SWW2 Speakers

MegaphoneAt Secular Women Work 2, you will find workshops: both hands-on exercises to develop your skills and facilitated group discussions where you can share challenges and solutions with other activists. You will find panels on specialist topics, with panelists who can help you broaden the horizons of your activism. And when you’re ready for a rest, you’ll find speakers who will entertain and inspire you with stories and lessons from their own work. In between it all, you’ll find a conference full of other activists who want to make a difference in the world.

Mandisa Thomas: Black Non-Believers
Mandisa Thomas Mandisa Thomas is the founder and President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. Although never formally indoctrinated into belief, Mandisa was heavily exposed to Christianity, Black Nationalism, and Islam. As a child she loved reading, and enjoyed various tales of Gods from different cultures, including Greek and Ghanaian. “Through reading these stories and being taught about other cultures at an early age, I quickly noticed that there were similarities and differences between those deities and the God of the Christian Bible. I couldn’t help but wonder what made this God so special that he warrants such prevalence in today’s society,” she recalls.

Mandisa has a number of media appearances to her credit, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN.com, and JET magazine. She has been a guest on podcasts such as The Humanist Hour and Ask an Atheist, as well as the documentaries Contradiction and My Week in Atheism. Mandisa currently serves on the Boards for American Atheists and the Reason Rally Coalition, and previously for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America. She also is an active speaker, and has presented at conferences/conventions for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and many others.

As the president of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., Mandisa works to encourage more Blacks to come out and stand strong with their nonbelief in the face of such strong religious overtones. “The more we make our presence known, the better our chances of working together to turn around some of the disparities we face. We are NOT alone.”


Amanda Knief: Iowa State
Amanda Knief is an author and public policy expert. Her book, “The Citizen Lobbyist: A How-to Manual for Making Your Voice Heard in Government,” is being utilized to equip everyday Americans with tools to make their elected officials pay attention to them. Knief has a BS in journalism from Iowa State University and a JD from Drake Law School. She has worked for the Iowa Legislature, Secular Coalition for America, American Atheists, and the Library of Congress. She is currently the Lectures Program director at Iowa State.


Amanda Knief


Jessica Xiao: Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop 
Jessica Xiao is a Washington, DC-based writer, interested in activist culture, radical vulnerability, feminism, race and identity, mass incarceration, and climate injustice. You can find her work at Everyday Feminism, The Establishment, Huffington Post, TheHumanist.com, and Medium.

She is the Prison Book Club Coordinator at Free Minds Book Club and Writing Workshop, a nonprofit serving incarcerated youth tried as adults. She is also a grant writer for Artistri Sud, a Montreal-based nonprofit providing social entrepreneurship and leadership development training to Indigenous women artisans.

Previously, she was a Community Facilitator for McGill University’s “Social Learning for Social Impact” GROOC (massive open online course for groups) and the Marketing and Communications Lead for their environmental hackathon “On the Earth, For the Earth” at the 2016 World Social Forum.

From 2015 to 2016, Jessica was the Projects Assistant at the American Humanist Association, Operations Manager at Humanist Press, and Assistant Editor at TheHumanist.com. She is Co-Chair of the Feminist Humanist Alliance.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Economics and Psychology from McGill University.

You can find her on Twitter @jexxicuh.


Noelle George: Foundation Beyond Belief 
Noelle is a secular activist who grew up in Seattle and studied chemical engineering at the University of Washington. She for a Fortune 500 company as a chemical engineer and project manager, and started volunteering for secular activist causes ten years ago. Noelle has worked with multiple national secular organizations and founded two nonprofit organizations, and has traveled around the country consulting with local secular groups on the topics of volunteering, leadership, and organizational skills.

As Noelle became involved in the secular movement, she heard the national leadership discussing the lack of diversity. (At that time it was ‘Too many men, where are the women?’) Noelle saw the prevalence of lecture-type and social bar events and started advocating for more diverse gatherings like community service projects and family-friendly meetups. To that end, she founded a secular volunteering charity in 2009, but in 2011 merged it with FBB to create the volunteer network that is now the Beyond Belief Network (BBN). Noelle has been the executive director at Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) since 2015, and has held many different roles in the organization since she first began as a volunteer.

Noelle has several privileged identities, but wants to acknowledge the privilege of being a cis white woman whose parents were able to support her in earning a college degree, which has allowed her to volunteer her skills and experience for charitable causes or to work part-time while her husband financially supports their family as an engineer. Noelle lives in Houston TX and has a 7 year old daughter, two cats, and a dog.

Noelle George


Alison Gill: American Atheists 
Alison Gil Alison M. Gill is an accomplished attorney and a nationally recognized expert on civil rights and constitutional law. As Legal and Policy Director for American Atheists, Alison directs American Atheists’ legal and legislative advocacy strategy, coordinates with state and local advocates, and represents American Atheists in Washington, DC.

Before joining American Atheists, Alison worked as a consultant to foundations and nonprofits focusing on advocacy strategy and systemic change. Prior her consultancy work, Alison served as Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign where she managed state-level advocacy on issues such as conversion therapy, bullying prevention, education discrimination, LGBTQ health and wellness, youth homelessness, and LGBTQ data collection. Alison also worked as Government Affairs Director with The Trevor Project and as State Policy Manager with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. Alison received her B.A. in Molecular Biology & Biochemistry from Rutgers University and her J.D. from George Washington University Law School.


Bridgett Crutchfield : Secular Woman/Black Nonbelievers
“Bridgett ‘Bria’ Crutchfield is the head of the Detroit affiliate for Black Nonbelievers. She also serves on the board for the organization, as well as for Secular Woman and Godless Perverts. A native of California, she was raised Jehovah’s Witness, and then segued to Pentecostal Christianity, where she assumed various leadership roles.
Bria has a heart for newly identified atheists, and assisting those who are truly interested in forming alliances with people of color in the secular community.”


Sarah Levin: Secular Coalition for America
Sarah Levin is the Director of Grassroots and Community Programs at the Secular Coalition for America. Sarah graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from American University, where she served as president of the university’s Secular Student Alliance affiliate. Since joining the Secular Coalition in 2013, she has managed and grown the Secular Coalition’s state chapter program and implemented various grassroots campaigns on the national and state level, including: the 2014 “Knit a Brick” campaign to protest the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision; the 2015 (now annual) Bad Bill Madness; and a new initiative in 2016 which culminated in the first ever Secular Caucus at the Texas Democratic Convention, where three secular policy resolutions were incorporated into the party platform. Prior to joining the Secular Coalition, Sarah completed her AmeriCorps service by serving low-income immigrant and refugee families as a community liaison at the Greenbrier Learning Center in Arlington, Virginia. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys learning new languages, planning her next trip abroad, and putting Frank’s Red Hot sauce on everything.


Sarah Frey: Secular Coalition for America
Sarah Frey is the Grassroots Coordinator at the Secular Coalition for America. Sarah earned a duel BA from The College of New Jersey in English, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also trained to counsel Domestic Violence victims of all genders and ages, and has worked with many women of all faiths and none. Sarah Frey joined the Secular Coalition in April 2018. She has worked on numerous political campaigns and issue-based community organizing efforts, and worked for her NJ Congressman both in-district and on the Hill. In her free time, Sarah enjoys practicing Martial Arts and is a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.


Andy Gonsalez

In their daily work running a pre-school age classroom in Minneapolis, Andy Gonsalez takes great care to put their convictions into practice, coming at each problem with a conscious compassion. As all good teachers/child caretakers do, they bring their questions everywhere they go, getting feedback from the community members in their life on topics surrounding early childhood, racial inequality, and gender essentialism. In their free time they can be found biking the cities and watering their plants.


Olivia James: Autism Society of Minnesota
Olivia James is an autistic woman who currently works at the Autism Society of Minnesota. She began her life in the secular movement writing for Teen Skepchick before graduating to Skepchick, and has organized multiple conferences and dozens of events. She serves as accessibility coordinator for Autism Society of Minnesota events.


Sam Farooqui: Secular Woman
Sam Farooqui immigrated to Florida from Pakistan when she was 7 years old, and found herself to be an atheist by 14. She went on to have a B.S. in Psychology from Florida State University, where she organized the first ever Southeast Secular Student Regional Conference as one of the founding officers of the Secular Student Alliance at FSU. She is greatly interested in social institutions and systems, how they come to be, and how they affect people’s lives.


Trinity Pixie

Trinity Pixie is a transgender activist with a background studying cognitive science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which heavily informs her activism.  She is a former member of the advisory council for Secular Women, has co-written with Zinnia Jones, and contributed to LGBTI+ employee education at the Mayo Clinic.  Trinity has appeared at conferences such as Secular Women Work and Skepticon, where she speaks and hosts workshops on transgender and disability issues. She is an avid gamer and manages an online community for trans feminine gamers with over 500 members.


Kelley Freeman: NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio
Kelley Freeman is an organizer, full stop. She’s been working for NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio since June of 2017 and is about to really hit the ground running for the 2018 midterms (which she is more than happy to talk/commiserate about). Previously, she was a deputy canvass manager in Planned Parenthood’s 2016 campaign, worked in an ABORTION clinic, and as a communications associate for a secular student organization. She also worked for a church. You could say her experience is varied. Outside of her 9-5 (let’s be real, 9-9), she dabbles in stand-up comedy, burlesque, crafting like a mofo, and being a mom.


Amy Withawhy: Secular Soup

Amy Withawhy is co-host of the Secular Soup podcast. She lives in rural Minnesota, and has been a local atheist and progressive community organizer for many years. She is the founder of Lakes Area Atheists & Freethinkers, as well as a co-organizer of her local Stand Up Minnesota chapter. She was an original organizer of Advocates for Reproductive Education, a locally-owned family planning clinic, and is a well-known community rabble rouser. She has been married for 17 years, is a small business owner, and the mom of two boys who she hopes will make the world a better place. You can find out more about her podcast and work at www.delightfulbitchcraft.com.


Gretchen Koch: Giant If
Gretchen Koch has been arguing about religion on the internet since 1997. She became an atheist in college while majoring in religious studies, and earned a PhD in Religion and Cognition (focusing on belief in a soul and its relationship to empathy and moral responsibility) in 2009.  The comic Giant If originated in 2016 immediately following the election when Gretchen got tired of arguing just in words and decided to try adding some images.


Cassidy Slinger

Cassidy Slinger is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin Madison where she majored in Pharmacology & Toxicology and was active in Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics all four years she attended, serving as Vice President of the group for the last two. She hopes to eventually work in the medical field as a family medicine physician, with a focus on sexual and/or reproductive health. She’s passionate about reproductive justice, debunking pseudoscience, and making the secular community a safe and enjoyable place for all nonreligious people.


Lauren Lane: Skepticon
Lauren Lane is the Founder and Executive Director of Skepticon, a national conference located annually in Springfield, MO that promotes skepticism, science education and community building. During her tenure as an undergraduate, Lauren held various leadership positions in the Missouri State University Chapter of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a secular student group that revolutionized student activism. She has been a contributor to The Friendly Atheist, MadArtLabs, and has previously spoken at conventions such as the Secular Student Alliance Convention, FTBCon, and Reason in the Rock.


Dr. Ashley F. Miller

Dr. 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 15 years. She is currently a Presidential Management Fellow working in communications in DC. She has written for dozens of publications including Salon, Freethought Blogs, The Orbit, 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’s also active in the arts, as a digital painter and singer.


Debbie Goddard: Center for Inquiry 
Debbie Goddard is the director of outreach and director of African Americans for Humanism at the Center for Inquiry. Before working for CFI, she participated in local freethought groups in the greater Philadelphia region and helped organize and support campus groups internationally as a volunteer. She has also been involved with LGBTQ issues and progressive activism.


Elise Matthesen 

Elise Matthesen is an essayist, journalist, poet, fiction writer, crafter of art jewelry, and long-time bisexual rights activist. She has provided role-play services on code of conduct violation reporting for conventions training their ops/safety staffers, but this is the first time (and quite possibly the only time) she will present this workshop, so if you want the unvarnished opinions of someone who’s been through it, this is a rare opportunity. Prior to participation, your recommended reading includes “How To Report Sexual Harassment” and “What Happened After I Reported”.More details added as we progress!