founding co-director of the DePaul – Rush Center for Community Health Equity and currently serves as director of research and data use at the American Medical Association’s Center for Health Equity.

Victor Ochen is the Founder and Executive Director for African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET). Born in northern Uganda, he spent 21 years as a refugee and transformed his experiences into leading the anti-child soldiers’ recruitment campaign amidst the war in northern Uganda. He is one of the most important figures in Africa in the struggle for human rights and justice. Forbes Magazines named Ochen in 2015 as one of the 10 most powerful men in Africa, while Archbishop Desmond Tutu attested that “my heart swells with joy to see Ochen as one of the new hope for Africa”. Through his initiative of societal healing and social transformation, he has provided reconstructive medical rehabilitation to 21,000+ war victims. Ochen’s life, work and his worldview are based on these principles of peace, morality and common humanity. He was appointed as the United Nations Goodwill Ambassadors for Peace and Justice representing SDG Goal 16. Ochen is also a member to the Global Advisory group to the UNHCR on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection. He is the first Ugandan and the youngest ever African nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 2015.