Christian F. Nunes, National NOW President

Christian F. Nunes, MBA, MS, LCSW,  became NOW president in August 2020. She was previously appointed Vice President by the board in May 2019. As the second African American president in the organization’s history, the youngest person of color, and the youngest president in more than 40 years, Nunes is leading the organization through an intersectional lens, bringing a diverse coalition of grassroots activists to work against structural sexism and racism.

Christian is a former NOW board member and committee chair, as well as a licensed clinical social worker, consultant, and woman-minority business owner. She is an active community organizer and public speaker, regularly featured at events such as the March for Black Women, Women’s March events, and rallies around the country in support of the Equal Rights Amendment and immigration rights.  Along with her activism for mental health, Christian has more than 20 years of experience advocating for children’s and women’s issues.

Since assuming a leadership role at NOW, Christian has launched key initiatives such as the Unlock the Future campaign, which demands humane treatment for detained immigrant families, in particular women and girls seeking refuge from sexual violence, assault, and poverty. She led the creation of a Bill of Rights for Immigrant Women and Girls, which has been signed by thousands of supporters and co-sponsors. She is also spearheading racial equity training for all levels of the organization, including NOW’s grassroots membership.

Christian launched NOW’s Racial Justice Summit in 2020 and has recently launched the 100 days of the Feminist Agenda Campaign in partnership with Black Women’s Blueprint and is planning webinar training institute for NOW members that will cover various topics.

Throughout her career, Christian has played an integral role in the drafting of policy positions with local and national coalition partners, including a recent collaboration with the National Coalition for the Homeless to draft legislation to provide housing, childcare, and supportive services for individuals in need, with a particular focus on homeless women and girls.

Christian is the founder of a behavioral health and consulting practice, where she assisted social service and behavioral health companies, as well as provided direct mental health services to individuals and families. Her expertise in mental health helps her to understand the direct experience of constituents and understand where policy and legislation is disconnected from the real experience of the people. “It helps me become a better activist and advocate, as well as understand the pieces that are often missing in policy and legislation,” Christian says.

As an advocate for social justice and mental health policy, she took up the role as Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues and co-authored a community survey on police response to crisis. Additionally, she has worked tirelessly to elect progressive candidates to school boards and local office positions.

Christian is often featured in media outlets including MSNBC, Business Insider, PRISM, Politico, the Huffington Post, Ebony, Black Enterprise magazine, Yahoo News, and many more national and local outlets. She received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) from Northern Arizona University, her Master of Science degree from Columbia University, and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix.

Special Guest Speakers

Congresswoman Robin Kelly

Congresswoman Robin Kelly has dedicated her career to public service as an advocate for Illinois families. Since being elected to serve the 2nd Congressional District in 2013, she has worked to expand economic opportunity, community wellness, and public safety across the state, championing numerous initiatives to generate job growth, reduce health disparities, and end gun violence.

Congresswoman Kelly is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (the main policy-writing body of the House) and serves on the Health, Communications and Technology, and Innovation, Data, and Commerce subcommittees. Her Energy and Commerce work is focused on expanding access to healthcare, consumer protection for American families, and economic development.

She is also a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus.

A staunch champion of common sense gun reforms and responsible community policing, Representative Kelly is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce and is the author of The 2014 Kelly Report on Gun Violence in America, the first-ever Congressional analysis of the nation’s gun violence epidemic that offers a blueprint for ending the crisis.

Committed to improving the health and wellness of vulnerable communities across the country, the Congresswoman serves as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, and Co-Chairs the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls. She also Co-Chairs the House Democratic Policy Group and House Tech Accountability Caucus.

Prior to her election to Congress, Kelly was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, served as Chief Administrative Officer of Cook County (the second largest county in the United States) and was Chief of Staff to Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias – becoming the first African American woman to serve as Chief of Staff to an elected constitutional statewide officeholder.

The daughter of a small business owner and postal worker, Congresswoman Kelly moved to Illinois to attend Bradley University in Peoria, where she earned her B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in counseling. She later received a Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University. She lives in Matteson and has two adult children, Kelly and Ryan.

Sevonna Brown, National Director of Restore Forward

Restore Forward is a cooperative, land-based healing and reconciliation entity launched by Black Women’s Blueprint, a 501 c(3) Black Feminist organization. Restore Forward holds the greater vision of advancing well-being and stewarding journeys where people can be seen, held, and heard by each other.

Located on 300 acres in upstate New York, Restore Forward designs and delivers its land-based healing program, farm programs, crisis intervention and mental health services, reproductive health services, retreats, and its transformational Institute offerings.

Sevonna Brown is the National Director of Restore Forward, a maternal health justice advocate, Birth Doula, and co-founder of Ghana Hospital in Accra.

She leads the Safer Childbirth Cities Initiative through Merck for Mother’s maternal health portfolio and has been featured in the documentary “The Business of Birth Control” directed by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. She is also a recipient of the Mellon Mays fellowship for research on Black maternal health and has experience leading girls’ initiatives focused on violence intervention and reproductive health. 

Damon T. Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Damon T. Hewitt is the President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Hewitt has more than 20 years of civil rights litigation and policy experience, including prior leadership roles in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and public sectors.

Prior to joining Lawyers’ Committee, Hewitt was the inaugural executive director of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color. As well as the chief liaison from the philanthropic community to the White House on policy issues impacting young men of color.

Hewitt worked for more than a decade as an attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where he was lead counsel on a variety of litigation and policy matters and
supervised teams of lawyers and policy experts. One of his most important cases, Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
catalyzed nearly $500M in new relief for Louisiana homeowners.

Hewitt holds a B.A. in Political Science from Louisiana State University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Gloria L. Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer, American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Gloria L. Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer of the highly esteemed American Association of University Women (AAUW) in Washington, D.C.—a 142-year advocate and leader for gender equity. AAUW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with over 100,000 members, donor and supporters, 800 local branches and 500 college and university partners. Its mission is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. With a strong background in international education and development, Blackwell also serves as AAUW’s Main Representative to the United Nations.

Blackwell, a leader in the nonprofit, global education and gender equity sectors, has more than 30 years of nonprofit, international and government experience. Among her many accomplishments is the 17-year management of AAUW’s highly-esteemed fellowships and grants programs—during her tenure awarding more than $70 million in funding to women scholars and community programs globally. An in-demand thought leader on issues ranging from the pay gap to equity in STEM to student loan debt, Blackwell’s media engagement includes the Washington Post, MSNBC, TIME, USAToday, the Chronicle of Higher Education, ABC News, Market Watch, Yahoo! Finance and Politico.

She significantly expanded AAUW’s outreach to girls and women of color across all programmatic initiatives, including fellowships and grants, piloting AAUW STEMEd for Girls and AAUW Money Smart virtually during the pandemic, partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL). She has been the driving force behind multiple AAUW signature programs, including the award-winning salary negotiation training, which has reached over 100,000 participants, and launched pay equity initiatives with state and municipal partners. Blackwell has been the Co-PI on multiple National Science Foundation grants, including higher education compensation transparency, and efforts to increase girls’ participation in STEM.

Blackwell holds a master’s degree in education and human development from The George Washington University, bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and studied at the American University in Paris.

She previously held leadership roles at the Institute of International Education (IIE), and her lifelong desire to make a difference through international education and gender equity continues to be inspired by her service as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and headquarters staff member.