Keynote Presenters

Mayor Shirley Franklin
Mayor of Atlanta

Mayor Shirley FranklinShirley Franklin became the 58th city mayor of Atlanta, in November 2001, becoming the city’s first woman mayor, as well as the first African-American woman to serve as mayor of a major southern city. Born in Philadelphia, she gained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Howard University and continued her education earning her Masters of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her public service career began in 1978 when she served as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under Mayor Maynard Jackson. Under the leadership of Mayor Andrew Young, she was later appointed as the nation’s first woman Chief Administrative Officer or City Manager. In 1991, Ms Franklin joined the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as the top ranking female executive, serving as senior vice-president for external relations.

Kenny Leon
Actor and Director

Kenny LeonKenny Leon is Founding Artistic Director of True Colors Theatre Company. Kenny launched the company in Atlanta in 2002 in order to further his personal and professional mission of preserving and refreshing the African American classics, while also producing works by and for all Americans. Prior to founding True Colors, Kenny served an unprecedented 11-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre Company, and commissioned and directed three new works from Pearl Cleage, Flyin' West, Blues for an Alabama Sky and Bourbon at the Border. Also while at the Alliance, Kenny produced the premieres of Disney's and Elton John's Elaborate Lives: the Legend of Aida, and Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed. A graduate and honorary Ph.D. of Clark Atlanta University, Kenny is also very active in the communities in which he lives and works. He directs True Colors Theatre Company's annual, all-youth, multi-cultural production of The Wiz, offering Atlanta's youth an unforgettable experience with a Broadway design team; he's a member of 100 Black Men of Atlanta; for the Dekalb County, GA, school system, he directed Snapshots: From a Decade of Directing American Theatre, a retrospective of his directorial work performed by students from across the county; he sits on the Board of the New Globe Theatre, New York, NY; and is a mentor for the Theatre Development Fund's Open Doors program, also in New York.

The Freedom Singers
Musical Group, Civil Rights Activists

Freedom SingersThe Freedom Singers are led by Rutha Mae Harris, a member of the original 1962 Freedom Singers who sang and protested as part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Their songs and music played an important role in the Civil Rights movement. The original group traveled 50,000 miles through forty states in a Buick station wagon, playing at colleges, elementary and high schools, concert halls, living rooms, jails, political rallies, and the March on Washington in August 1963. During their initial tour, the group performed alongside numerous folk music luminaries, including Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, and in June 1963, The New York Times identified the Freedom Singers as “the ablest performing group” to emerge from a broad field of folk musicians. This second generation of the group, based at the Civil Rights Museum in Albany Georgia, includes some of the children of the original singers and performs a musical history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Audio Sample: “I Woke Up This Morning”  stream this mp3 file  .mp3 (3Mb)   stream this Windows Media file  .wma (.6Mb)

Gary Pomerantz
Author and Journalist

Gary PomerantzGary Pomerantz is an author and journalist, and serves as a lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. His first book, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn, a multi-generational saga about Atlanta's racial conscience, was named a 1996 Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times. His next book, Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds (2001), about an air crash, has been published in Britain, Germany and China and was termed by The London Evening Standard “a flawlessly constructed narrative... a masterpiece of nonfiction storytelling.” His most recent work, WILT, 1962, a meditation on race, celebrity, small towns and Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 100-point game, was named an Editors' Choice selection of 2005 by The New York Times, and was called by Entertainment Weekly a slam dunk of a read. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Pomerantz worked for nearly two decades as a journalist, on staff for The Washington Post and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, initially as a sportswriter and then writing columns, editorials, and special projects. He served from 1999-2001 as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at Emory University in Atlanta. His newest book, set in Kansas City and New York during prohibition, is set for release in 2009 by Crown Publishers. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and their three children.

Samina Quraeshi
Educator, Author, Artist and Designer

Samina QuraeshiAn educator committed to preparing students for an increasingly interconnected global world, Samina is also an award-winning author, artist and designer. She has devoted her life to cultivating the vital relationship between art and culture through national and international initiatives as a way to foster greater understanding among people. As an artist, writer and photographer Samina brings the multifaceted story of Islamic culture in South Asia to the international stage. As a teacher of community studies and design she is committed to intellectual and cultural diversity and exhibits wide-ranging knowledge of issues related to interdisciplinary work. As a senior executive in academia and government she is committed to collaboration and strategic alliances. A natural leader, with organizational savvy and management skill, she demonstrates a diplomatic acumen for allocating resources and creating partnerships between private and public sectors, between NGO's and government officials and between the academy and the community. With the cultural emergency that faces our world today, Samina Quraeshi's voice, through her art, her advocacy and her academic initiatives is one that promotes and envisions healing through understanding of our collective humanity while honoring and supporting our diverse traditions.

Edgar Arceneaux

Edgar ArceneauxBorn in 1972, Los Angeles-based artist Edgar Arceneaux received a BFA from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and a MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In addition he's participated in artist in residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, Project Row Houses in Houston and at the Fachhochschule Aachen in Germany. He's had solo exhibitions at the UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Kitchen, NY, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects and The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York. His work was recently included in the Whitney Biennial 2008. Arceneaux's work resides in public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Carnegie Museum. Arceneaux is currently directing the Watts House Project (WHP), an artist-driven urban revitalization project centered around the historic Watts Towers in Watts, California. WHP is a large-scale artwork-as-urban-development engaging art and architecture as a catalyst for expanding and enhancing community. The neighborhood surrounding the Watts Towers presents a stark contrast to the well-maintained aesthetics of this national monument, and currently the residents have limited means to capitalize socially or economically on this cultural currency. WHP operates with the understanding that social and economic challenges are tied to basic ecological problems and aims to develop an incremental, nuanced and sustainable model that marries ecological concerns and practice with social and cultural remedies. By creating a physical and social infrastructure for creativity, WHP will catalyze artistic production and community pride of place, forming partnerships that can lead to real solutions, hope, and change.

Bruce Ferguson
Critic, Curator and Educator

Bruce FergusonBruce W. Ferguson is an independent art curator and critic who has worked internationally for more than thirty years. “I have spent most of my professional life in one way or another facilitating artists,” Ferguson says. Bruce has recently become the director of F.A.R. (Future Arts Research) at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Other recent projects include consulting to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto to develop long-range strategies and goals for a complete museum renovation by architect Frank Gehry. Bruce previously served as the Dean, School of Arts at Colombia University; President and Executive Director of the New York Academy of Art; and is the founding Director and first biennial curator of SITE Santa Fe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bruce has curated more than 35 exhibitions for institutions such as the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, the Barbican Art Gallery in London, the Winnipeg and Vancouver Art Galleries in Canada, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He also organized exhibitions in the international biennales of São Paulo, Sydney, Venice, and Istanbul.