FEATURED SPOTLIGHT

Greatness recognizes greatness and we take pride in recognizing the power players, entrepreneurs and community leaders who go beyond the call and change the game. These men and women are not only leaders, but visionaries who dared to dream impossible dreams and had the spirit to see them to fruition.
  • Nikita Cowan
    Nikita Cowan
    Senior Accountant, Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland
  • Shontel M. Brown
    Shontel M. Brown
    Chairwoman, Democratic Party of Cuyahoga County
  • Ona Brown
    Ona Brown
  • Trey Zackery
    Trey Zackery
    Managing Partner, Corporate Elevator Asset Management
  • Adrienne C. Trimble
    Adrienne C. Trimble
    President & CEO, The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.
  • Carla Walker-Miller
    Carla Walker-Miller
    CEO, Walker-Miller Energy Services
  • Cecilia Cheeks-Taylor
    Cecilia Cheeks-Taylor
    Chief of Staff, Atlanta Housing
  • LaRese Purnell
    LaRese Purnell
    Managing Partner, CLE Consulting Firm and Founder, The Real Black Friday
  • Phoebe Lee
    Phoebe Lee
    Chief Executive Officer, Affinity Apparel
  • Karri Parks
    Karri Parks
    Director, Sales Operations, Cricket Wireles
  • Yasmine Murray Esq.
    Yasmine Murray Esq.
    Executive Vice President and General Counsel, H.J. Russell & Company
  • Jamine Moton
    Jamine Moton
    Founder, Skylar Security
  • William Teddy McDaniel, III
    William Teddy McDaniel, III
    President and CEO, Urban League of Central Carolinas
  • Carlin D.T. Jackson
    Carlin D.T. Jackson
    Principal Consultant, Theo. Wyes David, Ltd.
  • Bennie L. Harris, PhD
    Bennie L. Harris, PhD
    Senior Vice President, Institutional Advancement at Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Dr. Science Frederic Bertley, Ph.D.
    Dr. Science Frederic Bertley, Ph.D.
    President and CEO Center of Science and Industry (COSI)
  • Candace Daniels
    Candace Daniels
    Technology Consulting Manager, Accenture
  • Viola Davis
    Viola Davis
    Representative District 87, Georgia House of Representatives
  • Kieth Cockrell
    Kieth Cockrell
    Head of Specialty Client Services for Consumer and Small Business Banking, Bank of America
  • Keisha Lance Bottoms
    Keisha Lance Bottoms
    Mayor, City of Atlanta
  • Koby Altman
    Koby Altman
    Head of Specialty Client Services, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dennis W. Archer, Jr.
    Dennis W. Archer, Jr.
    CEO, Ignition Media Group
  • Tonya Allen
    Tonya Allen
    President & CEO The Skillman Foundation
  • William F. Pickard, Ph.D
    William F. Pickard, Ph.D
    Chairman, Global Automotive Alliance
  • Phoebe Lee
    Phoebe Lee
    Chief Executive Officer, Affinity Apparel
  • Teola P. Hunter
    Teola P. Hunter
    Pioneering Public Servant, Entrepreneur, and Early Child Care Influencer
  • Jim Dunn, PhD, DHA, FACHE
    Jim Dunn, PhD, DHA, FACHE
    Executive Vice President and System Chief Human Resources, Atrium Health
  • Charles E. Tennant Sr.
    Charles E. Tennant Sr.
    Founder, Africentric Early College
  • Byron Sanders
    Byron Sanders
    President & CEO, Big Thought
Nikita Cowan
Senior Accountant, Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland

Nikita currently serves as a Senior Accountant for one of the largest Community Action Agencies and the largest Head Start program in Ohio, the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland. Her 11 years of experience in the niche of nonprofit accounting has provided her with a unique skill set. Her biggest strengths are analyzing and presenting financial information in digestible ways, and communication. Throughout her career, her style of communication has bridged gaps between departments resulting in increased efficiency and trust amongst teams. Nikita got her bachelorette degree in Accountancy from the University of Akron.

Nikita does not consider herself the typical finance professional. “I am a healthy dose of pragmatism and creativity. I love crunching numbers, building budgets, etc. But I also love writing. The feel of a smooth pen gliding against fresh paper is something I’ve always adored.”
Last year, Nikita and husband, James D. Cowan Jr., welcomed their first child, Miss Penelope J. Cowan, into the world. “I strive to provide my daughter the same foundation, confidence, and core values that my mom instilled in me.”

Shontel M. Brown
Chairwoman, Democratic Party of Cuyahoga County

Shontel M. Brown grew up the oldest of three children in the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive/Union Avenue area and went on to graduate from John Adams High School. As a young adult, she had no thoughts or interest in entering politics.

“I thought I would be a CEO of a major corporation,” she said.

Brown did earn an Associate degree in Business Management from Cuyahoga Community College and eventually established her firm Diversified Digital Solutions, a printing and promotions company that supports small to mid-sized businesses with their marketing needs.

It wasn’t until she found herself living in Warrensville, the youngest homeowner on her block, seeing unmet needs of her elderly neighbors, that she decided to be the change she wanted to see within in her community. That propelled her to run for Warrensville City Council.

After serving that government for three years, the opportunity arose for her to fill the District 9 Cuyahoga County Representative seat being vacated by C. Ellen Connelly.

As a member of County Council, Brown continues advocating for the needs of seniors and youth and works to establish health and human service policies that integrate economic development and promotes job opportunities.

But, becoming the first female and African American chairperson of the Democratic Party last year has been her biggest accomplishment thus far.

“It’s still surreal when I think about it,” she said. “I think it’s one I can’t take sole credit for, but I am proud of because it was a collective effort by whites and blacks, a small yet influential group. Making history and serving in this capacity is both a tremendous honor and responsibility.”

She said the positions she serves right now fulfill those visions she had for herself as a businessperson. “God positioned me to be a leader in my community instead of a corporation. The satisfaction is in feeling like I’m walking in my purpose.”

Her goals as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Cuyahoga County include increasing voter participation, increasing the number of registered Democrats, increasing voter education initiatives and empowering people to cast their ballots, contrary to the belief their vote doesn’t count.

“Voting is the most level playing field we have, and we can’t take it for granted,” she said. Brown also wants to educate voters on the political structure. “We have to be as intentional and deliberate with our political participation as we are about doing other things such as entertaining ourselves. It takes some concerted effort to plan to attend a movie.”

She believes it is a matter of reframing the conversation and changing our thinking. “We can do the same thing when it comes to voting.”

With young people, she tries to get them to understand it may seem boring, but politics touches their lives every day in some shape form or fashion. “I want them to know, everyone has one vote, election is every year, and they need to vote in every election. I tell them to be vocal. They influence adults.”

Brown spends her spare time with family and friends in addition to serving as a youth ministry at her church Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist.

“Faith keeps me humble. Politics and people can be intoxicating, but that’s where my faith serves as a constant reminder to Him be the glory.”

Ona Brown

Ona Brown has made her mark as an expert in personal and professional transformation throughout the world, inspiring and motivating audiences in hundreds of cities in the U.S. as well as numerous locations abroad including London, England; Sydney, Australia; Johannesburg, South Africa and Stockholm, Sweden.

Along with her consulting, coaching and corporate training firm, World Impact Now (WIN), Ona continues to blaze a trail of transformation, empowerment and leadership development, breaking down perceived barriers and speaking to people of all walks of life.

For over 23 years, Ona has dedicated her life to facilitating exceptional results in the lives of people of all ages. She has spoken before crowds large and small, including hundreds of youth in Buffalo, New York and 15,000 jazzed up participants at the New Orleans Superdome. With a style steeped in a feminine expression of empowerment, she nurtures the dreams of her listeners, and motivates with an embracing and compelling energy that transforms.
Some of Ona’s more prominent clients include luminaries from Fortune 500 companies, leaders in academia, numerous faith-based organizations and giants of the multi-level marketing industry. A glimpse of her corporate roster includes American Airlines, British Petroleum, National Sales Network, Federal Reserve Bank, Miami Dade Airport, Deloitte, United Way Women Entrepreneurs…just to name a few.

For several years, Ona worked with her father, Les Brown, an international motivational speaker who has been named one of the top five speakers in the world. Ona rose in the ranks of his organization to top sales professional, customer relations specialist, top negotiator, and eventually served as the CEO of Les Brown Unlimited. Groomed for entrepreneurship, however, it was inevitable that Ona would branch out, launch her own business and share her powerful gifts with the world — honoring her desire to serve her highest purpose in her own unique way.
Ona has given birth to numerous CDs, books, and other bodies of work that have helped transform people’s lives, including ‘How To Fall In Love With Your Life,’ ‘Discovering the Greatest You Ever,’ ‘Answer the Call,’ and ‘When the Seasons Change.‘

Ona Brown is the “success-ologist” who escorts individuals, teams, corporations, and non-profits on the journey to discovering how to excel beyond any seeming limitations and/or obstacles by activating their personal and professional power.

Ona has motivated tens of thousands throughout the United States and in over seven different foreign countries in the past 22 years. Ona Brown is a proven self-development vehicle, providing accelerated success strategies by awakening undiscovered personal power, boundlessly expanding visions and building sky-scraping dreams.

Trey Zackery
Managing Partner, Corporate Elevator Asset Management

What do you think of when you get on an elevator? If getting to your destination is your only thought, you aren’t wrong in your stance. But there’s more than meets the eye when you consider the inner workings of elevators. Just ask Trey Zackery, owner of Corporate Elevator Asset Management (now TruLux Solutions).

Zackery didn’t have a clue about the elevator industry, outside of pure generic experience. His tenacious spirit, which derived from his father, drove him to graduate from Michigan State University and complete an internship at Pfizer. Both MSU and Pfizer would be precursors to his continued future.

“Going to MSU was an eye-opening moment for me because there were 60,000 students at that time,” Zackery said. “You don’t have anyone holding your hand, which is like life. The great thing was, there were groups and mentors at MSU that helped me out. Academically, MSU has the best programs, professors, and networks for you to grow. At Pfizer, I learned skills that would help me succeed in Corporate America. Being on time and professional were all things I learned along the way. I was accustomed to speaking to executives, and presentations weren’t anything new, so when I start interviewing at different companies, I was getting tons of jobs. I was getting jobs that I didn’t qualify for because I interviewed well.”

After an encounter with a recruiter from KONE Inc., an elevator company, he set his sights on dominating his space in the industry. He worked at KONE Inc. for five years, then moved back to Detroit, MI, to work for ThyssenKrupp Elevators. Now, he’s the CEO of TruLux Solutions, making him one of the only minority-owners of an elevator company in the nation.

“I developed a relationship with a consultant in our area, which was Corporate Elevator Consultants, owned by Mike Riley,” said Zackery. “We developed a relationship, and I bought him out of the company in 2016. Now, we have three companies which we’ve rebranded under one parent company, called TruLux Solutions. Through Corporate Elevator (now TruLux Consulting), we started designing elevator interiors, before sending them to be built and installed by third-party companies. Then we started TruLux Elevator Interiors as a branch of Corporate Elevator. Recently, we acquired a local metal shop called Unique Metal Products, which we rebranded as TruLux Metals.” Zackery expects to gross $5 million in revenue.

Adrienne C. Trimble
President & CEO, The National Minority Supplier Development Council, Inc.

Adrienne Trimble is the newly appointed President and CEO of the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC). She is honored to be taking on the leadership role with NMSDC and looks forward to ensuring the organization and stakeholders remain positioned for sustainable growth and success.

Adrienne Trimble was General Manager, Diversity & Inclusion at Toyota Motor North America, responsible for leading and executing diversity & inclusion strategies and initiatives across Toyota’s North American operations.

Adrienne Trimble’s appointment marks a unique, significant milestone in NMSDC’s long and close relationship with Toyota. Ms. Trimble led Toyota’s Supplier Diversity initiative from 2005 – 2012. In this role, she directed the company’s processes for developing productive supplier relationships with diverse businesses across the country. Toyota received numerous accolades under Ms. Trimble’s direction, including Corporation of the Year by the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in 2011 as well as Corporation of the Year honors from the organization’s affiliates in Arkansas (2012), Michigan (2009 and 2010), South Central Ohio (2010 and 2011), Southwest Texas (2007-11) and Tri-State KY/IN/WV (2007-11).

Her board and committee leadership positions have included NMSDC and several of its regional Councils, as well as Executive Committee roles for the Billion Dollar Roundtable. She was named Advocate of the Year by the Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council in 2012. In recognition of her efforts to advance economic development for diverse suppliers, Rev. Jesse

Jackson, Founder, and CEO of Rainbow PUSH presented Ms. Trimble with their Corporate Leader Award and Women in Leadership Award in 2011. Ms. Trimble has previous Human Resources leadership experience in financial services, healthcare and media industries.
A graduate of Wilberforce University, Ms. Trimble earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Organization Management. She was appointed to the Board of Trustees for her alma mater in 2014.
Ms. Trimble and her husband, Jamiel, reside in McKinney, Texas.

Carla Walker-Miller
CEO, Walker-Miller Energy Services

Carla Walker-Miller is the founder and CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services (WMES), a 20-year old values driven company that changes lives through energy. Her high performing firm helps electric and gas utilities achieve mandated energy reduction goals that reduce energy waste, create local jobs, decrease the energy burdens on families, and reduce harmful greenhouse gases.

Started in 2000 after an 18-year corporate career in technical sales, Carla reinvented her company during the height of the recession, successfully pivoting from electrical transmission and distribution equipment sales to the rapidly growing energy efficiency industry. With annual revenues of $25 million, Carla has molded WMES into one of the largest African American and woman owned energy waste reduction companies in the country.

Carla founded the Water Access Volunteer Effort (WAVE) Fund in 2003, while serving as a commissioner for the City of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The 501(c)3 non-profit has distributed more than $2 million dollars to help nearly 10,000 vulnerable Detroit families maintain access to safe water and sewer services.

Carla received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tennessee State University.

Cecilia Cheeks-Taylor
Chief of Staff, Atlanta Housing

Cecilia Cheeks-Taylor, born in Indiana, relocated to Atlanta at a young age. She lived in College Park and graduated from M.D. Collins High School, now Banneker High School.

Growing up in a musical and construction family, she developed a love of the arts and building. She studied voice and classical dance. In her youth, she was also a “science head,” who worked after school as a pharmacy technician in a drug store, which inspired her to start college as a biology major.

In high school, she took a public speaking class. It was then that her teacher, Mrs. Turner, suggested she consider a career in broadcast. Speaking came easily. She brushed it off. But, after taking some electives at Valdosta State University (VSU), where she earned a BFA in Speech Communications/Public Relations (PR), and with heavy influence from the PR department head, Professor Blakeman, Cheeks-Taylor discovered she wanted to be a PR practitioner – one who works in the background advising CEOs and presidents.

That decision manifested into Cheeks-Taylor working as a media relations specialist during the 1992 U.S. Presidential election on behalf of former President Bill Clinton and as either a corporate communicator or PR practitioner for Moody Air Force Base, Primerica Financial Services, Kaiser Permanente, IMAGES USA, Aquent Marketing Staffing, BellSouth Corporation and Verizon Wireless.

Cheeks-Taylor earned a Master of Business Administration from Clark-Atlanta University while nurturing a family and working full-time at Verizon. “That’s where I sharpened my chops. So far, my work at Verizon has stretched and fortified my business acumen the most,” she said.

She became the first-ever director of Communications, Business Marketing and Public Engagement with Atlanta Housing in 2016. And, with the support of the board of commissioners, she spearheaded the agency’s re-branding campaign alongside the 80th Anniversary Celebration and led the team that developed the Property Protection Plan, Upfront Rent Determination tool and other incentives that increased partnership with property owners, resulting in a 35 percent increase in housing units available to low-income residents since 2017.

“I think it’s important for people to know that affordable housing is not what’s often perceived: housing for poor people who are looking for a hand-out. They are hard-working people who contribute to the economy and deserve quality homes in safe and amenity-rich communities.”

Cheeks-Taylor assumed her current role as chief of staff on May 9, 2018. She’s tasked with overseeing the administrative activities and special strategic initiatives for the president and CEO. She is also responsible for creating the Atlanta Housing Equity Forum, which unites leaders from the finance, social activism, governmental and real estate development communities to engage in developing equitable housing solutions.

What’s next for her professionally? She said, “Being a spiritual woman, I know I’m not in control; but there’s so much I can help the agency accomplish through this role, and I’d like to see that through. I’m excited about what’s on the horizon for affordable housing in Atlanta.”

Cheeks-Taylor is an avid runner and cyclist. “It keeps me balanced and healthy,” she said. She’s participated in the Chicago Marathon twice, MS Bike, and she supports Black Girls Run.

Issues impacting women and children tug her heartstrings. She passionately advocates against domestic violence, served on the board of Dress for Success, is a member of Cascade United Methodist Church and the Atlanta Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and is an executive board and charter member of the Greater Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Most importantly, Cheeks-Taylor is a mother of three. She considers this her biggest accomplishment and challenge. “Every day, they teach me something about life and myself,” she said.

LaRese Purnell
Managing Partner, CLE Consulting Firm and Founder, The Real Black Friday

A native of Cleveland, the youngest of three siblings raised by a single mother, LaRese Purnell lived back and forth between the Virgin Islands during his early childhood. And, once his family remained in the States, they found themselves shuffled through many of the city’s homeless shelters.

“Even though we experienced hard times, my mother was always very loving,” he said. “I remember her always trying to make the best of it.”

To relieve some burden, as a teen, Purnell worked several odd jobs including caddying at Highland Golf Course. He even started shoveling snow and formed a crew. He did this until going off to college.
After graduating from Warrensville Heights High School, and realizing he had a knack for math and numbers, he attended the University of Toledo where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Professional Sales and Marketing, as well as a Master of Business Administration in Finance.

He spent some time in banking yet eventually re-discovered his passion for entrepreneurship.

Purnell currently serves as a managing partner of CLE, Creating Leading Enterprises, an accounting and professional services consulting firm. He believes living aboard made him well-round culturally and attributes it to the work ethic he maintains today while his memories of those who helped, by investing their time and money into his family, motivate him to give back to the community he was once a part of, as well as the community at large.

His humanitarian efforts extend to a number of organizations. As president of the Board at Faith Community United Credit Union, Purnell devotes countless hours addressing financial issues responsible for the disconnection between community residents and their financial wealth with a focus on the under-banked and underserved.

He is a board member of the YMCA of Greater Cleveland, South Pointe Cleveland Clinic Hospital, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland and the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland.

He is also the author of “Financial Foundations: Building Financial Freedom One Tool at a Time.” Using everyday language, Purnell addresses the most fundamental questions and concerns people have about money.
Purnell is best known for his development of The Real Black Friday, an initiative to bring awareness and exposure to Black-owned and operated businesses in northeastern Ohio. The purpose is to inform the community of the number and types of Black-owned businesses, while also encouraging individuals to support these businesses as consumers financially.

The website, www.therealblackfriday.com was created for use by businesses to advertise their services and deals and to assist consumers to locate them. He has created a vehicle, the Lynx card that allows consumers to take advantage of discounts throughout the year. The Lynx card is available through the website.
A proud father of two wonderful children who are being nurtured as wealth builders of their generation, Purnell is a family man who proudly professes God as the head of his household. His faith was shaped at a young age as his grandmother deemed it mandatory to attend church every Sunday. He remembers his pastor telling him, “God has a call on your life.”

That helped him maintain gratefulness and stay connected. “It’s my purpose. It’s something bigger than me,” he said. “It’s all about serving the people.”

Phoebe Lee
Chief Executive Officer, Affinity Apparel

“At 6 years old, my mother bought me a sewing machine for Christmas — not a toy one either,” said Phoebe Lee as she recalled how she developed an affinity for fashion. “I was so mad at her. I wanted shoes, toys…”

Her father loved to thrift and one day took her into a store where she discovered sequins.

“I think my parents wanted to encourage me to do my own thing…got tired of buying the trendy stuff,” she continued. “So, I started making my own clothes.”

On top of that, Phoebe’s best friend worked as a model, which also nurtured her growing interest.

By the age of 18, the Shaker Heights High School graduate found herself at the Magic Show in Las Vegas. There, she was wholesaling some of the biggest, Black brand names in fashion at the time. She’s even opened a store in Atlanta and dabbled in modeling. She has also appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, New York Live, VH1 and other networks.

Lee eventually found all of that to be a rat-race and wanted out.

She complained to her mother about the nature of her business and how she desired to do something with more consistency. Her mom — her confidant — is an entrepreneur who understands the ins and outs of the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification landscape and suggested that Lee sell uniforms.

Phoebe established VDP Safety and Uniforms in January 2013 while still living in New York. Eventually, caring for her father during his illness brought Lee back to Cleveland but also allowed her to work more closely with her mother.

“That was a changing point in my life. It was the first time I had to put family before myself. Changed my world for the better,” said Lee.

From there, she hasn’t looked back.

“I put some retail thought into the B2B world,” said Phoebe. “Uniforms are a product that can service everyone. It’s a small necessity…As [there are] few females [that] are providers of safety equipment and uniforms, I became interested in how the uniforms fit women.”

Her knowledge of fashion paired with solid business acumen lead to her current position as majority stakeholder and chief executive officer of Affinity Apparel, a nationwide uniform company based in Fairborn, Ohio.

“Now, I’m just making sure the orders are delivered,” said Phoebe. “It’s funny because, when I go back and see my professors they always say, ‘We knew you would do something with fashion once you figured it out.’”

Lee earned a business administration degree from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) with a concentration in supply chain management. During her time there, CAU become a testing ground for this program so administrators heavily recruited business students and she was one of them.

Interestingly enough, loving to be different, she never wanted to wear the mandatory business attire.

“I always found a way to put a spin on it. But, I could get away with it because I got straight A’s.”

She honed her fashion skills and studied fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

“I’m a third generation, Black woman entrepreneur and we all had to be creative,” she said.

She used to bag candy for her mother’s business, and her maternal grandmother — and namesake — owned a general store in Glen Allen, Mississippi.

Lee’s hard work has been recognized by many, including former Ohio governor John Kasich, who, before leaving the office, appointed her to serve on the board of trustees for Cuyahoga Community College.

Karri Parks
Director, Sales Operations, Cricket Wireles

For Karri Parks, director of sales operations for Cricket Wireless, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, providing great leadership is a quality she takes seriously. Parks has held her current position with Cricket for two-and-a-half years but has worked for AT&T close to two decades. Her role in leadership/management positions has not only impacted company growth but has also motivated employees under her supervision to give and be their best, both professionally and personally.

In her present role, Parks is responsible for optimizing the retail experience for sales advocates and customers, which includes establishing store policies and procedures, and risk monitoring and reporting.
“The group that I lead is responsible for four areas of focus,” said Parks. “One is retail program management. When new products and programs are rolled out to the field, they come through my team to make sure that we optimize the total experience for our customers and employees. I also oversee risk management, onboarding support and our employee uniform program known as Cricket Couture.”

According to Parks, 11 employees report directly to her, who have nationwide responsibilities on behalf of Cricket’s 4,800-plus stores. Parks is proud to have provided impactful leadership to numerous programs over the years for both Cricket and AT&T.

“In 2017, we were excited to roll out our Phone Payment Plan for Cricket stores, which allows customers to lease-to-own their devices,” Parks explained. “I’m also proud of the work my team did in 2017 that helped evolve our network to enable more advanced features and services for our customers. My team helped manage both projects.”
Prior to her current position with Cricket, Parks held management/leadership positions with AT&T, including director of product management (digital life), senior product development manager (emerging devices), and senior product manager (voice & data product marketing). As a progressive leader, Parks, who holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from Howard University and a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University, managed the launch of the first wireless internet product for Bellsouth Mobility, and while with Cingular, Parks was the first product manager to oversee downloadable ringtones, games and apps.

To augment what Parks has achieved professionally, she is proud to be a Six Sigma Greenbelt and a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP). She is also an advisor to AT&T Project Management Network.

While Parks is consistently busy, she makes time to help empower young women through volunteerism with the Summer Immersion Session for Girls Who Code Atlanta, an organization whose goals are to close the gender gap in technology for young women. Parks also volunteers through AT&T’s commitment and partnership with Junior Achievement, the storied organization created to inspire and prepare young people to succeed.

Drawing from her professional and personal experiences, Parks’ messages resonate with the young people she connects with through volunteerism. Parks’ advice to the youth.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how things work and why things work,” said Parks, a Rochester, New York native. “And don’t be afraid to raise your hand to volunteer for projects, which can often lead to reaching higher plateaus. It’s okay to take a chance and take some risks. You are prepared more than you think, and if you’re not, find a way to close the gaps.”

Yasmine Murray Esq.
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, H.J. Russell & Company

“I want people to know, it doesn’t matter where you start,” said Yasmine Murray.

Born into a poor family, she grew up in St. Lucia with no indoor plumbing and remembers having to collect water from the local public water stand. Because there are no institutions for higher learning on the island, while young, her parents left her to pursue educational opportunities in the United States.

Among adults having a conversation, just 8 years old, Murray learned about the pirating of local musicians’ music around the island. That sparked an interest in wanting to help people. At age 13, her parents brought her to the States. And, by the time she entered high school, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer or ambassador.

She went on to Bay Path University, a predominately white, all-female institution in Massachusetts and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies with a Concentration in Business Administration. “I received a phenomenal education at Bay Path, and I did a lot to help diversify the community,” she said.

Beginning in the second semester of her first year, as a President’s Scholar, she worked as an ambassador helping to get the word out about the school to other minorities. Minority enrollment improved year after year. As a result, the school established and presents an “Excellence in Leadership” award annually, in her honor.

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree, she spent many years working at various firms alongside attorneys who often complained about the balance between career and personal life, which turned her off from the practice of law. She became introspective and considered missionary work.

But, H. J. Russell & Company called. She never worked in corporate yet accepted the position of Corporate Paralegal and Assistant Corporate Secretary. It was at H.J. Russell & Company that a colleague motivated her to further her education. She holds a Juris Doctorate with honors from University of Georgia School of Law.

“I am grateful to Eric for encouraging me to go to law school,” she said. “Being able to work in-house directly after law school is a rarity. To be five years out of law school and have a seat at the table and a voice within a company is virtually unheard of.”

She said H.J. Russell & Company enabled her to grow and flourish. She served as Corporate Counselor and Risk Manager prior to accepting her current position. As General Counsel, she manages the company’s legal affairs and works diligently to mitigate risk company-wide. As Corporate Secretary, Murray serves as the liaison between the board of directors and the company. She is responsible for all corporate governance matters as well. “I am the CEO’s right hand,” she continued. “I help bring his vision and goals to fruition.”

As the Russells are entering third generation of ownership, Murray is honored to serve a minority company that has truly built a legacy. “That means a lot to me. I do my part to protect that legacy,” she said.

Aside from her professional career, she’s involved in her church and supports St. Jude. She also supports activities that promote education for young people.

“I know how important education is and appreciate the gift because so many before us didn’t get the privilege. I’ve been taught and fully believe education is something that can never be taken away from you,” she said.

Jamine Moton
Founder, Skylar Security

Skylar Security is emerging as an innovative leader in the industry of privately-owned security companies by offering the next generation of services to customers in metro Atlanta and throughout the United States.
The reason for the firm’s success is its founder, Jamine Moton. She created a company that exceeds all aspects of industry expectations and has a mission to never become the problems it is called to solve. Skylar’s core belief is: Security is an emotion. Everyone deserves to be safe.

Its goal is to change how privately-owned security company customers are engaged and represented while simultaneously disrupting the culture of how officers are managed and recruited to protect those clients. Moton factors in each clients’ brand when matching them with Skylar personnel. As a result, Skylar has never lost a customer and has a 2 percent staff turnover rate. The company’s roster has grown from 30 to 450 guards, since being founded in 2015. Skylar also now operates in four states.

Moton’s approach to privately-owned security services has garnered her an unprecedented level of industry success. In 2019, she earned the Golden Ticket in the Atlanta-based WEI pitch competition. That sent her to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in The Hague, Netherlands where she represented the City of Atlanta and business start-ups in the United States. Moton has demonstrated the ability to focus on success as a former professional athlete, police officer and Olympic team member. She holds a master’s degree from Clemson University and is a graduate of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Atlanta based Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and LaunchPad. Skylar Security is a boutique security company with technology that has world-wide applications.

Before founder, Jamine Moton, started the company she spent three years researching the industry. She learned that many people had poor opinions of security companies and the people who worked for them. The most common complaint involved quality. Clients complained about guards, guards complained about pay and working conditions. Moton began to build technology that addressed the problems while also regulating the infrastructure of her new endeavor. Then she added a twist. She based her entire program on referrals. She didn’t hire a guard or take on a client that didn’t have a reference.

Those changes immediately eliminated one of the biggest problems in her industry, high turnover for employees and clients. Skylar Security has a turnover rate of 2 percent and hasn’t lost a client in five years. Her technology was put to the test during Super Bowl 53. Skylar Security was hired to protect Mercedes Benz stadium and the Georgia World Congress Center. By the 2nd day on the job her company’s shifts were doubled. Super Bowl officials told her, “We don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s working.” At that point Moton knew she had a winning formula.
Moton operates with the understanding that security is an emotion and affects many of the decisions we make. Her goal is to lift the level of respect that most people have for the security industry and she plans to start that transition from her home base, right here in Atlanta, Georgia.

William Teddy McDaniel, III
President and CEO, Urban League of Central Carolinas

“I’m a midwesterner by heart,” said Teddy McDaniel, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia but raised in Columbus, Ohio. His parents met while students at Morehouse and Spelman. His dad, a Memphis native, directed college bands in the 1970s and ultimately became chair of Ohio State University’s Jazz and Black Studies departments.

“We’re all about Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” he continued.

Having interned at age 16 with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and developing mentee relationships with Black business owners that remains today, McDaniel went to Morehouse College to study finance upon graduating high school – making him a third generation Morehouse Man.

His first job out of college put him on Wall Street at Chase Manhattan. He went on to work for various banks, growing in experience. As he moved up, he developed a niche for franchise restaurant finance. He talents landed him a job at Banco Popular De Puerto Rico where he managed a $50 million portfolio in mixed-use real estate properties and loans to McDonald’s franchisees.

In 1998, McDaniel took a job at a boutique finance firm in Greenwich, Connecticut, where the deals got bigger. Also while there, a friend, knowing McDaniel’s parents were college educators, introduced him to 100 Black Men of Stanford, Connecticut and asked him to volunteer. He joined and they took over a high school. Among that group included an Urban League president, who eventually tapped McDaniel to join his organization.

He became a member and a founder of the Stamford Urban League’s Young Professional chapter, an idea that spread through Urban Leagues across the nation. “I caught the Urban League bug,” he said. “We sent twenty-four kids to college.”

That’s when the light turned on, that he could help send black children to college.

McDaniel received an offer to consider working for GE Capital just days prior to planning a move back to Columbus. He intended to attend graduate school, but this opportunity moved him to Scottsdale, Arizona and back into banking. Six months later, he was introduced to the president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League and joined the board. He served as the board treasurer and president of the Young Professional’s chapter. In fact, he met his wife at an Urban League event.

“At one point, I served as president of the volunteer auxiliary and she as secretary,” McDaniel explained. “We live this.”

In 2008, he separated from GE Capital and shortly thereafter became the Chief Operating Officer of the Greater Phoenix Urban League. “That position was one where I truly found my passion.” In 2012, he moved to Austin, TX to become CEO of that Urban League. He turned it around and eventually Charlotte called.

Still fairly new to the area, he’s been in Charlotte now since August 2017.

When asked about the transition from private to public sector work, McDaniel said, “I do well by doing good. I’m doing business but I’m doing it for the people.”.

His vision for the Urban League of Central Carolinas is to help African-Americans and all underserved communities to achieve social and economic empowerment. “We need to be an agency that focuses on closing the racial wealth gap. We all have to be focused on financial empowerment.”

McDaniel said he’s unapologetic about black excellence and all of the potential our young people possess and we all need to invest in them. That’s his personal mantra.

“There’s a world of opportunity in Charlotte,” he said, “but success is going to come from leadership with integrity.”

William “Teddy” McDaniel, III is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Carlin D.T. Jackson
Principal Consultant, Theo. Wyes David, Ltd.

Carlin D.T. Jackson is the principal consultant of Theo. Wyes David, Ltd., delivering strategy, systems architecture, commercialization, and corporate finance services to numerous clients across the country. He is the co-founder and chief technology officer of a stealth, venture capital-backed eCommerce tech-startup. In his role as a think[box] founder at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), he mentors students, community members, and entrepreneurs. Carlin has previously held management and engineering roles at Explorys, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, North Shore Energy, and multiple research and development projects at CWRU. Carlin received a Master of Science in Finance from the Weatherhead School of Management at CWRU (Corporate Finance track with focuses in both Entrepreneurial and Health Finance). As a Louis Stokes Scholar at CWRU, he received a Bachelor’s in Computer Science with minors in Finance, Management, and Mathematics. He is a board member of the Case Alumni Association. Above all, Carlin values his faith in God, parents Cedric Sr. and Linda, siblings, extended family, and friends.

Bennie L. Harris, PhD
Senior Vice President, Institutional Advancement at Morehouse School of Medicine

Dr. Bennie L. Harris serves as Senior Vice President at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) in Atlanta, where he leads fundraising and advancement for the historically black health sciences institution.

At MSM, Harris more than a leader. He is known as a mentor to young black men in Atlanta, as well as to members of his staff and to professionals employed elsewhere. A deeply spiritual man, he abides by the ideals of servant leadership, offering wise advice, counsel, and support that lifts others up and encourages them to always be better.

In his position as Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Harris increased fundraising by 165 percent over a five-year period and helped MSM achieve the ninth-highest alumni-giving rate among medical schools in the United States.

Harris holds the Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from Mississippi State University, a Master of Business Administration degree in strategic marketing from Washington State University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in educational leadership and marketing from the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He has engaged in postgraduate training at Harvard University, where he was a Summer Fellow at the Institute for Education Management; at the American Council on Education Advancing to the Presidency Leadership Program; at Vanderbilt University, where he was a Vanderbilt Fellow in the Higher Education Management Institute; and at the CASE Fundraising Institute at Dartmouth University.

He has held leadership positions in institutional advancement at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.; DePaul University in Chicago, Ill.; University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Washington State University. During his time at Washington State University, he also served as the director for the Center for Human Rights.

Since then Harris has worked with a number of organizations facilitating conversations and strategic plans around leadership development, diversity, healthcare, and health equity.

Harris is a member of 100 Black Men of Atlanta and was an active member of 100 Black Men of Chicago and 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, where he has served as an officer and a board member. He has been involved in a number of civic and community organizations’ boards, including: Leadership Atlanta, Susan G. Komen, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, the Nashville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, Phi Beta Sigma Leadership Academy, the Nashville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the Nashville Chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives, and Rotary International Nashville Downtown Chapter.

Harris is married to Frankie Andrea Harris. Together they have three children: Bria, Bennie II, and Branden.

Dr. Science Frederic Bertley, Ph.D.
President and CEO Center of Science and Industry (COSI)

As president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), Frederic Bertley, Ph.D. leads one of the nation’s most fascinating and unique science institutions. Described as a “super playground” for curious minds of all ages, COSI, Central Ohio’s leading science center, is home to more than 300 exhibits and interactive and education programs.

Under Bertley’s executive leadership, COSI recently opened the new, one-of-a-kind American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) Dinosaur Gallery, representing a history-making collaboration between COSI and AMNH.

“This is a very exciting time in COSI’s history,” said Bertley. “New York’s AMNH is the best natural history museum in the world. With the addition of AMNH’s Dinosaur Gallery, it reinforces COSI’s position as a top science center. We are thrilled to be playing a role in Columbus’ downtown growth, revitalization and cultural transformation.”

The partnership with AMNH will bring other exhibits to COSI every six months. In March, 2018, COSI welcomes “Traveling The Silk Road.” This gallery traces the history of the world’s greatest trading route, as well as its cultures, traded goods and technologies, all of which were the nucleus to the ancient cities of Asia and the Middle East between 600 and 1200 AD. Other exhibits will follow.

Bertley believes the AMNH and COSI partnership will boost attendance. Factor in multiple community outreach and inclusion programs and the number of people impacted by COSI annually is close to one million.

“I like to say that COSI has programs for everybody, from the womb to the tomb,” Bertley said. “Our interactive experiences and specialized education programs serve a continuum from infants through teens and adults.”

A native of Montreal, Canada, Bertley’s love for science and education began at an early age, even though he was an outstanding basketball and hockey player.

“I was a curious kid and science came relatively easy for me,” Bertley recalled. “I also loved education. So marrying science and education was the smart thing for me to do when I began thinking about a career.”

While Bertley didn’t see African Canadian scientists in Montreal, he still pursued his dreams in his hometown at McGill University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physiology, mathematics and the history of science, as well as a Ph.D. in immunology. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Armed with his Ph.D., Bertley worked internationally in preventive medicine and basic vaccines in Haiti, the Sudan, and the Canadian Arctic. Returning to Harvard Medical School, Bertley, as a scientist and educator, focused on developing DNA vaccines for HIV/AIDS.

As a noted scientist/educator, Bertley has received many awards and honors, including Inspire 100 World Changers, Harvard Medical School Dean’s Service Award, and two Mid-Atlantic National Academy of Television and Science Emmys, to name a few.

Bertley, a relative newcomer to Columbus, sits on several local boards, including Experience Columbus and Columbus Regional Airport Authority. He is focused on elevating COSI to new heights while empowering the communities it serves.

“My mission in life is to serve and empower the community,” said the married father of one. “We all need to be a part of that intellectual capital, or we will all be left behind.”

Candace Daniels
Technology Consulting Manager, Accenture

Candace Daniels is a manager in Accenture Technology’s Workday Practice with specializations in Change Management and Human Capital Management solutions.

Daniels is very active in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community. She is passionate about empowering today’s youth and serving as a positive role model in their lives. She serves as a Communities In Schools (CIS) mentor to middle school and high school students. She currently serves on the Action Board of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas and on the Board of Read a Book, Earn a Book, a non-profit literacy program.

Candace is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. as well as Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

A native of Griffin, Georgia, Daniels holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Spelman College and an MBA from North Carolina State University.

Outside of work, Candace enjoys OrangeTheory workouts, reading, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. One of Candace’s personal mantras is a quote from Nikki Giovanni: “The unwillingness to try is worse than any failure.”

Viola Davis
Representative District 87, Georgia House of Representatives

The newly-elected Viola Davis has been appointed to the Georgia House of Representatives Insurance, Interstate Cooperation and Science & Technology committees.

She is the founder of Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter, a longtime government
watchdog of DeKalb County educating the public about waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in local and state government.’

Davis lead the fight to secure nearly 5 million dollars to properly close a 25 acre abandon bankrupt landfill named Scales Landfill, the state’s largest trust fund award to cap a landfill.
Viola Davis started her career of community service as an actual plaintiff in the
Brown vs. Board of Education filed by the late Charles Scott Sr., mentor to her
mother, Ruby Davis.

She is an honor graduate of the Medical College of Georgia with a Bachelor of
Science Degree in Nursing, a licensed Realtor, was a business owner that owned and operated a hair salon called Express Cuts on Memorial Drive in DeKalb County with her sister, the late Annie Mae Davis. She is an honorably discharged Commissioned Officer of the United
States Army and Airborne.

She’s won several awards.

Kieth Cockrell
Head of Specialty Client Services for Consumer and Small Business Banking, Bank of America

Kieth Cockrell is the Head of Specialty Client Services for Consumer and Small Business Banking. In this role, he is responsible for the implementation and execution of our strategy to make financial centers destinations for guidance during moments that matter for clients.

Working across product teams and channels, Kieth leads efforts to build the client-focused culture, committed to assisting clients through their life experiences.

During his 35 year career in financial services, Kieth has held leadership roles as Southeast Division Sales executive, Retail & Preferred and Small Business Banking chief operating officer, Banking Center Divestiture Project executive, Michigan market president, National Community executive and ATM Network executive. Additionally, he has held leadership roles in contact centers and across various geographic markets.

Kieth is active in the community and serves on the national board of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Levine Museum of the New South.

Kieth earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University. He currently lives in the Charlotte, North Carolina area with his family.

Keisha Lance Bottoms
Mayor, City of Atlanta

Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th Mayor of the City of Atlanta.

A daughter of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms strives to continue the City’s progress as a global business hub, while also building a city that is a national model for equity and inclusion. Her vision is One Atlanta. A safe and welcoming city, world-class employees, infrastructure and services, an ethical, transparent, and fiscally responsible government, thriving neighborhoods, communities and businesses, and residents that are equipped for success.

Only the second woman elected Mayor of Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms was designated a “Woman to Watch in 2018” by Viacom’s BET Network. She has also been profiled by Atlanta Magazine, Ebony Magazine and Politico Magazine, where she was named “the most prominent black female executive in the South,” and most recently, she was honored among a group of stellar women, as one of ESSENCE magazine’s 2018 “Woke 100” – highlighting black women change agents across the nation and beyond.

Mayor Bottoms graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and received an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Georgia State University College of Law and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Mayor Bottom resides in Southwest Atlanta with her husband, Derek W. Bottoms, and their four children.

Koby Altman
Head of Specialty Client Services, Cleveland Cavaliers

Koby Altman was named the 11th general manager in Cleveland Cavaliers history in July of 2017. As the GM, he manages and oversees all aspects of scouting, personnel, player acquisitions and transactions, and all team operations. He also guides the team’s player appearance committee in partnership with the business side of the Cavs organization.
In the 2017-18 season, Altman’s first year as GM, the Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference Finals, advancing to their fourth straight NBA Finals. In the summer of 2018, he selected Collin Sexton with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft and signed five-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love to a new multi-year contract extension.
Prior to being named GM, Altman was a part of the Cavaliers’ basketball staff for five years and has been an integral part of a team that reached four straight NBA Finals and won an NBA Championship in 2016.
Altman, a Brooklyn, New York native, played collegiately at Middlebury College. Altman is on the National Board of Directors for the Posse Foundation, which identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential, providing full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse’s partner colleges and universities.

Dennis W. Archer, Jr.
CEO, Ignition Media Group

Dennis W. Archer Jr., Esq. is the CEO of Ignition Media Group, a leading integrated marketing agency, and president and founding partner of Archer Corporate Services (ACS). Mr. Archer’s hospitality holding company, Congress Hospitality, is creator and managing partner of Central Kitchen + Bar, named by The Detroit Free Press as one of Detroit’s 2016 top new restaurants of the year, within a year of opening.

Founded in 1998, Detroit-based Ignition Media Group specializes in strategic matchmaking, experiential marketing, public relations and event production for numerous clients including Common Citizen, WCCCD, General Motors, BMW, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi North America. Ignition’s leadership team has significantly grown in the last decade, carrying a large network of local contacts in the media, business, political and philanthropic communities.

In conjunction with Ignition, Archer leveraged his background in marketing and advertising, creating a portfolio of companies, each of which thrives in a specific niche. In 2004, he co-founded ACS with CEO Mike Carr. Under their leadership, ACS has grown into one of the nation’s leading marketing fulfillment service firms, serving clients such as General Motors, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Prestige Brands and Blue Buffalo. For these companies, ACS provides trade and consumer fulfillment, printing and print management, promotional merchandising, plastic card services and call center services.

In addition to the aforementioned entrepreneurial endeavors, Archer is a real estate developer who is dedicated to giving back to Detroit and the surrounding areas. In the early 2000’s he realized it was the perfect marketplace to acquire, reposition and sell properties while simultaneously encouraging job creation, creating affordable housing units and overall bringing entrepreneurial opportunities into the city to promote economic growth.

Since that time, he has participated in several high-profile projects such as Redford Marketplace, The Talon Center, 1250 Rosa Parks Boulevard, Kercheval Point in Grosse Pointe and presently a downtown Detroit retail development anchored by a Meijer operated grocery store and a redevelopment project in Harmonie Park. In addition to Dennis’ direct investments and principal involvement in the projects listed, he has participated in a number of other significant developments alongside his development partners with whom he later created Lormax Stern Detroit, a 50-50 partnership. These include several regional shopping centers.

Archer’s civic and philanthropic involvement includes Chair Emeritus of the Detroit Regional Chamber Board of Directors where he also sits on the executive committee and chaired the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference, and the 2019 and 2020 Detroit Policy Conferences. Archer also sits on the boards of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, Dennis W. Archer Foundation, and Citizen Detroit.

Corporately, Archer also serves on the General Motors Supplier Council and as a director of Main Street Bank, where he has served on the audit, loan and CRA committees.

Dennis Archer, Jr. received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan.

Tonya Allen
President & CEO The Skillman Foundation

Tonya Allen is the president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation. Her two decade long career has centered on pursuing, executing and investing in ideas that improve her hometown of Detroit and increase opportunities for its people, particularly its children, who live in under-resourced communities.

Allen has been instrumental in many successful philanthropic, government and community initiatives, including: the 11-year, $120-million Good Neighborhoods Initiative; co-chairing the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren and Launch Michigan; and serving as a leader in the boys and men of color field.

Allen holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degrees in social work and public health from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She serves on numerous boards including Oakland University, Council on Foundations, Council of Michigan Foundations, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and Campaign for Black Male Achievement.

William F. Pickard, Ph.D
Chairman, Global Automotive Alliance

William F. Pickard, PhD is Chairman of Global Automotive Alliance, Co-Managing Partner, MGM Grand Detroit Casino, CEO, Bearwood Management Company and co-owner of five black-owned newspapers.

Pickard’s Forty-five-year entrepreneurial career began as a McDonald’s franchisee in Detroit, Michigan. Since its founding in 1989, GAA has generated more than $5 billion dollars in sales with eight plants in the U.S. and Canada, and service corporations such as Boeing, Mercedes Benz, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Delphi, Johnson Controls, Starbucks, Home Depot and Merck Pharmaceutical.

He has served on numerous business and non-profit boards including Asset Acceptance Capital Corporation, Michigan National Bank, LaSalle Bank, Business Leaders for Michigan, National Urban League, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce and is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. In 2001, Pickard was awarded Michiganian of the Year for his business success, civic leadership and philanthropy. Pickard was the first chairman of the African Development Foundation in 1982, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, and under President George Bush he was appointed to The National Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations (1990) the Federal Home Loan Bank Board-Indianapolis Bank in Indiana (1991).

Dr. Pickard is also creating a new generation of entrepreneurs with Millionaire Moves – Seven Proven Principles of Entrepreneurship, vision/attitude, opportunity, relationships, talent/skillset, financial, failure and faith. Dr. Pickard will share his undeniable principles anyone can use to become a successful entrepreneur.

Dr. Pickard holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Western Michigan University, a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. He has donated over $1M dollars to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. In honor of Dr. Pickard, The William F. Pickard Living Center is named in his honor at Grand Valley State University. Dr. Pickard has donated over $3M dollars to Western Michigan University which was used to build a new facility on campus Hall-Archer-Pickard East and Hall-Archer-Pickard West.

Phoebe Lee
Chief Executive Officer, Affinity Apparel

“At 6 years old, my mother bought me a sewing machine for Christmas — not a toy one either,” said Phoebe Lee as she recalled how she developed an affinity for fashion. “I was so mad at her. I wanted shoes, toys…”

Her father loved to thrift and one day took her into a store where she discovered sequins.

“I think my parents wanted to encourage me to do my own thing…got tired of buying the trendy stuff,” she continued. “So, I started making my own clothes.”

On top of that, Phoebe’s best friend worked as a model, which also nurtured her growing interest.

By the age of 18, the Shaker Heights High School graduate found herself at the Magic Show in Las Vegas. There, she was wholesaling some of the biggest, Black brand names in fashion at the time. She’s even opened a store in Atlanta and dabbled in modeling. She has also appeared on Good Morning America, the Today show, New York Live, VH1 and other networks.

Lee eventually found all of that to be a rat-race and wanted out.

She complained to her mother about the nature of her business and how she desired to do something with more consistency. Her mom — her confidant — is an entrepreneur who understands the ins and outs of the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification landscape and suggested that Lee sell uniforms.

Phoebe established VDP Safety and Uniforms in January 2013 while still living in New York. Eventually, caring for her father during his illness brought Lee back to Cleveland but also allowed her to work more closely with her mother.

“That was a changing point in my life. It was the first time I had to put family before myself. Changed my world for the better,” said Lee.

From there, she hasn’t looked back.

“I put some retail thought into the B2B world,” said Phoebe. “Uniforms are a product that can service everyone. It’s a small necessity…As [there are] few females [that] are providers of safety equipment and uniforms, I became interested in how the uniforms fit women.”

Her knowledge of fashion paired with solid business acumen lead to her current position as majority stakeholder and chief executive officer of Affinity Apparel, a nationwide uniform company based in Fairborn, Ohio.

“Now, I’m just making sure the orders are delivered,” said Phoebe. “It’s funny because, when I go back and see my professors they always say, ‘We knew you would do something with fashion once you figured it out.’”

Lee earned a business administration degree from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) with a concentration in supply chain management. During her time there, CAU become a testing ground for this program so administrators heavily recruited business students and she was one of them.

Interestingly enough, loving to be different, she never wanted to wear the mandatory business attire.

“I always found a way to put a spin on it. But, I could get away with it because I got straight A’s.”

She honed her fashion skills and studied fashion design at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

“I’m a third generation, Black woman entrepreneur and we all had to be creative,” she said.

She used to bag candy for her mother’s business, and her maternal grandmother — and namesake — owned a general store in Glen Allen, Mississippi.

Lee’s hard work has been recognized by many, including former Ohio governor John Kasich, who, before leaving the office, appointed her to serve on the board of trustees for Cuyahoga Community College.

Teola P. Hunter
Pioneering Public Servant, Entrepreneur, and Early Child Care Influencer

Teola P. Hunter is a trailblazing public servant, who’s now retired.  Yet her journeys as an elected official are filled with firsts.

In 1987, Hunter, a native Detroiter, was the first woman – black or white – to serve as speaker pro trempore in the Michigan House of Representatives.  Elected to the House in 1980, Hunter served constituents in Michigan’s 5th District with honor for eleven years.  She tendered her resignation in January, 1992.

It didn’t take long for Hunter to blaze new trails, as she became the first woman of any color to serve as deputy director of Health and Community Services in Wayne County.  Appointed by Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara, Hunter oversaw Mental Health Services, Patient Care Management, Youth Programs, and Child Care Fund.

Hunter soon achieved another first for a woman, when she was elected Wayne County Clerk.  And in 1997, she was the first woman ever to run for Michigan Lieutenant Governor as a democrat.

While Hunter has enjoyed a wonderful career as a public servant, which has included membership on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission (2009 – 2012), her professional life began as an early education teacher with the Detroit Board of Education in the late 1950s.  This was after she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Detroit.  She later received a master’s degree in elementary school guidance and counseling from Wayne State University.  Hunter taught fourteen years.

In 1971, Hunter opened Buttons and Bows Nurseries and Preparatory School in Detroit.  While Hunter wasn’t the first African American in Detroit to own a child care facility, it’s believed she was the first black person to own and operate a chain of child care centers in the city.

Interestingly, it was Hunter’s vast experience in early childhood education, and her knowledge as an owner and manager of child care centers that motivated her to seek state office, after she and several African American child care center owners helped craft Public Act 116 in 1973.

“Public Act 116 provided protection for children through licensing and regulation of child care centers throughout the state,” explained Hunter.  “It provided strict standards and regulations for child care organizations to abide by.”

Working with House members and elected officials in Detroit provided Hunter with a great perspective of politics and how elected officials worked.

“I saw and liked how lawmakers worked together to write and pass bills that helped empower their constituents,” said Hunter.  “I knew I could do what the legislators were doing, and I could do it better.”

Once elected, Hunter went on to do much better than many of her fellow members, many of which were white males with stereotypical views of blacks in politics, especially black women.

These days, although retired from politics, Hunter serves on several boards of not-for-profit organizations, inclusive of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministry and Franklin Wright Settlements.  Hunter’s also active at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit, where she’s been a member for almost fifty years.  And she’s a lifelong member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the storied African American organization dedicated to public service.

“I’ve always been a person with a public servant’s heart and spirit, which started my commitment to public service,” said Hunter. “Whatever I can do to help people in need, that’s what I’ll be doing.”

Jim Dunn, PhD, DHA, FACHE
Executive Vice President and System Chief Human Resources, Atrium Health

At Atrium Health, Jim Dunn leads teams focused on the engagement of Atrium Health teammates – from recruitment through retirement – including workforce relations, diversity and inclusion, compensation, benefits, learning and organizational development, teammate health, LiveWELL, reward and recognition, HR communications, external affairs, community engagement and governmental affairs.

Prior to joining Atrium, Dunn served as the executive vice president and chief talent officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Texas. He’s also served as the human resources and learning executive for the Cleveland Clinic, chief learning officer for Texas Health Resources, and the chief HR Officer for the American Cancer Society and global HR and chief of staff for former President Jimmy Carter.

“I essentially grew up in HR while at the American Cancer Society,” said Dunn, who, interestingly, as a youth, never foresaw such an illustrious human resource career in the healthcare industry.

“I most definitely hadn’t anticipated doing anything outside of the pure sciences, heck I was pretty introverted and didn’t really even like people,” Dunn laughs during the interview. He purely enjoying college and studying the subject he loved.

Dunn always loved science, and particularly AP chemistry in high school. A high school crush on his teacher played a small part but he enjoyed the class so much, without knowing all the career options available, he selected the subject as his undergraduate major at Howard University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and macro-environmental science with highest honors.

Having skipped a grade in both elementary and high school, Dunn graduated at 16 years. Growing up in Chicago, he received offers to attend the University of Chicago and Northwestern. He selected Howard after his high school counselor implied attending an HBCU would be a waste of his talents. It infuriated him as he had many high school classmates, with even higher talents planning to attend HBCU’s. He applied more so out of aggravation and it ended up becoming the most important decision he could have made at such a young age.

Fresh out of college, at 20, Dunn went to work as a research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute. From there, he went on to become an occupational epidemiologist with Amoco Corporation. That’s also when he obtained a Master of Public Health degree as well as completed his first doctoral degree from Emory University.

“Those degrees were aligned with my first career,” Dunn said of his extensive education. He additionally holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and two more doctoral degrees in organizational development and healthcare administration from Benedictine University and the Medical University of South Carolina, respectively.

As an emerging scholar, Dunn has served as adjunct and distinguished faculty for multiple universities including the Harvard School of Public Health, MIT Sloan School of Management, Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University, University of Chicago, Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas at Dallas. He is also a state registered professional mediator, specializing in workplace conflict resolution strategies, and a fellow (FACHE) and faculty member of the American College of Health Executives.

Despite the letters behind his name and accolades, for Dunn, his love for family is his greatest accomplishment. “Family comes first. I’ve intentionally never allowed my career to become the driving force of for my life…or taking myself too seriously.”

Dunn is an avid tennis fan and enjoys mentoring through several local community platforms.

Charles E. Tennant Sr.
Founder, Africentric Early College

Charles E. Tennant Sr. grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. He attended segregated schools.

“We never saw brand new books,” said Tennant. “We always got used books from the white schools.” He remembers one, Little Black Sambo. “It was about a little black boy who played with a tiger. They made him as black as possible with huge red lips and wooly hair.”

He also saw black movies full of stereotypes, at school, the last Friday in the month. “We were, at a young age, exposed to scary movies, like “Mighty Joe Young.”

In 1959, Tennant applied to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The university required each applicant to submit a photograph. He did reluctantly and received a rejection letter advising him to attend one of the “colored” colleges and listed them.

Tennant ended up at North Carolina A&T College when young black males were required to enroll in ROTC. He chose the Air Force, but placed into the Army ROTC program. He withdrew from A&T, and enrolled into Winston-Salem Teachers College. After graduating, he got a teaching position in Rockingham, North Carolina School District.

In 1966, the county school district integrated. Old white teachers were sent to black schools, and a few good black teachers to white schools. No black children were sent to white schools, or vice versa. Wanting no parts of that, he applied for a position in Detroit.

In route to Detroit, the plane experienced mechanical problems and laid over in Columbus, Ohio, causing Tennant to miss his interview. He took a taxi downtown, contacted Columbus City Schools then took a taxi to their office. “I believe this is where God wanted me to be,” he said.

Mr. Gearhart in Teacher Personnel, interviewed Tennant and explained the benefits. Tennant accepted. At times throughout his teaching career, Tennant held eight certificates.

In 1993, Tennant realized our students needed a school showcasing the positivity of Blacks from a worldview and sprang into action to make it a reality. “Everyone told me I was wasting my time.”

Byron Sanders
President & CEO, Big Thought

Byron Sanders sits at the helm of Big Thought, a Dallas -based organization committed to helping youth in under-resourced communities prepare for life in various innovative ways. As the President and CEO of the organization, he and his staff endeavor to connect youth with individuals and organizations interested in sponsoring quality in-school, afterschool and innovative community-partnership experiences. Byron’s professional expertise spans the fields of banking, education, philanthropy, and he’s served Big Thought in various capacities since 2008, including supporter, volunteer, advisor, partner, and most recently, board member.

Speaking to his current role, “In an age where technology is changing the workforce at a clip so rapidly that 65% of students today are going to be working in jobs that don’t yet exist, Big Thought’s work to unleash youth’s creativity and empower them to build human relationships is exactly the kind of work that prepares them to thrive in the 21st century,” says Sanders. “Through our partnerships, our work touches the lives of 150,000 students in Dallas every year. Art, STEM, service learning, design thinking, the game changers on our team are everyday innovating new and different ways for young people to channel their creativity into productivity, equipping them to create their best lives and world.”

The University of Tulsa graduate believes that one’s life purpose and mission cannot be truly fulfilled without active community engagement. As such, Byron is a member of United Way’s Community Impact Council, Social Venture Partners Dallas, CitySquare, ChildCareGroup, KIPP DFW, and the Mayor’s Star Council and other service initiatives. Due to his servitude acumen, Sanders has received a number of prestigious honors such as the 2014 Dallas Business Journal’s Minority Business Leaders and its 2012 40 Under 40 awards. He has also been recognized as a Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau BIG Influencer, Dallas Foundation Good Works Under 40, and as a TEDx speaker. Notably, in 2017, he was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar by the program led by the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. His most recent honors include the Parkland Foundation’s Community First Award, and recognition in the 5th edition of Who’s Who in Black Dallas. Sanders shares, “Who’s Who of Black Dallas is indeed an honor, yet it’s one I share with all the women and men who have poured into my journey. I stand on the legacy of Mollie Sanders, a mother whose very soul is that of generosity. I stand on the village of educators from Adelle Turner Elementary to Greenhill School, on Donald Payton, Selmore Haynes, Abe Wehmiller, Synthia Rogers, and all the mentors who wrapped their arms around my younger self because by cognizance or divination they saw I so desperately needed them in my life… it is a celebration not of our individual excellence, but that of our collective glory, a continuous thread of black beauty, strength, and love. I am blessed to be among that number and grateful for the chance to contribute to that heritage.”