Learn more about the keynote speakers and special guests for the 2015 Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference in Chicago. Please stay tuned as we continue to confirm more stellar presenters!
Keynote Speakers and Special Guests
Julian Boal is a founding member of Ambata, GTO-Paris (Theatre of the Oppressed Group–Paris), and Féminisme Enjeux. He has realized workshops and projects in more than 20 countries, and he helped in the realization of TO festivals in India with Jana Sanskriti, in Europe with Pa’tothom, and in South America with CTO-Rio. Julian is the author of Images of a Popular Theatre (Imagens de um Teatro Popular, Hucitec, 2000), co-editor of Theatre of the Oppressed in Actions (Routledge, 2015), and is working for a PhD in Brazil.
After returning to Chicago from California’s Central Valley studying Computer Engineering at the University of the Pacific in 2003, Abraham Celio began working at Universidad Popular (UP) as an adult education facilitator. This opportunity allowed him to connect with residents in his community area of Lower West Side and South Lawndale, also known as Pilsen & Little Village, by working to empower individuals. In essence giving a voice to those who are traditionally, economically, and socially voiceless by developing English Literacy, Computer Literacy, Heath Literacy and Family Literacy programs for children, youth, adults and families, UP’s programs encourage community members to take a participatory approach to their educational needs by incorporating a popular education model.
Kristiana Colón is a poet, playwright, actor, educator, Cave Canem Fellow, and Executive Director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective. She recently debuted her first hip-hop one-act Lack on Lack in Victory Gardens Theater’s 2014 Ignition Festival of New Works. Her play Octagon is the winner of Arizona Theater Company’s 2014 National Latino Playwriting Award and Polarity Ensemble Theater’s Dionysos Festival of New Work. In February and March 2013, she toured the UK with her collection of poems promised instruments published by Northwestern University Press. In autumn 2012, she opened her one-woman show Cry Wolf in Chicago while her play but i cd only whisper had its world premiere in London at the Arcola Theater. She also appeared on Season 5 of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Kristiana has taught English, Humanities, and Creative Writing at North Park University, Chicago State University, Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, and Malcolm X College, as well as served as a teaching artist for a number of nonprofit arts organizations including Young Chicago Authors, Gallery 37, and the Poetry Center. She believes in the power of art as a catalyst for social progress.
The #LetUsBreathe Collective aims to harness creative capital and cultural production to deconstruct systemic injustice in America and worldwide. A grassroots alliance of artists, journalists, and activists, we use our talents to amplify marginalized voices, disrupt the status quo, offer opportunities for healing and education, and provoke critical thought and dialogue about the intersections of oppression through film, music, theater, poetry, and civil disobedience.
In the wake of a militarized police response to the public outcry over the death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown, the #LetUsBreathe Collective formed as a fundraising initiative to bring tear gas protection and remedies, medical and hygiene supplies, and water bottles to Ferguson protesters. Beginning in August 2014, the #LetUsBreathe Collective launched an ongoing series of donation deliveries to support the frontline resistance. #LetUsBreathe teamed up with Lost Voices, a Ferguson youth protest group that vowed to camp out in the protest area until Darren Wilson was indicted. In an effort to deepen the conversation beyond mainstream media’s one-dimensional coverage, #LetUsBreathe produced Lost Voices: A Ferguson Story, a documentary bearing witness to this resistance movement, to be used as an educational tool to mobilize youth activism nationwide. The #LetUsBreathe Collective works in collaboration with the Black Youth Project (BYP100), Black Lives Matter, HandsUp United, and Chicago Artists Against Injustice. It also serves as an incubator for innovative activism to provoke critical dialogue and bring about social change on college campuses, within nonprofit programs, and for communities of all backgrounds.
Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer and freedom fighter living and working in Los Angeles. As founder of Dignity and Power Now and co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, she has worked tirelessly promoting law enforcement accountability across the nation.
Dignity and Power Now is dedicated to protecting incarcerated people and their families in Los Angeles. As executive director, Ms. Cullors has undertaken several projects ranging from the Coalition to End Sheriff Violence, Freedom Harvest artist collective, a bi-annual publication, the Dandelion Rising Leadership Institute and Building Resilience. In August of this year, the organization issued a report in collaboration with the UCLA Human Rights Clinic on the high percentage of black, mentally ill inmates. The report received coverage from multiple media outlets.
Founded in 2012, #BlackLivesMatter and Ms. Cullors has been on the ground in both Ferguson and St. Louis providing support to those who have taken action and responded to the ongoing virulent anti-Black racism permeating our society. Ms. Cullors and her team brought together more than 500 people from across the country to take part in the organization’s recent Freedom Ride from St. Louis to Ferguson. She is currently participating in an Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership fellowship where she prepared and led a think tank on state and vigilante violence for the 2014 Without Borders Conference and produced and directed a theatrical piece titled POWER: From the Mouths of the Occupied. Ms. Cullors is a Fulbright Scholarship recipient, was named 2007 Mario Savio Activist of the Year and received the Sidney Goldfarb award. She earned a degree in religion and philosophy from UCLA.
Marcela Espinoza is a Chicana raised in Morelia, Michoacán and Chicago. She is a graduate of History from Universidad Michoacán. Her research and dissertation focuses on Mexican migration to the Midwest and the Chicano experience of Chicago. She and her family have lived in La Villita for over twenty years, and she has a strong commitment to the political and educational development of the community. Recently, Marcela helped organize one border action in which families who were separated by deportation were able to return home to the U.S. Currently, she works as a youth facilitator at Universidad Popular where she leads communication, leadership, and participation of youth and families in the UPrising Youth Program.
Dr. Troy Harden has over 25 years experience serving and consulting in social service and community settings. Dr. Harden currently serves as an Associate Professor within Chicago State University’s Master of Social Work Program, specializing in trauma and traditional and non-traditional interventions within community settings. He has worked as a clinician, administrator, educator, activist and community practitioner concerning community issues in diverse settings. Dr. Harden served as a consultant with such diverse institutions as the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Appraisal Institute, the Pan African Association, and Burrell Communications, and concerning the development of Cook County’s Project Brotherhood, a Men’s Health Clinic. He is a trainer and facilitator and responsible for co-creating and facilitating leadership trainings, organizational development, and educational learning experiences for organizations, men, women, adolescents and children on three continents, including with union organizers in Chicago, adolescents in West Africa, business executives in London, England, and within maximum security prisons. Dr. Harden was adjunct faculty in Psychology and Sociology at DePaul University, where he taught courses in Human Development, the Psychology of African Americans, Community Technology issues, Substance Abuse, Addiction and Recovery, and Community Development and Social Justice since 1998, and helped found DePaul University’s Master of Social Work Program. He is currently a Co-Principal Investigator with DePaul University’s Multifaith Veterans Support Project, an initiative in the state of Illinois to engage the faith community in supporting veterans. He is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago’s Master of Social Work program, and received his doctorate from DePaul University’s School of Education, specializing in curriculum and training.
Benji Hart is an activist, artist and youth worker dedicated to radical education. Much of his work focuses on using the dance form of voguing to teach Black and Brown queer history, sex positivity, prison abolition, and to empower poor and working queer communities in creative and celebratory ways. He strives to combine arts and education to unite oppressed collectives and plan direct action. Currently he is a drop-in worker at the Broadway Youth Center in Chicago, a community space for trans and queer youth experiencing homelessness. His writing has been published at Salon Magazine, The Socialist Worker, Cooperative Catalyst, and his own blog, Radical Faggot.
Carla Loop is an activist with MST (the Landless Rural Workers Movement) and its national coordinator of culture. She lives in the state of Paraná in Curitiba in Brazil. Carla develops work and research on culture, arts, and social movements, with particular interest in the study of Brecht and Epic Theatre. Carla’s work experience is with the Theatre of the Oppressed, training and working with agrarian reform settlements, especially with school theatre groups and women’s groups. Carla holds a bachelor’s degree in rural education from Universidade de Brasília, with a specialization in languages in rural schools. She is a member of a research group on modes of production and social antagonisms—a group that brings together researchers and activists in Brazil. She works at the intersection of culture, politics, education, and art.
Genesis Rivera is a 13 year old 7th grader living in the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. Her interests are soccer, reading, and writing. She enjoys art, science and math. Genesis aspires to become a pediatrician when she’s older and graduates from an Ivy League college. She’s been in the UPrising Youth Program for two years and has led, along with her peers, multiple youth advocacy campaigns in the neighborhood.
Sabrina Speranza is a teacher and actress. Her formative influences in Theatre of the Oppressed were CTO Río and Jana Sanskriti. Since 2005 she has specialized in Theatre of the Oppressed with children and adolescents in contexts of social vulnerability (situations in the street, education centers, imprisonment, among others) and with educators. She is a founding member of GTO Montevideo (Group of Theatre of the Oppressed Montevideo), a political group that has used Theatre of the Oppressed as a tactic for struggle beginning in 2011. She has given workshops and presentations at conferences and gatherings in Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, and Spain. As a master’s degree student in Human Sciences, she is working on a thesis about the results of TO with teenagers in jail.