Speakers

Secular Social Justice prioritizes the liberatory visions of activists of color who believe social change will only come through human intervention.


Ashton Woods

Community Organizer, Human Rights Activist

Ashton Woods openly identifies as same gender loving, atheist, HIV positive, and unapologetically Black. He is the lead organizer for Black Lives Matter: Houston and the Black Humanist Alliance co-chair with the American Humanist Association. Ashton’s belief in Black liberation and intersectional justice is highlighted by his active involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, racial justice, feminism, LGBTQ rights, and secular sociopolitical activism.


Candace Gorham

Counselor, Author

Candace R. M. Gorham MA, LPC is a licensed professional mental health counselor. She is a former ordained minister turned atheist-humanist activist, researcher, and writer on issues related to race and religion. She is a member of the Black Humanist Alliance advisory board, The Secular Therapist Project, and The Clergy Project. Candace is also the author of "The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion—and Others Should Too."


Diane Burkholder

Community Organizer, Anti-Oppression Consultant

Diane Burkholder is a cisgender, queer, mixed race, Black feminist community organizer. She’s a co-founder of One-Struggle KC, a coalition of Kansas City activists seeking to connect the struggles of oppressed Black communities, locally and globally.

Diane is the founder and lead consultant for The DB Approach, providing anti-oppression and social justice coaching and training. She is the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance co-chair with the American Humanist Association and co-moderates the Kansas City Freethinkers of Color, Kansas City Mixed Roots and Brown Voices/Brown Pulse for QTPOCs in Kansas City. She also serves on the Council of Elders for Uzazi Village which strives to Centering Black and Brown families in maternal and infant health. 


Gowri Konesaran

Poet, Performance Artist, Lawyer

Gowri K. is a Tamil American writer, performing artist, teacher, and lawyer. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, environmental protection, the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused in the U.S., and justice and accountability in Sri Lanka. Gowri is a fellow of the Asian American literary organization Kundiman, poetry coordinator at the non-profit arts organization BloomBars, a poetry events host at Busboys and Poets, senior poetry editor at Jaggery, and associate editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly


Jessica Xiao

Writer, Social Change Advocate

Jessica Xiao is a Washington, DC-based writer, interested in activist culture, radical vulnerability, feminism, race and identity, mass incarceration, and climate injustice. You can find her work at Everyday Feminism, The Establishment, Huffington Post, TheHumanist.com, and Medium.

She is the Prison Book Club Coordinator at Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, a nonprofit serving incarcerated youth tried as adults. She is also a grant writer for Artistri Sud, a Montreal-based nonprofit providing social entrepreneurship and leadership development training to Indigenous women artisans.

Previously, she was a Community Facilitator for McGill University’s “Social Learning for Social Impact” GROOC (massive open online course for groups) and the Marketing and Communications Lead for their environmental hackathon “On the Earth, For the Earth” at the 2016 World Social Forum.

From 2015 to 2016, Jessica was the Projects Assistant at the American Humanist Association, Operations Manager at Humanist Press, and Assistant Editor at TheHumanist.com. She is Co-Chair of the Feminist Humanist Alliance. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Economics and Psychology from McGill University. You can find her on Twitter @jexxicuh.


Juhem Navarro-Rivera

Political Scientist 

Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera is Political Director and Managing Partner at Socioanalítica  Research, a research and analysis  consulting firm.

A political scientist by training, Dr. Navarro-Rivera is a leading scholar in the study of secularism, race, and politics in the United States and Latin America. He is the author or coauthor of many articles, chapters, and reports on secular demographics and politics and on Latino political behavior. His work and commentary has been featured in NBC Latino, the Religious News Service, and Open Democracy, in international media like O' Globo (Brazil), The Times (London), and Reforma (Mexico), and in secular media like Free Inquiry, The Humanist Hour, and Friendly Atheist. He is member of the editorial boards of the peer-reviewed journals Secularism and Nonreligion, and Secular Studies.

Dr. Navarro-Rivera holds degrees in political science from the University of Puerto Rio (BA) and the University of Connecticut (M.A./PhD). You can listen to him in The Benito Juárez Experience, a podcast about culture, politics, and society from a secular Latinx perspective, and read his blog The LatiNone.


Nazgol Ghandnoosh

The Sentencing Project Research Analyst

Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., conducts and synthesizes research on criminal justice policies for The Sentencing Project. She has written about racial disparities in the justice system, public opinion about punishment, and the scope of reform efforts. Her report, Delaying a Second Chance: The Declining Prospects for Parole on Life Sentences, examines how states and the federal government have increased prison terms for people with parole-eligible life sentences. She regularly presents to academic, practitioner, and general audiences and her work has been featured in outlets including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and WNYC’s On the Media. She also edits The Sentencing Project’s Race and Justice Newsletter. 

Dr. Ghandnoosh earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Challenging Mass Incarceration: A California Group’s Advocacy for the Parole Release of Term-to-Life Prisoners,” was an in-depth study of a South Los Angeles-based group challenging severe sentences.


Rajani Gudlavalleti

Consultant, Community Organizer, Writer

Rajani Gudlavalleti is a second-generation, South Indian-American, cisgender, queer consultant, community organizer, and writer. For over a decade, she has worked at the intersections of social justice, public health, and the legal system. Currently, she serves as organizer for the BRIDGES Coalition, advocating to end overdose and criminalization by promoting safe spaces, dignity, health, and justice for people who use drugs in Baltimore. 

Rajani is also a trainer with Baltimore Racial Justice Action, co-organizer of Baltimore Asian Resistance in Solidarity, and board member of Foundation Beyond Belief. In 2011, she received her master’s in public policy from the Johns Hopkins University.


Sikivu Hutchinson

Educator, Activist, Author/Writer

Sikivu Hutchinson, Ph.D., is a feminist-humanist educator, writer/author, and founder of Black Skeptics Group and Black Skeptics Los Angeles. She is a senior intergroup specialist for the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and founder of the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP), a high school feminist mentoring program in South Los Angeles. She also pioneered Secular Social Justice in direct response to the Eurocentric notion that addressing institutional oppressions that ravage marginalized communities within the context of secularism is unnecessary or a "distraction."

Dr. Hutchinson is the author of "White Nights, Black Paradise" (2015), Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels (2013), Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), and Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (Travel Writing Across the Disciplines) (2003). Moral Combat is the first book on atheism to be published by an African-American woman. Her activism has garnered wide recognition within atheist and secular humanist communities, including being awarded Secular Woman's Secular Woman of the Year Award (2013), Foundation Beyond Belief's Humanist Innovator Award (2015), and the Secular Student Alliance's Backbone Award (2016). The stage adaptation of White Nights, Black Paradise and her forthcoming novel, Rock 'N' Roll Heretic: The Life and Times of Rory Tharpe, are due Fall 2018.


Tracye Redd

Black Liberation Activist and Organizer

Tracye Redd is a full-time DC-based activist and organizer who has participated in direct actions around DC, Baltimore, and Charlotte. Currently, he’s part of Black Lives Matter DC and a former membership co-chair for the BYP100-DC.

Tracye regularly participates on panels discussing alternatives to calling the police, redefining black masculinity, and the Movement for Black Lives. He also provides direct action/civil disobedience training in the greater DC area for groups such as Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and the Movement for Black Lives. Tracye is the 2017 recipient of the “Another World is Possible” Activist Award from the Washington Peace Center. 


Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, J.D.

National LGBTQ Task Force Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project Director

Victoria is the Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Particular areas of expertise and focus are the intersections of issues affecting transgender people with disabilities and mental illness, anti-trans workplace discrimination and gun violence prevention from a social justice lens.

She has been in trans advocacy the entirety of her adult life, including advocacy in Puerto Rico and in Maine. She is the author of “Valuing Transgender Applicants and Employees,” a gold-standard best practices guide for employers, and frequently speaks on discrimination issues impacting the trans community. She was named the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s 2016 Ally of the Year Award and has been profiled in NBC News and Latina Magazine, among other outlets.


Whitney Shepard

The Movement for Black Lives Activist, Organizer, and Researcher

Whitney uses she or they pronouns, and is a community activist, organizer, and researcher for the movement for Black lives. She is compensated by the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) for researching issues and movement strategies that work at the intrinsic intersections of racial and economic justice. Her research looks specifically at how Wall Street, big banks and other financial players impact the day-to-day lives of Black, non-white, immigrant, non-binary and working-class people. She is currently researching the private prison and immigrant detention industry, and how these flowering corporations are using technology and corporate schemes to ensure a continuation of a nefarious police and incarceration state well into the 21st century.

Whitney also volunteers her time as an independent organizer in the local Movement for Black Lives DC (M4BL DC). She is helping to coordinate and support the coalition’s campaign, “Decriminalize Black.” The campaign aims to expose and target the b/millionaire ruling class, (and the politicians that enable them), who devastate and extract from the local DC community through irresponsible and inequitable development, increased policing and incarceration, and lining their pockets with stolen investments that belong to the people that live in the District. Interested in the kindling of mass movement, Whitney is most interested in the colonization of the movement by neoliberalist and other capitalist formations and institutions that displace the momentum of social change.