Aishwarya “Aishu” Ravindran is a disciple of Smt. Madhusri Sethuraman, and has been learning Bharatanatyam in the Vazhuvoor style for the last 16 years. She received 2nd place in the Saptami Foundation solo dance and had the prestigious opportunity to perform in Bharati Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, Chennai. Aishu is a passionate and accomplished Carnatic singer; classically trained since age five. She is also a Mridangist: one of the few women able to learn the percussion art form. Passionate about teaching, she has been fortunate to share her experience with aspiring dancers in the Chicagoland area. Aishwarya is a graduate from the University of Texas at Dallas and currently works as a Government, Healthcare, Higher-Ed, and Not-For-Profit Banking Analyst at JP Morgan.
Christa Desir writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her novels include Fault Line, Bleed Like Me, Other Broken Things, Love Blind and Four-Letter Word. Two of her books were chosen by the Illinois Reading Council as Illinois Reads books for high school students. She has twice been selected for the In the Margins list of top fiction books for youth living in poverty, on the streets, or in custody. Christa lives with her husband, three children and overly enthusiastic dog in Oak Park. For nearly 20 years, she has been working as a rape victim activist, both in hospital ERs as an advocate and as a public speaker. She is a founding member of the Voices and Faces Project, a nonprofit organization for rape survivors that conducts an international survivor-based testimonial writing workshop, including working with incarcerated teens. She also works as an editor and co-hosts a podcast about sexuality in literature.
Jeanne Malnati’s greatest passion is inspiring, challenging and empowering individuals. As a licensed psychotherapist, expert in workplace wellness, and Founder and CEO of The Culture Group, she masterfully teaches practical yet profound communication tools and conscious leadership principles. Jeanne has also helped earn Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria the Top Workplace Award from the Chicago Tribune for eight consecutive years, as well as the Top 150 National Workplace Award. Jeanne is also the Founder, along with her two adult daughters, of Spreading Hearts – an international movement where over 30,000 small pewter hearts have been spread to individuals around the world letting them know they are valued, seen and loved. Jeanne and her husband celebrate 38 years of marriage and live in Chicago.
Through a multidisciplinary approach, Kara Jackson attempts to document her lineage of divine womanhood in a country that demands its erasure. An Adroit Journal mentee and award-winning writer, Kara is also an alum of the Spoken Word Club at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Her writing has appeared in Frontier Poetry, Rookie Mag, Nimrod Literary Journal, Saint Heron, Blavity, The End of Chiraq, and POETRY.
Morgan Field is the author of the six-time award winning, Amazon Best Selling book, Epic Sexy You. She is an internationally recognized Intuitive Life Coach and the founder of the global female empowerment movement - Epic Sexy You - which is currently in 19 countries and counting. Her mission is to help women create a legendary life they absolutely love living. With one-on-one coaching, adventure-filled retreats, group programs, and live events, the movement is focused on teaching women how to access a version of themselves they fiercely love being, to get to feel radiant from the inside out, to chase fiercely wild and epic dreams, and to shed all that society has conditioned us into - so that you can truly become authentically unapologetically you! And it all started right here in Oak Park, where Morgan spent the first 35 years of her life, before moving to Miami in late 2017.
Susan L. Adler, LCSW has 35 years of experience as a therapist, and was named a Chicago Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers Chicago Chapter. She is an award-winning author and an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor. Currently in private practice, Susan specializes in Couples Therapy including Pre-marital Counseling, and Separation and Divorce Recovery as well as Adult Individual Psychotherapy. She has a subspecialty working with LGBTQ individuals and couples. Susan is known for her approachable, humanistic, strength-based, goal-driven approach to treatment. She is passionate about helping others discover and reach their personal goals and experience deep and satisfying relationships. Happily married, Susan has lived, worked and raised her family, including six children and step-children, in the Oak Park / River Forest area for the past 30 years.
Cate Readling’s family of five moved from Connecticut to Oak Park in 2009, in search of diversity, strong schools, and proximity to the city. Her youngest child was born here in Chicago, and last year was the first year that all six of her family members were registered in Scouting. Service is her passion, and she has pursued that passion as a co-founder of Oak Park Scouts for Equality, founder of Cub Scout Pack 16, a Cub Scout Tiger Den Leader, Council Member of First United Church of Oak Park, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Park District of Oak Park, and an organizer with Oak Park Call To Action and the People’s Lobby. Cate graduated from Boston University with a degree in Marketing, and had a career in commodity and then media sales.
CYNTHIA K. WADE
Cynthia K. Wade is the Founder and Managing Director of do-over.me: a not-for-profit that provides practical support to people who are in career transition and was recently recognized with the Spark Award from Adler University. The award honors new agencies for excellence in providing social justice practicum. Cynthia was named an “Age Disruptor” by AARP Illinois and Crain's Custom Media - among the inaugural recipients of the first 50@50+ Illinois Award. She was also one of nine women recognized by Shaw Media as a 2017 Woman of Distinction: a woman who has made a difference as a leader in her field and community. Cynthia is also a founding director of Talk of the Town Toastmasters. She graduated from Illinois Institute of Art and is certified in Volunteer Management. Though born in Oak Park, Cynthia currently lives in Geneva, IL, with her West Highland Terrier, Bella. She is a proud mom of a grown daughter, Kate.
KAMAU "MAUI" JONES
Kamau "Maui" Jones is the founder and artistic director of Echo Theater Collective. His directorial credits include Legends of Broadway, an original piece he co-wrote, and Fiddler on the Roof. Through Echo Theater Collective, Maui has partnered with Suburban Unity Alliance, Oak Park Women of Color, and other organizations to curate events focused on giving voices to those less heard; such as the Sing! series (community singalongs to celebrate underrepresented groups) and The Minority Monologues (an exploration of cultural identity in America). Recently, Maui directed Blues for Mister Charlie, a social commentary about systemic racism and violence against black men. Concurrently, he facilitated a series of talks in the Oak Park area about racism and the tools we have as a community to beat it.
Lisa Barr is the award-winning author of Fugitive Colors and The Unbreakables (HarperCollins). A mom of three, Lisa created the popular parenting blog GIRLilla Warfare, and has been featured on GMA and TODAY for her work as an author/journalist/blogger. In Lisa's view, this is the Year of the Woman: new barriers have been broken with strong movements like #metoo and #timesup. Women realize that they are truly not alone, and that we are better together.
Reesheda Graham-Washington was born and raised in the Austin community and has lived throughout the Chicagoland area. She is the founding CEO of L!VE 2.0, LLC and the Executive Director of Communities First Association. An experienced educator and administrator, a licensed minister and coach, and co-author of Soul Force: Seven Pivots to Courage, Community, and Change, Reesheda focuses on initiatives that touch on subjects of equity, appropriation, contemplative mindfulness, peace-making, and reconciliatory practices. She has studied the lives of people and the context of communities all over the world. Reesheda is also a part of OPRF Community Foundation’s Leadership Lab, Micah Group, and Resilience. In her spare time, Reesheda neighbors, writes, paints, cooks, travels, and dabbles in the study of languages.
CATHY YEN, EMCEE
Cathy is active in the Oak Park and River Forest communities’ economic development organizations, the Oak Park Business and Civic Council, and the Entrepreneurial Leaders in Philanthropy giving group. Since settling in Oak Park in 1994, Cathy has held leadership positions in many community organizations, including the Oak Park Education Foundation, the Community Chest United Way, Girl Scouts, and various parent organizations. In 2018, Cathy became the 100th President of the Rotary Club of Oak Park-River Forest. Cathy graduated from Princeton University with a degree in politics. She holds a Masters Degree in Asian Studies from University of California, Berkeley, and a Masters in Business Administration from University of Chicago Booth School of Business. She was an early participant in Leadership Lab, a year-long community leadership program of the OPRF Community Foundation. Last year, Cathy gave an inspiring TED Talk and is pleased to return as Emcee for TEDxOakParkWomen's 2018 event.