Speaker Biographies

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Forward Food Summit 2017 Speaker Bios

Providing Translation:

Community Language Cooperative:  The Community Language Cooperative (CLC) provides interpretation services, public involvement and research consultation, and inclusivity and diversity trainings , provides quality, affordable interpretation and translation services  to make community, academic and governmental events and meetings more inclusive and accessible to all stakeholders, but especially those that are not always present when decisions affecting their communities are made because of language barriers. The Cooperative provides services that through inclusion broaden opportunities for participation and increased community engagement by non-English speakers. CLC’s services make it possible for organizations and government agencies to make interpretation a standard component of important meeting and events that impact communities.

Providing Lunch:

Comal Heritage Food Incubator:  Comal Heritage Food Incubator is a social enterprise of Focus Points Family Resource Center, which serves the low-income residents of north Denver neighborhoods. Comal is a multi-purpose, shared food space that offers open-to-public lunch  service and cultural activities. It is centered on the authentic family recipes from the members of our community. While serving the Denver community  comida deliciosa, this kitchen incubator doubles as a holistic training program to teach community entrepreneurs technical culinary skills and business education. This “learning while earning” model is what creates opportunity for income and cultural exchange with all members of the community!

Anti-Oppression Workshop Facilitator:

Celeste Razavi-Shearer-Spink, CO AIM:  Celeste is a graduate of the University of Colorado Denver with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Minor in Creative Writing and a Certificate of Fourth World Studies for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics. She is a Hopi, Dineh, and Colombian anti-capitalist writer, artist and queer-do. Celeste is honored to be one of the leaders of the American Indian Movement of Colorado (CO AIM), carrying on a tradition of indigenous resistance to colonialism in all of its forms. She is grateful to support survivors of violence in the transgender, gender-nonconforming, queer, Two-Spirit, lesbian, bi-sexual, and gay communities for Survivors Organizing for Liberation (SOL). In her “free time,” Celeste enjoys singing, dancing, basketball, baking, poetry and guerrilla gardening.

Speaking Up: Our Stories, Our Communities, Our Radical Solutions: Activity Facilitators:

 Mia Ramirez, The Colorado Trust: Mia Ramirez, MPH is a Community Partner at The Colorado Trust where she works with Coloradans in cities, towns and neighborhoods across the state to encourage and strengthen resident- and community-led solutions and funding initiatives. She has over 15 years of community health experience working both nationally and internationally, from the grassroots level to the federal and international health agency level.   Mia has previously worked in chronic disease, infectious disease, violence prevention and health equity at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Multnomah County Health Department.  Internationally, she has worked at the Pan American Health Organization in Chile to address gender-equity and at the Chol Chol Foundation providing micro credit loans to the indigenous Mapuche women.  She has a passion for improving community health, ameliorating health disparities and addressing the social determinants of health to improve health for all populations.

Michelle Larkins, PPCC: Michelle Larkins (PhD Community Sustainability), is a gender researcher for the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation, a United States Agency for International Development laboratory established for the purpose of creating, supporting, and strengthening food systems innovation to help aid in global food security. She has over ten years working on the intersections of gender, race, ethnicity and agri-environmental justice, with field experience working with smallholder farmers, farmworkers, and their families in domestic and international (specifically Uganda and Malawi) settings.  Her recent research has focused on the experiences of women engaged in environmental and food justice action at the community level throughout the Rocky Mountain West, bringing to the foreground the accomplishment and embodiment of women’s labor. Previous worked included community based research with migrant Latinx families participating in seasonal agricultural work, and work as a Community Engagement specialist working on citizen action campaigns for water and soil pollution remediation in the Flint/Saginaw region of Michigan.  

Afternoon Workshop Facilitators:

Doug Goodfeather, Lakota Way Healing Center: Doug Goodfeather, member of the Lakota Nation of the Standing Rock Reservation, is a humanitarian who currently resides in Northglenn, Colorado.  As the director of the Lakota Way Healing Center, he works with PTSD Veterans in suicide prevention, addiction, and homelessness, as well as prominent environmental issues.  Doug, a veteran himself, believes that once you become a warrior, you are always a warrior, and commit to a lifetime of service.  Through vision and dedication, he acts on a daily basis to help people in the Native American community and beyond.


Say Meh and Nu Meh, Project Worthmore: Say Meh and Nu Meh are both Karenni refugees, an extremely persecuted ethnic group in Burma. From small vegetable gardens that they were able to maintain in the refugee camps in Thailand, to farming at DeLaney community farm in Aurora, Colorado, they have been able to grow not only their own food and support their families, but have grown their love of farming and what healthful produce means to them. They both have noticed their own physical and emotional health improve because of working at the farm. “Growing vegetables is relaxing for me. It’s a great way to give back to the community.”- Say Meh

Food Knowledge Between Generations Panel:

Neambe Leadon, Denver Food Rescue: Neambe Leadon was born in Philadelphia, PA, but has lived in Denver for most of her life.  She attended Smiley Middle School and George Washington High School.  She graduated from Florida State University with a BS in Interior Design Pre-Architecture.  She is a certified Permaculturist, attended massage therapy school, served as a birth coach and researches alternative medicine in her leisure.  She is passionate about Health Equity and Food Justice having co-written and facilitated a Sustainability through Personal Wellness curriculum from 2009-2013.  She has been an educator for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science since 2013 and is 5 months into her new role as Program Director with the Denver Food Rescue.

Beverely Leadon, Mother to Neambe: Beverely Leadon is from Kansas, moving to Denver in 1969.  She attended Morey Junior High School and Manual High School.  She graduated from Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA with a BS in Business Merchandising.  After graduation she worked at John Wanamaker’s for 2 years before returning to Denver, CO.  In Denver, Beverely worked at Mountain Bell as a Human Resources Supervisor for 7 years.   She worked as a Business Services Manager, after the company was bought by AT&T, for 10 years.  She continued her work with Lucent/Alcatel-Lucent as a Market Development Manager for 11 years.  She currently works with ResCare for the Denver Office of Economic Development as a Talent Development Specialist, helping people find employment.  She is also a founder of the Up All Night Book Club, which has been active for the last 17 years.  They provide scholarships, volunteer and support community activities.

Doris Jeffries, Grandmother to Neambe: Doris Jeffries lived in Mississippi until age 5 and then moved to Kansas where she  matriculated through high school.  She came to Denver in 1969, here she attended Red Rocks Community College receiving her Associates Degree in Social Work.  Doris also attended CU Denver where she received her BS in Education followed by a Masters Degree in Social Science.  She worked in the C.A.D.R.E.C. (Community Alcohol, Drug Rehabilitation Education Center) for 15 years, and then a private company through Clayton College in Social Work for 10 years.  She has also dabbled in jewelry making and furniture design, working out of Selman’s shop on Welton Street for the former.  She is retired, but for the last 11 years, has given of her time as a substitute teacher for Denver Public Schools.

Selasia Leadonvita – Oldest daughter to Neambe Leadon, age 7

Libya Leadonvita – Second daughter to Neambe Leadon, Age 5

Brittni Laura Hernandez: Brittni Laura Hernandez is currently a Middle School Reading teacher at Ricardo Flores Magon Academy. She is also a full time bruja and healer, using food and energy work to heal her community. Previously, Brittni Laura was a part of the Denver Food Rescue family as the Volunteer Coordinator and briefly as the Program Manager. She graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2013 with a degree in Ethnic Studies and Social and Environmental Justice. She was born and raised in Greeley, Colorado in her family’s chile and vegetable garden, where she spent a lot of time learning from her grandparents about food, family, and community. Brittni Laura is named after her grandmother and is so excited to share this space with her today!

Laura Archibeque, Grandmother to Brittni: Laura Archibeque is a proud mother of seven, grandmother of twelve, and great grandmother of six. Like many brown women, she is the center and foundation of her family. Everyone is welcome in Laura’s home, and no one can leave without eating! Laura was born in Trinidad, Colorado and grew up in the small town of Pierce, Colorado. After establishing her family, Laura worked 13 years as a secretary before deciding to turn to what she really loved — cooking. Laura had been catering part-time, so it seemed natural to expand this work into a restaurant. In 1987, Laura and her family opened the Mirasol Mexican Restaurant in downtown Greeley, Colorado. The restaurant became very popular and people still ask Laura to this day if she will ever open again. Laura always emphasized freshness in the kitchen at the Mirasol. Sopapilla dough was made in small batches and used immediately. Menudo was made in just the right amount to meet demands. And of course, her famous Green Chile was homemade AND homegrown. Laura and her family still cultivate and harvest their own Mirasol green chile every year; tending to the land, their souls, and their stomachs!

Sadie Boonin
is a 14-year old 8th grader at Summit Middle Charter School. She enjoys reading, watching musicals, babysitting and crafting. She also enjoys spending time with her hilarious and quirky family and friends. She aspires to be a lawyer for the ACLU or another human rights non-profit. She is deeply connected to her Jewish faith, culture and community.  She lives with her mother, father and cat in South Boulder. She has an older brother who lives in Massachusetts.

Harriet Boonin, Grandmother to Sadie: Harriet Boonin is an 80 year-old mother of three, and grandmother of six ( amazing ) grandkids. She has been married to their father/grandfather for more than 58 years, and is a retired high school teacher who has been active in politics since Harry Truman ran for President!  She is also deeply connected to her Jewish roots, culture and community through faith, learning, social justice and — yes– food!  She grew up in a kosher home, and although she does not now keep a kosher home, she is grateful for the teachings she learned of the laws of kashruth — treating animals humanely and sharing the bounty of the fields.  Two of her children, one daughter-in-law and three grandchildren are vegetarians, and she has actually learned some things from them over the years.

Full Circle Food Team Closing Activity Facilitators:

Beatriz Soto: My name is Beatriz Soto. I am currently a junior at Atlas Preparatory High School and I’m a mentor in my school’s food pantry. In my family, food has always united everyone. Whether its for a birthday party, a holiday, or simply for daily dinner, food brings everyone together. My family loves tamales, enchiladas, and menudo, but when my dad was told he needed to cut down on the amount of fat he was eating and incorporate more nutritious foods into his diet, we had to find ways to add more nutritious ingredients into our traditional dishes. It’s important to me to show others how their favorite dishes can be made using healthy ingredients they can get at the food pantry.


Alexa Tomatzin: My name is Alexa Tomatzin, I am currently a high school student at Atlas preparatory high school. During my freshman year I was given the opportunity to be an intern at the Atlas prep grocery program, which is partnered with CSFR. Later I was hired as a mentor for incoming interns. During my first year as an intern I began to learn things I was very unaware of. This encouraged me to continue working with CSFR and spread the word about the truth about the food system. Throughout the two year of working with CSFR I have developed a passion for food justice and everything that CSFR stands for.


Izzy Nuñez: I am a senior in high school at Fountain Valley and have lived in the Springs since I was four years old. I was first introduced to food justice several years ago through my older sister as she studied environmental policy in college, and it became more of a passion of mine this past summer as I was able to attend a scholarship program through the Experiment in International Living studying public health, community development, and leadership in northern India. CSFR has helped me start food rescue at my school as a post-program project, and I hope to get both my school and myself even more involved with local community programs. In college, I hope to study international relations, public policy, or Spanish (or something else, who knows really). And for fun, I love to climb, play music, travel, and of course eat food.

Performances by: 

Assetou Xango, BFA is a profound speaker, artist facilitator, international documentary filmmaker, Spoken Word Artist and activist specializing in topics of Women’s Empowerment and Race issues. Assetou was recently named the Aurora Poet Laureate and represented Colorado at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2017. She has premiered films both locally and abroad, and has received accolades from International Poetry competitions, and was a speaker at TEDxMileHighWomen’s 2016 Conference. As a community activist, she has founded several community forums to address issues from race to gender. Assetou has a BFA in Film Production and is proud to be working with an organization with the values and integrity of Creative Strategies for Change (CSC), as a Program Coordinator, Artist, and Consultant. She is grateful to be fulfilling the commitment to improving social justice and equitability in her community.

Creative Strategies for Change: In a world where social divides run deep, there must exist organizations that not only build bridges, but also engage communities on all sides in closing the divides. This is Creative Strategies for Change (CSC), a grassroots nonprofit founded in Denver in 2013, with a mission is to mobilize arts and education for social justice. We work with a broad spectrum of individuals, schools, organizations, and communities, creating spaces to reflect and dialogue, recognize and embrace differences, envision and activate a more just and equitable society. CSC programs and services include: consulting and professional development; performances, presentations, and assemblies; community events and workshops; and youth enrichment, leadership, residencies, and after school programs. Follow us on Facebook @creativestrategiesforchange /Instagram @CSCDenver or visit our website www.creativestrategiesforchange.com to learn more.

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