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When Crystal enters a room in her wheelchair, she never knows what its occupants will see first: her disability, her blackness, or her gender. It is rare that they see her as a person. Despite this triple threat of identity barriers, she has launched a nonprofit company that tackles social issues through arts-based initiatives and made several films of her own. Her story reminds us that powerful people don’t always look how we expect them to.

Crystal R. Emery is founder and CEO of URU, The Right to Be, Inc.,a non-profit content production company that tackles social issues via film, theatre, publishing, and other arts-based initiatives.

She holds a BFA from the University of Connecticut. After graduation Ms. Emery garnered an apprenticeship with renowned theater director Lloyd Richards (“Piano Lesson”). She polished her craft under the tutelage of film industry giant Bill Duke (“A Rage in Harlem”) and her independent theatrical productions have since toured national and international stages. She holds an MA in Media Studies from The New School for Public Engagement and consults as a Public Engagement and Media Specialist.

Ms. Emery’s work was recognized by the Congressional Black Caucus with the Health Brain Trust Award in Journalism. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Time Magazine and Huffington Post. Ms. Emery’s latest film, “Black Women In Medicine,” is Academy eligible.

About the Speaker

Crystal Emery

Crystal Emery

Crystal R. Emery is known for producing narratives aimed at creating a more equitable society. She is the Founder and CEO of URU The Right to Be, Inc., a nonprofit content production company that addresses issues at the intersection of humanities, arts and sciences. A director, author and STEM advocate, Emery is a member of the Producers Guild of America and New York Women in Film and Television. She is also an American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador.

Hailed as “inspiring” by the Los Angeles Times and as a “leader in science and technology” by Good Housekeeping in its feature story “50 over 50: Women Who Are Changing the World,” Emery has a body of work that spans a broad range of topics, from diversity, inclusion and equity to children’s literature, sociopolitical issues and STEM. The virtual reality producer was featured on the Network CBS morning educational program Mission Unstoppable for her virtual reality project “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See.” The game aims to close the identification gap for young marginalized students in STEM by allowing them to experience different careers in VR.
The author of Against All Odds: Black Women in Medicine, Master Builders of the Modern World: Reimagining the Face of STEM and the first two volumes of her Little Man children’s book series, Emery has written for TIME.com, Variety, Ms.Magazine.com and HuffPost. The National Academy of Medicine published an article she wrote on STEM recruitment.

Emery has presented, moderated, and produced numerous panels and events, including a symposium on Black Creatives for Google Brand Studio and “Race and Ableism: The Unspoken Intersectionality of Diversity in Film” for the SlamDance Film Festival. She has been a keynote speaker at distinguished institutions including the National Academy of Science, National Institute of Health, the National Organization on Disability, RespectAbility, TEDx Beacon Street, the National Security Agency, and Kaiser Permanente.

In 2021, Emery produced Courageous Conversations: Director 2 Director, a personal conversation with acclaimed filmmakers Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Lisa Cortès about the triumphs and barriers they have experienced in the media industry.

Emery’s film Black Women in Medicine had its theatrical run in 2016 and later aired on American Public Television. It was screened in Ethiopia and Germany in 2018 as part of the American Film Showcase, considered the premier American film diplomacy program in the world.
Emery is the recipient of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust Leadership in Journalism Award, the BronzeLens Film Festival Spirit Award.
In 2015, Emery launched Changing the Face of STEM, an innovative national educational and workforce development initiative. Two years later, in conjunction with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, she introduced Changing the Face of STEM at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in Washington, D.C.

Emery believes that perseverance, faith and trusting in a power greater than oneself, comprise the road to success. She continues to shape a successful, fulfilling personal and professional life while triumphing over two chronic diseases as a quadriplegic. Recently, Crystal began production on “The Intersection of Crystal R. Emery,” a podcast exploring her life as a Black woman, filmmaker, writer and member of the disability community.

A New Haven area resident, Emery received her B.A. from the University of Connecticut, her M.A. in Media Studies from The New School of Public Engagement, and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from UConn in 2018, on which occasion she spoke to an audience of over 20,000 becoming the first Black female commencement speaker at UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.