ISSUED: 4 February 2021
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s offices of Multicultural Affairs, Title IX, and Diversity and Equity are sponsoring a virtual community discussion titled “Leaders for Change in the Mountain State” that features a panel of leaders and activists who have inspired change and empowered communities across West Virginia. The event will take place via Zoom on Friday, February 19, at 3 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
During the discussion panelists will explore the challenges facing the state and what work lies ahead to build a more resilient West Virginia. Among the panelists are Jill Upson, Stephen Smith, Ixya Vega, Sammi Brown, and Peshka Calloway.
Upson is executive director of the West Virginia Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and chair of both the Martin Luther King Jr. State Holiday Commission and the Governor’s COVID-19 Advisory Commission on African American Disparities. She is a graduate of Shepherd University with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
Smith, a graduate of Harvard College and the London School of Economics, has spent his career fighting alongside working-class families, people with disabilities, ex-offenders, immigrants, and people with substance use disorder. In 2020, he ran for governor as part of West Virginia Can’t Wait, a movement to win a people’s government in West Virginia that recruited 101 pro-labor, no-corporate-cash candidates for office.
Vega has been fighting for West Virginia for five years. A recent first-generation college graduate of West Virginia University, she is currently a field organizer at Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic. She also serves on the Board of Directors at Holler Health Justice.
Brown was raised in Ranson and Charles Town. She has both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration from Shepherd. As a former West Virginia state delegate and a lifelong organizer, Brown has worked alongside educators, working families, and everyday citizens to fight for the rights of West Virginians.
Calloway is a U.S. Army veteran, single mother, and Affrilachian artist from Parkersburg. She served as the state director for both Spread the Vote and Project ID. Currently, she serves as a co-director for Holler Health Justice and continues her work as a community organizer.
To attend the conference, visit https://www.shepherd.edu/multicultural-student-affairs/social-justice-project-events for the Zoom link.
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