2017 Alumni of Color Conference

Keynote Speakers



Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams is a professor in the History Department at CWRU. She is the Founder and Director of the Social Justice Institute at CWRU, and the Founder and Director of CWRU’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Studies. She is an accomplished author of two single books: Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century (2015) and the award-winning The Politics of Public Housing: Black Women’s Struggles against Urban Inequality (2004). Her research interests include the manifestations of race and gender inequality on urban space and policy, social movements, and illicit narcotics economies in the post-1940s United States. She is also the co-editor of the Justice, Power, and Politics book series with University of North Carolina Press, as well as the co-editor of Teaching the American Civil Rights Movement (2002).

As a former journalist, educator, researcher, and scholar-activist, Dr. Williams has worked to broker understanding of issues regarding marginalization, inequality, and activism. She explains her teaching philosophy this way: “It is my belief that the practice of history should be part of a broader liberation project—one that arms students and scholars with the necessary analytical tools and information to combat social, cultural, and political myths and to address historical and contemporary issues.” Also known as “Dr. Rhonda,” she has most recently been engaged in local community efforts focused on police and criminal justice reform.



Dr. Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice. Her research also focuses on how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-sexist educational, equitable classrooms. For her work in the field, in 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. She is also the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE. In April of 2017, Dr. Love will participate in a one-on-one public lecture with bell hooks focused on the liberatory education practices of Black and Brown children.

Dr. Love is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education for elementary aged students. She is the founder of Real Talk: Hip Hop Education for Social Justice, an after school initiative aimed at teaching elementary students the history and elements of Hip Hop for social justice through project-based learning. Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics including: Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, Hip Hop feminism, art-based education to foster youth civic engagement, and issues of diversity. In 2014, she was invited to the White House Research Conference on Girls to discuss her work focused on the lives of Black girls. In addition, she is the inaugural recipient of the Michael F. Adams award (2014) from the University of Georgia. She has also provided commentary for various news outlets including NPR, The Guardian, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Dr. Love is one of the founding board members of The Kindezi School, an innovative school focused on small classrooms and art-based education. Finally, she is the author of the book Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, The Urban Review, and Journal of LGBT Youth. In 2017, Dr. Love edited a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies focused on the identities, gender performances, and pedagogical practices of Black and Brown lesbian educators. She is currently working on her second book, We Want to Do More Than Survive: A Pedagogy of Mattering.



As Vice President of Policy & Programs at Center for Social Inclusion, Simran is a key senior level manager who works directly with the President and Senior Vice President, providing programmatic leadership through the management and coordination of all program staff, strategy development, program management, organizational networking, alliance building, and relationship management. In this role, Simran’s primary responsibilities include programmatic strategy, planning, implementation, staffing, and evaluation. In her role, Simran leads CSI’s Program team who, in turn, ensure the delivery and impact of CSI’s programs. In her past work at CSI as Coordinator of Advocacy and Director of Policy & Strategy, Simran designed and facilitated dozens of workshops in collaboration with national and local community and government groups focused on applying a structural race analysis as well as specific policy issues including transparency and accountability, transportation, food and health equity. In addition to workshops, Simran is a regular speaker on issues of racial equity—frequently featured at conferences and public meetings. During her time at CSI, Simran has worked directly with local and national advocates across the country including in Detroit, New York City, and Seattle.

Prior to joining the Center for Social Inclusion, Simran served as Program Manager at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation where she worked with the Food, Health & Well-being, Racial Equity, and Civic & Community Engagement portfolios. She also served as Program Assistant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where she supported the Policy Research and KIDS COUNT teams. Simran is deeply committed to youth development, having worked in organizational development and as frontline staff for the Holistic Life Foundation, a Baltimore-based yoga and mindfulness program, and as a language arts and community engagement teacher for middle school students through the Middle Grades Partnership. Simran has written and commented for a variety of media including the Detroit Free Press, The Times-Picayune, and City Limits Magazine.  She also has been a featured panelist on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.

Simran holds a dual bachelor’s degree in American Studies and Political Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a dual master’s degree in Public Administration and Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania



Dr. Peter T. Keo’s research explores the intersection of race, equity, diversity, and inclusion for marginalized communities, with a particular focus on Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs). His work empirically and theoretically interrogates the causes and consequences of inequality and the forces that shape structural barriers to educational and workforce entry. A second-generation Cambodian-American, his work is influenced drastically by personal experiences of war, genocide, trauma, concentrated poverty, racism, social injustice and neighborhood violence. He is particularly interested in understanding how these factors combined impact learning at school, and the pathways for success or failure across multiple contexts.

Peter is currently Fellow, RISE Boys and Men of Color Project, at Dr. Shaun R. Harper’s Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, University of Pennsylvania. In that capacity, he is building the RISE Data Center, a national public portal which disaggregates data for Asians and Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Latinos, and Natives. Prior to that, he was Research Associate at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, New York University Steinhardt. While at NYU, Peter worked with Dr. David E. Kirkland, and was Principal Investigator (PI) of a research study that explored K-12 educational outcomes for low-income Southeast Asian American students. He also co-authored a manuscript with Dr. Pedro Noguera entitled, From the Margins to the Center: Unpacking the Experiences of “Asians” in Black and Brown Discourses on Masculinity.

Peter also has over 15 years of experience in international development. Among other responsibilities, Peter served as Vice President of the University of Cambodia, and Senior Adviser to Dr. Kol Pheng, the former Minister of Education, Kingdom of Cambodia, in which they co-authored a draft of the Education Law for the Kingdom. He joined Cambodian-American expatriates in rebuilding the country after decades of war and genocide. Dr. Keo holds a doctorate of education from Teachers College, Columbia University, a master of education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a master of arts (social sciences) from The University of Chicago. He is the proud son of Cambodian political refugees.



Dr. Arshad I. Ali is Assistant Professor of Educational Research at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University. Dr. Ali is an interdisciplinary scholar who studies youth culture, race, identity, and democratic engagement in the lives of young people. Dr. Ali is currently completing a book manuscript examining the cultural geography of Muslim student surveillance in the United States. Dr. Ali is also co-editor of the forthcoming volume At War: Challenging Racism, Militarism, and Materialism in Education (Fordham University Press), a collection of essays commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence. His research has been published in Anthropology and Education Quarterly, the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, and Critical Education. He is the recipient of the 2016 Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Research on the Education of Asian and Pacific Americans Special Interest Group. He served as Scholar-in-Residence at Harvard College in 2016. Prior to pursuing a Ph.D, he served as the founding director of MAPS, a university based outreach and political education program working with students in South Los Angeles. He currently serves as an executive board member for the People’s Community Organization for Reform and Empowerment. 

Albino Garcia

Albino Garcia is the Founder and Executive Director of La Plazita Institute. He describes himself as a BTDT— “Been There, Done That.” He brings a remarkable range of life and program experience to his role, including being a consultant, trainer, and program manager for over two decades.  In 1990 Garcia founded Rivals in the Redwoods, a gang intervention program out of Salinas, California. In 1992, he created the GANAS, or Gang Alternative North and South.  Following in 1994, he co-founded the “New School” in Watsonville, California to give youth a second chance for education in an alternative setting more conductive to their needs. Garcia also has years of experience as the lead program coordinator at Barrios Unidos in Santa Cruz, California where he initiated school based, community-based, and institutional programming. He has served as an education trainer, and community liaison for the Center for Learning and Public Service at the University of New Mexico and was Deputy Director of Training at Youth Development Inc. in New Mexico.

In 1995, he was one of 41 people chosen for the prestigious Kellogg Fellowship, which awarded him $130,000 over three years to make a difference in addressing major social issues in the United States and beyond. As a Fellow Garcia had the opportunity to travel extensively, meeting with noted thinkers and leaders; including President Jimmy Carter, the Rigoberta Menchu Foundation in Guatemala City, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the Dalai Lama, Parker Palmer, and many others. He visited and participated in forums around civic engagement, leadership, and global issues in Brazil, Turkey, Greece, Peru, Guatemala, Belize, South Africa, Mexico, and cities across the United States. He is currently is the Quad-Chair in JDAI Reducing Racial & Ethnic Disparities; an Ordained Native American Chaplain at the New Mexico State Prison in Santa Fe and at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center; as well as a Certified Acudetox Specialist where he serves at La Plazita Institute.

Today Albino Garcia Jr. serves as the executive director of La Plazita Institute, Inc., a non-profit grassroots organization in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He directs the organization to engage New Mexico’s youth, elders, and communities in comprehensive, holistic, and cultural approaches. Designed around the philosophy of “La Cultura Cura” or culture heals, La Plazita’s programs engages the people it serves to draw from their own roots and histories to express core traditional values of respect, honor, love, and family. Through his work he is a trainer and consultant teaching skills and workshops in Drug and Gang Intervention, Cultural Diversity, Community Services, Racial Equity, Juvenile Justice Strategies, Agricultural Programming, Traditional Healing Practices & Services, Multiple Worlds Curriculum, Boys & Men of Color Programming, Rites of Passage Programming, and Community Organizing.

Garcia and La Plazita Institute have been recipients of several different awards, these being from the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement at the 22nd Annual NACOLE Conference, the National Association of Social Workers for outstanding contributions and exemplary leadership in serving New Mexico’s children and families, and the Gloria J. Jenkins Award for Outstanding Contributions to Juvenile Detention reform by a Community Organization from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Most recently, the work done by Garcia and La Plazita Institute has been published in a newly released book titled Overcoming Disparity Latino Young Men and Boys Edited by Frank de Jesús Acosta and Henry A. J. Ramos. Garcia is a committed member of his community, he has participated in numerous networks and professional affiliations including the Latino Network, Violence and Injury Prevention Project, Educational Leadership Institute, Community Action Network, and many more. He is Apache and Chichimeca in origin and is recognized as an outstanding leader and spiritual activist in Albuquerque.

Michael Blake


Assemblyman Michael Blake is the representative for the New York City District 79 in the Bronx New York. His goal is to transform South Bronx into the urban metropolis of the world. He set records for his fundraising campaign for his first election and Assemblyman Blake has recently won reelection in his district. He was able to being even more attention to the problems with profiling due to an occurrence with the NYPD. He wishes to strengthen women and minority owned business so that they have great access to capital, contracting, and opportunities. He has worked for the organizations Green for All and Operation Hope.  Blake was the Iowa Deputy Political Director for Barack Obama. He is currently running a campaign to be the Vice Chair for the Democratic National Committee.

Brandon Marshall (Special Guest)

Brandon Marshall is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos. He led the Broncos in tackles in 2014 and was part of the Super Bowl winning squad in 2015. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada and majored in criminal justice at the University of Nevada. Since signing with the Broncos in 2013, he has received the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award for exemplifying enthusiasm, cooperation, and honesty when dealing with the press and was named a Broncos Community Ambassador in 2015. Off the field, Mr. Marshall is is an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and has hosted several clothing drives for domestic violence shelters in Denver. After receiving criticism for kneeling during the National Anthem, Mr. Marshall set up a meeting with the Denver Police Chief. After that productive conversation, Mr. Marshall has continued to be involved in efforts to improve community policing and eliminate police violence against people of color.