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For the I Have the Light of Freedom SisterAll, June 18-23, 2006:

Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, cultural historian, founder of Sweet Honey In the Rock, musicologist, social critic, producer and director, and veteran of the Southern Freedom Movement is a 1989 recipient of the MacArthur Award. Founder of the Smithsonian Institution's Program in African-American Culture, Reagon served as principal scholar, conceptual producer, and host of the path-breaking and Peabody Award-winning radio series Wade In The Water: African-American Sacred Music Traditions. Currently, she holds the position of Curator Emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Reagon was awarded the Presidential Medal, the 1995 Charles Frankel Prize for outstanding contribution to public understanding of the humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1996, she received an Isadora Duncan award for the score to Rock, a ballet directed by Alonzo King for LINES Contemporary Ballet Company.

Stacyann Chin is a full-time artist. A resident of New York City and a Jamaican National, she has been an "out poet and political activist" since 1998. From the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe to one-woman shows off-Broadway to poetry workshops in Denmark and London to co-writer and performer in the Tony nominated, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin credits the long list of "things she has done" to her grandmother's hard-working history and the pain of her mother's absence. Hands Afire, her first one-woman show ran for ten weeks at the Bleecker Theater in the summer of 2000. The same off-Broadway theater welcomed the second show, Unspeakable Things, in the summer of 2001 before she took it to Copenhagen for a week-long run. London, Helsinki, Sweden and Norway are in the line-up to see the new generation of the show. Chin has also been the subject of on-screen ventures; from clips and interviews on NBC, CNN, VH1, and BET to performances on the CBS aired Tony Award show. The film, Staceyann Chin, was released in theaters in Denmark in 2001. It was also aired on the Danish National Television station. Between the Lines, a documentary that explores the notion of being Asian and woman and writer, is the latest to feature Stacyann.

Dr. Renita J. Weems is passionate about her vocation as a teacher of spiritual insight. Whether it's the books and articles she writes, the sermons she preaches, the classes she teaches, the workshops and seminars she gives, or the lectures she offers, she understands her work as that of a midwife of inner wisdom, helping women and men tap into the inner wisdom and the spiritual intelligence they already possess. Dr. Weems is the author of several widely acclaimed books on women's spirituality and wholeness such as Just A Sister Away, I Asked for Intimacy, Showing Mary: How Women Can Share Prayers, Wisdom, and the Blessing, and What Matters Most: Ten Passionate Letters from the Song of Solomon. Her special talent is in drawing life inspirational wisdom from stories in the Bible about the triumphs and failures of ordinary people. A former contributing writer to Essence Magazine back in the late 80's, she renewed her relationship with Essence with an article appearing in the December 2004 issue entitled "Sanctified and Suffering." Dr. Weems taught at Vanderbilt.

Jill Nelson, journalist and activist, was born and raised in Harlem and has been a working journalist for over twenty years. She is a graduate of the City College of New York and Columbia University's School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, Essence, The Washington Post, The Nation, Ms., The Chicago Tribune and The Village Voice. Jill was a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine during its first years of existence and was named Washington D.C. Journalist of the Year for her work there. Author of the best-selling memoir, Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience (Noble Press, hardcover, 1993 and Penguin, paperback, 1994) which won an American Book Award, she is also the author of Straight, No Chaser: How I Became A Grown-Up Black Woman (Putnam, Fall 1997, Penguin, Winter 1999), Sexual Healing (Agate, June 2003), Finding Martha's Vineyard: African-Americans at Home on an Island, (Random House, May 2005) and editor of Police Brutality: An Anthology (WW Norton, April 2000). Today, along with continuing to author new books, she freelances, lectures widely, writes a twice-monthly column, "On the Verge" for NiaOnline.com and is a monthly contributor to the Op Ed page of USA Today.

Michelle E. Armster is an activist and the director of Mennonite Central Committee's Mennonite Conciliation Service (MCS) in Akron, PA. She provides resourcing, consulting and training for churches, agencies and communities. She has many years of extensive training and experience in meditation, facilitation, conciliation, restorative justice, arbitration, victim/offender mediation, anti-racism and alternatives to violence. She has served on various community boards and currently serves on the PRASI Leadership Council, the board of The SpiritHouse Project, former board chair of the Lancaster Mediation Center, where she also serves as a volunteer mediator, and Executive Committee of Lancaster NAACP. She is currently enrolled in Lancaster Theological Seminary's Masters of Divinity program and has completed an Eastern Mennonite University's Graduate Certification program in Conflict Transformation. Equally as important, Michelle Armster is a creative soul, weaving song and drama through all dimensions of her life. She has brought creativity to the variety of places in which she has found herself along her life journey: from lead vocalist of Class Action, an adult contemporary band, to an insurance adjuster in Dallas, TX, to her current one-woman show: "God's Image Carved in Ebony: The Testimony of Mrs. Amanda Berry Smith, the Singing Pilgrim."

Sherrilyn Ifill is nationally recognized as an advocate in the areas of civil rights, voting rights, judicial diversity and judicial decision-making. She is currently a co-instructor with Professor Michael Pinard in the Reentry of Ex-Offenders Clinic, and teaches a special topic seminar in Reparations, Reconstruction and Resolution of Justice. Professor Ifill writes about judicial diversity and decision-making, as well as racial violence and reconciliation efforts. She is currently writing a book about lynching in Maryland entitled, A Conversation on Race: Truth, Reconciliation and Lynching on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Her article, "Creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Lynching" was published in August 2003 in the Minnesota Journal of Law & Inequality. Professor Ifill also continues to litigate and consult on cases on behalf of low-income and minority communities. In July 2004, the Maryland Court of Appeals returned a decision in favor of her clients in a case protesting the construction of a landfill in a historic African-American community in Harford County (Maryland Reclamation Associates v. Harford County, MD, et al. 382 Md. 348 (2004).

Roxanne Lawson is the Associate Coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee's Africa Program and the National Coordinator of AFSC's Life Over Debt Campaign which works to support 100% cancellation of illegitimate debt to multinational institutions. Prior to this she worked as AFSC's National Liaison to United for Peace and Justice and Win With War coalitions as well as their Mobilization Coordinator for the October 25th Mobilization against Empire in Washington, D.C. and the Free Trade Area of the Americans Agreement in Miami, FL. She was one of the founders of United for Peace and Justice and served on its Steering Committee and its Administrative Committee from 2002 until 2004. Lawson is a member of INCITE, the Black Radical Congress as well as a founding member of Organized Community of United People (C.O.U.P) a Washington, D.C. based human rights group and BEATS for PEACE, an activism and arts collective. Lawson works as a young African-American activist in communities of color around the globe. A doctoral Candidate in Historical Anthropology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Roxanne focuses on textuality and power relations in social scientific and historical paradigms.

Rachel E. Harding is a historian, writer and consultant specializing in religious traditions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and the intersections of faith, culture and activism in contemporary social justice movements. She earned a Ph.D from the University of Colorado in 1997 and is author of numerous published essays and a book on Afro-Brazilian religion, A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness (Indiana Univ. Press, 2000). Harding is consulting writer for the Beloved Communities Initiative, a project which documents organizations around the country connecting compassionate social change with spirituality and ritual. Harding was a featured scholar and consultant for the PBS series “This Far By Faith” on African-American religion. She is also a poet and has published work in Callaloo, Chelsea, Feminist Studies, The International Review of African-American Art, Hambone, and in several anthologies. In 1998, Rachel Harding joined the staff of the Veterans of Hope Project – an interdisciplinary initiative on religion, healing and participatory democracy, based at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. From 2000 through 2004, she was executive director of the Project and is currently lead consultant. Harding is also a senior adjunct lecturer at Iliff in the history of religions. She is currently preparing a manuscript – based on her mother’s unfinished memoir – about southern African-American mysticism and the role of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation in social justice activism. Rachel lives in Denver where she writes from her home.

Meredith Moise has been a teacher, truancy counselor, child protective service worker and social justice activist. Most importantly, she is a passionate human rights advocate. Meredith has long been involved in LGBT advocacy, serving as a freelance writer for LGBT (and African American) publications. Meredith is a core volunteer at the Portal, Baltimore's black LGBT community center. Currently, she is the field organizer of Equality Maryland, Maryland's largest LGBT advocacy organization. She is also proud to serve as a Deacon at St. Sebastian Contemporary Catholic Church in Baltimore. Meredith lives in Baltimore City.

Rev. Dr. Paula Matabane is an award-winning media producer, published scholar, ordained minister, activist and educator in mass media, culture, and religion. Her new documentary memoir, This Way Leads Home: Hair Like Wool, Feet Like Brass, The Search for Jesus explores the complex and extraordinary link between images of Jesus and the African-American experience through a revealing tale of her own spiritual journey. Matabane is an associate professor of television and film in the Department of Radio, TV and Film at Howard University. Previously, Matabane wrote and produced the provocative independent film, "Africa in the Holy Land", which won four national awards including the Community Choice Award from the National Black Programming Consortium and the Best Documentary Award from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. Matabane teaches media production and communications research. Her scholarly research on media, social learning and race, gender, and culture has been published in prestigious communications journals. She has won awards and grants for her research and serves on the editorial board of several communications journals.

Mashadi Matabane has worked on the editorial staffs of national women's magazines such as Ladies' Home Journal and Seventeen. Consequently, she is concerned with critiquing media representations of black women in popular culture, practicing media literacy with young women of color, as well as exploring alternative and overlooked definitions of blackness. She is a graduate of New York University (MA, Magazine Journalism) and Spelman College (BA, Women's Studies). Her plans for the near future include graduate school for American/Ethnic Studies where her research will focus primarily on black bi-cultural identity.

Linda Leaks is currently co-project director of a new organization called District of Columbia Grassroots Empowerment Project (Empower D.C.). She has more than thirty years of experience in community organizing with significant achievements in self-help empowerment of low and moderate-income people of color. She formerly worked 17 years with the now-defunct Washington Inner City Self Help (WISH), as a community organizer, cooperative education trainer and executive director. Empower D.C. is a grassroots organizing project. Its mission is to enhance and improve the self-advocacy of low income and working people in the District of Columbia in order to bring about sustained improvement in their quality of life.

Rev. Dr. Carolyn L. Boyd is an ordained minister, spiritual counselor, and facilitator. She is the founder and Pastor of The Spirit of Truth Center, in Washington, D.C., an emerging spiritual community devoted to experiencing the presence of God in all aspects of life. Boyd is a Christian mystic and preaches and teaches in the vain of the legendary Theologian Howard Thurman. Her ministry honors and celebrates all religious paths to God. As the host of Spirit In Action, 3rd Tuesdays, on WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C., Boyd challenges the listening audience to address their personal inner spirit in their social, political, and environmental justice activism. She addresses a broad range of social issues, emotions, and responses that impact the day-to-day lives of people. She underscores the need to include and consider the conditions of our "spirit" in creating new social, political, economic systems, policies, and organizations.

Jean Wiley is a long distance runner for justice, educator, activist, editor and former teacher of English and American Literature at Tuskegee University, Federal City College which later became University of the District of Columbia). She was a prime mover in the establishment of Federal City College. More recently, she was a professor at University of California, Berkeley. As a young teacher fresh out of graduate school, Jean influenced a generation of student activists at Tuskegee such as Samuel Younge, Ruby Sales, Aufait Williams, Gwendolyn Patton, George Parish, Wendell Parish and Ruby Young. Wiley left the academy during the 1960's to work as a field secretary of SNCC. She lived in Grenada to be a part of the great new society that the newly elected President, Maurice Bishop, and the people of Granada were collectively building. Wiley was there when the American government violently toppled the new government. She wrote an article in Essence to describe the US movement against Granada.

Dr. Cheryl Taylor is a life long justice worker in the areas of community health, homelessness and gender issues and a university professor. She is presently Director of the Office of Research and Associate Professor at Southern University Agricultural & Mechanical College School of Nursing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is Principal Investigator of REACH 2010: At the Heart of New Orleans in 40 churches for the National Black Women's Health Imperative. She teaches doctoral level research and health policy courses and chaired two 2003-2004-dissertation committees focused on women's health disparities research. Taylor contributed to the first generation of research studies on homelessness and chronic mental illness. The significance of her research findings is cited in the U.S. Congressional Record - Senate Vol. 136 no. 39, 5738, June 5, 1990. In 1989, Taylor also developed and published a taxonomy on homelessness and six senses of home. Taylor lives in New Orleans and is in the center of a movement to rebuild Black life and institutions after Katrina.

Dr. Barbara Ransby is a historian, writer, and longtime political activist. She received her B.A. from Columbia University in New York and her Ph.D in history from the University of Michigan, where she was a National Mellon Fellow. Barbara Ransby is currently an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Departments of African-American Studies and History. She is a recipient of a national Ford Foundation post-doctoral fellowship for 2000-200, as well as numerous other recognitions and awards. She is most notably the author of an award-winning biography of civil-rights activist Ella Baker, entitled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, published by University of North Carolina Press in 2003.

Dorothy Roberts is a Kirkland and Ellis Professor at Northwestern University Law School. She has written and lectured extensively on the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues concerning reproduction and motherhood. She is the author of the recently published Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare (Basic Books, 2002), as well as Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty (Pantheon, 1997), which received the 1998 Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America. She is also the co-author of casebooks on constitutional law and women and the law. Roberts has published fifty articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, University of Chicago Law Review, and Social Text. Her widely-cited article, "Punishing drug addicts who have babies: Women of color, equality, and the right of privacy" (Harvard Law Review, 1991) is included in a number of anthologies.

Dr. Gwendolyn Patton was a youth founding member of the (Black) Alabama Democratic Conference in 1960, an organization dedicated to getting Black people registered as voters. She also became a youth organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and SCLC. As a student at Tuskegee University, she served as the first female student government association president. As a SNCC organizer, she was one of the founders of its Women's Commission and served as the first commission chair. She founded the National Anti-War, Anti-Draft Union and the National Association of Black Students. Based on Freedom of Information files, Gwen was under surveillance and classified under active investigation by the FBI and the CIA. (Patton continues to travel throughout the world and is frequently asked to serve as an election observer in South and Central America and Africa.) Dr. Patton now works as an archivist for H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College, which houses special collections of Pioneers of the Voting Rights Movement. She continues to be in great demand - locally, nationally and internationally - as a speaker and lecturer on the civil and voting rights movement. Dr. Patton is Montgomery Coordinator for the National Historic Voting Rights Trail and serves on its National Advisory Council.

Toshi Reagon is a multi-talented musician who easily jumps from funk to country, spirituals to folk, taking any style, updating it, and making it her own with ease. Genre-bending is her specialty - take the gospel-tinged fingerpicking melody "Have You Heard" or the soft balladry of "You", the funky "OOH WEE" or the original interpretation of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel". As the New York Times raves, "Ms. Reagon's music originates in her love of mixing things up... [her] vocal style ranges from a dirty blues moan to a gospel shout to an ethereal croon." Most people would just tell you that to truly understand how Toshi can seamlessly transcend all of these genres, you have to check her out live. She has earned countless rave reviews in the years that she has been performing. Born in Atlanta and raised in Washington, D.C., Reagon gets her musical abilities from her family. Both parents belonged to SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee)'s The Freedom Singers, a folk group that sprung from the Civil Rights movement and toured the country to teach people about civil rights through song. Bernice Johnson Reagon is not only Toshi's mom but the founder of the world-renowned acapella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock.

Marcia Ann Gillespie is a trailblazer in the magazine industry, a leader in the women's movement, and a champion of gender and racial justice. A provocative writer and thinker, hers has been a consistent eloquent voice affirming the human potential for good, challenging inequality, and pushing herself and others to hope, dare, and strive for a better world. She has been a driving force behind two of the nation's most important women's magazines, as the Editor-in-Chief of Essence from 1971-1980 and most recently as the Editor-in-Chief of Ms. from 1993-2001. Named the Editor-in-Chief of Essence at the age of 26, Marcia Gillespie quickly proved her mettle by rapidly transforming the then-fledgling publication into one the fastest growing women's magazines in the United States. Marcia Gillespie later became editor-in-chief of Ms. Magazine. Her association with the magazine dates back to 1980, when she became a contributing editor. An award-winning writer, Gillespie is the co-author of a recently completed biography of Maya Angelou, and she is currently working on a memoir. She was also recently appointed the Distinguished Professor of Diversity in residence at Bennett College.

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