Keynote Speaker: Natasha Gordon-Chipemebere
Dr. Natasha Maria Gordon-Chipembere is of Afro-Costa Rican and Panamanian parentage and was born in New York. She graduated from Vassar College in 1992 with a BA in English, during which time she spent a semester abroad in Kenya (1991), which opened her to the world of international travel and intellectual study. She was then awarded a Fulbright Research award after graduation to the University of Nairobi, Kenya in 1992-1993. Upon returning to New York in 1993, she began an MA in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Once the rumblings celebrating the fall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the new artist movements happening under Nelson Mandela´s Rainbow Government began, she returned to Africa in June 1996. She completed a second MA in African Literature in 1997 at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS), where she was also a junior lecturer in the African Literature Department. She started her PhD in English at the University of South Africa (UNISA), based in Pretoria, while still teaching at Wits.
She returned to New York in September 1999 with her husband, Malawian-American musician, Masauko Chipembere and had their son, Jabulani in April 2001. Dr. Gordon-Chipembere started a tenure-track position in English at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York in September 2002. During her twelve-year tenure in CUNY, she completed her PhD in May 2007 from the University of South Africa, had her daughter, Aminata and established an academic presence within the world of African Diasporic Studies.
She has published academically, including an edited volume in 2011 (reprinted in 2016), Representation and Black womanhood: The Legacy of Sarah Baartman (Palgrave). Since 2013, she has been a senior editor of the AfroLatin@ Diasporas Book Series (Palgrave: https://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14759) with Dr. Eduardo Paulino and Miriam Jimenez Romain. She has also published in Callaloo and Small Ax. In 2010, Dr. Gordon-Chipembere awarded a second Fulbright Specialist Grant to teach a 6-week literary theory course to graduate students in Chancellor College, at the University of Malawi, Africa.
Maintaining a popular culture presence, Dr. Gordon-Chipembere has also published for Essence Magazine (https://www.essence.com/authors/natasha-gordon-chipembere/), where she documents the decision to leave the USA and raise her children in Central America.
After a much discussed family decision which prioritized their best interests, she and her family relocated to Costa Rica, her maternal homeland, in June 2014.
In Costa Rica, Dr. Gordon-Chipembere focuses on promoting an Afro-descendant legacy. She writes a regular column on race and diversity for the Tico Times, the longest established English language newspaper in Costa Rica since 2015 (http://www.ticotimes.net/categories/musings-from-an-afro-costa-rican) and has just completed her historical fiction novel, Finding La Negrita, which is a re-writing of the Black Madonna narrative in Costa Rica from an Africanist perspective. Part of the cultural work that she does includes an annual writing retreat for writers of color in Costa Rica. She is a member of a large AfroCosta Rican women advocacy group in San Jose which provides mentorship, community discussions and cultural events to highlight the legacy of AfroCosta Ricans, who are not highly visible in the country. Dr. Gordon-Chipembere lectures widely on these issues nationally and internationally.
Charles “Chuck” Allen is a Los Angeles native. He attended LAUSD public schools from elementary through high school before leaving California to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. During his time at Morehouse he participated in the international studies club and ventured into entrepreneurship starting a production company at the age of 19.
Upon earning a Bachelor of Arts degree he decided to return back to Los Angeles. Following in his parents’ footsteps (who both served the City of Los Angeles for over 30 years individually) he became a full-time employee working in public relations for the City of Los Angeles. After several years of working in the public sector he partnered with SBE, a hospitality and entertainment based company in Hollywood, in order to grow his production company. During this time he produced several independent projects including parties, concerts, theatrical plays and musicals.
However, in 2012 his life changed when he decided to volunteer for Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. Shortly thereafter he became a full time employee for the campaign. This led him to work for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and eventually the White House under the Obama administration. After several years with the Obama administration and traveling to multiple countries internationally and numerous cities domestically; he set his eyes on the Big Apple. While in NY he joined the business development team at The New York Times, provided consulting for the Clinton Global Initiative and worked as a Senior Digital Producer at Viacom.
While living in Harlem, NY Chuck began making juices for a close friend who was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. In 2016, he reevaluated his life goals and decided to move home to begin his 2nd company “Juice by Chuck.” Primarily focused on it’s pop-up experiences, the company is an event based lifestyle brand. Based in LA, “Juice by Chuck” markets itself as the official juice of creatives and entrepreneurs.
He is an avid believer in drinking raw organic cold pressed juice and enjoys traveling domestically and internationally!
Rozahnea Charles is a current junior and double major in Psychology and Business. She aspires to become a tenured professor in Developmental Psychology as her research interest seek to explore identity development amongst African American and Latinx adolescents through the analysis of their race, gender, and class.
She is involved in many student organizations including Impact Movement, Fearless Leadership Institute and Black Business Student Association. She is a first generation college student who is not only dedicated to making a change in her life, but in the lives of others.
Che is a first generation queer Korean-Chinese Amerikan UT18 alumni who studied geology, sociology, and humanities with a focus on health disparities. Che currently works in HIV prevention and research at UT Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. In Che’s time at UT, they studied abroad twice, once in Beijing, China and a second time in Santander, Spain and spent a semester doing a domestic study in Los Angeles. In the near future, Che hopes to attend medical school in Cuba.
Dr. Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing from the University of Virginia. After graduating from UVA he spent several years working in corporate finance for GE. In 2012, he earned his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in sports management. Darren teaches numerous courses within the Kinesiology department and also teaches a course titled, Urban Economic Development in Cape Town, SA every summer. Darren currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at Ut-Austin.
Lucy is a senior International Relations and Government double major with a minor in Chinese. Lucy plans to attend law school and study environmental law with an emphasis on wildlife law and protection. She is the co-president of Texas Club Tennis, a writer for the Texas Orator, a member of the RecSports UTSCA Council, and a student associate with the Student Organization Center. This past summer she participated in a study abroad program in Beijing, China. As a first-generation Chinese American, the program gave her the opportunity to experience China and Chinese culture in new and complex ways.
Marissa Martinez is a first generation 3rd year Corporate Communication major from College Station, TX. She is president of the MEC’s Latinx Community Affairs and on the executive committee for DDCE’s first-generation initiative. This summer she studied abroad with the DDCE in Costa Rica and worked on a recycling project to benefit the local city of San Joaquín.
Chase recently retired from playing college football at The University of Texas. He realized early in his career that there is no utility in basking in his success on the football field, if he is not leveraging his platform to inspire those that need it most; inner city youth. Chase is the founder and president of UT SPARK (Strong Players Are Reaching Kids), for the past 3 years, at the University of Texas. Chase utilizes his football platform to lead a group of UT athletes and various college students from UT to give inspirational speeches to inner city schools throughout the state of Texas. They believe in pouring hope into the hopeless, breathing life into dying situations, and delivering a narrative so personal that it reveals how tests are turned into testimonies. They target elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, juvenile detention centers, youth teams, and other youth outreach programs to uplift and empower them. Chae recently began graduate school to earn a Masters of Education degree in Educational Leadership and Policy, in the Educational Policy and Planning Program. He is interested in influencing educational policy that directly perpetuates greater success narratives to get more black men into college. He is a Global Leader.
Thaïs was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Pasadena, CA. She earned her undergraduate degree from UCLA and her master’s from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the youngest of seven children and cherishes her family including her cousins, aunts & uncles. Her favorite childhood memories include going camping, fishing, and boating. After graduating from UCLA where she studied African American Studies & English, she started teaching 2nd grade in Compton, CA while studying acting by night at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Shortly thereafter, she married Leonard Moore and moved to Baton Rouge, LA. There she studied playwriting at LSU and with the help of her husband opened The Black Theatre Company of Baton Rouge where she produced, directed, and acted in many of her own works. During this time, she was also a stay-at-home mother of her three joys, Jaaucklyn, Lauryn, and Leonard. Upon moving to Austin, she studied acting at UT and eventually started working at UT as a program coordinator for a high school outreach program, meanwhile serving as a mentor to many of the students at UT. That one-on-one mentoring sparked an interest in Thaïs to create a holistic development program for Black undergraduate women at UT. Along with her colleague, Dr. Tiffany T. Lewis, she started the internationally known program called the Fearless Leadership Institute. She recently published A Syllabus for Black Women. One of her favorite pass times is playing basketball in the front yard with her husband and children.
Denise Morales is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Communications and Leadership. She is the cofounder of the Exquisite Eta Chapter of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc. Denise also served as the president of the Multicultural Greek Council for 2 years and at large connect with the greater greek community. This past summer, Denise studied abroad in Santander, Spain. For several weeks she was immersed in the culture of the locals and their everyday ways of life. Upon return, she decided to intern with the office of Global Leadership and Social Impact within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. Her international experiences have taught her that there is so much more to learn about the world she hopes to explore.
Orlando Ochoa, Jr. (he/they) was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. They are a first-generation college student pursuing Black Studies, Women & Gender Studies, and Latinx Studies. Of particular interest to Orlando are themes of race, gender, decolonial theory, and Christina Sharpe’s concept of afterlives. In terms of studying abroad, Orlando’s past two summers were spent studying in Costa Rica and New York. Through his role as a Gateway Mentor and Global Leader Fellow, Orlando works to support marginalized students move through and succeed in spaces that are otherwise neglectful and violent.
Britney Turner is a native Houstonian, who is redefining what it means to be a millennial following Christ, a leader in corporate America and a serial entrepreneur. She never apologizes for her blessings and strives to walk in her truth day in and day out. Britney currently works as a hiring and strategic partnership advisor at Chevron, while pursuing her passion projects, earning a master’s degree and traveling the world. Her Christian values are the foundation of everything she does.
In 2016, Britney launched her first business, EVO Cosmetics, a vegan-friendly nail and gel polish company based in Houston. After only a month in business, she resigned from her full-time job to work the business full-time. The two-year journey taught her the value of patience and the beauty of being the boss. Britney is a student of her craft, with her new business she endeavored to be the visionary, finance office, brand manager, marketer and networking guru. With every obstacle she faced, she remembered that God’s priority is her success.
Expanding on the success of EVO Cosmetics, Britney created The EVO Brand, an empowerment foundation that helps people improve their quality of life spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. The EVO Brand endeavors to eliminate prejudice and enhance prestige by bringing awareness to the African-American community. In 2016, The EVO Brand hosted the “Evening of Survivors Fundraiser Gala,” honoring three women affected by breast cancer. Proceeds from the event went to The Rose Foundation to support cancer research.
The EVO Brand has gained a number of celebrity clients including R&B singer and writer Monifah, celebrity stylist GooGoo Atkins, the sister of recording artist Mary Mary, Chrystal Rucker, Keyondra Lockett and Briana Babineaux. Other featured partnerships include the Stellar Awards, Ashley Stewart Love Your Curves Tour, New York Fashion Week, FabU Plus Magazine, Essence Festival and the Super Bowl in Houston.
The in-demand event strategist has assisted clients and companies with internal communications, public relations, HR consulting and event management, including a benefit for WithMerci Foundation founded by Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus.
Britney is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and is currently pursuing a Master of Human Resources Management from Houston Baptist University. With a passion for personal development and leadership, she is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, senior HR management certified, a University of Houston College of Bauer Business S.U.R.E Program Graduate and a member of the National Association of Professional Women.
Britney knows that her gifts and talents will make room for her. She seeks to become a published author, sought-after global motivational speaker and empowerment activist. She reminds others to stay the course and don’t expect perfection but strive for progress.
Javier Wallace is pursuing a Ph.D. in Physical Education Teacher Education where he researches issues surrounding race, class, gender, labor migration, nationality, and transnationalism of athletes from the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. Javier earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University where he also played offensive lineman for the Rattler Football Team. He is of U.S. and Panamanian heritage and has served as athletic director and physical educator in the Republic of Panama. Javier is an avid world traveler and co-founder of two social entrepreneurial projects, AfroLatino Travel and BlackPackas.
Traci-Ann Wint is a lecturer in the African and African Diaspora studies department at UT Austin. Her research interests include Blackness and its commodification, tourism, collective memory, and national identity, and media and representation. Her dissertation project After Paradise: Jamaican Tourism and Nationalism in the Wake of Colonialism examined the ways Blackness is reimagined and repackaged for sale in Jamaica. She holds an MA in Anthropology from UT Austin and a BA in Anthropology and Africana Studies from Vassar College and she straddles the worlds of ethnographer, media producer, writer, and educator.