Here’s Who You Nominated to Come to South by South Lawn

The Obama White House
6 min readSep 28, 2016

Earlier this year, President Obama traveled to South by Southwest ® with a stirring call to action: How can we think big about the toughest challenges facing our country? Whether it’s combating climate change or tackling economic inequality or curing cancer, how can we take on these problems in ways that bring opportunity to everyone?

Now, on Monday, October 3, he’ll build on the spirit of that call by hosting South by South Lawn , a White House festival to celebrate the power of civic participation and to rally entrepreneurs, creators, and organizers around tackling these challenges and shaping our society for the future.

As part of the event, we aim to highlight some of the most inspiring efforts already being undertaken across the country — and the individuals who are driving that work in their communities. And we invited you to nominate the creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and community leaders whose work you thought should be represented at this once-in-a-lifetime event.

In just 10 days, we received over 20,000 seriously impressive nominations, from an urban designer building diversity into New York City’s public spaces, to an engineer who’s bringing waterless, composting toilets to developing countries.

Today, we wanted to feature a small sampling of these nominees. Together, they present a microcosm of the powerful, innovative energy that will help drive us forward into a more equal, tolerant, and ever-more creative future.

Our Featured Nominees

Justin Garrett Moore

Justin Garrett Moore is an urban designer and the Executive Director of the NYC Public Design Commission. He has extensive experience in urban design and city planning — from large-scale urban systems, policies, and projects to grassroots and community-focused planning, design, and arts initiatives. At the Public Design Commission his work is focused on prioritizing the quality and excellence of the public realm, and fostering accessibility, diversity, and inclusion in the City’s public buildings, spaces, and art. He is a member of the American Planning Association, the Urban Design Forum, Next City’s Vanguard, and is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University’s GSAPP.

Jason Kass

Jason Kass is Founder and President of Toilets for People (TfP), a social business that designs and manufactures waterless composting toilets and trains NGO partners in the developing world how to install and maintain them. TfP specializes in providing hygienic sanitation solutions for flood-prone areas, informal urban settlements and displaced persons camps — places where pit latrines and flush toilets fail. TfP’s signature product — the Compact, Rotating, Aerobic, Pollution-Prevention, Excreta, Reducer, known as the CRAPPER — is an affordable, self-contained, easy-to-use, long-lasting composting toilet that uses a proven, open-source technology to safely treat human waste. Jason is an environmental engineer by trade with 15 years of experience in water and sanitation and has been applying his skills to international development since 2006.

Nekpen Osuan

Nekpen Osuan is a seasoned analytics director and Co-Founder of, a women’s empowerment non-profit based in New York City. A political fundraiser and alumni of CAP, OFA, Roosevelt Institute, and New Leaders Council, Nekpen enjoys travel and serving on local boards including Sponsors for Educational Opportunity’s Junior Leadership Board (SEO JLB), The College Initiative, Manhattan’s Community Education Council 6 and Community Board 9 of West Harlem.

Deirdre Groves (left) and Shelley Danner (right)

Deirdre Groves and Shelley Danner

Deirdre Groves and Shelley Danner are co-founders of Challenge Detroit, a program focused on developing community-minded next-generation leaders to catalyze social impact in Detroit. Over the past 5 years, Challenge Detroit has created nearly 175 jobs, provided over $700,000 in in-kind services to nonprofits, and brought more than $6 million in economic value to Detroit. Groves has a background in urban planning and Danner has a background in talent and organizational consulting; both are Michigan natives passionate about helping to move Detroit forward.

Karen Chee

Karen Chee is a comedy writer and performer from San Francisco. Currently a senior at Harvard, she serves as Czar (president) of the improv troupe The Immediate Gratification Players and secretary of the Signet Society. She also contributes to The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, the Toast, and elsewhere. At school, she direct shows with the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, including SKETCH, the school’s annual sketch comedy show. Last semester, she had the honor of directing SHE, an original musical at the American Repertory Theater’s OBERON. This summer, she is in New York City, interning for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Derrick Cameron

Derrick Cameron is the Artistic Director of Ghetto Film School, an award-winning non-profit founded to educate, develop and celebrate the next generation of great American storytellers. Based in the South Bronx NYC and MacArthur Park LA, GFS builds a pipeline of diverse, creative talent Over 1,500 individuals are annually engaged in GFS programs, always free of charge. He was selected as one of OfficeMax’s Teachers of the Year in 2010. Derrick graduated from Morehouse College in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Motion Picture, Television, and Recording Arts from Florida State University. Derrick is a native of Chicago, IL.

Photo by Brandon Barr

Monica Campana

Monica Campana, a native of Peru, moved to the United States in 1998 as a child but continued to feel like a visitor in her overlooked part of town well into adulthood. That’s until she turned her artistic and organizational skills to the task of transforming abandoned buildings into canvasses for artists, “living walls” with the power to catalyze conversations, change the way people think about their neighborhoods, and inspire hope.

Monica Campana is the co-founder of Living Walls, The City Speaks, a nonprofit organization which seeks to promote, educate, and change perspectives toward public space in our communities via street art. The idea behind Living Walls is to bring together artists working in the public space (street artists, graffiti writers, etc.) with those who spend their time talking about public space (urban planners, urban farmers, professors, etc.) under the same roof. Living Walls recently picked up the award from the Atlanta Urban Design Commission for best organization of the year, and Creative Loafing put Campana on its list of the “20 People to Watch” in 2012. In 2015, Campana took a year sabbatical to work with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and curator Pedro Alonzo as the project manager for their new city wide public art exhibit called Open Source.



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