Social Justice Speaker Series


Unique Speakers Series to Open Dialogue About Social Justice

Free to Belong.

Dayton Metro Library is pleased to continue the Social Justice Speaker Series, which aims to understand and demonstrate the effects of social justice in society.

This series is comprised of unique, award-winning and professional speakers. Patrons will have the opportunity to listen to them discuss some of the most critical social justice issues of today, as they provide insights from their professional fields and personal journeys.

Registration is not required, but each program is designed for a specific age group, click the events to see these age groups, and more details.


SJSS: An Evening with the 2022 National Teacher of the Year

Apr 25th | 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Mr. Russell (2022 National Teacher of the Year) will provide a dynamic keynote detailing the current state of education followed by a Q&A.

A 25-year veteran of the classroom, Kurt Russell was first inspired to become a teacher in middle school, when he encountered his first Black male teacher. Now as 2022 National Teacher of the Year, he plans to advocate for classrooms to better reflect the students within them — from a curriculum that reflects their backgrounds and identities to a more diverse teaching profession.

Kurt teaches history at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio, where he was born and raised; his classes include African American history, which he has taught since the late 1990s, and Race, Gender and Oppression, a class he developed. He also serves as faculty advisor for the student-led Black Student Union, whose work has led to positive impacts for students across racial groups.

In addition to his classroom and extracurricular duties, Kurt is the head coach for the school’s varsity basketball team. He sees basketball as an extension of the classroom, and a place where young people can learn about working together and how to handle both adversity and success.

Kurt holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and a minor in Black studies from the College of Wooster and a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University. He continues to take courses in child development at Oakland City University.

He was previously recognized as teacher of the year by the Oberlin Heritage Center and the Oberlin chapter of the NAACP, and as Lorain County Basketball Association Coach of the Year and the Northeast Ohio Coach of the Year.

Kurt lives with his wife, Donna, in Oberlin. They are the parents of two adult sons, Kurt Junior (KJ) and Korey. Kurt enjoys reading non-fiction and traveling.

Partners for this event include Learn to Earn, Omega CDC, Preschool Promise, Montgomery County Educational Service Center, DREAM — Diversity Recruitment Educators Association for the Miami Valley, and the University of Dayton.

SJSS: Building AAPI Feminist Leadership

May 6th | 1:00pm - 2:00pm
This community panel will feature the following OPAWL members: Tessa Xuan, Darsheel Kaur, SA, and Prof. CHarfauros McDaniel.

Join us for a powerful panel of members from Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership (OPAWL). OPAWL is a grassroots member-led community organization dedicated to social justice. We are building a strong intersectional feminist community with the purpose of building power and progressive leadership in Ohio. Founded in Central Ohio in 2016 under the original name “Ohio Progressive Asian Women’s Leadership”, they are now called OPAWL – Building AAPI Feminist Leadership. OPAWL now has three regional hubs in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland as well as an online community of members across the state and beyond.

OPAWL serves as one of the few organizations where progressive AAPI women and nonbinary people can feel seen and heard. We create intentional spaces for sharing our stories through 1:1 relationship building, intimate gatherings, and public events. OPAWL is building collective power for Ohio AAPIs to influence the culture and dominant institutions of our state, grow and transform ourselves, and take visible leadership in Ohio’s progressive social movements in solidarity with other communities of color and marginalized groups.

SJSS: Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women

May 18th | 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Partners for this event include Sinclair Community College — Office of Diversity and the University of Dayton.

Join us for a powerful conversation with Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck that honors the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S), which is May 5th.

Dr. Crystal Cavalier-Keck the co-founder of Seven Directions of Service with her husband. She is a citizen of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Burlington, NC. She is a board member of the Haw River Assembly, the Women's Resource Center in Alamance County, and Benevolence Farm. Crystal was a Fall Cohort of the Sierra Club's Gender Equity and Environment Program and Women's Earth Alliance (WEA) Accelerator for Grassroots Women Environmental Leaders in 2020. Crystal completed her Doctorate in Organization Leadership at the University of Dayton in August 2022, and her dissertation focused on the Social Justice issue of Missing Murdered Indigenous Women in Gas/Oil Pipelines in frontline communities.

Her current projects focus on missing, murdered indigenous women, burden, exposure, risk, and health disparities among American Indians in environmental justice communities. Secondly, Crystal is working on inequities in our food system, which continue to disproportionately burden communities of color. Dismantling these inequities is imperative to achieve a sustainable food system and ultimately food justice.

Please note: this event will take place The Oehlers Great Reading Room (Third Floor by Fireplace)

SJSS: To Be Brown and Gay in the USA

May 20th | 2:00pm - 4:00pm
A native Los Angeleno, Dr. Ocampo is a graduate of Stanford University (BA ’03, MA ’04) & the University of California (MA ’06, PhD ’11).

Join us for an afternoon with Dr. Anthony Ocampo. Dr. Ocampo is a scholar and writer who focuses on issues of immigration, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality. He is the author of The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race, recently featured on NPR Morning Edition. His book examines the racial lives of Filipino Americans, who trace their roots to a society in Asia, but also share many cultural characteristics with Latinos. The Latinos of Asia raises the puzzle: Are Filipinos in the United States “becoming” Asian American or Latino? Ocampo draws on the voices of Filipino Americans to demonstrate how demographic shifts in the U.S. are changing the way immigrants and children understand race. His book also provides a foreshadowing of what race relations in America will look like as our society moves further away from the black-white racial paradigm.

Dr. Ocampo's most recent book, To Be Brown and Gay in L.A. (September 2022), chronicles the way gay men of color from immigrant families negotiate race, gender, and sexuality within their families, neighborhoods, schools, and mainstream LGBT spaces. This book builds on his scholarly research on ethnic and sexual minorities, which has been published in some of the leading journals in the field, such as Ethnic and Racial Studies; Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies; Race, Ethnicity, and Education; Latino Studies; and Journal of Asian American Studies.

Dr. Ocampo has also co-edited two major collections in race and ethnic studies: Contemporary Asian America: A Multidisciplinary Reader and Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. Beyond his scholarly writings, he has also been featured as a commentator for local and national news outlets, including CNN, 60 Minutes, and The San Francisco Chronicle. Dr. Ocampo also has a regular segment “All Things Fil-Am with Dr. O” on Kababayan Today, a daily talk show for and about Filipino Americans.

Dr. Ocampo is a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Public Policy at UC Riverside and Assistant Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona. He has served as a dedicated mentor to first-generation students of color through the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, and his former advisees have earned admission to prestigious graduate programs at Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, and the University of California. At Cal Poly Pomona, he has been a recipient of the Provost Teacher-Scholar Award and an Outstanding Teaching Award.

SJSS: An Afternoon with Rebekah Weatherspoon

Jun 17th | 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Meet author Rebekah Weatherspoon

Join us for an evening with award-wining author, Rebekah Weatherspoon!

After years of meddling in her friends’ love lives, multi award wining author Rebekah Weatherspoon turned to writing romance to get her fix. Raised in Southern New Hampshire, Rebekah Weatherspoon now lives in Southern California where she will remain forever because she hates moving.

With over twenty titles, opens a new window under her belt Rebekah has covered sub-genres from suspenseful paranormal romance to steamy BDSM romantic comedies, and now young adult romance. Look for If the Boot Fits, the second book in her Cowboys of California trilogy, out now from Kensington Books. You can find Rebekah and her books on twitter at @rdotspoon, opens a new window and her website, opens a new window.

SJSS: From Active Duty to Activist - Melissa Rodriguez

Sep 22nd | 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Join us for a dynamic conversation with Melissa Rodriguez who will share about her experience as a veteran and activist. Melissa was…

Join us for a dynamic conversation with Melissa Rodriguez who will share about her experience as a veteran and activist. Melissa was born in Azusa, California. She is of Mexican and Indigenous descent. Her maternal grandparents immigrated from Mexico and her paternal descend from the Southwest region. Her great-grandfather and grandfather were migrant farmworkers in Southern California. She retired from the Air Force in Aug 2013 at Wright-Patterson AFB after serving 24 years on active duty. Melissa is active in community and political activism. Her desire to serve has continued beyond her time on active duty. This includes issues such as Veteran Affairs, LGBTQ, Healthcare, Immigration and Women’s rights. Melissa's passion for activism comes partly from her life experience and journey navigating the intersectionality of her identity. This drives her to advocate for communities deeply impacted by inequality. She now leads a grassroots group DIFA that advocates and educates on social justice issues and voting.

In this discussion, Melissa will reflect her years of service as an active duty member of the Air Force and as a local activist. Melissa will share lessons learned from building Dayton Indivisible for All, an organization that draws attention to social justice issues and voting. She will discuss the role that her Mexican and Indigenous heritage plays in her life, as well as the challenges of being a gay, Hispanic, woman in the military.

This program is in conjunction with Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month

SJSS: Talking to Ghosts (Hip Hop, Grief, & Mental Health)

Sep 9th | 1:00pm - 2:15pm
This event made possible with the sponsorship of the Friends of the Dayton Metro Library & is co-sponsored by the Gem City Selfie Museum.

Join us for an afternoon performance lecture with Dr. A.D. Carson who is an award-winning performance artist and educator from Decatur, Illinois. His work focuses on race, literature, history, rhetorics & performance. He received a Ph.D. in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design at Clemson University. His album, i used to love to dream, the first-ever rap album peer-reviewed for publication with an academic press, was released with University of Michigan Press in 2020. This work builds on concepts from his doctoral dissertation, Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes & Revolutions, a rap album that is the primary feature of a digital archive at Owning My Masters was internationally heralded and was also recognized by Clemson’s Graduate Student Government as the 2017 Outstanding Dissertation.

i used to love to dream was a winner of the 2021 Research Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities from the University of Virginia. It was also a Category Winner (Best eProduct) of a Prose Award from the Association of American Publishers in 2021. Dr. Carson’s work with students, staff, faculty and community members was recognized with a 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Excellence in Service at Clemson University for the “See the Stripes” campaign, which takes its name from the poem featured on his dissertation album, and raised awareness of historic, entrenched racism at the university. He is also the author of a novel, COLD, which hybridizes poetry, rap lyrics, and prose. Dr. Carson’s work has been featured by Complex, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Forbes, The Guardian, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, NPR’s All Things Considered, OkayPlayer, Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public-Radio Program, Time, USA Today, and XXL among others. His most recent album, iv: talking to ghosts, and other projects are available to stream/download free from, opens a new window.

Dr. Carson is currently assistant professor of Hip-Hop & the Global South at the University of Virginia.

This event is part of our ongoing programming to amplify the Hip Hop 50 celebration.

SJSS: Queer Voices in Hip Hop

Oct 5th | 6:00pm - 8:00pm
In conjunction with DML's celebration to honor Hip Hop's 50th Anniversary and is co-sponsored by the University of Dayton's Music Dept.

Join us for a dynamic evening with Dr. Lauron Kehrer to explore Queer voices in Hop Hop. Dr. Kehrer is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology and Musicology in the School of Music at Western Michigan University where they teach courses in popular music, global music cultures, and western art music. Their research focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality in American popular music, especially hip hop. Dr. Kehrer has published articles on queer identity and women’s music, white rapper Macklemore’s LGBTQ activism, and queer resonances in the work of Beyoncé in the journals American Music, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and Popular Music and Society, respectively. The latter received honorable mention for the 2020 Marcia Herndon Prize for exceptional ethnomusicological work in gender and sexuality from the Society for Ethnomusicology. Their book, Queer Voices in Hip Hop: Cultures, Communities, and Contemporary Performance (University of Michigan Press, 2022) examines the work of Black queer and trans artists in hip hop.

SJSS: Workers Fight Back - Christian Smalls

Oct 19th | 6:00pm - 7:30pm
This program is co-sponsored by IUE-CWA and Co-Op Dayton

Join us for a dynamic conversation with Christian Smalls, the founder and president of the Amazon Labor Union, an independent, democratic, worker-led labor union at Amazon in Staten Island. He is also the founder of The Congress of Essential Workers (TCOEW), a nationwide collective of essential workers and allies fighting for better working conditions, better wages, and a better world.

Smalls was formerly an Amazon warehouse supervisor, helping open three major warehouses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut during his five years with the company, but he was fired in 2020 after organizing a protest against the company’s unsafe pandemic conditions. Both his firing and the unsafe conditions have become the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Smalls has been profiled by media outlets worldwide, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, CBC Radio, Salon, and Jacobin. He lives in Hackensack, New Jersey.

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