Speakers & Artists

TI2016 presents speakers, panelists, and artists who are leading activists, scholars, authors, and experts on racial inequality. Click a name below to skip down to that person’s biography.

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, PhD, is Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Duke University. He has been recognized for his outstanding scholarship in the area of racial issues, especially those affecting African-Americans or similarly disadvantaged racial/ethnic populations. Bonilla-Silva gained visibility in the social sciences with his 1997 American Sociological Review article, “Rethinking Racism: Toward a Structural Interpretation.” He received his BA from the University of Puerto Rico–Río Piedras campus, and his MA and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His published works include Racism without Racists (2013) and White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era (2001), among others.

Michael Curry

Michael Curry has been bishop of North Carolina since 2000 and currently serves as the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the first African-American to do so. He has been extensively involved in preaching missions, Crisis Control Ministry, the Absalom Jones initiative, the brokering of millions of dollars of investment in inner city neighborhoods, and the founding of day camps, day cares, and educational centers for children and families. In addition, Bishop Curry inspired a $2.5-million restoration of St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore after a 1993 fire. He has received honorary degrees from Sewanne and Yale.

Melanie DeMore

Melanie DeMore is a vocal activist who has made an impact on audiences all over the world through her compositions, solo performances, and choral conducting. She has performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center, as well as international folk music festivals from Europe to Cuba to New Zealand. She was a founding member of the GRAMMY®-nominated vocal ensemble Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir. A self-described kid at heart, DeMore brings her energetic playfulness to every performance, reminding us to lighten up and experience the healing power of music.

Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. Described by philosopher Cornel West as “the preeminent social ethicist in North America today,” Professor Dorrien is the author of more than 15 books and 275 articles that range across the fields of ethics, social theory, theology, philosophy, politics, and history. His book Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition, a comprehensive interpretation of social ethics as an academic field and a tradition of public discourse, won the Choice Award in 2009 as the Outstanding Book in Ethics.

Kelly Brown Douglas

Kelly Brown Douglas, MDiv, PhD, is Professor and Director of the Religion Department at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a leading voice in womanist theology and has served as an Episcopal priest for over 20 years. Widely published in national and international journals, her groundbreaking book Sexuality and the Black Church was the first to address the issue of homophobia within the black church community. Her other books include Stand Your Ground, The Black Christ, Black Bodies and the Black Church, and What’s Faith Got to Do with It?. She received the Goucher College Caroline Doebler Bruckerl Award for outstanding faculty achievement, and was honored as “Womanist Legend” by the Black Religious Scholars Group.

T. James Kodera

T. James Kodera, Professor of Religion at Wellesley College since 1976, helped expand the curriculum from Biblical and Christian Studies to a global curriculum with an emphasis on the historical and comparative study of religion. He also helped develop Asian American Studies, Peace & Justice Studies, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and South Asian Studies. He has served has Rector at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hudson, Massachusetts, since 2000. In 1985, he became the first Asian-American ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts since its inception in 1784.

Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001 and currently blogs at On the Ground. In a 2014 series on his blog called “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” Kristof wrote about race relations, provoking a robust online discussion of systemic racism in America. He graduated from Harvard, studied law at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and then studied Arabic in Cairo. Kristof has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of Tiananmen Square and the genocide in Darfur, along with many humanitarian awards such as the Anne Frank Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Michele Norris

Michele Norris is a journalist and former host of NPR’s flagship afternoon broadcast, “All Things Considered.” Before joining NPR in 2002, Norris spent almost ten years as a reporter for ABC News. She has also worked as a staff writer for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times. Norris earned an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC News’s coverage of 9/11. She was named “Journalist of the Year” in 2009 by the National Association of Black Journalists, among other awards. Her memoir, The Grace of Silence (2010), explores her own racial legacy as well as the racial conversations in America following Barack Obama’s election as president.

Victor Rios

Victor Rios, PhD, is an author, speaker, and Associate Professor in the Sociology Department at UC-Santa Barbara. His book Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys (NYU Press, 2011) analyzes how juvenile crime policies and criminalization affect the everyday lives of urban youth. It has won several awards, including the 2013 Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award and the 2012 Best Book Award in the Latino/a sociology section from the American Sociology Association. His research interests include educational equity, restorative justice, resilience, motivation, and youth culture. His writing has been published in scholarly journals such as The Annals of the Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Latino Studies, and Critical Criminology.

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith is a professor at New York University and founding director of the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue. In addition to her work in television and film (known to audiences as Nancy McNally on The West Wing and Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie), Smith is said to have created a new form of theatre that blends theatrical art, social commentary, and reverie. Her theatre works represent multiple points of view—as many as 52 in one production—and often address issues of race and identity in America. She has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, the Gish Prize, two Tony nominations, two Obie Awards, and the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2013.

Janine Tinsley-Roe

Janine Tinsley-Roe, MMHC, is a member of the Shinnecock and Unkechaug Tribes of Long Island, New York. She is a direct descendant of Shinnecock Priest Paul Cuffee and the tribal families that advised the framers of the Declaration of Independence on the Native civil process. She has been an outspoken voice for her historic family clan on Long Island and is the founder of the Shinnecock-Sewanaka Society Inc. She has initiated legislative actions in NYS to acknowledge Native American heritage, and has also served as the Episcopal Church's National Missioner for Native American Ministries for the U.S. and abroad.

Emilie Townes

Emilie Townes, PhD, is a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, and Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Chair and Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society. Townes has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, a field of studies in which the historic and current insights of African American women are brought into critical engagement with the traditions of Christian theology. In 2010 Townes was honored as “Distinguished Religious Scholar” by the Black Religious Scholars Group. She has written for the Huffington Post and currently serves as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion.