Keynote Speakers

Laz Alonso

Chosen as one of Variety’s “Top Ten Actors to Watch in 2009” and part of the new
breed of emerging leading men in Hollywood, actor Laz Alonso can next be seen
starring in a lead role in the upcoming dance film from Sony Screen Gems: Battle of the Year 3D. The film centers around a group of young hip hop dancers put together by Los Angeles Hip Hop mogel, “Dante”, played by Alonso. With only three months until the biggest international dance battle of the year, the twelve talented individuals must come together as a team if they're going to bring the trophy back to America where it started. The film also stars Josh Holloway, Josh Peck and Chris Brown. Beau Flynn, Tripp Vinson and Amy Lo produced the project. The film hits theaters September 13, 2013.  Most recently in 2013, Laz starred in the NBC series “Deception” opposite Meagan Good. In 2011, Laz toplined the A&E drama “Breakout Kings” and showed off his leading man skills in the hit romantic comedy for Columbia Pictures entitled Jumping the Broom (May 6, 2011) for which he won a 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor In A Motion Picture.

Laz can currently be seen on DVD in the lead role of “Tsu’Tey” in the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar! Directed by James Cameron, this sci-fi epic released by 20th Century Fox stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver. The film is one of the most technically complex productions ever mounted, making extensive use of cutting edge 3-D, computer animation and motion capture F/X technology. In early 2009, Laz played the lead villain role of “Fenix” in the fourth installment of highly popular Fast and the Furious franchise. Fast & Furious, which reunited the original cast of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez and posted the highest-ever April weekend opening. The movie went on to generate over $350,000,000 in worldwide box office sales and along with DVD sales and rentals, the film went on to be the highest grossing film in 2009 for Universal Pictures. In early 2008, Laz executive produced and starred opposite Danny Glover in Alan Jacobs’ Down for Life (aka Por Vida), which ended up with a much-coveted position in the 2009 Toronto Film Festival for which it was critically acclaimed and is currently debuting in other film festivals around the country. In 2008, Laz starred in Miracle at St. Anna for director Spike Lee, in which he played one of four main leads opposite Derek Luke, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson. The film, which follows four black “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 92nd Infantry Division who get trapped in a small Tuscan village on the Gothic Line during the Italian Campaign of WWII, also stars John Leguizamo, John Tuturro and Kerry Washington.

His past movie credits include lead roles in the Sony/Screen Gems’ hits Stomp The Yard and This Christmas, a lead role in 2006 Roland Joffe psychological thriller Captivity, and a co-starring role in the 2005 hit Jarhead, opposite Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx, Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard. The feature and was directed by Sam Mendes for Universal. In 2011 he had a supporting role in Rod Lurie’s remake of the Sam Peckinpah classic Straw Dogs for Sony Screen Gems. Laz’s past TV credits include guest-starring roles on “The Unit”, “Bones”, “CSI: Miami,” “The Practice,” “Navy: NCIS” and “Eyes” and in 2010 a recurring role in the TNT critically acclaimed series “Southland.”

Born and raised in Washington DC, Laz always knew he wanted to be an actor. He remembers at a very early age entertaining his family by imitating relatives and family friends. He graduated from the prestigious Howard University School of Business, earning a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing. After college, he worked on Wall Street at an investment banking firm. He and two partners eventually started their own marketing business, promoting mainstream products to the trend-setting urban market. Owning and operating his own successful business freed up Laz’s time to finally explore his passion for acting. Laz began taking classes in the evening to hone his craft and it didn’t take him long to begin landing roles in commercials and videos.

From D.C. to New York, Laz feels his upbringing not only taught him how to deal with the school of hard knocks, but also prepared him for his biggest goal, his acting career. He credits the move to NYC as his move into manhood and the city holds many great memories for him. Laz also credits his acting ability to these life experiences, as he is able to bring a little of what he knows or has dealt with into his characters. (Photo Credit: Jennifer Cooper Photography)

Michael Eric Dyson
University Professor, Georgetown University

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, named by Essence magazine as one of the 40 most inspiring African- Americans - and by Ebony magazine as one of the 100 most influential black Americans - is one of the nation's most renowned public intellectuals. The Philadelphia Weekly contends that Dyson "is reshaping what it means to be a public intellectual by becoming the most visible black academic of his time." When one hears Dyson's name, one thinks of the many hats he wears: prolific author, scholar, public intellectual, ordained minister, media commentator and talk radio show host. In his books, Dyson has taken on some of the toughest and most controversial issues of our day, including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s radical legacy, in I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.; the virtues and crises of hip-hop culture in Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur; racial conflict and black identity in Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line; and more recently the political and racial fallout from Hurricane Katrina in Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster and Debating Race, a collection of his previously unpublished intellectual encounters--cordial and combative--with some of today's most influential thinkers and politicians.

Dyson returns to Hip Hop in his most recent book Know What I Mean?: Reflections on Hip Hop. His newest book, April 4, 1968, was released for the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dyson has been nominated for the prestigious NAACP Image Award three times - and has won it twice, first in 2004 for his book, Why I Love Black Women, and in 2006 for his New York Times bestselling book, Is Bill Cosby Right? Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind? which dissects class warfare in black America. Dyson's New York Times bestselling Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye, was optioned for a major motion picture.

While Dyson has taught at some of the nation's most prestigious universities - including Brown, UNC at Chapel Hill, U. Penn and Columbia - his influence has carried far beyond the academy into prisons and bookstores, political conventions and union halls, and church sanctuaries and lecture halls across the world. Dyson has also taken the media by storm through appearances on The Today Show, Nightline, O'Reilly Factor, The Tavis Smiley Show and Real Time with Bill Maher - and he has cemented his star appeal on such shows as Rap City, Def Poetry Jam and The Colbert Report.

Dyson is also the host of the syndicated radio show, The Michael Eric Dyson Show, which addresses social, cultural and political issues in a contemporary vein. Dyson's powerful scholarship has won him legions of admirers and has made him what the Washington Post terms a "superstar professor." His fearless and fiery oratory led the Chronicle of Higher Education to declare that with his rhetorical gifts he "can rock classroom and chapel alike." Dyson's eloquent writing inspired Vanity Fair magazine to describe him as "one of the most graceful and lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today."

Dr. Dyson is presently University Professor at Georgetown University where he teaches theology, English and African American Studies. His legendary rise - from welfare father to Princeton Ph.D., from church pastor to college professor, from a factory worker who didn't start college until he was 21 to a figure who has become what writer Naomi Wolf terms "the ideal public intellectual of our time."

David A. Thomas
Dean and William R. Berkley Chair

David A. Thomas is Dean and William R. Berkley Chair of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. A recognized thought leader in organizational behavior and strategic human resource management, Dr. Thomas’ research focuses on issues related to executive development, cultural diversity in organizations, leadership, and organizational change.

Prior to his appointment at Georgetown University, Dr. Thomas was the H. Naylor Fitzhugh Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where he directed the school’s Organizational Behavior Unit. He also served as senior associate dean and director of faculty recruitment at Harvard; led its business school’s required first-year MBA course, Leadership and Organizational Behavior; and held the position of faculty chair for several executive education programs. Prior to joining the faculty at Harvard in 1990, Dr. Thomas was an assistant professor of management at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Thomas has co-authored two books—Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America (Harvard Business Press, 1999) and Leading For Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County (Harvard Education Press, 2009)—and more than 60 case studies and articles for leading academic journals and practitioner publications.

In addition to being widely published, Dr. Thomas has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards, including the Executive Development Roundtable’s Marion Gislason Award for Contributions to the Theory and Practice of Executive Development. He recently received the Administrative Science Quarterly Scholarly Contribution Award for the article that had the most impact on the field in the last five years. He also earned the George R. Terry Award from the Academy of Management for the most outstanding contribution to the advancement of management knowledge for his book, Breaking Through: The Making of Minority Executives in Corporate America.

Dr. Thomas received a Bachelor of Arts in Administrative Sciences and Master and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Organizational Behavior from Yale University. He also holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. He currently is a member of the Board of Directors of DTE Energy and the Estoril Conferences Advisory Board.