Friday, May 3, 2013


We thought the world premiere of If She Stood was the ideal opportunity to recognize women in our community who are currently standing for all of us to transform our city into a more dynamic and inclusive community. Each evening we honor a group of women who are STANDING today.


FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2013

Luxme Hariharan is currently a third year Ophthalmology resident at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute, who tries to abide by her grandmother’s wisdom, “from those to whom much is given, much is to be expected”. She was born in Hyderabad, India, lived in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up in Madison, WI. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin Madison majoring in Spanish & Latin American & Caribbean Studies, her medical degree at the University of Wisconsin and a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with an emphasis on global health policy. She completed at internship in Pediatrics at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, NY prior to moving to Philadelphia for residency. Luxme  has a passion in international health and policy, and is fluent in Spanish &  Tamil and conversational in Hindi & French. She has experience creating health care policies in the Wisconsin State Legislature and analyzing tobacco control guidelines with the World Health Organization, and has lobbied for health care legislation in Harrisburg, PA and Washington DC on behalf of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, respectively. She recently traveled to San Salvador, El Salvador to work with the Ministry of Health on childhood blindness prevention and is currently working with UNICEF &  the Ministry of Health in Buenos Aires, Argentina on improving guidelines and policies pertaining to Retinopathy of Prematurity ( ROP) in collaboration with  PAHO, The Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia and the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In Philadelphia, she is working with the citywide childhood obesity initiative and the Children’s Hospital of Philaldelphia to start a novel multidisciplinary clinic addressing vision problems caused by childhood obesity. She also coordiates ophthalmology residents to perform free eye exams at Puentes de Salud a free health clinic that serves Philadelphia’s latino population. She is on the board of directors of the National Physcians Alliance and sits on the public health committee for the Philadelphia County Medical Society.  Next year she will be pursuing a Pediatric ophthalmology fellowship at the Bascom Palmer Eye Insitute in Miami, FL. As a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, her  goal is to pursue a career with an emphasis on advocacy and creating effective programs & policies to prevent childhood blindness both locally and abroad.


Adrienne Simpson is a marketing and events professional with over nine years of experience working for well-known Philadelphia nonprofits, including WHYY and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

She began working for Philadelphia magazine in December of 2011. In the wake of the magazine’s controversial March cover story on race, Adrienne wrote an op-ed entitled, “The only black person in the room,” criticizing her employer’s hiring practices. The piece was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and received national attention and accolades from State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
Adrienne has a B.A. in Communications from Seton Hall University. In 1998 she won the Elizabeth Ann Seton Women’s Studies Writing Prize for her dissertation, The Body Image of African American Women: Positive or Product of the Post-Modern Perpetuation of Prejudice. In 2003 she co-hosted the debut of Tavis Smiley’s Pass the Mic Tour, at the Liacouris Center, with former Good Day Philadelphia anchor Tracey Matisak. Adrienne co-produced the urban genre documentary, Death Before Dishonor, for Ruffnation Films in 2006, and placed first in Scriptapalooza’s unscripted television category in 2009. Adrienne blogs about football for One Her Game, and was selected as one of Joan Shepp’s Women of Substance and Style in 2012.  


Fifteen years ago Hilary Beard walked away from corporate America to follow her dream of becoming a writer. Since then, as a writer and editor, she has taught readers how to take care of themselves – mind, body, and spirit. She has run four health magazines and become a New York Times bestselling author, specializing in book collaborations, including Venus and Serena: Serving from the Hip: 10 Lessons on Living, Loving and Winning; Friends: A Love Story with Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance; 21 Pounds in 21 Days: The Martha’s Vineyard Diet/Detox; and Health First: The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide, which in January won an NAACP Image Award. This October Random House will publish American Promise: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life, the companion book to the documentary American Promise, the award-winning educational coming-of-age-tale of two Black boys that has won prizes at Sundance and the Full Frame Film Festival. She is a graduate of Princeton University and attends Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, where she helps teach people how to follow their spiritual calling.

Vanessa Julye is a graduate of Westtown School and obtained a BA from Temple University. She serves as a guest speaker for many Friends meetings, schools, organizations and Quaker conferences. Vanessa served on The Racial Healing and Wholeness Committee in her local meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. She is a member of Haverford College’s Corporation. Currently she is working on increasing awareness of racism in the Quaker and sectarian communities. Vanessa has a calling to a ministry with a concern for helping the Religious Society of Friends become a whole blessed community. She travels throughout the country and abroad speaking on this topic and leading workshops about racism focusing on its eradication and the healing of racism’s wounds. She also meets with Quakers of Color throughout the country, many of whom are isolated members of their Quaker meetings. Vanessa and Donna McDaniel are the authors of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans and the Myth of Racial Justice that focuses on the relationship between African American Friends and non-Friends with Quakers of European descent from the 17th through 21st Centuries. Vanessa wrote the foreword for Margaret Hope Bacon’s pamphlet, Sarah Mapps Douglass, Faithful Attender of Quaker Meeting, View From The Back Bench. She has published numerous articles on Quakers and racism including The Seed Cracked Open, Growing Beyond Racism. Vanessa is Friends General Conference’s Coordinator for the Committee for Nurturing Ministries focusing on the Racism and Youth Ministries Programs, as well as, a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting located at 15th and Cherry Streets. She is married, has three adult children and one grandchild.

Jeaninne Kayembe is co-founder of Philadelphia Urban Creators, a non-profit teaching sustainability and entrepreneurship to youth in North Central Philadelphia. When she’s not teaching or turning compost she’s interning for Phillly’s largest poetry collective, Spoken Soul 215,helping run the city’s largest open mic! At 23 Jeaninne has been performing and writing for almost 10 years and hopes to infuse artistic and sustainable practices into less fortunate communities all over the globe.

Hadass Sheffer is President of The Graduate! Network, Inc. and founding Executive Director of Graduate! Philadelphia, the program that launched the Network.  Graduate!’s mission is to increase the number of adults in the region who complete a college degree they started but never finished.  Family earnings would rise on average $10,000 per year for every adult who makes a comeback and earns a college degree; and for every thousand who finish a college degree, at least 3,000 children will be at lower risk of dropping out of high school and college, not to mention the self-confidence and satisfaction gained by finally earning the degree.

Much of Hadass’ career has centered on education and creating opportunities in higher education for underserved  populations.  In 2004, the country was enthralled with the transformative economic  potential of the “creative class,” in Philadelphia and elsewhere.  Hadass was worried about adults who had to interrupt their studies before earning their degree.  This was a population with no public voice and which was stigmatized in many ways, but which also held great potential to transform Philadelphia’s economy.  With similarly concerned co-founders, Hadass started Graduate! Philadelphia to raise awareness of the tens of thousands of Comebackers - Philadelphian adults who started but never finished a degree, and to create a structure to support them in completing their degrees.  More than 2,000 Comebackers have since returned to college with assistance from Graduate! Philadelphia, from the decision to complete college all the way through to graduation.
Today, Hadass continues to build capacity in the Greater Philadelphia region for getting more adults to finish college. Under her leadership, Graduate! has also been replicated in other regions and has received national awards from the Association of Continuing Higher Education, the Alliance for Regional Stewardship of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, WebWonk, InnovationPhiladelphia, and was a finalist in the Collaboration Prize competition.

Prior to starting Graduate! Philadelphia, Hadass served as Director of Higher Education Fellowships and Program Development at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Earlier, she taught adult students at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania’s College of General Studies, and “traditional” students at Swarthmore College. In between, she worked for an electronic publishing company.

Hadass earned an MBA from Temple University and completed doctoral coursework in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her B.A. in Linguistics is from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  She came to Philadelphia in 1990 and soon decided to call it home. She and her husband and their two sons live and play in NW Philadelphia. Graduate! Philadelphia’s offices are at 1211 Chestnut Street, on the 9th floor.

FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013

Denise M. Brown, artist, cultural organizer, facilitator and strategist, has been Executive Director of the Leeway Foundation since 2006. Prior to that she was Associate Director of the Bread and Roses Community Fund and a consultant with Leeway and other organizations in the Philadelphia area. A graduate of Brown University, Denise was a film programmer for the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema (PFWC), under the leadership of its founder, Linda Blackaby, from its debut to 1998. For over 20 years, she has worked with cultural and social justice organizations regionally and nationally. She is currently a member of the boards of Delaware Valley Grantmakers, the Henrietta Wurts Memorial Fund, National Alliance of Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC) and Scribe Video Center; and serves as Co-Chair of Bread and Roses and PhillyCAM (Philadelphia Community Access Media). She has also served as a panelist for ARTOGRAPHY, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Tucson Pima Arts Council and the Union Square Awards.

Gretjen Clausing has worked for 24 years in independent media exhibition as a media arts programmer/curator in Philadelphia.  She is a media activist committed to rethinking public media and securing access to technology, training and distribution platforms for all people. She is the Executive Director of Philadelphia Community Access Media (PhillyCAM), the city’s public access television station and was a founding member of the Philadelphia Community Access Coalition, the grassroots group that successfully lobbied for the creation of public access television in Philadelphia, a landmark victory.  Her independent film roots go back to late 80s, early 90s at International House and the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.  She later directed Film at the Prince and was Program Director at Scribe Video Center

As an advocate and community organizer, Casey Cook has brought her passion for real change to a range of social justice issues, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender liberation, access to health care for people with HIV, promoting harm reduction strategies for drug users and sex industry workers, and environmental justice. 

Since 2006, Casey Cook has served as executive director of Bread & Roses Community Fund, which brings together donors and activists working for economic and racial justice in the Delaware Valley. Serving as a catalyst for change, Bread & Roses makes grants and provides training and technical assistance to grassroots organizations that are mobilizing their communities and working for better schools, fair jobs, fewer prisons, access to healthcare and much more.  

Prior to joining the staff at Bread & Roses, Casey served as executive director for six years at Prevention Point Philadelphia. There she provided harm reduction services while advocating for access to health care for injection drug users, sex workers and transgender hormone users. During her tenure at Prevention Point Philadelphia, she co-founded the Trans-Health Information Project for transgender, transsexual and gender-variant individuals.

Casey received her Bachelor in Arts in Women’s Studies and Education from Temple University, and her Master of Social Service and Master of Law and Social Policy from the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research at Bryn Mawr College.

Casey currently serves as chair of the board of directors for the Funding Exchange, and has previously served on the boards of the Center for Responsible Funding and Penn PIRG, and as former co-chair of Liberty City Democratic Club.

Ms. Brigitte Daniel is the Executive Vice President of Wilco Electronics Systems, Inc., her family’s African-American privately owned cable operation. For over 30 years, Wilco has provided affordable cable and technology services to low-income communities as well as commercial, governmental, and educational institutions, in Philadelphia.

Over the last few years, Ms. Daniel has helped create several substantial private/public partnerships that provide innovative solutions to address the digital divide within communities in the United States, and thus, position Wilco as a digital and broadband leader, specifically working on behalf of disadvantaged communities. Under Ms. Daniel’s leadership, Wilco was a lead partner in the federally funded Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership, formed to bring Internet access, training and technology to communities citywide. Additionally, she helped to create a partnership with Temple University to build digital solutions to address the complex challenges of individuals living in Philadelphia Housing Authority residential communities, as part of the university’s Urban Apps & Maps project. 

These efforts of leadership allowed Ms. Daniel to receive a 2011 Eisenhower Fellowship where she traveled to India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia to explore and cultivate global relationships in developing emerging technologies that benefit Wilco’s unique low-income marketplace in Philadelphia.  In addition, these recent initiatives led to Ms. Daniel being re-appointed to the Federal Communications Commission Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity in the Digital Age by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.  In this role, Ms. Daniel assists in recommending policies and practices that will further enhance diversity in the industries the FCC regulates, and focus on issues regarding lowering barriers to entry for minority businesses in the communications sector and explore ways to ensure universal access and adoption of broadband. 

Ms. Daniel graduated from Spelman College in 1999 and additionally received her JD from Georgetown University Law School.  In 2012, Ms. Daniel was honored to receive the Philadelphia’s Business Journal’s Minority Leaders Award, in 2011 the Business Journal’s “40 under 40” and received a 2012 Women Leaders In Technology Award from the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women.  Just recently, Ms. Daniel received a 2013 Women In Cable and Telecommunications Rising Star Award in addition to receiving a 2013 Next Generation of Leaders award through the office of Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown.
Ms. Daniel is also committed to giving back to the community and spends a significant amount of time serving as a Board Director of the Philadelphia Theatre Company, a Board member of Congreso de Latinos, and a newly appointed Board Member of the Independence Charter School.


Jamira Burley is an advocate for authentic youth engagement, comprehensive education reform, civic participation and violence prevention, she recently graduated from Temple University with dual degrees in International Business and Legal Studies. Currently she works as the Executive Director for the City of Philadelphia Youth Commission. At 24 years old, Jamira is the first of sixteen children to graduate high school and college.  Drive, perseverance, and passion, are just a few characteristics that the Philadelphia native is built with.  As an active and notable member of her community, she has made it her mission to employ her personal experiences as a driving force to improve the lives of others. Jamira currently holds a number of leadership positions locally and nationally. She was ranked by the Philadelphia Daily News as a top-ten up and coming Philadelphian, Flying Kite Media labeled her as one of four Next Generational Leaders and the Philadelphia Tribune named her as a top 10 under 40.

SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2013

Dr. Yaba Blay is currently an Assistant Teaching Professor of Africana Studies at Drexel University. While her broader research interests are related to Africana cultural aesthetics and aesthetic practices, issues of gender in Africa and the Diaspora, and global Black popular culture, her specific research interests lie within Black identities and the politics of embodiment, with particular attention given to hair and skin color politics.  

Dr. Blay is the recipient of a 2010 Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant through which she embarked upon her most recent multi-platform project, “(1)ne Drop: Shifting the Lens on Race.” Inclusive of a full-color portrait essay book (forthcoming), online exhibition, and traveling exhibition and lecture, (1)ne Drop explores the interconnected nuances of skin color politics and Black racial identity. In 2012, Dr. Blay served as a Consulting Producer for CNN Black in America 5 – “Who is Black in America?” – a television documentary inspired by the scope of the (1)ne Drop Project.
In addition to her production work for CNN, Dr. Blay is working as a producer on a transmedia film project focused on the global practice of skin bleaching (with director Terence Nance).

Celebration, Passion, Struggle, Persistence and Survival ….. are the words that come to mind when describing the life of Lois Fernandez, Founder  of ODUNDE, Inc.   Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Ms. Fernandez was an activist ahead of her time.  She was ostracized by many of her fellow workers at the Philadelphia Quartermasters when she adopted an afro hairstyle in 1962.  When she gave birth to her son as a single mother in 1967, she initiated a federal lawsuit and inadvertently  became the feminist leader of a successful seven-battle to eliminate the category of “illegitimate” from birth certificates in the State of Pennsylvania.

Her dedication to activism was expressed  in her professional life as well.  From 1970 to 1988 she worked for the City of Philadelphia in numerous roles within the Department of Human Services which allowed her to make an impact on her community.  She was a social worker responsible for placing  children in foster care, a gang worker at the height of Philadelphia’s problems with youth violence and a parent counselor.  In social service field she has had numerous consulting assignments with The School District  of Philadelphia and Antioch University.  She has served as an adjunct faculty member for Lincoln University’s Masters Program in Human Services.  In addition, Ms. Fernandez has also been invited  to lecture on her personal achievements and the accomplishments of ODUNDE by regional and national organizations, many of which have given her awards for her achievements as a cultural leader and social activist.

Ms. Fernandez has made a lifelong commitment to continuing her education.  After receiving an Associate of Applied Science Degree from Community College of Philadelphia, she went on to earn a Masters in Urban Education from Antioch University. Her quest for knowledge did not stop there, she also completed a Parent Education Certification at St. Louis University, AIDS Training Certification at the City of Philadelphia Coordinating Office on Action AIDS and an Arts Management Certification at the University of Massachusetts.

The dream for ODUNDE grew out of a 1972 trip to Africa.  On that trip Ms. Fernandez had the opportunity  to participate in a pilgrimage to the river to honor the  goddess Osun, Yoruba deity of beauty, fertility, and prosperity.  It was during the trip she developed the determination to  bring this tradition to Philadelphia and in 1975 she organized the first festival to honor the goddess Osun, which was renamed the ODUNDE Festival in 1976, the Yoruba word meaning Happy New Year.  Over the last 38 years the annual ODUNDE Festival has grown into one of nation’s largest celebration of African-American culture with up to 500,000 people attending annually.  The ODUNDE Festival has a tremendous impact on the City of Philadelphia’s economy, tourism industry and cultural scene.
In December 2011,  another one of her dreams came true  with the completion of OSUN Village.  A state-of-the-art 16 unit – one bedroom apartment building, designed exclusively for low to moderate income seniors in the heart of South Philadelphia.

Helen Gym  is a parent and community activist whose work across different organizations has supported the right to a quality public education for all children in the city. She is a co-founder of Parents United for Public Education, a citywide parent group seeking greater investments in schools and classrooms. She is also on the board of Asian Americans United, where she helped anchor a successful civil rights campaign at a local high school focused on the responsibility of adults to create educational environments free from harassment. She is a co-founder of Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School which supports community based folk arts programming and serves many immigrant families in the city. Helen is a frequent writer and contributor in local media circles. She is the former editor and a regular contributor for the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent citywide education newspaper; and national board member of Rethinking Schools, a social justice teaching journal.


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