Meet our Swarm Speakers!
Speakers can make or break a gathering, can’t they? This year, we’re delighted to bring some of our favorite interculturalists, educators and storytellers to the Swarm! They have been carefully selected based on their unique perspectives about how elders and family – and how we communicate – influence our personal and national cultures. (And did I mention they’re also some of my favorite people on this planet?!)
Patti Digh (pronounced “dye”) is a writer, speaker, and social justice activist. She has written eight books, the first of which was about global business leadership and was a Fortune Magazine “best business book” for the year 2000. Her second book was a handbook for companies dealing with global diversity issues. Her more recent books include “Life is a Verb” and “Creative is a Verb” which were both finalists for the Books for a Better Life national award and the Southern Independent Booksellers Association book of the year award. Having traveled and worked in over 60 countries in her career, Patti now lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her family. You can visit her at www.37days.com and http://lifeisaverbcamp.com.
Vimala Rajendran grew up in Bombay, India where she learned to cook from family, street vendors & friends. In 1994, a single mother of three, Vimala started cooking donation-based community dinners in Chapel Hill, North Carolina home. Sixteen years later, in 2010, thanks to the support of our beloved community, Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe was born. Despite being an “unexpected chef,” her restaurant has won the “Best of the Triangle” award for Indian restaurants in 2012/2013. She is an immigrant, survivor of domestic abuse, community activist, social entrepreneur, mother of three and mentor to countless people. She is chef/restaurateur who deeply believes that we grow our community by engaging intentionally in the farm to fork process and living our vision of creative resiliency. She proudly states that food is a human right and her business motto is “Vimala cooks, everyone eats.” No one is ever turned away at her restaurant – yet she still makes a profit.
Maria is of Mexican and Apache heritage, born in Mexico, and emigrated to the U.S. at age nine. Her journey has been that of living in two worlds; finding the balance in being who she is while finding her place in the American western culture. She has spent many years in the corporate world along with many years of self-discovery—finding her way back to her Native culture and spirituality. Maria offers a balance to Glenn’s (her husband and business partner’s) business savvy/systems approach. They form a whole and are able to bridge the gap from the ancient teachings to the modern world, from the analytical to the intuitive, and from the mind to heart. Maria is the co-founder of BalancedIs.
Glenn is the author of Shift,: Indigenous Principles for Corporate Change, a brilliant book that offers a culturally based process and path to help move companies from stagnation to change, from mediocrity to innovation, and from disconnection to harmony. Glenn was adopted into a Navajo family, the Bedonie family of the Naakaii Dine’é clan, the Mexican Bear clan. This is an Indigenous tradition, that we have our biological family and then we have our spirit family, those we adopt along the way. To the Navajo people they are real life-long adoptions and are taken very seriously. In 2008, he was officially given their clan name and later ordained in one of their ceremonial traditions. Glenn strives each day to hold strictly to the traditions as they have been taught to him. Glenn is the co-founder of BalancedIs.
Ann-Lee was born to a Jamaican father and a Caymanian mother. She was eight when her mother married an Italian man. Ann-Lee’s curiosity anddesire to communicate made language studies one of her passions. She has lived on three continents, in seven countries and speaks three languages fluently and would love to have the time/energy to get her German/French to fluency. At the age of ten she had her first study abroad experience where two incredible things happened: she forgot how to speak her native language and she also “forgot” she was of color. These experiences brought to her a clear understanding of how culture determines how people view right/wrong. In the end, right/wrong becomes something mutable instead of fixed as most people prefer to believe and this belief often makes living in a multi-cultural setting difficult for all. Ann-Lee is a certified Yumana body rolling/foot fitness and Vinayasa flow yoga instructor and will lead us through some basic exercises to help us stay relaxed/focused!
Missy Gluckmann is the founder of Melibee Global and Better Abroad. She is humbled to lead us on this journey and is humbled to bring together people who are truly committed to changing our world for the better through dialogue on cross-cultural issues. Missy has many identities – traveler, educator, trainer, foodie, health warrior, friend, wife, sister and follower of all things of the late Maya Angelou. She is also a new mom to baby Hudson, the love of her life! She hails from New York and considers living in the US South a cultural experience of epic proportions that has changed her perspective immensely! Missy has traveled extensively and has lived abroad three times, most recently in Cuenca, Ecuador.