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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.

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.