The Biden Foundation’s advisory councils comprise respected leaders, policy experts, and advocates at the forefront of their fields. Council members understand the complexities of the broad challenges they aim to address, and generously volunteer their time to advise on the Foundation’s programs and messaging. Recognizing the power of community, Advisory Council members serve as ambassadors for the Biden Foundation, guiding strategic partnerships to create societal change.
Justin Baldoni is an actor, director, and entrepreneur whose efforts are focused on creating impactful media. He is the founder of the Skid Row Carnival of Love which served 4,000 People experiencing homelessness in Skid Row during its third annual event in 2017 alone. Justin can currently be seen playing Rafael on CW’s award-winning phenomenon, Jane the Virgin. Justin is also the co-founder and CEO of Wayfarer Entertainment — a digital media studio focused on creating what he calls “Disruptive Inspiration” — that most recently launched Man Enough, an intimate dinner series hosted by Justin, which explores what it means to be a man today.
Karma Cottman has over 20 years of experience in the violence against women field. A diverse leader, Karma is an expert in grassroots organizing and local, statewide, and national policy advocacy. Ms. Cottman joined the DC Coalition as Executive Director in 2010, and in 2014 she launched Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Black Women.
During her tenure with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Karma has changed the way the District approaches responding to domestic violence. Through her leadership, over the past six years, Washington has more than tripled its funding support for domestic violence agencies and District agencies have expanded services for domestic violence survivors. Local programs have received recognition from local media groups, collaborated effectively to influence public policy, and increased partnerships with fellow non-profit service organizations.
Recognizing the need for greater mobilization to address the needs of Black women and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, Ms. Cottman partnered with colleagues to launch the National Center on Violence Against Black Women and in 2015 was awarded a grant to serve as the HHS-funded resource center addressing Black women and family violence. Ujima was established out of a shared commitment to creating a world where Black women and girls live free from violence.
Prior to her time with DCCADV, Ms. Cottman was employed at the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). As the Vice President of Policy and Emerging Issues, Karma directed the agency’s policy agenda as well as supervised NNEDV’s state coalition and housing technical assistance projects. She worked closely with national policy partners to strengthen federal legislation to effectively respond to the needs of all domestic violence survivors. Ms. Cottman also worked with federal agencies to enhance violence against women programming. She provided training and technical assistance to state and territorial domestic violence and dual domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions across the nation.
Since 1994, Karma has worked with numerous national partners to address emerging issues in domestic violence service provision and sits on several national committees. Prior to joining NNEDV, Karma served as the co-director of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Rural Diversity Initiative. In this capacity, she assisted with the development of a community assessment tool used to identify service gaps in numerous local Florida communities.
Ms. Cottman continues to provide national leadership to ensure that violence against women of color is addressed in legislation, specifically through the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Board of the National Teen Dating Violence Hotline, Washington DC Fatality Review Board, and the Policy Partnership for Communities of Color.
Jess Davidson (pronouns: she/her/hers) is the Managing Director of End Rape on Campus, a national nonprofit that works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state, and federal levels. Jess is from Fort Collins, Colorado, and graduated with distinction and a B.A. in political science from the University of Denver. At DU, her work as Student Body Vice President gained national attention for the innovative sexual assault prevention and education programs and policy reform she spearheaded. After graduation, she used her campus experience to inform how institutions and communities can approach campus sexual assault prevention and campus, local, and federal policy reform in a way that centers survivor voices and youth leadership.
Jess has served as an advisor to It’s On Us, was a fellow at the National Campus Leadership Council; worked in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement as intern to the Front Office team for Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett; has presented her work to The United State of Women Summit, National Network to End Domestic Violence, and Google; and provides regular contributions to national and international media. Jess was named an It’s On Us White House Champion of Change in April 2016, an honor given to ten students in the United States by Vice President Biden for their work to address campus sexual assault.
William Gay is a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL and a long-time advocate for domestic violence awareness. Aside from a stint playing for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, Gay has spent his career with the Steelers. He played college football at the University of Louisville.
Gay uses his platform as a professional football player to raise awareness about domestic violence. When Gay was seven years old, his stepfather killed his mother in a domestic violence incident and then shot himself. Today, Gay works to raise awareness about domestic violence by volunteering with local women’s shelters and speaking out about the need to educate men on their role in ending violence against women. In 2015, he was fined by the NFL for wearing purple cleats during a game in support of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Venkayla Haynes is an organizer, Regional Advisor for It’s On Us, and assists development and communications at Know Your IX. Her passion to fight against sexual violence stemmed from being a survivor of sexual assault. Her work around sexual violence began in November 2015 by serving on It’s On Us’ inaugural Student Advisory Committee. In November of 2015, Venkayla helped facilitate a program which brought Vice President Joe Biden to the Atlanta University Center to talk to students and faculty about issues surrounding sexual assault and how to get involved. Venkayla started her activism with educating the community by informing students of their Title IX rights, having events on consent, helping other college students host events at different institutions, working directly with school administration, protesting, public speaking, and directly working with survivors. Determined to get the community involved with ending gender-based violence, Venkayla partnered with the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, and his sexual assault campaign Take A Stand to launch Atlanta as an official It’s On Us City, and coordinated an engagement fair in City Hall to educate city council and the Atlanta community on sexual violence and prevention. Throughout her activism Venkayla has worked with survivors at many different colleges across the United States. She also visits high schools in Atlanta to talk to different classes consisting of seniors and juniors about gender-based violence and its impact in K-12 schools and on college campuses.
Venkayla has also been a featured panelist at different venues throughout the United States as it relates to gender-based violence. She has collaborated on projects with organizations such as It’s On Us, Know Your IX, End Rape On Campus, NOMORE, and Break The Cycle. Her activism led to her being invited to the White House and receiving an invitation to attend the United State of Women Summit as a Nominated Change-maker. Venkayla is a recipient several activism awards, including the Women On Deck award that recognizes young women who strive for excellence and want to make an impact in their communities; the Cal-EZ Unbreakable Award for fighting against gender-based violence; the Top 15 Chasing In Stilettos Inspiring Young Women of 2017 for Prowl Magazine in Harare, Zimbabwe; the 2017 Georgia 40 Under 40; and the 2017 Walmart Community Playmaker Award where she was honored by the Atlanta Hawks and Walmart at an NBA game for her activism. Venkayla’s work focuses on centering the experiences of marginalized groups who are impacted by sexual violence such as black women, trans men and women, undocumented survivors, queer survivors, and those with disabilities.
Rosie Hidalgo, J.D., has worked in the movement to end domestic violence for nearly 25 years. Currently, she is the Senior Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza: National [email protected] Network for Healthy Families and Communities, a national domestic violence resource center with a focus on providing training, research, and policy advocacy. She also works as a Senior Policy Advisor for the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
Rosie previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice as the Deputy Director for Policy at the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). In 2015 she also served on a detail to the Office of the Vice President to work with the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Prior to joining OVW, she had worked as the National Policy Director at Casa de Esperanza and served on the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence during the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013. She was also appointed to serve on the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence from 2010-2013. Rosie previously worked at the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence and as an attorney at legal services programs for low-income families in New York City and in Northern Virginia.
Rosie lived in the Dominican Republic from 2002–2006, where she helped establish and coordinate a community-based domestic violence prevention and intervention network and worked as a consultant for the World Bank on social services reforms. Rosie received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Scholar in public interest law and subsequently received a public interest fellowship from the law firm of Skadden Arps. In 2015 she received the 20/20 Vision Award from the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Olivia Hinerfeld is a recent graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service with a degree in international politics. While a student, she co-chaired the university’s Sexual Assault and Misconduct Task Force, served on the executive board of Take Back the Night, and facilitated trainings as a sexual assault peer educator. She is a former intern of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Violence Against Women team in the Office of Vice President Joe Biden. She currently works at Gartner, Inc., where she advises HR professionals on strategies to meaningfully address workplace harassment, and volunteers with the Metropolitan Police Department as a Domestic Violence Liaison. Olivia originally hails from Portland, Oregon.
Vivian Huelgo joined the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence as Chief Counsel in 2010. Under her leadership, the Commission has expanded its reach and solidified its mission to increase access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence by mobilizing the legal profession. Over the last several years, Vivian has established a broad, inclusive vision for the Commission’s work, sponsoring critical policy, increasing its online presence, doubling funding for training and technical assistance to lawyers nationally, and establishing the Task Force on Human Trafficking, while also celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Commission.
Vivian has worked at the intersection of law and gender-based violence for 20 years. She started her legal career as a prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Vivian served as Director of Legal Services at Safe Horizon, Inc., the nation’s largest crime victim’s agency. As Community Law Project Director at Sanctuary for Families, she managed staff attorneys and pro bono lawyers representing domestic violence and human trafficking victims from marginalized populations, including immigrant and LGBT communities. Vivian led planning for a Family Justice Center at the Office of the Mayor, City of New York. She has lectured for the U.S. Department of State, Coalition against Trafficking, and the ABA globally on Gender-Based Violence, Human Trafficking, and Access to Justice.
In 2015, Vivian was chosen as a selected fellow of Move to End Violence, a program of the NoVo Foundation. She is also a recipient of the Flor de Maga Award for Women in the Legal Profession from the Puerto Rican Bar Association. Ms. Huelgo is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law where she served as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Law and received both the Andrew A. Rivera Alumni Achievement Award and the Louis J. Lefkowitz Public Service Award.
Vivian was born in Brooklyn, raised in the City of New York, and now resides in the greater Washington, D.C., area with her twins.
Neil Irvin is the Executive Director of Men Can Stop Rape (MCSR), which seeks to mobilize men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. He is responsible for leading the organization’s national work, as well as cultivating strategic partnerships with state and federal agencies and private and corporate foundations; and overseeing all programs, which include the award-winning youth development program, training and technical assistance for youth-serving professionals, and public awareness campaigns.
MCSR’s Men of Strength (MOST) Club provides middle school and high school age males with a structured space to build individualized definitions of masculinity that promote healthy relationships. Neil has grown this program from one site in Washington, D.C., to over 100 locations in ten states across the country. In 2007, he brought the MOST Club to every public high school in the District of Columbia, the largest city-wide effort of its kind in the country. Neil has also served as a consultant to Boys and Girls Club, Ford Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Liz Claiborne Foundation.
Currently a criminal appellate attorney at the Department of Justice, Demetra Lambros has a long history in the criminal justice arena. She came to Washington to work for the National Women’s Political Caucus, and after law school joined Williams & Connolly, specializing in criminal defense law. She then became crime counsel, and then general counsel, of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1990s under the chairman, then-Senator Joseph Biden. While there, she helped craft anti-crime laws, gun control measures, and worked on Senator Biden’s key legislation, the Violence Against Women Act.
Under the Obama administration, Lambros was general counsel to the Vice President and was a key player in the Administration’s effort to address campus sexual assault. At the DOJ, she has handled cases involving high-profile murders (including the prosecution of several Blackwater contractors in connection with a deadly shooting in Baghdad, Iraq), public corruption, drug conspiracy, human trafficking, and gang-related violence. Lambros is the recipient of the John Marshall Award, the Justice Department’s highest honor that is given to attorneys in specialized areas of legal performance.
Zerlina Maxwell is the Director of Progressive Programming for SiriusXM. She was formerly the Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. She worked in the campaign’s press shop pitching coverage to progressive media outlets and curating daily messaging for online influencers. She also acted as a campaign spokesperson for the Presidential Debates.
She is a TV political analyst, speaker, and writer for a variety of national media outlets. Her writing focused on national politics, candidates, and specific policy and culture issues including race, feminism, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming, and gender inequality.
She has consulted with the U.S. Department of State to promote the use of social media by students in the West Bank and is a frequent speaker at colleges, universities, and organizations. Zerlina is one of the most influential speakers and writers on the issues of campus sexual assault and rape culture in the United States.
In 2016, Zerlina joined pop superstar Lady Gaga on stage at the 88th annual Academy Awards as part of a special performance of her nominated smash, “Til’ It Happens to You,” from the film The Hunting Ground. Zerlina has been profiled in the New York Times as a top political Twitter voice to follow during the 2012 election seaso,n and she was selected by TIME as one of the best Twitter feeds in 2014. In 2015, Zerlina was also one of five journalists invited to travel on Air Force One with President Obama on his trip to Selma for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
Zerlina has hosted live political and celebrity interviews for The Huffington Post and her writing has appeared in the New York Daily News, the Washington Post, JET Magazine, Marie Claire Magazine, on theGrio.com, BET.com, Feministing.com, CNN.com, and in other mainstream media outlets. She has a law degree from Rutgers Law School – Newark and a B.A. in international relations from Tufts University.
Victoria Nourse is a law professor at Georgetown Law School, currently serving in 2018 as the Pritzker Visiting Professor at Northwestern Law School. In 2015, she served as Counsel to Vice President Biden. From 1990–1994, she served then-Senator Joe Biden as a Special Counsel working on the original Violence Against Women Act. She has written books and articles on criminal law, constitutional law, statutes, and feminism.
Nancy Schwartzman is a documentary film director, producer, and media strategist who uses storytelling and technology to create safer communities for women and girls. She is the director of “Roll Red Roll,” a forthcoming documentary about Steubenville, Ohio, premiering at Tribeca Film Festival. “Roll Red Roll” goes beyond the headlines of a notorious high school sexual assault to unearth the social media–fueled “boys will be boys” culture that let it happen. She directed “The Line,” a documentary examining consent that was used by the White House for an impact campaign around sexuality, and PBS/POV and BBC feature “xoxosms” — a love story exploring teenagers and technology.
Nancy created the White House award-winning mobile app “Circle of 6,” designed to reduce sexual violence and used by over 350,000 people in 36 countries. She has presented her work at the White House, the United Nations, TEDx, the World Health Organization, and numerous colleges and conferences around the world. Her work has been featured on NPR, the New York Times, the BBC, Good Morning America and more. She is a graduate of Columbia University.
Patti Seger has led End Domestic Abuse WI: the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence (End Abuse) as Executive Director since November, 2005. Her 30+ years of sexual assault and domestic violence victim advocacy experience also include six years as the End Abuse Public Policy Director, six years as Manager of Dane County District Attorney’s Office Domestic Violence Unit, four years as Coordinator of the Dane County Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence Task Force and seven years as the Systems Advocate at Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (formerly Dane County Advocates for Battered Women).
She started her anti–gender violence work as a volunteer at Women’s Transit Authority, a rape prevention program in 1980. She has served on many boards and task forces, most recently the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Board of Directors, including as Vice Chair for four years and on the NNEDV Policy Committee for six years. She has also served as Wisconsin Governor Doyle’s appointee to the WI Law Enforcement Standards Board as well as the WI Attorney General’s appointee to the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission, was the chair of the WI Department of Corrections Crime Victim Advisory Committee and the WI DOJ/DCF Human Trafficking Task Force. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the WI DOJ VAWA Advisory Board. Patti’s best friends in life are her husband, three dogs, and a cat.
Professor Susan B. Sorenson has a unique interdisciplinary background in epidemiology, sociology, and psychology. She moved to the University of Pennsylvania in 2006 after more than 20 years at the UCLA School of Public Health. Since 1986, she has taught a graduate course in family and sexual violence — the first violence prevention course in a school of public health in the nation. She currently teaches three courses that she developed: Foundations of Public Health, Guns & Health, and Violence in Relationships through the Lifespan.
With nearly 150 publications to her credit, Professor Sorenson has published widely in the epidemiology and prevention of violence, including the areas of homicide, suicide, sexual assault, child abuse, battering, and firearms. A key focus of her work is the social context in which violence occurs, specifically the norms that shape whether and how violence is tolerated. Professor Sorenson’s contributions to science include framing violence against women as a public health issue, studying firearms as a consumer product, and applying multiple and emerging research methods to the study of the epidemiology and prevention of violence. Policy implications are a core aspect of her research.
In addition to her academic work, Professor Sorenson has served on the board of directors and advisory boards of local community-based organizations and state government agencies. In 1991, she co-founded the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, a broad coalition of agencies and individuals which flourished for nearly 25 years. She has provided invited testimony on violence prevention at the local, state, and federal levels.
Professor Sorenson has served as a member of the National Research Council’s Panel on Research on Violence Against Women, a consultant to President Clinton’s National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women, a consultant to UNICEF’s May 2000 report on Domestic Violence Against Women and Girls, a member of the advisory panel for the 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence, the author of a 2008 WHO report on health indicators of violence against children in low- and middle-income countries, and on the 2013 Institute of Medicine committee Priorities for a Public Health Research Agenda to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-related Violence. She currently is a member of the Committee on Law and Justice for the National Research Council.
Andrew Sta. Ana is the Director of Legal Services at Day One. Based in New York City, Day One partners with youth to end dating abuse through community education, supportive services, legal advocacy, and leadership development. Through direct legal representation and advocacy, Andrew works to amplify the voices of young survivors experiencing intimate partner violence. Nationwide, Andrew trains on dating violence, the rights of young people, serving LGBTQ survivors, and cyber harassment.
He is as an expert trainer with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Currently, Andrew serves as a co-chair of the New York based Lawyer’s Committee Against Domestic Violence, which comprises over 100 anti-violence attorneys and advocates in the New York City area. In 2016, Andrew became a clinical professor at New York Law School to direct the nation’s first law school based legal clinic to serve victims of cyber harassment. In 2015, Andrew was named a Movement Maker by the NoVo Foundation’s Move to End Violence. In 2011, he was awarded a Courage award from the NYC Anti-Violence Project for his work to set up and administer a free legal clinic for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence. Previously, he served as founding board member of the Pride Center of Staten Island.
In 2007, to launch his legal career, Andrew was awarded an Equal Justice Works fellowship to serve LGBTQ victims of domestic violence. He is a proud graduate of the City University of New York School of Law and a born-and-raised New Yorker.
Ebony Tucker is the Advocacy Director for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), working on federal sexual assault policy initiatives. Prior to joining NAESV, Ebony served as the Executive Director of the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault (LaFASA), helping to develop anti–sexual assault initiatives with the goal of providing better services and resources for survivors in Louisiana. Before coming to LaFASA, Ebony was the Associate Executive Director and Legal Assistance for Victims (LAV) Project Director at the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence. In these positions, she worked with legislators, sexual assault centers and victims of sexual violence on legislation, policy and criminal justice response as well as representing survivors in civil legal proceedings. Ebony has also worked as a civil rights attorney for the Florida Commission on Human Relations. She received her J.D. from the Florida State University College of Law in 2005.
Marsha Aizumi is an author, speaker and advocate for the LGBT community. She serves on the Board of Directors for PFLAG National, is co-founder and current President of PFLAG San Gabriel Valley Asian Pacific Islander, and the author of Two Spirits, One Heart, a memoir that chronicles her journey with her transgender son to find unconditional love and acceptance. She has been recognized by Congresswoman Judy Chu as Community Activist of the Year and Logo TV as a 2015 Trailblazing Parent.
Raised in North Carolina, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara is a minister in the United Church of Christ. She is a graduate of Brown University and received a MFA from the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and a MDiv from Harvard Divinity School. She has worked on LGBTQ rights campaigns since 2004 and founded the Campaign for Southern Equality in 2011. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and her first collection of short stories, Damn Love, won the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Honorable Mention Award for Debut Fiction. Jasmine and her wife, Meghann, live in Asheville, NC, with their son. She serves on Buncombe County Commission, representing District 1.
Precious Brady-Davis is a communications professional, diversity advocate, and international keynote speaker. With over 15 years of diversity training, leadership development, and youth empowerment experience, Precious finds deep meaning in engaging individuals in conversations surrounding bias, bigotry, and prejudice in their communities on the basis and belief that humans can coexist with one another positively through the embracing of each other’s differences and the celebrating of each other’s human diversity.
Davis has worked in collaboration with Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Hudson, and Lady Gaga toward LGBTQ equality. In 2015, Precious had the honor of being invited to the White House to meet President Obama as an emerging Black LGBTQ leader and curated the season opener “Transmopolitan Transgender Resilient ” for OUT at the Chicago History Museum. In 2016, Precious keynoted the first Black Lives Matter conference at Loyola University, served as the keynote speaker for the Harvey Milk Dinner at Indiana University, and also served as the keynote speaker for the Trans Symposium at Hampshire College.
Precious this past summer served as the keynote speaker for the Global Scholars Symposium at the University of Cambridge in England, and is currently the Deputy Press Secretary for the Midwest region of the Beyond Coal Campaign at Sierra Club.
Eliza Byard is a mission-driven executive and leader for social justice and systemic change. Byard has designed and executed strategic initiatives that have transformed K-12 education in the United States to respond to the unique challenges and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. She has also helped spur growing international attention to the needs of LGBT students. As a speaker, fundraiser, and ambassador for education, youth, and LGBT issues, Byard brings people from across the political spectrum together on common ground, and has secured millions of dollars from a variety of individual, corporate, and institutional funders.
Byard currently serves as the Executive Director of GLSEN, an organization recognized worldwide as an innovative leader in the fight for equity for LGBT students in K-12 schools. Byard joined GLSEN as Deputy Executive Director in 2001, and led the growth of GLSEN’s public education and advocacy efforts, youth leadership development programs, professional development for educators, research and program evaluation capacity, and in-school programming. GLSEN’s initiatives have contributed to a significant decrease in anti-LGBT harassment and violence in schools since 2000, and the organization’s advocacy and legislative strategies have won bipartisan support and widespread acceptance of the urgency and importance of bullying prevention and LGBT issues in education. Under Byard’s leadership, GLSEN was honored by President Obama as a “Champion of Change” and named a Top National Non-Profit for its impact on LGBT equality.
As an expert on education, youth development, and LGBT issues, Byard has appeared on AC360, CNN, ABC World News, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, ABC 20/20, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation, among other programs. She has served on numerous boards and commissions for LGBT youth and educational equity, and is currently a Trustee of the America’s Promise Alliance.
Byard began her career working for Bill Moyers at Public Affairs Television (PAT). The veteran journalist inspired Byard’s lifelong commitment to what he terms “the conversation of democracy,” essential to preserving the fundamental values embodied in democratic institutions. At PAT, the Center for Investigative Reporting, and elsewhere, she worked on numerous award-winning documentaries, including “School Colors,” a DuPont Award-winning FRONTLINE production on public education forty years after Brown v. Board.
Byard holds a Ph.D in United States history from Columbia University and a B.A. in history from Yale University, and has taught U.S. history and American studies at Columbia and Barnard. She lives in her native New York City with her wife and their two children.
Jason Collins is a retired American professional basketball player of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Collins attended Stanford University, where he was an All-American in the 2000–2001 season. He was also named to the All Pac-10 First Team and awarded the NABC Pete Newell “Big Man of the Year” Award. He finished his college career ranked first in Stanford history for field goal percentage and third in blocked shots. Upon graduating with a B.A. from Stanford, Collins was selected in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft with the 18th overall pick. Now a 13-year veteran, Collins has played center for six teams including New Jersey, Memphis, Minnesota, Atlanta, Boston, Washington and, most recently, the Brooklyn Nets (formerly the New Jersey Nets). Doc Rivers, who coached Collins during his time with the Boston Celtics, said of Collins: “He’s the best. He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach.” In his 13 years in the league, Collins’ teams earned 10 trips to the playoffs including 2 NBA Finals appearances.
After the 2012–2013 NBA season concluded, Collins publicly came out as gay in a cover story for Sports Illustrated, becoming the first male active player in any of the four major American professional sports to announce that he is gay. President Obama expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement and said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBTQ community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect. Collins has traveled the country with the mission of empowering people to live their lives as their true selves, and has become an active member of numerous charities, foundations and organizations. In 2013, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) honored Collins with the Courage Award at the GLSEN Respect Awards. In 2014, Logo TV honored Collins with its inaugural Trailblazer Award. Also in 2014, the Matthew Shepard Foundation honored Collins with its Making a Difference Award at its annual Honors Gala. In April 2014, Collins was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” In January of 2015, the National Civil Rights Museum honored Collins with a Sports Legacy Award.
From 2014 to 2017 Collins served on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, which works to motivate Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle via physical activity and nutrition. Since retiring from playing, Collins has become a NBA Cares Ambassador — spreading goodwill on behalf of the NBA with its players, community, and corporate partners. Collins resides in Los Angeles, California.
Michael Guest is Senior Advisor to the Council for Global Equality, a coalition of 30 human rights and LGBTQ advocacy organizations seeking consistent U.S. support for LGBTQ-fair policies abroad. Mr. Guest was our country’s first Senate-confirmed, openly gay ambassador (to Romania, 2001–2004). He ended his 26-year Foreign Service career in 2007 after having sought unsuccessfully to ensure the fair and equal treatment of same-sex Foreign Service families, then worked on President-elect Obama’s Transition Team to remedy those policies. Apart from his work with the Council for Global Equality, Mr. Guest is an independent consultant and speaker on organizational leadership and diversity issues.
Mara Keisling is the founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Mara’s strategy and vision have guided NCTE’s work since 2003. She has led organizational and coalition efforts that have won significant advances in transgender equality, including the inclusion of gender identity in the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act from 2007 onward and countless other federal- and state-level wins.
Mara also co-authored “Injustice at Every Turn,” the groundbreaking 2009 report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, and the report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. As one of the nation’s leading voices for transgender equality, Mara is regularly quoted in national and local print media and has appeared on major television networks, including being part of the first all-transgender panel on a national news show in 2012.
Mara, a proud Pennsylvanian, received her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and did graduate work in American government at Harvard University. Prior to founding NCTE, Mara worked for 25 years in social marketing and opinion research.
A Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award–winning artist with 30 sterling years and global record sales in excess of 50 million, Cyndi Lauper has proven that she has the heart and soul to keep her legion of fans compelled by her every creative move. Lauper recently became a New York Times bestselling author with her autobiography Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster), wrote the original score for the Tony Award–winning best musical Kinky Boots, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Helping others has always been a guiding force for Cyndi and she focuses her efforts to make a difference through the True Colors Fund. An unwavering advocate for equality long before she became famous, she co-founded the organization in 2008 to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth and create a world in which all young people can be their true selves.
In addition, Cyndi is the Honorary Chairperson and a co- founder of the True Colors Residence, the first project of its kind to provide a permanent, supportive, and secure home to formerly homeless LGBT youth in New York City. Cyndi also continues to be a tireless participant in the struggle to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ensure that women are treated equally around the world.
Sarah McBride is the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). In 2012, Sarah made national headlines when she came out as transgender while serving as student body president at American University. A native of Wilmington, DE, Sarah serves on the Board of Directors of Equality Delaware and helped lead the successful effort to add gender identity and expression to her state’s nondiscrimination and hate-crimes laws. In 2008, Sarah worked for Delaware Governor Jack Markell and, in 2010, for former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden.
Prior to coming to HRC, Sarah worked on LGBTQ equality at the Center for American Progress and interned at the White House, the first out trans woman to do so. Sarah became the first openly transgender person to address a major political party convention when she spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. She is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Transgender Equality.
Amit Paley is the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under the age of 25.
Amit comes to Trevor from the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he was an Associate Partner serving numerous nonprofit organizations, Fortune 500 companies and governments. He served as a leader of McKinsey’s LGBTQ group and spearheaded the firm’s global efforts on inclusion for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Amit is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College with an MBA from Columbia Business School and master’s from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and before joining McKinsey he was a reporter at the Washington Post. He covered numerous beats, including as a foreign correspondent based in the paper’s Baghdad bureau, where his work was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Earlier in his journalism career, he uncovered the existence of an 80-year-old secret court at Harvard University that persecuted gay students, several of whom died by suicide.
A six-year counselor on the the Trevor Project’s 24/7/365 Trevor Lifeline where he answered thousands of calls from youth in crisis, Paley is the first volunteer to become the CEO of the organization in its 19-year history.
Phillip Picardi is the Chief Content Officer and founding editor of the newly launched THEM, Condé Nast’s first-ever platform devoted to the queer community, and of Teen Vogue, where he oversees audience, content, and social strategy. When Picardi re-joined Teen Vogue in 2015 (he was formerly an intern and an assistant for the magazine), he launched the website’s politics and wellness coverage, shifting the brand’s focus from fashion and celebrity to themes of gender equality and social justice. In turn, TeenVogue.com traffic skyrocketed from 2 to 12 million monthly unique visitors in just two years, nabbing two Webby Awards, a GLAAD Award, and Adweek nods along the way. Most recently, Picardi was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, and one of the 50 Most Influential LGBTQ People in Media by The Advocate.
Last season, Tony Award© winner Sara Ramirez joined CBS’s hit drama “Madam Secretary” as a series regular playing policy advisor Kat Sandoval. Previously Ramirez had been best known from ABC’s top-rated drama “Grey’s Anatomy” where for over a decade Ramirez played the ground-breaking character orthopedic surgeon Dr. Callie Torres – the longest running LGBTQ+ character in television history. She is also the voice of Queen Miranda for the past 5 seasons in the Disney Channel’s animated series, “Sofia The First” and can also be heard as Mamá Calaca in Disney’s animated series “Vampirina.” Ramirez was last seen on Broadway in the smash-hit Monty Python’s Spamalot as Lady of the Lake, for which she earned both a Tony Award© for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical and an Outer Critics Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
Ramirez graduated from the Juilliard Drama School. Shortly after graduation, she made her Broadway debut starring in Paul Simon’s The Capeman. Following that, she starred on Broadway in Fascinating Rhythm and A Class Act, as well as Off Broadway in The Vagina Monologues. She has also appeared on “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Third Watch,” and “Spin City”. In Spring 2011, Ramirez captured a whole new audience after singing the most prominent songs in the special music event episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” when she released her own EP on iTunes.
Sara co-hosted, and performed Michael Pemberton’s song “Rollercoaster” at TED TALKS LIVE NYC on PBS, and has produced three films: Loserville (released in theaters in fall of 2016 in partnership with the Pacer Foundation’s Center for Bullying Prevention & Stomp Out Bullying); virtual reality film experience Out of Exile: Daniel’s Story (Official Selection Sundance Film Festival and Lumiere Award nominee) directed by “Godmother of Virtual Reality” Nonny de la Peña; and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a documentary by award-winning filmmaker David France of How to Survive a Plague about LGBTQ civil rights transgender pioneers Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Official Selection in over 25 international film festivals including Tribeca Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Fest). The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson was released in theaters and on Netflix on October, 2017.
Sara has been honored with the Trailblazers Award by the New York LGBT Center; by the City of Los Angeles as an activist and artist working to advance equality as part of 2017’sLos Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Heritage Month and with the Ally for Equality Award by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. In addition to her role as a member of the True Colors Fund’s Board of Directors and a member of the Biden Foundation’s LGBTQ Advisory Council, organizations she supports include: The True Colors Fund, Bisexual Organizing Project, ACLU, NDLON, Mujerez De Maiz, The Task Force, and The Los Angeles/San Diego/New York/San Francisco LGBT Centers.
Caitlin Ryan is the Director of the Family Acceptance Project®. Dr. Ryan is a clinical social worker who has worked on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health and mental health for nearly 40 years. She received her clinical training with children and adolescents at Smith College School for Social Work. Dr. Ryan pioneered community-based acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) services at the beginning of the epidemic, initiated the first major study to identify lesbian health needs in the early 1980s, and has worked to implement quality care for LGBT youth since the early 1990s. She started the Family Acceptance Project with Dr. Rafael Diaz in 2002 to help diverse families decrease rejection and prevent related health risks for their LGBT children — including suicide, homelessness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — and to promote family acceptance and positive outcomes including permanency.
Dr. Ryan and her team have been developing a wide range of research-based materials and assessment tools to help families and caregivers to support their LGBT children, including a series of short documentary films that show the journey from struggle to support of ethnically and religiously diverse families with LGBT children. Her work has been acknowledged by many groups, including the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, Division 44 that gave her the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award for groundbreaking research on LGBT youth and families, and many other groups. She has served on many national advisory groups including the Committee on LGBT Health for the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences and the LGBT Suicide Prevention Task Force of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. Dr. Ryan is collaborating with institutions, agencies, faith communities, and advocates to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth, and young adults.
For the last 20 years, Judy Shepard has drawn from personal tragedy to promote a greater understanding of LGBTQ issues and empower the population to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach and advocacy in their own communities.
In 1998, Judy lost her son Matthew to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate that shocked and captivated the nation. Turning tragedy into a crusade for justice, this leading voice in the LGBTQ rights movement has since established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on her son’s legacy. Later, she spearheaded the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the federal hate-crime law to include crimes based on gender and sexual orientation.
The author of the best-seller The Meaning of Matthew, Judy offers an intimate look at how her life and the entire fight for equal rights changed when her son was killed. With a name now synonymous with activism and equal rights, Judy leaves an indelible imprint with her words, compassion, and raw honesty as she urges audiences to make their schools and communities safer for everyone, regardless of race, sex, religion, or gender identity and/or expression.
Jacob Tobia is a writer, producer, and author of the forthcoming memoir Sissy with Putnam Books at Penguin Random House. As a performer, visionary, and internet personality, Jacob helps others embrace the full complexity of gender and own their truth. Currently living in Los Angeles, Jacob recently wrapped as the Social Media Producer on Season 4 of Jill Soloway’s Emmy Award-winning series, Transparent.
A member of both the Forbes 30 Under 30 and the OUT 100, Jacob made their debut on the national stage when they were interviewed by Laverne Cox as part of MTV’s The T Word. In 2015, Jacob was profiled by MTV in the one-hour, GLAAD Award–nominated episode of True Life: I’m Genderqueer, and in 2016, Jacob created, coproduced, and hosted Queer 2.0, a first-of-its-kind LGBTQ series on NBC News. In addition to their recent book deal, Jacob recently collaborated with Instagram and GLAAD to produce #KindComments, a custom campaign for Trans Day of Visibility that was viewed over 14 million times.
A Point Foundation Scholar, Harry S. Truman Scholar, and recipient of the Campus Pride National Voice and Action Award, Jacob has captivated audiences at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and conferences across the country with their message of personal fabulosity and social change. Their writing and advocacy have been featured on MSNBC, MTV, the Washington Post, the New York Times, TIME, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, Playboy, the Guardian, and Jezebel, among others.
Originally from Raleigh, NC, Jacob graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with a degree in human rights advocacy. Prior to their career in television, Jacob worked at the United Nations Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Jacob is an avid Sriracha devotee and has worn high heels in the White House twice.
Raquel Willis is a Black queer transgender activist, writer and media maven dedicated to inspiring and elevating marginalized individuals, particularly transgender women of color. She is a National Organizer for Transgender Law Center, the largest organization in the U.S. advocating on behalf of transgender and gender nonconforming people. She is also a part of Echoing Ida, a national Black women’s writing collective, and Channel Black, a media organizing and training arm of the Movement for Black Lives. She commands a major social media presence for her analysis on identity, current events, and politics. Raquel is experienced in many fields including online publications, organizing marginalized communities for social change, non-profit media strategy, and public speaking while using digital activism as a major tool of resistance and liberation.
Evan Wolfson was founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign that won marriage equality in the United States, and is widely considered the architect of the movement that led to nationwide victory in 2015. In 1983, Wolfson wrote his Harvard Law School thesis on gay people and the freedom to marry. During the 1990s he served as co-counsel in the historic Hawaii marriage case that launched the ongoing global movement for the freedom to marry, and has participated in numerous gay rights and HIV/AIDS cases. Wolfson earned a B.A. in history from Yale College in 1978; served as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Togo, West Africa; and wrote the book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry (Simon & Schuster, 2004). Citing his national leadership on marriage and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal in 2000 named Wolfson one of “the 100 most influential lawyers in America.” Newsweek/the Daily Beast dubbed Wolfson “the godfather of gay marriage” and TIME Magazine named him one of “the 100 most influential people in the world.” In 2012, Wolfson received the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Barack Obama.
Having achieved in 2015 the goal he had pursued for 32 years, Wolfson now devotes his time to advising and assisting diverse movements and causes in the U.S. and around the world eager to adapt the model and apply the lessons that made the Freedom to Marry campaign so successful. Based in New York City, Wolfson has been named a Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law Center, where he teaches law and social change; a Distinguished Practitioner in Grand Strategy at Yale University; and Senior Counsel at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, with 125+ offices in 50+ countries.