Jose Antonio Vargas
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas visits USFRead More »
Speaker at CDS Forum Photo 2013
Speaker at CDS Forum 2013 (3)
Performers at CDS Forum 2013
Speaker at CDS Forum 2013 (2)

Speaker Bios

Awele Makeba

Awele has mesmerized audiences around the world including the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Musikverein Vienna, Tsinchu Teacher’s College in Taiwan, Suriname (U.S. Dept. of State Tour), Russia, Australia, France and Canada.

Awele (ah WAY lay) is an award winning and internationally known storyteller/teaching artist, literacy specialist, and recording artist recognized as a “truth teller," an artist for social change, and someone who sparks "aha!" moments. She researches, writes and performs hidden African American history, folklore, and personal tales. She provides opportunities for audiences to grapple with the meaning of their own lives as they make meaning of past lives. She has made it her life’s work to tell history through the words of its silenced and oft-forgotten witnesses. Awele uses art to catalyze deep conversations about race, our common humanity, and our vision of a just, humane, multiracial society. Awele teaches through performance and she animates democracy through her art.

She has written two one-woman shows, Rage Is Not A 1-Day Thing!: The Untaught History of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and I’m Not Getting On Until Jim Crow Gets Off in which she tells the story of the 1955-56 Montgomery bus boycott, watershed moment in U. S. history through the eyes of four women, Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Rosa Parks, and JoAnn Robinson. Awele’s story, “The Story of Claudette Colvin,” is featured on the Music for Little People benefit recording, This Land is Your Land, for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Featured artists include Danny Glover, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson, The Neville Brothers, and others. She is also the featured storyteller on Oregon Public Radio’s radio series and CD The Undiscovered Explorer: Imagining York with Danny Glover as the narrator. Other award winning CDs include: Tell That Tale Again and Trailblazers: African Americans in the California Gold Rush. Film credits include Supervisor Ella Hill Hutch in the Oscar award winning film, MILK directed by Gus Van Sant starring Sean Penn. Awele is a founding member of Vukani Mawethu, a South African Freedom Song Choir based in Oakland, CA

Sandra R. Hernández

Sandra R. Hernández, M.D., is chief executive officer of The San Francisco Foundation. Dr. Hernández is a graduate of Yale University, Tufts School of Medicine, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Prior to becoming CEO of the Foundation, she served as the director of public health for the City and County of San Francisco. She is an assistant clinical professor at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine and maintains an active clinical practice at San Francisco General Hospital in the AIDS clinic.

Dr. Hernández currently serves on the boards of Blue Shield of California, the Blue Shield of California Foundation, First Republic Bank, Mills College, and the Center for Investigative Reporting. She is also a trustee of the Western Asbestos Settlement Trust and a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Economic Advisory Council, the Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Leadership Council, the Yale University Council, the Fort Winfield Scott Federal Advisory Committee, the UCSF Chancellor’s Advisory Board, and the UCSF Clinical and Translational Science Institute Advisory Board.

Her prior affiliations include President Clinton’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthcare Industry; the Council on Foundations; the Institute of Medicine’s Committees on the Consequences of Uninsurance and the Implementation of Antiviral Medication Strategies for an Influenza Pandemic; the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Public Policy Committee; and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Session on Philanthropy. Dr. Hernández also co-chaired San Francisco’s Universal Healthcare Council.

Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of Define American, a campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.

In June 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant, stunning media and political circles and attracting worldwide coverage. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine internationally with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story. Since then, he has testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, and written and directed Documented, a documentary film on his undocumented experience. It world premiered in June 2013 as the centerpiece of the AFIDOCS film festival in Washington, D.C. He was a senior contributing editor at the Huffington Post, where he launched the Technology and College sections. Prior to that, he covered tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS in the nation’s capital, and the 2008 presidential campaign for the Washington Post, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the Virginia Tech massacre. In 2007, Politico named him one of 50 Politicos to Watch. His 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. It world premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Showtime. In 2010, he wrote an exclusive profile of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker.

The media’s evolution, and the breakdown of barriers between print and broadcast journalism, has guided his nearly 13-year reporting career. He’s written for daily newspapers (Philadelphia Daily News, San Francisco Chronicle) and national magazines (The Atlantic, Rolling Stone) and has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including Nightline, The O’Reilly Factor, and The Colbert Report. On HuffPost, he created the blog Technology as Anthropology, which focuses on tech’s impact on people and how we behave.

He taught a class on “Storytelling 2.0” at Georgetown University and served on the advisory board for the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, housed at American University. A very proud alumnus of Mountain View High School (‘00) and San Francisco State University (‘04), he loves jazz, hip-hop and anything by Gershwin, and worships at the altars of Altman, Almodovar, Didion, Baldwin and Orwell.

He dreamed of one day living in Manhattan after he saw Woody Allen’s version of it. He currently resides in Manhattan.

Talk details


This work-in-progress time travels from slavery, Jim Crow era to the 50th Anniversary of the I Have A Dream speech through the voices of ancestors, students, teachers, parents, community members, and educational leaders. Many believed that literacy was our ticket to freedom and education was our underground railroad. Has public education become an engine of inequality preparing our youth not for higher education, employment and careers but for incarceration? How far has public education come? Do all children have equity and access to a quality education? What’s our unfinished business? What is the work we are called upon to do now?

Jose Antonio Vargas: How do you Define American?

Using the Define American message and showing clips from his new documentary, "Documented," Vargas will talk about the power of narrative and story in transcending politics and shifting the conversation on immigration, citizenship, and identity in a changing America.