Clint Smith is a teacher, poet, and doctoral candidate at Harvard University. He believes we all share a story, the human story. It’s in the telling, he believes, that we emerge as individuals and celebrate what we have in common. His TED Talk, a presentation of his spoken word poem, "The Danger of Silence," has been viewed more than two million times, and was named one of the Top 20 TED Talks of 2014. His new TED Talk, "How to Raise a Black Son in America," was released in April 2015. Using his experience as an award-winning teacher and poet to share personal stories of justice, community, and education, his customizable art-form illuminates how we can all find the courage to create change, overcome challenges, and unite ourselves through the power of the collective voice.
Born to humble beginnings in Manila, Philippines, Geena always had big dreams. Growing up, she knew that she was different from her childhood friends. At a young age, she told her mom that her gender assignment at birth was different. At fifteen, a pageant manager approached her to join a beauty contest. This opportunity led her to the world of the Trans Women Beauty Pageant in the Philippines. As a young teenager, she then became one of the most prominent figures in the Trans Beauty Pageant world. Through her own experience into womanhood and working as a professional model, she realized her bigger purpose in life was to share her journey and work towards justice and beauty in the transgender community. On March 31, 2014, in honor of International Transgender Day of Visibility, Geena came out as transgender while giving a TED talk, which has now been viewed over 2 million times. Geena is now working full-time on Gender Proud, a global transgender rights campaign. Her purpose is to raise awareness of the transgender community and to change the global policy that will allow transgender individuals to change their names and gender markers without having to go through surgery.
A journalist for over a decade writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country, Jose Antonio Vargas’ personal journey contends with some of the most fascinating stories he’s covered. After being born and raised in the Philippines, his mother, wanting to give her son a better life, sent him to live with his grandparents in Silicon Valley in 1993. However, at 16 years old, when applying for his learner’s permit at the DMV, he discovered his green card was a fake. Vargas then realized he needed to continue hiding his true identity to avoid deportation and be able to pursue his American dream – a career in journalism. Vargas wrote a widely circulated profile of Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. In the summer of 2011, 18 years after arriving in America he decided he was done running. Vargas exposed his story in his groundbreaking essay, “My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant" for The New York Times Magazine. Vargas wrote, directed, and produced the autobiographical film Documented: A film by an undocumented American, released in 2013, and presented by CNN Films on July 15, 2014, after living for 21 years in the United States as an undocumented resident, Vargas was arrested by immigration authorities while trying to fly out of the border town of McAllen, Texas.
When 19-year-old engineering student Zach Wahls got up to testify before the Iowa House of Representatives in February 2011, he had no idea what was in store for him. He spoke briefly and directly about his family and why he believes same-sex marriage, legal in Iowa since 2009, should remain protected by his state’s constitution. By the next day, without his knowledge, Zach’s words and image had been uploaded onto YouTube and he’d become a national topic—over 1.5 million viewers within ten days. Energized by his new, and astoundingly sudden, emergence as a national advocate for marriage equality, Zach has continued speaking and in 2012 published his book, My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family about his life growing up with two lesbian parents.
Author and assistant professor of social justice issues and qualitative research in the graduate department of Educational Leadership & Cultural Foundations at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her scholarship centralizes social justice with a focus on fostering critical community building, teaching for social justice, and promoting equity through cross-cultural communication and engagement.
Tim Wise, whom philosopher Cornel West calls, “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (antiracism and antislavery fighter) John Brown,” is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the United States. Wise, who was named one of “25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World,” by Utne Reader in 2010, has spoken in all 50 states of the U.S., on over 800 college and high school campuses, and to community groups across the nation. Tim Wise provides a critical perspective on racism and privilege not only through his lectures but through his six books. His next book, The Culture of Cruelty: How America’s Elite Demonize the Poor, Valorize the Rich and Jeopardize the Future, was released in Winter 2014.