Our Speakers

James Solomon

Ward E Councilman. Serving as an aide to the Mayor of Boston.

James utilized technology to solve persistent problems like potholes and snow removal. He also designed an affordable housing policy for the state of Massachusetts and the foundation for a performance management system for Newark, NJ. James earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and his BA from Pomona College. He is currently an adjunct professor at three Jersey City universities: St. Peters University, New Jersey City University & Hudson County Community College.

James met the love of life, Gabrielle Ramos-Solomon, at graduate school, bonding over a shared commitment to make the world a better place. They married in August 2015. Two months later James was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Today, James is blessed to be completely healthy. Gaby and James welcomed their beautiful daughter Camila Nicole Solomon to the world on November 4th, 2017.

James believes in fighting for progressive values. From knocking on doors on behalf of Barack Obama in rural Missouri to operating a free legal clinic in Chicago to leading the efforts to elect Hillary Clinton in Jersey City, James believes in backing up his values with hard work.

Vin Gopal

Senate Majority Conference Leader, Chairman of the Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Vice-Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Vin Gopal is a lifelong resident of Monmouth County. During his first term in the State Senate, Vin has worked tirelessly across party-lines to champion the causes of working families in Monmouth County, small-business owners, students and seniors. He has pushed for successful funding for Monmouth County schools, women’s healthcare facilities, mental health support along with many other key areas of funding support.

Erin Hill

Chair, Greener JC. Energy and Sustainability Analyst at NJ TRANSIT

Erin currently works at NJ TRANSIT in the Energy and Sustainability group. She is passionate about renewable energy and plastic reduction. In her spare time you will find her eating at one of Jersey City’s local spots!

Bushra Amiwala

Media icon, student, dynamic speaker, and the youngest Muslim elected official in the United States.

At the age of 19, she announced her candidacy for the Cook County Board of Commissioners, with the goal to serve  as a voice for her underrepresented generation and other marginalized communities. Her campaign has been covered nationally by outlets such as the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times,Teen Vogue, and landing her on the cover of TIME magazine. Bushra recently went down in the Chicago History Museum as the Youngest Muslim Elected in the United States.

Her leadership has extended far beyond her campaign as she’s inspired countless others to increase their civic participation. As a result, she’s been named Glamour magazine’s College Woman of the Year, Seventeen magazine’s Voice of the Year, and internationally as CosmoGirl’s Change Maker of the Year. Bushra was awarded the Public Peace Ambassador award sponsored by the United Nations, and has been named is one of the 18 people to remember from 2018.

In addition to these wards, Bushra is the subject of an original documentary, the female candidate on RUN the Series, and she has made hundreds of TV and radio appearances, including outlets such as Fox, NPR, ABC, and PBS.  

Bushra has spoken at countless colleges and universities, organizations and international companies, with live audiences ranging from 25 to 15,000 people. She is currently a senior at DePaul University and serves on the Board of Directors of the Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO), GenerationVote, Women Empowering Women in Illinois Legislation (WeWill) and SheVotesIL. She holds her elected seat on the Skokie Board of Education, as its youngest member.

Michael Skolnik

Founding partner of The Soze Agency, a creative agency that works with companies, non-profits organizations, and movements.

Michael’s profile in the NY Times identified him as “the man you go to if you want to leverage the power of celebrity and the reach of digital media to soften the ground for social change.”  

Earlier in his career, Michael served as President of Global Grind, a millennial media company. Prior to that, he spent over a decade as a film director and producer.
Michael serves on the Board of Directors for Rock The Vote, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, The Gathering For Justice and The Young Partners Board of The Public Theater.
Michael Skolnik is the proud father to Mateo Ali.

Thomas Dowling

Co-founder and CEO of TaxProper, a start-up that automates property tax appeals. 

TaxProper has raised more than $2 million in venture capital and is backed by leading firms such as YCombinator, Khosla Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and Clocktower Ventures.

Tom is also an active advisor to state and municipal elected officials in Illinois on municipal finance issues and early stage technology. He was appointed by Governor JB Pritzker to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the fourth larges state tuition aid program in the countny that disupurses more than $450 million to low income students, where he currently serves as Commissioner. He also serves as the Co-Chair of Co-Chair of P33 Young Leaders Council. He previously served on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition team where he advised the Mayor on municipal finance, gaming, and state pension policy.

Tom received a Master’s in Comparative Social Policy from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. He is also a Truman Scholar, Lincoln Academy Laureate (the State of Illinois highest honour awarded by the Governor), and a Fulbright participant. He graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Illinois, where he studied political science and history. 

Pranjal Jain

18-year-old Indian-American organizer and digital strategist.

She started organizing locally at the age of 12 around anti-bullying prevention, and has since expanded her efforts to advocate for representation of womxn in media, education, and leadership. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Global Girlhood, the Associate Director of GenZ Girl Gang, and writes for the Politics team of Brown Girl Mag. Pranjal is a sophomore at Cornell University and continues to explore her hyphenated identities to fuel her work in social justice.

James Wellemeyer

Freelance journalist reporting on tech and social media trends.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed

Physician, epidemiologist, progressive activist, educator, author, speaker, and podcast host.

He is the Chair of Southpaw Michigan and a Political Contributor at CNN. He is the author of Healing Politics, calling for a politics of empathy to cure our epidemic of insecurity, and the forthcoming Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide with Dr. Micah Johnson. He is the host of “America Dissected,” a podcast by Crooked Media, which goes beyond the headlines to explore what really matters for our health. He is a Scholar-in-Residence at Wayne State University and American University teaching at the interaction of public health, public policy, and politics.   

John Heinis

Proud alumnus of Rutgers University who has been covering Hudson County for nearly a decade now.

In June 2014, he founded Hudson County View, one of the top local news sites for coverage of local government, politics, and elections. He currently resides in the Jersey City Heights.

Abrar Omeish

School Board Member-At-Large in Fairfax County, representing 1.2 million constituents and overseeing a three billion dollar budget right outside of Washington, DC.

She is the first Libyan every elected in US history and the first Muslim and youngest ever elected in her role. After serving in several appointed capacities locally and working as a senior organizer at the DNC, Abrar served as a legal fellow at a human rights and immigration law firm in Northern Virginia and has been a spokeswoman for the #NoMuslimBanEver campaign.
She holds a double bachelors with honors from Yale University and is a current dual MPP/JD student and Blume fellow at the Georgetown Law Center.

Ziad Ahmed

21-year-old senior at Yale University. He is an American-Muslim-Bangladeshi student, entrepreneur, and speaker.

He is the CEO/Co-Founder of JUV Consulting (www.juvconsulting.com), a purpose-driven Generation Z consultancy that works with clients to help them reach young people. The company has worked with over 20 Fortune 500 companies, has been profiled by the New York Times, and has established full-time offices. As a result of JUV, Ziad was named to the 2019 Forbes #30Under30 list at 19-years-old. Ziad started the company in 2016 (while in high school), and JUV has kept growing since as people continue to wake up to the power of young people. Ziad also founded a non-profit, redefy (www.redefy.org), committed to furthering equality in 2013. Redefy has reached hundreds of thousands of young people digitally, has established chapters in 10+ countries around the world, and has been honored as a part of the Facebook Community Leadership Program. Through Redefy, Ziad has been recognized as a 2017 Global Teen Leader, a High School Trailblazer by MTV, and a Top 15 Young Prodigy Changing the World by Business Insider. Ziad has also done significant work in progressive politics — having worked for the US Department of State, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Campaign, Martin O’Malley’s 2016 Campaign, and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman. He has also been a leader/advisor for Women’s March Youth Empower, Yara Shahidi’s EighteenX18, and various other campaigns/movements that focus on igniting young people to get more civically engaged.

Overwhelmingly though, Ziad is just your average young person grappling with identity, struggling to balance it all, pursuing his passions, and spending way too much time on Instagram (@ziadahmed).

Nevin J. Perkin

Founder of Black Men United and studies English (creative writing) @njcuniversity.

He began organizing about 4 years ago when he lost his brother to senseless gun violence. For him, that was when he began to scrutinize the system and use his voice to impact change. He found strength and understanding in the connections of the historical fight for Black Liberation by reading the work of people like Malcolm X and Angela Davis.
Black Men United is a New Jersey-based mutual aid group that focuses on Political Education, Activism, Leadership, and Community.

Sara Mora

Immigrant rights organizer and digital strategist.

She has dedicated her youth to organizing in her community. A DACA recipient herself, with undocumented family, she is a national voice on the importance of decentralizing narrative and re-directing narrative to supporting local community that has long fought for immigrants rights. She works directly to support and create campaigns led by organizers on the message that migration is a global crisis through her initiative @ThePopulationMIC. Learn more about her work @MissSaraMora on social media.

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