Thanks for Engaging with Activists and Agitators 2023!
Ibram X. Kendi joined this year’s Activists and Agitators program to speak about antiracism, education, and his recent work to make history accessible to all ages.
Ibram Xolani Kendi is an American author, professor, anti-racist activist, and historian of race and discriminatory policy in America.
Meet the Panelists
Panel Moderator: Ange-Marie Hancock
Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
Ange-Marie Hancock is executive director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University, where she also serves as the ENGIE-Axium endowed professor of political science. Dr. Hancock joined Kirwan in January 2023 after 15 years at the University of Southern California.
A globally recognized scholar of intersectionality theory, she has written numerous articles and three books on the intersections of categories of difference, like race, gender, class, sexuality and citizenship, and their impact on policy.
Born in Columbus, Hancock is an alumna of Thomas Worthington High School. Long committed to community work, she has served on the boards of Community Partners, the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute, LA Voice, the Liberty Hill Foundation, and the ACLU of Southern California. She received a bachelor’s degree from New York University, and her MA and PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Panelist: Maria Bruno
Public Policy Director with Equality Ohio
Maria Bruno, Esq., is a lifelong Ohioan and has been a community advocate for more than a decade. She has worked on a variety of public policy and civic engagement initiatives related to civil rights, economic justice, criminal justice, housing access, and voting.
Maria joined Equality Ohio, an education and advocacy organization dedicated to pursuing lived and legal equality for LGBTQ+ Ohioans, in August 2021. She currently directs Equality Ohio’s legislative strategy and engagement for state, local, and federal public policy.
Prior to joining the team at Equality Ohio, she worked with the Coalition on Homelessness & Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and was a policy associate with ACLU of Ohio. Maria received her BA in political science from the University of Pittsburgh and completed her J.D. at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.
Panelist: Arianna Kelawala
campaign organizer for OPAWL
Arianna Kelawala is an organizer and full-time student at The Ohio State University. As the campaign organizer for the “Educating for Ohio’s Future” campaign with OPAWL – Building AAPI Feminist Leadership, she has spent the last year fighting for a more equitable social studies curriculum for Ohio’s students that teaches the histories and migration journeys of all of our communities.
Prior to her role at OPAWL, Arianna worked on youth organizing in the gun violence prevention space, and she has also interned with the Ohio Federation of Teachers, supporting local unionizing efforts, among other organizing campaigns. At Ohio State, Arianna is a political science and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies double major with a minor in global public health. She is a member of the Mount Leadership Society Scholars and The Ohio State University Marching Band.
Panelist: Tanisha Pruitt
Youth, Opportunity, and Education Researcher with Policy Matters Ohio
Dr. Tanisha Pruitt, Ph.D. received her doctorate degree in public policy and urban affairs with a concentration in international development from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her research interests include closing the achievement and opportunity gaps, school funding and resources, dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, sentencing reform, reducing mass incarceration for minority populations, and youth development and outcomes among underserved populations.
Her current work focuses on examining the state budget through the lens of K-12 and higher education school funding adequacy and equity, tracking and analyzing legislation impacting students in K-12 and higher education, reforming youth safety, data support for projects related to bail and justice reform, and workforce development spending.
Dr. Pruitt is currently a 2023-2024 fellow with the Educational Policy Leadership Fellows program through the Center for Educational Leadership at Cleveland State University. She also serves on the leadership committee of the Ohio Workforce Commission, the Columbus Chapter of the Board of Directors for New Leaders Council, and the partnership committee with the City of Cleveland’s Youth and Children’s Safety Cabinet.
Featured Visual Artists
Jasmine is a talented visual artist and devoted single mother with a master’s degree in social work. Jasmine strongly believes that art has the power to transcend boundaries and stir emotions, making it an effective tool for initiating conversations and connecting with our inner selves. As a Black woman, Jasmine’s artwork reflects the cultural experiences of black and brown people, celebrating their strength, beauty, and resilience.
With a wealth of life experiences, Jasmine brings a unique perspective to her artwork. She enjoys experimenting with various mediums, textures, and materials to create her masterpieces. Her work celebrates human uniqueness and offers a source of reflection and hope in a world that can be fraught with trauma and darkness. Through her art, she aims to inspire solidarity within her community and promote positivity.
Being surrounded by family members who are artists in their own right, Kenia found her love for creating art at a young age. She sketched clothes and portraits of women as a child before training formally at a performing arts school in Dayton, Ohio, which influenced her work now – creating healing, process art through portraiture. She is often fascinated by the brush strokes of different colors and sizes that compose each portrait, emphasizing the goal to reflect individuality and not necessarily the groups they identify with.
Her portraits are vibrant and colorful – rarely using the traditional ideas of skin color – to explore the beliefs of identity and normative views to convey the concept of self while contradicting conventional notions of race. During her travels and on her own spiritual journey, she has learned how colors are associated with healing properties in psychology, art therapy, Reiki and chakra practices, and the religion of Yoruba, and hopes that her work reflects that fine art does not have to be perfect.
Neisha, who also goes by Artdealerchicc, is an inspirational artist based in Columbus, Ohio. Her work as both a painter and an educator explores the goodness of humanity and celebrates her community. Neisha is passionate about painting portraits that will make a sentimental statement for the comfort of ones’ home or captivate a visitor in an office or community space. This is evident in her past exhibitions in her duo exhibit with Lashae Boyd at the 934 Gallery x CMH Airport in 2019. Her work also engages visitors as a large mural in the meeting space at the Columbus Fashion Alliance (CFA) located at The Columbus Idea Foundry.
Neisha has worked on many public art projects with artists such as Stephanie Rond, Hakim Callwood, Francesca Miller, Derrick Callender, and her mentor, Bryan Moss. Sparking conversations, thought, hope and inspiration – these are just a few of Neisha’s goals as she continues to visualize stories through painting.
Francesca is a visual artist from Columbus, Ohio. Upon graduating from The Ohio State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in art education, she immediately sought to use art as a tool to engage with and empower her community. She spent the next four summers as a visual arts instructor for PATTERNZ summer arts camp, working with youth from a variety of backgrounds.
Starting in May 2020, Francesca also began to contribute her artistic voice to conversations about social justice and celebrating Black joy. This includes several murals around the city of Columbus for places such as the Ohio Theatre, the Lincoln Theatre, Huntington Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Otherworld, Easton and several other organizations. In 2021, Francesca was invited to collaborate with Abercrombie & Fitch for their “For Justice, For Joy” collection and designed a label for Land-Grant Brewing Company through a partnership with the Franklinton Arts District.
Meaca is a writer, public speaker, musical artist, host and freelance instructor. Spoken word is Meaca’s first love, and beginning at age 12, she was inspired to create to release personal trauma from a tumultuous childhood. Meaca has traveled the country, sharing her poetry and various written works. Meaca also participates in various poetry slams, including the Rustbelt Regional Slam, where she recently won the individual category. The focus of her work is hope, mercy and self-reflection for a dark world that often lacks all three.
Briggs High School Show Choir
The Briggs High School Show Choir has over 30 years of musical history and is one of the only show choirs in Columbus City Schools. As an audition-only ensemble, they rehearse during the school day and regularly hold after school practices. This award-winning group of students represents the diverse culture and ethnicities at Briggs High School. The Briggs High School Show Choir has recently performed at the Lincoln Theatre, local senior homes, Kings Island—where they swept their awards categories—and always on their home stage of Briggs High School. With continual fundraising, they hope to soon embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Chicago to perform and work with musical professionals.
About Activists and Agitators
Activists and Agitators is an annual YWCA Columbus event dedicated to uniting the Columbus community and inspiring attendees to pursue greater social change together than we can achieve alone.
This event fosters dialogue, provides practical resources, and educates the community to promote empowerment and inclusion. We created Activists and Agitators with the belief that anyone and everyone can be an agent for social change. If we all commit to intentional, anti-racist, direct action and harm reduction, our collective impact will be profound.
Activists and Agitators Attendee (2022)
Activists and Agitators Attendee (2022)
Activists and Agitators Attendee (2021)
Activists and Agitators Attendee (2021)