June 19th is fast approaching! As you plan for Juneteenth and other programming commemorating Black culture, we invite you to celebrate with these trailblazing speakers who bring stories of Black joy and triumph to life.
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Valerie June has been recording and performing since she was 19 years old. In her soulful talks, June wants to rewrite the narrative. Too often, the only stories told are those that center on violence and systemic racism. Those stories are important, but she urges creators to claim a better world and redefine what it means to be African-American. In place of loss, write resilience; in place of injustice, write power; in place of sorrow, write joy.
Maya-Camille Broussard encourages audiences with stories of her struggles and successes, showing by example that anything is possible. Pulling from her experience as one of the four professional bakers to compete in Bake Squad and as a person with a hearing impairment, she sets a positive example for audiences young and old. In her engaging talks, Broussard shares how she celebrates her family and experiences, and uses her bakery and role as a small business owner to advocate for people living with disabilities and food apartheid, especially in communities of color.
Since coming in sixth on Season 13 of Top Chef, Kwame Onwuachi has been recognized as a rising star chef by Food & Wine, Esquire, and the James Beard Foundation. New York Times rated his restaurant Tatiana the best in New York. In his talks addressing the intersection of race, fame, and food, Onwuachi tells the remarkable story of his tumultuous ascent to become one of the only black chefs working in the rarified world of fine dining.
Poetry and Literature
The 2020-2021 Youth Poet Laureate and the author of Walking Gentry Home, Alora Young has performed her poetry on CNN, CBS, and the TEDx stage. In exciting talks that combine keynotes with dynamic performances, she urges audiences to unlock the potential of poetry, and shares how her own journey as a writer gave her insight into her family’s history, allowing her to honor her ancestors in a way never before possible.
Celebrated award-winning poet Dr. Joshua Bennett has performed his original works on national stages ranging from the Sundance Film Festival to President Obama’s White House. In Fall 2022, Bennett curated The Bond of Live Things Everywhere for the New York Botanical Gardens. This season-long installation staged Black poetry and performance in the outdoors and explored the bond between the pursuit of freedom and stewardship of the Earth. In his dynamic talks for audiences of all ages, Bennett shares the transformative power of the spoken word and unpacks the hidden literary histories of Black environmentalism, education, and resistance.
“The undisputed queen of the modern-day romance,” Jasmine Guillory celebrates diversity with complicated beloved characters that break through stereotypes of romantic ideals in her New York Times bestselling books. In her informative talks, she speaks to audiences about the importance of writing Black heroines, and shares her craft of writing successful commercial fiction.
Founder and president of the Amazon Labor Union, Chris Smalls successfully unionized an Amazon warehouse: a historic victory for workers and a titanic defeat for the behemoth corporation. The epitome of an industry disruptor, he connects with communities across the country as he shares the stories behind his historic win and how he continues to fight for worker’s rights.