Speakers and Honorees




Marissa Alexander


Marissa Alexander an MBA graduate, was fulfilling a career in IT Management when she was arrested and charged with aggravated assault in August of 2010 for firing a single warning shot after being attacked by her then estranged husband. In August of 2012, Marissa was sentenced to twenty years in prison under Florida’s harsh minimum mandatory sentencing policies. Her story gained national attention and shed light on harsh minimum mandatory sentencing policies as well as the Stand Your Ground Law. In 2013 an appellate court overturned her case as a result of faulty jury instructions. In November 2013 she was released on bail and required to stay on house arrest. After a long journey fighting for her freedom Marissa accepted her original plea agreement of three years and completed her sentence of 65 days in incarceration, followed by ankle monitor under strict probation supervision. While reunited with her three children, in January of 2017, she completed the conditions of her sentence and has a started her own nonprofit and is completing detailed accounts of her journey in upcoming book. Today, Marissa publicly speaks as domestic violence advocate, formerly incarcerated activist & speaks against ineffective sentencing policies.


Barbara Arnwine

Barbara Arnwine is the Founder and President of Transformative Justice Coalition, an organization that advocates for racial, gender, economic, environmental, and other forms of social justice. Barbara also teaches at North Carolina Central University School of Law. In the Fall of 2015, Barbara taught at Columbia Law School. Barbara is the President Emeritus of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. In 2011, she created the legendary Voting Rights “Map of Shame”.


Mary Bassett

Mary T. Bassett is the Commissioner of Health for New York City, a position she assumed in February 2014. Her focus is on ensuring that every New York City neighborhood supports the health of its residents, with the goal of closing gaps in population health across the diverse city. Additionally, she promotes continued use of innovative policy tools to reduce tobacco use, unhealthy food, and lack of physical activity that together drive contemporary mortality patterns.

Originally from New York City, Dr. Bassett lived in Zimbabwe for nearly 20 years. Previously, she was the Program Director for the African Health Initiative and the Child Well-being Program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. She received her B.A. in History and Science from Harvard University and her M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She served her medical residency at Harlem Hospital Center, and has a master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Washington, where she was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar.


Janet Canterbury

Janet Canterbury, a committed women’s rights activist, has been working in the National Organization for women (NOW) for many years. She was twice elected President of Dade County NOW and Florida State NOW. She served two terms on the National Board as the Southeast Regional Director and currently co-chairs with Patricia Ireland, Eleanor Smeal and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun the Advisory Committee to National NOW.

Her many significant contributions to NOW over the years include convening and serving as the first president of the State President’s Caucus; chairing the 18-month-long ERA study committee, which resulted in the organization’s adoption of a new constitutional equality amendment; and co-authoring NOW’s vision statement now published in every national conference program book and read aloud by each new national board.

Dr. Canterbury also serves as an advisor to the NOW Political Action Committee. She has a great interest in electoral politics and in advancing women’s careers through training and formal mentoring programs.


Lois Frankel

Representative Lois Frankel is an experienced public servant with a strong record of bringing jobs and opportunity to South Florida. After serving 14 years in the Florida state legislature, including as the first woman Democratic Minority Leader, Lois became Mayor of West Palm Beach in 2003, where she served for eight years. Lois was first elected November 6, 2012 to represent Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, which stretches from Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County to Ft. Lauderdale and Plantation in Broward County. She was the first woman to represent Florida’s 22nd congressional district. In 2016, Lois was re-elected to represent the newly drawn 21st District of Florida, which covers Palm Beach County. She was also elected as Co-Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus for the 115th Congress. Lois serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure and Foreign Affairs Committees.

As a Member of Congress, Lois has continued her record as a champion for seniors, families, veterans and small businesses. Additionally, she remains staunchly committed to women’s equality and access to health care. In her first year of office, Lois helped to pass the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, worked to bring justice to victims of military sexual assault, and brought community leaders together to help address the serious issue of human trafficking in the South Florida community. Lois is a strong supporter of the Democratic Women’s Economic Agenda, which includes guaranteeing equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, and giving families access to affordable child care and retirement security. She is the Vice Chair of the Congressional Women’s Caucus and is a proud member of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.




Val Demmings

Congresswoman Val Demings represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Val began her career in Jacksonville as a social worker, working with foster children. Despite seeing few women in the ranks of law enforcement in the early 1980’s, Val was inspired to move to Orlando to join the police force. She graduated from the police academy as class president, receiving the Board of Trustees’ Award for Overall Excellence, and quickly earned the reputation of a tenacious, no-nonsense cop.

It was that reputation that helped her work her way up the ranks while raising a family. During her 27-year career she served in virtually every department, including serving as Commander of the Special Operations, where she was responsible for some of Orlando’s highest profile tasks, including special events and dignitary protection. In 2007, Val Demings made history when she was appointed to serve as Orlando’s first female Chief of Police.

Congresswoman Demings sits on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and is a ranking member on the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs and also sits on the Committee on Homeland Security.


Karla Hernández-Mats

Mrs. Karla Hernández-Mats is a first generation American of Honduran descent born and raised in Miami. She is the first Hispanic officer to be elected to United Teachers of Dade, the largest labor union in the Southeast United States. Mrs. Hernández-Mats served a three-year term as Secretary/Treasurer starting in 2010 and was elected President in February 2016.

She has a Bachelor’s degree from Florida International University in Emotionally Handicapped Education and a Master’s degree in Business Management from St. Thomas University. Mrs. Hernández-Mats is a staunch advocate for public education. She taught students with special needs for nearly 10 years and was honored as Teacher of the Year at Hialeah Middle School in 2010 prior to being elected to office.

Her active membership in her church has driven her to engage in humanitarian efforts overseas and sparked her passion for social justice.  In June 2014, she was appointed as the Chairperson of the American Federation of Teachers Women’s Rights Committee.

Mrs. Hernández-Mats is a member of the FEA (Florida Education Association) Governance Board and was elected as a member of the FEA Cabinet in July of 2015. She has also been a national presenter for the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA).

Mrs. Hernández-Mats is happily married and the mother of two. Her goal as a leader is to have a profound impact on education policy and ensure a sound future for all children attending Miami-Dade County Public Schools.


Patricia Ireland

As the longest-serving president of NOW from 1991 to 2001, Patricia Ireland used her dozen years’ experience as a lawyer to help move NOW to the forefront of the political scene, build a strong, effective feminist movement and establish herself as a groundbreaking activist.

Widely recognized as a key player in improving social and economic conditions for women, Patricia is especially adept at challenging people to make the connections between women’s rights and other human rights issues. A hallmark of her work has been to forge stronger links among the feminist, antipoverty, civil rights, disability, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movements.

Patricia returned to Miami in 2005, having served as a national officer of NOW in Washington, D.C., for 14 years. She practices labor law, representing unions and their members.

From 2012 through 2016, Patricia led the drive to modernize NOW’s structure. She serves as NOW’s national advisory committee co-chair. The 2018 elections are her current focus, having worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaigns in 2008 and 2016.

Patricia has been awarded honorary degrees from the University of Massachusetts Law School, University of Rhode Island, Indiana University and Sweetbriar College.


Diana Ramirez

Diana Ramirez is the interim Co-Director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United). She has worked on policy issues at the federal, state, and local levels and has managed candidate and issue campaigns. At ROC United, Diana is focused on eliminating the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers as a way to achieve gender and racial justice. Diana holds an MBA from the University of Texas at El Paso. She is a first-generation Mexican-American who grew up on the Texas border.


Pat Schroeder


The Honorable Pat Schroeder championed many legislative initiatives during her 24 year career in the United States House of Representatives. One of only 14 women in the House of Representatives at the time, Schroeder confronted a male–dominated institution that frowned not only on her feminist agenda but on her mere presence.

Schroeder became a driving force on the House Armed Services Committee in the 1970s and 1980s. She fostered an era of Democratic defense budgets that, in her estimate, supported “reasonable strength” rather than “unreasonable redundancy.” She also asserted herself as a major advocate for arms control, and worked to improve benefits, health care, and living conditions for military personnel.

Schroeder specialized in the area of women’s rights and legislative reforms affecting the family. She was a supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment and a primary sponsor of the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 1977, Schroeder co-founded the Congressional Women’s Caucus. She helped pass the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act and created and chaired the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families.

After a brief teaching stint at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Schroeder was appointed President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers in June 1997. Schroeder retired in 2009 to Florida. She wrote two books, Champion of the Great American Family and 24 Years of House Work–and the Place is Still a Mess.


Kim Schultz


Kim Schultz has a J.D. from Nova Southeastern University, Ft Lauderdale Florida. She began her career with the Florida Dept of Corrections as a Probation Officer in August 1996 and continues to work in that field. In 2003, she attended Nova’s evening program for law school and graduated in December 2006 and was admitted to the bar in July 2007. She currently has a part time law practice, with her main practice in family law. As a lawyer, Ms. Schultz promotes humanity in law and is solution oriented preferring to resolve cases without litigation and acrimonious litigation.

In 2011, the officers of the FDC voted in the Teamsters as our union. Ms. Schultz was active from day one trying to effect change and work towards raises and better working conditions.
In 2016 she was elected President of her Local union, Teamsters Local 2011. In March 2017, she was sworn in as Vice President of the Southern Region for the International Teamster organization and is the only woman on the international executive board. Ms. Schultz received the most votes of the other 4 candidates to assume 1/2 positions in the south. This was a huge achievement and she intends to spend her next 5 years working hard on behalf of women and others to improve working conditions, better pay, and recognition.

Her proudest achievement is her 7 year old son. She is a single parent who has had to learn to balance work with family.


Eleanor Smeal

Eleanor Smeal, Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), has played a leading role in both national and state campaigns to win women’s rights legislation and in a number of landmark state and federal court cases for women’s rights. For over 30 years, Smeal has been at the forefront of almost every major women’s rights victory. As President of NOW, Eleanor Smeal has led the drive to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). She led the first national abortion rights march in 1986, drawing more than 100,000 participants to Washington, D.C. She has been in the leadership of every major reproductive rights march ever since, including the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, the largest march in our nation’s history.