Previous Intersect Keynote Speakers
Nina Berglund (November 2021)
Nina Berglund is a 20-year-old indigenous youth leader, public speaker, and climate activist fighting on behalf of her people, the lands, and water. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Nina has been organizing alongside other youth against Enbridge’s Line 3 proposed pipeline, currently being pushed to be built in Northern Minnesota, to prevent the destruction, exploitation, and violence that comes with it.
Nina is extremely passionate about uplifting and supporting the voices of the youth in spaces where the native presence runs short. She regularly travels to different territories to support and make connections with communities most impacted by the climate crisis. She believes in looking towards and utilizing traditional values and methods, as the crucial solutions and answers the world is frantically searching for. She stands strong as a fierce leader to honor her ancestors and bring hope and peace for the coming generations.
Gabrielle E. W. Carter (November 2021)
Gabrielle E. W. Carter is an Artist and Cultural preservationist who uses Diasporic and local foodways as a vehicle to reimagine wealth, marginalized food systems, and inheritance. Her work uses oral history, film, cooking, and textile to examine and explore the Black experience in relation to land cultivation, sedentary practice, and agronomy. Creating contemporary source materials for historic works and knowledge.
Her work in creative storytelling and Diasporic grain research with James Beard Award-winning Chef JJ Johnson reconnected her to her Family’s roots in agriculture, in North Carolina. She has since been featured in publications such as Saveur Magazine, The Kitchn, Crop Stories, and most recently on Whetstone Magazine’s Podcast; Point of Origin and Netflix Series, High on the Hog Produced by Roger Ross Williams and Jessica B. Harris.
Feminista Jones (November 2020)
Feminista Jones is a Philadelphia-based feminist writer, public speaker, retired social worker, and community activist. She is an award-winning blogger and the author of four books, including the critically acclaimed 2019 release, Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminists Are Changing the World From the Tweets to the Streets. Her writing and activism centers Black American culture, feminism, critical race theory, intersectionality, mental health, poverty, and women’s health and well-being. Feminista sits on the boards of the Wayfinder Foundation, a grant-making organization that invests in women making a difference in their underserved communities, and The Hope Center for Community College & Justice, a non-profit research organization that advocates for the needs of disenfranchised college students.
Feminista’s passions are for writing and supporting marginalized people. Her thought-provoking, conversation-starting writing has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Essence, Complex, Vox, Salon, and EBONY. Feminista began her career as a social worker in 2002 and dedicated seventeen years of her career to advocating for and supporting people experiencing poverty, hunger, homelessness, substance addiction, and psychiatric disabilities until 2018. In 2017, Feminista was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Philadelphia by Philadelphia magazine and in 2018, she was featured in Philadelphia Style magazine for her community and activism work.
In 2015, she co-founded and served as General Director of the Women’s Freedom Conference, the first all-digital conference completely organized by and featuring only women of color. For her work, she was named one of SheKnows 2015 “Voices of the Year”. In 2014, she launched a global anti-street harassment campaign (#YouOKSis) and a National Moment of Silence protesting police brutality (#NMOS14), both of which received international media attention. That same year, she was named one of the Top 100 Black Social Influencers by The Root.
Dr. Randy Williams (November 2020)
In July 2020, Dr. Williams became the Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence at Elon University where he serves as a member of the university president’s leadership team. He works with and through vice presidents, academic deans, and other colleagues to enhance the educational experience for all members of the community.
He teaches in the Master of Arts in Higher Education Program, positioning him to act on his scholarship interests in higher education equity, leadership, and governance along with college student development. Dr. Williams’ education includes a Ph.D. degree in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership from the College of William & Mary, an M.S. degree in Counselor Education from Longwood University, and a B.S. degree in Physics from Hampden-Sydney College.
Charlotte Williams (November 2020)
Charlotte Williams is a champion of student wellness and in her role as Associate Director of Campus Recreation & Wellness at Elon, she works to cultivate a culture of holistic wellness for students, faculty and staff. With 20+ years of experience in public health and education, Charlotte has worked in various settings to promote wellness across the lifespan.
Her passion is helping others experience success in their life, family, and work by designing innovative health strategies and wellness solutions. Charlotte holds a Master of Arts in Education from East Carolina University and a BS in Public Health from The University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Jonathan McElderry (November 2019)
Dr. Jonathan A. McElderry has served as the Assistant Dean of Students and the Executive Director of the Intercultural Center at Wake Forest University since June 2016. Before joining the Wake Forest community, Dr. McElderry served as the Director of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at the University of Missouri.His research has sought to raise awareness of the experiences of underrepresented students at predominantly White institutions and provide strategies to increase their academic and social success.Dr. McElderry holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, a M.Ed. in College Student Personnel from Ohio University, and a B.S. in Administration of Justice from George Mason University.
Payton Head (November 2019)
Payton is a graduate of the University of Missouri where he represented 28,000 students as President of the student government. In the aftermath of Ferguson, he spearheaded conversations about improving race relations in Missouri. Head’s viral Facebook post detailing his experience with racism at Mizzou ignited students to fight for a more inclusive campus and shook up the world of higher education. This led to the #ConcernedStudent1950 movement, where campus protests resulted in the resignation of the chancellor and UM-System president in fall 2015. Head was featured in Teen Vogue’s “How Three Students Changed the Course of History at Their Schools.”
Denice Frohman (November 2018)
Denice Frohman is a poet, performer, and educator from New York City. Collectively garnering over 10 million views online, she’s been featured on Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Refinery 29, AutoStraddle, and Upworthy. She was named “Top 20 Emerging LGBT Leader” by the Philadelphia Gay Newspaper, and one of “5 LGBTQ Latinx Hereos for Every Classroom” by GLSEN. Her poetry has been commissioned by Twitter as part of the #HereWeAre campaign to uplift women’s voices, which aired on national television in 2018. She has written creative content for brands, collaborated with arts foundations, and worked with grassroots non-profits on social justice campaigns. As a queer Latina, Frohman is the daughter of Puerto Rican and Jewish parents. She’s performed on national and international stages for over 15 years. Her work focuses on identity, lineage, subverting traditional notions of power, and celebrating the parts of ourselves deemed unworthy. She hopes to inspire people, particularly young queer people of color, to know that their stories are worth telling.
Kat Blaque (November 2017)
Kat Blaque is an animator, illustrator and Youtuber from Southern California who has been openly blogging about her life for the past 10+ years on Youtube. Experiencing the ups and downs of New Media, she has ultimately concluded that Social Media is a powerful force for change and awareness. She currently uses her platforms on YouTube and Facebook to speak about the topics she’s passionate about as well as spread information, and cultivate conversations that encourage education across intersections. She playfully refers to herself as “intersectionality salad” as she embodies various identities and experiences. She hosts a weekly show on her channel called “True Tea” where she answers questions sent to her by her followers.
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (November 2016)
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is Professor and Chair of the Sociology department at Duke University. Professor Bonilla-Silva gained visibility in the social sciences with his 1997 American Sociological Review article, “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation” where he challenged social analysts to study racial matters structurally rather than from the sterile prejudice perspective.
Clint Smith (November 2015)
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.
Geena Rocero (November 2014)
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.
Jose Antonio Vargas (November 2013)
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.
Zach Wahls (April 2013)
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.
Dr. Silvia Cristina Bettez (April 2013)
Dr. Silvia Cristina Bettez teaches about issues of social justice in the University of North Carolina at Greensboro graduate program. Her classes include Teaching Social Justice and Sociology of Education. Her scholarship centralizes social justice with a focus on fostering critical community building, teaching for social justice, and promoting equity through intercultural communication and engagement. She has published articles in several journals. She is active in the American Educational Studies Association including as a former executive council member, serves on the School of Education Faculty Access & Equity Committee, and is a member and the former co-chair of the UNCG Coalition for Diverse Language Communities.
Tim Wise (February 2012)
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.
Jeff Johnson (April 2010)
Jeff Johnson is an award-winning journalist, social activist, and political commentator. Jeff appeared on the TV show Rap City on the BET cable network, where he spoke about such issues as violence and voting.Johnson served as National Director for the NAACP’s Youth and College Division, as well as Vice President of the Hip hop Summit Action Network. Jeff has interviewed President Barack Obama, and Senator Hillary Clinton. In 2007, he testified before the United States House Committee on Homeland Security regarding recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (2005). Jeff has published social and political commentaries for CNN, The Root, and Black Politics on the Web. He currently contributes commentary and analysis about issues related to race, politics, popular culture and socio-economics for MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, XM radio, Sirius Satellite Radio, and BET. Born in the UK, but raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff attended the University of Toledo, where he was president of the Student Government and the Black Student Union.