SK10 Speaker: Jessica Xiao

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Jessica Xiao as the next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

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.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too. And hey — this completes our speaker name releases for this year. 10 amazing speakers for our amazing 10th year — how poetic and on theme!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Libby Cowgill

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Libby Cowgill as the next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

My research focuses on several different areas within the subdicipline of biological anthropology. Specifically, I study Pleistocene human evolution, human growth and development, human skeletal variation, and functional morphology. My current research program entails exploring the relationship between childhood activity patterns and the formation of adult skeletal morphology. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how much of variation in adult form is contingent on activity levels during development. I teach courses in human osteology, human biology and life history, methods of skeletal analysis, and the human fossil record.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Mandisa Thomas

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Mandisa Thomas as the next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

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.”

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

Sk10 Speaker: Randall Jenson

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Randall Jensen as the next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Randall Jenson​ is a queer, multiracial artist of color and the Creator and Director of SocialScope Productions, a consulting and coaching company focused on LGBTQ multimedia projects, cultural awareness and innovative youth program design models. For the past 16 years, he has worked closely with street-based youth,, youth of color and LGBTQ youth and in the fields of youth programming and anti-violence advocacy. Randall currently works as the LGBTQ Program Development Consultant and Trainer for Cornerstones of Care, the Program Director for Transformations, a Kansas City transgender and gender non-conforming youth social and support group, and is part of the consulting team for The DB Approach, which provides cultural competency consulting, training and policy development to select non-profits on an annual Kansas City TA cultural competency grant.

Randall’s intersectional documentary projects have been awarded multiple awards, including “outstanding anthropological work” by the Association for Queer Anthropology (2010) and the Third Wave Mobilize Power Fund (2016) and Kansas City Rocket Grant (2016). These recent grants helped fund the startup of both the KC transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) youth group and KC TGNC Summit: building a leadership fountain for TGNC youth and TGNC people of color. Randall is a published writer, having been featured in “BOYS: An Anthology,” and a blogger for The Huffington Post, Out Magazine, Bitch Media, The Advocate. In 2015, Randall was appointed as the lead advocate to help loved ones and their communities cope and heal from 3 LGBTQ homicides in Kansas City. He previously worked as the Manager of Youth Services for the Kansas City Anti­-Violence Project, providing multi-­state advocacy directly to LGBTQ youth affected by trauma and violence, as well as the LGBTQ Youth Advocate at Safe Connections in St. Louis, helping build the first regional LGBTQ youth anti­-violence program.

Randall has received national awards for his leadership and work with young people and homeless and vulnerable youth, racial justice advocacy, addressing the juvenile legal system and media’s impact on queer lives. Through his work as an anti-violence advocate, has keynoted Yale University’s “Pride Month” series in 2016, “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” for University of Iowa in 2015, as well as “Take Back the Night” at Southern Oregon University in 2015. Randall’s work as an artist and documentary filmmaker has allowed been featured at The Nelson Museum of Art, Missouri History Museum, MIX: New York’s Queer Experimental Film Festival, and have headlined Seattle Pride in 2017 and the 2010 and 2012 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender and Ally Collegiate Conferences (MBLGTACC). He was awarded the 2003 Jim Hoefer Community Service award for creating the “Youth Advisory Board” – the first ever LGBTQ youth teen social justice group – by St. Louis Pride, a featured speaker at the 2003 National ACLU Membership Conference in Washington D.C., featured in 2006 on The Oprah Show and awarded the “Youth Impact Award” by the National Youth Advocacy Coalition.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Samantha Montano

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Samantha Montano as the next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Dr. Samantha Montano has a B.S. in psychology from Loyola University New Orleans and a Ph.D. in emergency management from North Dakota State University. She first became involved in disaster work during recovery in New Orleans post-Katrina and during the BP Oil Disaster along the Gulf Coast. Her research primarily focuses on disaster recovery, and disaster nonprofits and volunteerism.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Kayley Whalen!

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome back Kayley Whalen as our next speaker on the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Kayley  is a queer activist and writer whose work has appeared in the Huffington Post, the Lambda-Award winning anthology Gender Outlaws the Next GenerationThe Humanist magazine and numerous blogs. She is a vocal atheist, drug policy reformer, and proud geek! As if she weren’t busy enough with all that, Kayley is the Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and she volunteers with Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center, and is on the Board of Directors of Ingersoll Gender Center.

As a multiracial white and Latina transgender woman, Kayley Whalen is excited about building an intersectional atheist and queer social justice movement. A childhood fascination with Isaac Asimov, rocketry and Air & Space magazine led her to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. There, she built and entered robots in Botball competitions, which she funded by baking pies. While she initially studied engineering at Rice University, she graduated Swarthmore College with a degree in English Literature and Women’s Studies in 2007. Kayley skated with the DC Rollergirls All-Stars under the name “Lenore Gore.”  Although she no longer builds robots or plays roller derby, she still loves science, baking, and can totally kick your ass at yoga.

We’re so excited to have them back with us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Leighann Lord!

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Leighann Lord as our next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Leighann Lord was the New York City face of the African Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and it’s Millions Living Happily Without Religion Campaign. Author Chris Johnson featured her in The Atheist Book: A Better Life. Leighann has been a co-host on the Emmy-nominated StarTalk with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann is also a CFI certified Secular Celebrant; officiating at milestone life events commemorated with a nonreligious worldview. Most recently Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. named her one of the Northeast Region’s Significant Seven for her contribution in the field of entertainment. As a veteran stand-up comedian, Leighann has been seen on: Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, HBO, and The View. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post and the author of Leighann Lord’s Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady. Follow her at VeryFunnyLady.com.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Ross Blocher

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Ross Blocher as our next speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Ross Blocher emerged from a childhood filled with Bible memorization, literal Creationism, and many books about ghosts and aliens as an adult with a keen interest in belief and the paranormal. Along with his co-host Carrie Poppy, Ross investigates fringe science, spirituality and all manner of extraordinary claims first-hand (so you don’t have to) for the podcast “Oh No, Ross and Carrie!” He is also a decade-long member of the Independent Investigation Group, helping design and administer challenges to test extraordinary claims for a $100,000 prize. By day, Ross works in animation, one of his other primary loves.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!

SK10 Speaker: Laura Thomas!

Hello Skepticon Lovers!

Please welcome Laura Thomas (that’s right – SHE’S BACK!) as our very first speaker to the Skepticon 10 lineup!

Laura Thomas is the deputy state director of the Drug Policy Institute, California, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She oversees the Institute’s municipal drug strategy work in San Francisco and leads DPA’s California harm reduction and public health legislation. She has over 25 years of experience in HIV and public health policy, along with a strong commitment to community advocacy, thoughtful policy analysis and coalition building. She first became involved in AIDS activism with ACT UP in San Francisco. Before joining DPA, she was a consultant specializing in HIV policy and planning, with clients ranging from the California State Office of AIDS to the National Association of People with AIDS. She has also worked for Tenderloin Health, a nonprofit health and social service provider serving a predominantly homeless population in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Thomas has been a syringe access volunteer for more than 18 years, and helped organize a successful 2007 symposium on safe injection facilities. She is proud to have received the AIDS Hero Award from the 2000 AIDS Candlelight Memorial. She serves on the HIV Prevention Planning Council and the San Francisco Cannabis State Legalization Task Force and is on the Steering Committee for the national HIV Prevention Justice Alliance.

We’re so excited to have them join us for our tenth year and we hope you are, too!

Love,

Skepticon

P.S. — Please consider donating to Skepticon today and help us make this year amazing!