Constructing Solidarities for a Humane Urbanism

Speaker Biographies

The following individuals appear in videos in this publication as speakers in sessions at the Constructing Solidarities for a Humane Urbanism symposium.

Kashiefa Achmat

Kashiefa Achmat worked in the retail sector, Pick n Pay, for 29 years and was a member of the trade union SACCAWU which is an affiliate of COSATU. She served as a shop steward for 23 years and a Gender coordinator in SACCAWU structures. She is an activist in the housing assembly and assists workers in her community, with work issues related to the workplace. She belongs to a women’s organisation, the Rita Edwards Collective, which involves regular workshops with women in the community and solidarity efforts with women on farms.

Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU) Chicago, IL.

ATU is an all-volunteer anti-capitalist organization committed to organizing for housing justice from below and to the left. As an independent collective based in Chicago, we strategize together to defend and enforce our right to dignified housing. We believe that housing is a human right not a commodity! We fight for an end to all of evictions, and for community control of housing through the building of popular power.


BYP100 is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a collective focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy and education using a Black queer feminist lens.

Manisha Desai

Manisha Desai (“Solidarities Across Borders: Reflections from Transnational Feminisms”) is Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Desai’s work and teaching focuses on gender and globalization, transnational feminism, human rights, contemporary Indian society, social movements and South Asian American issues. She recently completed her book Subaltern Movements in India: Gendered Geographies of Struggle.

Mark Doussard

Marc Doussard (“Crossing Boundaries, Building Power: Chicago Organizers Embrace Race, Ideology and Coalition”) is Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research examines urban economic development through changes to footloose and placebound industries. His book Degraded Work (University of Minnesota Press) documents the restructuring of local-serving industries and the paths to upward mobility opened and foreclosed by changing competitive practices. His subsequent work on these industries includes the co-authored study Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast Food Industry, and ongoing research on wage-theft laws, community-labor coalitions outside of large cities, and the national fast food organizing campaign.


FirstFollowers is a grassroots, non-profit reentry program based in Champaign. Founded in 2015, FirstFollowers provides direct services and support to individuals returning home from prison, their families and to all those with a felony conviction. FirstFollowers is based on a peer mentoring model-meaning that the people who lead and run the organization have been through the criminal justice system themselves. FirstFollowers’ peer mentors do advocacy work- educating the public and officials about the need to eliminate the obstacles for people with a criminal background in fields of employment, education and participation in community activities.


GEM is an alliance of community, parent, teacher, and student organizations and unions. We are committed to defend and transform public education through community organizing, policy innovation, transformative education, and a bottom-up, participatory, democratic process that engages parents, students, teachers, and school personnel.

Dunia Ghanimah

Dunia Ghanimah, is President of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and works with Palestinian activist organizations around the U.S. such as “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” and “National Students for Justice in Palestine.” I also co-led the #UIUCDivest campaign on campus last semester. Dunia is a sophomore at UIUC majoring in Neuroscience on a pre-med track.

Eric Goldfischer

Eric Goldfischer (“Resisting Absence, Abandonment, and Gentrification: Community Groups Fight Back”) is a PhD student in geography at the University of Minnesota. His work examines the relationship between homelessness, visuality, and urban ecology in New York City, and is inspired by traditions of popular education, feminist geography, and critical race theory. Prior to entering academia, he worked as a housing organizer in the Bronx.

Michael Goldman

Michael Goldman ("Financialization of The City") is Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Global Studies at the University of Minnesota and the V.K.R.V. Rao Chair Professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore, India. He specializes in transnational, political, and environmental sociology; global urbanization; and expert networks of finance, development, and urbanism. His latest book, based on a decade-long ethnography of the World Bank, is titled Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization.

Antonio Gutierrez

Antonio Gutierrez is a queer gender non-conforming undocumented immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico. They have lived in Chicago for more than 17 years after immigrating to the United States to reunite with family members. In 2012, after graduating from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Architecture, Antonio joined the immigrant rights movement as an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), an undocumented-led organization. Currently, Antonio is a co-founder of the Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU), a member of the steering committee of Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD), and the Director of Operations for Community Activism Law Alliance.

Housing Assembly, Cape Town, South Africa.

We are a social movement of people representing over 20 different communities in the Western Cape, South Africa. We formed in 2009 to address housing inequality across South Africa. Our slogan is “Decent Housing for All”. We work together with our communities who live in all the different types of bad housing here (informal settlements, backyards, temporary relocation areas, rental stock and badly built RDP housing). We also mobilize around housing and human rights related issues like access to water. Housing Assembly’s vision is: an equal society, free of oppression and exploitation, in which all shall live in decent housing!

Brian Kamanzi

Brian Kamanzi (“Popular Education as Pedagogy of Solidarity”) is a Cape Town-based writer and electrical engineering Masters student at the University of Cape Town. He describes himself as committed to the social upliftment of his fellow people. He is a Pan-Africanist eager to make contributions to the movement and form cross-cultural connections with others in the struggle.

Tarun Kumar

Tarun Kumar ("Embodied Storytelling and Alliance Work") is an actor, director, screen-writer, and playwright who has worked in the performing arts in India since 1982. Since 2007, he has been collaborating with Richa Nagar and Sangtin Farmers and Laborers Organization (SKMS) to create plays around politics of development. The work led in 2008 to the co-founding of Parakh Theatre for approaching sociopolitical analysis through embodied collective creativity. He has directed several plays with Parakh, including Do Haath (Minneapolis, Mumbai); Aag Lagi Hai Jangal Ma (Sitapur); Main Hindu Hoon (Lucknow); Hansa, Karo Puratan Baat (Mumbai); Inquilab Hamre Dum Se Aayi (Sitapur); and Telling Dis/Appearing Tales (Minneapolis).

Thembelani Maqwazima

Thembelani Maqwazima is a former provincial secretary of the AbM movement from QQ informal settlement. He joined housing assembly in 2011 and became secretary till it officially launched in 2013. He then led the informal settlement task team till 2016 and was thereafter elected chairperson of the housing assembly

Faranak Miraftab

Faranak Miraftab (“Radical Care as Transformative Solidarity”) is Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her work concerns access of marginalized groups to dignified livelihood and a humane urban development. She has studied urban movements for access to hosing and basic urban services in cities of Latin America, South Africa and North America. Her latest book Global Heartland: Displaced labor, Transnational Lives and Local Placemaking is an account of dispossessed and displaced labor force that is cared for through transnational families and connections contributing to development of the US Heartland.

Marlon Mitchell

Marlon Mitchell is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at the University of Illinois. He is the founder and Co-Director of FirstFollowers reentry program in Champaign. He is also a University YMCA Fred S. Bailey Fellow for 2017.

Richa Nagar

Richa Nagar ("Embodied Storytelling and Alliance Work") is Professor of the College in the College of Liberal Arts at University of Minnesota and Honorary Professor at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa. Her scholarship, creative work, and teaching in the areas of critical development studies, feminist epistemologies, and questions of translations and alliance work across North/South borders is in multiple genres, including theatre, in English and Hindi. She has co/authored or co/edited seven books, including Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism Through Seven Lives in India (2006), Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis (2010), and Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism (2014).

Nasrin Navab

Nasrin Navab (“Art Making as Pedagogy of Solidarity”) is a DC based artist, activist, architect and urban designer working on social and spatial justice projects. Her consciousness was shaped as a student activist and political prisoner through the fires of the 1979 Iranian revolution. Her work combines her design skills in painting, installation, architecture and planning to create a unique artistic language. She is a member Iranian Women Research Foundation and the transnational art collective “Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.” Her collaborative art exhibitions with Nahid Navab, her sister, in recent years have focused on freedom of knowledge and speech, war, immigration, and social identity.

Pathways to Free Education

Pathways to Free Education is a popular education collective which coordinates, produces and facilities popular education content and learning spaces on radical perspectives on education and its role in emancipatory politics. Our work is centered on the Western Cape and is not intended to speak to every context but instead to be simply a contribution and a community engagement resource for activists and ordinary people looking to engage with the Free Education debate with an internationalist perspective drawing inspiration to decolonisation movements of the past and present.

Prexy Nesbit

Prexy Nesbitt (“Study Abroad as Pedagogy of Solidarity”) is a leading member of a successful transnational solidarity movement in the US in the 1960s and 70s against South African apartheid state. He has written extensively, publishing a book and articles in more than twenty international journals. Nesbitt also served as a co-writer on the BBC production of The People’s Century program Skin Deep, about racism in the United States and South Africa. Over the course of his career, Nesbitt made more than seventy trips to Africa, including trips taken in secret to apartheid torn South Africa; his work has garnered him numerous awards throughout his career.

Rob Robinson

Rob Robinson ("Cultural Practices of Resistance and Solidarities: Reflections on Transnational Solidarities") is a cofounder and member of the Leadership Committee of the Take Back the Land Movement and a staff volunteer at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI). After losing his job in 2001, he spent two years homeless on the streets of Miami and ten months in a New York City shelter. He eventually overcame homelessness and has been in the housing movement based in New York City since 2007. In the fall of 2009, Rob was chosen to be the New York City chairperson for the first ever; official mission to the US; of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. He works with the European Squatters Collective, International Alliance of Inhabitants (IAI); Landless People’s Movement (MST) and the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and is the coordinator of the USA Canada Alliance of Inhabitants.

Ken Salo

Ken Salo (“Evictions of Racial Capitalism in Neo-Apartheid South Africa”) is Lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Salo teaches and conducts research in the areas of environmental justice, environmental racism, law and international environmental policy, global justice movements, international development and planning, and negotiation and conflict management.

Tony Roshan Samara

Tony Roshan Samara (“Race, Inequality, and the Resegregation of the Bay Area” and “Reflections on Right to the City Alliance”) is program Director of Land Use and Housing at Urban Habitat and steering committee member of the Right to the City Alliance. Right to the City emerged in 2007 as a unified response to gentrification and a call to halt the displacement of low-income people, people of color, marginalized LGBTQ communities, and youths of color from their historic urban neighborhoods. In the US they are a national alliance of racial, economic and environmental justice organizations, but they are part of a transnational network of organizations fighting for the right to the city—that is racial justice, urban justice, human rights, and democracy.

Johnaé Strong

Johnaé Strong is a mother, organizer, and healer from the Chicago by way of Cleveland, Ohio focusing on the intersections of racial, economic, education justice. She earned her B.A. in International Studies and Human Rights and an MAT in Urban Education from the University of Chicago. She went on to teach primary through high school age youth in CPS while serving in leadership with BYP100 in coalition with the Movement for Black Lives. Johnaé serves as the coordinator of Grassroots Education Movement, a national education justice organization joining community and labor based in Chicago.

Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (SJP UIUC)

The Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (SJP UIUC) is a group of student activists who advocate for the liberation and self-determination of the Palestinian people and all oppressed and marginalized peoples. We work with other radical activists at the UIUC campus and in the community.

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