Meet the Speakers: Who’s Being Left Out of Cleveland’s Renaissance

An America’s Civic Square Event

The Moderator:

Erika BrownErika Brown, Community Network Builder, Neighborhood Connections

Erika Brown is a Community Network Builder at Neighborhood Connections with a specific  focus on the Glenville neighborhood of Cleveland. She works with residents and other neighborhood stakeholders to develop trust, build community, and make connections with each other, resources and opportunities. Prior to joining the Neighborhood Connections team, Ms. Brown was a workforce development professional providing support to clients of Cuyahoga County Job and Family Services through adult basic education, soft skills training, and self-sufficiency plan integration. Erika lives in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood where she and her husband William are the proud parents of three Cleveland Metropolitan School District students.

The Panelists:

DanielGray-HeadshotDaniel Gray-Kontar, Executive Artistic Director, Twelve Literary and Performative Arts Incubator

Daniel Gray-Kontar is a poet, teacher, youth mentor, rapper, journalist, and education activist. He has worked as an advocate for social transformation in the city of Cleveland for more than 25 years. Gray-Kontar is an education consultant for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the former chair of the Literary Arts Department at the Cleveland School of the Arts; and a former graduate school fellow at UC Berkeley’s College of Education. His work in arts education has been showcased on PBS Newshour. Gray-Kontar has lectured at universities, public schools, arts organizations and scholarly conferences across the US. His Ted Talk discussing youth leadership in public school education has affected the ways public school administrators think about the inclusion of youth and their families in the process of re-making school cultures and curricula.

Sage Mack HeadshotSage Mack, Intern, Twelve Literary and Performative Arts Incubator

Sage Mack is an award-winning poet, writer, and lecturer from Cleveland. She is an alumna of Cleveland School of the Arts where she was a Literary Arts major, and is an incoming freshmen at Cleveland State University. A dynamic human being, Sage loves positivity and is on the trek to self discovery. With a sun in Virgo she can be analytical, driven and organized but with a Lilith in Scorpio she can also be vengeful and mysterious. While interning at Twelve Literary Arts Incubator, Sage is working on a collection of short fiction.

ZachSchiller-HeadshotZach Schiller, Research Director, Policy Matters Ohio

Zach Schiller is the research director at Policy Matters Ohio. Prior to coming to Policy Matters in 2001, Zach worked for more than two decades researching and writing about the Ohio economy as a business reporter for The Plain Dealer and Business Week. His education includes a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. For Policy Matters, Zach has written about foreclosures, economic development, job growth, unemployment insurance, tax policy and other issues. He is a member of the board of managers of the Ohio Poverty Law Center.

 Kate Sopko PictureKate Sopko, Lead Artist, The Fixers

Kate Sopko is a Cleveland installation artist, author and facilitator who constructs social experiments to spark public dialogues and incubate new cultural practices. With support from Art Matters and SPACES, she has developed the collaborative public art project, The Fixers, centered around the 2016 Republican National Convention with hundreds of Clevelanders since 2015. More on The Fixers at  More on Sopko’s work at

Maria Miranda, Artist, The Fixers

Maria Miranda is a radical feminist, person of faith, queer-identified, Afro-Latina who was born and raised in Cleveland. She has worked in Cleveland’s nonprofit community for almost ten years as a health advocate, fundraiser and community organizer. Maria advocates for women’s lives as Vice President of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Foundation and Board Chair of New Voices for Reproductive Justice. As an artist, Maria has shown work at Ingenuity Festival, SPACES Gallery, Asterisk Gallery and Brandt Gallery.