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Beginning with her early days as an up-and-coming stand-up comedian in San Francisco, Margaret Cho’s freethinking spirit was evident. Never one to shy away from any topic, there is literally nothing off limits and her socially aware, no-holds-barred type of comedy has made her both a thought leader and a tolerant teacher for those with open minds and open hearts. An accomplished performer, Margaret has conquered the worlds of film, television, books, music and theatre. Having been nominated for five Grammy Awards and one Emmy, her comedy tours are a constant sell-out. As important to her as her work in entertainment are the causes she is passionate about. Margaret has been widely recognized for her activism and work in the non-profit sector, lending her name, time, and tireless work ethic to several charities, especially anti-racism, anti-bullying, and LGBTQ+ rights campaigns.
Sandy HudsonCo-founder Black Lives Matter movement in Canada
Sandy Hudson is an activist, public speaker, award-winning author, lawyer, and the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement in Canada. Using an inspiring leadership style, she can simplify complex ideas. By finding common ground, she speaks out about issues such as anti-Black racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Through her community work, Hudson helped found the Black Legal Action Centre, a Black community-based legal aid clinic providing direct legal services and test case litigation in Ontario, and she also co-founded Wildseed Centre for Art & Activism a Black-owned community centre that seeks to nurture Black creativity and experimentation. Sandy’s passion lies with the BIPOC community, and she challenges and inspires society through cultural change and social justice.
Among Maclean’s 2021 Power List, Hudson is recognized as one of the most influential people in Canada. Among her many accolades, she has been named on Refinery29’s list of “29 Power Houses“, Toronto Life’s list of “50 Most Influential Torontonians“, and the list of “100 Black Women to Watch” by Canada International Black Women. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, NPR, the Toronto Star, CTV News, CP24, Global News, Buzzfeed, and KTLA.
Hudson is co-author of the best-selling anthology, Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada. Her writing appears in Maclean’s magazine, Chatelaine, FLARE magazine, Washington Post, Toronto Star, and Huffington Post. Hudson is the co-executive producer of Black Life: A Canadian History, an eight-part documentary series about Black Canadian History which will air on CBC Fall 2023.
Gwen MillsSecretary-Treasurer UNITE HERE
Gwen Mills is the Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE, a union of hospitality workers that represents 250,000 workers in hotels, casinos, food service, airports, and more across the United States and Canada. Mills is also a member of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.
Since 2017, Mills has served as Secretary-Treasurer for UNITE HERE, leading the union through some of its most tumultuous years. Under Mills’ stewardship, UNITE HERE was able to remain financially solvent after COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns devastated the hospitality industry, resulting in layoffs for 98% of the union’s membership.
Today, UNITE HERE is coming back stronger, winning historic gains in standard-setting contracts, and the union is one of the fastest growing unions in the American labour movement. Despite hardships, UNITE HERE organized 35,000 new workers into the union since the pandemic first hit North America under Mills’ leadership.
As Secretary-Treasurer, Mills has modernized the union’s data management and IT support systems to enhance the union’s ability to campaign, grow and connect with its membership across the United States and Canada. Mills built brand new teams of support staff to provide training and hands-on help for users across our union to ensure greater access to new technologies. Additionally, Mills has led programs to empower and promote union leadership among women, immigrants, Black workers, and people of color, restructuring the organization to be more equitable and reflective of the union’s membership. Among these efforts is the creation of a comprehensive sexual harassment training for all UNITE HERE International union staff and elected leadership. The training has also been adopted and deployed with hundreds of staff and leaders at UNITE HERE affiliates.
Valerie PlanteMayor City of Montréal
First elected city councillor in Saint-Marie district in 2013, Valérie Plante was chosen by Projet Montréal members to lead the party in 2016. Her contagious passion and energy have helped her rally people around her progressive vision.
Deeply committed to participatory democracy, Valérie Plante has a bold plan for Montréal centered on increased access to public transit, improved urban planning and public services, the economy and the environment. Her commitment is to bridge the gap on these issues for all 19 city boroughs.
She was first elected mayor of Montréal in the November 2017 municipal election. The people of Montréal gave her a second term in November 2021. As mayor of Montréal, Valérie Plante is a member of various advisory committees and governing boards.
- Chair of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM)
- President of the Big Cities Caucus of the Union des Municipalités du Québec (UMQ)
- Governing board member of Montréal international
- Governing board member of Fondation Montréal inc.
- Member of the Big City Mayors’ Caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities
- Co-president of Metropolis
- ICLEI’s Global Ambassador for Local Biodiversity
Chris SmallsPresident Amazon Labor Union
Chris Smalls is the founder and president of the Amazon Labor Union, an independent, democratic, worker-led labor union at Amazon in Staten Island. He is also the founder of The Congress of Essential Workers (TCOEW), a nationwide collective of essential workers and allies fighting for better working conditions, better wages, and a better world.
Smalls was formerly an Amazon warehouse supervisor, helping open three major warehouses in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut during his five years with the company, but he was fired in 2020 after organizing a protest against the company’s unsafe pandemic conditions.
Both his firing and the unsafe conditions have become the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Smalls has been profiled by media outlets worldwide, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, CBC Radio, Salon, and Jacobin. He lives in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Josh TholeSpecial Assistant to Minor League Baseball Players Major League Baseball Players Association
Drafted in 2005 by the New York Mets, Josh Thole played professional baseball for over 15 years. A catcher well-respected for handling and managing pitching staff, including knuckleballers, Josh played for seven different teams, including the New York Mets, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2012, he caught Johan Santana’s no hitter, the first in the team’s 50-year history. In addition to working for the Major League Baseball Players Association, Josh enjoys coaching his son’s 11u travel team. Josh now resides in upstate New York with his wife Kathryn and three children Camden, Harlow, and Maxx.
Brian YoungPresident & Executive Director Action Network
Brian Young is the President & Executive Director of Action Network. He has two decades of experience in digital politics, working on the Howard Dean campaign, leading John Kerry’s digital efforts in 2007-2011, and consulting with campaigns, advocacy organizations, and PACs in the US and around the world. He co-founded Action Network in 2011 and has led the Action Network team as it grew from a small startup to the toolset powering many of the largest campaigns and mobilizations of the last decade, from the Women’s March to Black Lives Matter protests to the DNC’s record-breaking small donor fundraising in the 2020 election. In 2019, he guided the organization in creating the innovative organizing platform Action Builder, the first toolset to truly marry modern technology with the time-tested tactics of union and community organizing.