Conference Speakers

Samira Ahmed

Thursday Keynote

Samira Ahmed Photo: Erielle-Bakkum

Samira Ahmed is the bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other Filters, Internment, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Hollow Fires, and the Amira & Hamza middle-grade duology, as well as a Ms. Marvel comic book mini-series. Her poetry, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies including the New York Times, Take the Mic, Color Outside the Lines, Vampires Never Get Old and A Universe of Wishes.

She was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in Batavia, Illinois, in a house that smelled like fried onions, spices, and potpourri. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Samira has taught high school English in both the suburbs of Chicago and New York City, worked in education non-profits, and spent time on the road for political campaigns.

Samira currently lives in the Midwest. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found on her lifelong quest for the perfect pastry.

Dr. David E. Kirkland, PhD

Friday Keynote

Dr. David E. Kirkland, PhD

Dr. David E. Kirkland, PhD, is a visionary leader, educator, and scholar dedicated to advancing education equity and social justice. As Founder and CEO of forwardED, LLC, he drives transformative solutions in education, disrupting institutional structures for collaborative and engaging experiences.

As Vice Dean and Executive Director at NYU Metro Center, he showcased social innovation and ethical imagination, leading to exponential growth. His scholarship uncovers power systems and disparities, while his acclaimed book advocates for human-centered scholarship. Dr. Kirkland’s impactful research reduces racial disparities, fosters cultural responsiveness, and secures millions for equity initiatives.

A recognized thought leader, his influence reaches national platforms and media outlets.

Victorio Reyes Asili

Friday Spoken Word Performer

Victorio Reyes Asili

Victorio Reyes Asili is a poet and professor who earned his PhD in English from the University at Albany, where he completed his dissertation entitled Mic Check—Finding Hip Hop’s Place in the Literary Milieu.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetry from The Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poems have appeared in many literary journals including The Acentos Review, Word Riot, Pilgrimage Magazine and Obsidian, and his work has been anthologized in Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, It Was Written—Poetry Inspired by Hip Hop, Black Lives Have Always Mattered, and Erase the Patriarchy.

In addition to his work as a scholar and poet, Reyes Asili has been a lifelong activist and served as the executive director for the Social Justice Center of Albany for eleven years.