2013 Conference Presenters

Opening Keynote
Antwone Fisher

Antwone Fisher is an award-winning film and literary writer. Born in an Ohio prison to a teenage mother, Antwone became a ward of the state and was placed in foster care. He spent two years in a loving foster home, but was subsequently moved and suffered twelve years of abuse at the hands of his new foster family.

Unable to locate a new placement for him, at age 14, Antwone was sent to a reform school in western Pennsylvania were he remained until he graduated high school at 17. Emancipated from foster care, he found himself in the world alone and homeless, living on the streets of Cleveland.

Antwone set on a course of healing when he joined the U.S. Navy where he served his country for eleven years. After his honorable discharge from the military, Antwone became a Federal Correctional Officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and, after three years of service, he took a job at Sony Pictures Entertainment working as a Security Officer. It was at Sony Pictures that Antwone was referred to a free screenwriting course.

Antwone has worked in Hollywood for 20 years as a writer and producer, with an impressive fourteen writing projects or assignments with major studios. Among those projects is the feature classic, Antwone Fisher, directed by and starring Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, written by Antwone and based on his own life. The film garnered numerous nominations and awards. Antwone received the renowned Humanitas Prize, the Screenwriter of the Year Award from the National Association of Theater Owners, and was listed in Variety's "Fifty People to Watch."

Antwone’s first book, Finding Fish: a memoir, about his inspiring story became a New York Times best seller. His collection of poetry, Who Will Cry For The Little Boy?, a national best seller, creatively disclosed the road from his tumultuous childhood to the man he is today. Antwone’s poetry is featured in Nikki Giovanni's book for children, Hip Hop Speaks to Children. His third book, A Boy Should Know How To Tie A Tie And Other Lessons For Succeeding In Life, won the award for Outstanding Literary Work - Instructional from the 2011 NAACP Awards and is in its third printing.

Antwone continues as a prolific writer with his stage project, Antwone Fisher: A Play. His most recent screenwriting project is Training Day 2. Antwone made his film directing debut with the award-winning short film, My Summer Friend, and produced, wrote, and directed the 2011 documentary, This Life of Mine. Antwone teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers Program, the country's largest continuing education writing program.

About how far he has come, Antwone states, "I think back on a childhood full of longing for belonging, and see my life now as what I have created out of my dreams. An image comes to mind of Mrs. Brown at the orphanage in Cleveland, me sitting at her side, telling her, ‘You'll read about me someday.’ I was definitely dreaming then. With no evidence of that ever being possible, I clung to that preposterous vision and with the force of those dreams willed it and made it happen. Not because I needed to be famous, but because I needed a world that made me feel uninvited to be wrong, so I imagined myself free, I imagined myself loved, I imagined myself... as somebody."


Field Center 10th Anniversary Keynote
Dorothy Roberts, JD

Dorothy Roberts, JD is the 14th Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, George A. Weiss University Professor, and the inaugural Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights at the University of Pennsylvania, where she holds appointments in the Law School and Departments of Africana Studies and Sociology. An internationally recognized scholar, public intellectual, and social justice advocate, she has written and lectured extensively on 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 Roberts is the author of the award-winning books Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty and Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare, as well as co-editor of six books on constitutional law and gender. She has also published more than eighty articles and essays in books and scholarly journals, including the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, and Stanford Law Review. Her latest book is Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century. Professor Roberts has been a professor at Rutgers and Northwestern University, a visiting professor at Stanford and Fordham, and a fellow at Harvard University’s Program in Ethics and the Professions, Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and the Fulbright Program.

Professor Roberts serves as chair of the board of directors of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, on the board of directors of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, and on the advisory boards of the Center for Genetics and Society and Family Defense Center. She recently received awards from the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the 2010 Dorothy Ann and Clarence L. Ver Steeg Distinguished Research Fellowship.

 

Luncheon Keynote
Rep. Louise Williams Bishop

A FisherPennsylvania State Representative Louise Williams Bishop has achieved an incredible degree of personal success in three separate, but related careers - radio, the ministry and politics. The theme that runs through all her work is her desire to bring inspiration and assistance to those people in need.

Born in Georgia, she moved to Philadelphia as a young child. What was not known until recently, is that this most accomplished woman’s childhood included sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle.
A graduate of West Philadelphia High School, Representative Bishop earned a degree in communications and radio broadcasting and began her communications career at WHAT radio as the youngest voice in radio. Moving to WDAS-AM, she hosted "The Louise Bishop Program" for over 49 years. Her program was consistently one of the highest rated programs at the station and was an institution in the Philadelphia media market.

She used this forum to inform and unite people around social, civic and religious issues, advocate for services for the poor, and bring the message of political leaders to the people. In 1978 she was called to the ministry and became an ordained Evangelist by the Pennsylvania Baptist Association. Representative Bishop felt God moving her to minister more than just between records on her gospel program. Today, she preaches all over the Philadelphia and can be heard on WURD Radio 900.

In 1987, a blind man whose wife had deserted him and their five young children called into her gospel program begging for help. She asked the people of Philadelphia to respond. The power of that response led to the beginning of her third career.

Representative Bishop was first elected to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1988 and has been overwhelmingly re-elected to office nine times. She is the House Democratic Chair of the Children and Youth Committee and the most senior African-American woman serving in the General Assembly. Representative Bishop has sponsored legislation to address a number of critical issues, including domestic violence, day care, drug treatment, education, and health care. She is most proud of the legislation that improves the quality of life for children and older people. Representative Bishop has received numerous awards, including the Woman of the Year Award from Operation Push by Rev. Jessie Jackson.
Inspired by the disclosures of Jerry Sandusky’s victims, at the age of 78, Representative Bishop spontaneously disclosed her own painful history of sexual abuse for the very first time at a press conference at the State Capitol.  This poignant and powerful moment has served to define God’s purpose for her work, and Representative Louise Bishop is committed to continuing to advocate for victims of sexual abuse.


Closing Keynote
Richard J. Gelles, PhD

Richard J. Gelles is the Dean of The School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and holds The Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence.  He is a Faculty Director of the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research and was the Founding Director of the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence.

His book, The Violent Home was the first systematic empirical investigation of family violence and continues to be highly influential.  He is the author or coauthor of 27 books and more than 150 articles and chapters on family violence.  His latest book The Third Lie:  Why Government programs Don’t Work and a Blueprint for Change (Left Coast Press, 2011).  He was instrumental in the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

Gelles received his A.B. degree from Bates College (1968), an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Rochester (1971), and a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of New Hampshire (1973).  He edited the journal Teaching Sociology from 1973 to 1981 and received the American Sociological Association, Section on Undergraduate Education, "Outstanding Contributions to Teaching Award" in 1979. In 1999 Gelles received the “Award for Career Achievement in Research” from the American Professional Science on the Abuse of Children. Gelles has presented innumerable lectures to policy-making groups and media groups, including The Today Show, CBS Morning News, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline, and All Things Considered.  In 1984 Esquire named him to one of the men and women who are "changing America."