Speaker Bios

Click here to view more information about the plenaries, as well as the rest of the schedule and program for Power Shift West Convergence!

Keynote Speakers // Saturday, November 12

Khalid Kadir

Khalid Kadir
UC Berkeley

Khalid is a Lecturer at UC Berkeley, teaching courses in the Global Poverty & Practice (GPP) program, Political Economy, and the College of Engineering. In 2010 he received his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley, where his research focused on pathogen removal in natural water and wastewater treatment systems. In addition to the technical focus of his work, Khalid research focuses on the complex role that technical expertise plays in the politics of international development and poverty alleviation. His current projects revolve around engineering pedagogy, the political economy of public higher education, and the ecological-engineering of water and sanitation systems. (Photo credit: Noah Berger Photography)

Edgar Xochitl

Edgar Xochitl

Edgar continues the ancestral relationship of nurturing the soil to grow plants for food and medicine. As a Queer Farmer of Color in the technological age, Edgar works on cross-pollinating traditional ecological knowledge and indigenous philosophies alongside western academia. As the 2016 Propagation Specialist at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System (CASFS), Edgar worked on intercropping the Decolonization of Flowers and Queer Ecology into the discussion of sustainable agriculture, environmental justice and climate change. Connecting the dots between colonial botany, queer liberation, gravity and fossil fuels Edgar actively nurtures ecological spaces to organize, raise awareness, sequester carbon, dissolve borders, and heal the bodies of Queer and Trans People of Color. Ze enjoys collecting, growing, and sharing seeds and plants in order to collectively remember their creation and origin stories. Edgar was a lead organizer for the 2016 Queer Farmer Field Day at UC Santa Cruz creating a space to discuss the intersection of agriculture, queer political identity, plants as medicine, art and flower bending. Edgar is currently working on reviving indigenous plant art and science, using flowers for the bioremediation of urban soils, and ze’s Quinceañera flower collection. Edgar enjoys putting plants in the ground, leaving a trail of flowers, and mischievously dropping seeds of consciousness or stinging nettle. Drop Seeds Not Bombs! #Ecoxicano #FlowerBending #DecolonizeYourFlower #QueerEcology

Mark Lopez

mark! Lopez
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

mark! Lopez comes from a family with a long history of activism. He was raised in the Madres del Este de Los Angeles Santa Isabel (Mothers of East LA Santa Isabel – MELASI), an organization co-founded by his grandparents, Juana Beatriz Gutierrez and Ricardo Gutierrez. mark! earned his M.A. from the Chican@ Studies Department at Cal State Northridge, where he completed his Masters thesis titled The Fire: Decolonizing “Environmental Justice.” After serving as Lead Organizer for East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and Co-Director with EYCEJ Co-Founder Angelo Logan, mark! is now the Executive Director. He organizes in the area where he was born, raised and continues to live. #WeAreJustTryingToBreathe #NoMoPlomo #NoSCIG #ReclaimingTheLARiver

Special Guest

One of our opening keynote speakers is a writer, public speaker, and outspoken activist for climate justice and social justice. Stay tuned for more information!

Storytelling: Reworking the Narratives of Our Communities // Saturday, November 12

Teresa Baker

Teresa Baker

Growing up as the only sister to eight brothers in her hometown of Richmond, California, Teresa was determined not to be outdone; spending time in the outdoors became her passion. Fast-forward 30 years later—the outdoors is still her passion; the only difference is the stakes are higher. Now she spends time outdoors with the purpose of engaging communities of color in outdoor spaces, in hopes of fostering a shared sense of responsibility for environmental protection. Which will benefit all mankind in the long run. Teresa’s events which were developed through her online campaign, African American Nature and Park Experience, provides communities of color across the country with opportunities to participate in planned events such as hikes, talks with environmentalists, national and state park engagement, stewardships and camping excursions, all of which speaks to cultural relevance. All too often outdoor organizations miss the opportunity to speak to the relevant role culture plays in our outdoor experiences. For example, how Native Americans, African Americans and Latino’s lived off the land and in doing so, became stewards, simply by doing what came natural to them. Sharing these stories with communities of color, develops a sense of pride and attachment to our outdoor spaces. Working with communities of color and organizations that recognize the need for these partnerships, will help foster the next generation of park stewards.

Unique Vance

Unique Vance

Hello y'all, I am Unique Vance, co-founder of Vegan Voices of Color. I am a feminist, environmentalist, social justice advocate and all around intersectional organizer. I was born and raised in Compton California and am currently completing my senior year at UC Santa Barbara where I am majoring in Environmental Studies. I began my activism in high school when my best friend and I founded an environmental club and I joined our Black Student Union, since this I have been heavily involved in campus and community organizing around a variety of social justice issues.

Kim Tran

Kim Tran

Kim Tran is finishing her PhD in Ethnic Studies and Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies here at UC Berkeley. She has organized with and for laborers, refugee and queer community. In 2008 she helped establish the LGBTQ Youthspace, a safe-space and therapeutic program for queer youth of color in San Jose, California. Currently, she is an executive publisher with Third Woman Press: Queer and Feminist of Color Publishing. Her own writing on race, gender and sexuality can be found on Vice News, Vox, Mic and Everyday Feminism. Kim is originally from San Jose, California, a proud survivor of California’s public schools and universities who aspires to think alongside young people in classrooms and community.

Scales of Displacement, Politics and Representation // Saturday, November 12

Osceola Ward

Osceola Ward

Osceola Ward is a second year MA student of Africana Studies and Environmental Sustainability Studies at UCLA. During his undergraduate tenure at Howard University, Ward was selected as the class commencement speaker to shed light on his larger passions around community development and intentional coalition building across the diaspora.It was on his journey to obtaining the BA in African American Studies that he grew interested in the intersections of race, class, and the environment. He began to explore the disconnect between environmental health, food access, and socioeconomic status, while encouraging Black and Brown communities to reclaim their space in nature. In 2015, Osceola earned his official certification as a lead instructor for Outward Bound Adventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to exposing underserved students in the Los Angeles area to the outdoors. Through this work, he found an opportunity to combine his goals for communal advancement with his desire to provide sustainable solutions to the health and environmental crises of these vulnerable populations. Ward has led numerous hikes, and during these tours he imparted wisdom based on knowledge gained from the graduate classroom, travel, and community involvement. He weaved together his theoretical framework around environmental racism and his own praxis of engagement which created a safe space for reciprocal learning and growth between himself and his students. Ward was featured in a recent Fusion article, entitled “A New Kind of Role Model” for his outstanding work. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @oskirebel.

Salaam Sbini

Salaam Sbini

Salaam Sbini is a fourth year UC Berkeley student majoring in History, with an emphasis in Islamic History and Middle Eastern History. She is the President of Students Organize for Syria (SOS) at Cal, and the Sisters' Director for Muslim Student Association (MSA). Salaam was born and raised in Southern California to Syrian parents who have been involved in the Syria Crisis since the start of the Syrian Revolution in 2011.

Just Transition for Shifting Global Consciousness // Saturday, November 12

Van Dell

Van Dell

Van Dell is a queer community resistance and empowerment organizer of African and Native descent. Their work focuses on the hood saving the hood, ancestral remembrance, cultural revitalization, decolonization and degentrification. They are continuing their work building with other Indigenous peoples and other Black/Afrikan peoples in the Bay Area through organizing in local community centers and collectives. Their organizing work includes: The Ruckus Society, a direct action training group; Afrikatown and Qilombo {radical} Community Center, hubs for liberation and land reclamation work, and teaching Decolonial Creative Writing. All of their work aims to empower others to collectively untangle white supremacy and colonial violence.

Ratha Lai

Ratha Lai

Ratha Lai is a first generation Cambodian American. He grew up in South East Los Angeles and transferred and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2012 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies Field concentrating on the relationship between Power, Language and Society. For more than five years, he has lead core initiatives in advocating for marginalized people of color in areas ranging from education, electoral practices and environmental policies at organizations like the Greenlining Institute, Sierra Club, and now the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. With a unique blend of experiences in both public policy and community organizing, Ratha is able to connect and bring together people and experiences from different walks of life to accomplish common goals and objectives to better our communities.

The SustainUs Delegation, Live from COP22 in Morocco // Sunday, November 13

SustainUS delegation to COP22

Moderator: Morgan Curtis

As a storyteller, climate activist and educator, Morgan works at the intersection of sustainable community-building and political mobilization, striving to understand how stories shape human relationships, resilience and revolutions. Her first act of protest was at nine years old, hiding her brothers’ lightbulbs to stand for the Amazon and the Niger Delta — places and people she knew only through story. Acting on a feeling of interconnection she knew not how to explain, she flooded her representatives’ offices with letters and became a youth climate change ambassador for London. In university she toured the US on the vegetable-oil powered Big Green Bus, worked with the National Biodiesel Board, and studied engineering in a futile search for climate solutions. It was as co-leader of Divest Dartmouth that she first felt part of an intersectional climate justice movement, reinforced by her storytelling work with inmates and under-resourced high-schoolers. Ever-increasingly seeing climate change as a symptom of deeper cultural crisis, Morgan turned to education as the place where cultural stories are written, working as the Sustainability Fellow at Maine Coast Semester. She first became involved with SustainUS through our COP21 delegation, arriving in Paris by way of Climate Journey: a six month bicycle journey gathering stories from grassroots climate activists in eleven countries. A facilitator of the Work That Reconnects, she currently lives at Canticle Farm in Oakland, CA, and is a 2016-17 Spiritual Ecology Fellow, working on a book grounded in two questions: is the climate justice movement serving as a spiritual awakening for millennials? Does it need to succeed?

Ryan Camero

A climate culture-jammer, visual storytelling educator, and aspiring animator for social change, Ryan has devoted his organizing work to embodying rooted values of intersectional justice and anti-oppression. Camero’s activism originated from the needs of his hometown Stockton, California, to instill cross-cultural understanding and intergenerational harmony through the arts; fighting against apathy, illiteracy, systems perpetuating gang involvement and murder rates, poverty and lack of opportunity. Orchestrating arts/culture festival programming, facilitating youth-led DIY art exhibitions/benefit concerts, and assisting in community organizing work of local nonprofits led him to environmental advocacy, in which corporate privatization and irreversibly damaging the area’s ecological tapestry were issues that contributed to dysfunctions of not only his city, but of the state. Since then, Ryan’s theory of change drove him to coalition building across the nonprofit sector- notable examples include working as a student facilitator for the California Student Sustainability Coalition, as a water rights campaigner with Restore the Delta, and as a storytelling educator for international arts-activist group, the Beehive Design Collective. He is a 2015 Brower Youth Award winner, the most prestigious award for young environmental leaders in the country, and represented California at COP21 – the international climate negotiations in Paris. Ryan holds close to his heart a passion for seeing creative external expression as a genuine form of navigating research and building healing resilience, and is currently in a metaphor-induced haze of translating hard-hitting issues of his home state into one of the Beehive’s graphics projects about California.

Kayla DeVault

Kayla (Anishinaabe/Shawnee) spent most of her life on Chestnut Ridge in the Laurel Highlands. From her grandparents, Kayla learned to love performing dance and music, gather and grow food, and make herbal remedies. Kayla is pursuing her Masters in Engineering at Arizona State University in alternative energy and tribal policy. Her passion is combining environmental conservation with traditional wisdom and culturally-relevant paradigms. She was a 2015 White House Tribal Youth Gathering participant and spoke as an indigenous rights representative with the US Human network at the United Nations Headquarters. Inspired by holistic programs she worked with in India and Cameroon, she co-founded a STEM-based projectt initiative through the American Indian Science & Engineering Society she was recently inducted as a Sequoyah Fellow. In 2016, she was appointed to the NEJAC/EPA Youth Perspectives on Climate Working Group. She is currently studying Navajo language at Diné College while working for and living on the Navajo Nation.

Niria Garcia

Niria Alicia is a Xicana storyteller, scholar and organizer whose activism and advocacy work is rooted in her spirituality and undying love for her community and for the environment. Born to Cilviana, a migrant farmworker from Michoacan, and Francisco, a former northwest tree planter from Chihuahua Mexico, she is the second of four children. A first-generation student, Niria graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Cum Laude honors from the University of Oregon with B.A’s in Environmental Studies, Latin American Studies and a minor in Non-profit Administration. Her research focused on women-led grassroots environmental and social justice movements in the U.S. and Latin America. As an undergraduate she was a part of MEChA, NASU, and co-directed the Raza Unida Youth Conference and the Coalition Against Environmental Racism. Niria has traveled, studied and worked in Brazil, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Costa Rica participating in social justice delegations, teaching, translating, conducting research, and running student programs building aqueducts, grey water treatment systems and contributing to reforestation efforts. As a writer she has contributed to several environmental blogs, local newspapers and magazines and has written about the effects that pesticides, pipelines and climate change have on marginalized communities. Following up her communications internship with Earthjustice she continues to work with them on their Endangered Salmon Campaign. She is also currently working with the Winnemem Wintu tribe and a coalition of indigenous leaders and activists on the Run 4 Salmon campaign aimed to bring awareness about policies affecting our waters, our fish and indigenous lifeways.

Benjamin Goloff

Ben crosses borders of activism, politics, and research to organize for climate and environmental justice. Whether birding in Central Park or humming to impromptu fiddle concerts in the subway, he grew up seeking to reconcile the messy wonder of New York City’s natures/cultures with its poisoned veins of systemic racial, economic, gender, and environmental injustice. A fourth-generation American descended from Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, Ben finds musical nourishment for change-making with his great-grandmother’s childhood violin. Inspired by the radical potential of critical writing and thinking he discovered at Bard High School Early College, he studied and organized at Swarthmore College on the intersection of environmental justice, climate politics, and biology. Ben pushed for engaged curricula linking anti-oppression, social justice, and sustainability, and helped build alignment on a core commitment to intersectional social justice across the College’s issue-specific student environmental groups. After spearheading a successful initiative to accredit Swarthmore to engage at the UN’s international climate negotiations, he helped lead students, faculty, and staff on the College’s second delegation to COP20 in Lima, Peru. Based on seven months in South Africa, Ben focused his undergraduate thesis on post-apartheid efforts to recast nature conservation as a liberatory agent of social change in the Cape Flats of urban Cape Town. He is now finishing his master’s in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance at the University of Oxford, pursuing action-research on solidarities in-the-making through US movements for climate justice with which he will continue to build.