Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Order of British Empire (OBE) became Mayor of Freetown in May 2018 and dedicated herself to an inclusive vision of the city's renewal. Her three-year "Transform Freetown" plan details 19 concrete targets across 11 sectors and covers issues ranging from tackling environmental degradation to facilitating the creation of jobs in the tourism sector.
Passionate about her country and the environment, Aki-Sawyerr campaigned against the trade in "blood diamonds" during the civil war in Sierra Leone and cofounded SLWT, a charity that has supported disadvantaged children for 20 years. A finance professional with more than 25 years of private sector experience in strategic planning and management, her public sector engagement began during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. As a leader in the wake of the epidemic, she drove the second phase of a multi-stakeholder program to energize Sierra Leone's socioeconomic recovery. She was awarded a gold medal by the president and an OBE by the Queen of England for her service.
Charlie Jane Anders's latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. She also wrote a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston Review, Tin House, Conjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Wired Magazine, Slate, Asimov's Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story "Six Months, Three Days" won a Hugo Award, and her story "Don't Press Charges And I Won't Sue" won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.
Anders also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series and cohosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.
Rwanda's former National AIDS Control Commissioner and Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho worked to serve and support the most vulnerable. Today, she pursues change as vice chancellor of the new University of Global Health Equity, located in rural Rwanda.
Binagwaho's mission is to train rising global health leaders who will promote positive change in their communities, countries and the entire world. She takes great pride in watching their spirited fight to promote social justice and holistic healthcare.
A vocal percussionist virtuosa, Butterscotch began her career in the underground male-dominated beatbox battle scene, where she was crowned the world's first female beatbox champion. She blends hip-hop, jazz, soul and reggae into shows that are emotionally and physically invigorating. Butterscotch is known for her trifecta fusion of singing, beatboxing and playing either piano or guitar simultaneously, creating endless layers on her loop station. With a voice reminiscent of Billie Holiday and rap verses comparable to Lauryn Hill, Butterscotch courageously sings about her love life, depression and daily struggles of being a biracial queer woman of color. Her philanthropic mission is to empower and elevate people through music and compassion.
Butterscotch has opened up for Erykah Badu, Earth, Wind & Fire, Thievery Corporation, Sergio Mendes, Wyclef Jean and other musical legends. Her newest release, Scotch, is testament to her growth as an artist and human. Check out Butterscotch on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Jasmine Crowe is working to make the world a better place by reducing food waste and ending hunger. She has hosted events in more than 20 US cities and in the UK, South Africa and Haiti. She has collected and donated more than two million food items to causes worldwide and fed more than 80,000 people through the Sunday Soul Homeless feeding initiative.
Through her years of work feeding vulnerable populations, Crowe saw a great opportunity for technology to solve a real problem: hunger. In January 2017, Crowe founded Goodr, a food management platform that allows users in the food industry to track and redirect surplus food. Under Jasmine's direction, Goodr has now diverted nearly two million pounds of food from landfills and serves clients including Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the NFL and Netflix.
Eve Ensler is the Tony Award-winning playwright, activist and author of the Obie Award-winning theatrical phenomenon The Vagina Monologues, published in over 48 languages, performed in over 140 countries. Her plays include Lemonade, Extraordinary Measures, Necessary Targets, OPC, The Good Body, Emotional Creature and Fruit Trilogy. She starred in her one-woman play, In the Body of the World, adapted from her memoir. Her most recent book, The Apology, has been called “transfixing,” “revelatory” and “cathartic.” Her writings appear regularly in The Guardian and TIME Magazine.
Ensler is the founder of V-Day, a global activist movement which, over the course of more than two decades, has raised over 100 million dollars to end violence against all women and girls -- cisgender, transgender and gender non-conforming. She is also the founder of One Billion Rising, the largest global mass action to end gender-based violence in over 200 countries.
Ensler is a cofounder of the City of Joy, a revolutionary center for women survivors of violence in the DRC, along with Christine Schuler Deschyrver and Dr. Denis Mukwege, all of whom appeared in the documentary film City of Joy, released globally as a Netflix Original in 2019. Ensler has been named one of Newsweek’s “150 Women Who Changed the World” and The Guardian’s “100 Most Influential Women.”
(Photo credit: Paula Allen)
Jane Fonda is a two-time Academy Award-winning actress (Best Actress in 1971 for Klute and in 1978 for Coming Home) and activist. Her career has spanned over 50 years, accumulating a body of film work that includes over 45 films and crucial work on political issues such as women's rights, Native American rights and the environment. She is a seven-time Golden Globe winner, Honorary Palme d'Or honoree, 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award winner and the 2019 recipient of the Stanley Kubrick Excellence in Film Award as part of BAFTA's Britannia Awards. Fonda is currently in production for the seventh and final season of Grace and Frankie, which will be Netflix's longest running original series. For her work on the series, she received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2017. She was last seen on the big screen in Paramount's comedy, Book Club, in which she starred alongside Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen. She also premiered Jane Fonda in Five Acts, a documentary for HBO chronicling her life and activism, at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special in 2019.
Fonda celebrated her 80th birthday by raising 1 million dollars for each of her nonprofits, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential and The Women's Media Center. Currently, she is leading the charge on Fire Drill Fridays, a national movement to protest government inaction on climate change. Her latest book, What Can I Do? My Path From Climate Despair To Action, details her personal journey with the movement and provides solutions for communities to combat the climate crisis.
As the Director of Security for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and head of their Threat Lab, Eva Galperin studies the ways in which governments, law enforcement and other attackers target vulnerable populations.
Prior to her work for EFF, Galperin worked in security and IT in Silicon Valley. Her best-known work is protecting global privacy and free speech. She organized EFF's Tor Relay Challenge, which helps online activists remain anonymous to the oppressive regimes they fight, and writes privacy and security training materials. When she is not collecting new and exotic malware, she practices aerial circus arts and learning new languages.
Born in South Korea, Jeannie Suk Gersen immigrated to the US in 1979. She joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 2006, and in 2010 she became the first Asian American woman at the school to receive tenure. She has taught courses on various facets of law of marriage and family, sexual assault and harassment and campus misconduct. She is a contributing writer to The New Yorker.
Before joining the Harvard faculty, she served as a law clerk to Justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court. She served as an Assistant District Attorney at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Macy Gray's status as a 21st-century icon since was ensured since her arrival with the triple-platinum How Life Is in 1999. Selling more than 25 million total albums globally, winning a Grammy Award and two BRIT Awards, collaborating with everyone from Ariana Grande to Galactic and enchanting fans all over the world, her voice has consistently resounded throughout pop culture. Most recently, 2016's Stripped earmarked a creative high point, garnering unanimous acclaim from Vogue, Vice and many more. At the same time, she remains a force of nature on tour, selling out venues in nearly every corner of the globe two decades into her storied career.
Gray's talents resound beyond music, as well. She starred in Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls and would grace the screen everywhere from Brotherly Love and Cardboard Boxer to Netflix's Fuller House. Moreover, she made a now legendary appearance in Training Day alongside Denzel Washington -- one of many on-screen hallmarks.
Gray's tenth full-length album, Ruby, reaffirms and reasserts that signature rarity millions continue to treasure. Channeling the spirit of the "grimy" R&B and smoky jazz closest to her heart, she made a leap forward by looking back to formative inspirations -- and updated those elements with enriched, entrancing and enigmatic soundscapes. In the end, Ruby represents Gray at her most passionate, poetic and powerful.
Jen Gunter is an OB/GYN and pain medicine physician who advocates for evidence-based medicine. When her infant children were critically ill, like many people she turned to the internet. She was shocked at how easy it was to be led medically astray and wondered: If it was so hard for her as an experienced physician, how did everyone else manage? She decided to "fix the medical internet" and help people separate fact from fiction with her writing and activism.
In addition to being both a doctor and a mother, Gunter is a writer, host of the show "Jensplaining" and has been called Twitter's resident OB/GYN and the world's most famous gynecologist. She is a fierce advocate for facts and tirelessly calls out those who exploit pseudoscience for financial and political profit.
Science writer and speaker Mary Ellen Hannibal serves as an ambassador between scientists and a general audience. Her book Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction was named one of the best titles of 2016 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Prompted by her novelist father’s sudden death, she connects the activity of bearing witness to nature today with a broad inquiry into time, place and purpose.
Hannibal's previous books include The Spine of the Continent. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Science, Anthropocene, Nautilus and many other publications.
Denise Ho is an award-winning Hong Kong-based singer, producer and pro-democracy/LGBTQ rights activist. She is an accomplished musician who entered the music industry at 19. When Ho publicly announced that she was gay in 2012, she became the first out female singer in Hong Kong.
Despite being banned and persecuted by the Chinese government, Ho continues to speak out for democracy and LGBTQ rights globally and has been a prominent supporter of the recent Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill in Hong Kong.
As Africa's first democratically elected female president, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led Liberia's recovery following a decade-long civil war, and helped stem the nation's Ebola crisis of 2014-2015. Recognized as a global leader for women's rights, President Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2011.
President Sirleaf received the United States's Presidential Medal of Freedom for her unwavering commitment to expanding freedom and improving the lives of Africans. Her many honors include the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur (France's highest public distinction) and being named one of Forbes's "100 Most Powerful Women in the World."
Urban planner Smruti Jukur Johari works with poor city dwellers to uncover their persistent problems -- and then applies herself relentlessly to co-invent novel solutions. Since childhood, Johari has dreamed of improving quality of life for the poor. She became an urban planner to explore solutions that architects in isolation could not provide.
In her work, Johari focuses on informal urban habitats, looking for common-sense fixes that people create for themselves and that, despite their flaws, serve immediate needs in easy-to-implement ways.
Dr. Lucy King first landed on African soil in Mogadishu Airport at the age of ten months, although it wasn't until she left the heat and turmoil of Somalia for the tranquility of the little Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho that her love for the continent took hold.
King's upbringing in Africa and her fascination with animal-human interactions led her to study zoology, with a focus on a critical problem: How can rural farmers learn to live with the immense pachyderms that raid crops and destroy their farms? With the help of her African neighbors and colleagues at Save the Elephants in Kenya, she developed a method that reduces elephant crop destruction using bees as a natural deterrent. Her unique eco-friendly method of building beehive fences around farm boundaries has reached 19 countries in Africa and Asia, and the buzzing income-generating fences are boosting crop pollination, honey production and coexistence between rural farmers and wild elephants.
Despite being a school dropout, Ugandan Noeline Kirabo forged an education via libraries and free online courses, pursuing a dream to cultivate potential in others. Through education, she seeks to inspire young entrepreneurs struggling against the violence and crime of the Kampala slums.
As founder of Kyusa, Kirabo is committed to turning out-of-school youth into business leaders by giving them the tools they need to direct their passions. She is an author, a speaker, a family therapist and the co-founder of Newen Consults, a personal business and development firm.
During Valorie Kondos Field's tenure she led her team to seven NCAA Championships, was voted NCAA Coach of the Year four times and was voted the PAC 12 Coach of the Century for her solid track record as a preeminent head coach. Affectionately known by her gymnasts as "Miss Val," due to her background in ballet, she was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, an esteemed honor and one she shares with her husband, retired UCLA football coach Bobby Field.
Kondos Field's reputation is only one reason that 46 former US national gymnastics team members came through her program and why half of the last two Olympic teams committed to UCLA. Her coaching success is due to her extraordinary mentorship of young student-athletes and to the way she used gymnastics as an avenue through which to teach valuable life lessons, while also encouraging individuality and joy.
As a young lawyer working with low-income communities in India in the early 2000s, Priti Krishtel had an epiphany. Many of her clients were struggling and even dying, because they couldn't afford the lifesaving medicines they needed. When Krishtel looked more closely at patent systems, she discovered a pattern of behavior in which corporations were incentivized to seek as many patents as possible on a single medicine. These "patent walls" prolonged monopolies and blocked access to medicines. As the human toll of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic reached its peak, Krishtel helped lead a successful grassroots movement pressing the Indian government to pass a first-of-its-kind, health-friendly patent law.
That momentous win inspired her to co-found I-MAK, a team of "patent detectives" who expose and challenge manipulation of the patent system that fuels high drug prices. Since then, Krishtel and I-MAK have expanded their work to nearly 50 countries, saving health systems over 2 billion dollars and increasing access to treatment for millions of people.
The U.S. is the latest -- and most challenging -- front for Krishtel's work. She is now working to crack open the black box that is the U.S. patent office and helping Americans understand how intimately patent decisions affect their lives. In 2018, her team published a groundbreaking investigative series exposing the scale of patent abuse in the U.S., which was cited extensively in media and congressional hearings on the topic. As medicine and technology increasingly intersect, Krishtel is leading the charge to democratize the patent system and make it more accountable to the public. Krishtel envisions a future in which people can actively participate in decisions that impact their health and the health of their loved ones.
In addition to her work as a choreographer, dancer and designer, Laurel Lawson is the primary costume and makeup designer at Kinetic Light. In collaboration with Top End's Paul Schulte, she designed the wheelchairs that she and artistic director Alice Sheppard use in performance, as well as contributing other visual and technical design. Lawson is also the product designer and lead for Audimance, the company's app, which revolutionizes audio description for non-visual audiences.
Realizing that dance combined her lifelong loves of art and athleticism, Lawson began her professional dance career with Atlanta’s Full Radius Dance in 2004. She continues to work with Full Radius Dance, as well as Kinetic Light and her independent practice. Her choreography is marked by intensive partnering and grounded technique. Bringing the nuance of disabled artistry, Lawson creates work for all ensembles, including nondisabled, disabled and physically integrated companies. She often weaves together abstract and concrete themes with overarching mythological inspiration, with focus on an engaging and immersive audience experience. Her work was recognized with a 2019-20 Dance/USA Artist Fellowship, which are made possible with generous funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
Beyond the studio, Lawson is the CTO and cofounder of CyCore Systems, a boutique engineering consultancy that specializes in solving novel, multi-realm problems of all sizes for a global clientele. A noted public speaker and teacher, she speaks on a range of technical topics as well as on leadership and executive practice, culture and equity, and how to cultivate creativity and drive innovation. Lawson is also a member of the USA Women's Sled Hockey Team.
Joel Leon is a performer, author and storyteller, born and raised in the Bronx, who writes and tells stories for Black people. He's been featured in the Columbia Journal, BBC News, Sirius XM, Forbes, Insider, Medium, Philadelphia Printworks, Blavity and the Huffington Post. He has spoken and performed at the Apollo Theater, Joe's Pub, Rockwood Music Hall, Columbia University, NYU and Webster Hall. He lives in the Bronx and is the father to Lilah and West.
Dr. Kelsey Leonard represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation on the Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean, which is charged with protecting America's ocean ecosystems and coastlines. She also serves as a member of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission. She has been instrumental in safeguarding the interests of Indigenous Nations for environmental planning, and builds Indigenous science and knowledge into new solutions for water governance and sustainable oceans.
Leonard's recent scholarship explores Indigenous water justice and the defining international legal principle of self-determination under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Dr. Renée Lertzman is a pioneer and leader at the intersection of psychology, climate and environment. She applies psychosocial insights to drive engagement and action on ecological issues.
Lertzman translates psychology and social science best practices into tools, resources and guidance that unleash the potential for creativity and courage. She guides companies and organizations in strengthening engagement campaigns and boosting their ability to connect with stakeholders to inspire action, ingenuity and resilience in facing one of the biggest challenges of our time.
Jiabao Li creates new ways for humans to perceive the world. Where emerging technology, art and design meet, her research-based projects range from wearables, projections, drones and installations to scientific experiments, and they explore how technology transforms our identities, emotions and sensations.
Li graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Design with a masters in Design in Technology. She is currently a prototyping designer at Apple where she invents and explores new products, interfaces and technologies.
What if, in the middle of your live TV appearance, someone called in and asked for advice in overcoming their racial prejudice? For public policy expert Heather C. McGhee, the response was natural: she helped. That exchange went on to be viewed over eight million times.
As the former president of the inequality-focused think tank Demos, McGhee drafted legislation, testified before Congress and became a regular contributor on shows like Meet the Press and Real Time with Bill Maher. For more stories about the universal costs of racism, preorder her forthcoming book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together (One World / Random House).
Designer, author, artist and educator Debbie Millman is the host of the podcast Design Matters, where she's interviewed more than 400 thought leaders, including Marina Abramovic, Steven Pinker, Milton Glaser, Malcolm Gladwell, Shepard Fairey, Barbara Kruger, Amanda Palmer and Alain de Botton.
Millman is the author of six books, including two collections of interviews that explore how design impacts our lives: How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer and Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. Millman is president emeritus of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, one of only five women to hold the position in the organization's 100-year history, and founded the Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, the first program of its kind in the world.
Influenced by growing up during the turbulent 1960s in the United States, Martha Minow devoted herself early in her academic career to fighting injustice. She became involved in the school desegregation and school finance equalization battles of the 1970s and acquired a law degree to "get a seat at the table" to work on these and other issues.
During her law career, Minow has worked for Justice Thurgood Marshall, architect of litigation for civil rights, and Judge David Bazelon, a judicial leader for disadvantaged people. As a law teacher and dean of a leading law school, she has also worked on access to justice for low-income individuals and human rights around the world. While addressing global challenges to democracy, rights and decency, she discovered legal neglect of and opportunities for forgiveness of debt, fines and wrongdoing -- which she believes are all the more crucial in this time of pandemic, exposing ever more people to burdensome debts, incarceration that jeopardizes public health and the traps made by law itself.
At every step of her career, Pat Mitchell has broken new ground for women, leveraging the power of media as a journalist, an Emmy award-winning and Oscar-nominated producer to tell women's stories and increase the representation of women onscreen and off. Transitioning to an executive role, she became the president of CNN Productions and the first woman president and CEO of PBS and the Paley Center for Media. Today, her commitment to connect and strengthen a global community of women leaders continues as a conference curator, advisor and mentor.
In partnership with TED, Mitchell launched TEDWomen in 2010 and is its editorial director, curator and host. She is also a speaker and curator for the annual Women Working for the World forum in Bogota, Colombia, the Her Village conference in Beijing, and co-chairs the US board of Women of the World (WOW). Along with Ronda Carnegie, she partners with the Rockefeller Foundation to curate, convene and host Connected Women Leaders (CWL) forums, focused on collective problem solving among women leaders in government and civil society.
In 2014, the Women's Media Center honored Mitchell with its first-annual Lifetime Achievement Award, now named in her honor to commend other women whose media careers advance the representation of women. Recognized by Hollywood Reporter as one of the most powerful women in media, Fast Company's "League of Extraordinary Women" and Huffington Post's list of "Powerful Women Over 50," Mitchell also received the Sandra Day O'Connor Award for Leadership. She was a contributor to Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, and wrote the Preface to the book and museum exhibition, 130 Women of Impact in 30 Countries. In 2016, she received a Congressional appointment to The American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council, and in 2019 was named to the Gender Equality Top 100 list of women leaders by Apolitical.
Mitchell is active with many nonprofit organizations, serving as the chair of the boards of the Sundance Institute and the Women's Media Center. She is a founding member of the VDAY movement, serves on the boards of the Skoll Foundation, Participant Media, the Acumen Fund and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mitchell is a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia and holds a master's degree in English literature and several honorary doctorate degrees. She is the author of Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing Risk to Change the World. She and her husband, Scott Seydel, live in Atlanta and have six children and 13 grandchildren.
Lisa Mosconi leads the Women's Brain Initiative research program at Weill Cornell Medical, where she also serves as associate director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic, the first of its kind in the United States. For as long as she can remember, she wanted to be a brain scientist -- and as she witnessed her grandmother and her two sisters spiral into dementia, her motivation grew stronger. Mosconi now dedicates her entire career to studying brain health, and how it plays out differently in women than in men.
Angeline (Angie) Murimirwa (née Mugwendere) was one of the first girls in Africa to receive support from CAMFED to go to school. She is now CAMFED Executive Director (Africa), overseeing their mission to support girls to learn, thrive and lead change.
Murimirwa is a founding member of the CAMFED Association (CAMA), a pan-African network of women leaders educated with CAMFED support. Members are united by a shared background of poverty and the determination to secure every girl's right to quality education. They are stepping up as a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs in their communities, their nations and the world.
Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is a member of the Mbororo people in Chad, who face a dire situation: Lake Chad, a water source for 40 million people, has lost 90 percent of its surface area in just 40 years, sparking conflicts along its shoreline. Ibrahim began the first major dialogue among the area's numerous cultures and communities. Together, they are creating a 3D map of the environmentally fragile region to inform conservation and resource management while promoting security.
Ibrahim's work with indigenous communities at the local, regional and international levels gives a voice to the voiceless, inviting governments and the private sector to listen. Her advocacy for Indigenous communities and her commitment to integrating Indigenous knowledge with Western science to create a healthier planet has won her numerous honors including the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award. She has also been appointed as a UN Sustainable Development Goals Advocate, a Conservation International Senior Indigenous Fellow and a National Geographic Explorer.
As the founder of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, Colette Pichon Battle raises awareness on equitable disaster recovery, migration, economic development, climate justice and energy democracy. Working with elected officials, national funders and frontline communities since 2005, Pichon Battle works to advance equitable recovery from climate disasters ranging from hurricanes to oil drilling disasters.
In addition to developing advocacy initiatives that intersect race, systems of power and ecology, Pichon Battle manages GCCLP's legal services for immigration law and disaster law. She was named an Echoing Green Climate fellow in 2015 and in 2019 was named an Obama Fellow for her work with Black and Native communities on the frontline of climate change.
As executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma Pimentel oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of the different ministries and programs in the areas of emergency assistance, housing assistance, counseling and pregnancy care to all four counties in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pimentel chairs the local Emergency Food and Shelter Program that distributes federal funds to local agencies providing assistance to the area's poor. She also leads efforts in the community that respond to emergency needs and provide relief in times of disaster and crisis. She was instrumental in organizing community resources to respond to the surge of Central Americans seeking asylum in the United States and setting up Humanitarian Respite Centers in McAllen and Brownsville, Texas in June 2014. These efforts brought Pimentel recognition as a recipient of the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. "Keep the Dream Alive" award from Catholic Charities USA and a nomination for "Texan of the Year."
In March 2015, Pimentel spoke at the UN Headquarters in New York City at the invitation of the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. During the US Papal visit, Pimentel met with Pope Francis in New York City and presented him with one of her original paintings of an immigrant mother and child. She was first introduced to Pope Francis in August 2015 via a "virtual town hall" arranged by ABC news, which later aired in a one-hour special edition of 20/20. In December 2015, Our Sunday Visitor named Pimentel as one of eight "Catholics in the Year," awarded to "men and women, religious and lay who made an indelible mark in 2015."
Before overseeing Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Pimentel was one of the leaders who directed Casa Oscar Romero, a refugee shelter in San Benito and later Brownsville for Central Americans fleeing war-torn countries in the 1980s. The shelter provided emergency relief and temporary housing for hundreds of thousands of refugees. Pimentel received her bachelor's degree in fine arts from Pan American University in Edinburg, Texas; a master's degree in theology from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas; a master's degree in counseling psychology from Loyola University in Chicago, IL; and an honorary PhD in humane letters from Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A big soul voice led by a passion for using music for empowerment, singer/songwriter Shawnee is giving back music as medicine. She was recognized by Billboard as one of their "Artist To Watch For," and MTV named her one of their "Top Gender Bending Artists." Her songs "Mirror Me" and "Warrior Heart" have become empowerment anthems, internationally reaching out to inspire, empower and give strength. "Shawnee carries a unique charm," explains Exclaim Magazine.
Alice Sheppard is the artistic director of Kinetic Light, as well as a choreographer and dancer in the company. Sheppard took her first dance class in order to make good on a dare: after his final performance, disabled dancer Homer Avila challenged Sheppard to begin to dance. She did, and she loved moving so much that she resigned her academic professorship at the Pennsylvania State University in order to begin a career in dance.
Sheppard studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and made her debut with Infinity Dance Theater. After an apprenticeship, she joined AXIS Dance Company, where she toured and taught in the company's education and outreach programs. Since becoming an independent artist, Sheppard has danced in projects with Ballet Cymru, GDance and Marc Brew Company in the United Kingdom and Full Radius Dance, Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater and Steve Paxton in the United States. Her choreography has been commissioned by Full Radius Dance (2019), CRIPSiE (2016) and MOMENTA (2019, 2016 and 2014).
A Bessie award-winning choreographer, Sheppard creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging disability arts, culture and history, she is intrigued by the intersections of disability, gender and race. In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a sought-after speaker and has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race and dance. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and in academic journals.
Robin Steinberg is the CEO of The Bail Project and a senior fellow at the UCLA Law Criminal Justice Program. As she writes: "When I started my career, all I wanted was to be a great public defender for my clients. I vowed to fight for their rights, dignity and humanity in a system that seemed intent on crushing them, their families and their communities. It was hard work, but I woke up everyday inspired and with a sense of purpose -- even when the unfairness of the system made me cry. I was doing my part in the larger struggle for social justice -- one client at a time. But the need to do more, to rethink the very nature of public defense and challenge the larger systemic issues that fueled the cycle of criminalization and poverty led me to start The Bronx Defenders in 1997. For 20 years, I worked to create a new vision of public defense, extending legal representation and advocacy beyond criminal court with the goal of breaking that cycle. That process led to the founding of several new initiatives, including Still She Rises, a public defender office dedicated exclusively to the representation of women in the criminal justice system, and The Bronx Freedom Fund, a revolving bail fund that used philanthropic dollars to pay bail for clients who couldn’t buy their freedom.
"As it turns out, what I love most is getting people out of jail so they can be home with their families and have a fighting chance in court. My new organization, The Bail Project, will take the lessons we learned in the Bronx and go to dozens of high-need jurisdictions with the goal of paying bail for 160,000 people over the next five years, disrupting the bail system, reducing the human suffering it causes and continuing the fight to decarcerate America."
Rayma Suprani is a Caracas-born cartoonist who has published her work in various Venezuelan newspapers, including El Diario Economía Hoy and El Diario de Caracas. She is one of three recipients of a 2019 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. For 19 years, she drew cartoons for El Universal, but in 2014 she was fired for authoring a cartoon that tied Hugo Chávez's legacy to Venezuela's ailing health care system. Over the years, her life has been threatened numerous times by opponents of her satire.
As executive director of MADRE, a humanitarian organization dedicated to women's rights, Yifat Susskind combines human rights advocacy with international feminism to meet urgent global needs and create lasting solutions to humanity's most pressing problems.
Under Susskind's leadership, MADRE continues to embody and advance the political principles that have always been at the organization's heart: the vision of a world where all people enjoy the full range of human rights -- and resources are shared equitably and sustainably.
Born in India and raised in Canada, Cara E. Yar Khan has always loved helping people in need, spending time with loved ones, traveling and Latin dancing. Leveraging a knack for languages and a curiosity for different cultures, she earned a Master's degree in public policy and went on to live in Ecuador, Panama, Angola, China, Madagascar, Mozambique, Thailand and Haiti. At age 30, she was diagnosed with a rare muscle-wasting disease. Nevertheless, she continues to live an active life and shatter the stereotypes of people with disabilities. Today, she works at the International Human Trafficking Institute, an initiative of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
Jennifer Zhu Scott is the founding principal of Radian Partners, specializing in high-tech investments. Born and raised in extreme poverty, Scott worked her way up from a prefecture-level municipal in Ya’an, China to become one of Forbes World’s Top 50 Women in Tech in 2018. In 2020, she's planning to launch her new platform focused on inclusive AI economy, empowering traditional industries to join the AI transformation and enabling individuals to generate income from their own data.
Scott is a frequent public speaker and opinion writer on AI, blockchain, digital currencies and data ownership. She debated Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller on the crypto-asset bubble at Davos in 2018. In her spare time, Scott cooks, skis, reads and is a senior technical advisor to the HBO series Silicon Valley.
In her documentary projects, Brazilian-American journalist, photographer and director Denise Zmekhol focuses on the challenges faced by vulnerable communities in Brazil and the United States. With deft storytelling and an elegant visual style, her film Children of the Amazon relates the struggle to protect the world's largest tropical rainforest and its inhabitants.
Zmekhol's film Skin of Glass is the story of São Paulo’s tallest highrise favela, a daring modernist building designed by her father in the early 1960s. The film follows Zmekhol's journey to discover her father's threatened legacy as an artist, as she confronts the harsh inequality destroying the city he loved.
Manoush Zomorodi's passion and expertise lie in investigating how technology is transforming humanity. She is the author of Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out, which explores the fascinating side of boredom. In 2018, she cofounded Stable Genius Productions, a media company aimed at helping people navigate personal and global change. Its first project is ZigZag, a show about the changing culture of business and work.
Zomorodi is also the creator and host of Note to Self, "the tech show about being human," which is a coproduction with WNYC Studios. The show was named "Best Tech Podcast of 2017" by the Academy of Podcasters. She’s won numerous awards, including two Gracies for Best Radio Host. She has two kids who still enjoy her company. For now.