IRW Conferences

Poverty and Sexuality Symposium Participant Bios


Spring Symposium Poverty Sexuality FINAL

Cynthia Blair is Associate Professor in the Departments of African American Studies and History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Cynthia’s research explores the intersection of race and sexuality in American society, American film and popular culture, as well as the cultures and politics of West Indian immigration to the United States. Her first book, I’ve Got to Make My Livin’: Black Women’s Sex Work in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago, explores African American women’s sex work in Chicago, expanding our view not only of prostitution, but also of black women’s labor, the Great Migration, the emergence of modern sexuality, and the criminalization of Black women in the early twentieth century city. The book received the 2010 Lora Romero Book Prize from the American Studies Association. She is currently working on two research projects. The first, “Looking for Moms Mabley: The Life and Times of a Comic Persona,” is a book project that examines the life and career of the African American comedian Jackie “Moms” Mabley. The second, “‘In a Time Like This’: Jamaican Migrants to the United States, 1940-1965,” is a photographic and oral history project that explores the migration of men and women from Jamaica to the Midwest, from the beginning of the Second World War to the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act.

Writer, educator and editor Ricardo A. Bracho has worked in theater for the past 25 years, taught in academic and community settings, done casting/art direction/script development/editorial consultation on feminist/queer/black/Latino indie film and video, and been a longtime public health worker and lifelong leftist. He is at work on Puto: The Selected Plays of Ricardo A. Bracho and Art/Land/War: The California Mission System and its Artistic Opposition. He has been artist-scholar in residence at the Center for Chicano Studies at UC Santa Barbara and visiting faculty at DePaul University’s Theater School. His plays have been staged, read, workshopped, and produced nationwide including at Pregones Theater, INTAR, Vassar, UC Santa Cruz, Brown University, UC Berkeley, Intersection for the Arts/Campo Santo, Brava, Center Theater Group/Kirk Douglas Theater, Company of Angels and the Tribeca Film Festival, among many others.

Pooja Gehi has worked for immigrant and racial justice, trans and queer liberation, transformative justice, youth leadership, and cross-movement coalition building throughout her life. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild. For over eight years, she worked as a Staff Attorney and Director of Immigrant Justice at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). There she provided direct legal services to hundreds of low-income transgender and gender nonconforming clients, and achieved major victories like access to transition-related healthcare for New York State Medicaid recipients through litigation and coalition work.  Pooja's scholarly work focuses on social movements, the devolution of criminal and immigration systems, and the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality. Her recent work has appeared in the Berkeley Asian American Law Journal and Harvard Journal of Law and Gender.

Alyosha Goldstein is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of Poverty in Common: The Politics of Community Action during the American Century (Duke University Press, 2012), the co-editor (with Alex Lubin) of “Settler Colonialism,” a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly (2008), and the editor of Formations of United States Colonialism (Duke University Press, 2014). Goldstein serves on the editorial boards of the journals Critical Ethnic Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies. His current book project is a study of the entanglements of U.S. colonialism, racial capitalism, and economies of dispossession and conciliation in the historical present.

Christina B. Hanhardt is Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of the book Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence (2013), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Book in LGBT Studies in 2014. She is working on a new project currently titled "Left Out" which looks at how LGBT/queer activists have organized around highly stigmatized and criminalized communities. Of particular interest is the history of the activist uptake of the public health strategy known as harm reduction.

Modesto “Flako” Jiminez is a Dominican-born actor, producer, writer, and arts educator raised in Brooklyn, New York. Founder of the Brooklyn Gypsies Collective, Modesto is an associated member of the Wooster Group in New York City and vice president of the Brooklyn Poets board of directors. His recent focus has been on his writing, and on addressing the social and political changes affecting the Latin American communities in his neighborhood. He has appeared on broadcast and online radio to discuss politics throughout the Spanish-speaking world. An H.O.L.A award winner, he was nominated for his role as lead actor in a play by The A.C.E Organization of New York. He has also appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Charlie Rose, and TEDxBushwick, and been featured in American Theatre Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BK Live, NY1, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicles, TDF Stages, and The Village Voice. In 2012 he published a poetry collection addressing gentrification called Oye, Para Mi Querido Brooklyn (Listen, For My Dear Brooklyn).

Premilla Nadasen is Associate Professor of History at Barnard College and a scholar-activist who writes and speaks on issues of race, gender, social policy, and labor history.    She is most interested in visions of social change, and the ways in which poor and working-class people, especially women of color, have fought for social justice.  She has published extensively on the multiple meanings of feminism, alternative labor movements, and grassroots community organizing.  She is the author of the award-winning Welfare Warriors, which documents the welfare rights movement’s claim to a basic minimum income in the 1960s.  Her most recent book is Household Workers Unite (Beacon 2015), a history of domestic worker activism in the post-war period.

Rosemary Ndubuizu is a sixth year Ph.D. candidate in the Women and Gender Studies Department at Rutgers University. Her research interests are black feminism, multi-family affordable housing policy, political economy, social movements, and the non-profit industrial complex. Her dissertation examines how low-income black women are used to justify the denial of housing as a human right. More specifically, she demonstrates how Congress, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials, and D.C. officials used negative narratives about low-income black women to push for public and “Section 8” assisted housing reforms. These narratives bolstered HUD and D.C.’s policy shift towards privatization, displacement, and character modification. Using ethnography, she traces how these narratives impact D.C.’s housing organizing campaigns and non-profits’ development work.

Kevin Schumacher is the Regional Program Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at OutRight Action International (formerly known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission or IGLHRC). From 2006 to 2009, Kevin was the organization’s Communications' Coordinator, monitoring LGBT rights violations in Iran and Iraq. He previously worked as the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Coordinator for Iran and Iraq. Kevin is bilingual in Persian (Farsi) and English, and has an advanced comprehension of Standard Arabic. He has an M.A. in International Relations from the National University, Teheran, Iran and an M.A in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame.

Elena Shih is an Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies at Brown University. Shih's current book project, "The Price of Freedom: Moral and Political Economies of Global Human Trafficking Rescue," is a global ethnography of the transnational social movement to combat human trafficking in China, Thailand, and the United States. Shih teaches courses on human trafficking, labor migration and sex work, East and Southeast Asian borderlands, critical humanitarianism studies, and ethnographic methods. From 2015-2018, she is a Faculty Fellow at Brown's Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, where she leads an interdisciplinary human trafficking research cluster. Shih earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA, and a B.A. in Asian Studies and Women's Studies from Pomona College.

Urvashi Vaid is an attorney and organizer whose work in academic, philanthropic, advocacy, legal and grassroots organizations spans lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and social justice movements. She is President of The Vaid Group LLC, a strategy-consulting firm that advises socially engaged innovators on global and domestic projects to advance equity, justice and inclusion.

From 2010-2015, Vaid was Director of the Engaging Tradition Project at Columbia Law School’s Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, and a Visiting Scholar at City University of New York Graduate Center, where she researched and organized on racial, economic and gender justice, LGBT/HIV criminal justice policy, defeating right wing populism, feminism, nonprofit innovation, and prisoner’s rights.

From 2005-2010, she was Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation, and for five years prior to that (2001-2005), she worked at the Ford Foundation’s Peace & Social Justice Program as Deputy Director of its Governance and Civil Society Unit. Vaid served on the Board of the Gill Foundation from 2004-2014, and was on the founding board of the Gill Action Fund.

For over a decade, Vaid worked at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (now the LGBTQ Task Force), serving as communications director (1986-1989), executive director (1989-1993) and Policy Institute director (1997-2001). She refocused the group’s work on the state and local level, co-founded the Creating Change Conference, initiated work on racial and economic justice, and increased coalition partnerships with progressive civil rights organizations. From 1983-1986 she was staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) where she initiated its work on HIV/AIDS in prisons.  

Vaid is the author of two books analyzing LGBT politics, and co-editor of a book on LGBT public policy. In her 1995 book, Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation (Anchor/Doubleday, 1995), Vaid argued that the LGBT movement had to connect its work more closely with movements for economic, racial and gender justice. Published in 2012, Irresistible Revolution: Confronting Race, Class and The Assumptions of LGBT Politics (Magnus Books, 2012) criticized the LGBT movement’s lack of focus on racism and economic issues, and proposed concrete changes to movement strategy. The anthology Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), was co-edited with the historians John D’Emilio and William Turner.

Vaid is a national Board member of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and founding Board member of LPAC, the first lesbian political action committee. She is a graduate of Vassar College and Northeastern University School of Law.