Ben Jealous is a civil rights leader, community organizer, investor in startups for good, educator, former investigative journalist and a Rhodes Scholar who has spent his life bringing people together to get big things done.
He specializes in building diverse coalitions for change and holding government leaders accountable to the needs of everyday people.
Ben’s Maryland roots go back generations. His grandparents lived in Baltimore, where Ben’s grandfather worked on the B&O Railroad and his grandmother at Planned Parenthood. Ben’s mother grew up in the McCulloh Homes public housing complex in West Baltimore and helped to integrate Western High School in 1954 as a member of the NAACP’s Youth and College Division. Ben’s father was one of a small number of white men jailed during the Congress of Racial Equality’s efforts to desegregate Baltimore’s downtown business district.
Ben grew up spending summers in West Baltimore and has lived in Maryland throughout his career as a civil rights leader and businessman.
Ben has extensive experience as a non-profit executive, serving as the past president of the Rosenberg Foundation, and the founding director of Amnesty International’s U.S. Domestic Human Rights Program.
At age 35, Ben was named the youngest ever National President and CEO of the NAACP. During the depths of a national recession, Ben guided the NAACP through an unprecedented era of growth, nearly doubling the organization’s revenue in just five years. Online activists grew from 175,000 to more than 600,000 while donors increased from 16,000 individuals per year to more than 120,000. The NAACP’s membership increased three years consecutively for the first time in 20 years under Ben’s leadership.
Ben used his background as a community organizer and executive to press the NAACP forward in expanding and protecting the civil rights of all Americans. The NAACP opened national programs focused on education, health and environmental justice and worked on issues related to the economy and voting rights.
In 2013, Ben was named Marylander of the Year by the Baltimore Sun because of the role he played in leading the effort to abolish the death penalty, helping assure the effort to pass marriage equality was successful, chairing the effort to pass the DREAM Act, and expand voting rights.
Throughout his NAACP tenure, Ben worked with governors from California to Iowa, developing plans to help end mass incarceration and expand civil rights, and helped to pass numerous landmark pieces of legislation during President Obama’s first term in office.
As a community organizer Ben helped lead successful campaigns to abolish the death penalty for children, stop Mississippi’s governor from turning a public historically black university into a prison, and pass federal legislation against prison rape.
While working as a journalist in Mississippi, Ben’s investigations were credited with helping save the life of a white inmate who was being threatened for helping convict corrupt prison guards, free a black small farmer who was being framed for arson, and spur official investigations into law enforcement corruption.
Ben currently works as an investor for Kapor Capital, an investment firm that invests in companies working to create progressive social change. At Kapor, Ben manages the firm’s Baltimore office where he has invested in several Maryland companies working to make our state stronger.
Ben is a graduate of Columbia and Oxford University and comes from a long line of activists. He is also the proud father of two children who attend public schools.
SUSAN W. TURNBULL has dedicated over 40 years to community activism, civil rights, political organizing and creating opportunities for everyday people to access their government. She has worked in a variety of governmental, non-profit, business and political positions, including Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, Chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, a senior advisor and grant consultant to several members of Congress, owner of an interior space planning company and service on various charitable boards.
Susie has served as Chair of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Jewish Women International, as well as a board member and officer of the Jewish Social Service Agency of Metropolitan Washington, and on the national board of Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Currently, she is an active member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington board.
Throughout her life, Susie has worked extensively to elevate the diversity of voices for women and young leaders in politics. At the DNC, in addition to her efforts to elect President Barack Obama, Susie was selected as Chair of the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum and Women’s Caucus, helping to ensure the concerns of women were elevated across the Democratic party. She served as a national surrogate speaking out against disastrous Republican policies harmful to women and families. Following her Democratic Party leadership positions, Susie served on the national board of Emerge America and co-founded Emerge Maryland, an innovative program that recruits and trains women to run for office.
As Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, Susie spearheaded an unprecedented organizing effort to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, culminating in the re-election of Governor Martin O’Malley and Senator Barbara Mikulski during a year where the party saw dramatic losses in other states.
Over the last decade, working with family members and others, Susie co-founded the Bolechow Jewish Heritage Society (BJHS) a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, protection, and education about the long legacy of Jewish life in what was once the Austria- Hungarian Province of Galicia.
She has worked for over 20 years as an interior designer concentrating on projects for non-profit organizations and from 1995 to 1999, Susan served as a member and chair of the Montgomery County Board of Appeals where she helped to navigate solutions to various land use issues.
The youngest of three children, Susie grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Susie’s father was a Polish immigrant who worked as a taxicab driver. Her mother worked as a retail sales clerk. Susie and her brothers were the first generation of their family to attend college.
She holds a B.A. from Marymount University in Interior Design as well as an M.S. in Urban Studies from the University of Maryland and a B.S. Magna Cum Laude from The College of Community Service at the University of Cincinnati.
Susie and her husband Bruce reside in Bethesda, Maryland where they raised their two sons Josh and David. Over the last four years, their immediate family of four has expanded as they have welcomed two daughters-in-law, Judy Quijano Turnbull and Elizabeth Liedel Turnbull and three precious grandsons.