• social change

Social Justice Speakers

 

 

These speakers seek to transform the world through empathy, activism, and the entrepreneurial spirit needed to push through truly revolutionary change. Some have already succeeded; others are in the midst of their life’s work.

 
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Yeonmi Park

North Korean Defector and Human Rights Activist | Author of In Order to Live

Born in North Korea, human rights activist and TED Speaker Yeonmi Park grew up in a society devoted to the worship of Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. But at the age of 13, she and her family made a daring escape to China in search of a life free of tyranny. In her viral talks, viewed online nearly 350 million times, Park urges her listeners to recognize the oppression that exists in North Korea, and all over the world.
Gabby Rivera

Author of Juliet Takes a Breath and the Marvel Comic Series America

Gabby Rivera is an outgoing, outspoken creator invested in fostering better dialogue, inspiring radical creativity, and improving our most vulnerable communities. The author of Juliet Takes a Breath, she’s also the writer of the Marvel series America—featuring the first queer, Latinx teen-girl superhero, ever. 
Nikole Hannah-Jones

New York Times Magazine Staff Writer | MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow | Winner of the National Magazine Award

Nikole Hannah-Jones was named a MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow (one of only 24 people chosen, globally) for “reshaping national conversations around education reform” and for her reporting on racial re-segregation in our schools. This is the latest honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city.
 
Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School

Khalil Gibran Muhammad is redefining our understanding of diversity. Former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Harvard Kennedy School Professor of History, Race, and Public Policy, he explains how “bias education”—race ed.—can help individuals and institutions reconcile past with present and move toward greater equity.
 
Andrew Marantz

New Yorker Staff Writer | Author of Antisocial

Social media has hijacked the global conversation. We face an informational crisis that is radicalizing youth, sowing confusion, and shaking democracy to its core. For his book Antisocial, Andrew Marantz spent four years with the two groups who increasingly control the web: the founders of social media platforms, and the conspiracists, trolls and white supremacists who use them to advance their toxic agendas. With clarity, courage, and humor, he explains how we got into this mess—and how we can get out. 
John Elder Robison

Author of Look Me in the Eye and Switched On

John Elder Robison grew up with Asperger’s Syndrome, and was undiagnosed until the age of 40—and is living an incredible life.  With poignant examples, he shares a new way to look at disability and difference: neurodiversity is not a disease that needs curing, but a way of experiencing life that requires only understanding and encouragement. His books are the most widely read accounts of life with Asperger’s worldwide, and as a leading voice on autism, he implores audiences to find strengths where others see weaknesses.
Waneek Horn-Miller

Olympian, Activist, and Speaker on Indigenous Health and Reconciliation

Waneek Horn-Miller has overcome discrimination and trauma to emerge as one of North America’s most inspiring activists and Olympians. She empowers our communities to overcome adversity, and helps us turn reconciliation—justice, healing, and dialogue—into a cornerstone of our national institutions.
 
Angie Thomas

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author of On the Come Up and The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give, has spent more than two years on The New York Times bestseller list, and her sophomore novel, On the Come Up is keeping it good company. Thomas’ keynotes resonate with the same authenticity, insight, and hope that make her writing so powerful, and give context and background to the culture, politics, and movement that inspired it. 
 
Bassam Tariq

TED Fellow and Award-winning Director of The Ghosts of Sugar Land

Where do you seek representation, and how do you make yourself heard, seen, and understood? These questions inspire Bassam Tariq as a filmmaker, an entrepreneur, and speaker. TED fellow and director of the acclaimed films These Birds Walk and the Sundance Jury Prizewinning Ghosts of Sugarland, Tariq investigates the way Muslim Americans live in our polarized world today, transcending religion and politics to tell a deeply human story that affects us all.
Soraya Chemaly

Journalist & Author of Rage Becomes Her | Co-Founder and Director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project

Being human means playing host to a variety of emotions—and it’s not optional. To award-winning author and viral TED speaker Soraya Chemaly, the trick is learning to see them as vital signals, critical to how well our organizations function. Chemaly speaks with crackling lucidity to the wealth of data that our emotions provide us with—at work, at home, and in the world at large. 
David Fleischer

Director of Leadership Lab | Community Activist

Prejudice is on the rise. Isn’t it? If so, then speaker David Fleischer is doing the impossible: reducing prejudice by knocking on strangers’ doors and offering them the opportunity to form new opinions. The effect is tangible—real, data-verified change. And he’ll teach you how to make it happen, too.  
Jelani Cobb

New Yorker Staff Writer, Speaker on Race in America

Journalist, educator, and diversity speaker Jelani Cobb writes about the enormous complexity of race in America. Cobb has been praised for combining “the strengths of an on-the-scene reporter, a public intellectual, a teacher, a vivid writer, a subtle moralist, and an accomplished professional historian”—qualities he brings to his gripping talks.
Susan Fowler

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2017 | #MeToo and STEM speaker

Susan Fowler is a central figure in the #MeToo movement. Named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year as one of the silence breakers, Fowler is the former Uber engineer whose viral blog post ignited an ongoing, worldwide conversation. The Financial Times named her Person of the Year as well, writing that her actions hold “the potential to improve the way women are treated at work permanently.”  
 
LaToya Ruby Frazier

Photographer | Associate Professor at School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For LaToya Ruby Frazier, art is a weapon—a catalyst for social justice. Her photographs and videos document today’s America: post-industrial cities riven by poverty, racism, healthcare inequality, and environmental toxicity. Bridging the personal with the social, her gorgeous work amplifies the voices of the vulnerable and transforms our sense of place and self.  
Matthew Vines

Author of God and the Gay Christian

Matthew Vines is a gay Christian—and that’s no contradiction. A leading new voice on the Bible and homosexuality, his groundbreaking speech countering anti-gay interpretations of Scripture has been viewed on YouTube over 700,000 times.
 
Sarah Lewis

Author of The Rise | Guest-Editor of Aperture’s “Vision & Justice” Issue | Associate Professor At Harvard

When we view race and justice through the lens of culture, we can enlarge our notion of citizenship, of who belongs and who counts. Sarah Lewis, an intellectual star and powerful speaker, has sparked a national conversation with “Vision & Justice”—the landmark issue of Aperture dedicated to photography of the black experience. 
 
Jamil Zaki

Director of the Stanford Social Neuroscience Lab | Author of The War for Kindness

Most people think empathy is a trait—you have it or you don’t. Meaning, if you find empathy too hard, there’s nothing you can do. But empathy is a skill that anyone can get better at, says Jamil Zaki, a Stanford psychologist and one of America’s pre-eminent speakers on empathy.
 
Heather McGhee

Distinguished Senior Fellow & Former President of Demos | Expert in Racial Healing

What if, in the middle of your live TV appearance, someone called in and asked for advice in overcoming racial prejudice? For public policy expert and speaker Heather C. McGhee, the response was natural—she helped. From the personal to the corporate, McGhee’s talks kickstart a much-needed cultural effort towards putting systemic repair into action. 
Negin Farsad

Social Justice Comedian, Director of The Muslims Are Coming!

Negin Farsad is at the forefront of social justice comedy—a field that she insists totally exists (or should). A TED Senior Fellow, author of How to Make White People Laugh, and as one of few Iranian-American Muslim female comedian/filmmakers, Farsad uses humor—full-scale ridiculousity—to bridge the racial, religious, social, and immigrant gap. 
Shaun King

Columnist at The Intercept | Writer-In-Residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project

When it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement, they’re talking specifically about human dignity for African Americans. And for this movement, journalist, humanitarian, and activist Shaun King, a columnist for The Intercept and the Writer-In-Residence at Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project, is amongst the most compelling voices.
 
Sue Gardner

Executive Director of The Markup | Former Director of Wikimedia Foundation

The fight to keep the internet democratic and easily-accessible is one of society’s most urgent battles. Sue Gardner, the former Executive Director of Wikimedia, has been speaking on this topic for years. She offers a clear-eyed take on why a robust, transparent, and unobstructed internet, with the free flow of ideas and information, is essential to a healthy democracy. 
Teju Cole

Professor of Creative Writing at Harvard | Author of Blind Spot | Former Photography Critic for NYT Magazine

A prodigious novelist, critic, and photographer, Teju Cole’s first novel, Open City, won the PEN/Hemingway Award. His second, Every Day Is for the Thief, was named a Book of the Year by The New York Times. Most recently, Cole produced Blind Spot—a synthesis of written observations and travel photography. 
Patrick Sharkey

NYU Professor | Sociologist | Author of Uneasy Peace

Over the past 25 years, American cities have transformed. Violence has become less common in major urban centers, and citizens feel more connected to their communities than ever before. But crime still occurs, and the dated systems meant to apprehend it have been called into question.  
Wanuri Kahiu

Acclaimed Writer & Director of Rafiki | Co-Founder of AFROBUBBLEGUM

Wanuri Kahiu is an acclaimed artist and filmmaker who shatters conventional thinking about representation in African culture. Kahiu creates work in her very own genre, which she’s coined “AfroBubbleGum”: an aesthetic mash-up of Marvel’s Black Panther and the candy store of your dreams. In talks, Kahiu shows why “fun, fierce and frivolous African art” is a political act.   
Michael Murphy

Architect | Founding Principal and Executive Director of MASS Design Group

If you want to know what we prioritize as a society, look to our architecture. This is the philosophy of Michael Murphy, one of the most acclaimed, visionary architects in America. Murphy speaks eloquently on how the buildings we make, work, and live in can nourish us, bringing necessary function and equally necessary beauty to individuals and communities alike.    
Eddie Huang

Celebrity Chef | Bestselling Author of Fresh Off the Boat | Host for Vice and MTV

Celebrity chef. Bestselling author of Fresh Off the Boat—adapted into the groundbreaking hit ABC sitcom—as well as Double Cup Love. Yes, entrepreneur Eddie Huang is many things, but beneath each incarnation is an irresistible story of entrepreneurship and self-made success. He speaks on how embracing cultural diversity—your own story—is vital if we want to grow as people, and as a society. 
Mira Nair

Director of Queen of Katwe, Salaam Bombay!, The Namesake, and The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Raised in India, schooled at Harvard, and living in New York City, Mira Nair uses her natural grasp of identity conflict to make films that explore race, gender, inter-generational strife, cultural appropriation and displacement. A poignant speaker, she captures beautifully the tug of competing worlds felt by millions of immigrants around the world. 
Jordin Tootoo

The first Inuk Player in the NHL | Founder of the Team Tootoo Foundation

The first Inuk player in history to be drafted by the NHL, Jordin Tootoo offers a moving and timely discussion of grit and resilience, goal-setting, overcoming adversity in the pursuit of excellence, and how life can be improved through meaningful stewardship.   
Spike Lee

Oscar-Winning Director of BlacKkKlansman, Do the Right Thing, and When the Levees Broke

Spike Lee needs no introduction. In person, the provocateur and media icon is never at a loss for words. As one of the most outspoken African American voices, he talks candidly, and with authority, about issues of race in mainstream media and Hollywood, using as a backdrop a rare behind-the-scenes look at his celebrated body of work. 
 
Kate Bolick

Author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

Kate Bolick’s blockbuster Atlantic cover story, “All the Single Ladies,” drew over a million readers and inspired a heated debate on modern notions of romance, family, career, and success. Why do some women remain unmarried, she asks, and what are the cultural—and economic—implications of staying single? 
 
Vanessa Grigoriadis

Author of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus

For three years, the award-winning investigative journalist Vanessa Grigoriadis embedded herself in colleges across America, conducting hundreds of interviews with the survivors of sexual assault, the accused, the parents, the professors, and the administrators. In her bestseller, Blurred Lines, and in clear-eyed keynotes, she maps out strategies to create safer, happier, more edifying college experiences—not just for students, but also for those who guide their lives in those crucial four years.
 
Anthony Jack

Assistant Prof. of Ed. at Harvard University | Author of The Privileged Poor

A student from a low-income background attends an elite university on scholarship, and finds herself burdened by that status. Upheaval like this will be addressed when modern institutions revise the policies of subtle, and not-so-subtle, exclusion that harden these divisions between students. In the ongoing dialogue about race, inclusion, and social justice, Jack’s talks provide a firm foundation for that conversation. 
Titus Kaphar

2018 MacArthur Fellow | Award-Winning Painter and Sculptor

With more urgency than a headline, Titus Kaphar’s artworks capture the spirit of social justice and change in America today (exemplified in his TIME cover portrait of the Ferguson protests). Kaphar’s art and talks expose racism, inequality, and a criminal justice system that is anything but just.
 
Yancey Strickler

Co-founder & Former CEO of Kickstarter | Author of This Could Be Our Future (Oct. 29)

Our current society is trapped by three assumptions, says writer and Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler: that the point of life is to maximize self-interest and wealth; that we’re individuals trapped in an adversarial world; and that this is natural. Strickler urges us to discard these three  assumptions, his electric keynotes showing us how we got here and—more importantly—how we can turn this ship around. 
 
 
Naomi Klein

Author of The Battle for Paradise, No Is Not Enough, This Changes Everything, The Shock Doctrine, & No Logo

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and the #1 international bestselling author of seminal books The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. In her book This Changes Everything, and in powerful new talks, she exposes the myths of the climate debate. 
Reza Aslan

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Zealot and God: A Human History | Executive Producer of The Secret Life of Muslims

Reza Aslan is an internationally-renowned writer, commentator, professor, and religious scholar, whose NYT bestselling books and packed lectures have propelled him to the frontlines in the fight against white nationalism. Aslan argues that it is fear—organized and well-funded—that perpetuates bigotry and victimizes us all. Only united will we have the power to fight it.
 
Major MJ Hegar

Author of Shoot Like a Girl | Leadership Speaker | Foreign Policy 100 Leading Global Thinker

Major MJ Hegar is a force to be reckoned with. While piloting her third tour of Afghanistan, she took a bullet to her helicopter’s windshield. Badly injured, and under heavy fire, she flew her team to safety, conducting a near-impossible landing. An incredible story—soon to be a major motion picture—Hegar’s bravery inspires audiences to persevere through change, hardship, and any obstacles in their way. 
Bill Strickland

An Extraordinary Business and Community Leader

Bill Strickland created an empire by stoking genius in those who believed they had nothing. As founder of Manchester Bidwell, Strickland fuels hope, generates jobs, and empowers the poor and underprivileged to become experts in their field of choice. His tactical talks show you how to defy convention so that you too can create a culture of understanding, social restoration, and profit with a conscience.  
Jessica Jackley

Co-Founder of Kiva, the microlending site, and Author of Clay Water Brick

You can do good and do well at the same time. Just ask Jessica Jackley, founder of KIVA, the world’s most successful microlending site. Praised by the likes of Oprah and Bill Clinton, Jackley champions diverse skill sets,  and dreaming big. On stage, Jackley delivers an upbeat and enduring message: you can synthesize your disparate skills to create a meaningful life and career.  
Ashton Applewhite

Anti-Ageism Activist | Author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

Ashton Applewhite is a leading voice in an emerging movement dedicated to dismantling ageism and making age a criterion for diversity. The author of This Chair Rocks, she reveals the untapped possibilities of late life—in our communities, at work, and in ourselves. 
 
Jeff Chang

Social Historian | Author of We Gon’ Be Alright and Can't Stop Won't Stop | VP of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward

“Culture moves before politics,” says Jeff Chang, who writes on art, multiculturalism, and racial progress in post-civil rights America with the sweeping authority of the best social historians. In We Gon’ Be Alright—his acclaimed essay collection, adapted into a digital series—he explores the meaning of diversity in an era of racial and economic resegregation: telling a lively and tumultuous narrative of modern American life.
 
Dr. Richard Heinzl

Founder of Doctors Without Borders, Canada

Richard Heinzl is the founder of Doctors Without Borders Canada: the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization that has inspired a movement among medical professionals to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. Modest and deeply passionate, he shares stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the midst of war and other challenges—and how technology is changing the face of medicine around the globe. 
Kimberley Motley

First Foreign Litigator in Afghanistan, 2014 TED Speaker

Kimberley Motley is the only foreign litigator working in Afghanistan. Armed with an unwavering determination and a passion for justice, she navigates the country’s punitive and capricious legal system with unprecedented success. In keynotes, she talks about the global human rights economy, and how and why we should all pay attention to—and take full advantage of—the rule of law.  
Megan Phelps-Roper

Former Member of the Westboro Baptist Church | Author of Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church (Forthcoming)

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church: a group infamous for its intolerance. But dialogue on Twitter showed her another life was possible—and in 2012, she escaped her home, family, and faith. Now, with a popular TED Talk, a major New Yorker profile, and an upcoming memoir and film adaptation, she is a unique example of how empathy can overcome hate.
 
Wajahat Ali

Attorney, Playwright, and New York Times Op-Ed Contributor

Wajahat Ali—a New York Times contributing op-ed writer who regularly appears on CNN to discuss politics—is a new kind of public intellectual. In hilarious, politically up-to-the-minute talks, Ali shows how to learn from, and join with what he calls “the multicultural coalition of the willing”—the emergent generation poised for social change.  
Margot Lee Shetterly

Author of Hidden Figures: the #1 New York Times bestseller, and inspiration for the #1 movie.

Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures—a #1 NYT bestseller and inspiration for a #1 movie in America—is the true story of the black women mathematicians at NASA who helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. In talks, Shetterly celebrates these unsung heroes, teasing out issues of race, gender, science, and innovation against the backdrop of WWII and the Civil Rights Era .
Jake Porway

Founder of DataKind | AI Engineer + Social Cause “Matchmaker”

As the founder of DataKind, Jake Porway connects nonprofits, NGOs, and other social change organizations with AI engineers and data scientists willing to donate their knowledge to solve social, environmental, and community problems. In his charismatic talks, Porway shows how we can push AI to be a transformative technology that reflects the best, most diverse aspects of our humanity. 
 
Candy Chang

Urban Space Artist Behind the "Before I Die" Walls

World-renowned artist and urban designer Candy Chang engages communities to share everything from their greatest hopes to their deepest anxieties in public. The Atlantic calls her artwork Before I Die “one of the most creative community projects ever.” In her captivating and intimate talks, she demystifies the creative process, inspires personal reflection, and provokes new ideas for community and well-being.  
Molly Crabapple

Painter, Writer, and Author of Drawing Blood

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer whose work has been described as “God’s own circus posters,” by Rolling Stone. Unabashedly political, she worked with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create a moving and beautiful short film about the Green New Deal. Crabapple’s art engages injustice, subversiveness, and rebellion. 
Angela Davis

Legendary Human Rights Activist

Angela Davis is internationally known for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Her work as an educator—both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—has always emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender equality.    
Minnijean Brown-Trickey

Civil Rights Legend Who Helped Desegregate Public Schools

In 1957, Minnijean Brown-Trickey changed history by striding through the front doors of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. As a member of the Little Rock Nine, she helped desegregate public schools—a milestone in civil rights history—and alter the course of education in America. Her talks are a sweeping exploration of social change and a reminder that the fight is far from over.