Stacey Abrams is a bestselling author, entrepreneur and political leader. She served eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as minority leader, and was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in United States history. As a non-profit founder, Abrams has launched multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social and economic issues at the state and national levels including Fair Count, Fair Fight Action, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project.
A small business owner, Abrams co-founded the financial services firm NOWaccount Corp., Insomnia Consulting with a focus on infrastructure and energy, the beverage company Nourish, Inc., and she launched the production company, Sage Works Productions, Inc., in 2020.
In the fall of 2023 she will begin her role as the Ronald W. Walters Endowed Chair for Race and Black Politics at Howard University. Abrams sits on both nonprofit and corporate boards, and she is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. A tax attorney by training, Abrams holds degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and Yale Law School.
Elise C. Boddie is the James V. Campbell Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Her scholarship explores the regulation and production of race in spatial contexts and dynamic systems that perpetuate racial inequality. She teaches constitutional law, state and local government law, and civil rights.
Boddie’s work bridges diverse disciplines and practices of scholarship, teaching, community, and service and is widely cited and discussed in both academic and nonacademic circles.
In 2012, the Law and Society Association awarded Boddie the John Hope Franklin Prize for her article “Racial Territoriality,” which appeared in the UCLA Law Review. She also has published in the Columbia Law Review, The University of Chicago Law Review, Vanderbilt Law Review, the North Carolina Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, the Harvard Law Review Forum, the UCLA Law Review Discourse, and the Iowa Law Review Bulletin.
Her commentary has been published multiple times in The New York Times and SCOTUSblog, and in the The Washington Post, the Take Care blog, Salon, Slate, and the Huffington Post, among other news outlets. She has appeared in national and international news programs, including a BBC documentary, “The Black American Fight for Freedom,” which was released in the US in June 2021.
She is a frequent public speaker who has lectured to audiences around the country. Before joining the Michigan Law faculty, she was a professor at Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, she founded and directed The Inclusion Project, which engaged with communities, students, faith leaders, educators, and researchers in a multisector initiative to build equitable education systems in New Jersey public schools. She also has taught at New York Law School and at Fordham School of Law as a visiting assistant professor.
Boddie was elected to the American Law Institute in 2017 and as an American Bar Foundation Fellow in 2019. In 2021, President Biden appointed her to the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States. At the invitation of the American Law Institute, she participated during the spring of 2022 in a small bipartisan group that was convened to propose reforms to the federal Electoral Count Act. Boddie most recently served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Before joining the Rutgers faculty, Boddie was the director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (LDF) and supervised its nationwide litigation program, including its advocacy in several major US Supreme Court and federal appellate cases involving voting rights, affirmative action, and fair housing. From 1999 to 2005, she litigated affirmative action, employment, economic justice, and school desegregation cases in federal district courts and in federal courts of appeals. During this period, she served as LDF’s director of education and as an associate director of litigation.
She has served in leadership positions on the national board of the American Constitution Society and on the board of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she was the coordinator for Hillary Clinton’s Civil Rights & Racial Justice Working Policy Group.
Earlier in her career, Boddie litigated at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in its New York office as the first recipient of the Fried, Frank/LDF fellowship.
Justin Jones is an activist, graduate student, and community organizer in Nashville. He graduated from Fisk University with his B.A. in Political Science and is completing his Master of Theological Studies at Vanderbilt University.
Born in Oakland, California, he grew up in the East Bay where he attended public school and learned at an early age the importance of speaking up for equality for all. His mother, Christine, raised Justin and his sister while putting herself through nursing school. He is the grandson of Black, working-class grandparents from the South Side of Chicago and Filipino immigrants who migrated to California. Growing up, his family, especially his two grandmothers, taught him the importance of community involvement, care for the environment, and spirituality.
In high school, Justin served as his city’s Youth Commissioner and began organizing for the civil rights of students and policies that ensured racial equity, environmental protections, and inclusivity. In high school, he found himself on the front lines of organizing in Oakland following the murder of Trayvon Martin and during student campaigns to repeal nationwide Stand Your Ground laws.
His activism has brought him from the streets of Oakland to Ferguson, Missouri; from ceremonies of resistance in Standing Rock to a 62-day sit-in outside the Tennessee State House.
Justin came to Fisk University in 2013, where he received the John R. Lewis Scholarship for Social Activism. Inspired by its legacy of the student-led movement for civil rights, Justin became involved on campus and in community groups and spent his four years organizing student campaigns for the expansion of healthcare in Tennessee, the repeal of restrictive state voter ID laws, and community accountability in cases of police brutality. He served on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Healthcare Campaign and has led actions at the Legislature, and across the South, for the expansion of Medicaid. In 2015, Justin helped to coordinate a federal lawsuit and served as a plaintiff against the State of Tennessee for its restrictive voter ID laws that targeted students. During the racial justice uprisings in the Summer of 2020, he served as a strategist and direct-action organizer for the People Plaza’s 62-day sit-in outside the Tennessee Capitol calling on the Governor to advance policies of racial justice.
Justin has been arrested over a dozen times for nonviolent protests and is a recipient of awards from the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, ACLU of Tennessee, Tennessee Alliance for Progress, Fisk University Alumni Association, and the Vanderbilt Organization of Black Graduate Students, and the Nashville NAACP.
Brian Maher was a maritime industry leader from 1969 until 2007, when he and his brother Basil sold Maher Terminals. A family business established in 1946, Maher Terminals is a major marine terminal operator providing services to the shipping industry in the Port of New York/New Jersey and in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Brian was previously chair of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and vice chair of St. Peter’s College Board of Trustees. Brian has served as a member of the Board of Trustees for NJ Seeds, NJN Foundation, Regional Business Partnership, Regional Plan Association and the Board of Overseers of New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Brian and Sandra founded Maher Charitable Foundation in 2009 to seek out and fund improved educational opportunities for children in New Jersey. They have spearheaded many of the Foundation’s early childhood education initiatives and provided key volunteer leadership to Pre-K Our Way, the community-based effort to expand New Jersey’s high-quality Preschool Program.
Since its inception, The Maher Charitable Foundation has built an addition to the Ironbound Community Center Pre-K thus creating a 0-5 years learning center in the Ironbound Section of Newark NJ. The Maher Charitable Foundation worked in collaboration with the Taub Foundation and did a major restoration to the Children’s Day Nursery in Passaic NJ, creating another 0-5 years learning center and recently completed construction of the Clinton Hill Early Learning Center in the South Ward of Newark.
Justin heads LTMA Capital, a blended debt and venture fund advancing human rights and gender equality. LTMA (Less Talk, More Action), believes balancing financial returns with societal benefits empowers people and facilitates future reinvestment.
Prior to founding LTMA Capital, Justin – a Fifth Generation Family Member of Mars, Inc.– served as Manager of Human Rights and Gender Equality at Mars, advising business segments on efforts that reduce human rights risks across supply chains including palm oil, sugarcane, and rice. He led a new human rights due diligence approach for carbon offsets and worked to increase focus on social co-benefits in the carbon market. Justin was responsible for stewarding the Full Potential Platform where he partnered with cross-functional peers to drive for gender equality across Mars’ workplaces, supply chain communities, and in the marketplace.
Before working at Mars, Justin was an elementary school teacher both in the US and abroad.
He earned a BA in Elementary School Education from Colorado College, an MA in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development from the United Nations University for Peace, and an MBA in International Business from American University’s Kogod School of Business.
In his free time, Justin enjoys the outdoors with his wife, Molly, and their dog, Mantequilla, who they adopted while living in Costa Rica.
At 94, George Sallie is the oldest living foot soldier of the 1965 Bloody Sunday march for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.
That day, he set out with hundreds of other marchers to walk from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery. When they got to the bridge, they were violently attacked by state troopers and mounted deputies. Many marchers were sent to the hospital, including Mr. Sallie – who still has the scar on his forehead where he was brutally hit.
Mr. Sallie grew up on a plantation in Lowndes County, Alabama, a location rife with poverty and racism. His parents were sharecroppers. He had to leave school in the ninth grade to earn money for the family.
Mr. Sallie was drafted into the Army at age 24 and served in the Korean War. When he returned, he moved to Selma to take classes for veterans. It was then that he was awakened to the cause of racial justice. “You fight for somebody else’s freedom and when you come back, you can’t vote,” he said.
Mr. Sallie became known for his activism in Selma. He put Stokely Carmichael up in his home and had long conversations with John Lewis.
After the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Mr. Sallie kept up the fight for freedom. Concerned about the state of public education for Black children, he ran for the School Board and the Dallas County Commission.
To this day, you can still catch Mr. Sallie at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge meeting and greeting tourists from all walks of life sharing Selma’s rich history.
Mr. George Sallie is a true American hero!