Opening Plenary Keynote Speakers: Saving Our Democracy; Vote for Womxn’s Lives

Maya Wiley

Maya Wiley is the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and The Leadership Conference Education Fund. A nationally respected civil rights attorney, Wiley has been a litigator at the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc., and the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She has been a program creator in philanthropy, non-profits, government, and higher education. She helped create a criminal justice program for a major foundation in South Africa. Wiley co-founded and led a national policy advocacy organization, the Center for Social Inclusion, now a part of Race Forward, a national policy strategy organization working to end structural racism.

She became the first Black woman to be Counsel to a New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, where she worked to protect and expand civil rights, Minority and Women-Owned Business contracts and broadband access. Wiley became a Senior Vice President for Social Justice at the New School University, where she also founded the Digital Equity Laboratory. While there, she chaired the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB). As chair, she led the release of the “hold” on proceedings against Daniel Pantaleo whose illegal chokehold killed Eric Garner, and Co-Chaired the Mayor’s School Diversity Advisory Group that authored two major reports on integrating New York City public schools. Wiley has received numerous awards, and has been a public voice for rights, justice, and democracy, through written opinion editorials and as a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.

Plenary 2 Keynote Speakers: Activism in the Wake of Post-Roe

Loretta Ross

Loretta Ross is an award-winning, nationally-recognized expert on racism and racial justice, women’s rights, and human rights. Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how intersectionality can fuel transformation.

Ross is a visiting associate professor at Smith College (Northampton, MA) in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender, teaching courses on white supremacy, race and culture in America, human rights, and calling in the calling out culture.

She has co-written three books on reproductive justice: Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice, winner of the Outstanding Book Award by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights; Reproductive Justice: An Introduction, a first-of-its-kind primer that provides a comprehensive yet succinct description of the field and puts the lives and lived experience of women of color at the center of the book; and Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique. Her current book, Calling In the Calling Out Culture, is forthcoming in 2021.

Ross appears regularly in major media outlets about the issues of our day. She was recently featured in a New York Times piece, “What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?”

She was a co-founder and the National Coordinator, from 2005 to 2012, of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a network of women of color and allied organizations that organize women of color in the reproductive justice movement. Other leadership positions have included:

  • National Co-Director of the April 25, 2004, March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C., the largest protest march in U.S. history with more than one million participants.
  • Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE)
  • Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network where she led projects researching hate groups and working against all forms of bigotry with universities, schools, and community groups
  • Founder of the Women of Color Program for the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the 1980s
  • Leading many women of color delegations to international conferences on women’s issues and human rights.

Ross is a rape survivor, was forced to raise a child born of incest, and is a survivor of sterilization abuse. She is a model of how to survive and thrive despite the traumas that disproportionately affect low-income women of color. She is a nationally-recognized trainer on using the transformative power of Reproductive Justice to build a Human Rights movement that includes everyone.

Ross serves as a consultant for Smith College, collecting oral histories of feminists of color for the Sophia Smith Collection which also contains her personal archives.

She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law degree awarded in 2003 from Arcadia University and a second honorary doctorate degree awarded from Smith College in 2013. She is pursuing a PhD in Women’s Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is a mother, grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Plenary 2 Panelists: Activism in the Wake of Post-Roe

Terry Cosgrove

Terry Cosgrove is the President and CEO of Personal PAC.  He, along with the Board of Directors, has been instrumental in developing Personal PAC’s sophisticated strategy for electing pro-choice candidates.  This strategy incorporates an intensive paid telephone program that has identified more than 3/4 million pro-choice voters across Illinois, plus a sophisticated voter contact program and comprehensive campaign consulting.

Terry’s campaign consulting is a real plus in implementing Personal PAC’s political strategy.  He works closely with numerous candidates to make sure they have the nuts-and-bolts tools to win on Election Day.  Among other things, he assists candidates in selecting pollsters, media consultants, direct mail firms, and paid campaign staffers.  He also helps them recruit volunteers, execute fundraising plans, and any other activities necessary to ensure their success. 

Over the past 31 years, in addition to his Personal PAC responsibilities, Terry has also managed many political campaigns and has lent assistance to NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, NOW, National Pro-Choice Resource Center, Voters for Choice, Women’s Campaign Fund, Emily’s List, and the Emergency Abortion Loan Fund. 

Terry played a pivotal role in the 1992 restoration of abortion services for low-income women at Stroger Cook County Hospital, one of the largest public hospitals in the nation, as well as the 2017 passing of HB 40, the 2019 passing of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) and the 2021 repeal of the dangerous Parental Notice of Abortion (PNA) law.  Terry has been honored with the “Freedom of Choice” award by the Chicago Abortion Fund and “Ally Award” by the Lake County Democratic Women.

In 2011, Governor Pat Quinn, with confirmation of the Illinois Senate, appointed Cosgrove to the Illinois Human Rights Commission. In 2014, Cosgrove was inducted into the Chicago LGBTQ Hall of Fame, in part for his 1980 role in filing the first ever successful national lawsuit challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. 

Terry holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a Master’s degree in Labor and Industrial Relations and an MSW in Social Policy.

Plenary 3 Keynote Speakers: LGBTQIA+ Community in the intersectional feminist movement.

Amanda Brown Lierman

Amanda Brown Lierman is the Executive Director of Supermajority, an organization aimed at training and organizing women across age, race and background to push for women’s equity. At the helm, Amanda has leveraged her experience as an organizer to build a coalition of women who harness their collective power for lasting change.

Amanda draws from her personal experiences in her commitment to building a multiracial coalition of women that can enact major political change. As a young woman, she understands the importance of bringing in the next generation of voters. As a Black woman, she grasps the power of intersectional allyship in the fight for both racial justice and gender equity. As a mother to three young girls, she knows what it means to be a working mom during the pandemic. With this unique perspective, Amanda is able to lift up many of the experiences and issues of young, black women and mothers across the country, from paid leave to the Black maternal health crisis.

Before her time at Supermajority, Amanda was the National Political Director for Rock the Vote, Executive Director of the White House’s National Women’s Business Council, Campaign Director at For Our Future, and Organizing Director for the Democratic National Committee during the 2018 midterms. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and lives in Maryland with her husband, Kyle, and their three daughters.

Plenary 3 Panelists: LGBTQIA+ Community in the intersectional feminist movement

LaSaia Wade

LaSaia Wade is an open Afro-Puerto Rican indigenous Trans Woman, founder of TNTJ Tennessee Trans Journey Project, and member of Chicago Trans Gender-Nonconforming Collective and the Trans Liberation Collective, and CEO of Brave Space Alliance. Recently, she was honored at the Chicago LGBTQA Black History Recognitions ceremony and is the first Trans woman in Illinois history to be celebrated in Women’s History month for the work she’s doing, not limited to community organizing. Her role in organizing ranges between and beyond as a central organizer for the Trans Liberation Protest Chicago, the largest march for trans rights in Midwestern history.

LaSaia graduated in 2012 with a Master of Business Administration degree in Business Management from Murfreesboro Tennessee State University and has 10+ years of experience in organizing and advocacy work with black, indigenous, trans, and gender-nonconforming people around the world. Her role in organizing ranges between and beyond as a central organizer for the Trans Liberation Collective Chicago, the largest march for trans rights in Midwestern history, and being a leader in Midwest Ballroom The International Legendary House of Moncler.

Mony Ruiz-Velasco

Mony Ruiz-Velasco is a human rights advocate, an attorney, and the Deputy Director at Equality Illinois where she works to advance a more equitable Illinois for all LGBTQ+ communities.

For nearly three decades, Mony worked to advance immigrant justice combining organizing, advocacy, and legal efforts. Before joining Equality Illinois, Mony was the Associate Director for Network Power at Alianza Americas, a transnational human rights organization. She was also Executive Director of PASO – West Suburban Action Project where they advocated for local and statewide policy change, provided legal services, and organized local communities for systemic change. Mony also worked at the National Immigrant Justice Center for nearly thirteen years, where she became the legal director. Mony has been advocating for LGBTQ+ families for decades.

She has also provided legal counsel and representation to thousands of immigrants and their families focusing on women, LGBTQ immigrants, survivors of crimes and other vulnerable populations. She advises and assists legislators and their staff regarding policy and legislation at the federal, state, and local levels. Her work includes the Violence Against Women Act, the Illinois Trust Act, RISE Act, VOICES Act, and previous efforts on immigration reform. She is currently on the board at NIJC and the advisory board for Define American. She served as the Board President at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights and was on the board of Equality Illinois. She has a J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas and a B.A. in English from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

Mony grew up in Mexico and in South Texas. She is queer, lives with her partner, Denise, and is the proud mother of three beautiful children, Christopher, Emma and Liam.