2024 Featured & Invited Speakers

The individuals below are joining PJSA2024 to provide pre-conference trainings, and engage in keynotes and plenaries throughout the conference. We will continue to add to this list as individuals confirm.


Kali Akuno is a co-founder and executive director of Cooperation Jackson. He was the director of special projects and external funding in the mayoral administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, Mississippi. Akuno has also served as the co-director of the U.S. Human Rights Network, and the executive director of the Peoples’ Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, CA. Akuno is co-editor, along with Matt Meyer, of Jackson Rising Redux (PM Press, 2023).

William Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago (retired) has written extensively about social justice and democracy, education and the cultural contexts of schooling, and teaching as an essentially intellectual, ethical, and political enterprise. His books include A Kind and Just Parent; Teaching toward Freedom; Fugitive Days: A Memoir; Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident; To Teach: The Journey, in Comics; Race Course: Against White Supremacy; About Becoming a Teacher; Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto; and When Freedom is the Question Abolition is the Answer: Reflections on Collective Liberation.

Rev. Chloe Breyer has served as the Director of the Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) since 2007.  During the past decade and a half, ICNY has developed a pioneering curriculum in civics training for grassroots religious leaders, built multi-faith advocacy coalitions preventing bias crimes, and promoted criminal justice and immigration reform. In 2015, Rev. Breyer served as a community adviser to the court-appointed facilitator tasked with finding a remedy for police profiling in the “stop and frisk” lawsuits against the NYPD. More recently, Rev. Breyer was one of the clergy advisors on the transition teams of both the incoming Mayor of New York City and the Manhattan District Attorney.  An Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of New York, Breyer has served at Harlem churches for more than two decades, including as Associate Priest at St. Philip’s Church since 2012. In addition to local religious peacemaking work, Rev. Breyer has also participated in interfaith dialogues and humanitarian aid initiatives in Afghanistan and Iran and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of The Close: A Young Woman’s First Year at Seminary (Basic Books 2000) and her op-eds have appeared in Slate, the NY Daily News, the International New York Times (Herald Tribune) and elsewhere.  She received her Ph.D. in Christian Ethics from Union Theological Seminary in 2017 and her doctoral dissertation focused on interfaith activism, Christian peacemaking, and Islamophobia.

Maria  ‘Mavic’ Cabrera Balleza is the founder and CEO of the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. Mavic pioneered the local application of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) on women, peace and security.  Her work is regarded as a best practice example and has been applied in at least 20 countries.  She initiated the Philippines National Action Plan process on UNSCR 1325 and also served as the international consultant to Nepal’s National Action Plan. Mavic has provided technical support on UNSCR 1325 national action planning in Guatemala, Japan and South Sudan, and facilitated costing and budgeting workshops of national action plans in Georgia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Nepal.  She co-authored From Best Practice to Standard Practice: A toolkit on the Localization of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security and Costing and Financing 1325, and edited the 2010 through to 2014 editions of Women Count: Civil Society Monitoring Report on Security Council Resolution 1325. In 2014, Mavic led the establishment of the Young Women for Peace and Leadership, a network of young women in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, DRC, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Sudan, and Ukraine, who are leading peacebuilding efforts in local communities.

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund…

Jason Corwin is Assistant Professor of Indigenous Studies at University of Buffalo. He is a member of the Seneca Nation, Deer Clan, and earned both MS and PhD degrees in Natural Resources from Cornell University. Jason was the founding director of the Seneca Media & Communications Center and has produced several short and feature length documentaries. He has extensive experience as a community-based environmental educator utilizing digital media to engage with Indigenous ways of knowing, sustainability, and social/environmental justice topics.

Sacajawea “Saki” Hall is a black feminist activist engaged in the collective struggle for human rights, social justice, and transformation. With over 10 years of experience on the local, national, and international level, saki has provided leadership for political mobilizations, direct actions, conferences, fundraising initiatives, and communications to numerous organizations, coalitions, and networks throughout the United States including People’s Production House, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the US Human Rights Network, and Cooperation Jackson. She is one of the founding members of Cooperation Jackson and currently co-leads their Land and Housing Initiative.

Charlene Howard wears many hats.  She is the Director of Spiritual Life at Archbishop Carroll High School in the Archdiocese of Washington and has a master’s degree in Catechesis and Religious Education from Catholic University.  She is a mother of 4 children and the grandmother of 5 who works with her husband, Evangelist Michael Howard, to spread God’s word through catechetical formation, writing curriculum for the University of Dayton Virtual classes and leading retreats and serves as the Chairperson of the Pax Christi USA National Council working to further its Gospel centered peace making presence in responding to issues of racial justice; the increase of youth and young adults in the work of the movement, as well as, increasing its visibility and viability among communities of color.  

Luella N. Kenny is a 1958 graduate of Niagara University, earning her bachelors of science degree in Chemistry. After graduation she went to work for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she spent more than 40 years as a research scientist. Luella and her family moved to the Love Canal neighborhood in Niagara Falls in 1969. In 1978 her seven-year-old son Jon Allen died as a result of exposure to chemicals from Love Canal. Luella became a key member of the Love Canal Homeowners Association, the grassroots movement bringing together residents in response to the Love Canal crisis. Drawing on her scientific expertise, Luella helped to design and conduct groundbreaking epidemiological studies showing the prevalence of miscarriages, birth defects, cancers, neurological diseases, and other serious illnesses among residents of Love Canal. In the midst of the Love Canal crisis, Luella went to California to address the shareholders meeting of Occidental Petroleum to deliver a powerful message: “I am determined that no other child will die because of corporate irresponsibility.” Teaching about Love Canal and the dangers of environmental harm has become Luella’s mission in life. For more than 40 years Luella has informed and inspired millions of people around the world.

Michael Kuzma is a native of Buffalo, New York. He left the region and moved to Southern California to attend college. He graduated with a B.A. in Political Science with High Honors from California State University, Fullerton. He returned to Western New York and attended the University at Buffalo School of Law. While in law school, Mike became politically active. In addition to working on several political campaigns, he was a candidate for Buffalo City Court in 2003 and New York Senate in 2010. Mike also ran as a delegate for former Ohio Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich in his 2004 bid for President. Mike has worked for the City of Buffalo Division of Real Estate, Erie County Legislature, and Buffalo Common Council. In addition, he has served as a Hearing Officer in Buffalo Small Claims Court.

Mike has over two decades of experience as a practicing attorney, with concentrated disciplines and expertise in criminal and traffic law, as well as specializing in Local, State, and Federal government accountability issues. He has successfully litigated various Freedom of Information cases against Federal and State agencies, including the CIA, FBI, U. S. Department of Justice, New York State Department of Correctional and Community Supervision, and the Governor of New York State. Mike is recognized and credited for setting precedents with high-profile reported cases at the State and Federal levels. He is uniquely qualified and selected to conduct FOIA and FOIL continuing legal education classes locally, as well as in various venues throughout the United States and Canada, including as a guest speaker at CUNY School of Law in Long Island City. Mike has been featured in domestic and international print/digital media as a legal consultant for case-specific analysis, including appearances on TV and radio, as well as quoted for summaries and commentaries in newspapers, most notably in the New York Times.

Michael Loadenthal, Ph.D. serves as the Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association and a researcher, trainer, and investigator focused at the intersection of security, technology, and political violence. He completed his PhD in 2015 at George Mason University, and previously completed an MLitt at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews in 2010. Dr. Loadenthal has taught courses on political violence, terrorism and sociology at Miami University of Oxford, Georgetown University, George Mason University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Malta, and Jessup Correctional Institution. His work has been published in a variety of venues including Critical Studies on Terrorism, Journal for the Study of Radicalism, Perspectives on Terrorism, Journal of Applied Security Research, Journal of Feminist Scholarship, Journal of Radical Criminology, Anarchist Developments in Cultural Studies and other social movement and political theory journals and books. Michael routinely advises and trains social movement organizations, journalists, researchers, public officials and other high-risk individuals in areas including threat modeling, operational security, risk management, open-source intelligence methods, counter-repression, and advises as a subject matter expert on political violence mitigations, tracking domestic extremism, and the modern far-right.

Matt Meyer is a noted educator, author, and organizer currently serving as Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association. As former national co-chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and former chair of the War Resisters League, he is second only to A.J. Muste— “dean of the US peace movement”—being elected to the top position of both historic organizations; he is a member of the Muste Institute’s Board of Directors. Based in New York City, Meyer has led seminars, courses, trainings, and conferences in over one hundred countries throughout five continents and authored or edited over a dozen popular books. Meyer works as Senior Research Scholar at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst Resistance Studies Initiative and is the founding co-chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Association (the main North American affiliate of IPRA).

Tish O’Dell is currently the Consulting Director for CELDF (Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund) and has been working as a Community Organizer since 2011 assisting residents to organize rights based initiatives in their communities in order to help them “make real” the just and sustainable communities they envision for the future. CELDF has assisted hundreds of communities across the country to develop “first in the nation” laws recognizing Rights of Nature and others addressing environmental harms, worker’s rights, homeless rights, immigrant rights, fair election rights, including the first in the nation law recognizing the rights of a specific ecosystem, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in 2019. Tish has conducted workshops, taught CELDF’s Democracy School and given talks all over the country, as well as been featured in the documentaries We the People 2.0, Invisible Hand and appeared on The Daily Show and is one of the editors of the 2021 book Death by Democracy: Protecting Water and Life – Frontline stories from Ohioans fighting corporate and state power. She has written articles published in the Ecologist, TruthOut, Common Dreams, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Free Press and appeared on many podcasts and webinars including Damages, The Julie Rose Show (NPR), Living on Earth, and a 4-part European Parliament webinar “Towards a European Recognition of the Rights of Nature”.

Ellen Owens…

Dave Peterson is an assistant professor of theatre at Niagara University, having joined the faculty in the Fall 2020. Dave teaches courses in theatre history and theory, a graduate course in theatre pedagogy, has overseen projects as part of the Theatre Specialization degree, and teaches a first year seminar on theatre as part of the Vincentian Social Justice course. Dave directs in the NU theatre season, with recent works including Fun Home, Everybody, Machinal, and Good Kids. He also currently serves as a co-advisor for the undergraduate theatre group, the NU Players, and has directed NU’s professional summer youth theatre touring ensemble, Niagara University Repertory Theatre, which brings free theatre to children across Niagara and Erie county while also providing early professional experiences for NU students.  He received a PhD in Theatre History and Performance Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, an MA in Theatre from Michigan State University, and a BA in History and Theatre from the University of Michigan.

Leslie James Pickering is a founder and former spokesperson for the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office, an adjunct lecturer at Niagara University, and a proprietor of Burning Books – a friendly radical bookstore in Buffalo.  In addition to writing numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes, he is the author of Earth Liberation Front 1997-2002, Mad Bomber Melville, and Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism: The Collective Autobiography of the RNC 8.  Leslie teaches classes on Animal Liberation, Environment and Social Justice, State Repression, Political Prisoners, and Modern Political Ideologies.

René Rickard serves as the Tuscarora Director for the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF). She is responsible for contributing to a culturally-based environmental protection process that is consistent with traditional Haudenosaunee values. Her expertise lies in the areas of water quality and solid waste. René is known for her innovative and creative skills in planning, developing and addressing the environmental concerns of the Tuscarora Nation.

Theatre of the Oppressed was developed by the Brazilian artist and activist Augusto Boal to use the tools of theatre to enable collective action and problem solving. Boal’s central conceit is that while artists have skills that enable communication, their goal should not be to give an audience solutions but rather use the tools of theatre to empower audiences to take an active role in imagining solutions and better futures.

Rowen White is a Seed Keeper/farmer and author from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne and a passionate activist for indigenous seed and food sovereignty.  She is the Educational Director and lead mentor of Sierra Seeds, an innovative Indigenous seed bank and land-based educational organization located in Nevada City CA. Rowen is the Founder of the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network, which is committed to restoring the Indigenous Seed Commons, and currently serves as a Cooperative Seed Hub Coordinator.  She facilitates creative hands-on workshops and strategic conversations in community around seed/food security around the country within tribal and small farming communities. As a farmer, mentor, leader, writer, and storyteller Rowen is deeply committed to a lifelong practice of embodied prayer that contributes to cultivating a culture of belonging in our ways of nourishing ourselves.  She is part of a collective movement to reseed imaginations of a more beautiful and nourishing future through uplifting and mentoring emerging changemakers, visionaries, community members, and creative humans who are making nourishing contributions at the intersections of the landscape of food sovereignty and cultural revitalization. She believes that by cultivating creative supportive learning spaces, reclaiming narratives, and practicing radical imagination, we can work together to seed the change for a more equitable and beautiful relational, kincentric food system that centers around a deep sense of belonging and connection.

WNY Clean Air Coalition…