Maggie M. Siddiqi is the senior director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at American Progress. Her role is focused on advancing a progressive vision of faith and religious liberty and engaging a network of faith leaders.
Siddiqi previously served as the director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for the El-Hibri Foundation, a philanthropic organization advancing inclusion of and within American Muslim communities. She also served as program director for American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) and founded its EnabledMuslim initiative, an online network providing support for individuals living with disabilities and their loved ones. Siddiqi served as Program Coordinator at the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., where she oversaw implementation of interfaith dialogue and community outreach programs and conducted outreach to government officials and stakeholders on issues of social justice.
Siddiqi also has provided research assistance for a Washington, D.C.-based government consulting firm, served as a field organizer in Minnesota for President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and interned as legislative staff in the office of U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
Siddiqi received her bachelor’s degree in religion from Wesleyan University and is an alumna of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She earned her master’s in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and a graduate certificate in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary. She received her chaplaincy field training in clinical pastoral education from Medstar Georgetown University Hospital and has an executive certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. Siddiqi is proficient in Spanish and German.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Jan Schakowsky was elected to represent Illinois’ 9th Congressional District in 1998, after serving for eight years in the Illinois State Assembly. She is in her twelfth term.
Schakowsky serves in the House Democratic Leadership as a Senior Chief Deputy Whip. She is a member of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, House Budget Committee, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she serves as Chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, and as a member of the Environment and Oversight & Investigations Subcommittees.
In 2010, Speaker Pelosi appointed Schakowsky to serve on President Obama’s 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. She opposed the deficit reduction proposal presented by co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson and offered her own approach, which reached the same fiscal goals without cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The Schakowsky plan addressed the real and growing problem of income disparity – which is at its greatest level since 1928 – and protects middle-class families.
In Congress, Schakowsky focuses on health care and senior issues. She was a leader in passing the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide healthcare coverage to all Americans. Schakowsky was responsible for provisions in the law to require improved review of insurance company premiums, nursing home quality protections, and initiatives to increase the number of health care providers, which benefit seniors and all Americans. A champion for the nation’s seniors, Schakowsky continues the fight to prevent the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, and to make prescription drugs more affordable. She spearheaded the creation of the Seniors Task Force in the 111th Congress and continues to serve as Co-Chair in the 116th Congress in the now-renamed Task Force on Aging and Families.
Schakowsky believes the number one priority in this Congress is to create jobs and restore a vibrant middle class. She has introduced the Patriot Corporations of America Act to reward companies that hire American workers and to eliminate tax incentives to businesses for sending jobs overseas. She introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act to create higher tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires.
A leading advocate for women’s issues in Congress, Schakowsky has long been involved in the fight to protect women’s reproductive freedom. She continues her work to prevent violence against immigrant women, achieve economic parity, and establish transitional housing for women and children who are victims of abuse. Schakowsky is the sponsor of the International Violence Against Women Act, which would make the safety of women and girls around the world a long-overdue U.S. foreign policy priority.
Schakowsky has consistently voted for measures to support Israel’s peace and security. She strongly supports helping Israel reach a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians. As a Jewish Congresswoman, Schakowsky has a deep personal connection to the State of Israel and pledges a continued friendship. Schakowsky also worked closely with President Barack Obama to assure completion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) designed to cut off all Iranian pathways to a nuclear weapon.
Throughout her time in Congress, Schakowsky has won major legislative victories. These include important provisions in the Affordable Care Act, as well as laws that protect seniors, from abusive terms in reverse mortgages, require greater transparency for military contractors, require the strongest possible mandatory safety standards and testing for infant and toddler products – including high chairs, cribs and bath seats – and require strict car safety measures to protect children.
A longtime grassroots organizer and consumer advocate, Schakowsky began her leadership career in 1969 when she led the fight that put freshness dates on products sold in the supermarket. Prior to her election to Congress, Schakowsky represented the 18th District in the Illinois General Assembly for eight years. She served as a Democratic Floor Leader and as Secretary of the Conference of Women Legislators.
For twenty years before her election to the Illinois State House, Schakowsky fought for the public interest and rights of Illinois citizens. As Program Director of Illinois Public Action from 1976 to 1985 – the state’s largest public interest organization – Schakowsky fought for energy reform and stronger protection from toxic chemicals. As Director of the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens from 1985 to 1990, she organized across the state for lower cost prescription drugs and tax relief for seniors, financial protection for the spouses of nursing home residents and other benefits for the elderly.
Jan lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband Robert Creamer and their two energetic rescue dogs, Franklin and Eleanor (Frankie and Ellie for short). She has three children, Ian, Mary, and stepdaughter Lauren Travers, and six grandchildren, Isaac, Eve, Lucy, William, Aidan and Alice. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 1965 with a B.S. in Elementary Education.
Jamie L. Manson, Catholics for Choice
For over a decade, Jamie Manson has been a thought leader and advocate in the field of women’s equality and reproductive rights in the Catholic Church and the public square. For 12 years, she was a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter where she was one of the few openly LGBTQ journalists in the Catholic media in the world. She was an often-solitary voice for reproductive freedom and justice and was one of the first to sound the alarm about the right-wing push for religious freedom. Her columns led to interviews with the CBS News, MSNBC and NPR, and her commentary has been quoted in the New York Times. She has been published in the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed and Rewire News.
Jamie’s expertise in Catholicism and sexual ethics was first formed during her Master of Divinity studies at Yale with her mentor, Margaret Farley. In 2002, she aided Farley in co-funding the All Africa Conference: Sister to Sister, which supports religious women who minister to those suffering from the HIV/AIDS pandemic. She edited and wrote the introduction to Changing the Questions: Explorations in Christian Ethics, a collection of writings by Margaret Farley (Orbis Books, 2015).
An internationally recognized, authoritative voice on gender equality, sexuality and reproductive health, Jamie has spent over a decade challenging the hierarchy’s teachings on women’s ordination, contraceptive access, abortion, religious liberty and LGBTQ issues. She has won over a dozen awards from the Catholic Press Association and is a three-time winner of the Religious News Writers Association’s (RNA) award for the Commentary of the Year. She also won the Wilbur Award for Best Online Religion News Story for her Buzzfeed story “Feminism in Faith.” In 2015, her activism on behalf of women earned her the Theresa Kane Award for Women of Vision and Courage.
Sheila Katz, National Council of Jewish Women
Sheila Katz is the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), a network of 180,000 grassroots activists and supporters across the U.S. who are living out their Jewish values and turning their progressive ideals into action.
Since her start as CEO, Sheila has overseen the founding of the “Rabbis for Repro” campaign, through which over 1000 Jewish clergy members have pledged to write, speak, and teach about reproductive health, rights, and justice, and create an open system of support for reproductive health care access. Additionally, under Sheila’s leadership, NCJW has made advancing anti-racism efforts at the national and local levels a priority, showing the intersectionality of racial justice in all of the organization’s main advocacy issues.
Prior to joining NCJW, Sheila served as Hillel International’s vice president for student engagement and leadership. During her 12 years at Hillel, Sheila engaged Jewish students and professionals around the world through programs including “Ask Big Questions,” a national initiative to guide students in meaningful conversations, and MitzVote, Hillel’s non-partisan civic engagement campaign.
In 2014, Sheila was appointed by the White House to committees advising President Obama on higher education and women’s rights. She is a longtime advocate for equal pay and an activist fighting for inclusion for people with disabilities. Sheila is currently on the executive committee of a national coalition of over 100 Jewish organizations working to promote safety, respect, and equity in Jewish communal spaces.
Sheila holds an M.S. in teaching from Pace University and B.A. in politics from Ithaca College. She is a proud alumna of the Wexner Foundation Field Fellowship and Teach for America. Sheila was named as one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world in 2020 by the Jerusalem Post and one of 2020’s faith leaders to watch by the Center for American Progress.
Reverend Leslie Watson Wilson, People for the American Way
Reverend Leslie Marie Wilson is First Lady of Saint Matthew A.M.E. Church and is the current National Director of African American Religious Affairs (AARA) for People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. As the director, Leslie is responsible for program planning, implementation of the two core programs that make up AARA: African American Ministers Leadership Council (AAMLC – c3) and African American Ministers In Action (AAMIA – c4). She has also created four new opportunities to inform and engage faith leaders: “Healing Grace – Shepherds Gathering: A Dialogue on The Black Church, Stigma, Prejudice and Homophobia,” the VESSELS civic education and participation initiative, the Micah Leadership Council for faith leaders under the age of 40, and the VASHTI health and leadership initiative for African American women and girls. AARA endeavors to build a strong association of progressive clergy, theologians, seminarians and ministry lay leaders who will encourage African American churches and communities to become more civically engaged and promote social justice programs and policies in areas of public education, health care, equal justice, civic participation and economic justice for all. Representing now 2,400 women and men from various Christian traditions across the country, leaders participate in strategic trainings, issue briefings, projects and partnerships to faithfully and effectively provide a prophetic, progressive voice and presence that counters right-wing religious rhetoric and advances a vision of “a beloved community.” AARA is essentially a ministry that works with people of faith who believe in help and not harm, power and not pain, and hope in the face of hopelessness.
Recognized by the Center For American Progress as one of “15 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2015,” Reverend Wilson is the former national policy director for the Balm In Gilead and served for nine years as the director of the Multicultural Programs Department of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice where she managed and developed La Iniciativa Latina (LIL), the Women of Color Partnership Project (WOCPP), and the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) which included annual planning of the National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality for African American clergy and laity. Leslie has served as the national coordinator and field director for the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the coordinator of the Public Policy Institute of the Citizenship Education Fund, the 501(c)(3) arm of the Rainbow. She is a master trainer, has received training by several institutions, has written 6 training curriculum (1 award winning) and has provided training to over 28,000 leaders almost exclusively within the African American faith community for over 30 years.
Formerly Leslie Watson Malachi, she is happily married to Reverend Melvin Eugene Wilson, Pastor/Teacher, Saint Matthew A.M.E. Church, Orange, NJ. Leslie attended Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA) majoring in political science, Trinity University (Washington, DC) focusing on business administration, and graduated with a BA in ministry from Richmond Virginia Seminary. A published poet, she recently contributed writings to “Mr. President: Interfaith Perspectives on the Historic Presidency of Barack H. Obama” and “These Sisters Can Preach” (volume 2), published by Sims Publishing Group. Leslie is the oldest and only female of nine siblings.
Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-TX)
Sylvia R. Garcia was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2018, becoming the first Latina ever to represent the Texas 29th Congressional district.
Sylvia is a native of Palito Blanco, a South Texas farming community. The eighth of ten children, Congresswoman Garcia saw her parents struggle to raise her and her siblings. Congresswoman Garcia’s parents taught her that with hard work and a good education she could accomplish anything. As a result of these lessons, Congresswoman Garcia dedicated herself to success at school. She earned a scholarship to Texas Woman’s University in Denton, where she graduated with a degree in social work and political science. Congresswoman Garcia then received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, working several jobs to pay for her tuition. Just as her parents believed in her future, Congresswoman Garcia believes the children of Texas can do anything. Garcia has dedicated her life to her community and to public service. As a social worker and legal aid lawyer early in her professional career, she protected our community’s most vulnerable, old and young, and ensured no one was forgotten.
Sylvia continued her public service career by serving as Director and Presiding Judge of the Houston Municipal System for an unprecedented five terms under two mayors. In 1998, she was elected City Controller, the second-highest elected official in Houston city government and its chief financial officer. She quickly earned a reputation as the taxpayers’ watchdog, fighting to protect the pocketbooks of working families and ensuring the City was transparent and accountable.
After two terms as Controller, Sylvia was elected to the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. The first Hispanic and first woman to be elected in her own right to the office, she continued her advocacy for working families and made certain Harris County took care of its most defenseless, all while making certain Harris County led the way for new jobs and economic development.
Sylvia was sworn into the Texas State Senate on March 11, 2013, representing Senate District 6. She became the seventh woman and the third Hispanic woman to serve in the upper chambers after winning a special runoff election for the seat of the late Senator Mario Gallegos.
In 2018, Sylvia decided to take her fight to Washington. She ran to represent her community, country, and family in Congress. On Jan 3, 2019, she was sworn in to represent Texas Congressional District 29. She became the first Hispanic member of the Houston Congressional Delegation and one of the first two Latinas to represent the State of Texas in the U.S. Congress.
Sylvia serves on the House Judiciary and House Financial Services Committees. During her first year in Congress, she played a critical role in the impeachment investigation against President Donald Trump. On January 15, 2020, she was selected as one of seven impeachment managers tasked with making the case to the American people and the Senate for the removal of Donald Trump as President of the United States. She is the first Hispanic and one of the first three women to ever serve as an impeachment manager in a presidential impeachment trial.