Morten Group is pleased to present our first ever READI Symposium on November 10, 2020!

Registration for the READI Symposium is now open!

To register for the event, please visit

All ticket proceeds will go toward Affinity Community Services and IC Stars, two of Chicago’s most vital organizations.

You can find out more about our programming, guest speakers, and beneficiaries below – check back soon for more information!

For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact Vince Pagán at or (407) 547-0802.


Session 1: Centering Diversity, Racial Equity, and Inclusion (DREI) at Your Organization: A Process Discussion to Get You READI

What does being READI mean? Defining ways to understand and expand access within DREI work is critical from a cultural, economic, physical, and technological lens (as well as others). DREI is not “achieved” at any given moment, but working to center it can make it the cultural mainstay for your organization. Where do you begin? What happens if you get stuck or hit a bump in the road?

In this session, we hear from several colleagues who will share how they are centering DREI in their organizations and discuss Morten Group’s customized process to center DREI and address your questions about building a culture of equity. Come prepared to share your thoughts as the definitions of true access continue to expand.


Session 2: Microaggressions: What Are They and What Can We Do About Them?

Microaggressions are subtle and often unconscious, unintentional manifestations of oppression expressed in comments and actions. Microaggressions harm the targets, the perpetrators, and relationships at work and home. In this READI session, we provide an opportunity for participants to build their skills at responding to microaggressions they experience in their lives, whether they are targets, witnesses, or responding to someone else’s experience after the fact.


Culminating Roundtable – READI, Set, Go: Turning Insight Into Action

Morten Group, LLC President Mary Morten will moderate this afternoon roundtable discussion that begins with remarks from Pamela Newkirk (author of Diversity, Inc.), and Sean Thomas-Breitfeld (co-Director of Building Movement Project, creators of the Race to Lead initiative). This conversation gives attendees a chance to hear from prominent visionary leaders about the challenges and rewards of READI-focused leadership.

Panelists will also respond to questions about the nuts and bolts of their experiences implementing READI at their respective organizations; the difficulties, surprises, and joys of transforming organizational cultures; and what ongoing access for all looks like in a post-COVID-19 world. Following the panel, participants will have the opportunity to ask their own questions as well.


Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk

Pamela Newkirk is an award-winning journalist and a professor of journalism at New York University who has written extensively about diversity in the news media and art world. She is the author of Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, which won the NAACP Image Award, and Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media, which won the National Press Club Award for media criticism, as well as the editor of Letters from Black America. Her articles and reviews are regularly published in major media, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. She lives in New York City.

In Diversity, Inc., Pamela shines a bright light on the diversity industry, asking the tough questions about what has been effective–and why progress has been so slow. She highlights the rare success stories, sharing valuable lessons about how other industries can match those gains. But as she argues, despite decades of handwringing, costly initiatives, and uncomfortable conversations, organizations have, apart from a few exceptions, fallen far short of their goals.


Sean Thomas-Breitfeld

Sean Thomas-Breitfeld is Co-Director of Building Movement Project, an organization whose mission is to develop research, tools, training materials and opportunities for partnership that bolster nonprofit organizations’ ability to support the voice and power of the people they serve.

Prior to joining the organization, Sean spent a decade working in various roles at the Center for Community Change, where he developed training programs for grassroots leaders, coordinated online and grassroots advocacy efforts, and lobbied on a range of issues, including immigration reform, transportation equity and anti-poverty programs.

Before joining the Center, Sean worked as a Policy Analyst at the National Council of La Raza, where he focused on employment and income security issues. Sean holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Multicultural Studies from St. Olaf College in Minnesota.


Michelle Morales

Michelle Morales is the President of the Woods Fund Chicago, the first foundation in the city that explicitly committed itself to centering racial equity in its work and grantmaking.  Prior to Woods Fund, she led the Chicago chapter of the Mikva Challenge, an organization that leads the civic field in training teachers and developing youth councils for civic institutions. Michelle’s background has been in the field of alternative education & positive youth development, as a teacher at an alternative high school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park community, and then as Associate Director at the Alternative Schools Network. From 1997-2012, Michelle participated in intensive community organizing in the Humboldt Park area.  Michelle is a fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago and participated in the inaugural cohort of Cultivate.


Rahnee Patrick

Rahnee Patrick is Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services at the Illinois Department of Human Services. Born in South Bend, Indiana and raised in the nearby town of North Liberty (population 800), her father is an Air Force veteran who met her mother, a native of Thailand, during the Viet Nam Conflict. She graduated in 1996 from Indiana University at South Bend, where she co-founded Students Together Active and Respected (STAAR), a group of students with disabilities. Shortly after graduating, she became involved in the independent living and disability rights movements, primarily through the direct action group ADAPT. In 2007, the Governor appointed her to the Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Children with Disabilities and later served as the Chair of the Illinois Statewide Rehabilitation Council, another gubernatorial appointment. She is also an award-winning writer. In 2008, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) awarded Rahnee the Paul Hearne Award, as an emerging national leader. Subsequently, she served for two years on AAPD’s board of directors.


Audra Wilson

Audra Wilson has been a champion for racial and economic justice for more than 20 years as a public interest lawyer and teacher, policy shaper, community mobilizer, and experienced executive manager who was recently appointed as Shiver Center on Poverty Law’s CEO. Throughout her career, Audra has focused on the voices and experiences of communities of color and communities most impacted by injustice. Audra began her legal career as a Welfare Advocacy Staff Attorney with the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, where she focused on welfare reform implementation and food security issues in Illinois. She was then tapped by then-state-Senator Barack Obama to serve as the Deputy Press and Policy Director on his U.S. Senate campaign and went on to serve as Director of Diversity Education and Outreach and Adjunct Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and Deputy staff for US Congresswoman Robin Kelly.

Audra served as Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, and in October 2019 was appointed as Chair of Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues before joining Shriver Center on Poverty Law as their new CEO this past May.


ACS 25th Logo

Affinity Community Services

Affinity is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of black LGBT communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders, and bridge communities through collective analysis and action for social justice, freedom, and human rights. Affinity envisions a society where being your authentic self is not a liability and differences are fully embraced.

Affinity’s work centers on health and wellness, civic engagement, immigrant rights, and leadership development. Because their work has always been intersectional, building bridges across communities is a key component of everything they do.

Find out more about Affinity and the celebration of their 25th anniversary at


i.c.stars works to activate a technology community of change agents to power social and economic freedom.

Building on their experiences in education and workforce development, the founders of i.c.stars developed a technology-based curriculum that combined project-based training with a broader perspective on community impact and “bigger than you” sense of accountability.

Since 1999, i.c.stars has been identifying, training, and jump-starting technology careers for low-income young adults who, although lacking access to education and employment, demonstrate extraordinary potential for success in the business world and for impact in their communities.

i.c. stars believes that when young adults focus their talent on both technology services and community impact, their success in both increases significantly.

Find out more about i.c.stars at

Vince Pagán

Vince Pagán has blogged 270 posts