Fall 2022 Unity in Diversity Speaker Bios

Meet some of the speakers from our fall 2022 two-day Unity in Diversity event.

Mohammed Abu-Nimer is a professor in the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program at American University. He has conducted interreligious conflict resolution training and interfaith dialogue workshops in conflict areas around the world, such as in, Egypt, Northern Ireland, the Philippines (Mindanao), Israel, Palestine, Chad, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. As a professor with over 35 years of teaching experience, he has developed numerous courses that deal with different facets of peacebuilding and conflict resolution and regularly publish on the subject. While his research has focused on a wide array of areas in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, his most recent areas of focus have included faith-based peacebuilding, interfaith dialogue in peacebuilding and building social cohesion, and pedagogical considerations on incorporating peace and forgiveness education in the Arab world and Muslim world. He also served as a Senior Advisor to the KAICIID Dialogue Centre, an international organization that specialized in interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Abu-Nimer is author and editor of more than 13 books on faith-based and interfaith peacebuilding, including Nonviolence and Peacebuilding in Islamic Context: Unity in Diversity: Interfaith Dialogue in the Middle East and Bridging Ideals and Reality, Evaluating Interreligious Peacebuilding.

Jamele Adams serves as the DEI Director for the District of Scituate Public Schools, proudly embracing membership in the community of Scituate and the educational family of its schools. Spelling his name with lower case letters, he does so to signal that he is a piece in life’s grand landscape for us all. Arriving to Scituate from Brandeis University, where he served as Dean of Students, along with specific responsibilities for student’s campus life experience, he pioneered and supported programs that celebrated and enhanced campus pluralism.

Recipient of many awards and recognitions for his work in higher education, with young scholars interested in law and creative writing workshops, he is also a nationally celebrated poet. jamele remains well known for his work engaging issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Through his L.I.T. platform and model; love, inclusion and trust serve as the basis for human connection while addressing h8 and bias. He has appeared at multitudes of public and private schools, school districts and college campuses every year.

Becca Berky is the Director of Community-Engaged Teaching & Research in addition to the Interim Director of the University Honors Program at Northeastern University. She has more than 15 years of experience in higher education, and is an interdisciplinary learner, researcher, and educator with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Butler University, a Master’s degree in College Student Personnel from Miami University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England. Dr. Berkey’s scholarly research is at the intersection of leadership, change, and environmental justice with a specific interest in the justice issues facing farmworkers. For her research she collaborated with the Northeast Organic Farming Association for Just Farming: An Environmental Justice Perspective on the Capacity of Grassroots Organizations to Support the Rights of Organic Farmers and Laborers. Her books include Environmental Justice and Farm Labor and Reconceptualizing Faculty Development in Service-Learning/Community Engagement. Additionally, Dr. Berky is a member of the EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee, the Advisory Council of the Agricultural Justice Project, and the Farmworker Health and Justice Workgroup of Coming Clean, Inc. and the Board of Directors of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE).

Elizabeth Delgado (she/they) is an Energy Healing & Resilience Practitioner and Employee Wellbeing Strategist from Lawrence, MA. The owner & founder of Colectiva Wellness & Healing. Ms. Delgado’s purpose is creating wellness spaces and teaching effective healing and resilience practices for the empowerment of those experiencing stress and systemic oppression. Whether in the workplace, community or individual setting. With 20 years experience in holistic healing and Reiki, she has worked with many community members on their path towards healing and transformation. Ms. Delgado is committed to sharing her knowledge, resources and gifts with the world through the lens of social justice, decolonization and collective healing.

Tee Franklin is a Black, queer, disabled, autistic, award winning, bestselling comic writer, TV writer and public speaker from New Jersey. In 2018, Franklin became the first Black, queer, disabled woman writer with a series published by Image Comics, for her bestselling queer romance graphic novella, BINGO LOVE, which is currently on its third printing. BINGO LOVE was nominated for a GLAAD award for best comic in 2019, in addition to being a GoodReads Choice nominee. BINGO LOVE dominated “Best Of” 2018 lists and won the Virginia Library Diversity Award for best graphic novel in August 2019. Franklin was named one of 2018’s Icons, Innovators and Disruptors by Advocate Magazine.Franklin is also the first Black woman to write the DC Comics well-known characters, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, from the GLAAD nominated and bestselling HARLEY QUINN: EAT. BANG! KILL TOUR series based on the HARLEY QUINN animated series on HBO MAX. Recently, Franklin is writing for Archie Comics and has created a brand new character — Eliza Han — which was announced in the New York Times. Franklin’s stories have also appeared in the New York Times bestselling and Eisner winning graphic novel, LOVE IS LOVE as well as award winning anthologies — ELEMENTS: FIRE and FEMME MAGNIFIQUE.

Franklin’s goals are to change the ugly and harmful narrative the media has created about disabled people. She wants to show that you can create works of art without offending disabled people. Franklin has proven if given accommodations and accessibility, disabled people can accomplish anything. There’s so much talent that lies within disabled people, all you need to do is open your mind and see us as more than our disabilities. Franklin has created trending and viral hashtags throughout her time on social media, from #BlackComicsMonth, #TeensThatLookLikeTeens, #NoRampNoPanel, her favorite: #MakeAbleistsUncomfortable and several more. Franklin does not consider herself to be an activist nor an advocate for disabled people, however she still uses her platform to discuss topics that affects her daily life as a Black, queer, disabled woman and speaks up for those who don’t have a large platform.

Dana Gastich French has over two decades of experience in education during which time she has served as an ESL and bilingual teacher, instructional coach, and school and district-level administrator. During all seasons of her career, one constant has been her engagement in the design and facilitation of engaging and meaningful professional development and coursework around effective practices for multilingual learners. Inclusive and asset-based approaches to differences in language, socioeconomics, culture, and learning are at the heart of her work. Ms. Gastich French (FKA Furbush) co-authored the text Teaching English Language Learners: Content and Language in Secondary Classrooms. She is currently CEO and lead consultant for UpRiver Education, an education consulting firm that partners with schools, districts, and state agencies in their mission to maximize outcomes for one million multilingual learners.

Claudia Fox Tree is a professional educator and social justice activist with a Masters in Education. She facilitates courses and workshops on having difficult conversations about diversity and anti-racism. In decolonizing equity conversations, she centers present Indigenous experiences and inclusive history in what is now known as North and South America. Her presentations center marginalized Native American identities and missing contributions while dismantling stereotypes and historical inaccuracies. She asks allies and co-conspirators to come on the journey with her. Claudia is a full-time public school teacher in the special education field and is currently a doctoral student at Lesley University.

Lesley Melendez is Deputy Director of Groundwork Lawrence (GWL), a non for profit organization she joined in 2004. During her time at GWL Ms. Melendez has been instrumental in expanding the organization’s community-based programming. A lifelong resident of Lawrence, she has always been passionate about serving her community, she completed the Core Certificate Program with the Institute for Nonprofit Practice. Ms. Melendez is a change agent, facilitator, and organizer with rich experience in working with businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and community activists. She has served on numerous volunteer boards and selected committees Including the City’s Planning and Licensing boards, the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. As a community weaver, Ms. Melendez brings her passion for collaboration, community, and equity along with her love of writing, community, and civic engagement and her passion for trees to the forefront of her work.

Elecia Miller, Coordinator, City of Lawrence Mayor’s Health Task Force

Shailja Patel, queer radical feminist internationalist from Kenya, is the author of Migritude, which was a #1 Amazon poetry bestseller, Seattle Times bestseller, and shortlisted for Italy’s Camaiore Prize. Migritude is taught in over 150 colleges and universities worldwide. Migritude is based on Patel’s highly-acclaimed one-woman theatre show, which generated standing ovations on four continents. Patel’s poems have been translated into 17 languages. Her essays and commentaries appear in the Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, and Internazionale, among others. She has appeared on BBC, Al-Jazeera, and NPR. Honors include a Sundance Theatre Fellowship, the Voices of Our Nations poetry award, the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award, the BrittlePaper Anniversary Award, the Nordic Africa Institute African Writer Fellowship, and Jozi Book Fair Guest Writer Award. Patel is a founding member of Kenyans For Peace, Truth and Justice, a civil society coalition which works for an equitable democracy in Kenya. The African Women’s Development Fund named her one of Fifty Inspirational African Feminists, and the Nobel Women’s Initiative honored her with a Global Feminist Spotlight. Follow her on twitter: @shailjapatel

Kerri Sheeran Perry currently serves as CEO at Community Action, Inc. in Haverhill and is responsible for all phases of nonprofit operations, outreach, support and governance. Kerri oversees multiple programs including: Adult Education, ESL, Energy, Head Start, Early Head Start, Family Day Care, Drop In Center, WIC and Community Services. She works with partner organizations, funders and municipal leaders to strengthen existing programs and develop and implement new projects that will facilitate the mission of the non-profit to provide resources and opportunities for individuals, families and communities to overcome poverty. Prior to joining CAI in 2014 as the Director of Planning and Development, Ms. Perry led a non-profit organization focused on providing housing and wrap-around social services to low income families in Essex County. She also practiced law at two Boston law firms and was in-house counsel at LandAmerica.

Jeannette Roberes is an author who has worked as a speech pathologist, software engineer and educator. She has spoken in over 40 countries and has earned recognition in The Washington Postand U.S. News & World Report,among other media acknowledgements. Her debut book, Technical Difficulties: Why Dyslexic Narratives Matter in Tech, has received 5 star reviews across Goodreads and Amazon. It is available on any online platform where books are sold. Jeannette is the Chief Academic Officer of Bearly Articulating.

Eleanor Shonkoff is the Faculty Supervisor for the Food Recovery Network (FRN). Her Community Nutrition students and the student FRN chapter on campus recover surplus food from the community and campus, prepare it, and deliver it to members of the Lawrence, MA community facing food insecurity. Her research broadly investigates child obesity treatment and prevention, with a focus on parenting stress, feeding practices and food insecurity. She received her PhD in Preventive Medicine and conducted postdoctoral work at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Chrysanthemum Tran is a poet, writer, performance artist & historian. She is the recipient of a MacColl Johnson Fellowship from the Rhode Island Foundation. In 2016, she burst onto the poetry slam scene when she became the first trans woman finalist of the Women of the World Poetry Slam. With poet Justice Ameer, she produced and debuted the multidisciplinary show ANTHEM at the American Repertory Theater’s OBERON. Gracing the stages of the National Poetry Slam Finals and the College Slam Invitational Finals, she is a Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, FEMS Poetry Slam Champion, and Providence Grand Slam Champion. She was an Artist in Residence at Williams College and a Pink Door Fellow. Integral to her work as an artist is cultivating DIY community spaces for writers beyond the purview of literary institutions. She is a staff member of the long-running Providence Poetry Slam, and organized the inaugural Vanishing Point Writing Retreat for Asian poets and writers. She is currently developing her first manuscript, which unveils the historical constructions and codifications of legal sex. Born and raised in Oklahoma, she resides in Rhode Island. Outside of Chrysanthemum’s work as a writer, she is a community health worker and educator at a trans health center. She’s a Leo-Virgo cusp, a zillennial, and unabashed about her taste in pop culture.

Michael Vavrus is professor emeritus of interdisciplinary studies (education, history, and political economy) at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He is author of the books Teaching Anti-Fascism: A Critical Multicultural Pedagogy for Civic Engagement (2022), Diversity and Education: A Critical Multicultural Approach(2015) and Transforming the Multicultural Education of Teachers: Theory, Research, and Practice(2002) and is coeditor of Intersectionality of Race, Ethnicity, Class, and Gender in Teaching and Teacher Education: Movement Toward Equity in Education (2018). Dr. Vavrus is past president of both the Association of Independent Liberal Arts Colleges for Teacher Education and the State of Washington Association of Teacher Education.

Vivian Villaman is Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Operations at Hands to Help. Among other things, she oversees Merrimack College’s Food Recovery Network program and works with a team to rescue unserved, usable food that would otherwise go to waste at campus dining halls. The program enables the team to hand out weekly meals to Lawrence residents experiencing food insecurity. In addition, she organizes events to create food waste and food insecurity awareness among the Merrimack College community, connecting Merrimack College with non profit organizations and community leaders from Lawrence. Ms. Villaman holds Master’s in Higher Education from Merrimack College. During her time at Merrimack, she served as an Academic Advising Graduate Fellow in the School of Health Sciences. Born and raised in the Dominican Republic and currently residing Lawrence, MA, Ms. Villaman is passionate about working in low-income communities, empowering people, and providing and improving access to resources.

Eunice Zeigler is a proud first-generation Haitian American woman, daughter, a wife, sister, and artist. She holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Economic and Social Development . Upon graduation she was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal for Student Service, the most prestigious award bestowed to a graduate who exemplifies service to the community that enhances student life. Eunice has dedicated her life to helping families secure affordable housing, overseeing self-sufficiency programs for individuals looking to expand opportunities for their families, and bringing financial resources to government agencies and nonprofits to serve those in need.