Allyson S. Bolt
Allyson S. Bolt is a social worker, educator, and advocate for social justice. She has extensive experience working with survivors of domestic violence and with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, both in Grand Rapids and in Lansing. She currently works with people who are homeless, providing case management, employment seeking assistance, and group facilitation for people experiencing loss and trauma.
Allyson furthered her work in social justice advocacy at The Leaven Center, an organization committed to nurturing the relationship between spirituality and social justice. It was in her work there that she realized the urgent and critical work of continuous examination of her own privilege and that this work must be done from a place of love, hope, and patience. She believes that if we stay stuck, afraid, or silent, we contribute to the oppression. In her spheres of influence, Allyson is committed to uprooting the evils of racism and all forms of oppression. She has a Masters in Social Work from Michigan State University and currently resides in East Lansing, Michigan.
Karen Pace is a program developer, educator and facilitator with Michigan State University Extension and her work is grounded in social and economic justice and change. She has worked as part of talented and diverse teams for more than 20 years to create efforts that address root causes of complex issues at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels. She and her colleagues have provided hundreds of impactful programs and processes for thousands of people across the United States and her work has extended to youth and family agencies, schools, universities, juvenile justice organizations, faith-based communities, businesses, foundations, state and federal agencies and other groups.
As a white woman, Karen believes that a pathway to deep change is a lifelong process of learning and action focused on addressing white privilege, racial healing and racial equity – as well as the intersections and complexities of identities and forms of oppression across gender, class, disabilities, sexual orientation and other differences.
Karen’s expertise and experiences also include addressing issues of bullying, bias and harassment, building authentic relationships and partnerships across differences, and creating safe and inclusive environments that support the healthy development of children, youth, adults, organizations and communities. She is a published author, her print and video curriculum materials are used by a wide variety of organizations across the country and she has received numerous individual and team awards for her work.
Karen is grateful to the activists and teachers who have come before her and on whose shoulders she stands – as well as to the mentors and friends who continue to challenge and support her process of learning, growth and development. Karen’s life-work is centered in love, hope and healing as she works in “fiercely loving ways” to dismantle all forms of oppression at the personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural levels. While she possesses extensive knowledge and experiences around issues of oppression, she sees herself as a committed and passionate learner who facilitates dialogue and discussion in powerful and transformative ways. She brings to this work great strength and powerfulness balanced with great openness and humility. Karen is honored to be part of the team of gifted educators and facilitators who comprise Allies for Change.
Chris Paige is an organizer, educator, and writer who is particularly concerned with race, gender, and sexuality within the context of faith communities. She was on the staff of the award-winning progressive, ecumenical Christian magazine The Other Side from 1994 to 2003, including several years as publisher. Chris has been involved in organizing around issues of sexuality, gender, and racial identity for more than 10 years.
Having come out as a lesbian in 1994, Chris has been involved in LGBT faith-based organizing and education for more than a decade. With her partner, Beth Stroud, Chris spent several years (2003-2005) weathering a nationally publicized church trial and judicial process, which resulted in the loss of Beth's ordination credentials.
In 1999, Chris founded TransFaith Online to share in one place the few resources she could find at that time regarding the experience of faith from a transgender perspective. TransFaith was relaunched in late 2007 and now contains links to hundreds of resources on the internet.
Despite being raised in a liberal-minded, white household, Chris experienced an awakening in 2000 (at an LGBT Christian event, called WOW2000), making her aware of the on-going dynamics of racism among progressives. Chris has written about that experience and continues to work to educate others. She is a certified trainer in the Doing Our Own Work seminar, which is designed for anti-racist white people. Chris's experience as a foster-parent also informs her understanding of racism and systemic oppression.
In addition to her continuing work as an educator, Chris also works as a freelance consultant (www.ready-set-go.biz) to various small businesses and non-profit organizations with particular emphasis on website development.
Diane S. Schmitz
Diane S. Schmitz is an educator, minister, and writer focused on facilitating social change with an emphasis on racial equity. She is currently a director in Student Development at Seattle University, does organizational consulting, and is part of a team creating a new outreach ministry called “Sacred Action for Racial Justice.”
Diane has worked with individuals and organizations in a broad array of arenas including higher education, small & large corporations, nonprofit boards, and ministry. She has 17 years of experience providing spiritual direction, leading workshops and retreats, consulting, and has served as a United Church of Christ pastor. Twelve years of work in higher education have included opportunities to create professional development initiatives in multicultural competencies, understanding power and privilege, and becoming an inclusive organization. Diane has served as a guest lecturer in classrooms and presented at regional and national conferences. She has also facilitated discussions and study groups in church communities to help people gain insight about how being socialized in a “white racial frame” has created attitudes and beliefs that shape the church and society.
As part of her doctorate degree completion in June 2009, Diane’s dissertation research focused on the impact of systemic whiteness in higher education. She recently started a blog which explores what it means to be white and how attending to the individual and systemic impact of whiteness matters in the work for racial justice. http://whitematters.wordpress.com.
What motivates Diane’s work for social justice is a deep belief in the capacity for change in individuals and organizations. She believes in the importance of both reflection and action as a holistic approach to becoming effective change agents in our communities and the world.
Hillary Stephenson has been facilitating dialogue and transformative group process on issues of oppression and social justice for ten years. She has worked in the nonprofit field in the areas of violence against women and youth leadership development, including serving as Program Manager/Director of Training at Public Allies Los Angeles from 2005-2007. Since 2004 Hillary has been a member of the leadership team of AWARE-L.A. (Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere-Los Angeles), where she co-developed AWARE-L.A.’s workshop series on Radical White Community/Radical White Identity, and was one of the lead facilitators of its Summer Institute in 2009. Attending Doing Our Work at Leaven in 2001 was Hillary’s first introduction to white anti-racist dialogue spaces, and this experience solidified her commitment to racial justice work.
Hillary’s commitment to social justice and spiritual practice were born at the same moment, when at 17 years old her father, brother, and maternal grandmother died together in a car accident. This resulted in a profound shift in her relationship to life, and eventually led her to practice Buddhism at the Zen Center of Los Angeles where she is currently a member. As an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Hillary’s relationship to social justice work was transformed when she travelled with a group of students to South Africa with her professor, Nesha Haniff, to conduct HIV/AIDS health education rooted in the pedagogical approach of Paulo Freire. This experience, combined with a recent return to the Women’s Studies classroom as adjunct faculty at California State University in Long Beach, sparked Hillary’s passion for creating pedagogy that transforms oppression, invites creativity, and affirms our inherent humanity.
Hillary received her B.A. in Women’s Studies and Masters of Social Work from the University of Michigan. Currently a doctoral candidate in Transformative Inquiry at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), Hillary conducts research on engaged Buddhism and the relationship between Zen and transformative pedagogy. She is currently a Frederick P. Lenz Fellow in Buddhist Studies and American Culture and Values at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom is a teacher who is passionate about the role of schools in working for social justice. As one of the founding teachers, he taught for four years at University Prep High School (UPHS) in Detroit. By providing an individualized, student-centered learning approach, UPHS has been highly successful at graduating students and ensuring that they are accepted to and enroll in college.
Currently, Aaron works for the Henry Ford Learning Institute, a small non-profit that is developing a network of small, innovative charter schools based on the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, Michigan. Schools in the network leverage community partnerships and a rigorous and engaging curriculum to provide high quality educational options in urban school districts.
Aaron believes that racism is present everywhere and, while it does not oppress white people, it does damages them by making white people complicit in the oppression of people of color. He sees anti-racism work as critically important if white people are to regain their collective humanity. In addition to being a training partner with Allies For Change, Aaron is a community training partner with the Michigan State University Extension multicultural awareness program. He is also a deacon at Amistad Community Church, a multi-racial, Afro-centric, open and affirming church.
Aaron received his Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Michigan in 1995, where he created an individualized concentration to study issues of social justice and the role of education in social change. He returned to University of Michigan to get his Masters of Arts in Education and secondary teaching certification in 2000. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with his life partner, Alicia, and their two sons, Malcolm and Langston.