Ann Esshaki is a Chaldean-American writer and spoken-word performer. She studied at Eastern Michigan University where she earned her M.A. of Creative Writing and Wayne State University where she earned her B.A. of English. During her years at Wayne State, she performed at numerous open mic events including the “Women in Hip-Hop” event hosted by 5EGallery on Tuesday’s at the Old Miami. In 2012, she was personally invited by Kem, Grammy-nominated R&B singer, to perform at his Mack & Third event. More recently, she has published Kaldani, a book of poetry about the Genocide and Diaspora of Chaldeans (minority Christians from Iraq), which is available on Amazon. She is passionate about sharing the history, culture, and language that uniquely belongs to Chaldeans.
A union organizer, human rights activist, workforce policy expert and green energy entrepreneur, Congressman Andy Levin has spent his career fighting for an equitable and inclusive future for all people. He’s bringing that fight to Congress as the proud representative for Michigan’s 9th District. Andy has been advocating for working families since the 1980s, when he organized hundreds of health care workers for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
After working with Haitian immigrant workers, Andy co-founded an organization to assist immigrants with challenges posed by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Continuing his work to strengthen organized labor, Andy worked in Washington, D.C. as a staff attorney to the presidential Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations and also in the secretary’s office of the U.S. Department of Labor. From 1995-2006, he served as Assistant Director of Organizing at the national AFL-CIO, where he created and ran Union Summer, helped many unions with collaborative organizing campaigns around the country, and created and led the Voice@Work Campaign, which organized the national movement to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
Andy took his advocacy work to the Michigan state government, where he created and ran the state’s No Work Left Behind initiative that helped more than 160,000 unemployed and underemployed Michiganders go back to school during the Great Recession. On a mission to unite sustainability and workforce development, Andy also helped create Michigan’s Green Jobs Initiative in 2008 and the Green Jobs Report in 2009. Andy went on to create the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA), which trained hundreds of unemployed and incumbent engineers to electrify cars. In 2011, Andy founded Levin Energy Partners LLC as an entrepreneurial force to help shape Michigan’s and America’s energy future. Andy created and ran a statewide market to finance clean energy building improvements called Lean & Green Michigan, which has become one of the most innovative Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs in the US. In 2018, Andy’s program helped a wide variety of building owners initiate $17,900,000 in clean energy projects. Andy has worked on human rights for decades, including doing legal work for asylum seekers in the US and investigating and reporting on human rights abuses in Haiti, China and Tibet. Born in Detroit and raised in Berkley, MI, Andy is an honors graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan in Asian Languages and Cultures, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. He has long been active in the spiritual and social justice life of the Jewish community. He has also learned and worked in Haitian Creole and Tibetan and also studied French, Sanskrit, and Hindi.
Rev. Michael Bazzi (Emeritus) was born in northern Iraq in the beautiful city of Tilkepe, 10 kilometers north of Mosul. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Baghdad in 1964. He later went to Rome where he earned a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Theology in 1974 from the Lateran University. He also has degrees in mass media and group dynamics.
That same year, 1974, Fr. Michael came to the United States and began serving as a priest in the Green Bay Diocese in Wisconsin. He also began what was to become a lifelong love of teaching the Scriptures and the Aramaic language by teaching workshops throughout the region
Fr. Michael served a central role in establishing three Chaldean Catholic parishes in the United States: in Michigan, and California. Since 1985, Fr. Michael has served at St. Peters Catholic Church in El Cajon. In 2015, Fr. Michael was made Pastor Emeritus at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
He is currently in his thirty-first year as a Professor of Aramaic at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. Between the college and his parish, Fr. Michael teaches more than 100 Aramaic students a year.
Fr. Michael has authored ten books, five of which focus on the Aramaic language: Read and Write Aramaic in the Modern Chaldean Dialect, Beginners Handbook of the Aramaic Chaldean Alphabets, Aramaic Language Chaldean Dialogue, The Advanced Handbook of Modern Aramaic Language Chaldean Dialect Vol. II, and Classical Aramaic, Elementary Book I, which he co-authored with well-known Bible scholar, Dr. Rocco Errico. Two of his books focus on the Chaldean people and their heritage: Chaldeans Present and Past and Who Are the Chaldeans? Two books which will be published by Let in the Light within the next year, deal with Scriptural teaching: Teach Yourself the Bible: The Pentatuch (Torah) and Teach Yourself the Bible: Matthew’s Good News. His final book, Tilkepe: Past and Present, is a fascinating compilation of his original research on his hometown of Tilkepe and is written in both English and Arabic.
Fr. Michael has led numerous tours of the Middle East. In 2010, the San Diego Law Enforcement Officials named him their Citizen of the Year.
Sofia Barbarani is a freelance journalist based in Baghdad. She has worked extensively in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region and Syria where she focused on the rise and fall of ISIS, the lives of women in conflict zones, security and politics. She has also reported from Tunisia, South Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, southern Europe and the Gulf. Her words and images have appeared in leading print and online publications, including The Telegraph, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times, Al Jazeera English and others. Sofia researched and wrote the 2015 Lonely Planet Iraq chapter and has been nominated for awards for her work in Syria and Venezuela.