Shaka Senghor is a leading voice in criminal justice reform and proud native of Detroit. His memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison, was released in March 2016 and debuted on The New York Times and The Washington Post bestseller lists. Shaka is a former MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, and a former Fellow in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network. Shaka’s 2014 TED Talk was featured in their “Year in Ideas” roundup, a curated collection of the year’s most powerful TED Talks and has over 1.5 million views. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2012 Black Male Engagement Leadership Award, the 2015 Manchester University Innovator of the Year Award, the 2016 FORD Man of Courage Award, and the 2016 NAACP Great Expectations Award. Shaka was recently recognized by OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) as a “Soul Igniter” in the inaugural class of the SuperSoul 100, a dynamic group of trailblazers whose vision and life’s work are bringing a higher level of consciousness to the world around them and encouraging others to do the same. He is a 2016 Ebony Magazine Power 100 Honoree. He has taught at the University of Michigan and shares his story of redemption around the world. Shaka was selected as one of 24 icons being featured in the upcoming Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service entitled “Men of Change,” debuting in the fall of 2019. Today, Shaka sits as President of Shaka Senghor, Inc and his priority is shifting societal narratives by creating content with deep social impact and high entertainment value.
Kelly Lytle Hernández holds the Thomas E. Lifka Endowed Chair in History and African American Studies and directs the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. A 2019 MacArthur Fellow, she is the author of the award-winning books Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol and City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965. She lives in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo credit: Sebastian Hernández)
Zachary Lazar is the author of five books, including the novels Vengeance, Sway, and I Pity the Poor Immigrant, a New York Times Notable Book. His memoir, Evening’s Empire, an account of his father’s murder, led to a further engagement with incarceration and the criminal justice system through a journalism project at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, the root of his most recent novel, Vengeance. Lazar’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University, and the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for “a writer in mid-career whose work has demonstrated consistent excellence.” His journalism has appeared in The New York Times, NPR’s All Things Considered, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Lazar lives in New Orleans and is on the creative writing faculty at Tulane University, where he teaches an introductory creative writing course that pairs Tulane students with an equal number of students incarcerated at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. He also serves on the advisory board of the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship. Vengeance is the 2019 selection of One Book One New Orleans and the Tulane Reading Project, the shared reading experience for the incoming freshman class.
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet, memoirist, and lawyer. His writing grapples with the central role of incarceration to the American experience. His next collection of poetry, Felon, will be published in October 2019 by Norton. His previous collection, Bastards of the Reagan Era received the 2016 New England Award in Poetry. His first collection of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, won the Beatrice Hawley Awards and was selected by the National Book Foundation’s Literature for Justice Committee as a 2018-2019 title. Betts’ memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, was the recipient of the 2010 NAACP Image Award for nonfiction. He is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 Emerson Fellow at New America. He holds a BA from the University of Maryland, an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and a JD from Yale Law School.
Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights attorney, advocate, legal scholar, and author of The New York Times bestseller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Jim Crow helped spark a national debate about the crisis of mass incarceration in the United States and inspired racial justice organizing and advocacy efforts nationwide. Numerous commentators have dubbed The New Jim Crow, ”the bible of a social movement,” and the book has become a staple of university curriculums, advocacy training, reading groups, and faith-based study circles. Alexander has been featured on national radio and television media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and Democracy Now. She has also written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and Huffington Post. Alexander has served as a professor at several universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an Associate Professor of Law and where she directed the Civil Rights Clinics. She also taught at Ohio State University where she held a joint appointment with the Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. Alexander served as a Soros Justice Fellow in 2005 and was appointed a Senior Fellow for the Ford Foundation in 2015. Prior to entering academia, Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition-building, and litigation. The Project’s priority areas were educational equity and criminal justice reform, and it was during those years that she launched a major campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement, known as the “DWB Campaign” or “Driving While Black or Brown Campaign.” In addition to her nonprofit advocacy experience, Alexander has worked as a litigator at private law firms, including at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, in Oakland, California, where she specialized in plaintiff-side class action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination. Currently, Alexander is a visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City where she is exploring the moral and spiritual dimensions of mass incarceration. She is also an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.