Speaker Bios

List of 2021 GRITS Conference Speakers:

Bill Beardall | Professor at the University of Texas School of Law

Panel: Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

Bill Beardall directs the ground-breaking Transnational Worker Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law. He has practiced as a public interest employment lawyer for low-income working men and women since 1978. Mr. Beardall also serves as Executive Director of the Equal Justice Center, a non-profit employment justice and civil rights organization with offices in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.

Widely recognized for his experience in reforming public justice systems and private employment practices, Mr. Beardall is a leading expert in low-income employment law and in securing access to the justice system for working people regardless of their income or immigration status. From 1984-2000 he served as Director of the Migrant Worker Division of Texas Rural Legal Aid and from 2000-2001 he was Legal Director for Texas Appleseed. In 2001 he founded the Equal Justice Center which, under his leadership, has become the leading law firm specialized in enforcing the workplace rights of immigrant and low-wage workers in Texas and the surrounding region. He has also directed the Law School’s Transnational Worker Rights Clinic since 2004 establishing it as one of the nation’s foremost law school clinics specializing in employment litigation and the evolution of U.S. employment law in a transnational labor market. The Clinic is operated as a partnership between the UT Law School and the Equal Justice Center.

Matthew Stark Blumin | General Counsel at Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Panel: Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work. The CIW is also recognized for pioneering the design and development of the Worker-driven Social Responsibility paradigm, a worker-led, market-enforced approach to the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains.

Built on a foundation of farmworker community organizing starting in 1993, and reinforced with the creation of a national consumer network since 2000, CIW’s work has steadily grown over more than twenty years to encompass three broad and overlapping spheres: The Fair Food Program, the Anti-Slavery Campaign, and the Campaign for Fair Food.

Matt Blumin is the General Counsel for CIW. A graduate of Stanford Law, Matt had clerkships at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals before beginning work in labor law. He has since worked for Friends of Farmworkers, AFSCME, and now with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Jill CampbellDirector of Immigration and Citizenship at BakerRipley

Panel: Crimmigration in the Carceral State

Jill Campbell is the managing immigration attorney and the current director of Immigration and Citizenship at BakerRipley, a community center and home base for New Americans that has been deeply entrenched in the Houston community since 1907. A fellow graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Jill has dedicated her life to providing quality representation for low-income families, including newly-arrived and undocumented immigrants.

Her vast immigration work focuses on Citizenship and Naturalization; Deferred Action; representation of refugees and asylees; family reunification cases; and humanitarian-based relief. In addition to her legal work, Jill also develops materials and provides ongoing support for the Immigration & Citizenship Program’s Naturalization services and helps host the BakerRipley’s Immigration Forums and Naturalization Workshops.

Kelly HaraganProfessor at the University of Texas School of Law

Panel: Environmental Justice in the American South

Kelly Haragan is a clinical professor and director of the Environmental Clinic. Kelly joined the faculty in 2008. Prior to joining the Clinic, Kelly worked as legal counsel for national nonprofits including: the Environmental Integrity Project in Washington DC, Environmental Defense Fund in Austin, and Public Citizen’s Austin office. She also worked at the Austin firm Henry, Lowerre, Johnson, Hess & Frederick, representing citizen and environmental groups in permitting and enforcement matters. Kelly specializes in Clean Air Act permitting and enforcement.

Rebekah HinojosaSierra Club Organizer

Panel: Environmental Justice in the American South

Bekah Hinojosa is an artist and organizer from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas currently serving as the Sierra Club’s Gulf Coast Campaign Representative. She works with communities along the Texas coastline to stop crude oil export terminals, associated pipelines, and three LNG fracked gas export terminals that would harm people of color and indigenous populations. She is inspired by building art with people of all ages.

Chaumtoli Huq | Associate Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law 

Panel: Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

Chaumtoli Huq is an Associate Professor of Law at CUNY School of Law and the founder/Editor of an innovative law and media non-profit focused on law and social justice called Law@theMargins (www.lawatthemargins.com).  At CUNY, she teaches Contracts, Labor Law, Lawyering, and directs the Workers’ Rights Clinic.  

Huq has devoted her entire professional career to public service focusing on issues impacting low-income New Yorkers, workers in Bangladesh, and human rights issue related to South Asia. In 2014, she was appointed as the General Counsel for Litigation for the New York City Office of the Public Advocate, becoming then the highest-ranking Bangladeshi-American in New York City government, for which she received a New American Heroes award from the New American Leaders Project.  Along with holding leadership roles at Legal Services of NYC and MFY Legal Services, she also served as Director of the first South Asian Workers’ Rights Project at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, as a Skadden Fellow, and as the first staff attorney to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a multi-ethnic, immigrant and worker led labor organization.  In 2019, she was awarded the Access to Justice Leadership Award by the South Asian Bar Association of New York, and in 2020 was the Daynard Public Interest Visiting Fellowship awarded to nationally recognized public interest leaders.  

Huq is the author of Charting Global Economic Inequalities and Emancipatory Human Rights Responses from the Ground Up: The Tea Workers Movement of Bangladesh, available online at Columbia University’s Human Rights Law Review website, contributor to an edited volume titled, Labor, Global Supply Chains and the Garment Industry in South Asia; the anthology Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War, Faith and Sexuality (Ed. Sarah Husain; Seal Press 2006), author of, The War on Terror on Muslim Women and Girls: Forging Transformative Solidarities (Scholar and Feminist Online), co-author of “Laying the Groundwork for Post 9-11 Alliances: Reflections Ten Years Later on Desis and Organizing” (Asian American Literary Review, Volume 2, Issue 1.5, Fall 2011), and has authored Op-Eds in Al Jazeera, Huffington Post and Daily Star, the largest English daily in Bangladesh.

You can follow her on twitter @profhuq and follow Law@theMargins work at @lawatmargins

René Lara | Legislative Director at Texas AFL-CIO 

Panel: Labor Organizing: From the US South to the Global South

René Lara of El Paso, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the UT School of Law. As a capitol staffer, René Lara worked for State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin on the Senate Education, Finance and Nominations committees. From 1995 to 2006, René represented the Texas AFT on issues of importance to educators.  Today, René Lara serves on the boards of the Workers Assistance Program (WAP), Texans for a Secure Retirement (TSR), and the El Paso Social Network in Austin.  René has lived in Texas his entire life except for two years when he represented the teachers union at the Minnesota state capitol from 2006 to 2008. He survived two Minnesota winters and returned to Texas to work for the Texas AFL-CIO in 2008.

Dr. Amanda Masino | Professor of Environmental Studies at Huston-Tillotson University

Panel: Environmental Justice in the American South

Dr. Masino is a proud member of HT’s Environmental Studies faculty. She advances environmental education by blending environmental science and community action. She is Co-Director of the Dumpster Project, an education initiative that is transforming a used trash dumpster into a sustainable home as a K-16 environmental education platform and public engagement tool. She co-advises HT’s environmental student group Green is the New Black with Karen Magid and Dominique Bowman, and co-founded the Building Green Justice Forum, a conference series that highlights local environmental justice issues.

Bakeyah NelsonAir Alliance Houston

Panel: Environmental Justice in the American South

Operating as the Executive Director since 2017, Bakeyah works closely with the Board of Directors and staff to ensure that AAH’s mission is fulfilled through strategic planning, programs, and management.

Previously, she led a consulting firm focused on advancing health equity and worked in Harris County Public Health’s Office of Policy and Planning where she was responsible for leading community health initiatives to reduce environmental inequities.

Bakeyah was recently honored as one of the Texas Organizing Project’s 2018 Community Champions. She is a Senior Fellow of Class XLVI of the American Leadership Forum and was selected as one of the Aspen Institute’s Health Scholars for the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival. She is also a contributing faculty member with Baylor University’s Department of Public Health. Bakeyah serves on a number of committees including but not limited to: the Houston-Galveston Area Council’sTechnical Advisory Committee, the Executive Committee of the Regional Air Quality Planning Advisory Committee, and the Transportation Air Quality Subcommittee.

In 2012, Bakeyah was selected for the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment Reach the Decision Makers Fellowship, which trains scientists, community members, clinicians, and public health professionals to effectively promote science and health-based policies. Later in 2012, she was a recipient of the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) Model Practice Award for demonstrating exemplary leadership to advance environmental justice and public health.

Bakeyah’s Doctorate in Public Policy, Master’s in Applied Sociology and Bachelor’s in Psychology all come from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Raj Patel | Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs

Panel: Environmental Justice in the American South

Raj Patel is an award-winning author, film-maker and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at the university currently known as Rhodes University (UHURU), South Africa.

He has degrees from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University, has worked for the World Bank and WTO, and protested against them around the world. Raj co-taught the 2014 Edible Education class at UC Berkeley with Michael Pollan. In 2016 he was recognized with a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the US House Financial Services Committee and is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems.

In addition to numerous scholarly publications in economics, philosophy, politics and public health journals, he regularly writes for The Guardian, and has contributed to the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Times of India, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Mail on Sunday, and The Observer. His first book was Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. His second, The Value of Nothing, was a New York Times and international best-seller. His latest, co-written with Jason W. Moore, is A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things.

He can be heard co-hosting the fortnightly food politics podcast The Secret Ingredient with Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott, and KUT’s Rebecca McInroy. He is currently completing a documentary project about the global food system.

Azadeh ShahshahaniLegal & Advocacy Director at Project South

Panel: Not Policy, Power! Movement Lawyering in Action

Azadeh has worked for a number of years in the U.S. South to protect and defend immigrants and Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities. She previously served as president of the National Lawyers Guild and as National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia. Azadeh serves on the Advisory Council of the American Association of Jurists and on the Board of Directors of Defending Rights and Dissent. Azadeh has served as a trial monitor in Turkey, an election monitor in Venezuela and Honduras, and as a member of the jury in people’s tribunals on Mexico, the Philippines, and Brazil. She has also participated in international fact-finding delegations to post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt as well as a delegation focused on the situation of Palestinian political prisoners.

She is the author or editor of several human rights reports, including a 2017 report titled “Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers,” as well as law review articles and book chapters focused on racial profiling, immigrants’ rights, and surveillance of Muslim-Americans. Her writings have appeared in the Guardian, the Nation, MSNBC, USA Today, Aljazeera, and HuffPost, among others. Azadeh received her JD from the University of Michigan Law School where she was Article Editor for The Michigan Journal of International Law. She also has a Master’s in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan.

Flint TaylorPeople’s Law Office

Panel: Not Policy, Power! Movement Lawyering in Action

G. Flint Taylor, a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern Law School, is a founding partner of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, an office which has been dedicated to litigating civil rights, police violence, government misconduct, and death penalty cases for 45 years. Among the landmark cases that Mr. Taylor has litigated are the Fred Hampton Black Panther case; the Greensboro, North Carolina case against the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis; the Ford Heights Four case in which four innocent men received a record $36 million settlement for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment; and a series of cases arising from a pattern and practice of police torture and cover-up by former Chicago police commander Jon Burge, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, former State’s Attorney Richard Devine, and numerous other police and government officials, five of which have been settled against the City of Chicago and Cook County for a total of approximately $26 million. He obtained a multi-million dollar settlement for a seven year old boy who was falsely accused by the Chicago Police of the murder of 11 year old Ryan Harris and has represented, and continues to represent, numerous other wrongfully convicted persons who have spent decades in prison and on death row, including Burge torture victims Michael Tillman, Darrell Cannon, Ronald Kitchen, Alonzo Smith, Anthony Holmes, Victor Safforld, Shawn Whirl, and Jackie Wilson, exonerees Randy Steidl, Paul Terry, Ronald Jones, Jerry Miller, Oscar Walden, Lewis Gardner, Paul Phillips, Terrill Swift, and Jonathan Barr, and the first woman jailhouse lawyer in Illinois, Maxine Smith.

Taylor’s work in fighting against police torture in Chicago over the past 29 years has been instrumental in obtaining the conviction and imprisonment of police torture ringleader Jon Burge and the precedent setting decision that upheld the inclusion of former Mayor Richard M. Daley as a co-conspiring defendant in the Tillman civil rights case. He also worked with the movement to obtain reparations for 60 survivors of Chicago police torture. He has also represented Nanci Koschman in her case against the CPD and SAO for covering up the truth about the death of her son in order to protect the Daley family, was one of the lead lawyers in obtaining a $5 million settlement for 74 victims of illegal strip and body cavity searches by the Milwaukee Police Department, and now represents three victims of torture and abuse at the CPD’s secret interrogation site, known as Homan Square.

Taylor also played a major role in the George Jones “street files” case that uncovered the unlawful Chicago police practice of keeping one set of files to be produced to defense lawyers while maintaining another secret set of files that often contained exculpatory evidence. This case dramatically changed the criminal discovery process in Cook County and also led to the groundbreaking wrongful prosecution verdict in Jones v. City of Chicago. As a police brutality litigator, he has been instrumental in pioneering and litigating Monell pattern and practice claims against municipalities, particularly in the areas of repeater cops, police discipline, the police code of silence, and domestic violence by police officers. Taylor also played a key role in major litigation brought against the Marion Federal Penitentiary, Stateville and Pontiac prisons in the areas of unconstitutional segregation, cruel and unusual conditions of confinement, and behavior modification.

Mr. Taylor is also an accomplished appellate advocate, and successfully argued the cases of Cleavinger v. Saxner and Buckley v. Fitzsimmons before the United States Supreme Court, as well as numerous cases before Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Mr. Taylor is a longtime National Lawyers Guild member, a founding editor of the Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Reporter, has extensively written and lectured in the field of civil rights litigation and police torture, and frequently appears on radio and television and at other public forums to discuss these topics. He has authored four law review articles on these subjects, and his articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, The Nation, In These Times, the Huffington Post, Truthout, and Portside.

In 1975 Mr. Taylor was honored, along with his law partner Jeffrey Haas, for his work on the Fred Hampton case by being named by the Chicago Reader as members of the “Heavy 75,”, in 1977, with Haas, as an Advocate For Our Freedom for “representing a rare breed of legal advocates who take on the contemporary Sacco and Vanzetti or Scottsboro cases,” in 1986 he was nominated for the Durfee Foundation Award for his work in “enhancing the human dignity of others through legal institutions,” and, in 1989, again with Haas, received the Citizens Alert Fighters For Justice Award. He is the 2008 recipient of the William R. Ming Jr. Award of the Cook County Bar Association, given to a lawyer “for dedication and significant contribution to the causes of civil rights and individual liberties;” and in 2009 was awarded the First Defense Legal Aid First Defender Award for his “tireless commitment to protecting the civil rights of Chicago citizens.” He was also the recipient of the National Lawyers Guild’s 2009 Ernie Goodman Award “in recognition of extraordinary achievement by a National Lawyers Guild lawyer;” the 2009 Rainbow PUSH Father to the Community Award; the 2010 Jenner and Block award from the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions for his “unflagging struggle against police brutality and racial repression under color of law;” with his law partners Joey Mogul and John Stainthorp, the 2010 Chicago National Lawyers Guild Arthur Kinoy Award for their “commitment to the struggle for justice for the survivors of torture;” the 2011 SFPIF Northwestern Law School Distinguished Alumnus Award for his “outstanding commitment to public service;” with his co-counsel Locke Bowman and Alexa Van Brunt, the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization’s 2014 Legal Eagle Award; and the 2016 Nelson Algren Humanitarian Award as “a conscience in touch with humanity.”

In 2002 he was named by Chicago Magazine as one of Chicago’s “30 Toughest Lawyers;” and by his peers as a “Leading Lawyer” in 2003, and 2015, as a “Super Lawyer” in 2007, 2008, and 2009, in 2015 as a member of the “Nation’s Top One Percent” by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel, and in 2016 as a “Top Lawyer” in the Global Directory of Who’s Who.

Oliver Telusma | Juris Doctorate Candidate at the Florida A&M University College of Law

Breakout Session: Organizing in Law School

Oliver Telusma is a spoken word poet, public speaker and Juris Doctorate Candidate at the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando, Florida. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida in 2018, where he worked as a research coordinator for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program for two years. His writing and work focus on critiquing legal and political systems of power that target marginalized communities, life as a member of the Black diaspora, Black male vulnerability, allyship from other marginalized identities, the American and global South.

Check back soon for more 2021 speakers!