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Expanding Democracy in an Age of Polarization and Resistance

May 11-14, 2017

A conference for inspiration, education, networking, and action (formerly: Serve & Protect Conference).
Thursday evening through Sunday noon.

Call Us for More Information!

610-566-4507, ext. 137

Because we want to make this conference as accessible as possible, we are offering a tiered registration scale from $300 to $850. Click the following link for registration information.

If you have registration questions or concerns, please call 610-566-4507, ext. 137.

We face a polarized body politic with poor civic discourse. Embattled segments of the population confront greater harassment, fear, and violence. Dissenters are met with increasing surveillance and curtailment of civil liberties. Many who have stood on the sidelines and hoped for more progressive outcomes feel challenged to engage more actively in making social change happen. How can we seize the opportunity of greater polarization to reach beyond our own circles to engage our neighbors in civil conversation to strengthen our democratic institutions? Learning from experienced front-line experts, let us sharpen our analysis, hone our skills, and create ways to support each other in resisting further erosion of basic constitutional rights and expanding our nations’ long-delayed promise of liberty and justice for all.

There will be:

  • Front-line experts discussing the history and trends of law enforcement in the United States, including policing of targeted communities, such as immigrants, Latin Americans, African-Americans, Muslims, LGBTQ folks, and others;
  • Exercises to increase awareness of internalized biases to enable us to act with greater intention and integrity;
  • Exercises to improve our capacity to confront repression and de-escalate violence;
  • Exercises in planning a strategic nonviolent campaign with winning steps that increase our momentum and draw wider participation – using creativity, drama, humor, and people power;
  • Experiential learning on how to have the difficult conversations that we must have with our peers;
  • Training and practice in the art of moral advocacy with decision makers; and
  • Reflection groups to process our experiences in small groups.


Lina Blount - click for full bioLina Blount is an organizer, trainer and nonviolent action strategist and has been working on environmental justice campaigns in the Philadelphia area for six years. Lina currently works as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for Pendle Hill and has been on the Executive Board of the Earth Quaker Action Team since 2013. Lina has also worked with the Divestment Student Network and spent two years as canvasser and anti-fracking organizer in Pennsylvania.

Dwight Dunston - click for full bioDwight Dunston (aka Sterling Duns) is a West Philly based hiphop artist, musician, educator, and organizer. He holds a BA in English from Dickinson College and an MA in Poetry from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Sterling is currently Assistant Director of Admissions and clerk of the Diversity Board at Friends Central School as well as serving on numerous boards throughout Philadelphia and speaking at colleges and conferences throughout the country. Sterling Duns and Caselli Jordan perform together as the West Philly conscious acoustic duo City Love.

Gregory Holston - click for full bioRev. Gregory Holston is the Executive Director of POWER. A recognized community activist, pastor, educator and leader known for advocating for racial and economic justice by promoting fairer workforce development policies, improved job opportunities and skills development for the underserved and disadvantaged in the Philadelphia area,  Rev. Holston helped to lead a coalition of faith groups, unions and social justice activists to raise the living wage to $12 per hour for all Philadelphia contracted and subcontractor workers – in particular, the nearly 4000 workers at the Philadelphia International Airport.

Brian Jordan - click for full bioBrian Jordan (aka Caselli Jordan) is an artist and educator who uses music to internalize and distill his studies and experiences into songs that can help foster broader awareness of social justice issues. He holds a B.S. in Italian and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Holistic Nutrition Educator certificate from Bauman College. Caselli has performed around the world and recently won the PHL Live competition for the Jazz music category. Caselli Jordan and Sterling Duns perform together as the West Philly conscious acoustic duo City Love.

Arielle KlagsbrunArielle Klagsbrun is a community organizer with 215 People’s Alliance, a racial and economic community-labor alliance based in Philadelphia. She has worked on a variety of different campaigns focused on racial, economic and environmental justice — such as ending tax breaks to polluting corporations like Peabody Coal and reforming the bench warrant system in St. Louis, Missouri, and stopping the proposed expansion of the South Philly oil refinery. Arielle is also a collective member of Rising Tide North America, an all-volunteer grassroots network of groups confronting the root causes of the climate crisis through direct action.

George LakeyGeorge Lakey is a lifelong activist and educator for nonviolent social change.  He has led more than 1,500 workshops on five continents, taught at colleges (most recently, Swarthmore), led activist projects on local, state, and national levels, and authored nine books on social change, peace, and liberation pedagogy.  George has been executive director of nonprofits and an organizational consultant.  He is co-author of Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times, and his most recent book, Viking Economics: How "Viking Economics" (book cover)the Scandinavians Got It Right and How We Can, Too, published in the summer of 2016 is already in its third printing.  George frequently writes columns for, including “A 10-point plan to stop Trump and make gains in justice and equality.”  He is a founder of Movement for a New Society, Training for Change, and Earth Quaker Action Team and a member of Central Philadelphia Friends Meeting.

Ricardo Levin Morales - click for full bioRicardo Levins Morales describes himself as a “healer and trickster organizer disguised as an artist.” He was born into the anti-colonial movement in his native Puerto Rico and was drawn into activism in Chicago when his family moved there in 1967. He left high school early and worked in various industries, and over time began to use his art as part of his activism. This activism has included support work for the Black Panthers and Young Lords to participating in or acting in solidarity with farmers, environmental, labor, racial justice and peace movements. Increasingly he has come to see his art and organizing practices as means to address individual, collective, "Seeds of Resistance" (c) Ricardo Levins Moralesand historical trauma. He co-leads workshops on trauma and resilience for organizers as well as trainings on creative organizing, social justice strategy and sustainable activism, and mentors and supports young activists. His art has won numerous awards but the greatest affirmation is the uses to which it has been put by grassroots movements and communities. Ricardo’s art can be viewed at To watch his short video entitled “2nd Grade Liberation Program,” click here.

Peter PedemontiPeter Pedemonti is the co-founder and Director of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, and has been working in social justice movements since 2001. A first generation US citizen, Peter is the son of English and Italian immigrants. Peter moved to Philadephia to live and work with the House of Grace Catholic Worker, a faith-based intentional community that operates a free medical clinic, works for social justice, and has a house of hospitality for immigrants and refugees. Before coming to Philadelphia, he was the Director of Public Education and Outreach for an environmental organization in New York. Peter graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature.

Jonathan Matthew Smucker is the co-founder and director of Beyond the Choir. He has worked for two decades in grassroots movements for social, economic and ecological justice, as a grassroots organizer, campaigner, and strategist. He has trained thousands of change agents in campaign strategy, framing and messaging, direct action, and other skills. Jonathan also researches collective action, identity, and politicization processes as the focus of his doctoral work in the sociology department at UC Berkeley. His writing has appeared in The Nation, The Huffington Post, Alternet, Waging Nonviolence, Yes Magazine, The Sociological Quarterly, "Hegemony How-To" (book cover)Berkeley Journal of Sociology. Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals was released this January to critical acclaim.  Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, wrote, “Smucker brings hard-won wisdom, theoretical heft, and a welcoming style to this book, helping us think through the most important question of our time: how do we build enough collective power to not only demand a better world, but actually create one?”

Khadijah Costley WhiteKhadijah Costley White is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Previously she worked as a journalist on an Emmy-nominated team at NOW on PBS and has served as a White House intern on the Obama administration’s Broadcast Media team.  White researches race, gender, and politics in media. Her book manuscript, Raising the Volume: How the News Media Created the Tea Party is a multi-platform study that examines the rise of the Tea Party in online, print, broadcast, and cable news; it is currently under review at a university press. She has conducted ethnographic media research in the United States, Australia, and South Africa. White’s writing and commentary on topics such as race, social movements, news, and politics has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Root, Huffington Post, BBC, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, Quartz, Gizmodo, and others. She is also a regular contributor to the online magazine Role/Reboot.  In 2014, she was nominated for a CBS Philly Women’s achievement award.

Justin Wright - click for full bioJustin Wright is an experienced ADR practitioner and consultant. He has expertise providing transactional assistance, behavioral change, facilitations and both mediation and negotiation training and coaching. In addition to his work with Habitus and Active Neutrals, he serves on the training team at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation and at Northeastern University Business School. His teaching experience includes a college seminar course on Negotiation at Yale University and six weeks terms in Shanghai for legal professionals.

Mary Zerkel is the coordinator of AFSC’s Communities Against Islamophobia project, and the co-coordinator of AFSC’s Wage Peace Campaign, which works toward the demilitarization of US foreign and domestic policy.  Mary has worked for AFSC for 20+ years on a variety of issues and projects including coordinating the internationally acclaimed Eyes Wide Open exhibit, and the “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” youth video festival and gathering.  Mary has published articles and op-eds in the Huffington Post, Truthout, Radical Teacher, and Signs: The Journal of Women and Culture in Society.  She is the author of Critical Thinking for Meaningful Action, and co-author of Economics Education, both published by AFSC and is the co-director of “Benaat Chicago,” a widely viewed documentary about the lives of Arab youth on the south side of Chicago.

Travel directions to Pendle Hill.