Civil Rights Bios

The Semel Theatre Program is Subject to Change

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the 17th President and CEO of the NAACP. In 2008, Jealous, then a 38-year old Rhodes Scholar, was appointed the youngest president of the 104-year old organization. Since 2008, he has led successful movements to ban the death penalty, outlaw racial profiling, defend voting rights, secure marriage equality, and free victims of wrongful incarceration. Under Jealous, the NAACP developed an impressive online and mobile presence, and built one of the country’s largest nonpartisan voter registration networks. He  was named to the “40 under 40” list of leaders by both Forbes and Time magazines, and ranked first on the 2013 list of black leaders under 45 by He will retire from office in 2014.

Jealous was the lead off speaker for the commemoration on Feb. 3. His visit was sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs & GLBTQ Resources.

Suffolk Law Dean Camille Nelson is the first woman and first person of color to serve as Dean of Suffolk University Law School in 2010. Before joining Suffolk Law, she was Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, and a member of the faculty of Saint Louis University School of Law. At Saint Louis, she was named Law School Faculty Member of the Year in 2004 and received the University Faculty Excellence Award in 2006. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and widely recognized for her scholarly writings and lectures which focus on criminal law and procedure, health law, critical theory and comparative law. She speaks frequently on issues related to diversity, leadership and professional development. She was named to the “Power 100: The Most Influential Black Lawyers in the U.S.” and has been recognized by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as a Top Woman of Law.

Frank Rudy Cooper is a Professor of Law at Suffolk University. He has taught Constitutional Law, Constitutional Law/Criminal Procedure, Criminal Law, and Race, Gender Law. He is a graduate of Duke University Law School, where he edited the Journal of Gender, Law & Policy. Prior to teaching, he was a federal district court clerk and practiced law. His scholarly interests lie at the intersection of Criminal Procedure, Cultural Studies, and Critical Race Theory, especially as applied to policing and men of color. His most recent work is “Masculinities and the Law: A Multidimensional Approach” (with Ann C. McGinley) New York University Press, 2012.

Marlene Kim is Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She specializes in race and gender discrimination in employment.  She has published Race and Economic Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge 2007) as well as numerous scholarly articles on these topics.  She is the recipient of the first Rhonda Williams Prize and serves as Associate Editor of Feminist Economics and on the Editorial Boards of Industrial Relations, the Review of Radical Political Economy and Paneconomics. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and has a long history of working on social justice issues as an organizer, student advocate, union researcher, and scholar.

Charles Vert Willie is the Charles William Eliot Professor of Education, Emeritus. He is a sociologist whose areas of research include desegregation, higher education, public health, race relations, urban community problems, and family life. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the President’s Commission on Mental Health and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Social Science Research Council. He has served as a consultant, expert witness, and court-appointed master in school desegregation cases in Boston, Hartford, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Little Rock, among other major cities.

Professor Willie will participate in a separate event in the spring.


Professor Lyrical” is an artist and educator known for using the positive aspects of Hip Hop culture to empower citizens to self-advocate for socioeconomic change. Lyrical cites his college education at UMass Lowell, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Business and a Master’s of Science in Mathematics, as crucial to his success as an educator and musician. In addition to being a highly acclaimed lyricist and rap music recording artist, he is also a full-time Lecturer of Mathematics within Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies in Boston, Massachusetts. Chuck D of Public Enemy recently publicly endorsed his “wonderful” book and album (Put Em All To Shame).

Jimmy Tingle is one of the top social and political humorists in America. He has worked as a stand up comic, producer, writer, actor, filmmaker and commentator. His first documentary film “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream” aired on over 60 PBS affiliates in 2011/12. He was a humorist and commentator on 60 Minutes II, MSNBC, The Tonight Show, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Tingle was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts where the social, political and economic diversity laid the groundwork for his development as a performer and satirist.

Thea Hopkins is an Americana/folk artist described as a “standout songwriter” by the Washington Post, and the owner of “a gorgeous, dusky voice” by the Boston Herald. Americana UK wrote that her “narratives drip with metaphor and imagery.” Her 2008 CD, “Chickasaw,” received “4 stars” from Maverick. She has toured nationally and internationally, performing at the Sundance Film Festival, Boston First Night, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the American Folk Art Museum in New York City and Writers Night at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, among other venues. Her 2013 UK tour included the Saltaire Festival, the ‘From A Distance’ Festival of Americana Music and the Green Note in London.

Janae Johnson is a slam poet and teaching artist originally from Sacramento, CA. She is the two-time member of the Lizard Lounge (Boston) Poetry Slam Team, a 2013 Lizard Lounge representative for the Individual World Poetry Slam, and 2014 Lizard Lounge Representative for the “Woman of the World” Poetry Slam. Janae was named “Best Slam Poet” at the 2013 Massachusetts Poetry Awards. She is the coach and advisor for the Simmons College (Speaks) Slam Team.

Sam Dechenne is an internationally touring trumpeter and composer based in Cambridge. Since graduating Berklee College of Music in 2007, he has been an active member of the Jazz, world and reggae music scenes. He plays with John Brown’s Body, Klezwoods and The Beantown Swing Orchestra and with ensembles and bands across the Northeast.  He has performed from New Zealand to Japan and Europe to Madagascar. His greatest love is for traditional Jazz and Dixieland music. He teaches private lessons and specializes in technique and new styles of improvisation.

Alexi Paraschos is a Boston-based soul artist, songwriter, teacher, and choir director. While studying at Tufts University, he participated in anti-bias work, facilitating discussions, hosting events, and speaking at rallies focused on addressing issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia at the university. He has worked extensively with the Harvard Kuumba Singers, Tufts’ Third Day Gospel Choir, and the Boston College Voices of Imani Gospel Choir. He works at the Noble and Greenough School as a choir director and a cappella instructor. He recently released his first full-length album, “Something Greater.”


The League of Women Voters of Massachusetts encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League will sponsor a voter registration table during the Semel event.