An unusually versatile musician, Teddy Abrams is a widely acclaimed conductor, as well as an established pianist, clarinetist, and composer. Music Director of the Louisville Orchestra and Music Director and Conductor of the Britt Classical Festival, he also serves as Resident Conductor of the MAV Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, which he first conducted in 2011.
Teddy’s 2015-2016 season includes debuts with the Houston, Phoenix and Edmonton Symphonies, and a return to the San Francisco Symphony. Recent guest conducting highlights include engagements with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, and Louisiana and New Mexico Philharmonics. He served as Assistant Conductor of the Detroit Symphony from 2012-2014.
From 2008 to 2011 Abrams was the Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor of the New World Symphony (NWS) and conducted many performances, including subscription concerts and numerous other full and chamber orchestra events. Abrams has conducted the NWS in Miami Beach, Washington, D.C. and at Carnegie Hall, and recently returned to conduct the NWS on subscription with Joshua Bell as soloist.
An accomplished pianist and clarinetist, Abrams has appeared as a soloist with a number of orchestras – including playing and conducting the Ravel Piano Concerto with the Jacksonville Symphony in fall 2013 – and has performed chamber music with the St. Petersburg String Quartet, Menahem Pressler, Gilbert Kalish, Time for Three and John Adams, in addition to annual appearances at the Olympic Music Festival. Dedicated to exploring new and engaging ways to communicate with a diverse range of audiences, Abrams co-founded the Sixth Floor Trio in 2008. The Trio has performed around the country, establishing residencies in communities in North Carolina, Philadelphia, New York and South Florida; Abrams and the Trio founded and direct GardenMusic, the music festival of the world-renowned Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami. Abrams collaborated (as an arranger and pianist) with Cleveland Orchestra principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa for La Rosa’s debut CD, released in October 2010.
Abrams studied conducting with Michael Tilson Thomas, Otto-Werner Mueller and Ford Lallerstedt at the Curtis Institute of Music, and with David Zinman at the Aspen Music Festival; he was the youngest conducting student ever accepted at both institutions. Abrams is also an award-winning composer and a passionate educator – he has taught at numerous schools throughout the United States. His 2009 Education Concerts with the New World Symphony (featuring the world premiere of one of Abrams’ own orchestral works) were webcast to hundreds of schools throughout South Florida.
Abrams performed as a keyboardist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, won the 2007 Aspen Composition Contest, and was the Assistant Conductor of the YouTube Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 2009. He has held residencies at the La Mortella music festival in Ischia, Italy and at the American Academy in Berlin. Teddy was a proud member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra for seven seasons, and graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music, having studied piano with Paul Hersh.
BISHOP MARC ANDRUS
The Rt. Rev. MARC HANDLEY ANDRUS
The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus is the eighth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California. He was installed as bishop in 2006 — a position of oversight for a diocese comprised of 27,000 communicants in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties, and the cities of Los Altos and part of Palo Alto. Prior to his election as Bishop of California, Andrus served as Bishop Suffragan in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.
Marc Handley Andrus was born on October 20, 1956, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to Mary Frances and Francis Andrus, and was raised in Kingston, Tennessee. He received his Bachelor of Science in Plant Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1979, and a Masters in Social Sciences from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg in 1982. After receiving his masters degree, Andrus went to work as a regional planner for the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission on Virginia’s Delmarva Peninsula.
In 1987, Andrus was awarded a Master of Divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. After being ordained deacon on June 20, 1987, Andrus became senior associate at Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. While at Church of the Redeemer, Andrus was ordained priest on April 25, 1988. In 1990, Andrus became Chaplain at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, until 1997 when he became Rector of Emmanuel Church in Middleburg, Virginia. He remained rector of Emmanuel until his consecration as Bishop Suffragan for the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama on February 7, 2002.
His leadership has focused on key issues related to peace and justice, including immigration reform, climate change, civil rights for LBGTQ+ persons, and health care. An example of his local engagement includes co-chairing a community-wide planning process for rebuilding St. Luke’s hospital in San Francisco. Bishop Andrus serves on the boards of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, California Pacific Medical Center, Episcopal Impact Fund, the Episcopal School for Deacons, Episcopal Community Services, and the American Bach Soloists, among other foundations.
Andrus is married to Sheila Andrus, Ph.D., former director of the Sparkman Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health, and they have two adult daughters: Chloé and Pilar.
JECOREY “1200” ARTHUR
Jecorey “1200” Arthur [b. May 19, 1992] is an award-winning educator, composer, performer, and curator from Louisville KY. After falling in love with hip hop, Arthur purchased a KORG D-1200 recording studio at age twelve and became a self-taught producer. He found his passion for classical music while studying percussion with Dr. Greg Byrne at the University of Louisville, where he earned his BME and MAT by age 22. His performances range from Forecastle Festival, to the 92nd Street Y Musical Introduction Series, to collaborations with the Louisville Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and Pittsburgh Symphony. Arthur dedicates his work to community as an event curator for City Collaborative, Speed Art Museum, Louisville Downtown Partnership, and many more organizations. He is currently the Music Specialist at Hite Elementary where he teaches general music and directs performance ensembles. Through his 1200 performances he is breaking down barriers in music education both on and off stage.
Learn more at Jecorey’s Website: CLICK HERE
Amb. MATTHEW BARZUN
AMBASSADOR MATTHEW BARZUN
Ambassador Matthew Barzun is the former Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Matthew W. Barzun served as America’s ambassador to the UK from 2013-2016. Previously he served as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden from 2009-2011.
He was a pioneer in the early days of the internet, becoming the fourth employee of CNET Networks in 1993 and working there until 2004 in a variety of roles including Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President.
Before the President’s election in 2008, Ambassador Barzun was among the first to join Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee where he produced the first $25 per-person fundraiser and helped teach Obama University for campaign volunteers. President Obama selected him as National Finance Chair for his 2012 re-election campaign.
Ambassador Barzun has served on the boards of many non-profits focused on education, public policy, and interfaith relations. He lives in London with his wife, three children and their dog, Lincoln, and Kentucky remains his home.
SUSAN BAUER-WU, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Susan Bauer-Wu is the president of the Mind & Life Institute, a global non-profit organization co-founded 30 years ago by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which serves as the primary convener, catalyst and community builder for the field of contemplative sciences. Susan began her career as a registered nurse caring for individuals with cancer and mental illness as well as those facing the end of life, followed by doctoral and post-doctoral training in psychoneuroimmunology and psycho-oncology. She has since had a productive academic and leadership career studying and applying mindfulness and compassion practices in health care and higher education. Prior to joining Mind & Life, Susan was the director of the Compassionate Care Initiative and the Tussi and John Kluge Professor in Contemplative End-of-Life Care at the University of Virginia School of Nursing. She has also held faculty positions at Emory University, Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In addition to dozens of scholarly publications, Susan is the author of a book for the lay public, Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully with Serious & Life-Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion & Connectedness.
Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., professor and distinguished university scholar in the Institute of Molecular Cardiology, professor of medicine, and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, joined UofL in 1998. He was elected a fellow of the American Heart Association in 2005. Dr. Bhatnagar is a Distinguished University Scholar and a Fellow of the American Heart Association.
His research interests include cardiovascular effects of environmental pollutants, atherosclerosis, injury from loss of blood to the heart muscle, cardiovascular complications of diabetes, and sepsis. Bhatnagar’s work has led to the creation of the new field of environmental cardiology. His research is supported by several grants from the National Institutes of Health, including two program-projects.
Dr. Bhatnagar is a graduate of Kanpur University, India and received his post-doctoral training at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Bhatnagar is known for his pioneering work on the role of the polyol pathway of glucose metabolism and how it is regulated by nitric oxide.
Dr. Bhatnagar’s research has led to the elucidation of certain mechanisms by which free radicals and lipid peroxidation products affect the function of individual ion channels. He is currently serving on the Editorial Boards of both Circulation Research and Circulation, has participated in over 50 National Institutes of Health review panels and is the author of over 120 publications.
Dr. Bhatnagar leads a group of 30 investigators focused on developing a better understanding of the cardiovascular complications of diabetes.
Rev. Dr. CYNTHIA BOURGEAULT
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault
Modern day mystic, Episcopal priest, writer and internationally known retreat leader, Cynthia Bourgeault divides her time between solitude at her seaside hermitage in Maine, and a demanding schedule traveling globally to teach and spread the recovery of the Christian contemplative and Wisdom path.
She has been a long-time advocate of the meditative practice of Centering Prayer and has worked closely with fellow teachers and colleagues including Thomas Keating, Bruno Barnhart, and Richard Rohr. Cynthia has actively participated in numerous inter-spiritual dialogues and events with luminaries and leaders such as A.H. Almaas, Kabir Helminski, Swami Atmarupananda, and Rami Shapiro.
Cynthia is a member of the GPIW (Global Peace Initiative for Women) Contemplative Council and recipient of the 2014 Contemplative Voices award from Shalem Institute. She is a founding Director of both The Contemplative Society and the Aspen Wisdom School. She continues to contribute to The Contemplative Society in her role as Principal Teacher and advisor.
Cynthia is the author of eight books: The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, The Wisdom Jesus, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, Mystical Hope, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, Chanting the Psalms, and Love is Stronger than Death. She has also authored or contributed to numerous articles on the Christian Wisdom path in publications such as Parabola Magazine, Gnosis Magazine, and Sewanee Theological Review.
Cynthia Bourgeault is currently one of the core faculty members at The Living School for Action and Contemplation.
JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL
Rev. Dr. JOAN BROWN CAMPBELL
Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell retired in December 2013 after 13 years as Director of the Department of Religion at the historic Chautauqua Institution. Before coming to Chautauqua, Rev. Campbell, a distinguished life-long ecumenist, served as the first ordained woman appointed as General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Prior to her time at the NCCC USA, Rev. Campbell served as Director of the U.S. Office of the World Council of Churches. During her time as General Secretary, Rev. Campbell, in concert with Paul Gorman, Carl Sagan, Dean James Morton, and Albert Gore, founded what is today the National Religious Partnership on the Environment (NRPE), and continues to serve as Chair of the Board.
Rev. Campbell is a devoted activist for peace and social justice, believing that citizens in a democracy must act on their conscience. This commitment was crafted during her life-changing work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and was deepened in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to her as “a woman of courage and compassion.” He pointed out that Rev. Campbell was the only woman in the clergy procession of over 200 for his installation as Archbishop of South Africa, commenting, “Her voice helped to bring an end to the evil of apartheid.”
Rev. Campbell’s commitment to growing the global compassion movement is reflected in her work with Charter for Compassion International. She also serves as Chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, providing leadership to GPIW’s important work with women throughout the world. She served as Chair of the Global Health Council and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils on both Faith and Values. She is the recipient of 14 honorary degrees and, in 2010, was awarded the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award. Rev. Campbell is the author of Living Into Hope: A Call to Spiritual Action for Such a Time as This, and Prayers From Chautauqua, a collection of her prayers published in 2013. She is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to eight.
Upon his election to Congress in November of 2016, James Comer came to Washington ready to fight on behalf of the people of the 1st Congressional District. Spanning from the Mississippi River in Fulton all the way to Liberty in Central Kentucky, the 1st District is home to 35 counties with their own distinct identity and local treasures.
Comer grew up in rural Monroe County and later attended Western Kentucky University to study his lifelong passion: Agriculture. Upon graduation in 1993, Comer entered the business world, taking out a loan to purchase his first farm and dive into his career. Today that business, Comer Family Farms, is one of the largest farming operations in south central Kentucky.
After his first election in 2000, Comer served for six terms as a member of the Kentucky State House, where he was lauded for his success as a legislator. He was named the National Republican Freshman Legislator of the Year during his first term and was regarded as one of the most conservative, pro-business legislators in Frankfort.
Upon being elected Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture in 2011, Comer cleaned up the Kentucky Department of Agriculture which was beset by scandal, corruption, and a lack of accountability. His work to root out wasteful spending and fraud, return taxpayer dollars to the treasury, and grow Kentucky’s agricultural economy received bipartisan acclaim. He promoted rural economic development by spearheading the successful effort to legalize industrial hemp and developed new branding initiatives for Kentucky farmers.
This record of conservatism, accomplishment, and bipartisanship is exactly what Comer has brought to Washington D.C. He’s a fierce advocate for rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, balancing the federal budget, and implementing business-friendly policies, including regulatory reform. These are his chief priorities in the 115th Congress.
Comer is married to TJ Comer, and father to Reagan, 12, Harlan, 9, and Aniston, 5. He is proud to call the 1st District home and grateful for the opportunity to represent its citizens in the House of Representatives.
REV. KEVIN COSBY
SINCE 1979, THE REVEREND DR. KEVIN W. COSBY has served as Senior Pastor of St. Stephen Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Due greatly to his practical and dynamic Bible teachings, the congregation has grown from 500 to approximately 14,000 members, and has been recognized by Outreach magazine as one of the 100 largest churches in America (2010) and Emerge magazine as one of six “super churches” of the South. During his tenure at St. Stephen, the church has transformed from the “little church on the corner” to a multi-faceted institution that includes a 1,700-seat worship center, a cutting-edge $4 million inner-city family life center and a 1,000-seat worship facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana. In October 2013, Dr. Cosby began a satellite church in Hardin County, Kentucky. During the first Sunday’s service, seventy people united with the church.
The thread of God’s hand is interwoven into the tapestry of Dr. Cosby’s life and ministry. The providence of God is seen most clearly in Dr. Cosby’s ministry in the resurgence of Simmons College of Kentucky (SCKY). In 1997, the Lord led Dr. Cosby to encourage the church to purchase the original four-acre campus of Simmons University (now Simmons College of KY) and convert the property into a lifestyle enrichment campus.
In 2005, Dr. Cosby was named the 13th President of Simmons. Two years later, because of his obedience to God’s guidance to purchase Simmons’ original campus a decade earlier, the college returned to their original campus. In the ten years of his tenure, he has refused more than $700,000 in salary from the college. Under his visionary direction, SCKY was granted accreditation by the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) in early 2014. Through President Cosby’s leadership, the college applied for official status as one of the nation’s Historically Black College & Universities (HBCU). In April 2015, Simmons College of Kentucky was officially designated the 107th HBCU. To God be the glory!
A staunch proponent of education, Dr. Cosby earned a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Eastern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University and Campbellsville University.
He has held administrative and teaching assignments at Kentucky State University, the University of Louisville, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary. Additionally, his exceptional oratorical skills have garnered lecture engagements at universities and institutions all over the world, including Harvard University.
Dr. Cosby has authored five highly-acclaimed books: Get off Your But!: Messages, Musings & Ministries to Empower the African-American Church; As They Went; Treasure Worth Seeking; Who’s Your Daddy?: Life Lessons from the Prodigal Son and Loyal to the Royal. He has been a contributing writer to a number of books, journals and periodicals.
He has been the subject of many national articles and documentaries, which consistently list him among Kentucky’s most influential leaders. His 2007 selection as Louisvillian of the Year is a tribute to his outstanding contributions to the community. He was ranked #1 of the Top Ten Religious Leaders in Louisville by Louisville Magazine in the October 2011 issue. In the spring of 2012, he was inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni at Eastern Kentucky University. In February 2015, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights inducted Dr. Cosby into the Kentucky Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians at the state capitol. He is the 56th African American accorded this honor.
Although Dr. Cosby has achieved many notable accomplishments, he is most known for his intense commitment to serving the Lord through improving the lives of others.
Dr. Cosby is married to the former Barnetta Turner; they are the parents of two adult children.
Hannah Drake offers a powerful, inspirational message that has been heard in various arenas around the world. Hannah has performed her poetry at the Legendary Showtime at the Apollo and has had the distinguished privilege of opening for author and motivational speaker, Iyanla Vanzant, political and social justice activist, Angela Davis and National Book Award Winner and world-renowned poet, Nikki Finney. In 2016, Hannah’s poem Spaces was featured in the Courier Journal and shared at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize conference in Princeton, New Jersey. She is frequently asked to speak throughout the country, offering an inspiring, poetic message of hope and deliverance believing that her words will ultimately be used for true transformation. In 2014, she joined Roots and Wings, a dynamic group of artists that seek to bring social change within their community. In 2015 and 2016, Hannah Drake, along with the members of Roots and Wings were able to perform their written plays, The West End Poetry Opera and The Blood Always Returns, at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, Hannah Drake was a guest poet at the Festival of Faiths offering poetry on social justice, believing that communication is truly the beginning of change. Her powerful, honest delivery has garnered her the nickname, “Brimstone”.
Hannah is the author of several works of poetry, Hannah‘s Plea-Poetry for the Soul, Anticipation, Life Lived In Color, In Spite of My Chains, For Such A Time As This and So Many Things I Want to Tell You-Life Lessons for the Journey. Her debut novel Views from the Back Pew was received with stellar reviews and was performed on stage to a sold out audience. Her follow-up novel, Fragile Destiny has been hailed as life changing. Currently, Hannah is working on a new collection of poetry and life lessons, entitled Love, Revolution and Lemonade.
Hannah was blessed to have her poem entitled #Formation go viral, having been shared over 20,000 times on Facebook and countless other times on Twitter and Instagram. #Formation has been shared all over the world-as close as down the block to London, Haiti, Cape Town and Ghana. In the Summer of 2016 Hannah Drake had the opportunity to travel to Dakar, Senegal, with Roots and Wings beginning her career as an international artist. “I have never felt at home until I placed my feet on African soil. It was there that I breathed in my life, my words, my love, my legacy.”
“I am honored, blessed and humbled that I have been given this opportunity. My life has taken me on a series of journeys, paths I never thought that I would walk and roads I never should have traveled but in all pain, there is purpose.” The Bible says all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose-this is my purpose and this is good. There are many layers to who I am as a person, as an author, and as a performer. All of it is reflected within the pages of my books and when I stand behind a microphone. I do not make any apologies for writing it the way I feel it, the way I see it, the way I experience it. This is simply my voice and I have been called for such a time as this. Hannah Drake is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. Hannah Drake is the proud parent of one daughter Brianna Alysse.
Learn more about Hannah and read her poetry at her website: Click Here.
Noah Feldman is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is a Senior Fellow of the Society of Fellows and a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for the Bloomberg View. He served as the senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution. He served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court (1998 – 1999). He received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 1992, finishing first in his class. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a D. Phil. in Islamic Thought from Oxford University and a J.D. from Yale Law School, serving as Book Reviews Editor of the Yale Law Journal.
He is currently writing a biography on James Madison forthcoming in 2017 and is the author of six other books: Cool War: The Future of Global Competition (Random House, 2013); Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices (Twelve Publishing, 2010); The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton University Press, 2008); Divided By God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2005); What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation building (Princeton University Press 2004) and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2003. He most recently co-authored two textbooks: Constitutional Law, Eighteenth Edition (Foundation Press, 2013) and First Amendment Law, Fifth Edition (Foundation Press, 2013).
In her work encouraging the American Muslim community to practice eco-lifestyle, Nana Firman became a member of the Green Mosque Initiative for the Islamic Society of North America. Recently, she organized the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change and co-founded Global Muslim Climate Network, which calls to all Muslim nations to transition from fossil-fuel to clean-energy based development. Firman is a GreenFaith Fellow, coordinates Muslim outreach for OurVoices and previously worked with the World Wildlife Fund in Indonesia to create climate resiliency plans.
MAYOR GREG FISCHER
MAYOR GREG FISCHER
Mayor Greg Fischer
Committed to growing jobs and creating a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, Greg Fischer was elected Louisville’s 50th mayor in 2010 — and was sworn in for a second four-year term on January 5, 2015.
Since taking office, Mayor Fischer has pursued three top goals: making Louisville a city of lifelong learning, a much healthier city and an even more compassionate community. These are the three pillars of his administration. As a businessman and entrepreneur, he brings a data-driven approach to city government with a goal of making it more efficient and accessible.
Using many of the performance-improvement approaches he used as a businessman, he has instituted a data-driven approach to city government with a goal of making it more efficient and accessible — and making sure that every taxpayer dollar is wisely spent.
Mayor Fischer’s accomplishments include:
- Regaining the 42,000 jobs lost to the long recession, including creating 12,400 new jobs in 2013 alone; and creating Louisville Forward, a new economic strategy for the city that combines into one entity all the city agencies dedicated to business development and the built environment.
- Advancing education by creating the Cradle to Career learning initiative, signing a commitment to improve student performance with JCPS and achieving a record level of citizens earning college degrees.
- Launching full-speed-ahead construction of the two Ohio River bridges while opening the pedestrian and bicycle friendly Big Four Bridge.
- Reducing overall violent crime by implementing the recommendations of a citizen work group on violence and the creation of the police VIPER response squad.
- Securing a $5 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to create the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team which is creating breakthrough work in improving city services ranging from animal services to recycling to EMS response.
- Initiating the regional Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement with Lexington, to grow jobs in advanced manufacturing and create a national template for regional economic development.
- Launching a citywide compassion journey by becoming the largest American city to sign the international Charter for Compassion, and creating the annual “Give A Day” community service week that led to Louisville being named “America’s Most Livable City” and an International Model City for Compassion.
Greg is a trustee for the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is past chair of the Conference’s Metro Economies Committee which addresses economic problems facing the nation’s cities and their citizens. He was named a “Public Official of the Year” by Governing Magazine, the only US mayor to earn that honor in 2013.
He is an entrepreneur who started several businesses including SerVend International and Iceberg Ventures, a private investment firm. He also co-founded bCatalyst, the first business accelerator in Louisville.
Heralded “one of American independent music’s few truly inspired technicians” by WIRE magazine, Rachel Grimes is a pianist, composer, and arranger based in Kentucky. She has toured worldwide as a solo pianist, and her work has been performed by such artists as Longleash, Amsterdam Sinfonietta Trio, Dublin Guitar Quartet, Portland Cello Project, Cicada, Orchestra Kandinskij, Borusan Quartet and Önder sisters, Orchestra Enigmatic, and the Louisville Orchestra. Rachel has performed at some of the world’s most diverse music festivals including Ecstatic Music Festival, Substrata, All Tomorrow’s Parties, P Festival (Taiwan), CrossLinx (Netherlands), Approximation Festival (Germany) and Big Ears in Knoxville, TN. Collaborators include Loscil, SITI Company, astrïd and Sylvain Chauveau, Chris Wells, Scott Moore, Jacob Duncan and Matthew Nolan. Solo releases: The Clearing (Temporary Residence – May 2015), Book of Leaves, Marion County 1938, and Compound Leaves as well as contributions to the albums of fellow artists like Watter, Christopher Tignor, Seluah, Joan Shelley, Nathan Salsburg, Christian Frederickson, Tara Jane O’Neil, Helen Money, R. M. Hubbert, and the Frames. She is a member of Louisville rock band King’s Daughters & Sons (Chemikal Underground) and a founding member of the ground-breaking indie-rock chamber ensemble Rachel’s, with whom she toured and released six albums (Quarterstick / Touch & Go).
Recent commissions include: film score with Matthew Nolan for “People On Sunday” for the National Gallery of Art; orchestrations of Book of Leaves for the Louisville Orchestra; a work for string quartet and two pianos for Borusan Quartet (Istanbul) and Ferhan and Ferzan Önder; a new piece “Your Mother, My Mother” and an arrangement of “And Today Was Her Birthday” for two pianos for the Önder sisters for their Anonymous Was A Woman project; a quartet for the Portland Cello Project; a new suite with Julia Kent for cello and piano for the installation Doppelgänger by London artist Peter Liversidge; a rendition of the national anthem for Smithsonian Magazine; a set of arrangements for the SITI Company of New York with the music of George and Ira Gershwin for SATB chorus, solo voices, strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and piano. She has contributed scoring, research, and recordings for multi-media installations for Donna Lawrence Productions (Museum of World Religions, Kentucky Show!, Kentucky Derby Museum, National Infantry Museum, New York Historical Society). Her recordings have been licensed to numerous film and TV works internationally including the Showtime documentary Listen to Me Marlon, feature film Actress, HBO series Witness, Gasland and Gasland II (HBO), Last Days Here (9:13 Pictures), and Academy Award and Golden Globe winner La Grande To Bellezza (Indigo Films).
Visit Rachel’s Website: Click Here
Patrick Holden is a pioneer of the modern sustainable food movement and the Founding Director and Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust.
He grew up in London but was deeply influenced by a year he spent in California at the beginning of the seventies. He returned to the UK to study biodynamic agriculture at Emerson College and started a community dairy farm in West Wales in 1973. It is now the longest established organic dairy farm in Wales, with a herd of 85 Ayrshire cows – the milk from which is made into raw milk cheese by his son, Sam. Through his work and farming, Holden has spearheaded a number of prominent food campaigns around BSE, pesticide residues and GM food.
He was the founding chairman of British Organic Farmers in 1982, before joining the Soil Association, where he worked for nearly 20 years and during which time the organization led the development of organic standards and the market for organic foods.
Holden was a member of the UK Government’s working group on the Foresight report into Future of Food and Farming and is Advisor to the Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit. His advocacy for a major global transition to more sustainable food systems now entails international travel and regular broadcasts and talks at public events.
Holden is Patron of the UK Biodynamic Association and was awarded the CBE for services to organic farming in 2005.
Since 1985, Jinpa has been the principal English translator to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and has traveled extensively in this capacity. He has translated and edited more than ten books by the Dalai Lama including “Healing Anger,” “Dzogchen,” “Path to Bliss,” “The World of Tibetan Buddhism,” “The Good Heart: The Dalai Lama Explores the Heart of Christianity” and the New York Times bestseller “Ethics for the New Millennium.” Jinpa’s own works include numerous contributions to various collections and academic journals and several works in the Tibetan language. His latest books are “Tibetan Songs of Spiritual Experience,” (co-edited with Jas Elsner), “Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Thought: Tsongkhapa’s Quest for the Middle View” and “A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives.” Jinpa was born in Tibet in 1958. He received his early education and training as a monk at Zongkar Chöde Monastery in South India and later joined the Shartse College of Ganden Monastic University, South India, where he received the Geshe Lharam degree. He taught Buddhist epistemology, metaphysics, Middle Way philosophy and Buddhist psychology at Ganden for five years. Jinpa holds a B.A., Honors, in Western Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, both from Cambridge University.
INGRID MATTSON, Ph.D.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson is the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College at Western University in Canada.
Dr. Mattson was educated in Canada and the United States, earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1999. From 1998 to 2012 she was Professor of Islamic Studies at Hartford Seminary in CT where she developed and directed the first accredited graduate program for Muslim chaplains in America and served as Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. From 2001-2010 Dr. Mattson served as vice-president, then as president of the Islamic Society of North America (USA), the first woman to serve in either position. Her writings, both academic and public, focus primarily Qur’an interpretation, Islamic theological ethics and interfaith relations. Her book, The Story of the Qur’an, is an academic best-seller and was chosen by the US National Endowment for the Humanities for inclusion in its “Bridging Cultures” program.
Dr. Mattson is a Senior Fellow of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan. From 2009-2010, Dr. Mattson was a member of the Interfaith Taskforce of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; in 2008 she was on the Council of Global Leaders of the C-100 of the World Economic Forum; from 2007-2008, she was a member of the Leadership Group of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project (USME). Dr. Mattson is the recipient of numerous awards as well as honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Hartford, and the Chicago Theological Seminary. She is frequently consulted by the media and has served as an expert witness.
Selected Awards and Recognition
- Newsweek Magazine’s “People to Watch” in 2007
- El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Award, presented by the Washington Academic Leadership Institute, the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association and the Muslim Social Network, January 19, 2009
- Wisam al-Istiqlal (Medal of Independence) of the First Order for contributions to the field of Islamic Studies, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 2010
- Jordan’s Royal Institute for Strategic Studies “500 Most Influential Muslims,” 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Visit Dr. Ingrid Mattson’s website: Click Here
David Muhammad is a leader in the fields of criminal justice, violence prevention, and youth development. David is the National Director of Justice Programs at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD).
Through NCCD, David is the lead Positive Youth Development consultant and technical assistant provider to four California counties through the Sierra Health Foundation’s Positive Youth Justice Initiative. He is also providing leadership and technical assistance to the CeaseFire Violence Reduction Strategy in the cities of Oakland and Stockton, CA. David is helping to develop a new organization in Los Angeles, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), which was founded by successful Hollywood producer Scott Budnick. ARC is a support network and advocacy organization for the formerly incarcerated. David is also co-coordinating a statewide coalition of juvenile justice advocates, the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice.
The former Chief Probation Officer of the Alameda County Probation Department, David was responsible for overseeing 20,000 people on probation, a staff of 600, and a $90 million budget. David ushered in enormous reform in Alameda County to move probation away from a deficit-based correctional model into a strengths-based Positive Youth Development model.
David formally served as the Deputy Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Probation and was responsible for overseeing 35,000 people on probation and a staff of 800. David previously served as the Chief of Committed Services for Washington, DC’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. At DYRS, David’s responsibility included 300 staff, a $42 million annual budget, a juvenile institution, and 900 youth committed to his department’s care.
David Muhammad was formally the Executive Director of The Mentoring Center in Oakland, CA. Under David’s leadership, The Mentoring Center (TMC) doubled in staff size and tripled its budget as it became the premier agency serving highly at-risk youth in the Bay Area. While at TMC, David was contracted by the City of Richmond, CA to help design the Office of Neighborhood Safety, which has now been credited for bringing significant reductions in violence to the city.
As a graduate of Howard University’s School of Communications, David also has an extensive journalism career. Since 1997, Muhammad was a contributing editor and television show host for Pacific News Service in San Francisco. His columns continue to be published in publications around the country. David was the editor of the “Seeking Solutions to Black on Black Crime” series in the Globe Newspapers from 2007-2009.
In honor of his work with youth, Muhammad received the 2000 Community Leadership Award and Fellowship from The California Wellness Foundation, honoring community leaders who are involved in violence prevention. In 2002, he was awarded the prestigious Next Generation Leadership Award from The Rockefeller Foundation.
In December 2003, David completed a course on “Systems Dynamics for Senior Managers” at the MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, MA. In August of 2008, David completed a certificate program on Juvenile Justice Multi-System Integration from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.
David Muhammad’s proudest accomplishment is being a father to his three children. Learn more about David at his website: Click Here.
ELIZABETH MATTIS NAMGYEL
ELIZABETH MATTIS NAMGYEL
Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has studied and practiced the Buddhadharma for 30 years under the guidance of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. After meeting Rinpoche in Nepal, she became his first Western student. Elizabeth has an academic background in both Anthropology and Buddhist Studies, but her learning is also grounded in practice. After many years of solitary retreat, Rinpoche appointed Elizabeth as Retreat Master at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling, Mangala Shri Bhuti’s retreat center in southern Colorado.
Elizabeth is the author of The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom and is currently writing her next book, tentatively titled, “The Logic of Faith”, about faith and the Middle Way teachings. She has edited Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s two books, “It’s Up to You” and “Light Comes Through” and teaches the Buddhadharma in the United States and Europe. She is an avid rock climber and enjoys horseback riding, long walks and the contemplative life of Crestone, Colorado.
Elizabeth is known for her willingness to question the spiritual path in order to reach a place of genuine practice and awakening. Using the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness as a lens, she asks us to take a fresh look at all the assumptions and beliefs we have about reality and liberation.
Rami Nashashibi has served as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) since its incorporation as a nonprofit in 1997. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago and is a Visiting Professor of Sociology of Religion & Muslim Studies at the Chicago Theological Seminary. He has worked with several leading scholars in the area of globalization, African American studies and urban sociology and has contributed chapters to edited volumes by Manning Marabel and Saskia Sassen.
Rami has lectured across the United States, Europe, and Asia on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community activism and social justice issues and is a recipient of several prestigious community service and organizing honors. Rami and his work with IMAN have been featured in many national and international media outlets and in 2009, Chicago Public Radio selected him as one of the “Top Ten Chicago Global Visionaries”. In 2014, the Center for American Progress profiled Rami as one of the “14 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2014” and he was named one of the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
Rami lives with his wife and three children on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
MAYOR BETSY PRICE
Betsy Price, a Fort Worth native, was elected in 2011 as the 44th mayor of the City of Fort Worth. In 2015, Price ran unopposed and was re-elected to a third two-year term. As the 16th largest city in the United States, Fort Worth remains one of the fastest growing large cities in the country. Along with her focus on promoting jobs, strengthening education, fighting crime and improving mobility, Price has made significant strides along the path toward her vision of a healthy, engaged and fiscally responsible city.
Instead of sitting in cars, on the couch or in the office, Price believes in a community that naturally promotes physical activity throughout the day.
During her first term, Price led a community effort to build a city that’s more fit, happy and productive. The result was FitWorth, a citywide initiative focused on promoting active lifestyles and healthy habits in both kids and adults. With an initial $250,000 grant from Oncor, FitWorth is working to stem the rising tide of obesity, especially in children. Thanks to FitWorth, employers, schools, hospitals, faith communities, non-profits and retailers are energized and actively promoting a more healthy and sustainable city.
Building a healthy community is much more than promoting exercise and good nutrition. It’s also about designing a city that gives residents the opportunity to leave the car at home, opting for alternate modes of transportation. Under her leadership, Fort Worth has become a foremost cycling community, adding miles of new bike lanes and trails. Promoting pedestrian-friendly urban villages has also remained a staple of Price’s vision for rebuilding the city’s urban core. Moreover, she continues to push her long-term goal of linking neighborhoods and job centers with a comprehensive and convenient commuter rail system.
As Price likes to say, “It’s Your Fort Worth.” She understands a city is nothing without an active and engaged citizenry. Shortly after being elected as mayor, Price made quick work of starting a movement to get young people more involved in driving local public policy. The response to her call to young adults was overwhelming. Within a matter of months, citizens under the age of 40 from across the city came together, set a charge and dubbed themselves SteerFW. The organization has grown to more than 300-strong, with various task forces tackling some of the cities toughest challenges.
Thanks to today’s hectic and busy society, getting citizens—both young and old—involved in charting the course for their city requires more creative approaches to the typical town hall meeting. With that in mind, Price found several ways to promote grassroots government. Most notably, her Walking and Rolling Town Halls have broken the mold of that tired town hall meeting with a casual—and healthy—way for citizens to connect with city leaders. Price also understands the power of the Internet to bring communities together to seize opportunities and address challenges. In 2013, Price led the charge to launch YourFortWorth.org, the city’s first 24/7 online public forum allowing citizens to share and vote on new ideas to improve their city.
A strong fiscal conservative, Price applied the skills she garnered as a business owner and from a decade of service as Tarrant County’s Tax Assessor to tightening the city’s belt. With a close eye on the bottom line, Price has been a consistent champion of using responsible and sustainable budget cuts to balance the city’s $1.2 billion budget. Additionally, Price and the City Council made bold changes to the city’s pension plan in 2012 to protect taxpayers and stabilize the fund for current and future retirees.
Price also believes in the power of doing public good with private investment. Putting to good use her decades of experience building personal and professional bridges, Price matched generous benefactors with community needs to help the city with everything from health and fitness, to public engagement, to public pools, to animal adoptions and more.
Price graduated from Arlington Heights High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington. Since then, she has been an active mother and a leader in the Fort Worth community, serving on numerous boards, commissions and professional associations.
After running her own successful business for 17 years, Price turned to public service, and was elected in 2000 to serve as Tarrant County’s Tax Assessor where she quickly made her department one of the most efficient in Texas, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
She has been married to Tom, an insurance agent, for more than 40 years and has three adult children, Kathryn, Phillip and Paul. In her spare time, Price is an avid cyclist and enjoys spending quality time with her three grandsons.
Sadiqa Reynolds is the President and CEO of Louisville Urban League. Her appointment made her the first woman to hold this title in the affiliate’s 95 year history. She has previously served as Chief for Community Building in the Office of the Mayor where she oversaw approximately 1500 employees who operated the city’s Parks, Public Health and Wellness Programs, Animal Services, Human Relations Commission, Libraries, Zoo, Community Services, and the Office for Safe Healthy Neighborhoods. Sadiqa serves or has served on several boards including Fund for the Arts, the Depression Center, BankOn, Maryhurst, Habitat for Humanity, Home of the Innocents and the WAVE3 Editorial Board, WDRB Editorial Board, Cradle to Career Committee, 55K, GLI and the Federal Reserve Board.
She has served as District Judge for the 30th Judicial Court. She was also the first African American woman to clerk for the Kentucky Supreme Court when she served as Chief Law Clerk for the late Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens. Her life as a public servant has also included being the first African American to serve as the Inspector General for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. There she worked to ensure regulatory compliance and integrity in programs and facilities responsible for providing quality health care, child care and related services, as well as working closely with the Center for Medicaid/Medicare Services in the Federal Government. As IG the ultimate oversight of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription reporting program (KASPER) was also under her purview.
Prior to entering the public sector, Sadiqa owned and managed a private legal practice for many years. Her practice included criminal litigation, employment law, death penalty litigation and serving as Guardian Ad Litem representing abused, neglected and dependent children as well as arguing successfully before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. She has also been recognized by the Louisville Bar Association for providing pro bono hours in which she represented domestic violence victims and other disadvantaged citizens.
Sadiqa earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Louisville and her law degree from the University of Kentucky. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Bates Memorial Baptist Church. She has mentored and stayed connected with many young people and is passionate about making a difference in every life she is able to touch.
She has worked to identify funding for programming in order to provide opportunities for young people in our community and spearheaded the move to create a liaison between the public school system and LMPD in order to assist children exposed to domestic violence. She is an advocate for mental health awareness and regularly works and speaks in order to reduce the stigma around mental health. She is also a proponent for Restorative Justice and participated in the face it campaign to end child abuse. Under her leadership, the Louisville Urban League is committed to jobs, justice, education, health and housing. Those who know her know that she is tenacious and dedicated to making a positive impact in the world.
Sadiqa regularly serves as keynote speaker and through her community work has been recognized as a Business First Enterprising Woman to Watch, a Woman of Influence, been honored with a Tower Award, a Torch of Wisdom and been named a Daughter of Greatness by the Ali Center. She’s received the Fannie Lou Hamer award, for her commitment to justice and in 2016 was named one of 100 Women to Watch in the country by Biz Women. Through her work at the League, she’s also been recognized as a Housing Advocate by the Mortgage Bankers Association. Sadiqa has been featured on public radio and in numerous print media outlets including Today’s Woman & NY Times. She loves to read and travel and has two phenomenal daughters Sydney, 11 and Wynter, 10, both of whom are being educated in the Jefferson County Public School System.
Ambassador Shabazz is a producer, writer and diplomat who has spoken throughout the world. She has spent over 35 years offering keynote addresses while developing curricula and programs for educational institutions, executive forums, diplomatic networks, penal systems ad organizations globally. In 1996, Shabazz established the Pilgrimage Foundation in honor of the spiritual journey to the Holy Land by her father, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, also known as Malcom X. The former prime minister of Belize recognized her as a key advisor on international cultural affairs and project development.
RABBI RAMI SHAPIRO
RABBI RAMI SHAPIRO
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award–winning author of over thirty books on religion and spirituality. Rami received rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and holds a Ph.D. from Union Graduate School. Rami was initiated into the Ramakrishna Order of Vedanta Hinduism by Swami Swahananda in 2011.
A congregational rabbi for 20 years and a Professor of Religious Studies for 10, Rabbi Rami writes the Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler column for Spirituality and Health magazine, and hosts the magazine’s weekly podcast, Essential Conversations with Rabbi Rami (www.spiritualityhealth.com).
Among Rami’s many books are: The Sacred Art of Loving–kindness, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature, Recovery: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice, and Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.
Visit Rabbi Rami at his website: www.rabbirami.com
Anthony D. Smith is the Executive Director of Cities United, a national mayor-led initiative focused on eliminating the violence in American cities related to African American men and boys. Before joining Cities United, Anthony led the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods for Mayor Fischer and the city of Louisville. Anthony is committed to creating positive outcomes for all youth, with a focus on young black men and boys. He has over 20 years of experience organizing, facilitating, managing, mobilizing, and building networks, and a long track record of success working with civic and political leaders to create community change.
Anthony was the inaugural Director for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods for the city of Louisville, establishing the department and creating Louisville’s first comprehensive violence prevention plan. Anthony successfully coordinated efforts through national initiatives like Cities United and My Brother’s Keeper. He helped secure the selection of Louisville in 2014 as one of only five new sites added to the Department of Justice National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a federal initiative focused on reclaiming streets and schools from violence and revitalizing communities. Smith’s work to align national initiatives with local efforts has generated over $10 million in public and private investments.Under Anthony’s leadership, the One Love Louisville: Be the One to Make a Difference campaign was developed. It is an all-hands-on-deck action plan, calling on every one of us to take an active role to make Louisville a city of safe neighborhoods, where all citizens feel secure, supported, and prepared for lifelong success.
“We have an opportunity to positively impact peoples’ lives in our community. I believe change is possible. If you give young people a chance, they will succeed. The purpose of our work is to make sure everyone is connected and supported. That’s when we see success.”
Throughout his professional career, Anthony has made it a priority to cultivate up and coming leaders. He was born and raised in Louisville, KY. He earned his bachelor’s of arts from Northern Kentucky University. He is married to Devonya and has three boys – Kendrick, Haig and Chase.
NONTOMBI NAOMI TUTU
Nontombi Naomi Tutu
The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights. Tutu is the third child of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu. She was born in South Africa and had the opportunity to live in many communities and countries. She was educated in Swaziland, the US, and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US.
Growing up the “daughter of…” has offered Naomi Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path and role in building a better world. She started her public speaking as a college student at Berea College in Kentucky in the 1970s when she was invited to speak at churches, community groups, and colleges and universities about her experiences growing up in apartheid South Africa. Her professional experience ranges from being a development consultant in West Africa to being program coordinator for programs on race & gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina. She served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University, and was a part of the Institute’s delegation to the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
As part of Nozizwe Consulting, Naomi Tutu has led Truth and Reconciliation Workshops for groups dealing with different types of conflict. She also offers educational and partnership trips to South Africa for groups as varied as high schools, churches, hospices, K-12 teachers, and women’s associations.
Nontombi Naomi Tutu plans to pursue a Masters in Divinity and is the single mother of two daughters and a son.
Described as “Americaʼs Funniest Muslim” by CNN, Azhar Usman is among the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World,” according to Georgetown University. Standup comedy icon Dave Chappelle–for whom Azhar has opened over 50 times–commented in 2010: “Azhar Usman is untouchable.” Azhar has been profiled by over 100 major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Times of India, DAWN (Pakistan), Al-Ahram (Egypt), Jawa Pos (Indonesia), and The Economist. In 2005, ABC’s Nightline dedicated an entire episode to exploring his life and comedy career.
A former attorney, Azhar is a Chicago-based, professional standup comedian, performing at comedy clubs, theatres, festivals, campuses, conferences, conventions and private events all over the globe. Since 2001, he has performed in over twenty countries, on five continents. He released his self-produced, underground comedy album “SQUARE THE CIRCLE” in 2003, which went on to gain a cult following among English-speaking Muslim communities worldwide.
Azhar appeared in numerous documentaries (BBC, CBC, ABC, Al-Jazeera, PBS), starred in the award-winning, independent feature film “MOOZ-LUM” (starring Danny Glover and Nia Long, directed by Qasim Basir), and portrayed original sketch characters both on television (MTV, E4) and online (Tinkuʼs World). In character as “Vijay the VJ,” he served as a veejay for MTV Desi in 2005, interviewing such mega-celebrities as Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Hulk Hogan, Pitbull, Carmen Electra, and several others, at the MTV Video Music Awards. He served as a producer on critically acclaimed short films, including “THE BOUNDARY” (starring Alexander Siddig, directed by Julius Onah–sold to HBO); co-wrote and produced the standup comedy concert film “ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY: LIVE IN CONCERT” (directed by Andrea Kalin–limited 2008 theatrical release in the United States); recorded an appearance in “Triumph’s Election Special 2016” for Hulu (produced by Funny or Die; executive produced by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel); served as creative consultant on Hannibal Buress’ 2016 Netflix special “Comedy Camisado”; appeared in Bassem Youssef’s 2016 comedy series “Democracy Handbook” on Fusion’s new digital platform, F-Comedy; and can be seen playing a recurring role in Amazon Studios’ big-budget original series PATRIOT (created, written, and directed by Steve Conrad) in 2017.
As a versatile media professional, Azhar is as comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind it, serving as writer, producer, and talent on diverse creative projects throughout his career. He is an executive producer and co-founding principal of KALIJAGA MEDIA LLC, a newly formed independent production company focused on entertainment content production across all existing and emerging digital platforms. The Company’s first major production is “MO AMER: LEGALLY HOMELESS,” the first ever, one-hour standup special starring an Arab-American comedian (directed by Jay Chapman–expected release 2016). He plans to tape his first one-hour, solo standup special in the Spring of 2017 in Chicago.
Learn more about Azhar Usman at his website: Click Here
Dr. WILLIAM F. VENDLEY
Dr. Vendley is the Secretary General of Religions for Peace International. He is a member of its World Council which consists of 60 senior religious leaders from all continents. He coordinates the activities and projects of Religions for Peace’s World, 90 national and 6 regional councils.
Religions for Peace is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action for peace by working to advance multi-religious consensus on positive aspects of peace as well as concrete actions to stop war, help eliminate extreme poverty and protect the earth.
William assumed leadership of Religions for Peace International in 1994. He is a pioneer in advancing multi-religious cooperation to help resolve conflict and advance development and has facilitated the establishment of multi-religious councils around the world. For example, in the immediate aftermath of the civil war in Bosnia, he facilitated the Interreligious Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina which served Bosnia religious leaders in their efforts to heal their society and rebuild a single, multi-ethnic Bosnia. He also facilitated the establishment of the Interreligious Council of Sierra Leone in the midst of a ten-year civil war, supported the successful multi-religious mediations between the rebels and the government and was requested to assist in the formal peace talks in Lome, Togo. He has supported multi-religious efforts to prevent conflicts, mediate among warring parties and heal societies in the aftermath of violence in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Iraq and other countries. He is actively working in the Middle East with religious leaders in Israel, Palestine and neighboring states to advance peace. He is convinced that principled multi-religious cooperation can be an authentic expression of committed religious faith and that multi-religious efforts for peacemaking provide unique strengths that complement those marshaled by governments and bodies like the United Nations.
William co-founded the Hope for African Children Initiative to address the needs of African children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The Initiative resulted in an initial US$ 50M being raised to equip African communities, particularly grassroots religious congregations, to provide needed services to vulnerable children. This work provided the base for a substantial expansion of relief and development work by more than ten African inter-religious councils affiliated with Religions for Peace.
William is an advisor to a number of governments on matters related to religion and peace. He advised President Obama through his service on the Multi-religious Cooperation and International Affairs Task Force of the White House Faith-Based Council.
William lectures frequently in academic, governmental and other forums. He is a theologian and has served as a professor and dean in Roman Catholic graduate schools of theology.
Born and raised in Indiana, he earned his BA from Purdue University (1971) and was the recipient of its Distinguished Alumni for Science Award in 2005. He has an MA from the Maryknoll School of Theology (1976) and a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Fordham University (1984).
William is married to Mrs. Yasuko Vendley, and they reside in New York City.