Valerie Vande Panne is an essayist and an award-winning freelance reporter. She is also the founder of Blackbird Literacy, an organization distributing books to Detroit residents and literacy programs.
Much of Ms. Vande Panne’s work has focused on the crossroads of peace and economics, alternative economies, circular economies, and how healthy economic systems are being built in marginalized and disenfranchised communities.
Her work has been featured in Bloomberg, the Boston Phoenix, Columbia Journalism Review, Harvard Gazette, Harvard Law Today, NextCity, Politico, Reuters, and Salon, among many other publications. She has also contributed to The New York Times. And she’s been published en español e portugues.
Ms. Vande Panne is a former Editor in Chief of Detroit’s alt-weekly, the Metro Times, where she oversaw the merger of the publication with its primary competitor; explosive growth in online presence; and brought regional issues to light, including coverage of the Flint water crisis beginning in early spring 2014, along with other water and environmental crises plaguing the region. She cultivated unparalleled coverage of race, diversity, culture, and development in Detroit.
She is also a former news editor of High Times magazine, where she broke stories years before the mainstream media.
Ms. Vande Panne spent many years working on drug policy reform. She coordinated VIP fundraisers for the Marijuana Policy Project. She was a founding board member of Flex Your Rights, an organization devoted to educating Americans on how to exercise their 4th Amendment rights. She is also a former non-student board member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the world’s largest student organization devoted to ending drug prohibition.
Ms. Vande Panne facilitated the first-ever global summit on ending the drug war, “Saliendo de las Sombras,” held in Mérida, Mexico in 2003. She’s coordinated dozens of other events, forums, and conferences, including “Is our drug policy effective?” with the New York Academy of Medicine, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
She has served as a non-attorney member of the Drugs and the Law committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She also managed the campaign office of Robert Morgenthau’s successful, final run for re-election as New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney.
Ms. Vande Panne did not graduate from high school. She received her high school equivalency diploma in 2008, and is currently pursuing degrees from Harvard University. She is of mixed-race ancestry: Mexican, Native American, and White. Read her heritage story here.