Civil rights advocacy and social justice reform are some of our nation’s most important issues. From legal visionaries to Civil Rights icons, our speakers take on our justice system and dismantle social stigmas, stirring audiences to action and reform.
Law professor Adam Benforado offers a compelling and new look at the world of criminal justice. In his book Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice and in his eye-opening lectures, Benforado reveals the psychological forces that undermine our criminal justice system. With clarity and passion, he lays out the scope of the legal system’s dysfunction, proposing practical reforms to help us achieve true fairness and equality before the law.
Reginald Dwayne Betts
Author, poet, and activist Reginald Dwayne Betts is a central voice and advocate for juvenile justice and prison reform. A powerful and inspiring speaker, Betts talks about his transformation from a sixteen-year old kid sentenced to nine-years in prison to a critically acclaimed writer and Yale Law School graduate. He has received numerous fellowships and awards for his writing and advocacy, including the PEN New England Award and the NAACP Image Award. In 2012, President Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Sarah Burns is the author of the highly acclaimed book, The Central Park Five, a critical reexamination of one of New York City’s most notorious crimes. In 2013, she served as a producer, writer, and director of the Peabody Award-winning documentary of the same name. Burns examines the intricacies of this historic case and contextualizes its significance for the justice system, civil rights law, and current events.
As one of the “West Memphis Three,” Damien Echols spent nearly two decades on death row after being wrongfully convicted of murder. After his release in 2011, Echols shared his story in his New York Times-bestselling memoir Life After Death and the HBO documentary Paradise Lost. He has spent the past five years advocating for prison reform and denouncing capital punishment. Along with his wife Lorri Davis, Echols speaks about life before, during, and after his sentence, and gives his insight into how we can prevent others from suffering similar fates.
Daisy Khan is one of the most prominent female Muslim leaders in the United States. The Executive Director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative, Khan has spent the last eighteen years working tirelessly to build bridges of acceptance and peace between cultures. Khan firmly believes that the way to combat extremist ideology and Islamophobia is through community led efforts to discredit extremist narratives. In her stirring talks, she addresses the challenges and social stigmas facing Muslim women and Muslim-Americans today, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and compassion in times of tension.
Carlotta Walls LaNier
In 1957, Carlotta Walls LaNier changed history. The youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, LaNier helped ignite the Civil Rights era and revolutionize the country at just fourteen years old. A civil rights advocate for nearly 60 years, LaNier is the founder of the Little Rock Nine Foundation, created to promote equality of opportunity for all, particularly in education. She is an inspiring speaker who motivates audiences to continue to break barriers and change the social landscape of America.
Praised by Bryan Stevenson and Oprah Winfrey, Shaka Senghor is a critical voice in the growing criminal justice movement. The President and Co-founder of #BeyondPrisons, Senghor is also the author of the New York Times-bestselling memoir Writing My Wrongs, the story of the nearly two decades he spent in prison following a murder conviction at age nineteen. In an era when America is grappling with its system of mass incarceration, Senghor presents stirring and convincing arguments for change, and moves audiences to believe in the power of redemption.
Lawyer Bryan Stevenson is one of America’s most visionary legal thinkers and social justice activists. Stevenson is the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a groundbreaking nonprofit organization which has won reversals, relief, or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row. He has been named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People and has been called “America’s young Nelson Mandela” by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu. A remarkable speaker, Stevenson talks about defending some of America’s most marginalized people, moving audiences to look deep within themselves and resolve to make a difference.