Topic: History

Deirdre Cooper Owens

Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD

Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens is an award winning author and a historian most known for her writings on slavery and the history of reproductive medicine. She is also widely known for capturing the history of Harriet Tubman as a disabled woman and how it relates to DEI. 

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Desiree Adaway

Desiree creates and sustains a culture of equity and inclusivity. She’s the one who runs towards the difficult questions.  

Past Speaking Engagements

The Gates Foundation
3 Percent Conference
DePaul University
Vaya Health

Speaking Options

Organizational Reckonings: Past, Present, And Future

As organizations work to challenge, address, and repair racial inequities in the present, we need to know the truth of our past.

The truth is that American industry was built on genocide and chattel slavery. It’s not surprising that the concept of middle management and many accounting practices were developed on slave plantations. One year, ten years, of anti-racism work won’t reverse 400 years of colonization and white supremacy. But a long-term, resourced, intentional commitment can transform our organizations into places rooted in transparency and trust, where People of Color experience true equity, power, and inclusion.

During this talk, we’ll explore our history, its impact on today, and look at ways organizations have successfully pushed back on the norms of white supremacy.

The History Of The Racial Sleep Gap & Creating Communities Of Care 

Did you know that nearly 1/2 of of all Black, multiracial, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific islanders get fewer then 7 hours of sleep every night? And that the decrease in duration and quality of sleep leads to poor health outcomes?
The history of racial inequities in rest and health pushes us to ask: What is the cost on our bodies and minds as we live with White Supremacy? We’ll also explore the Praxis of Liberation and what it takes to develop communities of care to heal.

Bipoc Resiliency

Desiree Adaway - Melibee Global Speaker on topics of Diversity, Women, and History

What would it look like to be a person of color in the US and flourish? To be safe and to thrive in our workplaces, in our communities. To thrive in our own bodies and minds, without the constant need to contort and conform? To move beyond the relentless pressures placed on us. This is a moment to push what we’ve been told is possible, to deepen our analysis and imagination of what justice, equity, and liberation can look like. To invest even more deeply in each other. This workshop will create space for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to be in conversation about racial equity, the pressures of dominant cultural norms, tools for resiliency, and building collective power.


A Critical Analysis Of Power: The Relationship Between Racial Equity And Truth

We’ll name different types of power that operate in the workplace and explore exactly what white dominant culture is, and how it impacts organizational culture, relationships, policies, and processes. We’ll look at what behaviors and practices reinforce dominant culture and share ways we can work to mitigate it.


Black Joy: Rest And Resilience

In this talk, we’ll talk about White Dominant organizational culture, the problem with expectations of constant resilience from BIPOC, and rest as a pathway to healing.


Black Joy: Waging Love And Claiming Joy

Are we treating ourselves with enough joy, tenderness, and peace? What practices are we engendering and developing in the community to support a love ethic and claim joy? In this talk, we’ll look at a framework for lifelong learning, pleasure, and Joy as resistance.

Selected Media

Sizzle Reel

At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Spring 2023

Desiree Adaway, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


“Desiree’s teaching and mentorship have radically enhanced our leadership, focus and vision for our work at Be Nourished. Her wisdom and skillful presence has touched every layer of our business, imbuing each with a renewed depth of focus on equity and inclusion. Desiree leads with the kind of love that is fierce, true, and holds you to your wisest self. She embodies the kind of leadership that holds space for growth and depth of change. Working with Desiree will solidify your vision for a new world so you can stay in process with that vision for a lifetime.”
Hilary Kinavey & Dana Sturtevant, Co-Creators of Body Trust®

“Desiree Adaway is a powerful doula for this lifelong process of inquiry and praxis. She takes participants down a sometimes painful and always revelatory path towards a deeper and more personal understanding of freedom, inclusion, access, race, and equity.” 
Tucson, AZ

“Desiree Adaway is a gifted coach and mentor. 
I appreciate Desiree’s extensive wisdom, her direct, no-bullshit style of communication and her huge heart. With her guidance, I have not only developed and enhanced my leadership and communication skills but I have been able to gracefully navigate my transition out of direct leadership of the organization I founded and move into an emerging new role related to that work.”
Amy Mandel, Founder and Funder, Tzedek Social Justice Fund

“Desiree brings compassionate rigor. She tells the truth about what she sees. Desiree challenges us to think deeply about what real equity looks like, and in the process, we live into our values and amplify our impact.”
Danielle Keiser, Exec. Dir. and Founder, Menstrual Health Hub

Carrie Meyer, Assistant Professor, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library

“As an organization with a lot of energy behind DEI, but without much experience, Desiree Adaway has helped us navigate several important junctures on our still emerging journey. I’ve grown as a person and professional because of our partnership.”
Carrie Meyer, Assistant Professor, Head of Special Collections and Archives, Leon S. McGoogan Health Sciences Library, University of Nebraska Medical Center

About Desiree Adaway

Desiree Adaway is a consultant, trainer, coach and speaker building resilient, equitable, and inclusive organizations. Desiree is the person who says the “thing”, who runs towards difficult conversations. She is an expert at teaching others how to handle complex, charged conversations (particularly around identity and power) with grace, assertiveness, and transparency.

Desiree has over 20 years of experience creating, leading and managing international, multicultural teams through major organizational changes in over 40 countries. As the Senior Director of Mobilization for Habitat for Humanity, she was responsible for planning the strategy and training for hundreds of membership organizations, totaling more than 50,000 members. She was responsible for the overall strategy and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plans for 1,600 US affiliates and one million volunteers globally. 

Her keynotes have a mix of thought-provoking content presented with humor and wit. She makes a point to create a safe space for growth. Desiree is known by colleagues, peers, and partners as being great at open, honest, and productive conversations. She is not afraid of addressing anything that gets in the way of great work. Her style is positive, approachable, engaging, service-oriented, and audience-centered.


Who Caught Your Eye?

Melibee Global Speakers is a boutique speaker booking agency, laser-focused on the needs of event professionals in any industry or field seeking to book diverse keynote speakers and corporate edutainment. Our mission is to provide an easy, customer-friendly, efficient and trusted talent booking experience.

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