FSOTU Moderators & Speakers
Christian F. Nunes MBA, MS, LCSW
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, Nunes is leading the organization through an intersectional lens, bringing a diverse coalition of grassroots activists to work against structural sexism and racism. She is a former NOW board member and committee chair, as well as a licensed clinical social worker, consultant and a woman-minority business owner.
Christian is an active community organizer and public speaker, regularly being featured at events such as the March for Black Women, Women’s March events, and rallies around the country. Christian launched key initiatives at NOW such as the Unlock the Future campaign, which demands humane treatment for detained immigrant families, NOW’s Racial Justice Summit and the Feminist Agenda Campaign in partnership with Black Women’s Blueprint.
Christian is the founder of a behavioral health and consulting practice. 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. She 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 Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Phoenix.
As Co-Founder and President of the Feminist Majority and former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), Eleanor Smeal has led efforts for the economic, political, and social equality and empowerment of women worldwide for over three decades. She 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.One of the architects of the modern drive for women’s equality, Smeal is known as a political analyst, strategist, and grassroots organizer. She has played a pivotal role in defining the debate, developing the strategies, and charting the direction of the modern day women’s movement. Smeal was the first to identify the “gender gap” — the difference in the way women and men vote — and popularized its usage in election and polling analyses to enhance women’s voting clout.
For over 30 years, Smeal has been at the forefront of almost every major women’s rights victory – from the integration of Little League, newspaper help-wanted ads, and police departments to the passage of landmark legislation, such as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Equal Credit Act, Civil Rights Restoration Act, Violence Against Women Act, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, and Civil Rights Act of 1991. She has pushed to make Social Security and pensions more equitable for women and to realign federal priorities by developing a feminist budget. She has campaigned to close the wage gap and to achieve pay equity for women. Expanding feminist activism to a global level, Smeal in 1997 launched the international Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban’s abuse of women.
As President of the National Organization for Women, Eleanor Smeal led the drive to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), the largest nationwide grassroots and lobbying campaign in the history of the modern women’s movement. The ERA campaign reshaped the contours of women’s political participation in the U.S. and demonstrated the strength and breadth of public support for women’s rights. Ultimately, the ERA’s defeat exposed the entrenched interests opposed to women’s equality.
She called for the women’s movement, despite much controversy in both the media and the movement itself, to return to the streets in the mid-1980s to dramatize popular support for abortion rights. When many said it could not be done, 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. Over 1.1 million people gathered on the National Mall to demand that women’s health, access to contraception, and abortion receive adequate funding.
Smeal serves on a number of boards, including the National Council for Research on Women, the National Organization for Women, the Executive Committee of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, and the Leadership Circle of the Alliance for Ratification of CEDAW. She is also a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and holds an M.A. degree from the University of Florida. She received an honorary Doctor of Law from Duke University, an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Florida, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey .
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney has represented parts of New York City in Congress since 1993. She is the Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform and former Chair of the Joint Economic Committee – the first woman to hold both gavels.
A champion of women and families and equal rights for all, Congresswoman Maloney is the longtime House sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment. She is also the author of the Federal Employees Paid Leave Act, part of which was signed into law in 2019 to guarantee 12-weeks paid parental leave to federal employees; the Debbie Smith Act to fund processing of DNA evidence in rape and sexual assault cases, which RAINN, the Rape, Incest and Abuse National Network, called “the most important piece of anti-rape legislation that Congress has ever passed;” the Credit CARD Act, which, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), has saved consumers more than $16 billion annually since it was signed into law in 2009; the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act and its subsequent reauthorizations; and the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, signed into law in 2020.
Congresswoman Maloney has authored and helped pass legislation that targets sex trafficking, including the first bill that focused on the ‘demand’ side of human trafficking to punish the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. She is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Human Trafficking, and previously served as the co-chair of the Trafficking Task Force of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
During her first term in Congress, the Congresswoman passed legislation that provides annual mammograms for women on Medicare. Her legislation to create Women’s Health Offices in five Federal agencies was included in the Affordable Care Act.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (pronounced SPEAR) is a fearless fighter for women’s equality, LGBTQ rights and the disenfranchised who has dedicated her life to eliminating government corruption while working to strengthen America’s national and economic security. She was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world and one of “Politico’s 50” most influential people in American politics for bringing the Me Too reckoning to Congress.
She proudly represents California’s 14th Congressional District, stretching from the southern portion of San Francisco through San Mateo County to East Palo Alto. Speier serves on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), where she is the Chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, and on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where also she serves as Chair of the Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research (STAR) Subcommittee and serves on the Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation (C3) Subcommittee.
Additionally, she serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, where she serves on the Subcommittees on National Security and Economic and Consumer Policy. Speier is also Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC), the Congressional Armenian Caucus, the Bipartisan Task Force To End Sexual Violence, and the Gunviolence Prevention Task Force.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee: A Voice for the People
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights.
First elected in 1998 to represent California’s 9th Congressional District, the Democratic lawmaker has a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. A social worker by profession, she has been a life-long advocate for constituents, families and others accessing government services.
Congresswoman Lee has been a strong proponent of safe communities, addressing hunger, environmental justice, universal health care, just immigration policies, the establishment of a living wage, reproductive health care rights and affordable housing, including creation of a National Housing Trust Fund.
Her accomplishments include authoring or co-authoring every major piece of legislation dealing with global HIV/AIDS issues since she was elected to Congress.
After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the congresswoman was the lone vote against a resolution that gave the President virtually unlimited authority to use force against unspecified organizations, individuals or nations for an unlimited period of time. She has consistently fought to stop endless wars and to reduce conditions that produce conflict and injustice.
Congresswoman Lee is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. She serves as Co-Chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, former Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Chair Emeritus of the Progressive Caucus, Co-Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Health Task Force, and Co-Chair of the Pro-Choice Caucus. She also serves as Chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity. As a member of the House Democratic Leadership, she is the highest ranking African American woman in the U.S. Congress.
Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of League of Women Voters
Virginia Kase Solomón has spent the past 25 years of her career fighting for social justice and civil rights. As CEO of the League of Women Voters, Virginia builds upon her vision of an inclusive democracy where every person in America has the ability and opportunity to participate and advocate for issues that matter to them. Since 2018, she has led the 100-year-old organization through a period of rapid transformation and growth focused on building power by engaging in advocacy, legislation, expanded litigation, and organizing efforts to ensure voting rights for all.
Prior to joining LWV she served as COO of CASA, an organization at the forefront of the immigrant rights movement, representing nearly 100,000 members. In that leadership role, Virginia managed the strategic growth, direction, and operations of the organization and served as a key thought leader on its politics and policy team.
Earlier in her career, Virginia served in leadership roles at various non-profit organizations where she developed grantmaking and capacity building programs for grassroots non-profits that addressed issues of urban violence, economic, racial, and social inequality. During that time, she also studied what made these activities effective and used that information to assist groups in deepening their impact and identifying opportunities for cross-sector movement building.
Virginia’s activism started in her early 20’s when she co-founded a youth-led non-profit in her hometown of Hartford, CT. Motivated by her desire to create a positive change in her community, she organized at-risk youth to build power and grow their leadership to fight for employment and educational opportunities.
Virginia is a leading advocate for participatory elections and democracy. She has testified before Congress on election administration, appeared on various television news programs, published multiple opinion pieces, and been quoted in news articles including The New York Times, Time Magazine, Glamour, and more. Virginia was a recipient of the 2019 Hispanic Heritage Award for Leadership, and in March 2020 she was named to People en Español’s Most Powerful Women of the Year List. She serves on the boards of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Democracy Initiative, and the National Election Task Force on Election Crises, and she is a steering committee member of Open the Government (OTG). She is also on the National Archives Foundation Rightfully Hers Initiative Honorary Committee, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment. Virginia holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Maryland. She is the mother of two awesome sons and lives in Maryland with her rescue dog Boss.
Attorney Jennifer Carroll Foy, VA State Senate Candidate
Jennifer Carroll Foy proudly served as the representative for District 2 in the Virginia House of Delegates where she passed the Equal Rights Amendment for women’s equality, Medicaid expansion to 600,000 Virginians, and stronger protections for women, veterans, and small businesses. Jennifer has dedicated her life to public service as a former foster parent, a public defender, and one of the first women to ever graduate from Virginia Military Institute, a historically all-male college. Jennifer resides in Woodbridge, Virginia with her twin boys, Xander and Alex, and husband, Jeffery. She is currently running for state Senate for the 33rd district in Fairfax and Prince William County.
Gloria Blackwell, CEO of the American Association of University Women (AAUW)
Gloria L. Blackwell serves as Chief Executive Officer of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). AAUW, a leader, and innovator for gender equity for 140 years is a nonpartisan organization committed to advancing gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. With over 170,000 members and supporters, as well as 1,000 local branches and 800 college and university partners, AAUW is at the forefront of increasing women’s economic, educational and political equity, access, and opportunity. Blackwell, who is also AAUW’s main representative to the United Nations, has more than 25 years of nonprofit, international, and government expertise and was the driving force behind AAUW’s signature programs, including their highly esteemed fellowships and grants programs—which have awarded more than $130 million in funding to nearly 13,000 women scholars and community programs in the U.S. and over 140 countries. She also spearheaded the growth of AAUW’s award-winning salary negotiation trainings, which have reached nearly 190,000 participants, and significantly expanded AAUW’s programming outreach to girls and women of color.
Blackwell is the recipient of multiple honors and awards and has led and served on numerous boards and advisory groups. She holds a master’s degree in education and human development from George Washington University, and a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She also studied at the American University in Paris, France.
Joi Dean, NOW Young Feminist National Committee Co-Chair
Joi is an Orlando native and recent grad from Florida Atlantic University. While earning her marketing degree at FAU, Joi found a passion for activism and leadership. In 2018, Joi was on the founding executive board of the Florida Atlantic University NOW Campus Action Network. FAU NOW became one of the most active college CANs in the country with over 500 members. Through her work with NOW, she has received accolades such as FAU’s 2019 Executive Leader of the Year Award, speaking on a 2019 National Young Feminist Leadership panel, appearing on NPR podcasts, speaking on the Haitian Heritage Museum’s Women’s Equality Day panel, leading diversity training for local organizations, and winning the 2021 Activist of the Year by FAU’s Women’s Studies Department.
Joi has done several internships with event, influencer, and digital marketing firms. She now looks to continue her career in marketing while remaining active in feminist and advocacy spaces.
Shree Mehrotra, NOW Young Feminist National Committee Co-Chair
Shree is a youth activist from New Jersey, currently working at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. In her role at the DOJ, Shree has worked with the Voting Section to monitor elections and with the Disability Rights Section to uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act. Shree discovered her passion for activism at the University of Chicago, where she worked to raise awareness about issues of environmental justice on campus. At UChicago, she studied environmental science and human rights and conducted research on the impact of climate change on gender-based violence.
Prior to becoming Co-Chair of the Young Feminist Task Force at NOW, Shree became involved with NOW-NJ and serves as their PAC Secretary and Advocacy Coordinator. Through her work at NOW, she has continued to raise awareness about women’s rights and racial justice through panel events and collaborative arts projects. Shree hopes to continue this work of promoting women’s rights and racial justice through a legal career, supporting marginalized communities through law and policy.
Rosie Couture, Executive Director at Generation Ratify
Rosie Couture is a 18-year-old Senior in high school from Arlington, Virginia. She loves theater, is a fourth-term class president, plays on her school’s drumline, and is a co-founder and the Executive Director of Generation Ratify, the youth-led movement to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
Generation Ratify’s mission is to correct the historical exclusion of women and people beyond the gender binary from the US Constitution by mobilizing young people across the country to take action to ratify the ERA. Under her leadership, Generation Ratify has grown to over 10,000 members from all 50 states and more than 50 local and state-wide chapters. Generation Ratify has trained thousands of youth to advocate for gender equality legislation, organize protests in their communities, and engage in electoral advocacy.
The youth-powered movement has organized more than 250 lobbying meetings, 40 protests, and 65 virtual workshops, as well as contacted over 1.1 million voters. Other work Rosie has done includes sitting on the ERA Coalition’s advisory board and organizing with youth-led gun-violence prevention groups such as March for Our Lives and Team ENOUGH.
Reverend Mark Thompson, On-Air Host at makeitplain.com
The Rev. Mark A. Thompson was honored at the 104th Annual NAACP Convention in July 2013 “for 25 years of crusading journalism and outstanding leadership in furthering the work of civil and human rights.” Mark began his broadcast career in 1988 with Radio One, Inc. under the guidance of Cathy Hughes. His show, Make It Plain, was the first talk show to sign on XM Satellite Radio in 2001, and the only show to have been broadcast on XM exclusively, then Sirius exclusively, and now broadcast on both on SiriusXM Progress 127 from 6-9p ET/5-8p CT, Monday through Friday. He is the first and only African American talk host on SiriusXM Progress, and the only African American in the U.S. hosting a daily, national show on a progressive/liberal talk format.
Mark anchored SiriusXM’s coverage of both the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the dedication of the MLK Memorial. For several consecutive weeks, he broadcast Occupy Wall Street live, on location from New York’s Zuccotti Park. His ministry, broadcasting, and activism have taken him to Sanford, Florida, Ferguson, Missouri, Moral Monday in North Carolina—where he was arrested and jailed live on air–and even to South Africa, where he received the name, Matsimela Mapfumo, which means “firmly rooted soldier.” He broadcast live from Baltimore, Maryland in the aftermath of the police killing of Freddie Gray and provided extensive coverage of the pool incident in McKinney, TX. He has broadcast from every Democratic National Convention since 1992. For the past five years, Mark has been the only broadcaster to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the NAACP Annual Convention.
As a Georgetown University freshman undergrad in 1985, he organized the shantytown which led to the University’s divestment from apartheid South Africa. While he was a correspondent for the Georgetown student newspaper, his editors at The Hoya resisted calls to censor his coverage of South Africa despite pressure from Reagan Administration upon university officials. Also, while at Georgetown, he worked with one of his mentors, Men’s Basketball Coach John Thompson, Jr., as a Manager for the Hoyas. Later matriculating at the University of the District of Columbia, he was organizer and spokesperson for KIAMSHA, the 1990 eleven-day student protest and boycott, and was named one of the “100 Most Powerful People in Washington” by Regardie’s magazine. In 1992, Mark teamed with the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization to Abolish the Death Penalty, and a young fellow activist by the name of Ben Jealous, who would go on to head the NAACP, to organize and lead a campaign against a Congressionally-imposed ballot initiative forcing the death penalty on the District of Columbia. The “Thou Shalt Not Kill” campaign mobilized voters to defeat the initiative on Nov. 3, 1992. In 1993, after organizing the weekly civil disobedience on Capitol Hill that helped win the first-ever Congressional vote on DC Statehood, Mark was jailed for 20 days. Both the Stand Up for Democracy Coalition and Mark received the United Nations Association 2004 Human Rights Award.
In 1996, He joined Dick Gregory, Cong. Maxine Waters and journalist Gary Webb in exposing the CIA’s role in the crack cocaine epidemic. While in high school in 1984, Mark was an organizer Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign, and again in 1988. He was also an advisor to the Rev. Al Sharpton during his presidential run in 2004. Mark co-founded the Umoja Party, the only U.S. ballot-status Black political party from 1994 -2000, and was a candidate for the DC Council. He helped to organize the National African American Leadership Summit which grew out of the NAACP, under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, and he co-chaired the 1996 National Black Political Convention. He has emceed the Million Man March, every anniversary of the March on Washington, and the annual commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. He recently emceed the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March.
Mark chaired the NAACP Metropolitan Police and Criminal Justice Review Task Force for the DC Branch. In that capacity, he co-authored legislation establishing the Board and Office of Police Complaints, and facilitated the beginning of an unprecedented study on racial profiling. He also taught courses in diversity awareness and cultural sensitivity at the DC Police Academy. Mark has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of the District of Columbia and a Masters in Divinity from Howard University. He was ordained by former NAACP DC Branch President and NAACP National Board Member the Rev. Dr. Morris L. Shearin, Sr., Pastor of the Israel Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Mark lives in Harlem, New York, and is the proud father of a 22-year-old daughter in graduate school for engineering and a 14-year-old son about to enter high school. He is a Life Member of the NAACP, the National Action Network, the National Congress of Black Women and the National Organization of Women. Mark is also a frequent guest on numerous television networks.