Speakers Bureau

By providing a platform for individuals whose lives have been affected by a loved one's involvement in extremism, we aim to translate pain into a positive way forward, sharing our experiences to encourage people struggling to reach out and find help.

Melvin Bledsoe

Melvin’s family has lived in Memphis for generations, and he is proud of his hometown’s history and culture. He founded Blues City Tours to introduce that heritage to visitors to Memphis, and he has served as a guide to thousands of tourists, sharing insights on Blues music and more. Melvin comes from a family where many of his siblings and relatives served in the U.S. military. After his son Carlos was recruited by violent extremists and murdered a soldier in Arkansas, Melvin channeled his pain into advocacy. He has testified to Congress and been featured by an array of national media outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN.

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Monica
Holley

A native of Memphis, Monica studied Mass Communications and Marketing at Stillman College in Alabama and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She previously worked at The Dallas Morning News and is now Director of Business Development & Marketing at Blues City Tours. Monica witnessed her younger brother Carlos drift into extremism and struggled to intervene before he committed an act of violence. She is the mother of two young boys, who can now only visit their uncle in jail.

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Myrieme Churchill

Myrieme Churchill is the Executive Director of Parents for Peace. She has over 30 years of experience as a psychotherapist, working in variety of settings and with a range of populations in Europe and the U.S. Beginning her career in France, she intervened with first and second-generation North African immigrant sex workers on the streets of Marseille and facilitated group therapy in a juvenile detention center in Nice. In the U.S., Churchill worked as a group therapy counselor in an inpatient dual diagnosis unit at Beth Israel Deaconess and as program director of a dual diagnosis drop-in center in suburban Boston.

She obtained several life coach and professional coach certifications and has maintained a coaching practice based in Monaco since 2000. She also developed and delivered training programs in the Institut Regional Administration in Nantes, France, teaching coaching strategies to improve leadership and management in the French regional government context, and conducting follow-up coaching sessions with officials who received the training. Her therapy and coaching background were essential to the development of the Parents For Peace helpline model, and her native language skills have aided in the organization’s growing connections with counter-extremism programs in Montreal, France, and Belgium.

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Arno Michaelis

Arno co-founded one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in America and was once the lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion. Today he is a motivational speaker promoting tolerance and inter-racial understanding. A single parent, Arno has transformed his earlier hatred into a passion for coexistence. His book “My Life after Hate” describes this remarkable transformation, and his writing and speaking draws on his own journey to help protect young Americans from hateful ideologies. He is a contributor to the project “Serve 2 Unite” and has published widely, including in the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.

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Mubin
Shaikh

Born and raised in Canada, Mubin Shaikh grew up with two conflicting and competing cultures. In 2004, he was recruited by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and worked several classified infiltration operations on the internet, in chat-protected forums and on the ground with human networks. He is now an external SME (Subject Matter Expert) on national security and counterterrorism to the Command Staff of CENTCOM, the United Nations Security Council & Counter Terrorism Executive Directorate and trains police, intelligence and special operations forces on relevant topics.

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Deqa
Hussen

A mother of eight, currently working for Voice of East African Women, Deqa has served the Minneapolis community as an advocate for victims of domestic abuse since 2004. As someone who devoted her life to helping prevent violence, Deqa was shocked when her son Abdirizak was arrested in 2015, charged with being part of a conspiracy to join ISIS. Even before her son’s arrest, Deqa was speaking out about the dangers of youth being recruited into violent extremism. In the months after his arrest, Abdirizak expressed remorse for his mistakes, first to his mother and then publicly in an interview on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Deqa is faithfully supporting him as he serves his prison sentence, grateful he is alive and encouraged by his new desire to warn other young people against taking this dangerous path.

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Abdirizak Bihi

Abdirizak is the Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, a grassroots initiative to empower the Somali-American community. He founded the organization in 2008 after his nephew Burhan suddenly dropped out of Minneapolis’s Roosevelt High School to join the terror group Al-Shabab in Somalia, dying in battle several months later. Abdirizak has testified to Congress, met with top law enforcement officials, and been profiled by the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, and NPR. He is a pioneer in community engagement efforts to guide young Americans away from extremism.

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Pardeep Kaleka

Pardeep is the co-founder of Serve 2 Unite, an organization that empowers student leaders to build inclusive, nonviolent climates in their schools and communities. Pardeep co-founded the organization as a way to heal from the murder of his father, Satwant Singh Kaleka, the president of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin who was gunned down by a white supremacist during an attack on the temple on August 5, 2012. A former Milwaukee Police Officer and high school teacher and current counselor for victims of trauma, Pardeep has become a powerful voice against hate crimes and violence. He is the father of four children.

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Christopher Buckley

Christopher Buckley of LaFayette, GA is an Afghanistan and Iraqi war veteran. When he returned from Iraq, he joined the Georgia White Knights as an Imperial Nighthawk, because their anti-Muslim and racist values were consistent with his worldview after returning from war. Arno Michaelis, a former white power skinhead, and Dr. Heval Mohamed Kelli, a Kurdish Muslim refugee, were able to teach Chris the error of his ways and helped bring him out of the movement. Today, he volunteers at The Haven in Georgia, a local organization that helps homeless and drug addicts. He also gives motivational speeches, trying to spread awareness and educate the public about the dangers of white supremacist extremism. Chris now works with Dr. Kelli on a program called Help, Heal, Love; where they work to repair flawed thinking in hate groups and spread a message of love and healing. He also created a deradicalization program designed specifically with veterans in mind, but is geared to work with all manners of hate and extremist ideology.

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Nicola Benyahia

Nicola Benyahia has extensive experience within the social care sector, spanning over 25 years with extensive work in the context of mental health provision. She is a fully qualified, registered BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) counselor with specific experience in mental health, brain injury and most recently working and counseling young people aged 14 to 25 years old. As a mother personally affected by the impact of violent radicalization processes in her own family, she decided to give her own experiences a voice and recently stepped forward for other families sharing similar problems.

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Saliha Ben Ali

Saliha was devastated when in 2013 her 19-year son Sabri, the oldest of her three children, suddenly left their home in Belgium for Syria to join ISIS. She tried to convince him to return, but he died only 3 months later. Refusing to allow Sabri’s death to be in vain, she has become a powerful voice of education and prevention through her organization, SAVE Belgium.

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TM
Garret

TM Garret Schmid, publicly known as TM Garret, is a German-American author, producer, filmmaker, marketing expert, radio personality, human rights activist and founder of C.H.A.N.G.E, a Memphis-based non-profit organization which engages in community outreach programs, food drives, seminars, anti-racism campaigns and anti-violence campaigns. He is also the founder and organizer of the annual Memphis Peace Conference, which includes an Inter-Faith and a Community Panel and was first held at Withers Collection Museum and Gallery in Memphis on September 29, 2018.

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Elizabeth Moore

Elizabeth Moore was born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario. While attending high school, she was introduced to the white supremacist group, The Heritage Front. Moved by feelings of anger and ignorance about the racial, cultural and economic tensions in her school, she embraced the racist-right. Ultimately, after much soul searching, and with the assistance of Bernie Farber and the Canadian Jewish Congress, Elizabeth cut ties with the racist right. Since then, Elizabeth has participated in numerous anti-Fascist education initiatives, reaching millions. She has worked on anti-racist films, multimedia educational initiatives, and contributed to textbooks and a government report in an effort to educate people about the dangers of hate groups. Elizabeth is currently exploring new ideas and developing avenues to continue her educational and artistic endeavors.

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Tania
Joya

Tania Joya is a former Islamist and ex-wife of an ISIS commander. She was born and grew up in northwest London in the United Kingdom as a devout Muslim. After struggling to integrate in London as a teen, Tania radicalized and ultimately married an American-born Muslim convert named John Georgelas. While pregnant with their fourth child, he forced her and their children to travel to Syria and joined ISIS. She quickly became disillusioned with ISIS and its radical ideology, and escaped with her and her three children to the United States. Today, Tania is an activist that works to educate and rehabilitate extremists, and prevent more youth from radicalizing into dangerous ideologies.

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