Where I’ll Be for My Birthday

All right, yes, my birthday isn’t until September, but I know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing. I’ll be at the fourth Women in Secularism conference in D.C.

It will be bittersweet, as this is the first conference since Melody Hensley has left CFI. I also personally think recent changes at CFI have made the future of the conference unclear. Still, this conference has been an important catalyst for change in the atheist and humanist movements, and I expect it will be again. I’m not going to miss that.

Also, check out these speakers:

Johnetta Elzie
Johnetta Elzie, @nettaaaaaaaa, 26, is a protester and organizer, born and raised in St. Louis, who became known for documenting the events of Ferguson on Twitter in August 2014. Since then, she has worked to organize toward sustainable change. She sits on the planning team for mappingpoliceviolence.org and wetheprotesters.org to provide police accountability and organizer resources. In August 2015, she helped launch Campaign Zero, a comprehensive policy platform to address police violence in the United States. Johnetta believes that Michael Brown and the uprising in Ferguson forever changed her life. Her writing, “The TSA Searched My Hair Because I’m a Black Woman with Braids—And It’s Not Okay,” has been featured by Teen Vogue. Her work as a youth activist has been profiled in Teen Vogue, New York Times Magazine, The LA Times, and O Magazine, among others. Essence featured Johnetta on the cover of its February 2016 Black Girl Magic issue. She has been awarded the Howard Zinn Freedom to Write Award with fellow activist DeRay McKesson for their creation of the #Ferguson Protestor Newsletter, and been named to Foreign Policy’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers 2015.

I’ve been advocating for Elzie to be a part of this conference for as long as I’ve known it was happening. To be fair, I received nothing but enthusiasm for the idea. I was just too impatient to wait for confirmation.

Melanie Brewster
Melanie Brewster, assistant professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, earned her PhD from the University of Florida. Her research focuses on stigma and examines how experiences of dehumanization and discrimination may shape the mental health of people from marginalized groups (e.g., LGBTQ individuals, atheists and nonbelievers, people of color). Her first book, Atheists in America, was published in 2014 by Columbia University Press. She tweets about atheism, queer issues, and academia @melysebrewster.

I’ve helped interview Melanie for Atheists Talk, and I really liked her 2014 Skepticon talk. “Soft” sciences for the win!

Ashley F. Miller
Ashley F. Miller is a writer, activist, and communications scholar from South Carolina, who has worked for LGBT, secular, and women’s rights for over a decade. She has written for dozens of publications, including Salon, Freethought Blogs, and the academic journal CrossCurrents and has run local communications campaigns for abortion rights groups, law firms, news websites, and secular organizations. She holds a PhD in mass communications from the University of South Carolina, where she focused on women and minorities in the media. Before returning to school for her PhD, she worked in film and television in Los Angeles. She has a master’s in film production from Florida State University and a bachelor’s degree from Emory University in film studies. She also dabbles in the arts, performing on her ukulele and creating coloring books.

It’s Ashley. I’m biased, but she’s still awesome.

Janet D. Stemwedel
Janet D. Stemwedel is a professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at San Jose State University, which she joined in Fall 2002. She earned her BA (in chemistry and philosophy) from Wellesley College. Thinking that she wanted to be a chemist when she grew up, she earned a PhD in physical chemistry at Stanford University. Then, realizing that the questions that kept her up at night (such as how humans, with our limited sensory apparatus and our comfortable biases, can manage to build reasonably reliable knowledge about the world) were really philosophical questions, she went back to Stanford to get a PhD in philosophy, with a focus on the history and philosophy of science. Her research focuses on the places where scientific knowledge-building and ethics are intertwined. This encompasses not just practices within the scientific community that lead to better knowledge, but also the broader question of how scientists and nonscientists can do a better job sharing a world with each other. Since 2006, she has written about the ethics and philosophy of science for outlets including Forbes, Scientific American, and ScienceBlogs.com.

If you haven’t been following Janet’s series on institutional responses to harassment in academic science, you should probably go check it out. I’ve really appreciated her work to make implicit biases in these decision-making processes explicit.

Emily Willingham
Dr. Emily Willingham is a science writer, editor, and university instructor whose work has appeared online at the New York Times, Slate, Forbes, Discover, and NOVA, among others. Her book with co-author Tara Haelle, The Informed Parent (Perigee Books/Penguin), is now available, and she also is the author of The Complete IG to College Biology. Her writing focuses on health—especially mental health, neurobiology, and debunkery. She was the 2014 recipient of the John Maddox Prize for standing up for science, a joint initiative of Nature and the Kohn Foundation. Emily earned her bachelor’s degree in English and her PhD in biological sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in urology at the University of California, San Francisco, and spent some time on the tenure track, publishing thirty-plus papers along the way in the field of sex determination and development.

Emily is one of the best examples I can think of to explain why you never underestimate quiet women. I won’t call her a fearless advocate because I think that underestimates what she faces and what she risks tackling the topics she does. I should probably tell her one of these days how much I’ve learned from her over the years.

You’ll notice the use of first names for a lot of these women. That’s because I know some of them better than I think organized atheism or humanism do. That’s one of the things I hope Women in Secularism changes. It’s stirred up our movements before. I’m hoping it will do the same this year. It’s what I’m going for.

Where I’ll Be for My Birthday

One thought on “Where I’ll Be for My Birthday

  1. 1

    It’s back! It’s back!! Going to try to make it again. I sure wish it was somewhere a little more affordable than DC, though.

Comments are closed.