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SocialLab@LightCity presented by WJZ-TV

Wednesday, April 18

Gather with social entrepreneurs, activists, and movement builders to explore, together, how we can build a more equitable and responsible society.

• SocialLab kicks off with nationally renowned author, cultural change catalyst, and TED speaker, Vernā Myers, debuting a new keynote entitled, “The Lights of My Life: From Baltimore and Back.”

• Saida Agostini, Veronica Cool, and Dr. Wendy Osefo will participate in a panel moderated by Maricka Oglesby called “Culture Takeover: Women won’t be silent any longer.”

• Author and professor, Lester Spence, will speak about race and inequity in a talk entitled, “Why Baltimore does not heat its schools.”

• Rahne Alexander, a multimedia artist, producer, musician, and performer, will present, “Equal+Opposite: Reactions to Trans Representation in Film”

• Local High School slam poet, Rasta Huti, will present his poem, “Nike.”

• The audience will select the Warnock Social Innovator of the Year. The event will feature, Jenny Owens of Host for Humanity, Brittany Young of B360, Bennie Brimage of Reference Hive, and Valeria Fuentes at Roots & Raíces.

• In a discussion entitled, “Radical Oneness,” Erricka Bridgeford, the organizer of Baltimore Ceasefire, and Joe Jones, the CEO of the Center for Urban Families, will share their experiences as longtime leaders on the ground in Baltimore.

• In a panel about building powerful social movements, DeRay McKesson of Pod Save the People and #BlackLivesMatter, Asha Curran of #GivingTuesday, and Jonathan Jayes-Green of the UndocuBlack network, will talk about how to use the power of passion, authenticity and social media to drive social change.

• The day’s presentations will close with veteran 60 minutes and Nightline journalist, Byron Pitts, in a fireside chat with Baltimore Police Department Commissioner, Darryl DeSousa, on crime, community and quality of life in Baltimore.

• At 6pm, we’ll host a free dinner and Kindling community conversation, hosted by United Way, meant to build on the discussions of the day.

Asha Curran, Chief Innovation Officer and Director, Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact

As Chief Innovation Officer and the Director of the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact at 92nd Street Y, one of NY’s most prestigious cultural institutions, Asha Curran is spearheading projects with national and global reach, including #GivingTuesday, the national day of giving founded and led by 92Y; the NYC Venture Fellows, an innovative fellowship for CEOs of NYC start-ups; the Women inPower Fellowship, for rising women leaders; the Social Good Summit; and the annual 7 Days of Genius festival. Asha is an advocate for women’s health, domestic and global maternal health issues. She serves on the Independent Sector C-Suite Advisory Committee and on the Board of Directors of the Scout Film Festival, which spotlights the work of teen filmmakers. She is the recipient of the 2015 Social Capital Hero Award from Social Capital Partners, LLC.

Vernā Myers, Founder and President, The Vernā Myers Company

Vernā Myers is a cultural change catalyst, influencer, thought leader, social commentator, and author. She’s known for her high-energy keynotes, her captivating insights, and her ability to help people bridge differences and connect more meaningfully.  A Harvard-trained lawyer and founder of The Vernā Myers Company, Vernā speaks at conferences and events around the globe including SXSW , Relate Live by Zendesk , and the Massachusetts Conference for Women , and helps Fortune 500 companies like Qualcomm, entertainment companies like Warner Brothers and 21st Century Fox, NGOs, Wall Street and other powerhouse clients succeed by building more inclusive workplaces. Vernā is the author of Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing and What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People.

Lester Spence, Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Lester Spence is an associate professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University. He specializes in the study of black, racial, and urban politics in the wake of the neoliberal turn. An award winning scholar (in 2013, he received the W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Book Award for his book, Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics) and teacher (in 2009, he received an Excellence in Teaching Award), he can regularly be heard on National Public Radio and the Marc Steiner Show.

Rahne Alexander, Multimedia artist, producer, musician, and performer

Rahne Alexander is a multimedia artist, producer, musician, and performer. Her video art has been screened in galleries and festivals across the country. Rahne performs frequently with her several bands, including Santa Librada, Guided By Wire, 50’?, and the Degenerettes. She is occasional comedian and essayist, with publication credits ranging from the Baltimore City Paper to the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology Take Me There: Trans and Genderqueer Erotica. She an arts organizer whose labor has supported the Transmodern Festival, the Maryland Film Festival, the High Zero Foundation, and Wide Angle Youth Media.

Rasta Huti

DeRay Mckesson, Activist and organizer

DeRay Mckesson is an American civil rights activist and former school administrator. Mckesson is a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and is known for his activism via social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram and has been active in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. Mckesson has also written for The Huffington Post and The Guardian. Along with Johnetta Elzie, Brittany Packnett, and Samuel Sinyangwe, Mckesson launched Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence. He currently hosts the Crooked Media podcast Pod Save the People.

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Director, UndocuBlack Network

Jonathan Jayes-Green is an organizer, speaker, strategist, politico and believer. He’s a queer undocumented Afro-Panamanian and one of the Co-Founders of the UndocuBlack Network. Jonathan received his Associate’s degree from Montgomery College and his Bachelor’s degree from Goucher College. He comes into this work having served as liaison and advocate of the Latinx and Caribbean communities in the office of the Governor of Maryland, having fought to pass progressive state-wide legislation like the Dream Act and marriage equality, and having supported a women of color-owned small business in its growth and development.

Byron Pitts, Journalist and Author

Byron Pitts was named co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline” in 2014. He has covered national news stories and in-depth features for the network, reporting across the news division, including “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight with David Muir,” “This Week” and “20/20.” Pitts is a multiple Emmy-award winning journalist and news veteran with over 20 years of experience known for his thoughtful storytelling, on-the-ground reporting and in-depth interviews. He was named the National Association of Black Journalists Journalist of the Year in 2002. The Baltimore native’s memoir, Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges, chronicled his journey overcoming illiteracy and a stutter to become a journalist.

Veronica Cool

After 20 years in corporate banking, Veronica Cool launched Cool & Associates, a management consulting firm bridging the mainstream world to the Hispanic market in the United States. She also founded the Latino Innovators Pitch program to showcase and empower Latino entrepreneurs to scale and grow their businesses profitably and sustainably, and co-founded the Alliance for Hispanic Commercial Contractors to bridge the gap and foster economic development through education, access and procurements. The entrepreneur, Hispanic strategist, and columnist for Huffington Post, The Daily Record and Mundo Latino, has received various national awards and been named chairman and board member to prominent organizations and committees.

Erricka Bridgeford

Erricka Bridgeford was trained as a mediator in September of 2001. By 2005, she became the Director of Training for Community Mediation Maryland. In this capacity, she continues to provide training to the 18 community mediation centers in Maryland, as well as to state agencies and organizations, and for national conferences. Because of her continuous commitment to healing violence, in 2015, Erricka was one of two people in Maryland to be given the award for Outstanding Volunteer Contribution to Victim’s Services, by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. In 2017, she co-organized the Baltimore Ceasefire.

Saida Agostini, Chief Operating Officer, FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture

Saida Agostini is a queer Afro-Guyanese poet and activist. She is the Chief Operating Officer for FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a survivor-led artist collective dedicated to resisting rape culture. As COO, Saida supports FORCE in sustaining and expanding its capacity to engage in survivor-led movement building work. She is also the founding member of the Rooted Collective, a liberatory gathering of Black LGBTQ people to define, dream, and expand on the ways we heal from oppression.  In her work, Saida has organized statewide advocacy initiatives promoting the rights of LGBTQ youth in foster care, education and juvenile justice, and directed art actions uplifting the visibility of Black girls, women and queer folks. A published poet and writer, Saida's work is featured in the Black Ladies Brunch Collective's anthology, Not Without Our Laughter, the Baltimore Sun, pluck!, The Little Patuxent Review, and other publications. Saida has received support for her poetry and resistance work from Cave Canem, the Leeway Foundation and other institutions. Saida’s activism has been recognized by the Baltimore Magazine, and Baltimore Sun - where she was named one of 2017’s 25 Women to Watch. The NoVo Foundation recently named Saida a Movement Maker, joining a national cohort of 20 leaders in the fight to end violence against women and girls. Other honors include the award of a 2017 Ruby grant to support the development of her first full-length collection of poems, uprisings in a state of joy

Dr. Wendy Osefo

An influential voice in urban policy and education, Dr. Osefo is a highly sought after media personality, a Professor of Education at The Johns Hopkins University, and the Founder and CEO of The 1954 Equity Project.  With over a decade of experience, Dr. Osefo is a consultant on issues of equity and access in urban communities. As a researcher, Wendy examines how race and class influence the learning, achievement, and educational trajectories of African-American and other non-dominant students in schools and community settings. Dr. Osefo creates and implements innovative strategies and programming to address issues of equity and inclusion. Wendy’s latest research explores perceptions of “Blackness” and how it affects student development in educational settings following the aftermath of the Baltimore Uprising, the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the 2016 Presidential Election. Dr. Osefo’s work has been featured in TED, ABC Network, City Paper, Face2Face Africa, and Nonprofit Quarterly among many others. 

Quincey Gamble

Jenny Owens, ScD, MS, Founder and Executive Director, Host for Humanity

Dr. Jenny Owens is an educator and higher ed administrator by day, and a social entrepreneur by night. Dr. Owens is the Faculty Executive Director of the Grid at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). The Grid is a University of Maryland BioPark innovation hub providing entrepreneurial services and education for University students and Baltimore City-based companies.   In addition, Dr. Owens is the founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit Hosts for Humanity, an organization that connects families and friends of patients traveling to receive medical care with volunteer hosts offering accommodations in their homes. This project was inspired by her son Maximus, who faced serious health challenges after birth and spent several weeks in the NICU. Dr. Owens feels tremendous gratitude for all the support from friends and family during her son's recovery, and wants to help create environments of refuge to support others as they undergo their own health challenges.

Brittany Young, B360

Bennie Brimage, Project Manager, Reference Hive

Valeria Fuentes, Roots & Raíces Festival

Commissioner Darryl D. De Sousa, Baltimore Police Department

Commissioner De Sousa has served the Baltimore Police Department since 1988. He was appointed Deputy Police Commissioner in August 2015 after serving as the Chief of Patrol. He was appointed as a law enforcement fellow with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) in August 2016, and he is currently the Commissioner De Sousa.
Over the course of his career, Commissioner De Sousa has gained a surfeit of law enforcement experience. He has held key executive-level positions in administration and patrol operations, including Deputy Commissioner – Administrative Bureau, Chief of Patrol, Area Commander, Patrol District Commander, and Patrol District Executive Officer.