As we enter a new decade, there’s a lot to look forward to—and a lot left to fight for. And unfortunately, racism isn’t a relic of shameful times past—it’s still very much alive today. Here at The Lavin Agency, our Top Race Speakers tackle this tough topic from all angles—public policy, pop culture, education, and art, to name a few—and offer insightful, informed analyses of where we stand now, and where we’re going.
Heather McGhee is the social policy and racial healing expert on whom Starbucks called to tackle challenging racism within the company after a damning video went viral. As the former President of Demos, a public policy organization, she spent several years drafting legislation aimed at creating an America where everyone has an equal chance in the economy, and an equal say in democracy. McGhee knows firsthand that bridging racial divides is not only a possibility, but a necessity that we all need to work toward. With profound truth and grace, she demonstrates how harnessing the potential of embracing diversity in concrete ways can strengthen democracy, equity and equality in society.
Jeff Chang is a social historian and the author of We Gon’ Be Alright, which offers critical essays addressing re-segregation, diversity, and equality—which was recently adapted into a digital series. The former Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University, he explores the intersection of art, racial progress and multiculturalism. Chang understands contemporary American society— everything from social movements like #BlackLivesMatter, to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”—and our social progress like few others.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative reporter for The New York Times Magazine, a MacArthur ‘Genius’, and a winner of the National Magazine Award for her work exploring how modern segregation is playing out across schools. Her recent, award-winning major multimedia initiative, The 1619 Project—named after the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America—explores the lasting, pervasive legacy of slavery on our nation. Hannah-Jones has also been awarded a Peabody Award, a George Polk Award for radio reporting, was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting. Brilliant, hyper-informed, and insightful, Hannah Jones provides powerful reminders that, despite our progress, we must remain vigilant in the vital fight against racial inequality.
Gabby Rivera is the real-life superhero behind America, Marvel’s first Latin-American LGBTQ character to star in an ongoing series. Also the author of the celebrated novel Juliet Takes a Breath, Rivera draws inspiration from her own background as a queer Latinx to bring her vibrant characters to life. Delving into the importance of diversity, and the importance of encouraging young people develop their creativity, Rivera explores just how vital it is to enable diverse voices—especially those of young people—to reclaim power in the media. Speaking to her work, her role as an activist, and her inspiring life experiences, Rivera shares just how art and writing can disrupt the status quo in powerful, beautiful ways.
Jelani Cobb is one of the most prominent voices in today’s conversations around race issues. A staff writer for The New Yorker, and an expert on how race, politics, and popular culture intersect in America, he’s got wit, style, and pop culture cred to boot. Also the author of the highly-acclaimed The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, Cobb also writes on pressing issues like mass incarceration, police shootings and the subsequent riots, and the public response. As a preeminent authority on race and injustice, Jelani explores the complex web of racism in America—and how to push towards equity.
Negin Farsad is a self-described “social justice comedian”, harnessing the power of laughter to change minds. She directed and starred in The Muslims Are Coming!, a comedy-meets-documentary, in which she brought Muslim comedians on a cross-country tour of small town America. It’s a kind of activism-in-disguise, which had the profound effect of opening previously-closed minds. Righting inequality is a serious task, but as Farsad’s work shows, social justice and activism can be a fun (and funny) experience.
Waneek Horn-Miller is a truly remarkable force. An Indigenous activist and Olympic athlete with an incredible story, she’s a champion both in the athletic sense, and a champion for human rights. While protesting the infamous Oka Crisis, a teenage Horn-Miller was stabbed in the heart by a Canadian soldier: and almost died. She emerged from recovery with a mission—and PTSD—to become a leader not only for her community, but for the world. As a champion swimmer, she’s represented Canada at the Olympics, and taken home the gold at the PanAm Games. And now, she channels this spirit of perseverance and resilience into advocacy: once again turning trials into triumphs.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad is a diversity expert and the author of The Condemnation of Blackness. As a Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy at Harvard, he’s uniquely knowledgeable on American race relations: where we’ve come from, and just how far we have to go. Even in a society that professes “opportunity for all”, there is still a very large gap in power distribution between white people and people of color, and Muhammed explores the next steps necessary to fight racism, offering practical solutions for a more equitable future for all our children, regardless of the color of their skin.
Sarah Lewis is a Harvard professor who has worked with everyone from Obama to Oprah. Also a renowned art curator known for her powerful views on the intersection of racial justice and art, Lewis sparked a national conversation with her “Vision & Justice”—the landmark issue of Aperture dedicated to photography of the black experience. Can art today bring about the catalytic social change that it has in the past? Lewis explores these kinds of powerful question with warmth, depth, and hope.
Angela Davis is a legendary human rights activist and icon of her generation: an outspoken powerhouse who was at the vanguard of the Black Power movement, prison reform, and feminist scholarship. Offering a firsthand account of the most powerful social movements in the latter half of the twentieth century, she shares her past and focuses on the present: how far have we come, and what current injustices do we need to address? With a nuanced and passionate look at America's problems with racism and injustice, Davis offers an incredibly informed forecast on the future of equality, and analysis of where we stand today.