Speakers

Sarah Deer

Working to end violence against Native American women for more than 25 years, Sarah Deer (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) is a professor at the University of Kansas’ Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program and a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. She wrote about domestic violence and sexual assault in Native communities as an international human rights issue in the groundbreaking book Maze of Injustice. Her latest book is The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America, which received numerous awards. She is credited with an instrumental role in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and again testified in Congress for important provisions protecting Native American women from violence in the 2019 VAWA reauthorization. She also serves as the Chief Justice for the Prairie Island Indian Community Court of Appeals. She is being inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in the fall of 2019.

Hala Ayala

An outspoken advocate for women and families, Hala Ayala won her seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, beating a four-term incumbent, and becoming one of the first Latina to serve in the House. She now serves as the State Delegate for Virginia’s 51st District, serving Prince William County. Ayala is also a fierce champion for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and helped to lead efforts to make Virginia the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA.to the U.S. Constitution. In a stunning upset, the vote was lost by just one member, but the momentum built by the efforts of Ayala and her colleagues is still going strong and Virginia remains a focus of national ERA efforts. Ayala also has an extensive career as a cyber security specialist for the Department of Homeland Security and founded the Prince William County Chapter of the National Organization for Women (PWC NOW) and served as Vice President of the Virginia National Organization for Women (VA NOW). Her commitment to service and community is the heart of her passion which are evident through her various leadership roles 

Carol Jenkins

Carol Jenkins is the co-President and CEO of the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality, a group of 76 member and lead organizations that works to promote passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. An Emmy-winning writer, producer and media consultant, Jenkins is a sought-after speaker and writer on issues relating to the media, specifically the participation of women and people of color; women’s participation in the political and economic structures in the US; and the health of women in developing countries, particularly on the African continent. She has had an extensive career with several New York City news departments and was founding president of The Women’s Media Center, the groundbreaking non-profit aimed at increasing coverage and participation of women in the media. 

Mary Kuneish-Podein

Mary Kuneish-Podein is a representative and Assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing District 41B. As a descendant of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Mary advocates for Native Rights, and was a founding member of the POCI (People of Color and Indigenous) Caucus in the Minnesota State House in 2017. She has been the primary author of over 42 bills in this most recent legislative session, including a bill to create a Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, and an Equal Rights Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. 

Kuneish-Podein also worked as member and chair of the New Brighton Parks, Recreation and Environmental Commission, and as a library media specialist, and as a teacher at Robbinsdale Middle School. She was nominated for Minnesota Teacher of the Year in 2014. 

Angie Craig

Rep. Angie Craig represents Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, where she advocates for working families – and for a Minnesota where every member of every family gets a fair shot. That means an opportunity for an outstanding education, career skills and technical training for 21st century jobs of the future, and a better life. She and her wife Cheryl Greene have four sons – three in college or tech school and one in high school. She is a small business investor, the former head of Global HR for a major Minnesota manufacturer, and a former newspaper reporter. In Congress, Rep. Craig focuses on improving health care and infrastructure investments that benefit our communities and on policies that reward people for their hard work – especially family farmers and small business owners. She plans to pursue these priorities through her appointments on the House Committees on Agriculture and Transportation & Infrastructure.  

Rebecca Lucero

Rebecca Lucero was appointed Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights on January 3, 2019 by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.  Commissioner Lucero has extensive policy, legal, and nonprofit leadership experience, including her work as Public Policy Director at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and as Senior Community Representative for then Representative Keith Ellison. She has worked as an administrative law judge for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, at the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, and in private practice as a plaintiff-side employment lawyer. It is Lucero’s belief that everyone should have access to human rights. She now works to fight discrimination in the workplace along with advancing issues of racial equity and intercultural competence as Commissioner of Human Rights.   

Pat Spearman

Pat Spearman is a member of the Nevada Senate and has represented Nevada District 1 since 2012. In Nevada’s Senate, she is the Chair of the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. She has used her roles to pass countless legislations on LGBTQ Rights, Economic Development, Veterans Affairs, Equal Rights and Health Care. She sponsored a bill that passed the Legislature adding gender identity to the state hate crime law,  giving transgender victims of hate crimes an opportunity to receive justice. Sen. Spearman supported a constitutional amendment for marriage equality, fought to ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, introduced a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, advocated equal pay for equal work, and supported an assembly bill to extend voter registration that passed both chambers of the legislature. 

Elleanor Smeal

As one of the co-founders of The Feminist Majority Foundation, a former president of the National Organization for Women, and publisher of Ms. Magazine, Eleanor Smeal’s life and work has been dedicated to the achievement of women’s equality and human rights. Known as a political analyst, strategist, and grassroots organizer, Smeal has played a pivotal role in defining the debate, developing the strategies, and charting the direction of the modern day women’s movement. In her more than 40 years as a leader in the United States’ women’s movement, she has changed the landscape of women’s involvement in national life and culture. Smeal has been at the forefront of nearly every significant women’s rights victory, her participation was pivotal in the passage of landmark legislation including the Equal Credit Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and stronger enforcement of Title IX. Currently, Smeal serves on a number of boards, including the National Council for Research on Women, the National Organization for Women, and the Leadership Circle of CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women). 

Meggie Wittorf

Meggie Wittorf is the Executive Director of Women Winning, a multi-partisan political non-profit that is dedicated to recruiting, training, and electing pro-choice women to all levels of public office. She is also a board member of OutFront Minnesota, where she works to protect and strengthen LGBTQ rights. While obtaining her MBA at the University of Minnesota, she led the Women’s Mentorship program where she focused on addressing challenges in the opportunity pipeline, improving gender balance in higher-education programs, and securing mentors in underrepresented fields. Wittorf’s work as a marketing and strategy leader with a passion for politics and improving our communities continues to help lift women into positions of leadership. 

Christian F. Nunes

Christian F. Nunes is an active community organizer and has spoken at events such as the March for Black Women in 2018. She is currently chair of NOW’s Racial Justice Task Force, and has just been elected NOW’s Vice President. Along with her activism for mental health, Nunes also has over 20 years of experience advocating for children’s and women’s issues. Nunes is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Consultant, and Woman-Minority Business Owner. In 2006, she founded a behavioral health and consulting practice where she assists social service and behavioral health companies, as well as provide direct mental health services to individuals and families. 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.