Racial Justice Breakfast

Racial Justice Breakfast

The Annual Racial Justice Breakfast was established in 2001 to promote the YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism and create a safe space where participants can confront racism. Attendees experience meaningful dialogue about racism’s personal and community-wide effects and hear from keynote speakers who have had a national impact on landmark civil rights cases.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

8:00-9:30 a.m.

Cincinnati Music Hall


web headshot2023 Keynote Speaker Verna L. Williams, Esq.

2023 Keynote Speaker Verna Williams (she/her) is the CEO of Equal Justice Works. In her role as CEO, Verna continues to advance the mission of Equal Justice Works to create opportunities for leaders to transform their passion for equal justice into a lifelong commitment to public service.

Verna previously served as the dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where she was a professor prior to becoming dean, and taught courses on family law, gender discrimination, and constitutional law. Additionally, she founded and co-directed the Judge Nathaniel Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice at the University of Cincinnati.

Before her work at the University of Cincinnati, Verna was the Vice President and Director of Educational Opportunities at the National Women’s Law Center, where she focused on gender equity in education. In this role, she was the lead counsel and successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which established that educational institutions have a duty to respond to and address complaints of student-to-student sexual harassment. Verna clerked for the Honorable David S. Nelson, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts. After the clerkship, she practiced law at Sidley Austin LLP and the U.S. Department of Justice. Verna also has a background in research, which examines the intersection of race, gender, and class in law and policy. She has authored and co-authored many articles and essays on her area of expertise.

Among her other achievements, Verna has presented papers at the Latina/o Critical Race Theory Conference and meetings of the Association of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. She also served as a consultant for the Ford Foundation, where she chaired the convening of a national conference at UC entitled Women Coming Together: Claiming the Law for Social Change.  Verna received the Golman Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2004 and 2011. She was recently honored by the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati, the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati, and the Cincinnati Bar Association, which presented her with the Themis Award for exemplary service to the law and the community.

2023 Racial Justice Award Honorees

To Be Announced




Dorothy Roberts2022 Keynote Speaker Dorothy Roberts


Dorothy Roberts is an internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate. She studies the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues and has been a leader in transforming public thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics. Professor of Africana Studies, Law & Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, Dorothy directs the Penn Program on Race, Science, and Society. She has authored and co-edited ten books. She has also written more than 100 articles and book chapters. She received the 2015 Solomon Carter Fuller Award from the American Psychiatric Association for “providing significant benefit for the quality of life for Black people.”

2022 Racial Justice Award Honorees

Ozie Davis and Claire Mengel

2021 Keynote Speaker Richard Rothstein


A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and a Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He is the author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which details how federal, state, and local policy explicitly segregated metropolitan areas nationwide, creating racially homogenous neighborhoods in patterns that violate the Constitution and require remediation. He is also the author of many other articles and books on race and education, including Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black–White Achievement Gap and Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right.

2021 Racial Justice Award Honorees

Renee Mahaffey Harris and Bishop Ennis Tait

2020 Keynote Speaker Christina Fialho

As Co-Founder/Executive Director of Freedom for Immigrants (formerly CIVIC), Christina has advocated for immigrants for over 15 years.  She started the first immigration detention visitation program in California with her co-founder, Christina Mansfield while still in law school. Their organization mobilized a network of watchdog community members that visit weekly at approximately 70 immigration detention facilities, while creating an alternative model to detention that welcomes immigrants. Christina has also drafted and passed several laws to put a moratorium on immigration detention expansion and fund community-based alternatives.  She was appointed to the California Bar Association’s first Civil Justice Strategies Task Force and has received multiple awards including the 2020 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award.

2020 Racial Justice Award Honorees

Vincent R. Brown and Dr. Janet Reid

Branch image2019 Fall Speaker Taylor Branch & Panel Discussion

Over the course of his storied career, author and historian Taylor Branch has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Lifetime Achievement Award, and a National Humanities Medal. His landmark narrative history of the Civil Rights Era, America in the King Years, required more than 24 years of intensive research as he sought to illuminate not only the life of the man, but also the times in which he lived. Branch began his career in 1970 as a staff journalist for The Washington MonthlyHarper’s, and Esquire. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from over a dozen colleges and universities.

If Dr. King Could See Us Now: Panel of local experts on current issues

Roy Austin2019 Spring Keynote Speaker Roy Austin

As an Honors Trial Attorney with the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, Roy investigated & prosecuted hate crimes & police brutality, including the civil lawsuit preventing racial profiling by the California Highway Patrol. He was appointed Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010 and became Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice & Opportunity in 2014, where he co-authored a report on Big Data & Civil Rights, worked with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, helped develop the Police Data Initiative & was a member of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

2019 Racial Justice Award Honorees

Chip Harrod and Iris Roley

2018 Keynote Speaker Fania Davis2018 Keynote Speaker Fania Davis

Co-Founder and Director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY), and national thought leader in the field of civil rights, Fania Davis is a long-time social justice activist, a restorative justice scholar and professor, and a civil rights attorney. Fania’s passion for social transformation has remained strong – from her role leading the international campaign to secure the release of her sister, Angela Davis, from prison in the 1970’s to her current focus on a truth and reconciliation process focused on the historic racial trauma that continues to haunt the United States.

2018 Racial Justice Award Honorees

Shakila Ahmad and Dr. Clarence G. Newsome