Featured Guests

Joshua Akers

Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban & Regional Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Joshua Akers is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban and Regional Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He is the founder and director of the Urban Praxis Workshop. His research and writing examines the intersection of markets and policy and the material impact on everyday life. This work has appeared in Environment and Planning A, Geoforum, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Affairs Review, Derive, and Guernica. He is a contributing editor for Metropolitics, a journal of public scholarship.

Michelle Anderson

Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

Michelle Wilde Anderson is a scholar of local government law. Her work combines legal analysis, empirical research, and humanistic reporting to understand concentrated poverty and municipal fiscal distress. She is currently writing a book about what we need most from local governments in high-poverty, post-industrial areas. Prior to joining Stanford Law School in 2014, Anderson was an assistant professor at the University of California Berkeley Law School. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Yale Law Journal, and other publications. She was awarded the 2019 Early Career Scholars Medal from the American Law Institute.

Bernadette Atuahene

Professor of Law, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Bernadette Atuahene is a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation and has written extensively about land dispossession. She has directed and produced an award winning short documentary film about one South African family’s struggle to regain their land. Her first book, We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Program is based on 150 interviews she conducted with South Africans dispossessed of their land by the colonial and apartheid governments and who received some form of compensation post-apartheid. In 2015, she won a National Science Foundation Grant for her new book project about land and housing in Detroit.

Sonja Bonnett

Community Legal Worker

Sonja Bonnett is a 38 year old wife and mother of 6. A Lifelong Detroiter, born & raised on the southwest side, committed to working to restore justice to the poor and disenfranchised community that has been illegally and unconstitutionally preyed upon. Sonja is an activist, advocate, Community Legal Worker with the Detroit Justice Center, and a proud member of the Coalition to End Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures where she works to restore dignity to those who were displaced and disregarded by illegal tax foreclosure. 

Raquel Castañeda Lopez

Detroit City Council Member

Raquel Castañeda-López, a lifelong Detroiter, made history in November 2013 by becoming the first Latina elected to the Detroit City Council. A social worker by trade, Castañeda-López has over ten years of experience in the non-profit sector and is committed to working for social justice to improve the quality of life for all Detroiters. She developed a strong resident service program, through grassroots organizing and a mobile office, helping residents and businesses cut through the ‘red tape’ in order to access services and resources. She is working to ensure Detroiters have a voice on City Council championing policies that promote access, inclusivity and equity.

Amina Kirk

Senior Legal and Policy Advocate & Organizer, Detroit People’s Platform

Amina Kirk is the Senior Legal and Policy Advocate & Organizer at Detroit People’s Platform. In this role, she specializes in Affordable Housing and Equitable Development including working with the Equitable Detroit Coalition, Housing Trust Fund Coalition, and Coalition to Stop Unconstitutional Tax Foreclosures. Amina received her Juris Doctor and Master of Urban Planning degrees from the University of Michigan. She has experience working in affordable housing in both the nonprofit and government sectors. She has experience in advocacy and organizing for affordable housing and racial and economic justice in both the United States and South Africa.

Emily Kutil

Reyner Bahnam Fellow, Department of Architecture, University of Buffalo

Emily Kutil is an architectural designer, educator, and researcher. Emily is a founding member of We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective, and she coordinates Black Bottom Street View, which was awarded a Knight Arts Challenge Grant in 2016. Emily taught design and visualization at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture. She has exhibited her work in Detroit and Los Angeles, has published articles in Scapegoat, Horizonte, and Dimensions, and has practiced at architecture firms in Detroit, LA, Ann Arbor, and Vermont. As the 2019-2020 Reyner Banham Fellow, she’ll focus on the history and future of life in the Great Lakes Watershed.

Juliet Moringiello

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Professor of Law, Widener University, Commonwealth Law School

Juliet Moringiello is a Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at Widener University Commonwealth Law School, where she regularly teaches Bankruptcy, Property, and Secured Transactions. Her scholarship addresses a variety of property issues in the law of creditors’ rights, including the relationship of state and federal law in addressing property rights and the evolution of property rights in connection with technological advances. She has published articles in the Illinois Law Review, the Washington & Lee Law Review, the Wisconsin Law Review, and the Fordham Law Review. Prof. Moringiello is a past Chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Business Law Section, an elected member of the American Law Institute, and a Uniform Law Commissioner for Pennsylvania. She earned her B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University, her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law, and her LL.M. from Temple University.

Michele Oberholtzer

Director of Tax Foreclosure Prevention, United Community Housing Coalition

Michele Oberholtzer is the Director of Tax Foreclosure Prevention at for United Community Housing Coalition, where she has directly assisted thousands of Detroiters to retain and obtain homeownership. She is the founder of The Tricycle Collective, a recent candidate for State Representative, and a prolific writer. She is also a proud graduate of University of Michigan’s College of Engineering.

Jerry Paffendorf

Co-Founder & CEO,  LOVELAND Technologies

Jerry Paffendorf is co-founder and CEO of Loveland Technologies, a property data and mapping company based in Detroit that hosts a nationwide dataset of property shapes, owners, and assessment information at landgrid.com. 

David Pitawanakwat

J.D. Candidate, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and University of Windsor Faculty of Law 

David is a Dual J.D candidate at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. He is a citizen of the United States, Canada, and Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. He currently resides in Detroit, where he advocates on issues in the local veteran community, as well as the urban Indigenous community.

Olga Pomar

New Jersey Legal Services

Olga Pomar is a lawyer who has worked in legal services in NJ for over three decades, representing low income persons and community groups. Ms. Pomar has worked on various housing and neighborhood issues, including landlord-tenant disputes, preservation of affordable housing, eminent domain and redevelopment, civil rights, and environmental justice.

John A. E. Pottow

John Philip Dawson Collegiate Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School

John A. E. Pottow, the John Philip Dawson Collegiate Professor of Law, is an internationally recognized expert in the field of bankruptcy and commercial law. His award-winning scholarship concentrates on the issues involved in the regulation of cross-border insolvencies as well as consumer financial distress. On behalf of the United States, Professor Pottow serves on the delegation to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). In addition, he is the co-author of one of the leading bankruptcy textbooks in the country with The Hon. Elizabeth Warren, Professor Jay Westbrook, and The Hon. Katie Porter). He has published in prominent legal journals in the United States and Canada and testified before Congress. An oft-invited lecturer, he has presented his works at academic conferences around the world and frequently provides commentary for national and international media outlets, such as NPR, CNBC, CNN, C-SPAN, Al Jazeera America, and the BBC. He also has litigated bankruptcy cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including his successful pro bono argument on behalf of the respondent in Executive Benefits Insurance Agency v. Arkison (2014).

Simone Sagovac

Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition

Simone Sagovac is a 28-year Detroit resident, serving as director for Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition since 2008. The coalition has worked for legally-binding community benefits and quality of life protections with the Gordie Howe International Bridge — with partners from Canada, the State, City and many others to secure millions in programs. She worked on strategies to support residents with housing relocations and options; community health surveys, air and trucks monitoring, and more to support policy advocacy. She works on environmental justice issues and represents the community on EPA committees for the Clean Air Act and NAFTA.  

Beryl Satter

Professor of History, Rutgers University-Newark

Beryl Satter is Professor of History at Rutgers University-Newark. Her book Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America (2009) won the Organization of American Historians’ Liberty Legacy Award for best book in civil rights history and the Jewish Book Council’s National Jewish Book Award in History. It was a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, and for the Ron Ridenhouer Book Prize, awarded to “those that persevere in acts of truth-telling.” She is a cofounder, with Darnell Moore and Christina Strasburger, of the Queer Newark Oral History Project. To support her current book project, a history of community development banking and the larger urban reinvestment movement of the 1970s and 1980s, she won a Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2015, and was selected as an Andrew Carnegie Fellow in 2016.

Eli Savit

Senior Advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

Eli Savit practices, writes, and teaches in the areas of state and local government, civil rights, impact litigation, and environmental law. Since 2016, Savit has served as senior adviser and counsel to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Prior to his appointment by Mayor Duggan, Savit served as a law clerk for Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court and practiced law with two major national law firms. In addition to his work for the City of Detroit, Savit regularly consults with civil rights groups and environmental organizations in Michigan and across the country.

Louise Seamster

Assistant Professor of Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies, University of Iowa

Louise Seamster is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. She writes about racial politics and urban development, emergency financial management, infrastructure, debt, and the myth of racial progress. Her research centers on the interactive financial and symbolic factors reproducing racial inequality across multiple domains. Her current book project uses Benton Harbor as a case study to understand competing approaches to time, money and property in cities. She is working on two additional projects on water secession in Flint and creative extraction in Tamina, Texas.

David Skeel

S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law, University of Pennsylvania Law School

David Skeel, the S. Samuel Arsht Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, is the author of True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World (InterVarsity, 2014), The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and its (Unintended) Consequences (Wiley, 2011); Icarus in the Boardroom: The Fundamental Flaws in Corporate America and Where They Came From (Oxford, 2005); Debt’s Dominion: A History of Bankruptcy Law in America (Princeton, 2001); and numerous articles on bankruptcy, financial distress, corporate law and other topics.  Since August, 2016, he has served on the oversight board appointed by President Obama for Puerto Rico.

Ilya Somin

Professor of Law, George Mason University

Ilya Somin is Professor of Law at George Mason University. His research focuses on constitutional law, property, and democracy. He is the author of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom (Oxford UP forthcoming), Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter (Stanford UP, 2nd ed., 2016), and The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain (University of Chicago Press, 2015), and co-editor of Eminent Domain: A Comparative Perspective (Cambridge UP, 2017). He is a regular contributor to the  popular Volokh Conspiracy law and politics blog, affiliated with Reason magazine.

Michael Steinberg

Professor from Practice, University of Michigan Law School

Michael Steinberg is a professor and founding director of the Civil Rights Litigation Initiative at U-M Law School. Before coming to U-M, he was the legal director of the ACLU of Michigan for 22 years. Steinberg has litigated dozens of high-impact, high-profile cases on a wide variety of issues, including racial justice, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, voting rights, police misconduct, environmental justice, post-9/11 issues, economic justice, and freedom of speech. He was lead counsel in MorningSide v. Sabree, a successful class action brought by the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund challenging unlawful tax foreclosures in Detroit. 

Sean White

Director of Fund Development, Develop Detroit

Sean currently serves as the Director of Fund Development for Develop Detroit, a mission-based real estate developer that builds equitable, inclusive communities in the city.  Mr. White leads the nonprofit’s efforts to build relationships with philanthropic partners and assists the VP of Capital Markets in debt and equity capital attraction at both the project and enterprise level. Previously, Sean raised funds for the LEAD Diversity Scholars Program at the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. He and his wife are proud Detroit residents.

Michael Witgen

Director of the Native American Studies Program and Associate Professor of History and American Culture, University of Michigan

Michael Witgen is the Director of Native American Studies, and an Associate professor in the Departments of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan, and he is a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. His publications include An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America, and, Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, Black Lives, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America, forthcoming with the Omohundro Institute for the Study of Early American History and Culture.


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