We are honored to have the following individuals join us at the Democracy Convention. To view a complete list of speakers please click here.
Gar Alperovitz, the author most recently of What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution, and America Beyond Capitalism, has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. He is currently the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution.
He is also the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and his articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, the New Republic, The Nation, and the Atlantic among other popular and academic publications. He has been profiled by the New York Times, the Associated Press, People, UPI and Mother Jones and has been a guest on numerous network TV and cable news programs, including “Meet the Press,” “Larry King Live,” “The Charlie Rose Show,” “Cross Fire,” and “the O’Reilly Factor.”
In addition to his media appearances, his work has been featured in TV documentaries, including two BBC programs and an ABC Peter Jennings Special on the use of the atomic bomb. As a well known policy expert, he has testified before numerous Congressional committees and lectures widely around the country.
Alperovitz received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin; a masters degree from the University of California at Berkeley; and his Ph.D. in political economy as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University. After completing his studies he served as a legislative director in both houses of Congress and as a special assistant in the State Department.
Among his many achievements is having been the architect of the first modern steel industry attempt at worker ownership in Youngstown, Ohio. In addition, he was nominated to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers by leading national consumer, labor, and environmental organizations.
He is also the president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives and is co-founder of the University of Maryland-based Democracy Collaborative, a research institution developing practical, policy-focused, and systematic paths towards ecologically sustainable, community-oriented change and the democratization of wealth.
He lives in Washington, DC.
Gar will be the keynote speaker at the Opening Plenary.
Debra White Plume
Debra White Plume is an enrolled member of the Oglala Band of the Lakota Nation and has lived on the Pine Ridge, SD Indian Reservation all her life. She received a BS degree in Human Services in the 1980’s and worked for her Tribe and College for many years in human service and administrative jobs, and served as adjunct faculty until retiring in 1996 to pursue her Treaty and Human Rights work full time.
Debra conducted original research projects on a variety of topics, based on training from the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University that she received early in her career at the Oglala Lakota College, including coordinating the development of the College’s first accredited Graduate Program, and the first of its kind in Indian Country. Debra also provided technical assistance in the development of her Tribe’s first Lakota tradition-based children’s mental health program.
In 1997, co-founded a grassroots non-governmental organization called “Owe Aku”, Bring Back the Way, to focus on social change work, cultural preservation, and Lakota Treaty Territory defense work. With her husband Alex and their extended families, the family engaged in the planting of industrial hemp as a method of environmentally friendly land use for economic development, hoping to impact not only the 85% unemployment on the Pine Ridge, but also to encourage a return to the land by Lakota families who have been subjected to policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs which separate families from the land.
Since 2005, Debra has been engaged in Sacred Water Protection Work through the Crying Earth Rise Up community education and action campaign of Owe Aku to challenge the worlds largest uranium producer, Cameco, Inc., as it attempts to open four uranium mines 30 minutes from the southern border of Debra’s homeland on the Pine Ridge. In 2008 Debra served as spokesperson to Tribal Council to exclude Rex Oil, a corporation attempting to mine gas and oil on the Pine Ridge, resulting in a vote that barred the corporation.
Debra will be the keynote speaker at the Closing Plenary.
Other Featured Speakers
Medea Benjamin is a co-founder of both CODEPINK and the international human rights organization Global Exchange. Benjamin is the author of eight books. Her latest book is Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to stop the use of killer drones. Her direct questioning of President Obama during his 2013 foreign policy address, as well as her recent trips to Pakistan and Yemen, helped shine a light on the innocent people killed by US drone strikes.
Benjamin has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Described as "one of America’s most committed -- and most effective -- fighters for human rights" by New York Newsday, and "one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement" by the Los Angeles Times, she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. In 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the 2012 Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial.
Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. In 2000, she was a Green Party candidate for the California Senate. During the 1990s, Medea focused her efforts on tackling the problem of unfair trade as promoted by the World Trade Organization. Widely credited as the woman who brought Nike to its knees and helped place the issue of sweatshops on the national agenda, Medea was a key player in the campaign that won a $20 million settlement from 27 US clothing retailers for the use of sweatshop labor in Saipan. She also pushed Starbucks and other companies to start carrying fair trade coffee.
Her work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza after the 2008 Israeli invasion, organizing the Gaza Freedom March in 2010, participating in the Freedom Flotillas and opposing the policies of the Israel lobby group AIPAC. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and In 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists; she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government.
A former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization, her articles appear regularly in outlets such as The Huffington Post, CommonDreams, Alternet and OpEd News.
Medea will be serving as honorary chair at the Opening Plenary.
Bryan Kennedy is President of both AFT-Wisconsin and The Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals (AFT Local 3535). Prior to assuming the AFT-W presidency, Bryan was full-time faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, specializing in Brazilian culture, history and literature. He holds a Ph.D. In Latin American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2006, Professor Kennedy was the Democratic nominee for US Congress in Wisconsin’s 5th congressional district.
Bryan will be giving the Wisconsin Welcome at the Opening Plenary.
For over the past ten years Head-Roc has been regarded as the best that DC Hip Hop has to offer. Dubbed “The Mayor” of the DC Hip Hop, Head-Roc has come to embody the passions, hopes and dreams of a wonderfully talented and all too often overlooked DC music scene. His unparalleled ability to reach music lovers of all tastes puts him on par with established national recording artists in both music creation and live performance.
In 2004 Head-Roc released his solo debut The Return of Black Broadway to rave reviews and top chart position on college and underground radio. In support of this album, Head-Roc toured Europe and the US West Coast, doing interviews, appearing on radio stations and delivering life changing performances for thousands of fans. This grass roots movement helped to earn Head-Roc the 2005 Washington Area Music Association award for Hip Hop Album of the Year.
The Head-Roc War Machine (Head-Roc, featuring Noyeek the Grizzly) has been wowing audiences nationwide with their high impact live performance, rocking stages alongside national Hip Hop, Alt/Indy, Soul and Punk Rock acts – and converting countless witnesses into believers along the way Head-Roc's honest and relevant lyrics are a refreshing change in this current era of corporate Hip-Hop exploitation. His music has inspired many in the progressive movement to rethink Hip Hop’s potential for achieving social change and he is widely regarded as one of the key voices in this movement – setting the perfect stage to release his sophomore solo album: Negrophobia!
Head-Roc will be performing throughout the Convention including at the Opening Ceremony.