Masood Akhtar is an Indian-born proud American Muslim entrepreneur and an activist. Akhtar has been living in Madison for over 30 years and actively involved with numerous community projects. To address the environment of Islamophobia, Akhtar spent significant amount of time addressing this issue in cooperation with leaders from the Madison Muslim Community, law enforcement officers, elected officials, local media and the general public. To address the current environment of hate, bigotry and racism, Akhtar started a state-wide non-partisan Movement “We Are Many: United Against Hate”- where people who are urban and rural, spiritual and secular can unite together to build an inclusive community. Akhtar’s Movement is not about us vs. them.
Akhtar also served on Dane County’s “Immigration and Refugee Task Force” aimed to build trust between local law enforcement officials and the immigration and refugee communities and thus reduce fear.
In 2017, Akhtar was awarded “Certificate of Appreciation” by Sergeant Janesville Police Department; Lieutenant, Kenosha Police Department; and Director of Emergency Management, UW-Madison Police Department to recognize with deep gratitude the contributions made by Akhtar to the Wisconsin Command College Re-Trainer.
In 2017, Akhtar was awarded “Certificate of Appreciation” by the Southern Poverty Law Center in recognition for his important contribution to the ongoing fight against hatred and intolerance in America. Akhtar’s name has been added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama, to provide inspiration to all those who choose to take a stand against hatred.
On February 8, 2019, Akhtar received “Certificate of Achievement” from Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers that states “all Wisconsinites should be inspired by Masood’s work and strive to unite together regardless of differences and seek to build a state and a country that is united against hate, bigotry and racism. Now therefore I, Tony Evers, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, do hereby congratulate Masood Akhtar and extend my best wishes to him for continued excellence.”
On May 3, 2019, Akhtar received the prestigious national FBI’s 2018 Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC from FBI Director Christopher Wray. The Award says, “In Recognition of Your Outstanding Contributions, To Our Nation & Communities Through Dedication and Leadership – With Deepest Appreciation”
On June 14, 2019, Akhtar was appointed on the Board of Friends of PBS Wisconsin.
On Nov 20, 2019, Akhtar was presented with “2019 Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award” by the Rotary Club of Madison. “It’s difficult to believe that you are not talking to Rabbi Swarsensky himself when you meet Masood Akhtar. The warmth, kindness, and acceptance are the same.” That is the opening statement from Masood Akhtar’s nomination for our Swarsensky Humanitarian Award submitted by Jeff Seltz.
Akhtar also created “Empowering Students for Success” organization to provide interest free loan and mentors to students from low- and medium-income families to get higher education.
Martin Alvarado has served on the ACLU of Wisconsin Board since 2010. He works for the Madison Public Library and considers free access to information and privacy as inherent citizen rights. Born to a mother from the United States and Mexican father, he believes there are basic rights that apply to all humans, regardless of their immigration status.
A.J. Nino Amato
Nino is a former member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, the University of Hospital & Clinic Authority Board and is a former President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board of Directors. Besides his leadership role as President of CWAG, which helps protect the rights of Wisconsin’s 1.3 million elderly and people with disabilities – he is a part-time Adjunct Professor at University of Wisconsin – Platteville, teaching “Women, Law & Social Control,” in the Criminal Justice Department and “Energy, Environment & Society” in the School of Engineering. Nino the co-author of “Today’s Hidden Racism: A Polite Apartheid,” which alerted American fifteen years ago,to the hidden racism of “racial disparities” in our public educational system, the growing income disparities, as well as the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system. Nino has had a successful business career as a Senior Executive in the Healthcare and Energy Industries, along with serving on numerous local, county and state committees, boards, commissions and task forces for both Democrat and Republican Governors. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Council of Consumer Organizations (NCCO) and has played a major role in founding three of Madison’s Sister Cities with Vilnius Lithuania, Camaguary Cuba and Mantova Italy. Nino international professional experience is extensive and was a free-lance journalist, behind the Soviet Iron Curtain in 1983,1988 and 1990 and witness the fall of the Soviet Union, during its control of eastern Europe and Russia.
In 2016, Madison365 recognized Percy Brown, Jr. as one of the most influential African- Americans in the state of Wisconsin. Madison365 describes Percy as “one of the great leaders to arise from the south side of Madison.” In 2014 and 2015 respectively, Percy was awarded the Educator of the Year award by the 100 Black Men chapter of Madison, WI. and was the recipient of the Urban League of Greater Madison President’s Rising Star award.
Percy Brown, Jr. comes from a family of civil rights activists that fought for equal rights in the Jim Crow south during the 1950’s and 60’s in Bolivar County Mississippi. His grandfather, Morgan Brown, Jr., was an educator for over 50 years and led most civil rights efforts in Bolivar County. Percy’s father, uncles and aunts were part of the first wave of blacks to desegregate white schools with his aunt Ella being the first of two blacks to integrate Rosedale High School. Percy’s family activism is part of his lineage that he carries into his work today.
Percy’s work has also been shaped by his life’s experiences growing up in a predominantly white, liberal and progressive community. In fifth grade, Percy experienced the desegregation of his elementary school in Madison, WI. in 1984. Percy grew up in the black church with his father serving as a Deacon for nearly 40 years, was exposed to college life and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity through his uncle Charles and followed the life of a drug dealer with his uncle Morgan. Percy brings a perspective that is balanced between faith, academics, street knowledge and activism.
Percy is currently the Director of Equity and Student Achievement for the Middleton Cross Plains Area School District, Senior Outreach Specialist for the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an adjunct instructor for Edgewood College in the school of education.
Percy’s latest endeavor is hosting a new video blog series on Madison365 called Real Talk.
Charles L. Cohen is E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions, Emeritus, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His scholarship has focused on religion in America and on the braided histories of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He has co-edited, among other books, Gods in America: Religious Pluralism in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2013), and The Future of Interreligious Dialogue: A Multireligious Conversation on Nostra Aetate (Orbis Press, 2017). Oxford University Press will publish Abrahamic Religions: A Very Short Introduction in 2019. He served as the Director of the Lubar Institute for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions at UW-Madison, and he currently sits on the Religious Practices Advisory Committee, Department of Corrections, State of Wisconsin.
David Couper has gone through many transformations in his life—from his time in the U.S. Marines to that of husband and father of nine children. His career has involved 30-plus years as a police officer and chief of police and 25 years as a parish priest in the Episcopal Church. He is active in matters of racial equality and social justice. He is the author of the book Arrested Development, a criticism of our current system of policing. He lectures and blogs about his life experiences and perspectives on policing.
Tim Cullen is a life long resident of Janesville, WI and a graduate of UW-Whitewater. He served as a Wisconsin state senator from 1975-1986 (as majority leader from 1982-1986) and again from 2011 – 2015. Tim served as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services from 1987-1988 and as a member of the Janesville school board from 2007-2010. His the author of “Ringside Seat: Wisconsin Politics, the 1970s to Scott Walker” and is currently co-chair of Common Cause Wisconsin.
I am with Madison Chapter 25 of Veterans for Peace (VPP), a national non-profit 501(c)(3) educational and humanitarian organization dedicated to the abolition of war. VFP was founded in 1985 by ex-service members committed to sharing the horrors they experienced. We know the consequences of American foreign policy because once, at a time in our lives, so many of us carried it out. We find it sad that war seems necessary and justified, so often, to those who have no knowledge of it. We will steadfastly, and patriotically, continue to denounce war despite whatever misguided sense of euphoria supports it. I served in the United States Air Force for four years, 1962-1966. I was a Scoutmaster for three years and was a volunteer on the Belleville Fire Department for almost 30 years. When the USA invaded Iran I discovered there was a Veterans for Peace chapter in Madison and joined. My focus is on installing the Memorial Mile in Olbrich Park for a week before Memorial Day that represents the cost of war in lives lost by the USA.
Kris Gorton is the pastor at Memorial United Church of Christ (UCC) in Fitchburg. She and her husband grew up in Southwestern Wisconsin and enjoy bicycling, hiking, and traveling. In seminary, Kris’ studies focused on interreligious engagement which included a Study Tour to Israel and Palestine in 2016. Currently, Kris is on the Stewardship of Public Live committee of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Board of Worker Justice Wisconsin, and is a founding member of the UCC’s Economic Justice Movement.
Molly is an education consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). In her role at DPI, Molly manages a grant that works with school districts across the state to create safe and supportive environments for LGBT students, promote exemplary sexual health education, and increase access to key sexual health services. Prior to joining the team at DPI, Molly worked for over 15 years as a health educator at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services in the AIDS/HIV Program’s Prevention Unit. Molly also works as a private consultant on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health with experience training providers, conducting research with LGBT communities, and developing strategies to increase inclusion in mainstream services. Molly brings over 18 years of experience as a trainer and educator, specializing in LGBT health, intimate partner violence, HIV, and community readiness assessments.
Elana Kahn is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which works to create a just community that reflects the best of American and Jewish values by convening and mobilizing the Jewish community through education, advocacy, social justice and support for Israel. Its program, Hours Against Hate, mobilizes people to connect with people across lines of race, religion, culture, class, and more, in an effort to dismantle bigotry and promote respect. She serves on the organizing committee of the Community Coalition for Quality Policing, a diverse group of organizations and faith leaders who are working to improve police community relations, reduce crime, and improve the lives of community members by implementing a new model of policing. She also serves on the executive committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and the Lux Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Sacred Heart School of Theology. An award winning writer and editor, she was formerly editor of The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle and president of the American Jewish Press Association.
Pardeep Kaleka is the eldest son of Satwant Singh Kaleka, the former president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who was shot during the mass shooting at the temple on August 5th, 2012, that killed six and wounded four. Pardeep grew up in Milwaukee and graduated from Marquette University. Being a former Milwaukee Police Officer and a current teacher in the inner city, Pardeep is no stranger to the never-ending battle against racism, bigotry and ignorance. He firmly believes that the lamp of knowledge and truth will outshine all darkness in the world, and does his best to profess this through his work with Serve2Unite.org.
Kim Kaukl grew up in the southwest town of Richland Center and graduated from Richland Center High School. Upon graduation, he attended UW-Richland and then transferred to UW-LaCrosse where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and later his Masters in Educational Administration from UW-Madison.
Kim’s education career spanned 34 years. Of those 34 years, he served 31 as a building administrator in high schools of varying sizes and needs in Wisconsin. For 22 years, he worked as a teacher and principal in rural school districts thus, making rural schools near and dear to his heart.
During his administrative career, Kim was an active member of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators (AWSA), where he served in a variety of roles, including; the AWSA Region 3 Director, a member of the Region 3 Cabinet, a member and chair of the Senior High Commission, helping to plan both the Senior High Conference and Fall Conferences, he was a member of the AWSA Awards Committee, and an AWSA representative on various task forces. Kim also served as a member of the WIAA Advisory Board.
Kim retired from public education in June of 2015 and in July he took over the reins as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA). Kim is enjoying his new role and is working hard to ensure the rural voice is heard in Madison. Kim has always been a strong believer
that rural schools can compete with urban schools in providing quality education for all students. His goal is to fight hard to maintain this competitiveness for the students and communities of rural Wisconsin.
Michael Light is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research primarily focuses on crime, punishment, and immigration. He completed his PhD in Sociology at The Pennsylvania State University in 2013 and taught at Purdue University prior to coming to Madison.
Mike McCabe got his start in life on the farm milking cows and working the land with his family. He brings that farming background and a lifetime of experience in politics, journalism, nonprofit leadership and public sector management to his work. He authored the critically acclaimed book “Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics” that was named one of the best books of 2014 by The Progressive magazine. He ran a spirited underdog campaign for governor of Wisconsin in 2018. Before that he started the grassroots group Blue Jean Nation. For 15 years Mike led the independent watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. In that role, Mike blew the whistle on wrongdoing by government officials and earned a reputation as one of the nation’s best political money trackers. Under his leadership, the Democracy Campaign was named the Citizen Openness Advocate of the Year in 2012 by the Society of Professional Journalists and Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. In 2015 the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism honored him with its Distinguished Service Award.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Arno Michaelis was a founding member of what went on to become the largest racist skinhead organization in the world, a reverend of a self-declared “Racial Holy War,” and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-nineties and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter and the forgiveness shown by the people he once hated all helped to turn Arno’s life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life. Today, Arno is a speaker, author of “My Life After Hate” and very fortunate to be able to share his ongoing process of character development working with Serve2Unite.org. Arno enjoys spending time with his daughter, art, music, and all forms of fearless creative expression, along with climbing things, being under water, and the wonderful natural beauty of our planet Earth. Learn more at mylifeafterhate.org.
Rahma Mohamed is a first-generation Somali-American who was born in California. She has lived in Wisconsin for over 6 years and was the former Miss Muslimah Wisconsin. In July 2019, Rahma was crowned Miss Muslimah USA, a pageant that promotes modesty and inner beauty while also giving Muslim women in America the opportunity to change misconceptions about them. As quoted by the media, Rahma firmly believes that even with a hijab, a symbol for Muslim women, “there are no barriers with achievement, beauty, confidence, poise, grace, and elegance,” that cannot be overcome.
She graduated from James Madison Memorial High School at the age of 16 on honor roll. She has attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison since and has plans to major in Mechanical Engineering. She will also attend flight school in order to become a pilot. Rahma has a history of accomplishment receiving over 30 awards such as the Senatorial Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence and the Outstanding Young Person Award from the Urban League of Madison.
Rahma is also a passionate activist on a variety of issues including combating Islamophobia, demanding common sense Gun Control, and fighting for Women’s Rights. Spring 2019, Rahma helped lead the gun control marches that took the nation by storm after the Parkland shooting where she gave speeches from her unique perspective as a black, Muslim, daughter of immigrants, and student who is especially at risk of being targeted beyond the classroom. For her efforts on her continued activism, Rahma has received the New Leaders Award in 2018.
Most recently, Rahma has founded a non-profit, Sister’s International Support Squad (SIS Squad), whose goal is to develop underprivileged areas internationally through sustainable initiatives distinctly catered the needs of the region while empowering women. She was inspired to create this organization when she travelled alone to a country she has never seen before while still being 16. She lived in Somalia from August to October 2018 in order to survey the needs of this struggling African nation. She worked with ministers, orphanages, farmers, institutes of education, and CEOs of large corporations in Somalia only to notice that the issues faced in there country are faced by countries all over the world, motivating her to create an international non-profit.
Rick Orton is retired from a career in Community Development. His experience includes community health education, community and economic development, organizational and group development, and volunteer management. In retirement, Mr. Orton creates educational courses focused on issues of injustice and inequality in Madison and serves on a number of advisory panels with focus on these issues.
Amitabh Pal is the Communications Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Prior to joining in February 2016, he was the Managing Editor of The Progressive magazine for more than a decade. He was also the editor of the Progressive Media Project, an affiliate of The Progressive that sends out op-eds through the Tribune Wire Service to hundreds of newspapers in the United States and other countries. Pal has appeared on C-SPAN and BBC and television and radio stations all over the United States and abroad. His articles have been published in school and college textbooks in the United States and Australia. Pal teaches a course at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. He has a Master’s in Journalism from the University of North Carolina and a Master’s in Political Science from North Carolina State University.
A. Steven Porter is a Madison civil rights lawyer who litigates to protect individuals and groups against deprivations of their civil rights and employment discrimination. Mr. Porter has successfully litigated to protect First Amendment rights of an assistant professor seeking the right to protest at the State Capitol with the Solidarity Singers (Kissick v. Huebsch), people demonstrating in support of Native American spearfishing treaty rights (Koser v. Price County), an organization presenting LGBT theater productions (MGAC v. Milwaukee), and a Muslim women subjected to searches of her hijab when visiting a loved one in a state prison (Rhouni v. Casperson), among others. He also litigates Constitutional claims of police and other governmental misconduct.Mr. Porter serves on the board the Civil Rights and Liberties Section (CRL) of the State Bar of Wisconsin where he is active on its legislative committee. He is a cooperating attorney with and former board member of the ACLU-WI, a member of the steering committee for the American Constitution Society Madison Chapter, and a member of various employment lawyers associations. He is regularly called upon to present at continuing legal education (CLE) seminars on topics related to civil rights and employment discrimination, and, he has produced many CLE seminars on civil rights and employment discrimination topics. His article on the civil rights of children was published in the Wisconsin Bar Journal.
Ulrich Rosenhagen is Director of the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry and Lecturer in Religious Studies at UW-Madison. He has written on Jewish-Christian relations, Social Protestantism, and interreligious dialogue in academic journals as well as outlets like The Christian Century, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Commonweal, Religion News Service, Sojourners, Dissent, and the Huffington Post. He was a researcher at the Technical University of Dresden and has held a research fellowship at Boston University. Prior to coming to Madison in 2006, he worked for several years as a Lutheran pastor in Germany and Miami, FL.
Levi Schlimgen is a high school student in Mount Horeb. He dedicates most of his time to music and working on the high schools tech team that manages shows in the auditorium. He became inspired to do something about the hurt and hate in his community after attending Moving Past Hate, a forum at Monona Terrace in 2017. He encourages those around him to stand up for not only yourself but for others as well. He hopes to work and learn with many in a journey against hate.
Senator Schultz earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the School of Business at UW-Madison. He is a licensed real estate agent, and he and his wife, Rachel, own and operate a 210-acre century farm in Sauk County. They have two adult daughters, and currently make their home in Richland Center. Dale was elected to the State Assembly in 1982, and then to the State Senate during a special election in the fall of 1991 where he remained until his retirement in 2014. During his legislative tenure, he was elected Majority Leader in 2003, and served on numerous committees, including the Joint Finance Committee. Senator Schultz, who is known as a consensus leader, continues to remain engaged by promoting reforms for public schools, encouraging appropriate funding for education, and, along with Senator Cullen, is active in re-districting reform. Senator Schultz believes bi-partisan collaboration is the best way to accomplish change that will be long lasting.
Steve Starkey is the Executive Director at OutReach LGBT Community Center. He has worked with social justice nonprofit organizations and cooperatives since the 1970s, as a volunteer, donor, board or committee member, or staff member. Throughout his career Steve has been involved in addressing issues such as peace and justice, environmental preservation, economic justice, racial justice, lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and many other causes.Steve served two terms on the board of New Harvest Foundation (LGBT fund for Dane County) from 1996 to 2002, was the Founding Vice President of the Social Justice Center from 2001 to 2003, the Treasurer of the Board of Citizen Action of Wisconsin Education Fund from 2003 to 2007, and served on the board of Community Shares of Wisconsin from 2008 to present. Steve is from a blue collar union family and strongly supports the rights of people to collectively bargain.
Sam Szalkowski is a high school student in Mount Horeb who is heavily involved in music, drama, and athletics. Inspired to serve by seeing the damage hate can do, he is dedicated to spreading a message of love and acceptance in his community. His goal is to encourage people of his generation to stand against hate in a nonpartisan and nonviolent way.
Caroline Tu Farley
Caroline Tu Farley is the Program Director for the Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability located in Verona, WI. The Farley Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to progressive change, community partnership, environmental sustainability, peace and social justice. The Center consists of three primary areas that include a farm incubator, a nature preserve burial ground , and programs that promote peace and justice. Caroline provides the coordination and oversight of the programs, volunteers and event planning and implementation of programs at the Center.She also develops and nurtures partnerships with community based groups and organizations working toward making this a more peaceful, just and sustainable community.
John W. Vaudreuil was the United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin from August 2010 to March 10, 2017. . Prior to his appointment to this position in by President Barack Obama, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in the district since January 1980 representing the United States in criminal cases in federal court. As US Attorney, Vaudreuil led an office committed to the fair and equal enforcement of federal law, including civil rights laws, both in civil and criminal cases. His office aggressively pursued civil housing discrimination cases and cases involving violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As the chief federal law enforcement officer, Vaudreuil also tirelessly worked to build relationships of trust and understanding with communities that might be targets of civil rights crimes.
Vaudreuil also has international teaching experience. Since 2001 he has supported the rule of law efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice, teaching prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Albania, the Czech Republic, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Macedonia, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Republic of Georgia, Russia, Serbia, Uganda, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Estonia, Moldova, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Nepal, and Tanzania.
Kristin K. White Eagle
Kristin is an enrolled tribal member of the Ho-Chunk Nation (HCN) and is currently serving a 4-year term as a Legislator for the Ho-Chunk Nation. She was elected in 2017 as a Representative from District II, one of thirteen Representatives that serve a tribal nation of almost 8000 tribal members. Educated within the UW system and as a Business Administration graduate from Cardinal Stritch University, she applied this to her career in tribal gaming. She held key management and progressive leadership positions that gave her a vast skillset and allowed her to explore a wide array of training and challenged her with new opportunities for professional growth. Kristin focuses on tribal sovereignty through place making, building relationships through/with otherwise untouched resources, strengthening the roots of her rich heritage through outreach and education, and bringing about more awareness of the Ho-Chunk history and continued strong culture, while also updating and passing laws that secure a stronghold for the Ho-Chunk people for generations to come. Kristin is also in her 2nd term as a Sauk County Board Supervisor. As a County Supervisor, Kristin led the effort towards a Sauk County 2018 Resolution “Declaring the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Sauk County” and pushed to continue outreach, resulting in the county’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day weekend in October 2019 that was spawned from a historical relationship between the HCN and Sauk County. Kristin represents the HCN as a co-Chair for this historical relationship which is now known as ONE SAUK, NATURALLY. She currently serves on the Sauk County Historical Society’s Board of Directors, sits on the Finance Committee of the HCN and the County, and is the Legislative Liaison with the HCN Trust and Investment Committee. She devotes her free time to her family of three sons, a grandson, her companion Ben and his two children, and continues to advocate for understanding of others, through differences and similarities, and supports youth leadership, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Laurie Zimmerman is the Rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in Madison. She has been serving the congregation since 2003 upon her ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 2015 she published a curriculum for children and teenagers entitled Reframing Israel: Teaching Kids to Think Critically About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Rabbi Laurie has been active on several non-profit boards and with several local initiatives in Madison, including the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, and Voces de la Frontera. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.