Invited Speakers




Eastern Shore, Maryland

Bernard Demczuk, Ph.D. is a long-term resident of the District of Columbia and of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He holds a doctorate in American Studies and African American history and culture. He was an early member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. In 1989, he became Labor Director of Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition. His doctoral dissertation was on the racial reality of Talbot County, Maryland. His latest book is Mame’s Spirit: Reparations and Romance.

Sharita Jacobs Thompson, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Social Sciences Department at Prince George’s Community College where she teaches courses in United States and African American History. Her research focuses on Black Marylanders and their experiences during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. She also provides training to police departments across the country, conducts implicit bias training, and facilitates conversations around topics such as social and racial equity, and structural and institutional racism.

*Drs. Demczuk and Thompson will anchor the Maryland experience. They will be joined by other local speakers at key spots in the tour.

Richmond, Virginia

Marland Buckner is the Executive Director of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The BHMCCV was founded in 1981, opened to the public in 1991, and has been a thriving resource on Virginia’s African American History since it relocated to the Leigh Armory in historic Jackson Ward in 2016.

Rev. Ben Campbell has been associated with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for over 40 years. He is a long-time civil rights activist, a seventh generation Virginian and author of Richmond’s Unhealed History.

Lauranette Lee, Ph.D. was the curator of African American History at the Virginia Historical Society from 2001-2016. She is currently a visiting lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Richmond and was instrumental in the creation of the recently unveiled Emancipation and Freedom monument on Brown’s Island.

Elvatrice (Elva) Parker Belsches is a Richmond historian, filmmaker, and author of Black America Series: Richmond Virginia among other publications. She is also the co-founder of the Central Virginia African American Genealogical and Historical Society.

Chelsea Higgs Wise is an active advocate in Richmond for racial justice. She was engaged in the efforts on Monument Avenue and in many other efforts. She is a regular presenter at the Virginia General Assembly.

Kalia Harris is the co-Executive Director of Virginia Student Power Network, supporting students organizing on and off college campuses throughout the state.

Ashley Shapiro is a public defender in Richmond and legislative director for the nonprofit Justice Forward Virginia, made up entirely of public defenders who target legislation on niche issues they see causing injustices daily.

Alexsis Rodgers recently ran for Mayor of Richmond. She is a civic leader who has been on the front lines advocating for economic security, voting rights, college affordability, and quality health care in Virginia for the last eight years. ​She played a key role in achieving Medicaid expansion and increasing birth control access while working at Planned Parenthood in Richmond.

Omilade Janine Bell is the President and Artistic Director of Elegba Folklore Society, and is an artist, a producer, an arts administrator, and a folklorist/cultural historian. From its downtown Richmond, Virginia cultural center, the Society makes an educational, social, economic, and spiritual impact.

Valerie Cassel Oliver is curator of modern and contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). Previously she was senior curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) in Texas. Cassel's work is often focused on representation, inclusivity and highlighting artists of different social and cultural backgrounds.

Art Burton is a professor of history at South Suburban College in South Holland, Illinois. He is the author of Black, Buckskin, and Blue: African American Scouts and Soldiers on the Western Frontier and Black, Red, and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of the Indian Territory, 1870-1907.

Ashley Kenneth is President and CEO at The Commonwealth Institute (TCI). She provides the vision, inspiration, and strategic management to achieve the organization’s goals. Her work and passion to advance racial and economic justice maximizes the impact of TCI’s policy analysis and legislative engagement and strengthens the Institute’s partnerships.

Lea Whitehurst-Gibson is the executive director of Virginia Community Voice, an organization that equips neighbors in marginalized communities to realize their vision for their neighborhoods, and prepares institutions to respond effectively. Lea is an experienced community organizer, and has held leadership roles in several non-profits, including Thriving Cities Group and Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities.

Chloe Edwards is the Advocacy and Engagement Manager at Voices for Virginia’s Children (VVC). She also founded Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia, the state’s first ever racial truth and reconciliation league. She is the 2021 Richmond History Maker and the youngest to be honored.

Valerie Slater leads the RISE for Youth Coalition and advocates for the rights of system involved youth. Previously Valerie was a Juvenile Justice Attorney with Legal Aid Justice Center and coordinated RISE efforts while it was housed in the JustChildren Program of LAJC.

Jewel Jordan is the founder and Executive Director of Brown Virginia, a non-profit that provides a diverse and balanced voice to issues of importance in minority communities. Jewel was appointed to the Maggie L. Walker Initiative Citizens Advisory Board in Richmond.

*For this component of the tour, there is no anchor presenter, but a rich array of speakers who will explore different aspects of Richmond’s history and present approach to addressing racial justice.

Washington, DC

The Rev. Canon Leonard Hamlin is the Canon Missioner for the National Cathedral. Dr. Hamlin leads the Cathedral’s work on social justice, including gun violence, racial equity, and reconciliation. Prior to coming to the Cathedral in 2018, he was the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington for over 20 years.

Raymond Winbush, Ph.D. is a research professor and director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University. He has worked for racial justice for decades. His latest book is Belinda’s Petition: A Concise History of Reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Justin Hansford, J.D. is the head of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at Howard University. He was a part of the legal team supporting former Alderwoman Robin Simmons in her successful fight for reparations in Evanston, Illinois.

David Bowers is vice president and mid-Atlantic market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a national organization addressing the country’s housing crisis. He is also an ordained minister, founder of the NO MURDERS DC movement and an active advocate exploring reparative justice.

This list includes all speakers who have been invited to participate in the series. We are currently working to confirm their participation but cannot guarantee they will be present.