Highlights from the Seventh Annual Lift Every Voice Lecture Series 2017

Eighth Annual Lift Every Voice Lecture Series 2018

The Lift Every Voice Lecture Series is designed to raise critical issues that affect society and to offer solutions. During the series we will also highlight the contributions of African Americans, showcase talent and engage in constructive dialogue that will serve as a catalyst for positive action. Here is a look at this year’s series:

February 9, 2018 @ 6:30 PM

Nicole Franklin is an award-winning filmmaker, published writer and Assistant Professor of Television Production at Hofstra University. Through her 27 years in the industry Nicole has been a television director, stage manager, editor, educator, public speaker, web event host and contributing writer to such publications as The Good Men Project and Toronto-based ByBlacks.com. Nicole is a book author for Kevin Anderson & Associates where she works as ghostwriter and editor. For eighteen years, her company EPIPHANY Inc. has produced independent films for numerous cable networks including Showtime, BET, IFC, Nickelodeon, Sundance Channel and kweliTV. In news she has worked on several Emmy Award-winning teams in stations from St. Louis to Los Angeles to New York City and on programs such as The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS This Morning and CBS Sunday Morning. Single-topic news programs such as OJ Simpson: The Trial were also part of her earlier assignments while an editor at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles.

Currently Nicole is the co-producer and co-moderator of the weekly Monday night Twitter series #BlerdDating, created by Leesa Dean of ChilltownTV. Nicole has recently made her narrative feature directorial debut with TITLE VII, a film on the rarely discussed subject of same-race discrimination. Her other credits include The Double Dutch Divas!, Journeys In Black: the Jamie Foxx Biography, Black Enterprise Business Report, and corporate videos. Educational films executive produced by her company EPIPHANY Inc. include Gershwin & Bess: A Dialogue with Anne Brown and the 10-chapter series Little Brother, both titles distributed by Third World Newsreel and currently airing on kweliTV. Little Brother is a recipient of the Foundation to Promote Open Society/Campaign for Black Male Achievement Award, fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas. Inspired by Gershwin & Bess…, Nicole has a screenplay in development titled BESS

With a masters in Liberal Studies and several past appointments as a professor in broadcast journalism, digital production and multi-camera directing, Nicole is the founder and visionary wizard of Hack4Hope, a joint project of ITEN and Educational Exchange Corps where St. Louis teens explore technology, learn business skills and build ideas into realities. 

Nicole is also the force behind #BlackFilmPirate, a move to abolish the Hollywood myth, “Black Films don’t sell overseas.”

Nicole’s affiliations include Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America East (PGA East), IBEW, Film Fatales, The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), The Black Documentary Collective (BDC) and New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT). Project reels may be viewed at YouTube.com/NicoleFilms. In-person speaking appearances may be fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas.

 

Topic: WHEN THE HUSTLE GETS SERIOUS: STORIES OF SUCCESS AND OVERCOMING

February 15, 2018 @ 6:30 PM

Amaju Baraka is a human rights defender whose experience spans four decades of domestic and international education and activism, He is a veteran grassroots organizer whose roots are in the Black Liberation Movement and anti-apartheid and Central American solidarity struggles.

Baraka is an internationally recognized leader of the emerging human rights movement in the U.S. and has been at the forefront of efforts to apply the international human rights framework to social justice advocacy in the U.S. for more than 25 years. As such, he has provided human rights trainings for grassroots activists across the country, briefings on human rights to the U.S. Congress, and appeared before and provided statements to various United Nations agencies, including the UN Human Rights Commission (precursor to the current UN Human Rights Council).

As a co-convener with Jaribu Hill of the Mississippi Worker Center for Human Rights, Baraka played an instrumental role in developing the series of bi-annual Southern Human Rights Organizers’ conferences (SHROC) that began in 1996. These gatherings represented some of the first post-Cold War human rights training opportunities for grassroots activists in the country.

Baraka played an important role in bringing a human rights perspective to the preparatory meetings for the World Conference on Racism (WCAR) that took place in Geneva and in Santiago, Chile as part of the Latin American Preparatory process, as well as the actual conference that he attended as a delegate in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

Ajamu Baraka was the Founding Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) from July 2004 until June 2011. The USHRN was the first domestic human rights formation in the United States explicitly committed to the application of international human rights standards to the U.S. Under Baraka, the Network grew from a core membership of 60 organizations to more than 300 U.S.-based member organizations and 1,500 individual members who worked on the full spectrum of human rights concerns in the U.S. During Baraka’s tenure, the Network initiated the Katrina Campaign on Internal Displacement, after Baraka was the first to formally identify the victims of Hurricane Katrina as internally displaced people (IDPs).

Also while at the Network, Baraka ensured that the Network spearheaded efforts to raise human rights abuses taking place in the U.S. with United Nations human rights processes and structures, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Human Rights Council, through its Universal Periodic Review process. By coordinating the production of non-governmental reports on human rights and organizing activist delegations to UN sites in Geneva and New York, the Network gave voice to victims of human rights abuses and provided opportunities for activists to engage in direct advocacy. These efforts resulted in specific criticisms of the U.S. human rights record and recommendations for corrective actions.

Prior to leading the USHRN, Baraka served in various leadership capacities with Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). As AIUSA’s Southern Regional Director, he played a key role in developing the organization’s 1998 campaign to expose human rights violations in the U.S. Baraka also directed Amnesty’s National Program to Abolish the Death Penalty, during which time he was involved in most of the major death penalty cases in the U.S.

In 1998, Baraka was one of 300 human rights defenders from around the world who were brought together at the first International Summit of Human Rights Defenders commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 2001, Baraka received the “Abolitionist of the Year” award from the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. The following year, Baraka received the “Human Rights Guardian” award from the National Center for Human Rights Education.

Baraka has also served on the boards of various national and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (USA), the Center for Constitutional Rights, Africa Action, and the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights.

Baraka has taught political science at various universities and has been a guest lecturer at academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. A commentator on a number of criminal justice and international human rights issues, Baraka has appeared on and been covered in a wide-range of print, broadcast, and digital media outlets such as CNN, BBC, the Tavis Smiley Show, Telemundo, ABC’s World News Tonight, Black Commentator, Russia Today, the Washington Post and the New York Times. He is also a contributing writer for various publications including Black Commentator, Commondreams, Pambazaka, and Dissident Voice.

He is currently an editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report and a writer for Counterpunch.

Topic: BLACK LIVES MATTER?: NOT IN RACIST, CAPITALIST AMERICA

 

February 22, 2018 @ 6:30 PM

kembaKemba Smith-Pradia grew up as an only child in Richmond, Virginia and graduated high school and continued her education at prestigious Hampton University. What happened to Kemba in her new campus environment was a nightmare. In an attempt to “fit in,” Kemba associated with the wrong crowd and became involved with a drug dealer. He was a major figure in a crack cocaine ring and drew Kemba right in the middle of his life with physical, mental and emotional abuse disguised as “love.”

After enduring this turbulent four-year relationship in 1994, Kemba was sentenced to 24.5 years and served 6.5 years in federal prison. Fortunately, she regained her freedom after President Clinton granted her clemency in December 2000. Her case drew support from across the nation and the world to reverse a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first time non-violent drug offenders. Her story has been featured on CNN, Nightline, Court TV, The Early Morning Show, Judge Hatchett, and a host of other television programs. In addition, Kemba has been featured in several publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, JET, Emerge, Essence, Heart and Soul, Glamour, and People Magazines.

Kemba’s traumatic real life experience forces today’s students to recognize that there are consequences to their life choices. She has been corporately sponsored to speak at a variety of high schools and college venues by Proctor & Gamble, Bank One Academy, Shell Corporation, BET, Traveler’s Foundation, and Verizon. Rainforest Films acquired the rights to produce Kemba’s life story into a film. Rainforest Films is based out of Atlanta and has produced the critically acclaimed films: Stomp the Yard, This Christmas, Obsessed, Takers and Think Like a Man.

Kemba is a graduate of Virginia Union University and was a past recipient for a two year Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellowship for advocates. She has spoken on panels, testified before Congress and the United Nations regarding a variety of criminal justice issues including: crack cocaine sentencing, mandatory drug sentencing, women and incarceration, felony disenfranchisement, and re-entry. Currently, Kemba is continuing to develop her 501 (c) (3) foundation, the Kemba Smith Foundation.
 
As a wife, mother, advocate, national public speaker and author of her long awaited memoir, Poster Child, Kemba has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination to educate the public about the devastating consequences of current drug policies. Ultimately, Kemba knows that there is a lesson in each experience in life, and she has embraced her experience, learned from it, and is now using that experience to teach others.

Topic: OVERCOMING ADVERSITY: TODAY’S CHOICES AFFECT TOMORROW

March 6, 2018 @ 6:30 PM


kunjufuDr. Jawanza Kunjufu has dedicated his career to addressing the ills afflicting black culture in the United States, working primarily as an educational consultant and author but more recently expanding into video and film production. All aspects of the African American experience occupy Kunjufu’s attention, but the main thrust of his work has been directed toward improving the education and socialization of black youths. He is the founder and president of African American Images, a Chicago-based publishing company that sponsors dozens of workshops intended to help educators and parents develop practical solutions to the problems of child-rearing in what he perceives to be a racist society. Kunjufu holds advanced degrees in business and economics that have enabled him to place the problems of black society in the larger context of national and international economic models.

Born on June 15, 1953, in Chicago, Kunjufu—who adopted a Swahili name in 1973—credits his parents, Eddie and Mary Brown, with affording him the encouragement, discipline, and stability that would later become the core of his program for the renewal of black society. As a young man, Kunjufu was urged by his father to volunteer his time at a number of different jobs, working without pay in exchange for learning firsthand how businesses and skilled craftsmen went about their work. Kunjufu attended Illinois State University at Normal and received a bachelor of science degree in economics in 1974. Ten years later he finished a doctorate in business administration at Union Graduate School.
 
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu was educated at Morgan State, Illinois State, and Union Graduate School. He has been a guest speaker at most universities throughout the U.S., and has been a Consultant to most urban school districts. He has authored 33 books including national best sellers, Black Students: Middle Class Teachers; Keeping Black Boys Out of Special Education; An African Centered Response to Ruby Payne’s Poverty Theory; Raising Black Boys; 200 Plus Educational Strategies to Teach Children of Color; and his latest title, Understanding Black Male Learning Styles. His work has been featured in Ebony and Essence Magazine, and he has been a guest on BET & Oprah. He is also a frequent guest on the Michael Baisden show.
 
Dr. Kunjufu is proud to say that he is a husband, father, and grandfather. He’s also a vegetarian and an avid tennis player and has not missed a day’s work in 36 years.

Topic: MAKING BLACK LIVES MATTER: SOLUTIONS FOR BLACK AMERICA

Series Host

tswanBishop Talbert W. Swan, II is the pastor of the Spring of Hope Church Of God In Christ, Assistant General Secretary for the International Church Of God In Christ, National Chaplain of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc., Executive Director of COGIC Family Services, an author, radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and long-time community activist. He is the president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, Chairman of the Board of Dunbar Family & Community Center and sits on various other boards and committees. Bishop Swan has been at the forefront of civil rights issues throughout the region and the nation for over two decades. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Western New England College, an Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Religious Studies from Charter Oak State College, a Master of Arts in Theology from Hartford Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Graduate Certificates from Hartford Seminary and Harvard Divinity School. Bishop Swan’s life’s work has been committed to the mission of ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and eliminating race-based discrimination.