Hispanic American Freethinkers
Hypatia Alexandria has been very active in the Northern Virginia community for the past 30 years. She is a co-Founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers (HAFREE). She founded the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Northern Virginia. The chamber’s goal has been to connect Hispanic and non-Hispanic businesses to work together. Previously, she served as a Director in the Board for The Medical Care for Children Partnership Foundation (MCCP) which offers financial assistance to families with limited income and children in need of medical and dental care in Fairfax County. She continuously volunteers for other non-profit organizations.
She currently serves as a member of the Virginia Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects at the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations. She is a member at the Hispanic Business and Technology Council (HTBC) assisting young Hispanics in advancing their education and preparing them to be active participants in their careers and communities. Since 2012, she has served in the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) Advisory committee which represents diverse viewpoints on long-term transportation policy in the Washington Metropolitan region. She also serves in the Access for All Committee for the Transportation Planning Board. AFA’s advises the TPB on transportation issues, programs, policies, and services important to traditionally underserved communities, including low-income and minority communities, people with limited English proficiency, people with disabilities, and older adults.
Ms. Alexandria has been working in real estate since 2000. She is a graduate of the VA Emerge program and a Fairfax Leadership Institute graduate; she is a former member of the Employment Committee for the Loudoun County Women and Girls commission. Her education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Missouri State University; a Master’s degree in Planning from the University of Virginia; and she is currently pursuing her PhD in Planning, Governance and Globalization at Virginia Tech. She has a Business Certificate from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth; several Certificates in Non-profit Management from the Mendoza College of Business in the University of Notre Dame. And, an Information Systems Graduate Certificate from George Washington University.
Center for Inquiry
Robyn Blumner is the president & CEO of the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes reason, science, and secular values through education, litigation, and advocacy. She is also executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. Prior to these posts Robyn was a nationally syndicated columnist and editorial writer at the Tampa Bay Times newspaper in Florida (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). She also headed up two affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, first in Utah and then in Florida. Robyn has a law degree from New York University and a B.S. from Cornell University.
Greater Richmond Humanists
Jason was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio where he was exposed to many different faith belief systems and lived in a diverse community near Cleveland’s University Circle. That environment encouraged him to explore his own beliefs and engage others in the exploration of theirs. Despite joining the church of his grandmother and being baptized Presbyterian, Jason continued to reconcile his experience in a scientific world with the theologies of his diverse community. After working in the advertising industry in New York, Jason moved to Richmond, Virginia to pursue a Master of Divinity. Upon completion, Jason began working as a chaplain at VCU Health System and is an endorsed chaplain by the American Humanist Association. He is actively engaged in Richmond’s theological community and currently is working on increasing the numbers of non-theistic board certified chaplains. He lives in Richmond with his wife, Erin, and pets Emmett, Poncho, and Sidney.
Alliance for Unitive Justice
Sylvia Clute is a former trial attorney who now works for social justice and legal reform that heals brokenness, not merely resolves disputes. Her career as a trial attorney began in 1975, but her spiritual journey began in 1987 when she read A Course in Miracles for the first time. The confluence of these two paths prepared her to describe our present justice system in a way that penetrates our system blindness and discloses its weaknesses. It also enabled her to create a map for how we can go from what we now have to a new system of justice that is grounded on the moral principle of lovingkindness—heal, do no harm. This model is called “Unitive Justice,” and it has no punitive elements.
For two years Sylvia helped create and implement a Restorative Justice program in a high school as an alternative to zero tolerance. This was her first opportunity to apply Unitive Justice principles in practice and the results proved the theory to be effective. She also implemented a semester-long pilot middle school program. Presently she teaches Unitive Justice theory and circle facilitation at the college level and in workshops. She is the President of the Alliance for Unitive Justice.
She is writing a book titled “Unitive Justice: Bending the Arc of Justice Toward Love,” and is also author of Beyond Vengeance, Beyond Duality: A Call for a Compassionate Revolution and the novel, Destiny Unveiled. She holds graduate degrees from Harvard Kennedy School of Government (MPA), Boston University School of Law (JD) and the Univ. of California at Berkeley (MPA) A former Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, she was co-founder and Chair of the Board of Women’s Bank in Richmond, Va., and has been active in community service throughout her career. Her websites are sylviaclute.com and unitivejustice.com.
Information about Alliance for Unitive Justice
AUJ is a Virginia non-profit headquartered in Richmond, Virginia. www.a4uj.org Founded in 2010 to implement a pilot Restorative Justice program at Armstrong High School, AUJ continues to provide education and implement programs. AUJ is presently sponsoring an Internship to train Virginia Union University students in Unitive Justice and circle facilitation. AUJ frequently offers workshops to the public and provides circle facilitation services on a limited basis. AUJ is presently exploring how Unitive Justice may be applied in other areas of endeavor, such as education, business, spirituality, politics and media. Please visit our Facebook page, Alliance for Unitive Justice.
The mission of the Alliance for Unitive Justice is to provide services that resolve conflict, transform relationships and build community in ways that are consistent with the principles of Unitive Justice. AUJ is committed to serving neighborhoods, schools, courts, detention centers and other organizations and agencies that may benefit therefrom; (b) training facilitators, staff and volunteers; (c) educating the community about Unitive Justice, its uses and benefits, (d) working collaboratively with organizations and individuals to make Unitive Justice a more widely used practice; and (e) fostering policies that enhance opportunities for Unitive Justice to be implemented.
Liberal Women of Chesterfield County
Becky Stuart Conner is the Leadership and Event Coordinator for LWCC, Liberal Women of Chesterfield County & Beyond, a 100% grassroots organization started just after the 2016 election. Her role in LWCC is multi-faceted and ever-changing, but she mainly oversees the 50+ LWCC Neighborhood and Advocacy group leaders, helping them with project facilitation and event planning.
Becky is a Virginia native who has spent most of her life in Chesterfield County and always assumed she was the only liberal south of the James River. When she discovered LWCC in November and realized she was not alone, she decided to do whatever she could to help grow the group and make real change happen. As a result of her involvement with LWCC, she discovered the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee (CCDC) and decided to run for a leadership position in that organization in December of 2017. Becky is currently serving as 1st Vice Chair of Precinct Operations and Organization for CCDC and looking forward to another successfully organized election season in 2019.
On a personal level, Becky has a degree in Architectural Engineering Technology and works as an electrical designer specializing in lighting design. She is actively involved in a volunteer-based professional organization for the lighting industry, the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), serving as President of the Richmond Section for 12 years before assuming more responsibility as District Chair for the Southeast in 2017.
Becky and her husband Bryan live in Chesterfield with their three teenagers (19, 16 and 13) and enjoy getting out of town to see live music whenever possible.
Rev. Lacette Cross, affectionately called Rev. L, lives in Richmond, VA. She is an experienced presenter, speaker, and facilitator with diverse audiences. Rev. L has participated in conferences, workshops, panels and summits throughout the country on topics of sexuality, LGBTQ inclusion, race, gender, religion and justice. She is actively involved in the greater Richmond community as a faith leader, community advocate, speaker, and volunteer.
Rev. L is the pastor of Restoration Fellowship RVA, an open and affirming church, the Founder/CEO of Will You Be Whole that talks sex and faith for wholeness with black women and LGBTQ folk and the co-founder of Us Giving Richmond Connections (UGRC), a black LGBTQ health and wellness nonprofit responsible for the first ever black pride festival in the state of Virginia in July 2018. She sits on the boards of Nationz Foundation and the Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith.
Rev. L is a recent fellow of the Community Trustbuilding Fellowship and an Equity + Health Fellow with the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation. She holds a Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees and is a current Doctor of Ministry student at Virginia Union University. Her interests include spending time with friends, trying out new restaurants, watching sci-fi action movies and reading good books.
Government and Public Policy Professional
Larry T. Decker has spent nearly two decades in Washington, D.C. as a government relations professional in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. On December 29, 2015, Decker was appointed by the Board of Directors to the position of Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. He served in that capacity until his resignation early this year.
Prior to joining the Secular Coalition, Decker has a long history in Washington. Most recently, he was the campaign manager for D.C. mayoral candidate, Reta Jo Lewis.
Decker served as the Director of Public Policy for Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. During his time at the Global Fund, Decker secured more than $1 billion in federal appropriations for the Global Fund during a period of economic austerity. He successfully executed an outreach and education campaign to meet with all new Republican Members of Congress following the 2010 midterm elections in an effort to ensure an understanding of the devastating consequences of cutting U.S. support to the Global Fund.
Decker spent nearly eight years at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross where he served in two critical leadership roles, first as the Senior Director of Congressional Affairs, where he managed a team of government relations professionals. He then took on the role of Director of Government Operations, where his unit was responsible for all operational relationships between the American Red Cross and Federal government agencies and state and local emergency management agencies.
While at the Red Cross, Decker worked with more than ten Congressional committees with jurisdiction over Red Cross activities, facilitated Red Cross testimony on more than 20 occasions, and secured more than $200 million in direct Federal support for the organization. He also led efforts on major legislative fronts following Hurricane Katrina, including amendments to the Robert T. Stafford Act, which provides authorities for Federal aid in response to Federally declared disasters. Decker also took a lead role in implementing Red Cross governance reforms, including the first major changes to the Red Cross Congressional Charter in over 60 years.
While leading the Congressional Affairs unit, Decker’s team led the efforts for approval of amendments to the Geneva Conventions and ratification of the Third Additional Protocol, which allowed for the admission and recognition of the Israeli National Society, Magen David Adom, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society into the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. During his time at the Red Cross, Decker worked directly with Congressional and Administration leaders to enhance efforts, both legislatively and operationally, between the organization and its major partners on disaster readiness and response. He executed new agreements between the Red Cross and highest-risk state governments to better delineate the roles of the state and the Red Cross during times of disaster as well as pre-position state and Red Cross resources to better respond to disasters.
At the Red Cross, Decker worked closely with other nonprofit organizations, the Senate Finance Committee and Treasury and IRS officials on the creation of 21st century governance practices for nonprofit organizations as the Red Cross representative to the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector, which was convened to strengthen transparency, accountability and governance within the NGO sector.
Prior to his role at the American Red Cross, Decker worked at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where he implemented efforts to cultivate relationships with key Democratic government officials. He was instrumental in the launch of the Chamber’s first nationwide efforts to provide resources to women and minority-owned businesses, the fastest growing segment of small business endeavors.
During the second term of the Clinton Administration, Decker was appointed Special Assistant in the Office of Legislative Affairs and Public Liaison at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Within his role, he represented the Administration’s positions and initiatives before Members of Congress and Hill staff and assisted in preparing senior Treasury officials for testimony before Congress.
A native of Upstate New York, Decker started his career in Washington working for former U.S. Representative Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY). He is a graduate of Ithaca College where he received his B.A., magna cum laude. Larry lives on the Maryland’s Eastern Shore with his two dogs, a border collie named Dodger, and a pit bull named Dexter.
Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association
Lisa Fleming served as the Communications Organizer for the Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association. She has a B.A. in Mathematics and Computer Science and an M.B.A. in International Business. She spent the early part of her career in a variety of IT and Marketing positions at Fortune 500 companies. After leaving the corporate world, she founded a few home-based businesses. Since the 2016 presidential election, she has become active in politics. Lisa volunteered for two House of Delegates campaigns in 2017 and a Congressional campaign in 2018. She has lobbied Congress on behalf of secular causes and is currently the Outreach Coordinator for a House of Delegates campaign.
Humanist and Atheist Activist
Candace R. M. Gorham MA, LPCS is a licensed professional mental health counselor. She is a former ordained minister turned atheist-humanist activist, researcher, and writer on issues related to race and religion. She is a member of the Black Humanist Alliance advisory board, The Secular Therapist Project, and The Clergy Project. Candace is also the author of "The Ebony Exodus Project: Why Some Black Women Are Walking Out on Religion—and Others Should Too."
Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association
Tiffany Green is an economist and an assistant professor in the department of Health Behavior and Policy in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. She has been a member of Toastmasters International since 2010. Over the last several years, she has leveraged her public speaking and leadership experience to give presentations on public speaking, coach other aspiring speakers, and to volunteer with local secular groups. Tiffany is the Vice President of the Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association (RRNA) and has led several monthly discussions for the group. She is also certified as a Humanist Celebrant via the American Humanist Association (AHA). In Summer 2015, Tiffany represented both the RRNA and the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) at the historic 1st Annual Norfolk State University Founders Day Breakfast, giving a secular humanist invocation to commemorate the occasion. She has also participated in a panel discussion on living without religion, with an emphasis on relating her experiences as an African American nonbeliever. Tiffany is honored and excited to moderate a panel discussing the needs and experiences of nonbelievers of color. She hopes that this event will be both entertaining and educational for all involved.
Bill Harrison is the executive director of Diversity Richmond, Central Virginia’s LGBT community center. Since 199, through the profits of Diversity Thrift and other revenue streams, the organization has awarded over $1 million to local nonprofits.
Prior to joining Diversity Richmond, Bill was the Government and Public Affairs Director for the American Red Cross, Central Virginia Chapter. He served at Ground Zero the month of October following the terrorists’ attacks of September 11th, as liaison between the National Red Cross offices and media. He was the development director for Health Brigade (Fan Free Clinic) during the height of the HIV epidemic and was the first public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health’s HIV program.
Bill was a 2016 finalist in the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Richmonder of the Year and was a recipient of the 2017 Humanitarian Award presented by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities. In 2016 he received the Nationz Foundation Humanitarian Award. His editorial “Gay Marriage, the Civil Rights Movement of Our Generation,” received Best in Show during the 2014 Public Relations of America, Richmond competition. Under his leadership, Diversity Richmond was named “Foundation Philanthropist” by the Central Virginia Chapter of the Association of Professional Fundraisers, the first LGBT organization to receive that recognition.
Commissioner of Revenue, Chesterfield County
Jenefer Hughes is the Commissioner of Revenue for Chesterfield County. She is also a Chartered Accountant. She was born near London, England and spent the first 30 years of her life living and working in countries as diverse as Turkey, Ireland, Czech Republic and Italy, as well as the UK. The results of the 2016 election woke her up to a reality where opinions and untruths matter more than facts, logic and reason. Instead of dwelling on the past and fearing for the future, she has become an activist fighting for an inclusive and tolerant society and an educational system that promotes creativity, critical thinking and science. Her experience growing up in the 60’s and 70’s as an atheist child in a deeply religious Catholic country, gave her an interesting perspective on Judeo-Christian belief systems, which preach inclusion and practice exclusion. When she moved to the US twenty years ago, she embarked on a path to build a sense of meaning and connectedness, outside traditional belief systems. The journey has taken a turn towards a more humanistic approach to life, free of influence from any supernatural forces.
Democratic Party of Virginia
Justin Jones is the current Finance Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, where he oversees fundraising efforts in support of electing elect Democrats across Virginia.
Originally hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, Jones moved to Richmond in 2017 to be closer to his wife's family. In January of last year, he joined the campaign of Abigail Spanberger for Congress as the Communications Director. During the campaign, he developed and implemented an aggressive media strategy which contributed to Spanberger's victory over House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat on November 6, 2018. Prior to Spanberger's victory, no Democrat had won the 7th District in 50 years.
Prior to the Spanberger campaign, he was Communications Director for San Francisco Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, the first openly HIV-positive and only LGBTQ member on the board. He is the founder and past President of the United Democratic Club, the largest Democratic club in San Francisco. While President during the 2016 election cycle, he fundraised nearly $1 million for the Club's political action committee and deployed over 200 field members in support of endorsed candidates and issues.
Beyond politics, he is a huge history buff and served as a board member of the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and also led free historical walking tours of San Francisco's famous Ferry Building for CityGuides, a volunteer-based local historical organization.
He and his wife, Sarah, live in Henrico.
Author and Atheist Political Candidate
Wynne LeGrow was born Québec, Canada and raised in Vermont and Ohio. His father was a Protestant minister and his mother was a schoolteacher. He received his undergraduate and medical degree from The Ohio State University. After doing an internal medicine residency at the University of Missouri, he completed a nephrology fellowship at the University of Connecticut. While serving two years as an Army doctor at Fort Rucker, Alabama he was promoted to the rank of major.
Dr. LeGrow moved to Emporia Virginia in 1979. He practiced internal medicine and nephrology there until 2008. In 2010 he was the Democratic nominee for the US House of Representatives in Virginia's fourth Congressional District and ran openly as an atheist. His opponent was Republican Congressman Randy Forbes, the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Congressman Forbes refused to debate Dr. LeGrow during the campaign. Democrats did not do well in 2010. Although LeGrow lost, he received a higher percentage of the vote than any other Democrat running against an incumbent Republican in the state of Virginia.
After his run for Congress, LeGrow wrote his memoir, Last Leper in the Colony: An Atheist Runs for Congress in the Bible Belt.
Atheist Speaker and YouTuber
Anthony is a Humanist, skeptic, and agnostic atheist who lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife and two teenage children. He has been working to have more respectful and productive conversations with people—regardless of their stance on any claim—for more than six years, often filming the results for his YouTube channel, with over 30,000 subscribers. Anthony has given dozens of talks and workshops on the subject to a variety of groups, clubs, conferences, and events across the United States and internationally, and is widely considered one of most experienced practitioners of Street Epistemology in the world today. In addition, Anthony appeared on The David Pakman Show, The Thinking Atheist podcast, The Atheist Experience, and Bart Campolo’s Humanize Me podcast. Anthony is active on social media, where he works hard to encourage others who are interested in having more productive chats with people who may be holding mistaken views of reality.
Washington Area Secular Humanists
Samantha McGuire is the Regional Director for American Atheists for the Mid-Atlantic, the current President of the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) and is a founding member and the organizer of the Southern Maryland Chapter of WASH.
Samantha has volunteered for Camp Quest Chesapeake, the Secular Coalition for America, and other secular organizations since becoming involved in secular organizing and activism after attending the first Reason Rally in 2012. In 2016, she was the volunteer coordinator for over 200 volunteers for Reason Rally, as well as helping coordinate on-site logistics. She also served as a Board Member and then President of the Reason Rally Coalition.
Samantha has a Bachelor’s of Science in Neuropsychology from the University of Massachusetts and a Master’s of Science in Counseling from Johns Hopkins. She is a National Certified Counselor and a Humanist Celebrant.
Larry has been an activist in the atheist community for over 12 years. He co-founded the United Secular Alliance, a secular student group at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. A year after graduating with a Masters degree in Biology, Larry moved to northern Virginia where he joined the board of Beltway Atheists, Inc., a non-profit atheist affiliate of American Atheists as Director of Education. Larry has been an invited speaker on topics such as separation of church and state and evolution/creationism. In 2011 he joined the northern Virginia public access TV show Road to Reason where he was able to interview Richard Dawkins during a live studio broadcast. Larry joined American Atheists in 2018 in order to help further the ACES program by engaging and uniting Virginia atheists and getting them motivated for grassroots activism. Besides atheist activism, Larry enjoys craft beer, metal, and volunteers with the Virginia Herpetological Society where he holds the position of Chair of the Regulatory Affairs Committee. He enjoys educating the public, especially kids, on the importance of reptiles and amphibians and often is invited to tabling events and to give talks on that subject. Larry keeps over 30 snakes including monocled and spitting cobras, rattle snakes and tree vipers.
Youth Mentor and Coach
Sam Mickens, equipped with a BA in History and a Minor in African American studies from Montclair State University, has spent the past 20+ years coaching, teaching and mentoring young people in the public and private school system. He currently works at Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia as the Associate Director of Admissions.
Sam considers himself a self-taught anthropologist and uses his travels a learning experience, recently exploring South Africa, Greece, various parts of the Caribbean and Mexico. He's fascinated by the distribution of wealth and poverty throughout the world, in particular the US.
Center For Freethought Equality
Ron Millar is the Political and PAC Coordinator at the Center for Freethought Equality. The Center for Freethought Equality is the advocacy arm of the American Humanist Association. Ron researches and interviews political candidates and elected officials for possible endorsement by the Freethought Equality Fund PAC, whose goal is to increase the number of open atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers in public office. When he started in this position in early 2016 there were 5 public nontheists serving in state legislatures -- today there are over 50 in federal and state office. Ron has spent more than thirty-five years in the Washington DC area working for nonprofit education and advocacy groups, including serving as the associate director of the Secular Coalition for America from 2005 to 2009. Earning a PhD from Virginia Tech, his dissertation explored organizational learning among groups litigating church-state cases before the Supreme Court.
Greater Richmond Humanists
Rob Penczak is a physician turned writer and secular activist. As a physician with undergrad training in cellular biology, he was exposed to the rudiments of statistical analysis and became well acquainted with the value of the scientific method and peer-reviewed journals. And as a writer, despite his passion for creating fantastical worlds, he never confused fiction for reality. Thus, as social discourse in America devolved to the point where revisionist historians could step from the fringe and political elites dared cast ‘reality-based-community’ as a pejorative, Rob decided to enter the public sphere and join with those who were already working to restore some kindness and sanity to the world.
In this capacity, he became Host and Co-producer of the public access television show Road to Reason: A Skeptic’s Guide to the 21st Century; and he served as Executive Director of the Atheist Alliance of America. Rob is the founder of Saved By Science, a member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, and Co-President of Greater Richmond Humanists, an official chapter of the American Humanist Association and Washington Area Secular Humanists.
Rob lives in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and three children, enjoys 2d and 3d animation, and looks forward to getting back to writing both fiction and nonfiction.
Alliance for a Progressive Virginia
Apryl Prentiss is a survivor of years of conversion therapy and ex-gay programming. She has been advocating for LGBTQ rights and against conversion therapy at the state and national level for over three years as Deputy Policy Director for the Alliance for a Progressive Virginia. APV has brought legislation in front of the General Assembly multiple times to ban conversion therapy for minors in VA.
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond
Rev. Jeanne M. Pupke is the Senior Minister of First Unitarian Universalist Church in Richmond, VA. Her ministry is focusing on developing robust worship, welcome and hospitality, and the work of racial reconciliation. Jeanne has served on the Unitarian Universalist Association Board, and served the U.U. Church of Bend, OR and as Growth Minister for the Pacific Northwest region. Jeanne Came to Ministry after a career in business. Originally from New York, comes from a long line of Virginians and is the 11th generation of her family to live in Virginia.
Science Communicator and Secular Activist
Aron Ra is a science communicator and secular activist with more than a couple hundred thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel. His videos promoting scientific skepticism, secular politics and humanist values have been mirrored, featured, referenced, and recommended by many professional scientists, secularists, and educators.
He is the Southwest Regional Director of American Atheists, an ordained Dudeist, and director of the Phylogeny Explorer Project, a navigable online encyclopedic depiction of the entire taxonomic tree of life. He also produces the Unapologetic Science (formerly Living Science) classroom supplement video series, teaching middle school and high school biology according to the “Next Generation” national standards. These unapologetically include explanations of evolution, climate change, deep-time and other topics considered to be culturally controversial in America’s “Bible Belt”.
Aron Ra is best known as the author of "Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism", and for public testimonies contesting the Texas State Board of Education in their attempts to denigrate evolution and teach notions of conservative Christian creationism in both science and history classrooms of public schools.
Secular and Social Justice Activist
Lilandra Ra is a mother, Texas secular and social justice activist, science educator, and curriculum specialist with the Next Generation [National] Science Standards. Her story appears in the book Women Beyond Belief by Karen Garst. Lilandra worked in public schools as a science educator and has also trained teachers on curriculum. She also contributed education columns to the Dallas Morning News. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Science Writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Partnering with her husband Aron, Lilandra produces a series of classroom supplements called Living Science Videos. The videos teach biology at the middle school and high school level. The videos are utilized by both-secular homeschoolers and public-school classrooms-at the teacher’s discretion.
Lilandra’s activism includes debating Texas anti-choicer Carol Everett and testifying before the Texas School Board on Science, History, Civics Standards and defending Inclusion and Secularism. She is a speaker for the Women of Color Beyond Belief.
Neuroscientist and Speaker
Dr. Mark Reimers studies brain function by applying statistics and computational methods to the very large data sets now being generated in neuroscience and genomics. In particular he tries to understand how brain dynamics changes between different activities and states of mind. Dr. Reimers has worked at the National Institutes of Health, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric Genetics in Richmond.
Dr. Reimers was the leader of the Richmond Humanists in Virginia for five years 2009-2014. Having relocated to Michigan State to pursue opportunities in neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, he is now a frequent speaker in Michigan at humanist and popular science events.
Humanist and Atheist Activist
Christine Shellska is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Communication, Media, and Film, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Calgary, Canada. Her research involves studying the rhetorical strategies employed by the Intelligent Design Creationism movement, and her areas of focus include history, philosophy and sociology of science, Actor Network Theory and rhetoric. Among other involvement in the secular community, she is a regular co-host on the Calgary-based Legion of Reason podcast, Director and Secretary of the American Humanist Association, Director of the Humanist Society, and Director and Past President of Atheist Alliance International. In the latter capacity, she addressed the UN, condemning mistreatment of LGBTQ+ people, female genital mutilation, and religious discrimination in accessing science-based education, health-care, and social services. She has delivered presentations at local venues (including guest lectures and debates), as well as at prominent conferences in Canada and the US, on various topics of interest to skeptics, humanists, secularists, and activists.
American Humanist Association
Roy Speckhardt is executive director of the American Humanist Association where he actively promotes the humanist perspective on progressive political issues. He is a frequent media commentator, having appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others. He also writes a regular column for The Huffington Post, and has given speeches at colleges, conferences, and local humanist groups across the country.
Speckhardt serves on the board of the Humanist Institute and the advisory board of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. He is also a member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council. He previously served as deputy director of The Interfaith Alliance and worked for various other politically progressive nonprofits.
Speckhardt holds an M.B.A. from George Mason University and B.A. in sociology from Mary Washington College. He currently lives in Washington, DC. He is the author of Creating Change Through Humanism.
Ex-Muslims of North America
Muhammad Syed is a human rights activist, writer, speaker and community organizer. He is the founder and president of Ex-Muslims of North-America (EXMNA), the first Ex-Muslim advocacy and community building organization in North America.
Muhammad has been a human rights activist for the past decade, with a focus on efforts to normalize religious dissent and promote acceptance of secularism in Muslim communities.
Muhammad has been interviewed by BBC, Fox News, NPR, SiriusXM Insight and his work with EXMNA has been covered by the New York Times, National Post and Al-Jazeera among others.
Hispanic American Freethinkers
David Tamayo has over 25 years of information technology experience. He is currently the Chief Information Officer for DCS Corporation, an aerospace defense engineering firm headquartered in Northern Virginia. For over six years he served as Technology Coordinator for international acquisitions at Willis Towers Watson and before that he was Computer Systems Officer at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC. He is a founder and active officer of Hispanic Business and Technology Council and Hispanic American Freethinkers, Inc. both non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations focused on teaching technology and critical thinking. Mr. Tamayo is the sponsor to the Langley High School Cybersecurity Teams that compete in the U.S Air Force National CyberPatriot Competition. He has published several articles on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and futurism in periodicals such as CIO Applications, Manufacturing Technology Insights, and CIO Review among others. Until about a year ago, he hosted the Television Show “Road to Reason – A Skeptics Guide to the 21st Century” which addressed current ethics, religion, and morality as it relates to science, politics, and doubt. He is one of the founders of Camp Quest – Chesapeake, a summer camp for secular parents. He is a member of the Society of Information Managers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Mr. Tamayo holds a MS degree in Management in Information Technology from University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Systems from the George Washington University.
Mandisa Thomas, a native of New York City, is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence today.” she recalls.
Mandisa has several media appearances to her credit, including CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and Playboy, The Humanist, and JET magazines. She has been a guest on podcasts such as The Humanist Hour and Ask an Atheist, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Board for American Atheists and is the current chair of the board nominating committee for the American Humanist Association, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America. She also is an active speaker and has presented at conferences/conventions for Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.
Mandisa was named the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association’s 2018 Person of the Year.
As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa works to encourage more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones.
"The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone."
Krissi Vandenberg began as a volunteer in 1998 and has served as the Executive Director of Vegan Action since bringing the organization to Richmond, Virginia in 2000. She has been vegan since 1995, inspired by friends and the British cookzine Soy Not Oi!. She was a co-founder of Richmond Animal Rights Network and holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Masters of Science in Sociology, and a Certificate in Non-profit Management from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her passions are punk ethics, hugging trees, feminism, raising a son named Arrow, adopting animals, conversations on ethics, and making the best lentil loaf in town.
She has presented at universities and conferences speaking on issues of ethics, veganism, women's empowerment, and body image and self-esteem.
Vegan Action is a national organization working to eliminate animal suffering, reduce environmental impacts, and improve human health. We aim to educate and inspire people to become vegan for the animals, for the environment, and for their health - we are working toward the future to make the world a better place for all Created in 1995, Vegan.org is one of the oldest and most visited vegan websites in the world. Our efforts over the past 25 years include certifying hundreds of vegan products with our logo through our Vegan Certification Campaign by:
- introducing humane organizations to veganism with our Humane Outreach Campaign,
- bringing vegan food into public and private facilities nationwide with our Food Service Campaign,
- educating animal welfare organizations about the connection of care for companion animals and veganism,
- leading cooking and plant-based nutrition lessons to students and community groups, and
- sharing the compelling ideas behind veganism with thousands of people with our Share Vegan Campaign and additional tabling events.
We also raise awareness to over a quarter of a million people a year through our website.
Through these various outreach campaigns and projects, we are reaching thousands of people every year to share, inspire, and teach why vegan is the best choice for the animals, the environment, and health benefits.
Vegan Action will be at the Plant-Based World Conference and Expo in NYC June 7th and 8th. Please find us at booth #329 and say hello! www.plantbasedworldexpo.com
TIES Richard Dawkins Foundation
Bertha has been the director of The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science since 2015. TIES is a project of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, which is a division of the Center for Inquiry. She has been teaching middle school science in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 29 years. A seasoned traveler who has visited all seven continents, she enjoys introducing the world of nature and science to young, eager minds. An educator with National Board Certification, she is the recipient of several national and local honors, including the 2014 Samsung’s $150,000 Solve For Tomorrow Contest and The Charles C. Bartlett National Excellence in Environmental Award in 2009. She was Miami-Dade County Public School’s Science Teacher of the Year in 1997, 2008, and 2017 and is one of Florida’s 2017 finalists for the most prestigious science award in the country, The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Thanks to her work with TIES, she was also the 2017 winner of the National Association of Biology Teachers Evolution Education Award.
Citizen's Climate Lobby
Chris Wiegard is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby. His current role is to serve as State coordinator for the group, along with two other volunteers in the north and west of the state. He works to assist groups of fellow volunteers who are using the five levers of power to carry out the CCL mission of building political will for climate solutions- and more specifically to help move our revenue neutral carbon pricing bill through Congress.
By profession, Wiegard is the Assistant Director of Appomattox Regional Library in Hopewell Virginia. He makes no claim to technical expertise on climate science or climate economics, but accepts the established research on both. He became concerned about climate change in 1989 when Dr. James Hansen spoke to Congress on it. In the three decades since, he began to write letters to the editors of newspapers. Following his involvement with CCL, his focus changed from resisting and disputing fossil fuel propaganda to building support for solutions to the carbon emission crisis.
Wiegard is a political progressive who no longer uses that vocabulary on climate communications in order to remove partisanship from the discussion. He is an atheist who welcomes Christian stewardship in the climate struggle. His understanding that time is short leads him to reject discussion that is unproductive. He is all solutions, all the time.
He has written a few commentaries for the Richmond Times Dispatch and Virginian Pilot newspapers in recent years. Those interested can visit Richmond.com and pilotonline.com and search by his name.