About the Panelists :Rashad Robinson Rashad Robinson is the Executive Director of Color of Change, the nation's largest online racial justice organization. As a force driven by over one million members, Color of Change moves decision makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people, and all people. Rashad has developed winning strategies to change the rules of many fields affecting Black people's lives: employment and the economy, voting and politics, news and entertainment, criminal justice. He has appeared in hundreds of media outlets including ABC, CNN, MSNBC, BET, NPR, The New York Times and Huffington Post. He was a 2015 EBONY Magazine "Power 100" honoree, and on "The Root 100" for the last six years. Fast Company named Color Of Change the 6th Most Innovative Company in the world (2015), and the Stanford Social Innovation Review profiled its strategies for "pursuing the fight for racial justice at Internet speed" in both online and offline venues. Stacey Abrams The former top Democrat in the Georgia legislature, candidate for Governor of Georgia and former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School. As co-founder of NOW Account - a financial services firm that helps small businesses grow - Stacey has helped create and retain jobs in Georgia. Through her various business ventures, Stacey has helped employ even more Georgians. As House Minority Leader, she has worked strategically to recruit, train, elect, and defend Democrats to prevent a Republican supermajority in the House, and has worked across the aisle on behalf of all Georgians. During her tenure as House Minority Leader, she has stopped legislation to raise taxes on the poor and middle class and to roll back reproductive healthcare. She has brokered compromises that led to progress on transportation, infrastructure, and education. Dedicated to civic engagement, she founded the New Georgia Project, which registered more than 200,000 voters of color between 2014 and 2016. And under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Stacey is the award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels, which have sold more than 100,000 copies.
Melvin CarterMelvin Carter is a fourth-generation Saint Paul resident, Saint Paul Public School graduate, former Saint Paul City Council member, father, and Mayor of Saint Paul, MN. He lives in Saint Paul's Rondo neighborhood with his wife, Sakeena, and three of their five children. He is the son of a police officer and a teacher (who later became a County Commissioner), both of whom instilled in him the value of community and public service. Melvin's passion for civic engagement began in 2000, when as a college student his brother-in-law was turned away from casting an all-important Presidential election ballot in a Florida polling precinct. After arguing for his brother-in-law's right to vote and protesting that year's historic acts of disenfranchisement in the Florida State Capitol, Melvin found himself on a path toward public service. Since then, Melvin has been working to engage, enfranchise, and uplift people in Saint Paul and across the state and nation. He's trained political candidates, community organizers and campaign staff in over 30 states with several national organizations, including Wellstone Action. David Johns David J. Johns is known for his passion, public policy acumen and fierce advocacy for youth. He is an enthusiast about equity—leveraging his time, talent and treasures to address the needs of individuals and communities often neglected and ignored. A recognized thought leader and social justice champion, David's career has focused on improving life outcomes and opportunities for Black people. On September 1, 2017, David Johns began his next life chapter as the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC)—a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS. NBJC's mission is to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ bias and stigma. In 2013, Johns was appointed as the first executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (Initiative) by President Barack H. Obama and served until the last day of the Obama Administration in January, 2017. Johns has been featured as an influential politico and advocate by several publications and outlets, including TheRoot.com, NBC, EBONY and The Washington Post. Johns is a prominent strategist who offers commentary for several media outlets including BET, CNN, EducationPost and TV One.
Opal TometiOpal Tometi is a New York based Nigerian-American writer, strategist and community organizer. Ms. Tometi is a Co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter. The historic political project was launched in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin in order to explicitly combat implicit bias and anti-black racism and to protect and affirm the beauty and dignity of all Black lives. Ms. Tometi is credited with creating the online platforms and initiating the social media strategy during the project's early days. Ms. Tometi is currently at the helm of the country's leading Black organization for immigrant rights, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) founded in 2006, is a national organization that educates and advocates to further immigrant rights and racial justice together with African-American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities. As the Executive Director at BAJI, Opal collaborates with staff and communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Oakland, Washington, DC and communities throughout the Southern states. The organization's most recent campaign helped win family reunification visas for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake. BAJI is an award winning institution with recognition by leading intuitions across the country. Stefanie Brown-James Stefanie Brown James is a master of making the political, personal. As an experienced social entrepreneur, Stefanie is the Co-Founder and Senior Advisor for The Collective - a consortium of political action organizations including The Collective PAC and The Collective Super PAC - dedicated to recruiting, training, funding and supporting black candidates to run for office on the local, state and federal level. Founded in August of 2016, The Collective has raised over $500,000 from 13,000+ individual contributions and organizations to support 39 endorsed candidates and launched a national campaign training operation to prepare campaigns to win. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Stefanie is also the CEO and Founding Partner of Vestige Strategies, LLC - a Washington, DC based community engagement firm that specializes in grassroots community and civic engagement strategies. In 2012, Stefanie served as the National African American Vote Director for the Obama for America Campaign where she created and managed the national strategy to engage African American leaders and voters to re-elect President Barack Obama, leading to the highest black voter turnout in history.