Want to keep track of all the folks participating in The Root Institute virtual conference this year? Here’s a handy guide of the who’s-who joining in the conversations this year.
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Danielle C. Belton
Danielle C. Belton
An award-winning journalist, Danielle Belton is the Editor-in-Chief of The Root. Before joining The Root, Belton was Editor-At-Large for black women’s news site Clutch Magazine Online and was among the first Black women to lead a writer’s room in late-night as head writer for BET Networks’ NAACP Image Award-nominated talk show, Don’t Sleep, featuring former-CNN news anchor T. J. Holmes.
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Stacey Abrams is the New York Times bestselling author of Lead from the Outside, a serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO, and political leader. After serving as Minority Leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, Abrams became the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, where she won more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Her most recent endeavors include: launching Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system, Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South. Her newest book, Our Time is Now, was released in June 2020.
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Felice León is a host, producer and multimedia journalist who was born and raised in New York City. Currently working as a video producer at The Root, León has the unique opportunity to work on both sides of the camera. She hosts and co-produces the site’s original explainer series called “Unpack That.” The videos deeply delve into an array of topics that are specifically related to society’s tenuous relationship with race. “Unpack That” has covered the racist history of pandemics, the impact of sharing Black trauma on social media and the erasure of Black women in conversations of police violence to name a few subjects. León has also hosted and produced many of the site’s viral explainers and on-air interviews, including “We Built This,” “Why Kaep Takes a Knee,” and “The Black History of Memorial Day.” León has been featured on The Daily Beast, WNYC, Essence, Ebony, The Village Voice and BET.com.
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Ayanna Pressley is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist and a survivor. On November 6, 2018, Ayanna was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, making her the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Ayanna believes that the people closest to the pain should be closest to the power and that a diversity of voices in the political process is essential to crafting a more effective public policy.
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Judith Browne Dianis
Judith Browne Dianis
Judith Browne Dianis is the Executive Director of the Advancement Project National Office. Dianis has served as a lawyer, professor and civil rights advocate for more than two decades in the movement for racial justice. Hailed as a voting rights expert and pioneer in the movement to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, Dianis leads Advancement Project National Office’s work in combatting structural racism in education, voting, policing, criminal justice and immigration. A graduate of Columbia University School of Law and former managing attorney of the DC office of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, was named one of the “Thirty Women to Watch” by Essence magazine. Judith Browne Dianis lives with her family in Maryland and is a proud basketball mom.
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Rashad Robinson is the President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization driven by more than 7 million members who are building power for Black communities. Color Of Change uses innovative strategies to bring about system change in the industries that affect Black people’s lives by designing and implementing winning strategies for racial justice. Rashad has been profiled by The New York Times, BET, The Root, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Fast Company and more. He is a sought-after keynote speaker across the country and appears regularly as a quoted source for major media. Color Of Change has been featured in Fast Company’s Most Innovation Companies list– in 2015, 2018, and 2020. In addition, Rashad is the proud recipient of awards from organizations as varied as ADCOLOR, the United Church of Christ, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation and Demos.
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Glynda C. Carr
Glynda C. Carr
Political strategist Glynda C. Carr is the co-founder of Higher Heights for America and Higher Heights Leadership Fund, the leading national organizations dedicated to building Black women’s collective political power from the voting booth to elected office. She is the co-creator of the #BlackWomenLead movement which is creating the environment for Black women to vote, run and lead.
Glynda is the former Executive Director of Education Voters of New York, a leading independent voice for school reform in the state. Prior to Education Voters, she was Chief of Staff to New York State Senator Kevin Parker (Brooklyn) where she also served as campaign manager for two of his successful re-election campaigns.
A sought-after speaker and trainer, she has also contributed to The Root, Ebony.com, and the Huff Post. In 2018, she appeared on Essence magazine’s second annual Woke 100 list, saluting female changemakers.
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Tonja Renée Stidhum
Tonja Renée Stidhum
Tonja Renée Stidhum is the Entertainment Writer at The Root with an emphasis on film, television and culture. She is also a writer, director and producer of the upcoming digital series, WingChick.
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Panama Jackson is an award-winning writer, co-founder and current Senior Editor of the award-winning website, VerySmartBrothas (a vertical of The Root), cited as “the Blackest place on the internet” by the Washington Post. He’s a regularly featured speaker on issues relating to race, pop culture, general Blackness and hip-hop.
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Lee Daniels is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker widely known for his Academy Award-winning film Precious and became the first African American to be nominated for a Director’s Guild of America Award for “Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film” on behalf of the film.
Currently, Daniels is working on the release of his latest original picture The United States V.S. Billie Holiday, a drama picture based around the court case of famed singer Billie Holiday after she was arrested at her apartment for the possession of narcotics.
Daniels is known for the films, Shadowboxer, Monster’s Ball, The Woodsman and The Paperboy. Daniels created the hit television series Empire, for Fox and contributed to other Fox projects under the Lee Daniels Entertainment umbrella.
In addition to his successful film career, Daniels is also a passionate advocate and philanthropist, focusing on the arts, LGBTQ+ initiatives and other charitable organizations.
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Winner of BAFTA, Peabody and Emmy Awards, Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay’s directorial work includes the Oscar-winning civil rights drama Selma, the Oscar-nominated social justice documentary 13TH and the Disney children’s adventure A Wrinkle in Time, which made her the highest-grossing Black woman director in American box office history. In 2019, she created, wrote, produced and directed the Emmy Award-winning limited series When They See Us. She is currently producing the fifth season of her acclaimed series, Queen Sugar. Winner of the 2012 Sundance Best Director Prize for her second independent film Middle of Nowhere, DuVernay amplifies the work of Black artists, people of color and women of all kinds through her multi-platform arts collective ARRAY.
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Aloe Blacc — musician, rapper, producer, songwriter and philanthropist — is recognized for making a lasting impression on the hip-hop, R&B and soul worlds inspiring audiences around the world.
From collaborations with Pharrell Williams and Dj Khalil, co-writing “Wake Me Up” with the late Avicii, crossover hit “I Need a Dollar” and Grammy-nominated major-label debut album Lift Your Spirit, featuring platinum-selling single “The Man,” Blacc’s multifaceted career has stamped his name on the music world globally.
Blacc has made appearances on TV shows and as a guest judge on The Voice and NBC’s Songland, where he discovered songwriter Kyle Williams with whom he collaborated on “Getting Started” for the blockbuster movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
In 2020, Blacc launched “I Do” the lead single off Blacc’s forthcoming record. Inspired by his marriage to recording artist Maya Jupiter, the ballad sees Blacc openly discuss his personal life and relationships.
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Arisha Michelle Hatch is the Vice President and Chief of Campaigns at Color Of Change, leading campaigns on civic engagement, voting rights, criminal justice, and corporate and media accountability. Arisha is a leader and innovator in the racial justice movement, leading culture change work that has called out crime TV shows for normalizing injustice in policing since 2013. Since joining Color Of Change in 2012, she has ushered in some groundbreaking victories for Black communities: getting payment processors like Mastercard and PayPal to ban use of their platforms by white supremacists, persuading Saturday Night Live to add two Black women to its cast and writer’s room mid-season, and getting Cops and Live PD canceled for their unjust portrayal of the criminal justice system.
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Kierna Mayo is currently an executive producer and the showrunner for the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact, a live production award show. As the show’s creative lead, she has scripted for notables like global activist Martin Luther King III, Academy Award-winning rapper Common, and Solange Knowles, who was the show’s first honoree.
She has appeared on several major podcasts including Longform, Slate’s “Slow Burn,” the “Combat Jack Show,” and many others. She has been featured on MSNBC, HBO Max and many radio and television programs, local and abroad.
Mayo is the former Editor in Chief and Vice President of Digital of Ebony magazine and led Ebony.com to critical acclaim, boldly rebranding the venerable, 70-year-old print publication. Under her direction, Ebony was among the first publications to give space to many of the original wave of Black Lives Matter-era millennial journalists and thought-leaders.
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Chloe and Maud Arnold
Chloe and Maud Arnold
Internationally recognized tap dancers and Emmy Award Nominated sisters Cholé and Maud Arnold are a choreographing and producing duo. Their work has allowed them to create opportunities to elevate and celebrate the Art of Tap Dancing through the media. Known for co-directing and producing the critically acclaimed DC Tap Festival for the past 12 years, they were awarded the 33rd Annual DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Excellence in Performing Arts in 2018.
Widely known for their female tap dance band Syncopated Ladies, Chloé and Maud have amassed over 70 million views online. The duo has appeared on The Ellen Show, Good Morning America, So You Think You Can Dance, and have received praise from Beyoncé, Whoopi Goldberg, Shonda Rhimes, Janet Jackson and more. In addition, the duo made history as the first African American women to sign a tap shoe deal with BLOCH along with producing the documentary, Tap World.
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Phil Augusta Jackson
Phil Augusta Jackson
Phil Augusta Jackson is a writer, actor, director and musician from Philadelphia and currently based in Los Angeles. He is a co-executive producer on the critically acclaimed HBO series, Insecure. His writing credits also include Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, Survivor’s Remorse on the Starz Network, and Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine with directing credits as well. He’s received Emmy, WGA, and NAACP award nominations for his contributions on Key & Peele. Also, Phil has self-produced and directed shorts and music videos.
Phil was formerly selected for the New Faces Characters Showcase at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. He was also the resident poet for the cult hit talk show, The Chris Gethard Show, where he wrote and performed original pieces. In addition, Phil is a songwriter, musician, and vocalist, whose next EP, The Redondo Tape, will be released this summer. He will direct the first music video for the release.
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Michael Harriot is the Senior Writer at The Root where he covers the intersection of race, politics and culture. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, The NY Times and his mother’s refrigerator. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and CNN and earned the National Association of Black Journalists Award for digital commentary as well as TV writing.
Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Auburn University and a Masters in Macroeconomics from Florida State University. His book, BlackAF History will be released in the spring of 2021.
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Maiysha Kai is a writer, editor, model and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter whose critically-acclaimed, independently released debut album, This Much Is True, earned her a 2009 nomination for Best Urban Alternative Performance.
In 2016, Maiysha became a regular contributor to The Root. She joined the staff in 2017 as co-founder and Managing Editor of the site’s women-focused vertical, The Glow Up, covering a broad range of topics including beauty, fashion, women’s health, entrepreneurship and gender equality.
Maiysha’s work and opinions have been cited by the New York Times, Vanity Fair and more; she has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Nightline and NPR. In addition, she contributed to the interdisciplinary essay collection The Lemonade Reader: Beyoncé, Black Feminism and Spirituality, and wrote the foreword to acclaimed writer Ntozake Shange’s posthumous book of poetry, I Am an Old Woman.
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Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson
Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actor, writer, and producer Taraji P. Henson broke onto the screen in the acclaimed film Hustle & Flow. Since then, she’s appeared in Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures, Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, What Men Want, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, earning an Oscar nomination for “Best Supporting Actress,” and more. She recently wrapped her run as “Cookie Lyon” in Fox’s hit drama Empire, earning three Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe Award, Critic’s Choice Award and three BET Awards.
In 2016, Henson released her New York Times bestselling memoir Around The Way Girl about making it to Hollywood and the importance of living your truth. In 2018, she launched the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father providing scholarships to African-American students, offering mental health services to youth, and working to lower recidivism rates of African-American men and women.
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Dr. Joia Crear-Perry
Dr. Joia Crear-Perry
Joia Adele Crear-Perry, MD, FACOG is a speaker, trainer, advocate, policy expert, and the Founder and President of the National Birth Equity Collaborative. Celebrated for her work to improve affordable health care for New Orleans’ citizens post-Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Crear-Perry is a recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Healthcare Hero’s award and the Maternal Health Task Force at Harvard University Global Visionary Award for Commitment to Advancing Women’s Health.
Recently, Dr. Crear-Perry addressed the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urging a human rights framework to improve maternal mortality. Currently, she serves on the Advisory Committee of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, is a Principal at Health Equity Cypher and serves on the Board of Trustees for Community Catalyst, National Medical Association, and the UCSF PTBi.
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Joy Allen-Altimare is the Chief Engagement and Brand Officer at EHE Health. Joy is a brand strategist with nearly 20 years of experience across a range of highly competitive, rapidly evolving marketplaces. She has a proven track record, creating profitable solutions centered around member experience, engagement and consumer behavior change.
She directs EHE Health’s innovative engagement and product development strategy, leading the alignment of EHE Health’s unique preventive care product with a frictionless, patient-centered process designed to drive results and satisfaction.
Prior to joining the healthcare space, Joy worked with leading agencies such as Ogilvy+Mather, GREY, and Publicis on preeminent brands like L’Oreal, Verizon and Colgate-Palmolive.
She then shifted into a role at publishing giant Conde Nast, transferring her skills to the media world. Joy helped the company bridge the divide between its traditional roots and digital future, providing strategic insight as the industry’s terrain changed.
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Alexis McGill Johnson
Alexis McGill Johnson
Alexis McGill Johnson is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of American and Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Alexis is a renowned social justice leader, lifelong political organizer, and tireless advocate for reproductive rights and access to quality, affordable healthcare. She is the co-founder and former co-director of the Perception Institute, which focused on science-based research that viewed race, gender, ethnic and other identities as solutions to reduce bias and discrimination.
Alexis currently serves on the board of Color of Change, Revolutions Per Minute, and Narrative Initiative. She is a founder of the Culture Group, as well as a frequent commentator on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and in the press. Alexis holds degrees from Princeton and Yale Universities and has taught political science at both Yale and Wesleyan Universities.
She is an avid runner, music lover and proud mom of 2 daughters.
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Michael Clark is a digital native who has held business development and sales management positions with The Root, Entertainment Studios, Univision, Mediaspike, Washington Post Digital, Interactive One/Radio One, and Johnson Publishing Co. Michael has partnered with several key brands such as Ford, Prudential, Starbucks, Target and Toyota to create ROI-driven, multi-platform solutions. He got his start in advertising in New York as a media planner for Chisholm-Mingo Group, a leading multicultural advertising agency.
Michael resides in NYC with his wife and son.
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Chelsea Fuller is a multiplatform journalist and communications strategist currently working as the Deputy Communications Director where she supervises the accounts of various clients, including The ‘me too.’ Movement and the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 organizations committed to fighting for equality and justice for Black people.
Chelsea has successfully provided communications support to organizations including Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, Workers Center for Racial Justice, Baltimore BLOC and BYP100.
Prior to joining Blackbird, Chelsea worked at the Advancement Project, one of the nation’s leading civil rights and racial justice organizations as the Senior Communications Associate for Youth Criminalization.
She is a regular contributor on issues of race, culture and justice for The Root and the Huff Post, and is the Co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists’ Young Journalist Task Force.
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For more than 25 years, activist and advocate Tarana J. Burke has worked at the intersection of sexual violence and racial justice. Fueled by commitments to interrupt sexual violence and other systemic inequalities disproportionately impacting marginalized people, particularly Black women and girls, Tarana has created and led various campaigns focused on increasing access to resources and support for impacted communities, including the “me too” movement, which to date has galvanized millions of survivors and allies around the world.
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Michelle Gadsden-Williams is an award-winning global diversity expert, author, activist, producer and philanthropist with more than 25 years of experience as an advocate for equality within corporate America and a thought leader around diversity and inclusion. Michelle is a seasoned diversity practitioner with experience working in the consumer goods, pharmaceutical and financial services industries before transitioning to professional services in 2017.
Michelle is the former, Managing Director of Inclusion & Diversity for Accenture North America. She provided strategic direction, thought leadership and championed the development of an inclusive environment by integrating diversity practice into all aspects of the business. She has held positions of global responsibility in the diversity management arena by living in Switzerland for close to 10 years of her corporate career and managed staffing functions for large multinational corporations such as Credit Suisse, Novartis and Merck & Co, Inc. Prior to her tenure at Merck & Co., Inc, Michelle has also held positions in Human Resources and Product Development at PhilipsVan Heusen Corporation and Wakefern Food Corporation, both headquartered in New Jersey.
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Reggie Van Lee
Reggie Van Lee
Reggie Van Lee is the Chief Transformation Officer at the Carlyle Group, helping ensure that the firm is maximizing its market competitiveness and operating most effectively and efficiently as an institution. At Carlyle, he leads the development of new and innovative ways to enhance the firm’s business processes, drive faster decision making and contribute to continued profitable growth.
Prior to his position at the Carlyle Group, Reggie spent 32 years leading numerous businesses at Booz Allen Hamilton and served as a research engineer with Exxon’s production research company.
Reggie is a member of the board of directors for multiple arts organizations such as The Juilliard School, Studio Museum in Harlem and more. He was named one of the top 25 consultants in the world by Consulting Magazine, selected as a Washington Minority Business Leader by the Washington Business Journal and named Black Engineer of the Year by Black Engineer magazine.
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Darnell L. Moore
Darnell L. Moore
Darnell L. Moore is the author of the 2019 Lambda Literary Award-winning memoir, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America, which was listed as a 2018 NYT Notable Book and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers’ pick. Moore is also a writer-in-residence at the Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice at Columbia University, and a 2019 Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California. His writings have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Playboy, Vice, The Guardian, The Nation, Ebony and other outlets. He is the Director of Inclusion Strategy for Content and Marketing at Netflix and is currently at work on his second book, which is tentatively titled, Unbecoming: Visions Beyond the Limits of Manhood.
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David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)—a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC’s mission is to end racism, homophobia, LGBTQ bias and stigma.
In 2013, Johns was appointed the first Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Initiative) by President Obama and served until the last day of the Obama Administration.
Prior to his White House appointment, Johns worked with the House and Senate on issues related to low-income and minority students, neglected youth, early childhood education, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Johns has been featured as an influential politico and advocate by several publications and outlets, including The Root, NBC, Ebony, and The Washington Post and offers commentary for BET, CNN, EducationPost and TV One.
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Monique Judge is a storyteller, a writer, a media literacy advocate and the news editor for The Root. She is a native of Los Angeles, California, and she wears that badge on her sleeve just like her heart. She loves strong coffee, strong tequila and the written word. She is outspoken, full of strong opinions and fully embracing life as a woman over 40. When she is not writing, recording videos or editing, she is spending time with the cutest puppy in the world, Lady.
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Chloë Cheyenne is a social impact tech entrepreneur who is passionate about uniting change-makers around shared causes and movements. Chloe founded her company, COMMUNITYx (Cx), in light of her dad’s tragic experience with police discrimination and misconduct that left him permanently handicapped. Since launching in September 2019, Chloë and COMMUNITYx have earned major accolades such as being recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 as the #1 Startup of The Year and being named one of Startup Grind’s Top 100 Global Startups. Additionally, the company has received press coverage from outlets such as Forbes, MSNBC, Black Enterprise, The Root, ZORA by Medium, and The Grio. You can follow Chloë on the COMMUNITYx App and on other platforms @chloecommunityx.
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- Who's Who at <i>The Root Institute</i>
- Danielle C. Belton
- Stacey Abrams
- Felice Leon
- Ayanna Pressley
- Judith Browne Dianis
- Rashad Robinson
- Glynda C. Carr
- Tonja Renée Stidhum
- Panama Jackson
- Lee Daniels
- Ava DuVernay
- Aloe Blacc
- Arisha Hatch
- Kierna Mayo
- Chloe and Maud Arnold
- Phil Augusta Jackson
- Michael Harriot
- Maiysha Kai
- Taraji P. Henson
- Dr. Joia Crear-Perry
- Joy Allen-Altimare
- Alexis McGill Johnson
- Michael Clark
- Chelsea Fuller
- Tarana Burke
- Michelle Gadsden-Williams
- Reggie Van Lee
- Darnell L. Moore
- David Johns
- Monique Judge
- Chloë Cheyenne