Carol Bebelle
(a.k.a. Akua Wambui)

Co-founder and Executive Director of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center

Mitch Landrieu
Mayor, City of New Orleans (2010 – 2018)

Rick Lowe
Social Practice Artist and Community Organizer

Jose Antonio Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, Filmmaker, Human Rights Activist

Kimberly Drew
Writer, Curator, and Activist

SPEAKER BIOS

Carol Bebelle (a.k.a. Akua Wambui) is a native New Orleanian who was born and raised in the 7th ward. She spent over 20 years in the public sector as an administrator and planner of education, social, cultural, and health programs. In 1998, Bebelle and Douglas Redd founded Ashé Cultural Arts Center, a pivotal force for the revitalization and transformation of Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard into an African and Caribbean cultural corridor. She prizes most the role she plays being a cultural and racial healer and a contribution to the overall development and evolution of her community, nation, and the world. Her ultimate aspiration and intention is to play part in evolving a culture in America that can support and foster equity.

Mitch Landrieu is the former mayor of New Orleans and served two terms. Landrieu inherited a city stalled by post-Katrina issues, on the brink of bankruptcy, with a high murder rate and a police department under federal investigation. Landrieu fast-tracked several projects and secured billions in federal funding for schools, hospitals, parks and recreation and critical infrastructure. During his second term, he gained national prominence for advocating and overseeing the removal of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans, a historical and powerful decision that earned him the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Landrieu ranked #18 on the 2017 Politico 50 list of ideas blowing up American politics and the people behind them. In a 2016 mayors survey compiled by Politico, his peers voted him “America’s top turnaround mayor” for leading efforts on public health, infrastructure and gun violence. He was also named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing in 2015.

Rick Lowe is a Houston-based artist who has exhibited and worked with communities nationally and internationally. His work has appeared in the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; Kwangju Biennale, Kwangju, Korea; the Venice Architecture Biennale; and more. He is best known for his Project Row Houses community-based art project that he started in Houston in 1993. He has served as a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, a Mel King Fellow at MIT, and a Stanford University Haas Center Distinguished Visitor. President Barack Obama appointed Rick to the National Council on the Arts in 2013 and in 2014 he was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Kimberly Drew is a writer, curator, and activist. Drew received her B.A. from Smith College in Art History and African-American Studies, with a concentration in Museum Studies. She first experienced the art world as an intern at The Studio Museum in Harlem, which inspired her to start the Tumblr blog Black Contemporary Art and sparked her interest in social media. Since then, Drew has worked for Hyperallergic, Lehmann Maupin, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, W, Teen Vogue, and Lenny Letter. She recently left her role as the Social Media Manager at The Met to pursue writing full-time. You can follow her at @museummammy on Instagram and Twitter.

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and a leading voice for the human rights of immigrants. He is the founder of Define American, the nation’s leading non-profit media and culture organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. In 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life as an undocumented immigrant. In 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically-changing America. His memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published in 2018.