Speaker Day focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion

The return to classes today came with a request from Upper School Council and Community Action and Service to complete a speaker preference form for the 2021 Speaker / Service Day. It includes a link to speaker bios, also listed here:

Michael Goh
Michael Goh is a professor and the Vice-President of the University of Minnesota’s Office for Equity and Diversity. Topic: Not Your IQ But Your CQ: What is Cultural Intelligence (CQ)? In this session, Dr. Goh will unpack the challenges of diversity and inclusion that we confront daily in schools, universities, workplaces, and in our country, and introduce the hope and promise of intercultural competence and cultural intelligence to educate against prejudice and discrimination.

Tadd Johnson
Professor Tadd M. Johnson, Esq. is the University of Minnesota’s first Senior Director of American Indian Tribal Nations Relations. In this role, he serves as the liaison between the entire University of Minnesota system and the regional Tribal Nations. An enrolled member of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, Professor Johnson served as a tribal attorney for more than 30 years, but has also served as a tribal court judge, a tribal administrator, and is a frequent lecturer on American Indian history and Federal Indian Law. He spent five years with the U.S. House of Representatives, ultimately becoming staff director and counsel to the Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Professor Johnson to chair the National Indian Gaming Commission. Professor Johnson earned his B.A. from the University of St. Thomas and his law degree from the University of Minnesota. He has served as a faculty member of the National Judicial College and has served on the Board of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. He is currently on the Board of the Native Governance Center; serves as Director of the Tribal Sovereignty Institute; and is on the Board of Trustees of the Udall Foundation. Topic: The title of Tadd’s presentation is: “A Brief History of Federal, Tribal and State Relations”.

Sebastian Witherspoon
Sebastian Witherspoon has proudly served as the Executive Director of Equity Alliance MN since 2019. He is a product of Duluth, MN, and one of ten children born to a Baptist minister and two community activists. With passion and thoughtfulness, he has dedicated more than 20 years of equity/race equity focused work in helping students, staff, families, and others in leadership roles to develop empathy for underserved and historically marginalized folks by developing programs that create opportunities and educational access. As a high school dropout, Sebastian’s journey in life has not always been smooth. However, with perseverance, purpose, and the exceptional support of others, Sebastian received his Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a concentration on management from the College of Saint Scholastica, a Master’s degree in Education Administration and a specialist degree from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and he is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on the attributes of an anti-racist school system at St. Cloud State University. What continually drives Sebastian while leading Equity Alliance MN is his passion and desire to fulfill the purpose of “creating meaningful and lasting societal change by empowering educators to transform their schools, communities, and organizations to positively impact future generations. ”

Monica Bryand
Monica is the Executive Co-Director, Operations of Voices for Racial Justice. Manager at Headwaters Foundation for Justice for over 16 years where she oversaw grantmaking that supports organizations working for social, economic and racial justice issues. Topic: “Hiding in Plain Sight- navigating systems of oppression for half a century.” Monica will discuss growing up as a gay, Latinx women and surviving the Catholic Church, corporate America and America in general.

Kevin Reese
Kevin Reese is the Director of Criminal Justice and Prison Justice Organizer at Voices for Racial Justice. He is an 2018 AWP intro Journals project award winner for poetry published in the Hayden Ferry Review. He has a running column in the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder. His writing is centered around humanity, organizing, transformative movements, and ancestral visionary poetry.

Jordan Casomar
Jordan K. Casomar is a Black prose writer from Iowa. His essays have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Kweli Journal, Catapult, and elsewhere. He is a VONA alum, the runner-up for the Pinch’s 2018 Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction, and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Minnesota. Jordan lives in D.C. with his wife and their two cats. Topic: “The Problem With “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” Jordan K. Casomar, Prose Writer and Police Abolitionist – Embedded in the words “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” is the presumption that folks like me are non-standard, unequal, excluded, and most of all, a problem to be solved. But we’re not the problem—white supremacy is. So, if not DEI, then what?”

Rinal Ray
Rinal Ray is a nonprofit leader, teacher and lawyer who has dedicated her time and spent her career helping underserved populations in Minnesota. Mrs. Ray is the Chief Executive Officer at People Serving People. She was previously deputy public policy director for the Minnesota Council for Nonprofits. Prior to this role she also served as staff attorney for the Minnesota Justice Foundation. Topic: Rinal Ray will discuss how we, as young people and members of this community can approach public policy with an anti-racist and equity focused lens. This conversation will explore the legacy of historical structures, themes around identity, power, and love, and tools to advance racially equitable public policy. There will be an opportunity to learn through examples, ask questions, engage in dialogue, and you will be invited to commit to action.

Nelima Sitati Munene
Neelima is the executive director of ACER, a nonprofit organization that engages African immigrants living in the north and northwest suburbs of Minneapolis. Topic: Unconscious Bias: We all have certain thoughts about things, places, situations and people that we hold within us. These thoughts are shaped by our life experiences. They determine what our first reactions will be without us being fully conscious of them. All of us unconsciously hold a certain bias whether positive or negative towards everything around us.
What is Unconscious bias? How does it manifest itself in our daily lives? What steps can we take to be more aware of it, overcome it and build a more inclusive environment that is welcoming to all?

Mitra Jalali Nelson (Only for Speaker Session 1)
Mitra is the St. Paul Councilmember for District 4. Mitra Jalali was sworn in as the newest member of the Saint Paul City Council in September 2018 to represent Ward 4. Mitra has previously worked as a classroom teacher, community organizer, policy aide and congressional staffer to the U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. Her priorities in office include attainable and affordable housing and homeownership, community-first public safety and police accountability, sustainability and transit, and community wealth-building through economic development. Mitra is also passionate about organizing, inclusive community engagement, and representation for all, including underrepresented and underserved community members. In addition to serving as a City Councilwoman, she also serves on the board of the Family Housing Fund, the intergovernmental Joint Property Tax Advisory Committee, Ramsey County Dispatch and is the co-chair of the 2020 U.S. Census collection initiative for Ramsey County.

Antonio Saunders
Antonio is the Vice President of Equity and Innovation at Teach For America, Racial justice activist/speaks at many events. Topic: In this session, Antonio Saunders will use the Freedom Schools as a basis to explore and redefine a student’s role in leading change. Based on the Freedom Schools paradigm, that the purpose of school is to develop new concepts of a free and democratic society, students in this group will identify elements of their school, community, and society that need to change and align Culturally Responsive Teaching strategies to test new ways of learning and creating equity.

Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell is a queer organizer, health and wellness coach, and artist in the twin cities. He’s a founder of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis, and has been a community organizer for over 8 years with a focus on worker rights, economic development, police abolition, and creating music and art for the movement. Topic: A pop-ed discussion about dismantling the master’s house and the pillars of oppression that uphold it. In this workshop we’ll unpack white supremacy, capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and the ways they all show up in our lives.

Kandance Montgomery
Kandance Montgomery helped start up the Minneapolis chapter of Black Lives Matter, she is also a co-founder of Black Visions Collective, an organization that seeks to expand the power of Black people across the Twin Cities metro area and Minnesota. Topic: Her speech will be about the conversation which discusses the ways in which we need to take an intersectional and visionary approach to the future of public safety.

The form is due from students and faculty by 4 p.m. Tuesday. If no preferences are selected, participants will be randomly scheduled into sessions.