Michelle King

Guest host for Session 12

Ever since our first few moments with Michelle, we’ve been in love with her ability to extend the fingers of her being toward the future, always looking for ways that play, collaboration, learning, conversation, and collaboration can help us imagine and move creatively toward a world we want for ourselves and for one another.

We feel blessed to have Michelle as a conversation partner, and tickled that she can be part of your experience in this adaptive space.

Learning Instigator. Love Activist. Transformer.

Michelle King is a learner first and foremost and as well as an instigator of learning. Professionally, she is a middle school teacher and has taught over 22 years in public schools in Southwestern Pennsylvania. She learned and honed her craft in Mt. Lebanon with a fantastic crew of educators and students for over 16 years. In her quest to instigate courageous conversations about learning and children, she ventured to The Environmental Charter School and their principles (Catalyst. Character. Collaboration. Commitment.)  She co-taught Cultural Literacy, an integrated social sciences and English/Language Arts course. Currently, she is seeking to create dynamic learning experiences and opportunities that inspire wonder, discovery, contradictions, frustrations, and joy. In making connections locally and globally, Michelle pushes the envelope and boundaries of where learning should occur for all students. Her current interests are in game based learning, design, restorative justice, equity, social justice, the environment and teacher empowerment.  Through her partnerships with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, Center for Urban Education, UrbanKind Institute, South Fayette SD, Theater of the Oppressed Pittsburgh, Green Building Alliance, SocialVR, Carnegie Science Center FAB Lab, Girl Up, CREATE Lab, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Remake Learning ecosystem, ThinkZone Games and other provocateurs; Michelle is helping to co-create equitable, empathetic, learning experiences for all Pittburghers.

Current Conundrums:  What do humans need to learn now? How might we create empathetic institutions that remind us of our humanity?  How might we re-design for equity and social justice in and out of school learning? How might we design learning institutions to build connections? How might we allow those connections to help us re-see the worlds we inhabit?  How might we embrace silence in our lives? How might we integrate our inner and outer environments as humans? How might we co-create the Beloved Community?


Bekezela Mguni

Guest expert/host for Session 3

Hannah du Plessis first met Bekezela at an eight-month long anti-racist trauma-informed yoga teacher training hosted by Felicia Savage and her team at Yoga Roots on Location. We invited her to hold Session 3—Working in systemic oppression and trauma—because we have experienced spaces held by Bekezela. We admire Bekezela’s joyful spirit, her commitment to justice, and her ability to cut through the clutter. 

BEKEZELA MGUNI is a radical librarian, activist, artist and abundant bodied femme. She believes that the collective sharing of knowledge, beauty and inspiration is a part of life’s purpose and brings that intentional spirit to her work. Born in San Fernando, Trinidad, she immigrated to New York at the age of 11 and lived in the Caribbean neighborhoods bustling in the hearts of Brooklyn and Queens before coming to Pittsburgh. She has over 10 years of community organizing experience in Reproductive Justice movement, in which she has worked with LGBTQIA communities, youth, women and people of color. She collaborates with various artists, educators, healers and activists who seek to create new worlds and new meanings for this world.

Bekezela is a self taught and community educated artist. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh and participated in the first Librarians and Archivists with Palestine delegation in June of 2013. She completed her first micro-residency at the Pittsburgh creative hub Boom Concepts, launching the Pgh POC Zine Distro and was featured in the Exposure: Black Voices in the Arts exhibition, in the winter of 2015. She was a 2015-2016 member of Penn Ave Creative Accelerator Program with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and continued her examination of the relationship between literacy and liberation in her March and April 2016 artist residencies with the Black Unicorn Project’s Reading Room. Her work celebrates memory and storytelling as a means of cultural preservation and retention. The Black Unicorn Project is a Black, queer, feminist library and archive.  ​

Bekezela was selected as an Emerging Artist in the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival and won the Judge’s Choice award for her work this year. She will be returning as an artist in 2017. She is currently working on the Activist Print Project, a partnership between the Andy Warhol Museum, Boom Concepts and printmaking studio Artist Image Resource (AIR). The Black Unicorn Project will launch its 4th installation/intervention of the Reading Room in November of 2016 in Allentown, Pittsburgh. She is enjoying serving as the Youth Services Librarian at the Sto-Rox Library and being a new member of Boom Concepts Studios. Both connect her to people of all ages and backgrounds, creativity and innovation. Which continually feed her social justice and artistic practices.  She is interested in Black joy, resistance, legacy and possibilities.

You can learn more about Bekezela on her web site.


Tuesday Ryan-Hart

Guest expert/host for Session 4

A few years ago, our first few hours with Tuesday included the experience of her hosting a learning circle and conversation about power and race, with a group of mostly-white practitioners of “The Art of Hosting.” The clarity of her information and the loving strength with which it was delivered, combined with the quality of the space for reflection and conversation held by her and her fellow hosts… well, it was valuable and impressive.

Since then we have continued to learn and be inspired by the work she and her colleagues at The Outside are doing, and by their open honest sharing through the Find the Outside podcast, which we highly recommend.

Tuesday Ryan-Hart leads large-scale systems change with a deep understanding and practice of how equity, when put at the centre of new movements, frees the path to better ideas that work. She helps diverse organizations and communities with shared interests reframe commonly-held assumptions and persistent issues, surfacing a new mindset for action with greater participation and shared impact.

Tuesday is co-founder of The Outside.


Karen Proctor

Guest expert/host for Session 11

We have known Karen for nearly ten years, as a leader and as a teacher and guide of scores of earnest and eager grad students. Few people we know can match her mix of vast experience, clarity of purpose, ready wisdom, and kind good humor. When we are looking for insight on leadership, we think of Karen.

Karen Proctor works with leaders in all sectors to design lasting solutions for positive social change.

Karen Proctor established Harbour Workshop, a social innovation firm with one simple desire in mind, to help leaders of all kinds lead social change more effectively. The firm’s client list includes: Scholastic, the University of Notre Dame, RWJBarnabas Health, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the National CARES Mentoring Movement, The Democracy Collaborative, School of Visual Arts, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Babson College, Yale Child Study Center, The University of the South, and Accenture.

Karen’s accomplished career has been devoted to working across the public and private sectors to address issues ranging from hunger to school reform. She has been the chief social responsibility administrator and strategist for a global corporation, a major sports league, major market radio stations, as well as a cable television public affairs producer.

Her work in service of more than 300 organizations has honed her expertise in strategic thinking and acting, program design, and cross-sector collaboration. Karen is known for her thought leadership and passion for producing transformational outcomes. In 2016, she was awarded the Brown Foundation Teaching Fellowship at the University of the South. While she leads Harbour Workshop she also works with the university on leadership development and social impact initiatives. She is a senior social innovation fellow with Babson College’s Lewis Institute for Social Innovation.

Karen teaches leadership courses at the School of Visual Arts (NY) and the University of the South (TN). She is a proud graduate of the University of Notre Dame.


Father Paul Abernathy

Guest expert/host for Session 8

Just a few days before we invited Father Paul to contribute to the Adaptive Space Learning Group, we listened to a panel discussion on “Community as Nexus: building healthy and resilient communities”–part of Pitt’s week-long Civic Action Week series of events. The whole panel was wonderfully insightful and experienced, and their commitment and seasoned wisdom came through in every minute of the session.

In addition to his clearly-communicated passion and clear-sighted practicality, the thing that made us reach out to Father Paul for Adaptive Space is the way he sees the capacity for long-term leadership and thriving community as a guiding principle for choices about near-term action. We can’t wait for his time with us.

Father Paul Abernathy is an Orthodox Christian priest and the founding CEO of the Neighborhood Resilience Project. Since 2011, Fr. Paul labored with the community to build this ministry to address Community Trauma with Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) – A framework that transforms Trauma Affected Communities to Resilient, Healing and Healthy Communities so people can be healthy enough to sustain opportunities and realize their potential. Under Fr. Paul’s leadership, millions of dollars in food, clothing, furniture, transportation assistance, identification, free health care and emergency relief has been distributed to the Greater Pittsburgh Community. The framework of TICD also includes a Trauma Response Team and Micro-Community Interventions. Community groups from all across the nation have worked with Fr. Paul to be trained in the TICD Framework.

He has a B.A. in International Studies from Wheeling Jesuit University, and holds a Master in Public and International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. A former Non-Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, Father Paul is a combat veteran of the Iraq War.

In addition to his work with the organization, Fr. Paul is and has been a member of multiple community boards and committees to include the Trauma-Informed PA Think Tank, PA State Parole Citizens Advisory Committee, Allegheny County Health Department’s Violence Prevention Community Advisory Board, and is a Foundation of HOPE, Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and Campaign for Trauma Informed Policy & Practice board member. He has received numerous community awards to include Eagle Scout, the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab 40 Award, Larry Richert’s Hometown Hero Award, Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 under 40, and Wheeling Jesuit University’s Fr. Pedro Arrupe Distinguished Alumni Award.

Fr. Paul is the pastor of St. Moses Orthodox Church, a husband and father of two children.

By and about Father Paul

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Trauma is the lens through which many in our community see the world.”

A Post-Gazette story describing the block-by-block approach to “trauma-informed community development” by Father Paul and the Neighborhood Resilience Project.

New York Times: “I won’t be used as a guinea pig for white people”

A New York Times story, headlined “I won’t be used as a guinea pig for white people,” describes attitudes toward early trials of COVID-19 vaccines in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and the work of Father Paul and other volunteers from the Neighborhood Resilience Project.

Racial reconciliation interview with Fr. Paul Abernathy

Video of a conversation between Father Paul and Dn. Adam Roberts, as part of a series of interviews.


Maurice Stevens

Guest expert/host for Session 10

We first met Maurice at a gathering of North American practitioners in the Art of Hosting, Through the four days of that event, nearly forty (mostly white) people worked with questions of race, power, the role of host and facilitator, and the necessity of unlearning, relearning, and changing our methods and practices. Maurice’s presence, voice, and experience made us want to find other ways to collaborate and practice together. We are delighted that he has agreed to be a part of the Adaptive Space Learning Group.

Maurice Stevens is Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University and an adjunct faculty member for the Pacifica Graduate Institute in the department of Depth Psychology’s Community, Liberation, and Eco-Psychology Program. Dr. Stevens is also a writing coach for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Stevens received their B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Princeton University and their M.A. and Ph.D. from the interdisciplinary History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

Dr. Stevens’ research interests include the formation and representation of identity in and through visual culture and political performance, critical trauma theory, popular cultural performance, theories of affect and embodiment, and American, ethnic, and gender studies.

Dr. Stevens brings expertise in designing interdisciplinary and engaged research methodologies, participatory leadership models, and community-driven social justice informed research.