Featured Speakers


Closing Keynote Speaker: Steven Canals in conversation with Romeo Jackson


Hailing from The Bronx, Steven Canals is a 2015 graduate of UCLA’s MFA Screenwriting program. He began his journey as a storyteller in high school, producing a documentary short about Turf Violence. Steven went on to earn a BA in Cinema from Binghamton University. While attending UCLA, Steven served as a Research Assistant at Hungry Jackal Productions for Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Steven was a Staff Writer on Freeform’s Dead of Summer, the same year his short film, Afuera, premiered at the 2016 LA Film Festival. Variety Magazine named Steven a TV Writer to Watch in 2018. Steven’s original drama series, POSE, co-created with Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, debuted June 2018 on FX.

Romeo Jackson is a Black, Queer, Non-Binary Femme, feminist dedicated to intersectional justice and cross movement building. Currently, they are the inaugural LGBTQ & Gender Program Coordinator at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Their research explores  Race/ism, Settler Colonialism, Gender, and Sexuality within a Higher Education Context with an emphasis on the experiences of Queer and Trans Students of Color.  Named one of the 100 Black and LGBT-SGL leaders to watch, Romeo is committed to uplifting and empowering queer and trans people of color through a black queer feminist lens. They thank Audre Lorde for keeping them grounded as a whole person in a world committed to tokenizing their identities for agendas not aligned with their politics.

Opening Keynote Speaker: Franchesca Ramsey

headshot of Franchesca Ramsey

Franchesca Ramsey is a social justice advocate, comedian, actress, writer, video blogger, sought-after speaker, and the host of the award-winning MTV webseries DECODED. She has been featured on NPR, ANDERSON LIVE, CNN, the BBC, and in the New York Times. A former writer and correspondent for Comedy Central’s THE NIGHTLY SHOW WITH LARRY WHITMORE she has also written for BET’s BLACK GIRLS ROCK! award show and currently has multiple television projects in development. Her first book Well, That Escalated Quickly was published this past May!

Learn more about Franchesca by visiting her website or YouTube Channel!

Plenary Speakers

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a New York Times bestselling author of How to Raise an Adult and Real American. She holds a B.A. from Stanford, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and an M.F.A. in Writing from California College of the Arts. She is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, and resides in the Bay Area with her husband, their two teenagers, and her mother.

Lythcott-Haims’s memoir, Real American, evokes her personal battle with the low self-esteem that American racism inflicts on people of color. The only child of a marriage between an African American father and a white British mother, she shows how microaggressions, in addition to blunt force insults, can puncture a person’s inner life. Real American also expresses, through Lythcott-Haims’s path to self-acceptance, the healing power of community in overcoming the hurtful isolation of being incessantly considered “the other.” Lythcott-Haims’s previous book, How to Raise an Adult, emerged from her decade as Stanford University’s Dean of Freshmen, where she was known for her fierce advocacy for young adults and received the university’s Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for creating “the” atmosphere that defines the undergraduate experience. Toward the end of her tenure as dean, she began speaking and writing widely on the harm of helicopter parenting.

Dashka Slater

Dashka Slater is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, and Mother Jones. The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Slater is also author of many books, including The Antlered Ship, a Junior Library Guild selection and Parents Choice Recommended book that received four starred reviews, and Escargot, winner of the Wanda Gag Read Aloud Award.

Slater’s most recent book, The 57 Bus, details the true story of Sasha Fleischman and Richard Thomas, two teenagers from different walks of life in Oakland, CA, whose lives become tragically connected. Sasha was a transgender teen from the middle-class foothills of Oakland who attended a small private high school; Richard lived in the economically challenged flatlands and attended a large public high school. After school each day, Sasha and Richard’s paths overlapped on the 57 bus for a mere eight minutes. But, one afternoon, their lives became indelibly intertwined on the 57 bus when Sasha fell asleep and woke up to their skirt enveloped in flames, after Richard ignited it with a lighter. Sasha suffered severe burns, and Richard was charged with two hate crimes and faced life imprisonment. This case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight. But, in The 57 Bus, Slater shows that what might at first seem like a simple matter of right and wrong, justice and injustice, victim and criminal is something far more complicated—and heartbreaking. Slater first chronicled this story in The New York Times Magazine. In The 57 Bus, she expertly expands upon her original article, providing a riveting exploration of race, class, gender, morality, and forgiveness. Slater’s honest insights gleaned from both teens’ lives will inspire you to rethink all you know about crime, punishment, and empathy. The 57 Bus was the winner of the 2018 Stonewall Award, a 2018 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and a Los Angeles Times Book Award Finalist.

Laura Wides-Muñoz


Laura Wides-Muñoz is the author of The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What it Means to be American, based on more than a decade of reporting on immigration, much of it done while a staff writer for The Associated Press. She conceived of the project during a 2013 Harvard University Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellowship.

Previously, she served as Vice President for Special Projects & Editorial Strategy at Univision’s English-language Fusion Network, and as a senior story editor for the network’s TV and digital investigative teams.

Wides-Muñoz has reported from Cuba and throughout Central America and has written for The Miami Herald, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She has won the Associated Press Managing Editors Award and multiple Society of Professional Journalists awards.

​She lives in Washington, D.C. with her family.

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