For more than 20 years, Auburn’s annual Lives of Commitment Awards Benefit Breakfast has honored bold and resilient leaders of faith and moral courage who bridge divides, build community, pursue justice, and inspire positive change in the world.
2018 Lives of Commitment Honorees
The Reverend Jennifer Bailey
“In a time when our ruptures appear greater than the bonds that tie us together, we must work to cultivate spaces of redemptive healing rooted in love.”
The Reverend Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister, public theologian, and emerging national leader in multifaith movement for justice. She is the Founding Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a new interfaith community equipping faith leaders to challenge structural inequality in their communities.
“Given the right catalyst, the untapped energy in each one of us can ignite.”
Isabel Rose is a writer, filmmaker, performer and activist. In the spring of 2017, when federal protections were rescinded for transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, Isabel penned a heartfelt letter about her transgender child that went viral. She is currently pursuing an initiative to include diversity education in all schools, in all states, beginning in kindergarten.
“Progress is something you work on today and someone else takes forward. But you have to believe that together we can change the world.”
Susan Silbermann is the Global President of Pfizer Vaccines. She is responsible for the development of a visionary pipeline of vaccines to address unmet medical needs for serious and life-threatening conditions such as hospital acquired infections and diseases impacting newborns in the first few weeks of life.
“As we try to form a more perfect union in this country, diversity and inclusion are to be valued, respected and acknowledged.”
Andrea L. Taylor is President & CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. An educator, community builder and philanthropist, Taylor began her career in Boston as a reporter and later taught at Harvard University before directing U.S. corporate giving at Microsoft. She founded the Ford Foundation Media Fund and is a New York Public Radio trustee.
Resistance Revival Chorus
“The greatest act of resistance is to inspire hearts and minds through art and culture and let the transformation begin with pure joy.”
The Resistance Revival Chorus is a collective of more than 50 women who join together to breathe joy and to uplift and center women’s voices. Launched out of the Women’s March, they honor the protest songs and believe that joy is an act of resistance.
2017 Lives of Commitment Honorees
Dr. Debbie Almontaser
Dr. Debbie Almontaser is the founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group Inc. She is also founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy. A 25-year veteran of the New York City Public School System, she has taught, trained teachers, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity adviser. Dr. Almontaser is also the Board President of the Muslim Community Network. She frequently lectures on Arab culture, Islam, cultural diversity, interfaith coalition building and youth leadership. Debbie sits on the Public Advocate Tish James’ Jewish, Muslim and Sikh Task Force to Combat Hate. Dr. Almontaser has been profiled in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, Newsweek, NY 1 and the Daily News. Recently, Dr. Almontaser was a featured speaker at the 2016 National Democratic Convention.
Eileen is the Founder and Chairwoman of EILEEN FISHER, INC., the clothing company known for its simple shapes and beautiful fabrics. Eileen ventured into clothing design in 1984. Her original concept – pieces that work together to help women get dressed easily – still defines the company’s collections, which are sold at 65 EILEEN FISHER stores, over 300 department and specialty stores across the US, UK and Canada as well as 2 Green Eileen stores, which are part of the company’s innovative recycling program. In 2016, the company became the largest women’s fashion company to be certified a B Corporation which voluntarily meets high criterion for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. In addition, the company is the largest B Corp in the state of New York.
Eileen is passionate about business as a movement. In spring 2015, the company announced VISION2020, a bold five-year plan that addresses sustainability and human rights. In keeping with Eileen’s belief in collaboration, VISION2020 calls for partnering with other brands to shift the fashion industry.
In 2015, Eileen also launched the Eileen Fisher Learning Lab where employees and the public are invited to embark on journeys of inquiry to explore purpose, mindfulness and embodiment through a variety of workshops and events.
Eileen was presented Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP)’s Force for Good Award in February 2016. In October 2015, Fashion Group International honored Fisher with its prestigious Sustainability Award, and in 2015, she was the recipient of the Riverkeeper Award as well as BF+DA’s Corporate Leadership in Advancing Sustainability Award. Among other honors received are the 2012 Leaders of Change Award from the Global Conference for Social Change and the Board of Directors Award from the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the US National Committee for UN Women. She is a 2012 inductee into the Social Venture Network Hall of Fame and a member of the Clinton Global Initiative.
Lyla June is an Original Caretakers Fellow at the Center for Earth Ethics for her activism in protecting Native American lands and the Culture of Indigenous people. She is a musician, poet, anthropologist, educator, community organizer and public speaker. Her passion is working with youth and Indigenous emerging leaders to give voice to peace and prayer.
Raised in Taos, New Mexico, Lyla is a descendent of Diné (Navajo) and Tsétsêhéstâhese (Cheyenne) lineages. She is a co-founder of The Taos Peace and Reconciliation Council, which works to heal intergenerational trauma and ethnic division in northern New Mexico. She is a Walker within the Nihigaal Bee Iiná Movement, a 1,000-mile prayer walk through Diné Tah (the Navajo homeland) whose purpose is to educate others on the exploitation of Diné land and people by the uranium, coal, and oil and gas industries. She is the lead organizer of the Black Hill Unity Concert, which gathers native and non-native musicians to pray for the return of Guardianship of the Black Hills to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nations. Lyla is also the founder of the Regeneration Festival, an annual celebration of children that occurs in 13 countries around the world every September.
In 2012, Lyla graduated with honors from Stanford University with a degree in Environmental Anthropology. She currently lives in Diné Tah, the Navajo ancestral homeland that spans New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. She shares that she ultimately attributes any achievements to Creator who gave her the tools and resources she uses to serve humanity.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City. She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis. She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change and CBST is now the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue.
Rabbi Kleinbaum is a powerful U.S. and global voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual and gender identities, and a champion of progressive values. She is recognized by Newsweek magazine as one of the 50 most influential Rabbis in the U.S. and recognized by Huffington Post as one of Top 10 Women Religious Leaders in America.
Rev. Eboni Marshall Turman, Ph.D.
Dr. Turman is Assistant Professor of Theology and African American Religion at Yale University Divinity School in New Haven, CT. She formerly served as Assistant Research Professor of Theological Ethics, Black Church Studies, and African & African American Studies and Director of the Office of Black Church Studies at Duke University Divinity School.
An author, ordained minister, professor, and public theologian, the Reverend Dr. Marshall Turman is a refreshing addition to our most pressing national discussions of faith, race and gender. With a decidedly womanist point of view, hers stands out as one of very few scholarly millennial voices offering moral perspective on issues facing the Black community.
At a time in our history when the Black church and Black lives are once again under constant siege, Dr. Turman has committed her research, scholarship and platform to a nuanced exploration of the most marginalized among us.
A trailblazer in the church and academy, her pioneering spirit has earned her many rare distinctions. She was the youngest woman to be named Assistant Minister of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City (where she served for ten years), and the second woman to preside over the ordinances in its 208-year history; she is the only womanist theological ethicist on the faculty at Yale University’s Divinity School; one of Ebony Magazine’s Young Faith Leaders in the Black Community; included on the Network Journal’s prestigious 40 Under 40 List; and recently named as one of the “Top 5 Young Preachers in America” by ROHO.
Sharon Prince is the President of Grace Farms Foundation, a private operating foundation established in New Canaan, Connecticut, to enhance lives through engagement with nature, arts, justice, community, and faith.
Ms. Prince spearheaded the vision for Grace Farms and its accompanying River building, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning firm SANAA. Since opening in October 2015, Grace Farms has garnered several awards, including the AIA National 2017 Architecture Honor Award and the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize from the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she participated in the symposium Reimagining the Metropolis.
In 2016, she hosted an international convening with the United Nations University entitled Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict, which resulted in a published report to the United Nations Security Council with ten ideas for action.
She also serves on the Board of Next General Nepal, invests in women-led startups, and supports initiatives to end modern day slavery.
2016 Lives of Commitment Honorees
Yara Allen is a movement theo-musicologist, spoken word artist, songwriter, organizer and activist. Yara currently serves as the Director of Cultural Arts for MPOLIS (Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute), attends University of Mount Olive and volunteers as a leadership trainer with the local Alpha Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi. Yara travels the country teaching the cultural liturgy of the movement and rallying people to take action through song. She served as “Artist-in-Residence” for Auburn’s Mountain Top 2015 gathering and co-founded Circle of Real People, a drama, mime and dance troupe whose mission was to offer hope and inspiration through the arts. She is currently working on her first book, “Open Up Your Mouth,” a book of movement and inspirational poetry, songs, and stories.
Melissa Harris-Perry is Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. She is the former host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She is the author of the award-winning books Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.
James Perry is president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League. Perry manages a 230 person staff across the state of North Carolina advocating for employment opportunities, affordable housing, voting rights and food security. Before coming to the Urban League, Perry served for 10 years as the the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. Perry led the Center through hurricane Katrina, the most disastrous hurricane to make landfall in America. Under his leadership, the Center won more than half a billion dollars for victims of discrimination across Louisiana. Perry founded the Mississippi Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, was a candidate in the 2010 New Orleans mayor’s race and has testified before Congress eight times. He serves on the National Fair Housing Alliance Board of Directors. Perry is a political science graduate of the University of New Orleans and a graduate of the Loyola University School of Law. Perry, his wife Melissa, and their two daughters split their time between New Orleans, New York City and Winston-Salem.
Wanda Bryant Hope
Wanda Bryant Hope is Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Diversity Officer. She is responsible for advancing J&J’s diversity and inclusion strategy, strengthening the company’s global capabilities and global employer reputation, and driving innovation and growth for future success. Wanda has been recognized for her ability to exceed business results, deliver cutting edge solutions to complex challenges, lead global change, develop people for optimal results, and drive diversity. She has been actively involved with the company’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and the African American Leadership Council, and served as executive sponsor of the Janssen North American Pharmaceutical D&I council. Wanda has also received several awards including the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s Rising Star Award and the YWCA’s Tribute to Women in Industry Award. Wanda received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University. She and her husband Bobby are the proud parents of a 9 year-old son, Tyler.
Sarah Kureshi, MD, MPH
Sarah Kureshi is a family medicine physician and an assistant professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has a special interest in health disparities, gender-based violence, health and human rights, and empowerment of underserved populations. Being a former NCAA college athlete and the first U.S. female athlete to compete in Iran since the 1979 revolution, she strongly believes in using sports as a tool for violence prevention and health education. Sarah has been a Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network Provider and now trains medical students and physicians to provide medical evaluations for asylum seekers. She has worked with Project REACH, a grassroots, Muslim-led youth development organization in inner-city DC, and she is also a Shalom Hartman Fellow. Sarah has given many presentations, from Human Rights Watch to World Youth Peace Summit to American Muslim Health Professionals to empowering female students and healthcare providers in Pakistan through the State Department. Sarah currently serves as Co-Director of the Patients, Populations & Policy module, teaches on health and human rights, instructs students at HOYA Clinic, the student-driven free clinic and precepts family medicine residents. She and her husband, Wajahat Ali, are the proud parents of an 18 month old boy.
Lekha Singh is a filmmaker and fine-art photographer whose work highlights the familiar within otherworldly settings. Her major photography exhibitions – Created Equal, Nomadic Camera, African Journeys, and The Other Half: Women in Focus, and The Weed Series – have been featured in numerous museum collections, magazines, and books, including National Geographic’s The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. As a filmmaker, her documentary Beyond Right and Wrong showcases stories from people who have suffered from the genocide in Rwanda, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Through this film, Lekha illustrates the difficult path towards recovery and explores the role of forgiveness in the search for justice. Lekha also executive produced The Square, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Emmys.
Mamie Kanfer Stewart
Mamie Kanfer Stewart is passionate about helping others achieve their missions through smart practices and great technology. Mamie is the Founder and CEO of Meeteor, an early stage venture developing software that enables teams to have more effective meetings. Previously, she served as Director of WOWV during which she consulted with non-profit organizations on staffing and strategic planning. Mamie is a Board Member and immediate Past Chair of InterfaithFamily, Vice-Chair of Bend the Arc and a Board Member of Luria Academy. Mamie formerly served on the boards of Moishe House and Slingshot. Mamie serves as a Director of two family foundations of the Kanfer family, Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, Justin, and two young daughters.
2015 Lives of Commitment Honorees
Abigail E. Disney
Abigail E. Disney is a filmmaker, philanthropist and the CEO and president of Fork Films. Disney’s longtime passion for women’s issues and peace building culminated in producing her first film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell (winner, Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca Film Festival 2008). She then executive produced the five-part PBS series, Women, War & Peace. Since then, she has produced numerous acclaimed social-issue films, including 1971, Citizen Koch, Family Affair, Hot Girls Wanted, The Invisible War (2012 Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary Feature), Return and Sun Come Up (2011 Academy Award Nominee, Best Documentary Short). Upcoming projects include The Trials of Spring, and her directorial debut, The Armor of Light. Disney is also the founder and president of Peace is Loud, a nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and support women who are stepping up for peace and resisting violence in their communities.
Lucia K. McBath
The deadly shooting of her 17-year-old son, Jordan Russell Davis, for playing loud music turned Lucia into a champion for common sense gun legislation and solutions. A national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety / Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, she has testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the “’Stand Your Ground’ Laws: Civil Rights and Public Safety Implications of the Expanded Use of Deadly Force” and at Georgia and Florida State Legislature Committee Hearings for the repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law. Lucia was invited to the White House for President Obama’s unveiling of My Brother’s Keeper initiatives for minority young men, and spoke at the 2014 White House Summits on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Lucia has given numerous interviews on national TV and radio about her son’s case and gun violence legislation. She recently founded the Walk With Jordan Scholarship Foundation.
Dr. Georgette F. Bennett
Dr. Georgette F. Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in Jordan (MFASRJ), a project of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, which unites 37 faith-based and secular organizations to raise public awareness and support on behalf of this grave humanitarian crisis. Long before MFASRJ, Georgette founded the Tanenbaum Center, a leading resource for managing religious diversity in the workplace, education, health care and in areas of armed conflict. Georgette has had a distinguished career as a sociologist, author, organizational development consultant and broadcast journalist. She is the author of four books and more than 50 articles. She won two national awards from the American Society for Public Administration for her work in organizational development in the criminal justice field. Her pioneering programs addressing community policing, crime victim services, and rape response units have helped to launch national and international movements.
Tamika D. Mallory
Tamika D. Mallory is a nationally recognized leader and a next-generation champion of the civil rights movement. She has been called the “Sojourner Truth of Our Time” by JET magazine and was publicly applauded as “a leader of tomorrow” by Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie B. Jarrett. Tamika is the president of Mallory Consulting LLC, a strategic planning and event management company in New York City, as well as the director for community affairs at Radio 103.9, a Cumulus station. In 2014, she was selected to serve on the transition committee of New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and served as co-chair of the citywide initiative, Gun Violence Awareness Month. Tamika has been featured on CNN, TV One, MSNBC, News One and other media as a leading voice on key social justice issues. She currently resides in New York City, and is the proud mother of a 15-year-old son, Tarique.
Teresa Wynn Roseborough
Teresa Wynn Roseborough is executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of The Home Depot, responsible for its global legal functions, corporate governance and government relations. A child of the Civil Rights Movement, she witnessed the power of the law to effect lasting social change. Her legal career includes government service as deputy assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice, where she provided legal counsel to the White House and all executive branches, and as law clerk for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. She was named one of 25 Influential Black Women in Business by The Network Journal and one of America’s top black attorneys by Black Enterprise. Teresa is a public member of the Administrative Conference of the U.S., a member of the boards of directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and of the board of overseers of the RAND Corporation Institute for Civil Justice.
Nadia Roumani is the co-founder and director of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI), which is housed at the University of Southern California. AMCLI, launched in 2008, is a leadership development program that has built a dynamic network of over 200 American Muslim civic leaders across the country. A Visiting Scholar and Hewlett Design Thinking Fellow with Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, Nadia is also leading efforts to apply design thinking to foundations and nonprofit organizations to fine-tune their strategies, and increase their ability to collaborate and innovate. Nadia is a serial social entrepreneur, dedicated to identifying solutions to complex socio-economic problems. Over the past decade she has launched several organizations and initiatives, including the Initiative for Policy Dialogue with Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz at Columbia University, the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum with the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, and the Global Policy Innovations Project.
Previous Lives of Commitment Honorees
2014 – Patricia Fili-Krushel, Sapreet Kaur, The Rev. Dr. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
2013 – Lauren Bush Lauren, Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, Salem Abdelrhman, Miki Joelson, Alexander Posner
2012 – Cecile Richards, Cecilia Guthrie Boone, Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rev. Kanyere Eaton
2011 – Kayrita Anderson & Deborah Richardson, Bishop Minerva Carcano, Jensine Larsen, Dr. Gail T. Reimer, Chely Wright
2010 – Nurah Amat-ullah, Violet L. Dease, Emma Bronznick Goldberg, Jacki Zehner,
2009 – Abigail Disney, Wendy Paulson, Angela Buchdahl, Fatima Haidara
2008 – Barbara Friedman, Farhana Khera, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend,
2007 – Lena Alhusseini, Blu Greenberg, Alice Walker, Diana Chapman Walsh,
2006 – Zainab Salbi, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Helen LaKelly Hunt, Nicki Newman Tanner
2005 – Ronit Avni, Dr. Johnetta Cole, Daisy Khan
2004 – Jenise Harrell, Ruth Messinger, Mary Robinson, Shalimar Yamin-Khan
2003 – Caroline Baron, Judy Collins, Rachel Lloyd
2002 – Wendy Kopp, Aasma Khan, Lilia Gerberg
2001 – Dr. Ruth Simmons, Margot Stern Strom, Kirsten Pratt
2000 – Dr. Jane Goodall, Henna White, Jean Griffith-Sandiford, Maria Rogers,
1999 – Faye Wattleton, Dr. Dorothy Height, Stephanie Schwartz Ferdman,
1998 – Dr. Margaret C. Heagarty, Alexa Rosas-Pereira, Marlo Thomas
1997 – Sr. Helen Prejean, The Rev. Annie Bovian, Zoe Tananbaum