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Speakers

Nse UfotNsé Ufot (Keynote Speaker)

Nsé Ufot is the Chief Executive Officer of the New Georgia Project (NGP) and its affiliate, New Georgia Project Action Fund (NGP AF). Nsé leads both organizations with a data-informed approach and a commitment to developing tools that leverage technology with the goal of making it easier for every voter to engage in every election. Nsé and her team are also developing Georgia’s home-grown talent by training and organizing local activists across the state. She has dedicated her life and career to working on civil, human and workers’ rights issues and leads two organizations whose complementary aim is to strengthen Georgia’s democracy.

Under Nsé’s leadership, NGP has registered nearly 425,000 Georgians to vote. Nsé was the driving force in merging civil rights with civic technology, allowing her team of organizers to use sophisticated targeting based on data through NGP’s mobile apps. Eager to gamify civic engagement using the science of video games, NGP was able to engage and empower voters across the state of Georgia. Under her leadership, NGP also studied block chains and cryptocurrency to learn how they could embed and apply similar security to voter suppression.

Prior to joining the New Georgia Project, Nsé worked as the assistant executive director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers; Canada’s largest faculty union. She also served as the senior lobbyist and government relations officer for the American Association of University Professors, where she coordinated initiatives for mobilizing members around legislation and regulations that impacted higher education and labor law.

Nsé has appeared in local and national news outlets to discuss her work, including “All In” with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Salon and The Root. Additionally, she has served as a panelist on the national stage at SXSW and Netroots Nation, and was featured on BET’s Finding Justice series.

Nsé, a proud naturalized citizen, was born in Nigeria and raised in Southwest Atlanta. She earned a Bachelor of Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Dayton School of Law. Nsé is an avid cyclist that enjoys international travel, as well as listening and playing music from the African Diaspora. She also speaks fluent French.


Rep. Christopher BenjaminRep. Christopher Benjamin

State Representative Christopher Benjamin is an American attorney, mediator, arbitrator, magistrate and politician who has served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives from District 107 since November 2020. Benjamin was born and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Florida Memorial University in 1998 and a Juris Doctor from the St. Thomas University School of Law in 2001. Benjamin also served in the United States Army from 1991 to 1994. After graduating from law school, Benjamin worked as an attorney in the Case Management Division (Family Division) of the 11th Judicial Circuit of Miami-Dade County, Florida. Upon assuming office, Benjamin became the first Muslim elected to the Florida legislature. [1][2] Benjamin and his late wife, Carleen Nelson-Benjamin, have four children.


Mayor Daniella Levine CavaMayor Daniella Levine Cava

Daniella Levine Cava was elected Miami-Dade County’s first-ever woman Mayor in November 2020 following a nearly 40-year career as a relentless advocate for South Florida families in public service and elected leadership. A social worker, lawyer, and community activist, she was first elected in 2014, and re-elected in August 2018, to serve as the Miami-Dade County Commissioner representing District 8. Born in New York and raised partly in Latin America, Mayor Levine Cava received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors from Yale University and graduate degrees in law and social work from Columbia University. Daniella and her husband, Dr. Robert Cava, raised two children, Eliza and Edward Cava, in Miami-Dade, supported by strong networks of friends, families, and co-workers.


Francesca MenesFrancesca Menes

Francesca is a political educator, legislative, political and policy strategist, television host and entrepreneur committed to creating spaces to educate, inform and engage our people on the issues which affects their day-to-day lives; helping them to understand the personal is political and democratizing knowledge. She is a first generation Haitian-Dominican- American raised in Miami’s Little Haiti community, wife to Emmanuel and mother to Joie.


Rep. Felicia RobinsonRep. Felicia Robinson

Felicia Simone Robinson is a lifelong resident of the City of Miami Gardens. She is an accomplished educator ultimately earning both a Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in Mathematics as well as a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership. Answering the call to further serve, Ms. Robinson ran for public office and was elected to the Miami Gardens City Council, serving from 2010 to 2018. She held the position of Vice-Mayor from 2014-2016. Representative Robinson was elected to the Florida House of Representatives District 102 on November 8, 2020. She remains a consistent advocate for the citizens of the State of Florida, believing that when people know better, they do better, and her job as a servant/leader is to make sure people know.


Gordon Weekes, Esq.Gordon Weekes, Esq.

Born and raised in South Florida, Gordon attended Miami-Dade College and then went on to attend Florida Memorial University. In 1994, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Control. Mr. Weekes then went on to earn his Juris Doctorate in 1997 from Nova Southeastern University School of Law. For over twenty years, Gordon Weekes has dedicated his life to public service and the pursuit of justice. In 1997, he began his career as an Assistant Public Defender at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office where he proudly represents the poor, the mentally ill and children of our community. On January 2, 2021, Mr. Weekes was sworn in as Broward County’s Public Defender. He is humbled and honored to be the first man of color elected as Public Defender in the State of Florida. As the head of The Law Office of the Public Defender in Florida’s Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, he will carry forward his life’s work and passion to improve the criminal justice system for all of Broward County.


Zion Gates-Norris
Zion Gates-Norris

Zion Gates-Norris was born in the great city of Plantation Florida and raised in Pompano Beach where he attended school until high school moving to the great city of Fort Lauderdale to take care of his late grandmother. Zion is also a Graduate of the illustrious Florida Memorial University where he is majored in Law and Government. Zion was the Freshman Class President For 2017-2018 Academic school year. Zion would also go on to serve as the comptroller for SGA for the academic year of 2018-2019. Zion also worked as the HBCU Organizer for the Andrew Gillum Campaign and also worked for the Democratic national committee as an organizer. Zion is also a former SGA Vice President and formerly worked for Biden for Florida as the Young Americans Associate overseeing HBCU engagement in Florida.


Za'Nyah WattsZa’Nyah Watts

Za’nyah Watts is a 20-year-old junior majoring in criminal justice minoring in psychology. Not only is Za’nyah is a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., she is also the founder of FMU’s “Lovely Colors,” the first ever club on campus for LGBTQ+ students. Lovely Colors aims to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Since it was founded in February 2021, Za’nyah has over 200 members and has hosted 3 events on campus

Za’nyah is also the CEO of her own business, PYT Apparel, selling clothes, shoes, accessories and so much more. She works hard to release a new assortment of collections each semester varying from swimwear to casual attire.


Conscious LeeConscious Lee

Conscious George Lee is a Husband, Father, Professor, Facilitator, and Educator who happens to be TikTok famous. George’s social media presence offers him the opportunity to engage hundreds of thousands of people at once with short educational messages that often inspire others to perform more research on their own. George is known to provoke dialogue and conflict that has caused others to rethink their own positions. These social media platforms have been particularly effective for George as his reach grows daily and his work is being shared by large public figures and media enterprises like This Is News, Cardi B, Democracy Now, BET, and Vice.

George Lee has been at the forefront of cultivating collaborative attitudes, encouraging meaningful and positive engagement, and challenging individuals to maximize opportunities. Personally, socially, and professionally he has enjoyed inspiring people to become the best versions of themselves. “Education is Elevation” and George offers a unique opportunity for dynamic education.


Nik HarrisNik Harris

Shenika “Nik” Harris (she/her/they/them), is a queer gender non-conforming attorney, activist, and speaker. She was appointed by Commissioner Nikki Fried as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ first LGBTQ Consumer Advocate, serving as liaison to Florida’s LGBTQ community, raising awareness on agriculture industry opportunities, and addressing discrimination and fraud targeted at the community. Prior to this appointment, she served as Senior Attorney at the Florida Department of Transportation and as a prosecutor at the Florida Department of Health. She conducts training on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and is certified by Cornell University in Diversity & Inclusion. Nik is the first Black woman elected to serve as Vice-Chair of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Board of Governors. In addition to Ruth’s List, she serves on the board of IGNITE Women’s Services, is Vice-President of the Dolphin Democrats (Broward County’s LGBTQ Democratic Caucus), Vice-President of the Florida LGBTQ Democratic Caucus, a member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Social Justice Task Force and is a BIG in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Pride Program. In 2020 she was selected as one of eight people from across the country as a Victory Empowerment Fellow and was elected as a Biden Presidential delegate in 2020, representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District.

The recipient of countless awards, including the 2019 Ruth’s List: Women Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award and the 2020 recipient of the LGBTQ Leadership Award by the Florida Diversity Council, Nik is also an award-winning Toastmaster and speaks across the country in support of equality.
She is a native of Tallahassee, Florida and obtained her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Florida A&M University and her law degree from Florida State University. Nik is licensed to practice law in Florida and Washington DC.


Sen. Shevrin JonesSen. Shevrin Jones

Growing up in Carol City, Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones’ parents instilled in him and his brothers the values of education, faith, and service to the community. Senator Jones taught A.P. Chemistry in Broward County at Florida Atlantic University High School. Jones went on to found L.E.A.D. Nation, a top South Florida nonprofit organization committed to youth leadership development and social entrepreneurship training, and is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Florida Atlantic University. Jones’ firsthand look at the inequities in education and society at large propelled him to enter public service. In 2012, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives, championing meaningful bipartisan legislation, including two consecutive bills to secure dignity for incarcerated women; statewide expansion of a clean syringe exchange program; and ensuring transparency and accountability via police body cameras. Today, Jones proudly serves Florida’s 35th Senate District, which includes portions of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. He is the first LGBT State Senator in Florida’ s history. Senator Shevrin “Shev” Jones is an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He is an educator, a public servant, and consensus builder who gets results on the issues facing all Floridians.


Leslie HallLeslie Hall

Leslie Hall is the Director of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. At HRC, Leslie works with HBCU Presidents and administrators toward the goal of achieving full LGBTQ equality and inclusion for LGBTQ students. Additionally, Leslie oversees the annual HRCF HBCU “Leading in Truth” Leadership Summit, where LGBTQ HBCU students engage in a week-long leadership development, social and identity development experience.

A frequent speaker and panelist, Leslie has been highlighted in Black Enterprise, Blavity, Washington Post, Reuters, among others. Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Bowie State University, Master of Social Work degree from Howard University and currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies from Howard University. Leslie’s research agenda is focused on the pathways to the presidency for LGBTQ HBCU administrators, leadership development for LGBTQ student leaders, and fundraising amongst LGBTQ populations of color. Leslie devotes his professional work and scholarship toward the liberation of Black and Brown LGBTQ people.


Santra DenisSantra Denis

A South Florida native, Santra Denis currently serves as the Executive Director of the Miami Workers Center, a strategy and action center whose purpose is to build the power and self-determination of south Florida’s most oppressed communities. Santra developed her own activism as an anti-racist community advocate and is committed to centering BIPOC community leadership and racial justice in our progressive movement. Santra has been very active in her community, founding and leading Avanse Ansanm, an organization that engages, connects, and builds power among Haitian-American Millennials and co-hosting a radio/Facebook Live show, The VSS Hour. Santra serves on several community boards, including the Community Advisory Board at Florida International University Research Center in Minority Institutions and Miami Dade County’s Office of New Americans. She is a New Leaders Council Fellow and a Sant La Fellow. She has been recognized by the Broward County Commission on the Status of Women as a Valiant Woman of the Vote; Ruth’s List Broward as a “Breaking the Glass Ceiling” Award Recipients; the Haitian-American Chamber of Commerce of Florida as part of the Inaugural class of Leaders for the esteemed award of “20 Under 40 Young Professionals” as well as “40 under 40” Leaders of Today, among others. Santra graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor’s in health science, and from Florida International University with a Master of Public Health in Policy and Management.


Rudy Jean-BartRudy Jean-Bart

Rudy Jean-Bart is a native of Miami, FL. Rudy is the Interim Associate Dean of the Criminal Justice area at Broward College. Prior to that, Rudy served as an Assistant Professor of History at Broward College’s South Campus where he taught American History and African American History. Jean-Bart was the 2015-2016 Broward College South Campus Professor of the Year. He is the founder and CEO of Rudy Jean-Bart Inc. which affords him the opportunity to do motivational speeches as well as presentations discussing education, entrepreneurship, history, and race. In 2017, Rudy was allotted the opportunity to be a fellow of the Broward County Chapter of the New Leaders Council. In May of 2018, Jean-Bart became a TEDx Speaker as he spoke on the subject: “The Pseudoscience That Can Kill My Son”. Rudy was also recently selected by Legacy Magazine as one of South Florida’s “40 Under 40: Black Leaders of Today and Tomorrow” for 2020. Rudy currently serves as chair to Broward College’s newly formed Advisory Council for the Advancement of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (ACADEI).


Phil AgnewPhil Agnew

Phillip Agnew co-founded the Dream Defenders in 2012. His work in community organizing and art is frequently cited and highlighted nationally. He is a nationally recognized educator, strategist, writer, trainer, speaker and cultural critic. In 2018, he transitioned from his role as co-director of the Dream Defenders. In July 2019 he joined the Bernie Sanders campaign as a National Surrogate and was later named a Senior Advisor. Agnew currently is an organizer with the Dream Defenders and Black Men Build. Agnew is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and graduate of Florida A&M University.


Angela PeoplesAngela Peoples

Angela Peoples is a political strategist and creative campaigner focused on building movements for economic justice, gender justice and Black liberation. Angela is CoFounder and CEO of The South, a lifestyle brand where unapologetic Black culture defines political power. She has led movements like #BlackMamasMarch, ForUsNotAmazon, and The Democracy Defense Coalition.

The subject of the “Don’t forget: White Women Voted for Trump” viral photo, Angela believes direct action is a platform for art and creative expression to engage uncomfortable truths and challenge systematic oppression.


Councilwoman Katia St. FleurCouncilwoman Katia St. Fleur

Katia Saint Fleur has over a decade of experience in Florida government and politics. Katia is a journalist by trade and first came into the political arena as a media and community outreach campaign consultant, since then she has worked in almost every capacity from Communications Director, Political Director to Campaign Manager. Katia is currently the principal of the governmental affairs firm, KSF & Associates. She truly believes that our Political system is starving for diversity. One of her many goals is to educate and encourage women and minorities to get involved politically, be it by working for an elected official, becoming an elected official or becoming a lobbyist.

Katia is a proud graduate of Clark Atlanta University, and carries the school motto with her in everything that she does: “Find a way or make a way.”

During her off hours, she works with local organizations in South Florida to assist women in regaining their stability and independence who have suffered from domestic violence. And she also works very closely with an orphanage in her parents’ home country of Haiti.

Earlier this year, Katia became the first Haitian-American person elected to the Miami Shores Village Council.


Desmond MeadeDesmond Meade

Desmond Meade is a formerly homeless returning citizen who overcame many obstacles to eventually become the President of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC), Chair of Floridians for a Fair Democracy, and a graduate of Florida International University College of Law.

As President and Executive Director of FRRC, which is recognized for its work on voting and criminal justice reform issues, Desmond led the FRRC to a historic victory in 2018 with the successful passage of Amendment 4, a grassroots citizen’s initiative which restored voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions. Amendment 4 represented the single largest expansion of voting rights in the United States in half a century and brought an end to 150 years of a Jim Crow-era law in Florida.

Recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2019, Desmond presently leads efforts to empower and civically re-engage local communities across the state, and to reshape local, state, and national criminal justice policies. His work has resulted in being named Floridian and Central Floridian of the Year 2019.


Charo ValeroCharo Valero

Born and raised in Panama City, Panama, Charo Valero (she/her) has called Miami her home for the past 15 years, where she currently resides with her wife and their geriatric furbaby.

Charo is primarily an activist and organizer, prioritizing statewide policies that impact reproductive justice. She is currently the Florida State Director for the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, steering committee member of Floridians for Reproductive Freedom, and serves on the Miami-Dade County Commission for the Status of Women and the Board of The Alliance for LGBTQ Youth. Charo is a Virgo who loves travelling, Excel and a good laugh.


Ana Sofia PelaezAna Sofia Pelaez

Ana Sofia Pelaez is an activist and award-winning food and culture writer who has organized Latino get out the vote efforts since 2016. Her first cookbook The Cuban Table was nominated for a James Beard award and she contributed to The Immigrant Cookbook to benefit the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. She currently works in the childhood nutrition space and is a frequent contributor to national media outlets.


Leilani BruceLeilani Bruce

Leilani Bruce is a Miami native, first-generation Afro-Caribeña with Cuban and Jamaican roots. In 2020, Leilani co-founded CANDELA: Cuban American Narratives & Dialogue for Equity, Liberation, and Allyship, a virtual book club dedicated to diving into the issues of racism and discrimination within the Cuban and Cuban American communities while amplifying the voices and sharing the stories of Black and Afro-Cuban voices both here in the states and on the island. By day, Leilani works as a Director of Client Strategy at a content marketing agency, and in her free time she enjoys lounging in the sunshine, hunting for vinyls, and hunting for food spots.