The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

To Shape the Future of AI, Look to the History of Human Intelligence. AI Unicorn Founder Max Bennett

“If you are interested in understanding brains or in building human-like general AI, you should read this book.”Dileep George (Google Deepmind)

Lavin’s newest speaker equips us to not only understand but shape the future of AI by exploring the five breakthroughs that made the human brain what it is.

Max is the author of the widely acclaimed book A Brief History of Intelligence: a paradigm shift in how we understand neuroscience and Artificial Intelligence, hailed by the world’s top voices in AI and psychology. Grit pioneer Angela Duckworth says that it’s “a truly novel, beautifully crafted thesis on what intelligence is,” while bestselling author Brian Christian (Algorithms to Live By) calls it “absolutely riveting.”

In smart yet accessible talks, Max takes audiences through the five breakthroughs that made our brains: from the development of language (which AI is just now mastering) to the creation of an internal model of the world (which AI doesn’t have yet).

Drawing on his experience founding one of the first AI unicorns and developing AI technology of his own, he offers a forward-looking and practical framework for understanding our future with this technology. For example, he explains why the fourth breakthrough, which allows us to understand what’s going on in other people’s minds, remains out of reach for AI—and why human empathy and connection will be invaluable as we implement AI in our schools and companies.

“In a world that is increasingly filled with artificial intelligences that we offload decisions upon, it is becoming ever more important for us to understand the subtle ways in which AI systems differ from our own brains,” Max tells Lavin.

This Scientist Is Reverse Engineering the Brain to Cure Diseases. Here’s What That Means for You. New Speaker Sergiu P. Pasca

What if we could understand and cure debilitating disorders like dementia or epilepsy? Thanks to Dr. Sergiu P. Pasca, award-winning neuroscientist and Lavin’s newest speaker, we’re closer today than we’ve ever been before.

Sergiu has pioneered a new way of turning skin cells into stem cells and then into brain cells that we can study, forming miniature neural networks that actually interact and respond the same way a real nervous system would. He offers us a radical step forward in our ability to fight disease, decrease suffering, and unlock the full potential of the human brain—and he’s just getting started.

Sergiu’s research regularly makes headlines across the media: from NPR to The New York Times to The Washington Post and beyond. He’s been named a Knight of the Order of Merit and a New York Times Visionary in Medicine and Science.

In smart yet accessible talks, Sergiu reveals the revolutionary insights and unique opportunities that his research gives us, showing how we all stand to benefit from this breakthrough. Audiences walk away inspired by this frontier science and excited for the path ahead.

Stop Being So Nice at Work! The Secrets to Effective Workplace Communication, With New Speaker Tessa West

Tessa West combines easy-to-apply tips with relatable, funny, and shocking stories that will have you taking notes. Anyone regardless of industry or level will benefit.—Jonah Berger, bestselling author of Contagious

Tessa is the author of Jerks at Work, “a breezy and fun read for anyone who wants happier and healthier relationships at work” (Annie Duke, Quit), as well as the forthcoming Job Therapy, a leader’s guide to making sure your employees are not only happy, but fulfilled.

We all face uncomfortable situations at work. But Tessa can show you how to communicate well in these situations and actually turn them to your advantage, gaining outsized increases in creativity, collaboration, and innovation.

A friendly and engaging speaker, she offers a wealth of real-world stories and scientific strategies that you can apply broadly to any company or context. She shows you:

  • The 5 causes of employee unhappiness that are making your company bleed talent—from the “identity crisis” to the “underappreciated star”—and what you can do to boost fulfillment and retain your best performers;
  • How leaders can invite honest feedback from their teams (try starting with something non-threatening);
  • How to manage conflict early and often, and create structures for healthy teamwork and decision-making;
  • How to read other people (really!);
  • And much more.

“I want audiences to walk away confident that they can actually improve communication in their workplaces,” Tessa says. “I’ll give you concrete action items: what you can do right now to facilitate change in your teams. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy, or think you’re not charismatic. These are tactics for everybody.”

You Can Build a Growth Mindset For Your Entire Organization. Psychologist Mary C. Murphy Shows You How

Mary inspired all of us doing mindset research to study how we could help create these cultures—by setting out to develop and rigorously test practices for teachers or managers.—Carol Dweck, author of the multi-million-copy bestseller Mindset

Mary C. Murphy is the author of Cultures of Growth: a transformative look into how an organization’s mindset culture is the key to success both for individuals and for the company as a whole. One of the most anticipated releases of 2024, it’s a revolutionary shift in our understanding of growth mindset and in our ability to implement it in our organizations.

Mary has spent over a decade researching growth mindset in organizations and working with Fortune 500 companies. In practical and down-to-earth talks, she draws on her book to guide organizations through a Mindset Reset. You’ll learn:

  • How to avoid common pitfalls, like the belief that you can succeed by just trying harder;
  • The four “mindset triggers” that can help you move yourself and others from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset;
  • How building a Culture of Growth can help you hire and retain more diverse talent, implement more effective DEI initiatives, and boost trust and commitment across all your teams;
  • Simple and concrete ways to build the mindset culture you want for yourself, your teammates, and your organization as a whole.

“Even though, as individuals, we are powerful, we can only do so much alone. The best and biggest work of our lives comes from collaborating with others to realize our fullest potential collectively,” Mary says. “The very nature of a Culture of Growth is to strive for growth for everyone.”

Watch Mary discuss how the science of belonging can help us build stronger and more growth-oriented organizational cultures.

Leadership Lessons from Hollywood Super-Producer Lynda Obst: “Project Calm, so Nobody Makes the Fire Bigger”

What do a business leader and a Hollywood producer have in common? Surprisingly, a lot! “You have to project control of the filmmaking process, and then it’s not going to run off the rails,” says Lynda Obst. “And that’s like the basic competency of a CEO.”

A celebrated Hollywood producer with more than 16 hit films under her belt, Lynda knows how to lead in unimaginably high-pressure situations. She’s helmed films like Contact and The Fisher King and worked with stars like Tom Hanks and Robin Williams, and the lessons she’s learned from her incredible career are widely applicable to any company—including yours.

In talks, Lynda pulls back the curtain on the star-studded world of Hollywood, offering practical lessons and fascinating anecdotes to show you how you can lead and build trust in high-stakes environments. She draws on her bestseller Hello, He Lied, a modern classic about getting ahead in any business, to show you how to swim with the sharks and live to tell the tale. She explains why you shouldn’t do everything your studio (or your boss) says, how you can keep massive teams motivated for long periods of time, why you need to have multiple projects on the go while you work on your passion project, and so much more.

Lavin Welcomes Prominent Black Trans Activist Raquel Willis: Race, Gender, and the “Painter’s Palette” of Intersectionality

“LGBTQ+ folks aren’t some hypothetical person in your audience that you need to pander to,” says Raquel Willis. “Your company actually has these folks internally. So there’s a shift in culture that needs to be happening.”

In inspiring talks for Pride, Black History Month, DEI events, and much more, Raquel draws on her singular experience—encapsulated in her forthcoming memoir, The Risk It Takes to Bloom—to show how we can achieve real belonging in the workplace for everyone. She explains what she calls “the three C’s” of real DEI: commitment, culture, and content (and a caveat). She demonstrates why you need to develop a company culture of real inclusion and solidarity, and shows you practical ways to ensure everyone at your organization can be their true self and do their best work.

This trailblazing Black trans activist grew up in the South, in a Catholic family. Over the course of her groundbreaking career, she’s become a crucial voice in the conversation around the intersections of gender and race and the fight for true diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition to her positions at the Ms. Foundation and Out Magazine, she was the national organizer for the Transgender Law Center and has contributed to several anthologies including Ibram X. Kendi’s Four Hundred Souls.

“I want people to walk away with a curiosity about how the world could be better,” Raquel tells Lavin.

Watch an exclusive Lavin interview with Raquel, where she explains how we can use our different interests as a “painter’s palette” in our fight for equity.

7 Steps to Implementing AI in Your Company: Lavin Welcomes Former Amazon Exec Michelle Lee

“AI is the most transformative technology of our generation,” says Michelle K. Lee, “and it’s ripe for application now.” Michelle has a wealth of experience from the highest levels of both industry and government. She has held executive positions at tech giants Google and Amazon—she was Vice-President of the Machine Learning Solutions Lab at Amazon Web Services, where she helped companies identify and implement their most impactful AI opportunities. On the government side, she was the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where she brought AI and data analytics to the 200-year-old, 10,000-person agency.

Her unique and varied experience allows her to cut through the hype around AI, bringing the high-level talk down to reality with concrete examples and practical strategies for every industry—including yours. Drawing on her years of experience, she’s developed a 7-step process that any company can use to incorporate AI and outperform their competitors: starting from developing a data strategy and identifying your highest ROI opportunities, all the way to retraining, updating, and maintaining your AI tools.

“Even the most AI-forward companies are only just scratching the surface on using AI in their businesses,” Michelle says. “AI solutions get better over time and with more data—so the time to get started is now.”

Watch a Lavin-exclusive video where Michelle explains how data and AI helped Domino’s Pizza revolutionize their customer experience and get ahead of the competition.

Creativity Is a Skill You Can Learn: Lavin Welcomes Caitlan Maggs, Former Cirque du Soleil Artistic Director

As the former Artistic Director of Cirque du Soleil, the largest contemporary circus in the world, Caitlan worked on almost every groundbreaking show from 2000 to 2020. Out of over 4000 employees from over 50 countries, she’s one of only a handful of experts who have contributed to the Cirque’s creative process at such a high level and on so many shows. She led all the artistic coaches and coaching, working with her team to choreograph the acrobatic acts for all the shows, and taught creativity to world-class Olympians to transform them from athletes into artists.

Her two decades at the Cirque have taught her what it takes to develop creativity and foster collaboration in intense, high-pressure environments. Creativity not only helps us innovate better, Caitlan says, it also helps us to boost resilience and stay open to changing circumstances. “In today’s world of constant change, creativity has never been more important,” she says.

In her talks, Caitlan demonstrates the power of creativity and shows you practical ways to develop it in yourself and your teams. Drawing on her unique experience, she shows you how to balance the freedom and structure you need to be creative; how to maximize the creative potential of teams of all sizes; and how to leverage creativity to develop cutting-edge ideas.

The Secret to Breaking Rules and Finding Creativity? It’s All About Discipline. Lavin Welcomes Eddie Huang

Eddie Huang has never hesitated to step outside the mainstream. He first broke onto the cultural scene with his Taiwanese restaurant Baohaus, which he opened to tell an underrepresented story through food. He went on to write Fresh Off the Boat, the bestselling memoir which The New York Times called “a book about fitting in by not fitting in at all,” which was then adapted into the hit sitcom of the same name that featured the first all-Asian American cast on network TV in two decades. He hosted Huang’s World for Vice, and has written and directed multiple feature films.

But the secret to this incredible creativity and daring isn’t simply defying the rules that don’t work for you. “If you don’t like the rules of the world—cool! Be an iconoclast,” Eddie tells us. “But you have to create your own rules. That is your responsibility.”

In his smart and hilarious talks, Eddie shows how you can build the discipline and self-leadership to succeed wherever you are. The insights he offers from his dynamic and wide-ranging career are invaluable no matter who you are—whether you’re a leader looking to increase the creativity of your organization, an educator hoping to inspire and motivate students, or a student interested in pursuing your dreams and forging your own path. Eddie will show you how to find success and tap into high performance and creativity, all while embracing your differences and staying true to yourself.

Watch a Lavin-exclusive interview with Eddie about diversity, the Asian American community, and what the next steps are for achieving real equity and justice in America:

What Leaders and Parents Need to Know About Young People Today: Lavin Welcomes Dr. Laurence Steinberg

Larry Steinberg—one of my favorite thinkers and writers—offers clear, cogent answers to all the questions you’re wrestling with right now. —Angela Duckworth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Grit

What it means to be a young adult today is radically different than it was only a generation ago. Many parents of children in their 20s and 30s—and leaders with Millennial or Gen Z employees—are wondering how to guide the next generation in a world that’s so different from when they were younger.

Dr. Laurence Steinberg knows how. He’s one of the world’s leading developmental psychologists and author of the forthcoming You and Your Adult Child. It’s an “empowering, invaluable guide” (NYT bestselling author Jessica Lahey) that benefits everyone in every domain of life—because developing good parent-child relationships at home will make you more fulfilled, purposeful, and productive at work.

In his book and his talks, Laurence covers topics like whether you should subsidize your child’s income, when and how to give advice, how to tell if your child or employee is floundering or flourishing, and much more. For example, he explains why you can’t compare your child’s progress to your own progress at that age—it takes 5 years longer for young people today to enter into the different stages of adulthood. His talks are crucial for people on both sides of the generation gap, as well as anyone looking to build stronger cross-generational relationships and teams.

Watch an exclusive Lavin interview where Laurence explains why young people today are graduating, moving out, and getting married later than any previous generation:

Real Change Starts with Changing Minds: Lavin Welcomes Anand Giridharadas, Author of The Persuaders

“While the world seems to counsel despair, The Persuaders is animated by a sense of possibility.”

— The New York Times

In an age of division, it seems impossible to change people’s minds—but Anand GiridharadasNew York Times bestselling author of The Persuaders, says we can persuade others without having to compromise either side’s values. Anand provides us with methods that we can use to come together as a team, find hope in an age of polarization, and save democracy. In other words, learning how to change minds is the first step to changing everything.

Anand Giridharadas is one of our foremost voices on democracy, overcoming division, and how humans make, resist and grapple with change. In his work—as an author, a journalist, and a regular political analyst for MSNBC—he points us toward real, meaningful change, wider human solidarity, and hope. Whether you’re wrestling with how to improve society or build a more cohesive team, his message has never been more crucial.


Whether it’s in the context of our workplaces, campuses, and communities, his talks are pivotal for anyone looking to become a better leader, build stronger company cultures, bring diverse people together, or protect democracy. Anand offers proven strategies that the world’s most prominent change-makers use to revolutionize entire systems and conversations — and shows us how to use these tactics in our everyday lives.


Anand explores how people and movements are changing minds by practicing a new art of persuasion for an age of extremes and refusing to write off those who don’t agree. In his talks, he shows you how to stand bravely for what you believe in while staying open to other viewpoints; how to distinguish those you can and need to win over from those you can’t and don’t; how to draw out and make use of the complexity of those who disagree with you, and many other skills in the art of persuasion.


Anand has inspired audiences around the world with his clarion call for real change and democracy in more than name only. His first New York Times bestseller Winners Take All was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, NPR, and Financial Times and won 1-800-CEO-READ’s Business Book of the Year Award.


Anand makes it clear that to forge a path to a brighter future, “we simply cannot give up on changing minds. We cannot give up on changing things. We cannot give up on each other.”

Stay True Named to New York Times Top 10 Books of 2022: Lavin Welcomes Author Hua Hsu

We need to tell diverse, messy, complicated stories—not only to achieve crucial representation in media, but also to help us figure out who we are and what is possible. In his bestselling memoir Stay True, named a Best Book of the Year everywhere from TIME to PitchforkHua Hsu explores Asian-American identity and the importance of storytelling, plus grief, pop culture, and how friendship helps us discover who we are (among many other themes).

“Both a coming-of-age story and an evolutionary step for Asian American literature.”

— Vulture

Our identities—as individuals and as communities—are ambiguous and difficult to define. But Hua, whom The New York Times called a “literary phenomenon,” says that’s actually a good thing. We need to tell diverse stories about ourselves and our communities, because storytelling broadens the scope of what we believe is possible. We can find community in people who are different from us, and open up new futures to build together.


Hua’s memoir Stay True is a national bestseller that tells the story of Hua’s university friendship with Ken, another Asian-American student. It touches on culture, the immigrant experience, and figuring out who we are. It has been named a Best Book of the Year on virtually every list that matters (TIMEKirkusNew York TimesPitchfork). New York Times bestselling author Jia Tolentino called it a “once-in-a-lifetime book.” In talks, Hua draws on his memoir to show us how we can embrace diversity, find community, and achieve true inclusion.


“We should all feel welcome to belong, and we should also dwell on spaces of unbelonging,” Hua tells Lavin. “But we aren’t alone, and we never have been.”


Watch Hua explain why Asian-American identity is always changing—and why that’s actually good for us:


Building a Workplace You Want to Be a Part Of: Lavin Welcomes Bully Market Author Jamie Fiore Higgins

What does it really look like to recognize—and improve—an unhealthy workplace? Jamie Fiore Higgins, author of the acclaimed memoir Bully Market, has firsthand experience from her 18 years at a toxic Wall Street company. Today, Jamie draws on her experience to show us what it takes to change our workplace cultures, promote inclusion and diversity, and ensure that everyone at our company can not only belong, but flourish.

Jamie spent almost two decades at Goldman Sachs, climbing from a nervous intern to Managing Director, a title that only 8% of employees earn and one of the most elusive roles on Wall Street. Its work environment did serious damage to her morale and health until she broke out of it. Now, she’s using her years of experience to show us what a truly healthy company cultures look like, and how we can all work together to build them.


Jamie’s memoir Bully Market is a “brave and vivid portrait” (Booklist) of her time at Goldman Sachs. She recounts in stunning detail the toxic workplace practices that she encountered, offering a look at the damage that unhealthy workplaces can do, as well as reimagining what a better future for our companies could look like. “With Goldman in my rearview mirror,” Jamie says, “I want employees to learn from my experiences, and feel empowered to help create workplaces they want to be a part of.”


Watch Jamie discuss her experience and memoir on TODAY:


Meet The Woman Shining A Light On The Dark Side Of Wall Street

Anxiety Is Actually Good for You: Lavin Welcomes Psychology Researcher and Author Tracy Dennis-Tiwary

Drawing on her original psychology and neuroscience research, Tracy makes the case for embracing this secret superpower. She’s the bestselling author of Future Tense: Why Anxiety is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad). In it, she argues that anxiety is our brains’ response to uncertainty: it arises when there’s potential for bad, but also great potential for good.

By embracing anxiety as a feature, rather than a bug, of being human, we can use our worries to imagine, plan, and persevere through our uncertain (but hopeful) futures. “Anxiety is actually a useful part of being human,” Tracy told Lavin. “We can build skills in a virtuous cycle of anxiety—it just takes practice.”

Watch Tracy explain three steps that we can take to leverage our anxiety:

Mapping the Landscape of Artificial Intelligence: Lavin Welcomes Leading AI Scholar Kate Crawford

Artificial intelligence is already playing a powerful role in our lives, whether we realize it or not—from the devices we use every day or facial-recognition software trained on internet databases. It may seem nebulous, but it’s crucial that we understand it so that we can regain control. A world-renowned scholar of AI and its social impacts, Kate Crawford knows that although AI can be used to exploit people and resources, we can still use it to lay the foundation for a better world.

Kate is the award-winning author of Atlas of AI, a uniquely grounded look at the processes and resources that give AI form. In it, she maps out the physical landscape of AI, as well as its future, to help us understand what’s at stake and how we can take control of this fast-developing technology. Like a physical atlas, the book helps us understand the landscape of AI, the pathways that connect it, and where we fit into this vast technological world.


For over two decades, Kate has been on the cutting edge of research into large-scale data systems, machine learning, and the context in which our technology operates. She’s travelled the world to investigate the places and people that make AI what it is, from lithium mines to Amazon warehouses to Jeff Bezos’s rocket base. She’s also advised policymakers from the White House to the United Nations, and has created award-winning collaborative projects with major artists around the world.


Watch Kate explain why she uses the visual of an atlas to map out the landscape of AI:


Mapping the landscape of artificial intelligence | Kate Crawford

Unrestricted Play Sparks Unrestricted Creativity: Lavin Welcomes Award-Winning Toy Designer Cas Holman

Play isn’t just for kids. Rather, Cas Holman says it’s the spark that ignites our creativity and imagination, throughout our lives. Featured in the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design, Cas creates open-ended toys that have no set function or objective, letting kids play and create without fear of failure. And she knows that play is as valuable for adults as it is for children—it encourages us to indulge our curiosity, work together, and learn without fear of failure.

For two decades, Cas has been producing innovative toys that are designed for open-ended play. As the founder and principal designer of independent toy company Heroes Will Rise, she’s created interactive play spaces that encourage people of all ages to explore, imagine, and collaborate. And play doesn’t have to be restricted to the playroom. “Curiosity is playful; ideas can be playful; asking questions can be playful,” Cas says. “If we can play together, then we can live together.”

As a consultant, Cas has worked with the leadership and design teams at Nike, Ford, Disney Imagineering, and MIT. She helps the world’s biggest companies integrate the benefits of play, open-ended processes, and new ways of thinking into their ethos. She’s dedicated her life to challenging conventional ideas about how we learn, and reimagining our systems for play.

Watch Cas explain what it means to design for play:


8. Professor Cas Holman - Rhode Island School of Design & Heroes Will Rise

Rebellion Done Right is Vital to Success: Lavin Welcomes Award-Winning Psychology Professor Todd Kashdan

If we want to innovate and develop fresh ideas, we need to break out of the same conventional mold—but not just any rebellion will do. Psychologist and author Todd Kashdan has a scientific manual for how to rebel the right way: with principle and conviction. His new book The Art of Insubordination is a guide to using principled dissent for creativity and new ideas. Kirkus called it “a useful primer for those determined to make waves for a good cause.”

Todd is an award-winning psychology expert whose work has been cited more than 35,000 times. With over 200 published scientific articles, he received the American Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Scientific Early Career Contributions to Psychology. His writing has appeared in the Harvard Business Review and National Geographic, among others, and his research is featured regularly in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and TIME


Todd is also the author of four other books in addition to The Art of Insubordination, including The Upside of Your Dark Side and Curious?, which Arianna Huffington called “one of those rare books that can make you rethink how you see the world.” 

Watch this exclusive interview with Todd, where he outlines how the principled dissent of the 1960s/70s gay rights movement made them effective activists, and how we can learn from their example to make real change. 


Good Activism Needs Principled Rebels | Todd Kashdan

Roe v. Wade and the Future of Democracy: Lavin Welcomes Legal Historian and Justice System Expert Mary Ziegler

Roe v. Wade was overturned last week — and the ripple effects will be enormous for the country, the justice system, and democracy as a whole. “I can’t think of anything bigger than this Supreme Court decision in my lifetime,” Mary Ziegler says. As one of the foremost nonpartisan authorities on the Constitution and our reproductive rights, Mary is uniquely positioned to make sense of this moment of great uncertainty, and give us a realistic way out of deepening polarization. 

Mary is a law professor at the University of California, Davis, as well as the author of four books on the history of Roe v. Wade, and how it’s affected our laws, our justice system, and our politics. She has a thorough understanding of the tangible consequences of the fall of Roe, like inter-state politics and data privacy concerns, as well as the intangible consequences such as how Americans view our institutions. 

Mary believes we can still move beyond polarization to build a kinder, more nuanced dialogue around our democracy. “More people are talking across differences on this issue,” she says. “That’s often the way you begin to get to a less polarized, potentially more promising, solution.”

Watch Mary discuss how this moment of instability is pushing people to create a better dialogue for us and our future: 


Fostering Dialogue in a Polarized World | Mary Ziegler

Imagination Is Where Black, Queer Freedom Resides: Lavin Welcomes Bestselling YA Author George M. Johnson

The simple act of telling your story can create radical change. George M. Johnson knows that better than anyone—their powerful memoir-manifesto All Boys Aren’t Blue, a New York Times bestseller about growing up as a Black queer boy, has inspired readers worldwide to “be themselves unapologetically.”

George’s powerful YA memoir sits alongside titles by Toni Morrison and Lavin speaker Angie Thomas as among the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021. Called “an exuberant, unapologetic memoir infused with a deep but cleareyed love for its subjects” by The New York Times, All Boys Aren’t Blue confronts bigotry and celebrates love of all kinds. 
Through their writing and activism, George proves that even in the midst of oppression, we can still find pockets of beauty and joy. “As long as we can continue to imagine a future greater than this, I’m going to find a way to find happiness, even in the midst of my worst moments,” George says. With honesty and deep love, they encourage young people to find their identity, embrace their joy, and tell their own stories. 
Watch George speak on the power of imagination here:

Finding Joy In The Midst Of Oppression | George M. Johnson

History is Prologue: Lavin Welcomes Civil Rights Attorney Turned YA Novelist Michelle Coles

As we grapple with big questions about inequality, and racial justice, Michelle Coles says we can find strength, inspiration,  and answers from the heroes who’ve come before us. 

Michelle is both an accomplished civil rights attorney with a focus on social justice and the author of an award-winning YA novel on the forgotten heroism of Black Americans after the Civil War—she knows better than anyone how coming to terms with our past will help us to understand our present and fight for a better future. In her eye-opening talks, Michelle gives us a larger awareness of how oppressive systems are created and upheld, and inspires us to fight for justice no matter who we are.

Michelle is the author of Black Was the Ink, which Kirkus calls “a dynamic look at how the past informs the future.” The book follows a Black teenager who travels back in time to Reconstruction-era America and witnesses the achievements of Black statesmen fighting for freedom, after a traumatic experience of being racially profiled in the present day. Michelle wrote the novel to help her young sons make sense of the America they’re growing up in, and to show us that when we take ownership of our actions, we have the ability to be a powerful force for change. 

Watch Michelle explain how forgotten heroes leave their mark here: 


Black Was the Ink: Forgotten Heroes Still Leave Their Mark