Tou Ger Bennett Xiong was born in Laos in 1973. Since Tou’s father served with the CIA, his family had to flee Laos after the communist takeover in 1975, escaping across the border and seeking refuge in a Thai refugee camp and four years later immigrated to the United States as refugees of war. Tou’s childhood in America began in the public housing projects of St. Paul. In 1992, Xiong graduated valedictorian from Humboldt High School and he went on to receive a degree in political science from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 1996, Xiong created Project Respectism, an educational service project that uses comedy, storytelling, and hip hop to bridge cultures and generations. Since then, Project Respectism has evolved into a program that provides cultural entertainment and education for people of all professions and backgrounds.
Born and raised along the border in a small barrio in Laredo, Texas, Consuelo Kickbusch overcame poverty, discrimination and illiteracy to become the successful community leader she is today. Although she grew up without material wealth, Consuelo was taught by her immigrant parents that she was rich in culture, tradition, values and faith, values which were reinforced during her career in the United States military. She entered the U.S. Army as an officer after graduating from Hardin Simmons University and served for two decades. In the military, she broke barriers to become the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in the Combat Support Field of the U.S. Army. In 1996, she was elected out of 26,000 candidates to assume a command post, putting her on track for the rank of general officer. Declining the honor she retired as a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army to return to her roots and become a community leader. In realizing her dream, she founded Educational Achievement Services, Inc. with a mission to prepare tomorrow’s leaders.
Raising in the Sun: Leading for a Just World in the 21st Century
Laverne Cox is an actress, writer, producer, and transgender advocate currently starring in the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black and has garnered critical acclaim for her role in the independent feature film Musical Chairs. Cox is the first African-American trans woman to produce and star in her own television show, VH1’s TRANSForm Me, which was nominated for a GLAAD media award for Outstanding Reality Program in 2011 and was the first television show to star three transsexual women. She made television history when she became the first African-American trans woman to appear on a reality television program, VH1’s I Wanna Work for Diddy in 2008 and accepted the GLAAD media award for Outstanding Reality Program for I Want to Work for Diddy in 2009. She was the recipient of the Anti-Violence Project's 2013 Courage Award. As a transgender advocate Cox continues to lend her voice to the cause of transgender visibility and equality and is committed to telling diverse and three dimensional trans stories in the media.
Joshua Fredenburg is a nationally recognized speaker, author, leadership expert, and Generation Y television commentator who is on a mission to empower leaders with effective leadership, career, relationship, and success strategies that will enable them to make a positive impact in their community, nation, and world. During the past seven years, Joshua has appeared as a television guest on BET, the Wayne Brady Show, the KTLA Morning Show in Los Angeles, the Daily Buzz Nation Morning Show, and many other familiar radio and television programs throughout the country. Fredenburg has published four books and has developed an annual national leadership conference, the Circle of Change Leadership Conference, that prepares student leaders in college for executive-level leadership positions.
Jeff Johnson is a Washington, DC-based, award-winning investigative journalist, social activist, and political commentator and has established himself as an authentic voice for change and a trailblazing social entrepreneur. As a MSNBC contributor and White House correspondent for The Grio, an African American web site owned by NBC, Johnson covers important issues facing the nation. He has spent the last decade merging the worlds of politics and popular culture, including formerly serving as senior advisor for Media and Youth Outreach for People for the American Way, national director of the Youth and College division of the NAACP, and as vice president of the Russell Simmons Hip Hop Summit Action Network. In 2008, Johnson received the NABJ Salute to Excellence Award for BET’s Life and Death in Darfur, Jeff Johnson Reports series. Johnson recently released his first book, Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I Am: Discovering Your Personal Best.
The challenges of growing up black and female in apartheid South Africa have been the foundation of Nontombi Naomi Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights. The daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nomalizo Leah Tutu, she was born in South Africa, educated in Swaziland, the US, and England, and has divided her adult life between South Africa and the US. Growing up the “daughter of…” has offered Tutu many opportunities and challenges in her life. Most important of these has been the challenge to follow her own path in building a better world. Professionally, Tutu has served as a development consultant in West Africa and a program coordinator for programs on race and gender and gender-based violence in education at the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town. In addition Tutu has taught at the University of Hartford, University of Connecticut, and Brevard College in North Carolina, and served as program coordinator for the historic Race Relations Institute at Fisk University.