2018 Featured & Invited Speakers

We are proud to showcase our keynote and plenary speakers here and encourage you to learn about our complete set of presenters by visiting the Conference Schedule.

 

Joyce Ajlouny joined AFSC as general secretary on Sept. 1, 2017. A transformative Quaker leader, Joyce brings to AFSC a depth of experience in strategic planning, financial and personnel management, fundraising, and communication spanning 27 years. Prior to joining to AFSC, Joyce served as the director of the Ramallah Friends School in Palestine, where she has led a diverse staff of over 170 educators and administrators for the past 13 years. She spent the prior 14 years working in international development focusing on minority and refugee rights, gender equality, economic development, and humanitarian support. She served as the country director for Palestine and Israel with Oxfam-Great Britain, chaired the Association of International Development Agencies there, and worked as a program officer and project manager at various United Nations agencies. Joyce holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University in California.

 

Ward Churchill is a noted scholar and activist, author of the controversial and iconic Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America, Churchill’s treatise on his frustrations about what he termed the growing “hegemony of nonviolence,” now in its Third Edition. Churchill is a former University of Colorado/Boulder Chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies, and tenured Professor of American Indian Studies. Churchill’s extensive writings have included award-winning books on U.S. foreign policy, on the genocide of American Indians, and the FBI’s illegal Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) operations against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement.

 

Jude-Laure Denis is the Retired Executive Director of POWER Northeast (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild). A queer, Haitian-American woman of Catholic and Jewish heritage, with a passion for justice for all people, ten years ago Ms. Denis left behind a successful career in event management for a Fortune 500 company, to become a community organizer, and has been working diligently to create spaces for both individual and community transformation ever since. She has keynoted the Spring and Fall IJCU Youth & Prejudice: Reducing Hatred conferences, co-taught a course on White & Christian Supremacy at Muhlenberg College, and leads trainings on race around the country. Her work is focused on facilitating a deep understanding of how white supremacy undergirds our lives and our institutions, while creating healing spaces for the critical inside out work that leads to personal/collective transformation, and building the grassroots electoral power to create/change policy and hold politicians accountable to the people.

 

Nia Eubanks-Dixon is a counselor, facilitator, educational trainer, professional dancer/storyteller, teacher, youth organizer, therapeutic restorative artist and consultant. In 2002, she received her BFA in Dance Education from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Through her interactive/experiential approach to learning, she effectively works towards harnessing individual and collective power to move towards liberation for all oppressed people. To further that mission, Mrs. Dixon became certified and has worked extensively in Life Coaching, Brief Therapy Counseling, Crisis Intervention, The Dialogic Process, Restorative Practices, Theater of the Oppressed, Trauma Informed Spaces, Community Arts, and Interactive Mediation/De-escalation Techniques. In 2017 she received her Master’s Degree in Urban Studies with a concentration in Community Arts from Eastern University. She is currently the Youth Program Officer for US and International programs for The American Friends Service Committee and works with over 25 programs globally on youth leadership and socio-political change actions.

 

Lucy Duncan serves as Director of Friends Relations for AFSC. She blogs, organizes Quakers to work for justice, and has helped create AFSC's Sanctuary Everywhere stream of program work. She has been instrumental in the adaptation of Quaker social change ministry as a tool for reclaiming Spirit-guided social change work focused on companioning those most impacted by injustice. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. Before working for AFSC, she was Director of Communications at FGC, managed QuakerBooks of FGC, and owned and managed her own children's bookstore in Omaha, The Story Monkey, and was a member of a storytelling troupe, The Five Bright Chicks. She is a member of Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and is the proud mom of a 16 year-old son.

 

Kerri Kennedy is a global peace builder, activist and strategist with twenty years of experience leading international peace and justice organizations. Currently, the International Associate General Secretary for American Friends Service Committee, she has an M.S. from American University and has worked in 50+ countries including war zones, post conflict countries, and in the U.S.  She have spent her career working to reduce conflict and structural violence globally and to ensure that all have a voice in policy and politics.  After her time supporting women politicians in Afghanistan, she created Represent PAC to support progressive women candidates in Pennsylvania and beyond.

 

George Lakey recently retired from Swarthmore College where he was Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues in Social Change and the Lang Research Fellow. While there he founded and managed the Global Nonviolent Action Database, taught a course on nonviolent responses to terrorism that was publicly condemned by the Young Americans for Freedom Foundation. His first arrest was for a civil rights sit-in and in spring 2018 was arrested in a Quaker campaign for racial, economic and climate justice. Among his other works is the iconic Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution (1972), and-a year later-Strategy for a Living Revolution, now updated in Towards a Living Revolution: A Five-Stage Framework for Creating Radical Social Change (2016). George is also the author of Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can, too (2016) and (forthcoming in 2018) How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning, both from Melville House. George he is a columnist for Waging Nonviolence and PJSA's 2010 "Peace Educator of the Year."

 

Matthew N. Lyons has been writing about right-wing politics for over 25 years. His work focuses on the interplay between right-wing movements and systems of oppression, and responses to these movements by leftists, liberals, and the state. He writes regularly for Three Way Fight, a radical antifascist blog, and his work has also appeared in the Guardian, New PoliticsSocialism and DemocracyteleSURUpping the Anti, and other publications. Lyons is the author of Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right's Challenge to State and Empire (PM Press and Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2018) and contributed the title essay to the book Ctrl-Alt-Delete: An Antifascist Report on the Alternative Right (Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2017). He is coauthor with Chip Berlet of Right-Wing Populism in America (Guilford Press, 2000) and author of Arier, Patriarchen, Übermenschen: die extreme Rechte in den USA [Aryans, Patriarchs, Supermen: The Far Right in the USA] (Unrast Verlag, 2015). Lyons is cotrustee of the Lorraine Hansberry Literary Trust, which stewards the literary legacy of the late playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry.

 

Wende Elizabeth Marshal was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1961 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She worked as a student and community organizer in Central Harlem, New York City during the 1980s and graduated with an M.A. in religious studies from Union Theological Seminary in 1992. In 1999 she received a Ph.D. in anthropology from Princeton University. Her scholarly work centers on the study of race/class, medicine, science and social change, topics covered in her book (Potent Mana: Lessons in Power and Healing) exploring the effects of colonialism on the physical, mental, and spiritual health of Native Hawaiians. The book chronicles indigenous efforts to decolonize through healing, remembering, and political action. Marshall is also a leader of Stadium Stompers, a movement of North Philadelphia-based community members, students, and workers fighting to stop Temple University’s proposed football stadium. As an adjunct at Temple University, Marshall was a leader in the efforts to unionize adjuncts, resulting in their joining the Temple Association of University Professionals, for which she served as Chair of the Adjunct Constituency Council and member of the Executive Committee. Marshall is also a member of LeftRoots and of the Circle on Revolutionary Nonviolence.

 

Shon Meckfessel has been a social movement participant and scholar for thirty years. He is the author of two books on contemporary social movement dynamics: Nonviolence Ain't What It Used To Be: Unarmed Insurrection and the Rhetoric of Resistance (AK Press, 2016) and Suffled How It Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans (AK Press, 2009.) His articles have appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly and Literacy in Composition Studies, and he has appeared as a social movement scholar and advocate in the New York Times and on Democracy Now, Al Jazeera, BBC Radio, and Fox News. He received his PhD in English (Language and Rhetoric) from the University of Washington in 2014, and is currently a member of the English Faculty at Highline College.

 

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 co-editor of the Look for Me in the Whirlwind: From the Panther 21 to 21st Century Revolutions (PM Press, 2017). Meyer is also the author of the provocative new book White Lives Matter Most and Other "Little" White Lies (PM Press, 2018), with a foreword by Sonia Sanchez and national book launch at this PJSA 2018 conference.

 

Bernedette Muthien serves part-time on South Africa’s Constitutional Commission for Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights, where she is responsible for Parliamentary Liaison, Research and Policy Development, and Public Education. Over twenty years she has held executive and senior management positions in academia, civil society and the public sector in South Africa and abroad. She is an accomplished facilitator, researcher and poet who designs, implements and evaluates projects for diverse institutions locally and internationally. Until August 2016, she was the Deputy Director General: Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment in the Presidency, where she served in the high level Economic Cluster. She has over 200 publications and conference presentations, some of which have been translated from English into at least 16 other languages. Bernedette was the first Fulbright-Amy Biehl fellow at Stanford University, and holds postgraduate degrees in Political Science from the University of Cape Town, and Stellenbosch University. Bernedette has served on the Executive Council of the International Peace Research Association, and is Co-Founder of the African Peace Research and Education Association. She serves on various international advisory boards, including the international journal Human Security Studies, as well as the International Institute on Peace Education.

 

Oscar López Rivera, commonly referred to as “the Mandela of the Americas,” was born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico on January 6, 1943. His family moved to the U.S. when he was an adolescent, and—like many young Latino and African American men—he was drafted into the U.S. army; his service in Viet Nam earned him the Bronze Star. When he returned from the war in 1967, he immediately set to work organizing to improve the quality of life for all Puerto Ricans, helping to create both the Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School and the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center of Chicago, Illinois. Eventually, however, Oscar and other young Puerto Ricans—inspired by heroic guerilla movements throughout the world—decided that their work for the independence of Puerto Rico could best be conducted in clandestine fashion. López Rivera was arrested in 1981, and ultimately sentenced to 55 years for the thought crime of seditious conspiracy; from 1986 to 1998, he was held in the most super-maximum-security prisons in the U.S. federal prison system—conditions which the International Red Cross have called tantamount to torture. Over López Rivera’s long years behind bars, he became a talented and prolific artist and author; his book Between Torture and Resistance contains a foreword by South African Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Since his release in May 2017, he has traveled across Puerto Rico, the U.S., and the world, treated as a dignitary and beloved representative of his people.

 

Gizelxanath Rodriguez is an internationally renowned vocalist, recently relocated to Pittsburgh from New York City, where she performed with some of the world's greatest artists for a period of 8 years. Prior to New York, she studied in Austria at the prestigious Mozarteum Hochschule für Musik, the conservatory of Tijuana, and the University of Baja California in Mexico. Fluent in 6 languages, Gizel has also 3 solo albums and has been a featured artist at the Lincoln Center National Dance Institute and Repertorio Espanol. In 2014 she was the recipient of the Latin Ace Award for her musical contribution to the Hispanic New York scene. She continues her work today by reclaiming her identity as an Indigenous woman of Yaqui descent, leading a band with her partner Ben Barson, the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, who most recently performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and the ASCAP Jazz awards in Los Angeles, C.A. Gizelxanath is also politically active in international social movements related to Indigenous rights and ecological justice / ecosocialism. She was a delegate to the First Ecosocialist International, a historic gathering of over 100 activists from 5 continents in the Maroon afro-descendent community of Veroes, Venezuela. She has worked with Zapatista organizations based in Chiapas for several years, helping organize the East Coast Chiapas Solidarity Committee and providing musical performances and lessons to Zapatista Indigenous youth. She also works with community farmers in Pittsburgh to build food sovereignty with oppressed communities.

 

Sonia Sanchez—Poet. Mother. Professor. National and International lecturer on Black Culture and Literature, Women’s Liberation, Peace and Racial Justice. Sponsor of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Board Member of MADRE. Sonia Sanchez is the author of over 20 books. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Scholar and The Journal of African Studies, she is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucretia Mott Award for 1984, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, she is a winner of the 1985 American Book Award for Homegirls and Handgrenades, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities for 1988, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.) for 1989, a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for 1992-1993 and the recipient of Langston Hughes Poetry Award for 1999. Does Your House Have Lions? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the Poetry Society of America’s 2001 Robert Frost Medalist and a Ford Freedom Scholar from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Her poetry also appeared in the movie Love Jones. Sonia Sanchez has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry globally. She was the first Presidential Fellow at Temple University and she held the Laura Carnell Chair in English at Temple University. She is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award, 2004, Alabama Distinguished Writer, and the National Visionary Leadership Award for 2006. She is the recipient of the 2005 Leeway Foundation Transformational Award and the 2009 Robert Creeley Award. Currently, Sonia Sanchez is one of 20 African American women featured in “Freedom Sisters,” an interactive exhibition created by the Cincinnati Museum Center and Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition. In December of 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter selected Sonia Sanchez as Philadelphia’s first Poet Laureate, calling her “the longtime conscience of the city.” BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, a documentary about Sanchez’s life as an artist and activist by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, was nominated for a 2017 Emmy. She has also provided the Foreword to Peace and Justice Studies Association’s Founding Co-chair Matt Meyer’s White Lives Matter Most and other “little” white lies (PM Press, 2018), and the After-poem to Meyer’s co-edited anthology We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America (PM Press, 2012). 

 

Jai Sen – based now in New Delhi, India, and in Ottawa, Canada, on unceded Anishnaabe territory – is an architect by training and first practice, then a social housing and planning activist around the rights of the labouring poor based in Kolkata, India, and moved on to becoming a student of the history and dynamics of movement in the 1990s, doing depth studies on movements and campaigns for people’s rights to a secure place to live in dignity. Subsequently involved in the organising process of the World Social Forum in India during its first year there, 2002, he has since then intensively engaged with and taken part in the WSF and world movement through the organisation he co-founded and is still associated with, CACIM (Critical Action: Centre in Movement). This has included as author, editor, and/or co-editor of several books and articles on the WSF and on the dynamics and globalisation of movement, as co-organiser of a series of events and encounters at WSF events.

 

Kempis “Ghani” Songster is a gifted organizer and orator, who has worked for the Amistad Law Project since his release earlier this year after 30 years behind bars. In 1987, he was involved - at age 15 - in the murder of another young man. Despite his young age and previous life as a talented student, he was convicted of first-degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence without parole. He became a classic example of what is called a juvenile lifer, earning the support of the Redemption Project and other organizations. There are hundreds more juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania alone, and thousands more across the country. Ghani now works actively for healing justice and for the end of life without parole (death by incarceration). He also works for the release of political prisoners, having been exposed in prison to the teachings of fellow inmates such as Russell Maroon Shoatz and Black Panther supporters. He was a keynote speaker at this year's AFSC annual corporation meeting, bringing together Quakers from throughout the United States. He is also part of the Old and New Project, looking to bring the lessons and visions of past movements to the current and forthcoming generations in struggle.

 

Liliane Umuhoza is an undergraduate senior at Juniata College, majoring in peace studies. A gifted and internationally-recognized orator and organizer, Ms. Umuhoza was two years old at the time of the genocide in her native Rwanda.  Though too young to recall the specifics of those events, she grew up, as she has noted, “suffering the consequences of that atrocity” in every corner of her young life. She was thus determined to speak out against injustice, and was a prize winner of the distinguished Bailey Oratorical contest. Umuhoza received a peace fellowship for her work raising funds for Rwandan women and children’s organizations, and as designer of an annual empowerment Rwandan women’s retreat, "Retreat for Women Genocide Survivors." In the summer of 2017, she served as an intern at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and remains active in U.S.-based Genocide Awareness and Action programs, and many other human rights efforts.

 

Stellan Vinthagen is professor of sociology and a scholar-activist. Vinthagen has a Ph.D. (2005) in Peace and Development Research from University of Gothenburg. He is the Inaugural Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance and Director of the Resistance Studies Initiative at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is also researcher at Dept. of Social and Behavioural Studies, University West, and School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg, where he is leading the Resistance Studies Program. Vinthagen researches resistance, power, social movements, nonviolent action and social change. He has written or edited eight books and numerous articles. Vinthagen is a Council Member of War Resisters International, and academic advisor to the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Vinthagen has since 1980 been an educator, organizer and activist in several countries, and has participated in numerous nonviolent civil disobedience actions, for which he has served in total more than one year in prison. Vinthagen is one of the initiators of the European Plowshares movement; and, Academic Conference Blockades; and one of the founders of Ship to Gaza Sweden, a coalition member of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. He lives in the Eco-Village Krossekärr, Sweden, and the Pioneer Valley Cohousing, Amherst, USA.

 

Chia-Chia Wang is the Organizing and Advocacy Director at the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program. Chia-Chia supervises organizing staff, fellows and interns and has been with AFSC since 2005. Prior to joining AFSC, Chia-Chia was with the Children’s Defense Fund - New York working to increase access to health care for low-income children and families. Chia-Chia has a graduate degree in International Relations and was born and raised in Taiwan.

 

Emily Welty is an academic, ecumenist and artist living and working in New York City. She is the Director of Peace and Justice Studies at Pace University where she teaches classes focusing on nonviolence, humanitarianism and reconciliation and transitional justice. Her research focuses on the religious dimensions of peacebuilding with an emphasis on humanitarianism and nuclear disarmament as well as nonviolent social movements. She is the Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Commission on International Affairs and is the chair of the Nuclear Disarmament Working Group. Emily is part of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) where she works on faith-based engagement in nuclear disarmament. She is the co-author of Unity in Diversity: interfaith dialogue in the Middle East and Occupying Political Science. Emily is also a playwright and has worked with The Civilians, the Acting Studio at Chelsea Rep and the Einhorn School of Performing Arts.