Fall 2021 Unity in Diversity Speaker Bios

Meet some of the speakers from our fall 2021 two-day Unity in Diversity event.

George Abraham is a Palestinian American poet and writer from Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of the poetry collection, Birthright (Button Poetry, 2020). He is a board member for the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI), a recipient of grants and fellowships from Kundiman, The Boston Foundation, and the Poetry Foundation, and winner of the 2018 Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize selected by Tommy Pico. He is currently based in Somerville, MA where he is a PhD candidate in Bioengineering at Harvard University, and an affiliated faculty member in Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College.

Rosebud Ben-Oni was born to a Mexican mother and Jewish father and is the winner of 2019 Alice James Award for If This Is the Age We End Discovery (March 2021) and the author of turn around, BRXGHT XYXS (Get Fresh Books, 2019). Her chapbook 20 Atomic Sonnets, which appears online in Black Warrior Review (2020), is part of a larger future project called The Atomic Sonnets, which she began in 2019, in honor of the Periodic Table’s 150th Birthday. She is a recipient of a 2021 City Arts Corps grant, a 2021 Queens Arts Fund grant from the Queens Council for the Arts, a 2014 NYFA Fellowship in Poetry and a 2013 CantoMundo Fellow. Her work appears in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Poetry Society of America (PSA), The Poetry Review (UK), Poetry Daily, Tin House, Guernica, Black Warrior Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Electric Literature, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ecotone, The Missouri Review, The Journal, Hunger Mountain, The Adroit Journal, The Southeast Review, Poetry Northwest, Arts & Letters, North American Review, among others.

Shannon Butler-Mokoro (she/her) is a teacher and researcher centered in advocacy, equity, social justice, and cultural humility. She is a professor and director of the Master of Social Work program at Merrimack College. Her academic specializations are: feminist social work; anti-oppressive social work; faith-based social work; social work with newcomers (to the U.S.) ad the histor of higher education with a focus on women and people of color in higher education. Among other publications, she is co-editor of Feminist Perspectives on Social Work Practice: The Intersective Lives of Women in the 21st Century.She is the former co-chair and current historian for the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Council on the Status and Role of Women in Social Work Education. Her civic engagement includes being the vice-chair and treasurer for African Community Center of Lowell. Shannon received her Ph.D. in Educational Policy from Georgia State University, her MSW from Clark Atlanta University, and her B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Dr. John “Sean” Condon was appointed to the role of Merrimack College’s provost and vice president for academic affairs after serving as interim provost for the 2020-2021 academic year. A history professor who has developed and taught courses ranging from race and slavery in the early modern Atlantic world through an environmental history of North America, Dr. Condon also served as chair of the history department and director of the international studies program. His historical research has centered on the ways that people strive for dignity, autonomy and community in times of profound social, economic and political change. Much of his scholarship has examined the efforts of enslaved people in the post-Revolutionary Upper South to resist family separation and strive for legal freedom through the process of manumission. In addition to studying race and slavery, he has also re-examined the ways that economic and political divisions fueled a crisis of legitimacy for the newly independent United States. His book, “Shays’s Rebellion: Authority and Distress in Post-Revolutionary America,” was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2015. Currently, he is working on a synthetic history that examines the broad spectrum and evolution of labor obligations in the Early Modern Atlantic World.

Dr. Ashon Crawley is a teacher, writer, and audiovisual artist, attempting to honor blackqueer life and spirituality. His work, from writing to performance, is about the blackqueerness, spirituality and mysticism as they relate to current issues confronting blackqueer folks. Dr. Crawley has explored these issues in his books Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility(Fordham University Press 2016) and The Lonely Letters (Duke University Press 2020). His writings have served as conceptual/foundational frameworks for art exhibits and installations, dramatic performances and flying acrobats. All his work is about otherwise possibility, alternatives to normative function and form.

torrin a. greathouse is a transgender, cripple-punk, MFA candidate at the University of Minnesota. Her work is published in POETRY, New England Review, Ploughshares, and The Kenyon Review. They have received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Effing Foundation, Zoeglossia, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center. She is the author of Wound from the Mouth of a Wound (Milkweed Editions, 2020), winner of the Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry, selected by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, MPH, FAAP, is founder and director of the Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, an innovative and model public health program in Flint, Michigan. A pediatrician, scientist, activist and author, Dr. Hanna-Attisha has testified three times before the United States Congress and was awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and recognized as one of USA Today’sWomen of the Century for her role in uncovering the Flint water crisis and leading recovery efforts, and most recently, received the 2020 Fries Prize for Improving Health.

A frequent contributor to national media outlets, including the New York Timesand Washington Post, Dr. Hanna-Attisha has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC and countless other outlets championing the cause of children in Flint and beyond. She is the founding donor of the Flint Child Health and Development Fund (flintkids.org). A Covid-19 survivor, Dr. Hanna-Attisha has donated her convalescent plasma several times while continuing to advocate for health and racial equity. With concentrations in environmental health and health policy, Dr. Hanna-Attisha received her bachelor’s degree and Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She completed her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and her residency at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where she was chief resident. She is currently a Charles Stewart Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health and an associate professor of pediatrics and human development at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha is the author of the widely acclaimed and bestselling book What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.

Janell Hobson is Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She recently published her third book, “When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination” (Routledge, 2021), and is also the author of “Venus in the Dark: Blackness and Beauty in Popular Culture” and “Body as Evidence: Mediating Race, Globalizing Gender.” She has also edited several volumes, most recently, “The Routledge Companion to Black Women’s Cultural Histories.” She is an interdisciplinary Black feminist scholar whose work centers on Black women’s histories and representations in popular culture, ranging from writings on pop star Beyonce to historic icon Harriet Tubman. In addition to her academic works, she is a public scholar and contributing writer to Ms. Magazine and is poised to guest edit a Ms. Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project with the magazine for 2022, a project that will be part of her Community Fellowship with the University at Albany’s Institute for History and Public Engagement.

Dr. Adam Howard is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Education and Chair of the Education Department at Colby College. His research explores social class issues in education with a particular focus on privilege and elite education. In particular, he studies the relationship between identity development and advantages in order to form better understandings of how privilege works through the daily practices of privileged individuals and the structures, policies and practices of their educational institutions. He is author of over 80 articles, books, and essays, including Learning Privilege: Lessons of Power and Identity in Affluent Schooling, Negotiating Privilege and Identity in Educational Contexts (with 23 of his undergraduate students), and Educating Elites: Class Privilege and Educational Advantage (with Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández).

Dr. Deepa Kumar is an award-winning scholar and social justice activist. She is Professor of Media Studies at Rutgers University. Her critically acclaimed book Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire(2012) has been translated into five languages. The fully revised and updated second edition titled Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: 20 Years Since 9/11 (2021) marks twenty years of the War on Terror. Dr. Kumar has authored more than 80 publications including books, journal articles, book chapters, and articles in independent and mainstream media. She has shared her expertise in numerous media outlets such as the BBC, The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, the Danish Broadcast Corporation, TeleSur and other national and international news media outlets.

Amber Mitchell-Soto is the Assistant Director of Individual Services at the Lynn Shelter Association, where she has worked since 2016. Amber helps to oversee Supportive Housing, Case Management, and Emergency Shelter operations to ensure we are serving our clients to the best of our abilities. As a lifelong Lynn resident, Amber has always been passionate about giving back to her community and making a positive impact.

Dr. Michael Mobley is an associate professor and Director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in the Psychology Department at Merrimack College. Dr. Mobley has taught at Salem State University, Rutgers Graduate School of Education in New Brunswick, and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He earned his B.S. in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University; M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Temple University; and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Mobley’s expertise and research interests include multicultural counseling competencies, perfectionism, scale development, risks and protective factors mediating resilience among culturally diverse adolescents in community and school settings, and racial, ethnic, gay, and lesbian identity development models. Dr. Mobley served as an Associate Editor of The Counseling Psychologist, and on the editorial board of Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Journal of Counseling Psychology and Journal of Black Psychology.

Dr. Mobley was the 2015 President of the Society of Counseling Psychology (SCP), Division 17 of the American Psychological Association. In 2019 he served as Chair of the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest. He is a recognized Fellow in APA, Division 17, and Division 45, the Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race.

Mickey Northcutt is the founding CEO of North Shore CDC, having led the merger process which launched North Shore CDC in 2010 after being with one of our predecessor organizations since 2006. He is committed to making sure that everyone has a safe, affordable and attractive place to call home. Under his leadership, the organization launched a nationally recognized chapter of YouthBuild. He is also a co-founder of the Punto Urban Art Museum, North Shore CDC’s signature, acclaimed social justice public art program located in Salem’s Point neighborhood. Mickey began his career in housing as a low-income property manager with Maloney Properties and in asset management at MMA Financial (now Boston Financial). He has been an adjunct professor with Boston University’s Graduate Program in City Planning and Urban Affairs since 2011. He serves as treasurer for the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee and the City of Salem’s Community Preservation Committee and Affordable Housing Trust. Mickey received his B.S. in Urban Affairs at Boston University and his M.S. in Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts – Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy Studies and his J.D. from Suffolk University Law School. He is a member of the Massachusetts Bar.

Tiffany Payne is an advocate, activist, speaker, student, and mother. She serves as a mentor for women and children encouraging them to obtain their goals through empowerment and education. Formerly homeless, she gives tips to others on how to navigate their way out of the system and find success. She currently is a business owner and is an avid member to the autism community as she is a mother to two children on the spectrum.
Calpurnyia Roberts, Ph.D., is Director of A Place to Live, a new initiative at MHSA, that promotes new models to house adults experiencing long-term or reoccurring homelessness. Before arriving at MHSA, Calpurnyia led Rising Together, a coordinated effort among Boston’s lead organizations on youth homelessness to improve job outcomes for young people in need of housing. She has more than a decade of experience in launching, coordinating, and evaluating public health programs with an equity-infused lens to improve outcomes for marginalized populations. Calpurnyia graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and Human Biology from Emory University. She received a Master of Science and a Doctorate in Epidemiology from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, respectively.

Kaleena Roeva (she/her) serves as the International Relations Director of Climate Cardinals, merging her interests in climate activism and foreign affairs. She is a first-year student at Harvard University planning to study Government and Computer Science. Kaleena’s passion for environmental activism was inspired by witnessing the apathetic mentality towards climate change in her country of origin, Bulgaria. She hopes to overcome the underlying language barrier and create

universal accessibility to environmental resources by working directly with foreign governments and international organizations to incorporate climate change translations into their media. Outside of Climate Cardinals, Kaleena is a co-founder of the Embrace an Elder organization, which hosts events including climate change presentations for seniors, spreading environmental awareness to the elderly population. Kaleena has previously worked for the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Washington D.C, preparing daily translations of press releases and White House briefings for submission to the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is also extensively involved with the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School and competes on the Harvard Intercollegiate Model United Nations team. Kaleena has a deep interest in languages, with native proficiency in English and Bulgarian and professional proficiency in both Spanish and French.

Loretta J. Ross is an Associate Professor at Smith College. She is an activist, public intellectual, and a scholar. Her passion is in innovating creative imagining about global human rights and social justice issues. As the third director of the first rape crisis center in the country in the 1970s, she helped launch the movement to end violence against women that has evolved into today’s #MeToo movement. She also founded the first center in the U.S. to innovate creative human rights education for all people so that social justice issues are more collaborative and less divisive. She has also deprogrammed members of hate groups leading to conceptualizing and writing the first book on “Calling In the Calling Out Culture” to transform how people can overcome political differences to use empathy and respect to guide difficult conversations.

Dr. Ross started her career in activism and social change in the 1970s, working at the National Football League Players’ Association, the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Black Women’s Health Project, the Center for Democratic Renewal (National Anti-Klan Network), the National Center for Human Rights Education, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, until retiring as an organizer in 2012 to teach about activism.

Her most recent books are Reproductive Justice: An Introduction co-written with Rickie Solinger, and Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique. Her forthcoming book is Calling In the Calling Out Culture due out in 2022.

She has been quoted in the New York Times, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, among others.

Lester Edwin J. Ruiz, who imagines himself as a “Filipino-in-Diaspora,” currently serves The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the US and Canada as director of accreditation and global engagement. Prior to ATS, Lester was professor of theology and culture and vice president for academic affairs and academic dean at New York Theological Seminary, New York City. Before NYTS, Lester was associate professor of political science at International Christian University, Tokyo, where he taught courses in peace and world order studies, international relations, and politics and culture. He is coeditor of several published works, including Re-Framing the International: Law, Culture, Politics, and has contributed numerous chapters to books, been widely published in journals and other periodicals, and lectured extensively focusing on issues related to “forced migration,” Diaspora studies, social ethics, and global education, formation and accreditation. He serves on the editorial committees of Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, the Journal of World Christianity, and Silliman Journal, and is involved in the work of Churches Witnessing With Migrants (CWWM)—his primary area of concern. Lester helped organize the meetings of Global Forum of Theological Educators and serves on its executive committee. He is a ballroom dance enthusiast, and loves to go kayaking and learning how to play the alto saxophone.

Dr. Simona Sharoni is Merrimack College’s Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Institutional Access & Leadership which was created by President Hopey in July 2020 to coordinate, initiate, and create programs, policies and initiatives that enhance the college’s efforts to increase diversity and improve inclusion, equity and a sense of belonging for all students, faculty and staff. A first-generation college student, twice an immigrant, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and a veteran, Sharoni identifies as a queer feminist who has been actively working to foster social justice, diversity, and inclusion for almost four decades. She holds a Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University and MA and BA degrees in Counseling and Special Education from Haifa University, Israel. Sharoni joined Merrimack College in 2017 as Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and has served as the Director of the Interdisciplinary Institute for two years. Prior to that she taught at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, the Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington and the American University in Washington DC. Additionally, she held distinguished scholar appointments at the University of Oregon and the University of Cincinnati.

Pat Stewart is the Director of the Human Development Program, a Math Teacher, and Girls Varsity Basketball Head Coach at the Millbrook School. Before Millbrook, Pat graduated from Colby College with a double major in economics and education. In the Education Department at Colby, Pat was a research associate for three years with Professor Adam Howard and co-led a multi-sited global ethnography examining six elite independent schools around the world. At Colby, Pat was also deeply involved in the residential life program and mentors against violence prevention groups.

Mitzi Jonelle Tan (she/they) is a full-time climate justice activist based in Metro Manila, Philippines. She is the convenor and international spokesperson of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP), the Fridays For Future (FFF) of the Philippines. She is also an organizer with FFF International and FFF MAPA (Most Affected Peoples and Areas) making sure that voices from the Global South especially are heard, amplified, and given space. She decided to fully commit her life to activism in 2017 after integrating with the Lumad indigenous leaders of her country which pushed her to realize that collective action and system change is what we need for a just and green society. She is committed to fight alongside the most marginalized towards a system that prioritizes people and planet, not profit.

Katherine Tarpley (she/her) is a Staff Attorney at the Children Law Center of Massachusetts. She joined the CLCM in January 2019 and heads CLCM’s medical-legal partnership with the MGH Chelsea Health Center to advocate for at-risk children in educational matters. Her work focuses on direct representation, community outreach and training, and systemic advocacy. She is actively involved in the Massachusetts Attorneys of Color Coalition and the Latinos in Special Education Coalition. Prior to joining CLCM, Katherine was the inaugural O’Connell Fellow in the Children’s Disability Project at Greater Boston Legal Services where she represented children who had been wrongfully denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. She also served as an Assistant General Counsel at the MA Department of Early Education and Care, and worked as a staff attorney in the General Counsel’s office at Northeastern University. Katherine received her B.A. from Boston University and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.

Kelly Turley (she/her) has been an advocate with and for people experiencing homelessness and poverty since 1997. She joined the staff of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless in 2002, where she now serves as the Associate Director. At the Coalition, Kelly collaborates with various stakeholders to develop public policy strategies to create access to homelessness prevention benefits, safety net resources, and affordable housing opportunities for families with children, unaccompanied youth, and adults throughout the Commonwealth. Her work focuses on expanding equity, dignity, and opportunity in state-funded housing and cash assistance programs, and upholding the human right to housing. In addition to her housing and homelessness advocacy, Kelly is a long-time yoga practitioner, dance student, and international human rights activist.

Tiffany Vo (she/her) is a senior studying Criminology and Criminal Justice, with double minors in Forensic Science and Psychology. She is involved in Theta Phi Alpha and is the President of SGA (Student Government Association). She was an Orientation Leader and works with admissions giving tours.

Nicole Williams (she/they) is the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs & Unity House and Adjunct Faculty at Merrimack College. She is a JEDIB (justice, equity, diversity, inclusion & belonging) student, practitioner, educator, and advocate. They find stories riveting, and the personal narratives of each individual an important means to move away from constructing assigned boxes and categories on people, and creating space for themselves (both seen and unseen) to be valued. Nicole has worked in education for over 10 years, using her voice and privileged and marginalized identities to champion causes, enact changes, and amplify voices of the marginalized, traditionally underrepresented, under-resourced, and unheard. They use their voice to take up space and secure seats for themself and others, building legacies for sustainable environments of JEDIB. Nicole received her M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from Merrimack College, her M.S. in Education Policy from Drexel University, and her B.A. in Classical Culture and Society from Haverford College. Nicole is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change through Antioch University where she continues to engage in deeper learning around systemic change and anti-racism.

Siddeeqah Williams (she/her) is the CSPECH Program Director at Lynn Shelter Association.  She was born and raised in Roxbury, Mass. Siddeeqah was blessed to be born with a partner, as is the oldest twin. Becoming frustrated with the lack of education she was receiving in the Boston Public Schools system, she eventually dropped out of high school. Siddeeqah was able to acquire her High School Equivalent Diploma in September of 2003. A year later she became a mother to her now 17-year-old daughter. Siddeeqah joined the Lynn Shelter Association in August of 2012, as a Direct Care Staff, starting at the family shelter side. After a year of working there, she was asked to transfer to the Emergency Shelter, working with the homeless men and women in the community. Even though she only worked third shift, she was told that her presence helped more than a few clients deal with being in the shelter by just speaking to them and treating them with respect. After working as DC Staff for over 5 years, she was promoted to a CSPECH Case Manager, which she enjoyed greatly. After a year and a half, Siddeeqah was promoted to CSPECH Case Manager Supervisor, and recently have been promoted to CSPECH Program Director. She is in the process of furthering her education in this field, but will continue to actively work with this demographic and assist wherever possible.