Activists and Agitators

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Thank you all for joining this empowering and educational virtual event!

Activists and Agitators 2021 took place from 11am-1pm on Oct. 27, 2021. During the event, we built on conversations happening across our community to redefine the future of housing, education, and community safety. We discussed a future in our community that is equitable for everyone. And, we also discussed ways to be intentional about your self-care during change, as we build an inclusive Columbus.

Our event included engaging speakers, artists, experts, and community organizers to guide us in dreaming about what a more equitable Columbus would look like. We redefined the role of systems in building our community and how we can build anew to create a Columbus of peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. Flip through the guide below for more resources to create an even greater impact.


What would a system that recognizes everyone’s dignity look like and feel like? How do we get there?


Whose voices should be centered in our systems and at the intersections of these systems? What approaches or action should we take?


Radical self-love is essential to effective activism. Explore the connection between trauma; healing, restoration, and radical self-love; and racial justice and liberation.


Join a discussion on a future of peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.


Robin D.G. Kelley, Ph.D.
Professor of African American Studies & Author

Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at UCLA. His books include, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original; Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination; Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (1997); and Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (1990). He is currently completing two books, Black Bodies Swinging: An American Postmortem and The Education of Ms. Grace Halsell: An Intimate History of the American Century (both forthcoming Metropolitan Books). His essays have appeared in several anthologies and publications, including The Nation, Monthly Review, New York Times, and The Boston Review, for which he also serves as Contributing Editor.

Kimberly Brazwell
CEO/Founder of KiMISTRY

Kimberly Brazwell, with nearly 20 years of community and justice experience, is the CEO/Founder of KiMISTRY which specializes in the art of storytelling to address the unique intersection of equity, inclusion, and holistic wellness for a trauma-informed experiential application to human engagement. She is the author of Browning Pleasantville and was a contributing author of Implicit Bias in Schools with a chapter entitled, “Practical Application of Implicit Racial Debiasing”. In 2018, Brazwell performed two TEDx Talks – “Over, Under, Around and Through Trauma” & “Crazy and Black and Poor”.

Shadena M. Carter (she/her)
Current Board Member, YWCA Columbus

Shadena Carter is a Customer Service Representative at State Auto Insurance Company and currently serves as a Board member with YWCA Columbus, where she is a living example of the organization’s mission to empower women. Shadena knows firsthand what going through the homeless system feels like, what it is like to put college dreams on hold, raise children as a single mother, work, still struggle to pay bills, and reckon with the benefits cliff. Shadena has persevered through many adversities; however, in May of 2020, she graduated Cum Laude from Ohio Dominican University with a Double Bachelors of Science in Risk Management and Insurance and Business Administration and with a Minor in Nonprofit Management. Today, Shadena uses her experiences as stepping stones for growth and opportunity to share with others and inspire them on their personal journeys.

Kevin Gilmore (Coach G) (he/him)
Entrepreneur, The Art of 3

Coach G maintains certification as a Personal Development Coach, Emotional Intelligence Coach, Speaker, and Facilitator with a Trauma Informed Care background and DISC Expertise. He currently manages a K-12 in and out of school time program. He has over 20 years’ experience in the field. As a lifelong learner, he is an active member of various teams including The John Maxwell Team, Certified Coaching Alliance Affiliation CCA, and ASC Business Strategies. He also serves on the Ohio Afterschool Network Board and partners with Partnership4Success to support Out of School Time Professionals.

Michelle Heritage (she/her)
Executive Director, Community Shelter Board

Michelle Heritage leads Community Shelter Board to coordinate a relentless community effort toward making sure everyone has a place to call home in Columbus and Franklin County, Ohio. She has extensive non-profit and public sector experience including more than 25 years in leadership roles in the homeless system, mental health, child welfare, and the alcohol and drug systems. Michelle has received many awards and recognitions for her work. She is a member of the boards of trustees for the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio and Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

Brittany Jackson
Step Up to Quality Coordinator, Action for Children

Brittany Jackson’s childhood experiences pushed her to major in Sociology with an emphasis on youth and society at The Ohio State University. In 2008, she began teaching in Memphis, Tennessee through Teach for America Corps. She received her Master’s of Arts in Teaching from Christian Brother’s University and returned to Columbus, Ohio. She began working as the Step Up to Quality Technical Assistance Specialist at Action for Children and then became the Coordinator. Brittany is passionate about increasing quality experiences for children to grow and flourish and utilizes her role as a leader to discuss issues facing child care providers in Central Ohio.

Jane D. Leach (she/her)
CEO, Future Ready Columbus

Jane entered the CEO role at Future Ready Columbus with over four decades of experience in education and a tireless dedication to improving the lives of children in Franklin County. Throughout her career, Jane has received numerous leadership awards for her faithful commitment to high-quality, equitable education. Jane is inspired by the opportunity to take a collective impact approach to the FRC goal of ensuring 100% of Franklin County children are ready for kindergarten and wholeheartedly believes in the resulting prenatal to age-5 plan, Future Ready by 5.

Hana Ortiz-Sanchez (she/her)
Black Abolitionist Collective Ohio and 614 Community Cop Watch

Hana Ortiz-Sanchez is an Afro-Rican woman who originally hails from the Bronx but can be found in Columbus, Ohio these days. She is the founder of 614 Community Cop Watch, co-founder of Black Abolitionist Collective Ohio, and former co-executive director of The Central Ohio Freedom Fund. Hana is passionate about her work in the Movement, which is focused on gaining complete liberation for the Black community. Hana is also an accomplished poet and uses poetry to speak on her experience as a Black woman as well as a tool for education and a way to create space for community healing.

Sonya Todd (she/her)
Family Center Director, YWCA Columbus

Sonya moved to Central Ohio in 2018 as part of the YWCA family. She has over 20 years of experience working with the underserved in mental health, homelessness, child welfare, and community advocacy. Her passion was fueled when she recognized the injustice of the system through her own experience as a single mother in low income housing. These circumstances drove her to pursue a Master’s in Psychology from the University of Phoenix. When not busy as the Director of the YWCA Family Center, she is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at EGCC.

Mahonale Waters
Career Coach for at-risk youth in Franklin County

Mahonale Waters relocated from Southern California to Columbus, Ohio with her two daughters after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship. She decided to enter emergency shelter at the YWCA Family Center several days before Christmas. There, she utilized her YWCA resources to land a great job and obtain childcare and housing in less than 2 months. She is now a career coach for at-risk youth for a nonprofit organization in Franklin County. She is also working toward her own nonprofit organization to provide support and resources for families who need housing. Mahonale works closely with community leaders and local nonprofit organizations and is excited for her future in Columbus, Ohio.


Courtney Alexander
Spoken Word

Courtney Alexander lives in Columbus, OH by the way of Dayton, OH. She is the Founder of Project UGLY (U Gotta Love Yourself) whose mission is to help others with self-love, self-preservation, and advocates for healing and personal joy. The organization was birthed from a personal place; she lost a close friend to suicide as well as attempted herself. Her passion is to tackle the pain that can be overwhelming from life experiences and finding healthy alternatives to living through depression. Courtney’s motto is “Your testimony is someone else’s freedom”. Project UGLY hosts their annual “STAY” (Stories That Aspire You) event, which provides a support system within the community and gives resources that could potentially save lives. “STAY” was established to create a safe space to express mental health and wellness through art. Courtney is currently an event coordinator at 5 Star Planning and Catering. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, dancing, performing spoken word, and building healthy relationships with those she is connected to.

Meaca Moore
Spoken Word

Meaca Moore is a writer, public speaker, musical artist, host and freelance instructor. Spoken word is Meaca’s first love. She has been writing poetry as a means of survival since age 12 and performing since age 15. She was first inspired to create to release personal trauma from a tumultuous childhood. Following high school, she was recruited as an artist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison under the First Wave program, an innovative urban arts full-tuition scholarship community (the only one of its kind). Meaca has been privileged to travel the country sharing her poetry and various written works. Meaca Moore also participates in various poetry slams, including the Rustbelt Regional Slam where she placed 1st in individuals. The focus of her work is hope, mercy, and self-reflection for a dark world that often lacks all three.

YWCA Leadership Panel

Christie Angel
President & CEO, YWCA Columbus

A trusted adviser on city issues since the 1990s, Angel has led a life dedicated to public service and creating opportunities for women and families in Central Ohio. Her career began working in communications for the Columbus Urban League. Years later, as leader of the mayor’s external affairs office, she served as the city’s chief government relations officer and managed relationships with community partners. A former YWCA Columbus Governing Board member, Board Chair, and a member of the Academy of Women of Achievement, she is now the President and CEO of the organization.

Margaret Mitchell
President & CEO, YWCA Greater Cleveland
Incoming CEO, YWCA USA

Mitchell has served as President & CEO of YWCA Greater Cleveland for 10 years. Under her leadership, YWCA Greater Cleveland has grown from 35 staff and a budget of $2.7 million to a team of 120 with a budget of $7.9 million. Among Mitchell’s achievements, in 2019 she led the call to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis in Cleveland and across the state through her leadership in the Ohio YWCA Council. In 2021, Margaret was honored with YWCA USA’s Excellence Award for Racial Justice in recognition of leading exemplary and innovative programming and advocacy. After an ambitious 10-month national search, Margaret was selected as the new CEO of YWCA USA and will begin that role in January, 2022.

Leah Merritt
President & CEO, YWCA Mahoning Valley

Leah Merritt is the President & CEO of YWCA Mahoning Valley since 2011. She joined YWCA Youngstown in 1994, where the mission of eliminating racism and empowering women encouraged her to work towards equity and social justice. During her tenure, she has led impactful services for women, families and marginalized persons, especially women of color. The largest focus is affordable housing, which is a social determinant of health. Her management portfolio includes Low Income Housing Tax and Historic Tax Credits, as well as State and Federal funding for Permanent Supportive, Transitional and Affordable housing. Over 300 individuals reside within YWCA housing programs each year.

About This Event

Activists and Agitators is an annual YWCA Columbus event dedicated to uniting the Columbus community, inspiring attendees to pursue greater social change together than we can achieve alone. Activists and Agitators fosters dialogue, provides practical resources and educates the community on how to promote empowerment and inclusion. YWCA Columbus 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.

YWCA Columbus Leadership and Social Justice Team

Jillian Olinger

Chief Mission Officer

Caroline Woliver


Lalitha Pamidigantam

Policy Analyst

Belen de Leon

Program Coordinator

Spencer Stultz

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead Trainer

Phyl Flanagan

Diversity, Equtiy & Inclusion Coordinator

Conversations with

Fantastic event! I love how the event encourages connection, action and taking the risk to create change. Because the speakers and messages were so well aligned with the YWCA’s mission and vision, the event felt authentic and important – and that’s no easy feat.
Activists and Agitators Attendee


Jessica Wichtman-Will


2021 Event Sponsors

Transformational Sponsor

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Presenting Sponsor

Program Sponsor

Production Sponsor

Community Sponsors


Ally Sponsors


Empowerment Sponsors

Medical Mutual


Event Host Sponsors

Cardinal Health     Central Ohio Transit Authority     Columbus State Community College

Crane Group     Donatos Pizza     EMH&T     Squire Patton Boggs

The Champion Companies     thinkCSC     US Bank


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