Keynote and Plenary Speakers

The keynotes and plenaries at Power Shift 2016 Southeast will feature powerhouse social justice and climate leaders from across the region!

Check out their bios here.

Day One Keynote Speaker // Friday, 9/9

Wendy Davis, Former Texas State Senator, Founder of Deeds Not Words

Wendy Davis is the founder of Deeds Not Words, an advocacy initiative that empowers millennial women to channel their passion and energy on issues of gender equality into actionable change. She was previously a Texas state senator and candidate for governor of Texas, who fought tirelessly for reproductive rights, equal pay for women, justice for sexual assault survivors, affordable quality education and equality for the LGBTQ community.

Wendy’s public service career spans 3 decades, serving as a Fort Worth city councilperson for 9 years prior to her election to the Texas State Senate. From very humble beginnings, Wendy worked as a single parent to forge a path to college, beginning at community college, earning a scholarship to Texas Christian University where she graduated first in her class, and ultimately graduating with honors from Harvard Law School.

Widely recognized as a leader on women’s equality, Wendy is best known for her historic 13 hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate to kill a legislative effort aimed at dramatically reducing women’s access to abortion care in her state. Her efforts were vindicated with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt which overturned Texas’ anti-abortion law.

Noted for her talents as a legislative leader, in 2009 Wendy was named the Texas Legislature’s Rookie of the Year by Texas Monthly magazine and Freshman of the Year by AARP, was named to Texas Monthly’s Top Ten Best Legislators in 2013 and has received numerous awards, including the 2013 Women Who Dared award by the National Council of Jewish Women, the 2013 Champion for Social Change award by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the 2011 Legislative Star by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

Opening Plenary // Friday, 9/9

Moderator: Anthony K. Rogers-Wright, Environmental Action

Selected as one of the Grist 50 People You’ll Be Talking About in 2016, Anthony has over ten years of policy analysis, community organizing and outreach/advocacy experience. While serving as a policy analyst for various environmental consulting firms in California and Colorado, he specialized in land use, Clean Air Act and environmental justice compliance. He has used his organizing and outreach experience to advocate for a variety of social justice campaigns including affordable health care access, income inequality and civil rights for LGBT citizens.

In 2012, Anthony led the effort to make Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative the first health insurance provider in the State’s history to remove transgender health exclusions from all of their policies. A veteran of political campaigns, Anthony served as a Field Organizer for the 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign and the 2008/2012 OFA campaigns where he specialized in voter mobilization and campaign messaging. In 2009 he assisted with organizing a coalition of faith based organizations, community advocates, and concerned volunteers to address food deserts in Los Angeles. His efforts successfully lobbied the City Council to implement new policies that leveraged supermarket chains to construct grocery stores in identified food deserts.

Cherri Foytin, Bold Louisiana

Valencia Gunder, NewFM

Valencia “Vee” Gunder is a community advocate and organizer affectionately known as "The Big Mouth of Liberty City”. A Miami Native, Valencia has organized many high-turnout events in Liberty City, including the annual “I Am Woman” Women’s Expo, Hoodweek with the Belafonte-TACOLCY Center (where she is a board member), and most recently the Liberty City Climate Action Forum in partnership with the CLEO Institute, the Miami Climate Alliance, and The Miami Foundation. Valencia has been working for the past year with EcoTech Visions (a green business incubator that is the first business in Miami Dade County’s Green Corridor) to bring green job and free coding opportunities to residents in many of Miami’s underserved neighborhoods. As the new full-time climate organizer at The New Florida Majority, Valencia is excited to be playing a lead role in launching Miami’s first climate justice political mobilization effort. She is passionate in the fight to ensure that the residents of her community receive fair treatment, and that they are fully considered in Miami’s response to the climate crisis.

Curtis Hierro, AFL-CIO

Curtis Hierro is the 29 year old Organizing Director for the Central Florida AFL-CIO. Born in Miami, Florida to a father who immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the Mariel Boat Lift and raised by a single mother who struggled under the weight of poverty radicalized Curtis and motivated him to pursue a purpose in fighting for economic and racial justice. Curtis formerly was Field Director of the Dream Defenders, an organization of young people of color building power through direct action organizing and confronting the TRAP plaguing our communities of poverty, prisons, and police brutality. Now with the Central Florida AFL-CIO, representing over 40,000 union members across dozens of affiliates, Curtis works to partner with community and union affiliates in organizing campaigns that raise wages and places an emphasis on the leadership development of young workers and workers of color.

Betty Osceola, Indigenous Activist for The Everglades

Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade

Day Two Keynote Speaker // Saturday, 9/10

Elle Hearns, The Movement for Black Lives

Elle Hearns is a revolutionary organizer, freedom fighter. She has spent a lifetime being committed to making sure that marginalized voices are centered and reflected in social justice movements. Elle served as a lead organizer of The Movement for Black Lives convening held in Cleveland, Ohio while also consulting on the Movement for Black Lives policy platform. Elle is currently a organizing coordinator for the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Elle’s writings have been featured in TruthOut, Huffington Post, and Ebony. Her remarkable work has been chronicled by several publications including Time, CNN, MTV, The New York Times, Alternet, Democracy Now, The Daily Dot, Fusion, Essence Magazine, and The Washington Post.

(em)Power Vote Plenary Speakers // Saturday, 9/10

Yulissa Arce, Organize Now!

Yulissa is a committed individual with a deep passion for community service and environmental stewardship. She brings a diverse background and a passion for community organizing and education to Organize Now and Florida Institute of Reform and Empowerment (FIRE). Ms. Arce’s professional background includes work in education, community organizing, and outreach for both the Public and Non-Profit Sectors. She currently volunteers her time serving as a mentor for the New Leaders Council Orlando Class of 2016 and other causes. Ms. Arce was raised in Orlando, Florida and holds a Bachelors of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida.

Jose Luis Marantes, Florida Immigrant Coalition

Jose Luis Marantes serves as the Membership Development Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). Prior to joining FLIC, Jose Luis served as the State Director for Mi Familia Vota in Central FL leading Latino civic engagement efforts that engaged over 40,000 voters in Orange, Osceola, and Hillsborough counties. He also served at the Hope Community Center in Apopka, FL where he worked to build bridges between US born youth and the immigrant/farmworker community throughout Central Florida through a social enterprise that hosted alternative breaks for college students across the country. A co-founder of the United We Dream (UWD) network, the nation's largest immigrant youth organization working for access to college and immigration reform for immigrant youth. At UWD he led program, organizing and fund development. Jose Luis helped spark the Education Not Deportation Campaign which led to winning deferred action from deportation for over 2 million immigrant youth in 2012 setting a new precedent in relief from deportation. Jose Luis holds a Masters of Science in Entrepreneurship from the University of Florida and a B.A. in Sociology from Wesleyan University.

Becca Guerra, State Voices

Becca Guerra is the Executive Director of the Florida 501(c)3 Civic Engagement Table, the Florida affiliate of State Voices. Previously, she has organized across the South and Southwest working for ProGeorgia, the NAACP National Office in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast Regions, America Votes c4 Table in Florida, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Becca is a proud double Gator earning both her Bachelors and Masters of Arts degrees from the University of Florida.

Robin Harris, Organize Now!

Robin is a Minister, author, public speaker, activist and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Religion from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. A Texas native, she has traveled throughout the U.S. and Africa with missions teams. Recently, Robin had been active in humanitarian projects with the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign. She has also marched alongside PPERC and Black Lives Matter in Pittsburg for economic justice. Robin has been a panelist and speaker for Racial Justice. Also, Robin was arrested with 9 others for civil disobedience wile engaging in peaceful protest/sit-in at Marco Rubio's office to bring awareness to gun violence and its effects on the LGTBQ community.

Josephine Balzac, Environmental Lawyer/Activist

Josephine M. Balzac is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Rollins College in the Department of Business. She is also an adjunct law professor at Barry University School of Law teaching Sustainability in Business. She is an attorney admitted to practice in Florida and the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida and is the President of the Law Offices of Josephine Balzac, P.A. She serves her community on the Board of Directors for IDEAS For Us and the EarthWeb Foundation. She holds a J.D. from Florida A&M University College of Law where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. She received her LL.M. in International Environmental Law at The George Washington University Law School. While attending GWU Law, she served as a Randolph C. Shaw Research Fellow for the Associate Dean of Environmental Studies and interned at the Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. Balzac is actively involved in the environmental community, frequently educating and promoting awareness by being an avid speaker on environmental, food, conservation, and social justice issues.

Day Three Keynote Speakers // Sunday, 9/11

Rasha Mubarak, Counsel for American Islamic Relations

Eriqah Vincent, National Wildlife Federation

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