Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem in New York City in 1927. Overwhelmed and intimidated by its ghetto streets and thinking the islands to be a safer place, his immigrant mother sent him back to the island of her birth, Jamaica. The island and all its variety became his cultural reservoir.
At the outbreak of World War II, his mother retrieved him from the island and brought him back to Harlem. He tried to adapt to his new environment, a process that came with great difficulty. Unable to finish high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served for almost two years as a munitions loader. After his tour of duty ended, he was honorably discharged and returned to New York City where he worked both in the garment center and as a janitor's assistant.
Dr. Colin Greer has been the President of the New World Foundation since 1985. Formerly, he was a Professor at Brooklyn College, CUNY. Dr. Greer participated in and directed several studies of US Immigration and urban schooling policy and history (at Columbia University and CUNY). He wrote briefing papers on philanthropy and government for First Lady, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, and on education policy for Senator Paul Wellstone. He chaired the President’s White House Internship Financial Aid Committee (1992-4) and chaired the Funders Committee for Citizen Participation (for 10 years).
Michael Skolnik is a businessman and a 21st century Civil Rights organizer. Michael is the President of GlobalGrind.com, a multi-million dollar news website founded by hip-hop impresario, Russell Simmons, that attracts over 8 million people a month. This platform has given Michael a leadership role in the new social justice movement, where he has led national conversations about America’s relationship with race, the death of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner, the Boston Marathon bombings, the rise of violence in Chicago and the Obama presidency, amongst many other topics.
Vincent Warren is the Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). He oversees CCR's groundbreaking litigation and advocacy work which includes using international and domestic law to hold corporations and government officials accountable for human rights abuses; challenging racial, gender and LGBT injustice; and combating the illegal expansion of U.S. presidential power and policies such as illegal detention at Guantanamo, rendition and torture. Prior to his tenure at CCR, Vince was a national senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where he litigated civil rights cases, focusing on affirmative action, racial profiling and criminal justice reform.
Maria Cuomo Cole has worked as an advocate for the homeless and Chairman of HELP USA since 1992. Under her leadership, the New York based non-profit organization founded in 1986 by her brother, Governor Andrew Cuomo, has expanded nationally to become a leading provider of homes and services for homeless and low income populations in the United States.
Connie Rice is a civil rights lawyer who engineers systemic fixes to entrenched inequality and injustice. California Law Business Journal twice designated her one of the top ten most influential attorneys in California. Through impact litigation, campaigns and inside bureaucratic maneuvering, she has led coalitions and clients to win more than $30 billion in damages, bonds and policy changes. Bus riders, death row inmates, folks abused by police, school kids, whistleblowers, cops and sufferers of every stripe of discrimination, (sex, race, disability, age) have sought her counsel. But so have her opponents, like the Los Angeles Police Department she sued for 15 years but which now reserves a parking space for her at their new headquarters.
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow, and that same year she accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Since its first publication, The New Jim Crow has received rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, Bill Moyers Journal, Tavis Smiley, CSPAN, and Washington Journal, among others. In March, the book won the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.
Danny Glover has been a commanding presence in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. From the blockbuster Lethal Weapon franchise in film to hit television shows such as ER, Glover has distinguished himself as one of his generation’s most consummate actors.
A native of Chicago and graduate of Temple University, Jesse began his professional career teaching American, African and African-American History in low income Philadelphia public charter schools. From there Jesse moved to Brooklyn, New York and, after working in Manhattan law firms, began his professional acting career.
Jonathan S. Abady is a founding member of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (ECBA), one of the leading civil rights firms in the country. Mr. Abady has more than 25 years of experience litigating a broad spectrum of civil rights cases, including those involving police misconduct, voting rights, prisoner rights and the First Amendment. Most recently, Mr. Abady represented the family and estate of Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old boy shot and killed by Cleveland police in 2014. Mr. Abady was also one of the lead lawyers in two historic class action cases that have led to major institutional reform in jail conditions at Rikers Island in New York. He and his firm litigated important voting rights cases in the Bush-Gore and Obama-McCain presidential elections.
Born and raised in New York City, Gina Belafonte has spent her life in the arenas of entertainment and activism where her professional work thrives today. As the youngest child of Julie and Harry Belafonte, whose impact in these fields is among the most influential and progressive in the world, Gina’s passions come as no surprise. Gina was the lead producer on the internationally acclaimed documentary film, SING YOUR SONG, exploring the extraordinary life and legacy of Harry Belafonte that was selected as the opening film for the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.