ITSRC Webinar Panelists and Facilitators

Anti-Black Racism in SWANA and Diaspora (English)


Moustafa Bayoumi is the author of the critically acclaimed How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (Penguin), which won an American Book Award and the Arab American Book Award for Non-Fiction, and of This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror (NYU Press), which was chosen as a Best Book of 2015 by The Progressive magazine and also awarded the Arab American Book Award for Non-Fiction. A regular contributor to The Guardian, Bayoumi has also written for The New York Times , New York Magazine, The Nation,, The London Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other places. He is the editor of Midnight on the Mavi Marmara (O/R Books) and the co-editor (with Andrew Rubin) of The Edward Said Reader and The Selected Works of Edward Said, 1966-2006 (Vintage). Bayoumi is a professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY).

Ramla Bile serves as a program officer at a St. Paul-based foundation—bringing over ten years of experience as a strategist, social entrepreneur, and storyteller. As a community organizer, Ramla works to bring awareness to issues at the intersection of racism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment. A local leader in the Somali-Minnesotan community, she provided critical thought-leadership and advocacy against the Countering Violent Extremism program, and continues to challenge the surveillance apparatus and the ways that systems institutionalize the criminalization of BIPOC communities. A published author, she supports communities impacted by state violence by promoting greater understanding, resilience, and liberation through her writing. She co-founded and writes for Ubuntu: the Collective, a platform that spotlights emergent issues impacting the global Black diaspora.

Lara Kiswani is from Beit Iksa and Aqir, Palestine, and was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been active in movements against war, Palestinian self-determination, and Third World solidarity movements for the last 20 years. She is a lecturer at San Francisco State University in the College of Ethnic Studies, and the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC).

Priscillia Kounkou Hoveyda is a human rights lawyer who has a decade of experience working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations in the US, France, DR Congo, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and many others. Her work focuses on building international and national policies for the most vulnerable populations around the world. She has led the release and reintegration of children associated to armed groups/forces, incarcerated children as well as survivors of sexual violence. In her other life, Priscillia born in France from a Congolese father and Iranian mother, is a writer, documentary filmmaker and the founder of the Collective for Black Iranians, a chapter-based not-for-profit organization with the mission to represent Black and ‘Afro-Iranians’ voices within the Iranian diaspora, educate on the connections between Africanness/Blackness and Iranianeness as well as advocate for Black joy within the Iranian diaspora at large. She holds dual International Law and Business degrees from Sorbonne Law, ESSEC Business School and NYU Law (JD/Masters/LL.M).

Dr. Nadine Naber is an award-winning author, public speaker and activist on the topics of racial justice; gender justice; women of color feminisms; Arab and Muslim feminisms; Arab Americans; and radical mothering. She is the author of Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism; Race and Arab Americans; and co-editor of Arab and Arab American Feminisms, winner of the Arab American Book Award 2012 (Syracuse University Press, 2010); The Color of Violence (Duke University Press, 2016); and Towards the Sun (Tadween Publishing/George Mason University, 2018). Dr. Naber began putting love and social justice into practice in the 1990s when she co-founded the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association North America. She has also served on the boards of organizations like the Women of Color Resource Center; INCITE!; the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy; and the Social Justice Initiative at UIC. As a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arborr, Dr. Naber co-founded the academic program, Arab and Muslim American Studies. In 2013, she moved to the University of Illinois at Chicago as a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Global Asian Studies. At UIC, she is the faculty founder of the first center on a college campus serving the needs of Arab American students in the US: The Arab American Cultural Center. She will soon be the interim director of UIC’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.

Ash Stephens(they/them, he/him) is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Criminology, Law, and Justice with a concentration in Black Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies. His forthcoming dissertation project focuses on surveillance of trans, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary people by the state. He has devoted much of his commitments to racial, gender, and social justice movement building with abolitionist collectives focused on anti-violence organizing; including Love & Protect and Survived & Punished: New York. He’s also organized specifically for the abolishment of cash bail and pretrial detention through revolving bail/bond funds in both NYC and Chicago. Ash currently serves as the policy coordinator at Transgender Law Center, the largest national trans-led organization in the US.


A queer writer of mixed Syrian and Peruvian heritage, Farid Matuk has lived in the US since the age of six as an undocumented person, a “legal” resident, and a naturalized citizen. He is the author of the poetry collections This Isa Nice Neighborhood (Letter Machine) and The Real Horse (University of Arizona Press), and of several chapbooks including My Daughter La Chola (Ahsahta). His work has been anthologized in The Best American Experimental Poetry and in Angels of the Americlypse: An Anthology of New Latin@ Writing, among others. Matuk’s poems and translations from Spanish appear in journals such as The Baffler, Gulf Coast, The Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Poetry, and Lana Turner Journal. His essays and interviews can be found in Scubadivers and Chrysanthemums: Essays on the Poetry of Araki Yasusada, The Force of What’s Possible: Writers on Accessibility and the Avant-Garde, The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind, Entropy, Bomb, and Cross-Cultural Poetics. Matuk serves as poetry editor at FENCE and on the editorial board for the book series Research in Creative Writing at Bloomsbury. His work has been supported, most recently, by residencies and grants from The Headlands Center for the Arts and The Lannan Foundation. Matuk’s book arts project, Redolent, made in collaboration with Colombian visual artist Nancy Friedemann-Sánchez, is forthcoming from Singing Saw Press.

Sima Shakhsari is an associate professor in the Department of Gender, Women & Sexualities Studies at the University of Minnesota, and a co-convener of the Imagining Transnational Solidarities Research Circle at the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change. They have authored many articles and a book titled Politics of Rightful Killing: Civil Society, Gender, and Sexuality in Weblogistan (Duke University Press, 2020), and are the anthropology, sociology, and gender studies book editor of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, and an Editorial Collective member of the AGITATE! Journal.

Anti-Black Racism in SWANA and Diaspora (Farsi)


Alex Eskandarkhah is an Afro-Iranian producer, entrepreneur, activist, and a co-founder of the Canadian Collective for Black Iranians. Throughout his own platform, The Gifted Gab, he has been vocal on issues plaguing the black community and focuses on conscious black thought which has placed him front and center of several movements regarding race relations in contemporary Canada. Alex finished his undergrad in Sociology at York University.

Parisa Vaziri is an assistant professor of Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies. She joined Cornell University in the Fall of 2018, after earning her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently working on a book that explores representations of Blackness in Iranian cinema. In her teaching, as in her research, she explores critical engagements with the category of the human and of normative subjectivity as these critiques have been articulated by fields like Black studies, postcolonial studies, gender and sexuality studies, and media studies.

Priscillia Kounkou-Hoveyda (See above)

Dr. Assal Rad graduated with a PhD in Middle Eastern History from the University of California, Irvine in 2018. Her PhD research focused on Modern Iran, with an emphasis on national identity formation and popular culture in post-revolutionary Iran.
She works on research and writing related to Iran policy issues and U.S.-Iran relations. Her writing can be seen in Newsweek, the National Interest, and Responsible Statecraft, and she has appeared as a commentator on the BBC, Al Jazeera, and NPR.


M. Shadee Malaklou received her PhD in Culture and Theory and graduate certificates in Critical Theory and Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Irvine. She is currently Chair and Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Berea College in Eastern Kentucky and the founding director of its Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center. She is also visiting faculty in the Centre for Expanded Poetics at Concordia University in Montreal.

Sima Shakhsari (See above)

Anti-Black Racism in SWANA and Diaspora (Arabic)


Marcelle Bedran
spent most of her life and attended school and university in Beirut, Lebanon. As the daughter of Arab and West African-Liberian descent, she has always been the subject, not a victim, to racism and segregation. Marcelle received her high school diploma and bachelor’s degree from Manor House Descartes College, Bir Hassan, and Modern University for Business and Science, Beirut-Hamra respectively. Marcelle is the founder and owner of Mélange Collection, a new clothing and accessories brand that aims to brace contemporary Western fashion with a knack of African intricacy. Marcelle currently resides in Detroit, Michigan with her husband and immediate family.

Anis Chouchene
is a Tunisian revolutionary poet. He was born on March 29, 1982 in Bizerte. He uses the word as his weapon and humanity as a nationality in his defense of all issues. He spreads the culture of difference and of respecting the other. He writes in Tunisian and Arabic and he has many poems translated into English, French, Spanish, German, Iranian and Indonesian.

Fadlabi lives and works in Oslo. He was educated at the Art Academy in Oslo (KHiO), Al-Neelain University in Khartoum, and Sudan University. He works with painting, text, and performance. In 2008 he founded “One Night Only,” an artist-run platform in Oslo that shows a new artist every Monday. His recent shows include Sharjah Biennial 11 (Sharjah), Bergen Assembly (Bergen), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Oslo), Kunsthall (Oslo), UKS (Oslo), Munchmuseet i bevegelse (Oslo), NY Art-Book fair (NY), Performa 15 NY (NY), Temporary Gallery (Cologne), Nile Sunset Annex (Cairo), Al Riwaq (Manamah), the Saudi Arts Council (Jeddah), Darat Al Funun (Amman), and Townhouse (Cairo).

Afifa Ltifi
is a Tunisian PhD candidate at Cornell University’s Africana Studies Department. Her work deals with North African conceptualizations of Blackness and race and the many ways in which they inform the multilayered historical processes of Black Tunisians/Maghrebi identity formation. She is also co-founder of the Voice of Tunisian Black Women collective and the first ever Black rights organization in Tunisia, Adam for Equality and Development. In addition to her academic research, she is an occasional writer for various media outlets such as Manshoor, Urban Africa, 7iber, OpenDemocracy, and feminist consciousness.

Sara Musaifer has a PhD from the University of Minnesota’s Comparative and International Development Education Program and a Pre-doctoral Fellow for Excellence through Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania. Drawing on critical education studies, political sociology, and transnational feminist critique, her dissertation scrutinizes competing pedagogies of belongingness in Bahrain’s schools. Using critical ethnography, she uses historical archives, sociopolitical structures, and the lived experiences of girls to demonstrate the malleability of categories of difference contingent to particular times, places, and encounters. Sara is a co-founder and co-editor of AGITATE! Journal, and a board member of Language Attitude. She is also interested in critical race theory, Black feminist thought, creative writing, and storytelling.


Dr. Maha Nassar is an associate professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. She holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. Her book, Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World (Stanford University Press, 2017) received a 2018 Palestine Book Award. It examines how Palestinian intellectuals in Israel connected to global decolonization movements through literary and journalistic writings. Her research also examines how Palestinians have engaged with the Black freedom movement in the United States. Dr. Nassar’s analysis and opinion pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Conversation, The Hill, and elsewhere.

Rasha Ahmad Sharif is a Lebanese immigrant and director of the Member Action Center and member of the Senior Leadership Team in SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Ahmad Sharif is a human resource development PhD student at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She is a former board member of Mizna.

Politically Engaged Art Amid Pandemic and Protest – Part I

Leila Awadallah is a Palestinian-American dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, and interdisciplinary performance artist based in the Twin Cities and Beirut, Lebanon. She holds a BFA in Dance and a minor in Arabic Language and Literature from the University of Minnesota. Her creative work unfolds within the intersections of diasporic Arab identity, Palestinian stories, embodied Arabic calligraphy, activism and resistance movements, and building deeper connectivity with ancestry as it lives in the body. She crafts with the intentional response to the ways mainstream media/histories erase, vilify and distort Arab and Palestinian peoples. Leila performed with Ananya Dance Theatre for 5 seasons, and was intensively mentored and trained under Ananya Chatterjea. She received a SAGE Award (2016) for her work in film, a Jerome Travel Grant (2018) to research Arab folk dance & occupation in Palestine, was a Springboard 20/20 Fellow (2018) and a Daring Dances Fellow (2019). Leila is developing a new project: body watani [body as homeland] practice and received a Jerome@Camargo residency (2020) to further develop this practice.

Aida Shahghasemi is a Minneapolis based vocalist and musician. She studied Psychology and Anthropology at the University of Minnesota with a focus on the restrictions of the voices of female vocalists in Iran, where she was born and raised until the age of thirteen. She received her Masters degree from New York University in Art and Public Policy, exploring her interests in the intersection of art and socio-political movements. She has worked with different New York and Minnesota based social justice art organizations and has served as an assistant director at Hamline University’s Making Waves Social Justice Theatre Troupe. She has been a touring member of Iron and Wine and Marketa Irglova’s band while also being a recording artist on two of Glen Hansard’s albums. She is a recipient of the 2017 McKnight music fellowship.

Ritika Ganguly, PhD., is a Minneapolis-based singer, composer, performance artist, and anthropologist, born and raised in New Delhi, India. She applies anthropological insights to practical problem-solving in the areas of equity in the arts and cross-cultural medicine. Her consulting practice and artistic practice both strive for equality based on difference, rather than on the similarity of things, people, and knowledges. Ritika was commissioned as a composer by The Cedar Cultural Center in 2016, received the Jerome-supported Naked Stages award in 2017, and a McKnight-supported MRAC Next Step award in 2018 for her research and new musical work in Baul (Bengali Sufi music/poetry). She has trained in multiple genres within Bengali music and in contemporary Indian theater. Her compositions bring disparate musical styles, literatures, and disciplines together.

Dr. Pooja Goswami Pavan is a Hindustani (North Indian classical) classical vocalist, composer, teacher and scholar. Her silky yet strong voice has the capability to move in three octaves effortlessly. Her intensive training in the Hindustani classical idiom has allowed her to broader her ability to sing in a variety of genres with ease. Growing up in an environment of music and theater, she developed a deep interest in composing music to verses in Hindi and Urdu. The versatility in Pooja’s repertoire is evident in her ability to sing Thumri, Dadra, Ghazal, Bhajan, Sufiana Kalam and folk genres such as the Hori, Chaiti & Kajri besides the Khayal. Pooja was trained in Hindustani music by Pandit Surendra Goswami, Prof. Ajit Singh Paintal and continues her advanced training in Khayal with her brother Prof. Shailendra Goswami. She has also been trained in semi-classical music by the eminent vocalist Vidushi Shanti Hiranand. Pooja received a Ph.D. in Indian Classical Music from the University of Delhi.
She has performed at many prestigious venues such as The Ordway Center, The Guthrie, The India Habitat Center and The India International Center. Among her many acclaimed performances are ones at The Learnquest Music Conference (Boston), International Music Festival (Vietnam) and The Indian Classical Music Festival (The Bahamas). Since coming to Minnesota, she has made a name for herself with several successful collaborations with artists as Dean Magraw, Vlad Milenkovic, Adam Levy, Steven Hobert, Scott Mateo Davies and Greg Herriges. An active composer, she frequently creates works and performs for many leading music, dance and theater organizations including the Pangea World Theater, Ananya Dance Theater, Indian Music Society of Minnesota and Katha Dance Theater. Pooja has several recordings featuring her original compositions of Bhajan, Ghazal and Sufiana Kalam. She is much sought-after by educational and arts institutions for her Lecture-Demonstrations on Hindustani music. She has also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music and The Music Department at Macalester college, teaching graduate level courses in Indian music, history and culture. Her creative work has been supported with numerous grants and commissions from multiple arts agencies such as the Minnesota State Arts Board, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, American Composers Forum and Cedar Cultural Center. She was recognized with the prestigious McKnight Fellowship for Musicians by the McKnight Foundation for excellence in her art.

Fadlabi (See above)


Richa Nagar writes, organizes, performs, shares, and builds in whatever languages, genres, and modes of learning are available to her. She has studied and worked in the US since 1989, but feels most alive when she is immersed in the everyday Urdu, Hindi, and Awadhi that she grew up with in Old Lucknow. An anti-disciplinary border-crosser, she believes in agitating stabilized ways of knowing and telling through collective creativity. Richa has learned from, and grown with, her colleagues-students-teachers at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she has been a faculty member since 1997. She has worked intimately with the Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan and Parakh Theatre since their founding in the mid-2000s.

Sara Musaifer (See above)

Politically Engaged Art Amid Pandemic and Protest – Part II


Lamia Abukhadra ( she/her, b. 1996) is a Palestinian American artist currently based in Beirut and Minneapolis. Her interdisciplinary research-based practice subverts harmful dominant narratives which perpetuate the settler colonial imagination as well as acts of ethnic cleansing in Palestine and its diasporic spaces. She is currently researching and creating works on the role of limestone as witness to and minor figure in the major moments in Palestinian intimacy, history and geopolitics. Lamia graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BFA in interdisciplinary studio art in 2018 and is a 2019-2020 Home Workspace Program Fellow at Ashkal Alwan in Beirut. She is also a 2018-2019 Jerome Emerging Printmaking Resident at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, a 2019 resident at ACRE and the University of Michigan’s Daring Dances initiative, and a recipient of a 2017 Soap Factory Rethinking Public Spaces grant. Her work has been exhibited at Waiting Room, Hair + Nails, Soo Visual Arts Center, Yeah Maybe, and the Katherine E. Nash Gallery in Minneapolis and in Chicago at Unpacked Mobile Gallery.

Pramila Vasudevan is a cultural worker, choreographer and trans disciplinary artist. She is the founding Artistic Director of Aniccha Arts (since 2004), an experimental arts collaborative producing site-specific performances that examine agency, voice, and group dynamics within community histories, institutions, and systems. This is her fifth year as director of Naked Stages at Pillsbury House Theatre, a 7-month program for early-career performance artists. The pandemic has had devastating consequences for artist communities and she is currently researching what it means to build self sustaining artist ecologies that are not dependent on traditional funding models. Pramila is on a personal journey to examine her caste privilege in her body, artistic, spiritual, and daily life, as she searches for paths to be in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. She was born in the US, lived in India, and has been studying, living, and working on stolen Dakota land for about 25 years. During the pandemic, Pramila and her family have been taking walks to the Bdote – a place of genesis, regeneration, and beauty, close to Fort Snelling which is a site of the genocide of the Dakota people. She is committed to continue learning about the history of her Tamil ancestry as well as where she lives and works and further building relationships with members of indigenous communities here and learning about her neighborhood and this land.

Katayoun Amjadi is an Iranian-born, Minneapolis-based artist, educator, and independent curator. In her work, she often considers the sociopolitical systems that shape our perceptions of Self and Other, such as language, religion, gender, politics, and nationalist ideologies. Amjadi blurs these boundaries and creates an off-balance, hybrid style that is slightly acerbic and a little bit tongue-in-cheek. Her art probes the relationship between past and present, tradition and modernity, and individual versus collective identity, and simultaneously seeks to spur discussion about our place in the temporal arc and the interwoven roots of our histories.

Chitra Vairavan is a contemporary dancer/choreographer and performance artist of Tamil/South Indian-American descent. Vairavan is immersed in both Tamil culture and progressive brown politics in the U.S. She dances to heal and creates dance and performance art to help heal others. Her embodied practice and the experimental process is rooted in deep listening, spatial observation, freedoms, poetry, vulnerability, and ancestral memory. As a 2016 McKnight Dancer Fellow, Vairavan collaborated with Eiko Otake of Eiko and Koma for her fellowship concert in September 2018. Their process work together sparked her journey in Eiko’s The Duet Project. Named “25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2017, her recent dance experiences have freed her art and artistic-thinking earning her various accolades over the years. Vairavan received the SAGE Award for Outstanding Performer in 2015 and was recognized as “Artist We Love” by Minnesota Monthly in September 2011 among other recognition. In her current creative work, Vairavan embarks on an exciting period of experimentation and creation in 2019, exploring the cross-pollination of visual art and dance-based work, beginning with her solo, One Removed, presenting in Choreographer’s Evening 2018 at The Walker Art Center. More about the collaborative piece can be found in this reflection by artist and educator Maija Brown. Vairavan then shared the culminating work of her 2018 Naked Stages Fellowship, exploring site-specific durational performance on January 26, 2019. Vairavan now shares her practice and performance methodology through a BIPOC-centered (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) creative liberation practice called Balance + Boundaries, designed for artists of all disciplines interested in embodied performance. Artists explore decolonized performance and composition exercises where they are asked to create, share, witness, and detach from their creations repeatedly. The practice and process of detachment and creating from a place of unknowing and becoming was embraced by BIPOC artists. In March 2020, the workshop seeded an artistic collective based on the foundations of Balance + Boundaries. The collective, led by Vairavan, named themselves Womxn of Color Re-imagining Ecosystems. They are currently in a practice of creative alchemy each week.

Pedram Baldari Kurdish-Iranian born, sculptor, architect and interdisciplinary artist, working in installation, site specific, performance art, social practice, and sculpture. Pedram is based in between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Denton/Dallas, Texas. He has been featured in numerous national and international solo and group art exhibitions since 2010 such as the Victoria and Albert museum, London 2012, Documenta 13th Video Import-Export program, Video Nomad Tokyo 2015, Art Basel Basel Switzerland 2014. He has shown work across the U.S in museums and galleries including recently at Walker Art Museum. He has been selected to art residencies internationally and has had group art exhibitions in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Turkey, and The U.S. He is the recipient of 2012 Magic of Persia and Delfina Foundation Award, Jerome Fellowship Commission for Franconia Sculpture Park 2017, Vermont Studio Center Award 2015 and 2020, StarDust Fund for his fellowship and art residency at Weisman Art Museum, 2021 spring/summer MacDowell Art Fellowship for two months Artist Residency at MacDowell. His most recent solo show was “Your Games and Your Gains” at Soo Visual Art Center in summer 2021. Baldari is an Assistant Professor in Studio Art at the University of North Texas.


Nithya Rajan has a PhD from the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her research looks at the lives of refugee women in Delhi and the ways in which they survive and thrive. Questions of place, displacement and migration interest her. Nithya’s scholarship is shaped by the many places she has called home- Kerala, Delhi, Minneapolis. Nithya has Masters degrees from the Department of Social Work, Jamia Millia Islamia (Delhi) and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University.

Sima Shakhsari (See above)

From Black lives matter in the U.S. to Palestine, Kashmir, India, Iran, and the Balkans: Protest Strategies


Ather Zia, Ph.D., is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and a columnist. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Ather is the author of Resisting Disappearances: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir (June 2019) and co-editor of Can You Hear Kashmiri Women Speak (Women Unlimited 2020), Resisting Occupation in Kashmir (Upenn 2018) and A Desolation called Peace (Harper Collins, May 2019). She has published a poetry collection “The Frame” (1999) and another collection is forthcoming. Ather’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region. Find her on twitter @aziakashmir and here on Academia.

Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick in the Department of Africana Studies and the Program in Criminal Justice. Her research interests include humanitarian law, refugee law, national security law, and critical race theory. Noura is the author of Justice for Some: Law As Politics in the Question of Palestine (Stanford University Press, 2019), winner of the 2019 Palestine Book Awards sponsored by the Middle East Monitor and winner of the Independent Publishers Book Award’s Bronze Medial in Current Events/Foreign Affairs. She is a Co-Founding Editor of Jadaliyya e-zine and an Editorial Committee member of the Journal of Palestine Studies. She has served as Legal Counsel for a Congressional Subcommittee in the House of Representatives, as a Legal Advocate for the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights, and as the national grassroots organizer and legal advocate at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Noura is the coeditor of Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures, an anthology related to the 2011 and 2012 Palestine bids for statehood at the UN. More recently, Noura released a pedagogical project on the Gaza Strip and Palestine, which includes a short multimedia documentary, “Gaza In Context,” that rehabilitates Israel’s wars on Gaza within a settler-colonial framework. She is also the producer of the short video, “Black Palestinian Solidarity.” She is a frequent commentator, with recent appearances on CBS News, CNN, Fox News, and NPR, among others, and her writings have been widely published in the national media and academic journals. She is currently a Non-Resident Visiting Fellow in the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative at the Religious Literacy Project at the Harvard Divinity School. ​

selma banich (1979, Yugoslavia) is an artist and activist. Her socially engaged art practice is grounded in explorative, processual, and activist work, and is politically inspired by anarchism and feminism. selma has worked independently and in collaboration with other artists, curators, groups, and initiatives in the Balkans, Europe, and the US. She has participated in numerous dance, theater, and opera productions as a choreographer, and has also performed in films. She participates in local and transnational solidarity initiatives related to the ongoing feminist, anti-fascist, migrant, and workers’ struggles. Currently, those initiatives are Zagreb Solidarity City and For BREAD.

Meera Sanghamitra is an independent human rights activist that has been associated for more than a decade with the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), a pan-Indian collective of mass movements of Adivasis, Dalits, farmers, workers, fisher people, and other marginalized communities. She has also been active in the struggle of the Narmada dam oustees. She is presently one of the National Convenors of NAPM as well as convenor of NAPM Telangana. She is also an active member of many women’s rights & transgender movements and initiatives at the state and national levels. Trained as a lawyer in Hyderabad and has had an abiding interest in human rights, environmental and social justice issues since college years, when, along with a few like-minded friends, she co-founded a small group called Grassroots and got associated with different collectives and campaigns in (then united) Andhra Pradesh. Between March 2008 and June 2016, she has been associated and traveling with activist Medha Patkar and was involved full time with the Narmada Bachao Andolan in understanding and engaging on an everyday basis with the democratic struggle of thousands of oustees for decentralized development; right to land, livelihood, rehabilitation, environmental justice; touching at multiple levels, the interface of the people, state and society. She serves on the Governing Board of pro-people organizations like the Humsafar, Support Centre for Women (Lucknow), Bindrai Institute for Research, Study and Action (BIRSA), Ranchi and is also associated with other alliances including campaigns for judicial accountability, right to education, women’s and transgender rights, social justice, etc. She is a member of the Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS), National Transgender People’s Movements, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), and the Women and Transgender Organizations Joint Action Committee (Telangana).

As a recipient of the Girish Sant Memorial Fellowship, she studied the social and environmental regulatory governance aspects of Thermal Power Plants in Telangana between Jan-Dec, 2017. She is also a recipient of the Gorrepati Narendranath Memorial Fellowship (2018) given by the Centre for Equity Studies. She is also a recipient of the Bhasha Memorial Award for Best Social Activist, 2019 and the Born2Win Social Activist Award, 2019. She is an active human rights defender. All along and until now, she has also been actively involved with various activities of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), in different capacities, including as a National Organizer and Member of the National Convening Team and has facilitated processes on dialogues and actions among youth (Yuva Samvad) and women, nationally and across different states. She has been part of the collective and core group that conceptualized the NAPM Samvidhan Samman Yatra, (Oct-Dec, 2018) and traveled across 23 states, in defense of the Constitution, reaching out to almost 200 struggle spots. Her everyday work involves building various forms of solidarities for the struggling communities and their movements. She is associated with the NAPM process in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and is working on strengthening learnings, solidarities, and actions between various groups across the country on diverse issues with a focus on the preservation of constitutional values, human rights, natural resource rights, conserving ecosystems and social justice.

Jae Yates is a recent graduate from the University of Minnesota whose academic interests include gender and technology, medical racism, and folk medicine in enslaved and indigenous communities during the antebellum period. During the uprising, Jae and several friends have become attached to multiple mutual aid sites, using grassroots fundraising to get food, first aid supplies, and hygiene products to approximately 100 people per day. Currently, they work with CANMN (Community Aid Network Minnesota), a conglomerate of the MCAD, Provision, and Pimento pop up aid sites, that seek to continue mutual aid efforts as the pandemic continues. Jae also played a small role in organizing the Taking Back Pride protest with Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, a queer led anti-police organization that has protested corporate presence and police participation in Pride events in the Twin Cities for several years. Recently Jae has been assisting with protest planning, trainings, and legislation for community control of the police as TCC4J continues their work. In a continued partnership with the Minnesota Youth Story Squad, Jae and a group of fellow U of M alumni and graduate students are also documenting the youth experience of the uprising as well as discussing gentrification in South Minneapolis and anti-LGBTQ sentiment in movement spaces.

Amoke Kubat is a multidisciplinary artist, a social weaver, and an activist. At 70, she ​remains curious about the self, the natural world, and the Sacred. Self-taught she uses artmaking and writing to continue to define herself and hold a position of wellness in an America sick with inequalities and inequities. For 35 years, she has been reclaiming an African Indigenous Spiritual sensibility. “Every people were once indigenous to someplace, with their own understanding of their relationships to the natural world and to all living things. Enslaved Africans were not settlers, immigrants, or refugees. Our complicated Black experiences disenfranchise us from self and Nature. Our ways of knowing and deeply respecting Earth were disrupted, discouraged, devalued, and distorted. Reclaiming our Indigenous ways, our relationship to all living beings is a pathway to healing. Healing is work. Sustaining wellbeing is hard work. Social determinants impact health and wellbeing. Poverty, unequal access to healthcare, lack of education, stigma, and racism are underlying, contributing factors to health inequalities. Then there is a lack of access to good food, rest, and leisure. For Black people, the 400 years of racism, anti-blackness, and white supremacy have been health determinants. “ Amoke imagined and created YO MAMA’s Art of Mothering Workshops in 2010. This art-based practice of wellness began as a drop-in artspace for mothers who are artists, social justice activists, and healers. YO MAMA’s philosophy and practice are to empower mothers by disrupting the devaluation of women’s visible and invisible labor and increasing the recognition of the ART of Mothering that highlights the legacies of cultural maternal wisdom and know-how that sustains healthy mothers, families, and communities. YO MAMA’S HOUSE is a demonstration project and model that many can learn from its MOTHER CENTERED, social gospel, and grassroots approach to empowering women as mothers to do their mothering work and creating pathways to wellness for those overburdened, under resources and sick and tired of being sick and tired. Amoke believes that healthy mothers raise healthy children, families, and communities.

Sussan Tahmasebi has been working to strengthen civil society and advocate women’s rights in Iran and in the MENA region for over 20 years. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of FEMENA, an organization working to support women human rights defenders, their organization, and their movements in the broader MENA region. FEMENA is particularly focused on contexts of shrinking and restricted civil society space. Between 1999-2010 Tahmasebi was based in Iran where she co-founded the Iran Civil Society Training and Research Center, focused on strengthening the capacity of Iranian civil society. She was also a founding member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grassroots effort working to end gender-biased laws in Iran. Tahmasebi’s expertise includes movement-building in contexts of shrinking civic space, reform of women’s rights in Muslim societies, civil society capacity building, and women’s peace and security in MENA region, among other issues. Tahmasebi is Iranian and American by birth and is fluent in both English and Farsi. She resides in Washington DC.


Lana Barkawi, Ph.D., is an experienced executive and artistic director, publisher, fundraiser, curator, and leader in the field of Arab and SWANA culture and community building. She serves as the publisher of Mizna: SWANA Literature and Art and producer of Mizna’s Twin Cities Arab Film Festival. Her interest in fostering a local, national, and international space for Arab and Muslim art and community has brought Mizna in partnership with many artists and organizations to present creative work that engages, problematizes, and delights. She has a doctorate in biochemistry, and her professional approach is rooted in her training in ecological biochemistry, where fundamental questions are approached collaboratively with creative thinking and discovery-based inquisitiveness and resourcefulness. She has written and spoken widely on the topic of Arab and SWANA cultural production and equity issues in the arts. She has served on grant panels for the Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, among others. Under Lana’s leadership, Mizna has grown to be an award-winning organization recognized nationally and internationally for critical and artistically excellent work.
Emina Bužinkić explores barefoot the intersections of refuge-ness, racist and classist formations, education-scapes, and political resistances in solidarity. Her work revolves around the critical understanding of border regimes through interplay of police violence and refugees’ resistance to restrictions of freedom of movement. Emina’s research focuses on the inscriptions of regimes of criminalization of refugee youth in schooling and everyday life as a result of state surveillance and transnational securitization politics. Emina is deeply annoyed by the capitalistic and neoliberal organization of the economy of life and finds it often unsettling to live in this world. She is committed to border-crossing and border-erasure while co-building coalitions transnationally. She is currently obtaining her Ph.D. in critical studies in education and human rights at the University of Minnesota in the United States. Her soul is nourished in creative resistance to evil and by the energies of the oceans.

Sowing Transnational and Translocal Solidarities


Ponni Arasu hails from Chennai, India and now lives near the lagoon in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka. Her work, in different places within the nation states of India and Sri Lanka, is an interwoven practice of making art – primarily embodied performance; studying and teaching history; thinking through, critiquing and working with the law; and everyday groundedness in myriad movements at the margins of society. She speaks, reads, writes, speaks, dreams and thinks in Tamil, English and sometimes in Hindi. By ‘profession’ she is a historian, lawyer, theatre practitioner and a movement arts therapist in training.

Ghadir al Shafie is a feminist-queer activist who passionately believes in the intersectionality of the struggle of Palestinian queer women, fighting a triple oppression— as Palestinians in the context of Israel’s system of apartheid, military occupation and settler-colonialism; as women in imperialistic male-dominated society; and as queers in the context of pinkwashing and homophobia. She dedicates her work and activism to promoting a greater understanding of and support for sexual and gender freedoms within Palestine and to advocating intersectional solidarity with Palestine in the global femimnist and queer movements. Al Shafie is a co-founder of Aswat- Palestinian Feminist Center for Sexual and Gender Freedoms. Her interviews and articles appear in various academic and media outlets, Arab and international.

Yamila Hussein-Shannan, Ph.D., is a scholar, an educator, an activist and public speaker dedicated to social-economic and political justice. Her work examines matrices of oppression and liberation particularly institutionalized and structural supremacy, anti- black racism and settler-colonialism. Dr. Hussein-Shannan teaches at the graduate level on the intricacy between language, power and (in)justice and critical race theory. Her courses examine how structures and institutions sustain and reproduce systems of oppression and the centrality of our political clarity in contributing to liberation and the creation of a just world. Prior to doctorate work, Dr. Hussein-Shannan founded and ran Yammita Activity Center for Children, co-founded the Teacher Creativity Center and worked for Defence for Children International in Palestine. She has designed, directed and/or taught intensive academic programs for teachers and developed curricula in Boston (Harvard, Boston College, Goddard College, Lesley University, BTR/UMass Boston) and internationally (Morocco, Jordan, Spain, Palestine, Mexico, and the Balkans). A Palestinian born in Colombia, raised in Jerusalem, and currently residing in Boston, Dr. Hussein-Shannan is fluent in Spanish, Arabic and English.

Ather Zia (See above)


Emina Bužinkić (See above)

Sara Musaifer (See above)

Nithya Rajan (See above)

AGITATE! Content by ITSRC Webinar Panelists and Facilitators

Imagining Transnational Solidarities: Speaking Across Divides