Speakers and Panelists
Dr. Jason Sole
Dr. Jason Sole is a criminal justice educator, author, and community organizer, but first and foremost identifies as an abolitionist. Growing up in Chicago, Dr. Sole's early life involved gunshots and selling drugs to make ends meet, which eventually landed him in jail.
He has since become a published author, retelling his story in his autobiography, "From Prison to Ph.D.: A Memoir of Hope, Resilience, and Second Chances," acted as the Minneapolis NAACP's president, co-founded the Humanize my Hoodie movement, and worked closely with Mayor Coleman to create the Community Ambassadors Program, which led to a 63% reduction in juvenile crime in its first year.
Dr. Sole is now a nationally recognized speaker and teaches at Hamline University, where he desires to "effectively communicate accurate information about crime and criminality so students can be citizens who can make informed assessments regarding root causes of criminality and identify viable solutions to reduce crime."
A prominent member of the Minnecoujou/Yankton Lakota and HoChunk tribes, Lakota Harden is an organizer, community leader, and elder focusing on intergenerational trauma and activism.
She began her journey early in life as an activist acting as a representative of the early American Indian Movement's "We Will Remember" Survival School on the Pine Ridge reservation. She continued her activism work joining forces with such organizations as the International Indian Treaty Council, Idle No More, Women of All Red Nations (WARN), among others. Harden's work has led her to become the recipient of several awards such as Mills College's Brave Hearted Woman Award and the Women of Color Resource Center's Sisters of Fire Award. She has also been featured in the 2018 documentary, "Warrior Women," a film that highlights prominent Indigenous activists.
Harden currently works in Alaska and spends her days healing and reversing the problems generations of colonization have brought to Indigenous populations, mainly focusing on diabetes prevention, trauma, and environmental protection.
Dr. Michael Yellow Bird
Dr. Michael Yellow Bird has held faculty appointments across numerous institutions of higher education and is currently the dean of social work at the University of Manitoba. A celebrated scholar and author, Dr. Yellow Bird is also a citizen of the Fort Berthold reservation and belongs to the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribes.
Dr. Yellow Bird's work focuses primarily on Indigenous communities, decolonization, and practicing mindfulness. To resurrect Tribal traditions that have since been erased from centuries of colonization, his passion is to increase wellness across Indigenous communities by bringing attention to the historical relevance of daily contemplative and mindful practices. His efforts result in neurodecolonization, which "involves combining mindfulness approaches with traditional and contemporary secular and sacred contemplative practices to replace negative patterns of thought, emotion and behavior with healthy, productive ones."
Dr. Yellow Bird earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Dakota and the University of Wisconsin, both the Milwaukee and Madison campus, and has published two books, "For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook" and "For Indigenous Minds Only: A Decolonization Handbook," and several essays and journal articles.
Josette Ciceron is an associate editor and podcaster. Moving her and her family from Florida to small-town Minnesota five years ago in search of new opportunities, they were met with indifference and hostility. These encounters became such a part of her family's daily life that they led to a decline in her mental health. After a year filled with anxiety from doing simple tasks such as leaving the house out of fear for her safety, she sought help and slowly began to realize her ability to reclaim her life. Part of her redemption journey involved writing her story, which was then published in a local magazine, Definitive Woman. She is now the associate editor of the same magazine that shared her story, opening her up to a new community of accepting and understanding people that supported her and her voice.
Ciceron has continued to share her story and lend support to others who struggle to have their voices heard in various ways. In her podcast "Unapologetically Anxious Me," she has episodes on topics such as white privilege and color-blindness in an effort to share her story and others' stories and reclaim their lives.
Ciceron lives in Alexandria, Minn., with her family where she has built her community by starting monthly Complexity Initiative Potlucks and becoming a volunteer administrative team member of the Inclusion Network. In her community work, she has become a prominent public figure and speaker in central Minnesota, appearing on local radio and talk shows where she continues to share her story.