The Black Professional Magazine: A Guide to Building the Village!

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The Black


India Birdsong, Ariane Kirkpatrick, Margaret Mitchell


Powerful Black Women FALL 2021 • VOL. 1 • ISSUE 2


“It’s up to us to take back our HEALTH, our LIVES, and our COMMUNITIES, one VOICE, one VACCINE, one VICTORYat a time.”

Sponsored By:

From the Executive Producer of The Coronavirus Urban Report


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Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Navigating Invisibility and Hypervisibility by Erica Merritt


Living on the Alert: How Our Innate Ability for SelfPreservation Teaches Us the Art of Living by Jennifer Wainwright


Where the Money Resides by LaRese Purnell


Executive Profile: Laurie Murphy

Robert Prince Madison, FAIA: A Life Designed for Greatness BPACF Volunteers Is Your “Pot” Too Small for Your Dreams? by Jacklyn Chisholm, PhD



The Delta Variant Mutation: More Contagious but the Vaccination Protects You by Charles Modlin, MD



Celebrating Powerful Black Women by Montrie Rucker Adams, APR Photo by Alvin Smith Surviving and Thriving While Black by Angela Adams Ali, PhD

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BPACF Scholars College Now & Adult Learners by Michele Scott Taylor, Ed.D BPACF Professional Profiles


The Black

Professional PUBLISHER

Meltrice D. Sharp, CPA PRESIDENT

Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF) EDITOR

Montrie Rucker Adams Visibility Marketing, Inc. SENIOR ADVISOR

Alexandria Johnson Boone GAP Communications Group CREATIVE DIRECTOR


Alvin Smith Black in Cleveland


Jermel Carr Project FORWARD Marketing Solns. MARKETING DIRECTOR

TerDawn DeBoe Creative Thought Solutions OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR

Adrianne Sims BPACF


James Wade BPACF

Subscribe for free at: A Quarterly Publication of the Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF), 2930 Prospect Avenue E., Suite 126 Cleveland, OH 44115-2608 MAGAZINE PRODUCTION: GAP Communications Group 16781 Chagrin Blvd., Suite 508 Shaker Hts., OH 44120 Coy Lee Media, LLC 3 Severance Circle #18496 Cleveland, OH 44118 Short Stack Printing 4425 Renaissance Parkway Cleveland, OH 44128 Copyright © 2021-22. All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be distributed electronically, reproduced or duplicated in whole or in part, without written permission of the publisher.

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Celebrating Powerful Black Women Dear Friends, Family and Supporters, One of the perks of serving as Publisher of this important publication is that I can assist in choosing the content that builds our village and creates impact in our community. This “Celebrating the Powerful Black Women” issue is no exception. As our team (which is 70 percent female) strategized about the women we wanted to profile and the stories we desired to tell, a themed publication emerged. We realized that within our Greater Cleveland community, there were women who espoused the reason the Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF) exists. As we continue to celebrate 40 years of the importance and merits of the BPACF, we must highlight the contributions women have made to the organization over the years. Nancella Harris and the late Tanya Allmond were front and center as two of the organization’s founding members along with Arthur Baker Jr. As the organization grew, there were many women who paved the way and blazed the trail to get BPACF where it is today. Over the years, we’ve honored exceptional women like Robyn Minter Smyers, Esq., Vanessa L. Whiting, Esq., Margot James Copeland, Alexandria Johnson Boone, Dr. Jerry Sue Thornton and more. Our board leadership is 53% female, and they lead most of our committees. Most recently, Laurie Murphy joined as our new Executive Director. We’re looking forward to the contributions she will make as we move into a new era of service. It is no secret that as women, we are making our presence known and using our time, talent, and treasures to change the world. Many have selflessly devoted their free time to support the mission of the BPACF. Where would we be without our valuable volunteers who work

tirelessly to keep the organization running smoothly? Barbara Cooper, Jazmine Long and Adrianne Sims received 2021’s Valued Volunteer Award as quintessential volunteers – organized, conscientious and committed. These women continue to go above and beyond the call of duty as dedicated and dependable volunteers with the foundation. Their commitment to the organization is invaluable. Let us not forget our students, one of the driving factors to what we do. Seventy percent of this year’s new class of scholars are young women. As women, we are no longer asking permission, we are daring someone to stop us from accomplishing our mission, achieving our goals, and making significant impact in our communities. We have a long way to go before the gap between men and women is closed but BPACF’s work to advance women and the focus on women in this issue allow us to celebrate the important roles that women play in our society. To celebrate women is to celebrate everyone. Women generally are the backbone of families and organizations. Though they may not always hold the title, they are the support that sustains many institutions. Never underestimate the power of Black Girl Magic. Please help champion our cause by sharing The Black Professional magazine, submitting articles, or offering story ideas that align with our mission. Encourage your network to subscribe and share. Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear your comments and suggestions as this publication is designed to serve you. For more information and to sign up for your free digital copy, visit: or email us at: Sincerely,

Meltrice D. Sharp, CPA President, Board of Trustees, BPACF | 5


Angela Adams Ali, PhD Counselor, Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Therapist, Marriage & Family Therapist, and Board Certified Coach


Jacklyn Chisholm, PhD President & CEO StepForward (formerly the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland)

Erica Merritt Founder & Principal Consultant Equius Group



Kidney transplant surgeon, Urologist, and Black Professional of the Year (2015)

LaRese Purnell, MBA Managing Partner CLE Consulting Firm

Dr. Charles Modlin, MD,

Michele Scott Taylor Ed.D,


Chief Program Officer College Now

Greater Cleveland and CEO/Principal Global Learning Solutions LLC

Jennifer Wainwright Writer, fitness enthusiast IG: @jenniferjwainwright Facebook: @jennijwainwright

Follow BPACF on social:





Front: Montrie; back, from left: Tonia, Terri, Tina, Sharon, Thea

You Can’t Dim Our Shine This. Issue. Right. Here! Welcome to our second issue, where we celebrate the power of the Black woman. Look at our masthead. Seventy percent of the leadership and production team are women. Of that I am super proud, but not surprised. I am one of six girls. Growing up, to me, everything girls did was “powerful.” Quite often, we were doing it in the face of someone telling us (usually a boy) we would not succeed. In addition to my sisters there were also my girlfriends and their mothers…so I was always surrounded by creative, fun, confident, intelligent girls, and women. From playing with our Barbie dolls (I had the tanned Malibu Barbie) to shooting hoops in the backyard, to racing the fastest person on the street, there was nothing that girls did or attempted to do that didn’t exude power or accomplishment. We felt we could do anything we wanted, and we did. Sixty countries around the globe have women in the highest position of executive power. I believe that our country will soon follow. What’s more fascinating than that, is that despite society’s attempt to stifle us, make us feel inferior or dim our shine, they couldn’t. We just kept going. Even in the face of adversity – the proverbial glass ceiling above us or the glass wall in front…we find a way to shatter the barriers and walk in our purpose. That’s what makes this issue exciting. It explores and highlights the many facets of Black women.

Like me and my five sisters, we’re not a monolith. Everything about us is unique. We are a mosaic of hues, thoughts, abilities, talents, and experiences. Our cover story showcases the array of diversity among three powerful, professional, progressive women: India Birdsong, CEO of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA); Ariane Kirkpatrick, CEO of The AKA Team, and the Harvest Companies – Harvest Grows, Harvest of Ohio and Harvest Processing, and Margaret Mitchell, CEO of the Greater Cleveland YWCA. Each woman has a distinct journey. What all three have in common is their desire and ability to lead while lifting other women up and bringing them along. It’s part of their “power.” You must check out the profiles of the 16 Black women professionals we’re highlighting in this issue. These women are phenomenal! They are walking on the road of purpose and greatness that women like Birdsong, Kirkpatrick and Mitchell have paved. We hope you’re not only captivated by their stories but find encouragement in their journeys. We hope that, as you see yourself in them, you become or stay motivated to reach your fullest potential. Remember, they can’t dim your shine. Use your power and shine bright. Come get some of this magic.

Montrie Rucker Adams, APR Editor, The Black Professional and Chief Visibility Officer, Visibility Marketing Inc. | 7

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Navigating Invisibility and Hypervisibility

[Part I]

For the last few weeks, I have watched parents, siblings and others pulling the “invisible” prank on the little ones in their lives. The prank often begins with someone putting a blanket over the child’s head, reciting a made-up incantation, or turning them around in circle, followed by the individual or group pretending they have no idea what happened to the child in question. Often there is a frantic search, the pranksters wander around the house calling the child’s name and pretending to look for them. During the search the child often goes from exuberant wonder to fear and anxiety as everyone continues to search but not find them. Eventually someone “finds” the child and in most cases, all is well soon after. I’ve watched this prank unfold many times with a combination of fascination and familiarity. You see, I too can disappear and then reappear again at the darnedest times. These bouts of invisibility and hypervisibility tend to plague me at the most inopportune times and, like the children 8 | FALL 2021

by Erica Merritt who are being pranked, some of these moments have left me shaken and in tears. I sometimes refer to this phenomenon as the wrong kind of “Black Girl Magic.” I don’t remember the first time that I disappeared. Growing up in a predominantly Black suburb of Cleveland, attending predominantly Black schools and having teachers that looked like me meant that most of my early experiences were affirming. I escaped the stereotypical associations made about Black students regarding intelligence and behavior. Too often, Black girls are invisible when seeking to ask or answer questions and hypervisible when it comes time to dole out punishment. Black girls can be up to 12 times more likely to be suspended than their white girl counterparts and Black boys are more likely than any other group to be suspended. This puts Black children at risk for encountering our juvenile justice system. While Black children in Cuyahoga County between the ages of 10-17 make up just 42 percent of the

population, they account for 90 percent of those institutionalized. This pattern described as the school to prison pipeline continues into adulthood and often leads to tragic results. For example, Philando Castile was pulled over 49 times in 13 years – with his final interaction with police leading to his death. He couldn’t disappear to save his life. His car, his face, his Black body were constantly being surveilled. A few summers ago, my usually hauntingly calm son burst into the house and began pacing back and forth speaking what sounded like gibberish. After multiple attempts, my husband and I were finally able to calm him down long enough to get him to take some deep breaths and tell us what happened. While driving home from a friend’s house, my son was stopped by the police in a neighboring suburb. The white officer questioned him on where he was coming from, going to, where he worked etc. He continuously referred to my son as “boy.” Any Black person read-

ing this understands that there is a racist history around that term. When the officer’s questions led my son to share that he was working full-time and a college student, the officer referred to my son as “a good boy.” Before ultimately letting my son go, the officer accused him of drinking, administered a breathalyzer and seemed to be angry when he tested negative for alcohol. By the time my son arrived home he was apoplectic. We sat there for quite some time trying to console him and at the same time feeling powerless to stop something like this from happening again. I found myself grateful, that he was only traumatized and not dead. Unfortunately, our powers of invisibility seem to be nonexistent with police. They can see us in living color and driving while Black, like many other daily activities, is a risk. On the other hand, it’s amazing how we can suddenly disappear when standing in line for service. I once disappeared at a bookstore. The white clerk was miraculously able to see all the white customers behind me, but I on the other hand was completely invisible. Last spring, when COVID-19 still felt new to all of us, I was plagued by anxiety about exposure. I was one of those curbside delivery for groceries kind of people. After a great deal of pumping myself up, I decided to venture to a local nursery and pick up some flowers to plant. When I arrived, I saw a white salesperson assisting two white women. I watched and waited patiently as he enthusiastically shared information about the various plants and answered their questions. When he finished, I walked over and asked my question. He quickly pointed me in the general direction of the plant I was inquiring about and before I could blink, he walked over and started helping a white couple. I tried to rationalize what had just happened by saying to myself that he may have already been helping the couple before I arrived. Before long, I could tell from their exchange that he had not been helping them previously, nor had they asked for his assistance.

It happened again; I had been rendered invisible. This time, I did not go quietly – I promptly pointed out his behavior and lack of service, took myself and my money to another nursery and I have not been back there since. There is a risk in making the choice not to remain silent. I can go from invisible to hypervisible in the snap of a finger. I must be careful not to appear too angry or be too loud lest the police or security be called. I can’t have a public meltdown, even if I deserve to. Making a scene would go differently for me than it did for Abigail Elphik now known as Victoria’s Secret Karen. No one would have come to my rescue if I fell out in the middle of that nursery and started wailing. Surely, no one would have inquired about my wellbeing had I started chasing the salesperson around the facility. A few years ago, while facilitating a workshop series in a local community, I was asked to determine whether the group would be willing to have a reporter observe our final session and potentially interview some of the participants afterwards. She was working on a story about the community and hoped the workshop participants would add another dimension. The series centered on issues of racial equity, and we had worked tremendously hard to build trust among the participants who represented several different racial groups. The reporter agreed to meet me in the lobby of the local library where the sessions were being held. When we corresponded via email prior to the session, I was clear that it was up to the participants whether she could observe. My co-facilitator and I greeted her in the lobby and began discussing our gameplan. The reporter proceeded to turn her body in a way that only acknowledged my white colleague. She made little or no eye contact with me. It had happened again, I had disappeared. The reporter’s behavior was so egregious that my colleague shifted her physical position and began gesturing in my direction to make the reporter acknowledge my presence, but to no avail.

Part II of Now You See Me, Now You Don’t will be published in the December 2021 issue of The Black Professional. | 9

CELEBRATE THOSE WHO GIVE BLACK™ is a permanent Cleveland exhibition designed to tell the story of Black Philanthropy in our region by honoring the past, celebrating the present, and inspiring the future. Through the many faces and stories of community generosity, we celebrate those who give Black throughout Northeast Ohio. Visit us at the Cleveland Public Library, downtown Cleveland.

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Health + Wellness

Living on the Alert: How Our Innate Ability for Self-Preservation Teaches Us the Art of Living I often think about our ancestors, and what it must have been like for them to have to coexist with animals, to be in continuous competition with carnivores for their subsistence, to have to outwit would-be predators to protect themselves and their kindred. The level of alertness they had to embody just to stay alive is the reason our species survived. Their acuity enabled them to assess risk and detect possible danger to keep themselves from being bitten by a snake or eaten by a lion. On a daily, they were quite literally, fighting for their lives. Their alertness, an inborn instinct, is our advantage and birthright, but because we no longer have to worry about being mauled by a wild beast on the way to dinner, it is not our default. And it probably shouldn’t be. It’s a short walk from that brand of alertness to debilitating anxiety. However, not having to be vigilant in this way makes us susceptible to different kinds of risk, the risk of running on autopilot, the risk of being oblivious, and the risk of not taking action because there is no readily perceivable danger—none of which our ancestors could ever afford to do and all of which drive us right into a rut. Just because we don’t perceive the dangers doesn’t mean they aren’t there. There is a danger in complacency, which looks like being let go from a job in which we got so comfortable that we stopped trying to progress. It looks like being completely unprepared to deal with a crisis because we’ve neglected to tend to our mental health. It looks like discontent in our social lives because we’ve become so comfortable with our pals, partners, parents, or posterity that we’ve long stopped intentionally putting any effort into making our relationships with them better. There is a simple fix to this. As beneficiaries of our ancestors’ alertness, we too possess a level of attentiveness that equips us with the mental agility to craft a plan for the kind of existence we want to have, regardless of our current surroundings and circumstances. We too can fight for our lives, not merely to

By Jennifer Wainwright

survive. Although, we may have to summon this ancestral instinct to do the minimum amount necessary if we’re having a rough go of things. Rather, to pursue the larger life aim, which is to thrive, with the presence of mind to identify the specifics of what thriving means for us, and to understand that it isn’t automatic, inevitable, or a permanent state of being once we experience it. If we experience it. Because the key to the art of living well is a commitment to continually strive to thrive, and doing so is simple, but it isn’t easy. It takes some wherewithal. Some grit. And some grace too. To live well, we must work daily to lead lives with meaning and substance, to make each day count in some way, big or small. It starts with our choices, which then form our habits. When we feel good about our choices, assured that we’re doing the things we know we need to do, we feel confident. When we feel confident, we show up with more energy, more present and alert. When we are alert, and consistently so, we are empowered to live with intention because we’re focused and driven, aware of what’s happening within and around us, just like our hypervigilant ancestors. This awareness is what we’re after, because awareness leads to awakening, awakening leads to clarity, and clarity leads to good decision-making, which ignites our inner wisdom. It releases us from unconscious limiting beliefs and rewards us with optimal outcomes. Now, with soundness of mind, we begin to understand what we’re really capable of and what’s really possible. We evolve into the highest version of ourselves. And alas, it is this inner wisdom, previously dormant, that has been with us all along, leading us to the well of worthwhile living. Jennifer Wainwright is a writer who is passionate about storytelling, finding the joy in every experience, and encouraging others to do the work to become the best version of themselves. | 11

Where the Money Resides by LaRese Purnell, MBA

This article begins with some facts most of us have heard: Women face gender wage gaps throughout their careers. Workplace bias and lack of access to business funding also show up in their paychecks. The average pay to a man’s dollar: 86 cents for Asian women, 75 cents for white women, 61 cents for Black women, 52 cents for Latinx women, and 82 cents for women overall. Higher education levels make the wage gap wider. When you look at earnings over 15-year periods, the wage gap is even wider. Therefore, as we continue to battle these gender disparities in pay, let’s discuss the ways in which women can increase and elevate their wealth. One of the most impactful ways to grow wealth, is through investing. Studies show that a person’s attitudes and beliefs about money have a huge impact on how they view investing. Today, women will not let others make important decisions for them concerning money and are not willing to take risks. This is a plus because investing is primarily about risk and return. Investing your money is important. It can give you financial security and independence, as well as prepare you for important life events — your children’s education, your retirement and unforeseen financial emergencies. Even if you use the services of a financial advisor, be prepared to stay in control of your investments. This is an important topic if leaving a legacy for your family is important. Due to women in the family setting usually taking the backseat to prioritize the needs of their families, they are 1 to 3 times less likely to be prepared for retirement based on their retirement age. Although this may sound overwhelming at first, there are a few basic investment guidelines that you can use to enrich your future: 1. Educate yourself. The investment world has many different avenues that range from Certificates of Deposit (CDs) and Treasury Bills (T-Bills) to stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The more you know, the better your chances of becoming a savvy investor.

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2. Set clear financial goals. Decide what you need to do to make your future secure and enjoyable. This can include everything from starting a retirement fund to starting to put aside funds for college, medical expenses, vacations, real estate

Helping entrepreneurs

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6. Set up an emergency fund. You should safeguard your finances by setting up an emergency fund to deal with potential problems that could drain your finances (such as unforeseen medical or legal problems). Building an emergency fund contains helpful information on how to get started. 7. Plan for retirement. You should prepare for that time when you will no longer be working and collecting a regular paycheck. Keep in mind that the earlier you start, the longer the money can benefit from compounding. So, if you don’t have a retirement fund already in place (for example, a 401(k) or an IRA), start one immediately.

investments, as well as an emergency fund for any unforeseen events that may drain your savings. 3. Create an investment plan. Once you have set your goals, you need to create a solid investment plan. First, determine how much money you must invest, and start thinking about how to make your money work for you to achieve your financial goals. Rather than a set of rules, an investment plan provides guidelines that can help you organize and direct your energies. 4. Hire a financial consultant. Consulting with a professional investment counselor can give you an edge in creating your investment portfolio. Using a mutual fund is a way to hire a financial consultant without spending a lot of money upfront. Financial consultants can sometimes be fallible, which means you should always take an active role in your investments. 5. Diversify your portfolio. When setting up an investment portfolio, you should make sure to diversify your investments; that is, make sure the risk is spread out and not all focused in one place. Some investments are safe but have little return (bonds, money market, treasury bills), whereas other investments come with a greater risk and thus a greater yield (stocks, funds, and futures). Also, some investments work better on a short-term basis, while others are better over the long term. By diversifying your financial portfolio, you create more security for yourself. 14 | FALL 2021

8. Avoid high-risk investments. High-risk investments are like gambling on long shots. Overall, you must be prepared to lose your money. Even in the world of stocks and futures, some investments are much riskier than others. Avoiding risky investments provides a good overview to this issue. 9. Monitor investments on a regular basis. You are ultimately in charge of your finances, and because it’s your money that is being invested, you are the one who stands to profit or lose. Always stay informed about what is going on in the different financial markets that hold your investments. 10. Be open to new ideas. You should be adaptable and change your portfolio to reflect what is happening both in your life and in the world around you. Be aware of both financial and cultural trends. Keep up to date by reading business and financial journals, newsletters, magazines, and Web sites. Financial data indicates that women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact on the economy is growing every year. These investment tips are aimed at ensuring that not only are women powerful consumers of goods and services, but also of financial knowledge. This will solidify the placement of wealth and financial stability within our families, where the money should always reside. LaRese Purnell, MBA is a Managing Partner at CLE Consulting Firm providing accounting, tax, payroll and professional services.

Executive Profile

Laurie Murphy

Executive Director, Black Professionals Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF) HOMETOWN: Cleveland, Ohio FAMILY: Single EDUCATION:

MBA (Marketing), University of Rochester; MPH, Cleveland State University MS, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Case Western Reserve University CIVIC ENGAGEMENT:

“seenUNseen” art exhibit committee

MY MANTRA… “What do we have here?” It reminds me to stay open to new opportunities.

EARLY YEARS Thinking back to your early years, was there a mentor or successful entrepreneur that had a significant impact on your decision to start your own business? If so, who and why. My first mentor who I have a great appreciation for was the late Charleyse Pratt who oversaw the college internship program. She was gentle, but firm in her coaching, meeting us where we were in our professional journey. She provided us with a great set of navigational skills that I have never forgotten. CAREER/ORGANIZATIONAL JOURNEY What professional or career accomplishment or milestone are you most humbled by and why? Being able to witness people achieving their dreams humbles me every time! Being positioned to be a part of a team that helps that happen or bringing a grant to life that increases community wealth and job creation or can decrease health disparities are three projects that come to mind. Watching students walk across a stage to get a medical degree; or attending a home purchase close; or walking into a small business that has opened its doors for the first time is an awesome gift. Being a witness to what can happen when

the right resources, access and navigation are provided at the right time defies words. What is the toughest decision you’ve made professionally or as an executive? Making the decision to terminate an employee is always tough – as it should be. It comes with the job, and thankfully I have not had to do it often, but transparency and humility are key elements in my process. PHILOSOPHY The essentials to creating a harmonious work environment at your business are… - meet people where they are to maximize communication - don’t avoid or ignore conflict - solicit feedback on how well you are functioning as a leader - encourage professional development of your team What have you come to learn about balancing work and family obligations? It is essential. I have never met a professional who says otherwise. I think that a healthy “WorkLife” balance feeds our perspective or emotional | 15

intelligence, increases empathy, feeds our creativity and innovation, and ultimately makes us better leaders. How has COVID-19 affected your organization (negatively and/or positively)? I am new to the organization, having joined August 1st of this year so my observations about the effects of COVID-19 on the BPACF are limited. But like many organizations, it has increased our capacity to be comfortable with using Zoom to conduct our business and for programming. Leadership and committee leaders have gone above and beyond to maintain the trajectory of our strategic plan during a pandemic as much as possible-it has been challenging. What did the organization do to address these issues? Communication technology was used for board and committee meetings. Events and programming that could successfully be done via livestreaming or zoom interactions were transitioned to those modalities. Business and operations meetings were conducted remotely using Zoom. MY CONFESSIONS

What part of your work brings you the most joy? I’ve only been here two weeks – ask me that in 11 months! What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an executive? How did you apply this lesson to the work you do? Leadership is like a pilgrimage journey. The pathway has peaks and valleys, and there are solo portions and team portions. You will almost never have all the information needed-seek wise counsel and do your best. HOBBIES

My ideal vacation is… Any setting near water Anything else that you would like our readers to know about you or your organization? I am excited to be a part of the BPACF at this point in their history. The board of trustees have begun implementation of a strategic plan. We have launched a new magazine, we have embraced the opportunity that technology provides, and we continue to provide scholarships and internships to college students. New products and programming are coming! Stay tuned! MY NEXT STEPS…

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My first 90 days started August 1st! We have a lot going on – I’ll keep you posted as we launch the Inaugural Legacy Luncheon honoring Robert Madison in September, and encourage students are they return to college, prepare for our Annual BPOY gala on November 13th.

Robert Prince Madison, FAIA –

A Life Designed for Greatness

In a country where African Americans experience racism and a laundry list of disparities, renowned architect Robert “Bob” Prince Madison, FAIA, is our symbol of hope. As an African American born in 1923, he faced many obstacles and oppositions. Whatever his adversities, Madison would not be denied. For example, he became the first African American to receive a degree in architecture from Case Western Reserve University after they once denied his admittance. With a career that spans six decades, Madison is revered for his architectural acumen, tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit. Fun Fact: He was once engaged to Coretta Scott. 1923 Born in Cleveland, Ohio to Robert James and Nettie Brown Madison 1940 Graduated with honors from East Technical High School Enrolled in Howard University’s School of Architecture Entered World War II as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army – African American Infantry Division 1946 Continued architectural studies at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) 1948 Received a bachelor’s degree in architecture – The first African American from CWRU and the first in Ohio 1950 Passed the state licensing exam 1952 Earned a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design 1953 Was a Fulbright Scholar at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris 1954 With brothers Julian and Bernard, launched Madison, Madison and Madison Architects and Engineers, the first Black owned African American architectural firm in Ohio 1970 Company became Robert P. Madison International Inc. (RPMI) sans brothers. It had five branch offices outside of Cleveland (including one in Trinidad)

RPMI was one of the largest minority-owned architectural and engineering firms headquartered in the United States Major Greater Cleveland Projects: • Science and Research Center at Cleveland State University • Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Waterfront Line • Continental Airlines “C” Concourse at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport • Frank J. Lausche State Office Building • Mt. Pleasant Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio • Martin Luther King Jr. High School • Martin De Porres Center; residential units at Eliza Bryant Village • Cuyahoga Community College’s Eastern Campus • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum • Great Lakes Science Center • Louis Stokes Wing - Cleveland Public Library • Cleveland Browns Stadium • Hilton Hotel – Downtown Cleveland • Jack (Horseshoe) Casino National and Global Projects: • State of Ohio Computer Center, Columbus, OH • United States Embassy in Dakar, Senegal • Industrial Bank of Washington, Washington, D.C. • Plymouth Housing Estate, Detroit, Michigan • Engineering and Nuclear Facility at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama • Wayne County Justice Center, Wooster, Ohio • State of Ohio Computer Center, Columbus, Ohio • St. Johns A.M.E. Church, Niagara Falls, New York

In addition to Madison’s honorary doctorate from Howard University, the American Institute of Architects’ Ohio Gold Medal Firm Award, the Cleveland Arts Prize and his induction into the Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame, the BPACF celebrates and honors his legacy at the Inaugural Legacy Luncheon, Sunday, September 12, at Severance Hall. Celebrate his legacy with us. | 17

Volunteers are Invaluable Volunteers are the backbone of most nonprofit organizations. As staff can be slim, volunteers are the fuel that keep many organizations running. The BPACF honored three of its outstanding volunteers: Barbara Cooper, Jazmine Long and Adrianne Sims. Cooper and Sims are “serial volunteers,” spending many years and hours serving various organizations in the Greater Cleveland community. “These three ladies have stood in the gap for our leadership, at times when we needed reliable and dedicated support. BPACF is forever indebted to you,” said Meltrice Sharp, president of the BPACF Board of Trustees at a recent BPACF Annual Meeting & Networking Event. Congratulations to Cooper, Long and Sims as they continue to serve where they are most needed and valued. From top: Barbara Cooper; Jazmine Long; and Adrianne Sims with BPACF President of the Board of Trustees, Meltrice Sharp.

18 | FALL 2021

Is Your “Pot” Too Small for Your Dreams? I’ve been staring at my bamboo plant in my office because I know that I need to repot it because it’s too big for its current pot. Several months ago, I went to the store and purchased a new pot and soil. I lovingly transferred the bamboo to the new pot and watered it weekly. After about three weeks, I noticed new shoots growing out of the soil — I didn’t expect those. I just assumed that my plant would continue to grow upward as it had been. Now, my bamboo plant is tall and has so many new shoots. Its leaves are wilting because its current environment is no longer conducive to its growth and health. I’ve written about the process of transformational growth: From the time we are born we are changing or transforming. We don’t often think about transformation in that way, we simply see it as part of a natural process. I’ve had to transform to achieve the things that were important to me — e.g., good grades, college education, job, promotion, etc.– or to pursue more personal things such as a happy marriage, peace of mind, a spiritual connection with God, passion, and purpose. Each pursuit required a change in my thinking and behavior, which ultimately changed who I was and how I identified with myself and others. I’ve come to understand my transformational process as similar to something that happens in nature. For example, when a snake matures it must shed its outer skin to grow. It’s called molting. If it does not, it smothers in its old skin and dies. I believe humans are often prone to the same thing. We choose not to change our “skin,” meaning our thinking to pursue something new and different, especially when we know that our old skin no longer fits us. The internal environment – thoughts, attitudes, behaviors – must change to become a better you, but the external environment is equally important to one’s growth. This includes simple questions like, “With whom do I choose to spend time — do they help or hinder my progress toward my better self?” “What places do I choose to inhabit — do they energize me, or do I feel drained when I’m there?” “What am I spending my free time doing — am I learning or doing anything that helps others or myself?” These are all important “pot” issues because they determine if

By Jacklyn A. Chisholm, PhD

your environment is nurturing or restricting your growth. Like my bamboo plant, I wonder what new shoots are lying dormant within me because I’ve allowed my growth to be contingent upon the size of my current pot — my environment— rather than the size of my dreams, goals and aspirations. But, as many of us know, changing environments means that you must leave the old one and venture out into a new often unknown environment. That’s scary, especially when you don’t know what the new will bring. Ultimately, your new growth will require an investment in a new pot/environment by: • Going back to school for additional training • Leaving an unfulfilling job • Seeking counseling to change habitual self-defeating thought patterns • Saying goodbye to relationships that take more than they contribute • Choosing to break “enabling” behavior patterns that keep you guilt ridden and tied to a past and people you no longer want in your life, and • Attending events that have your future in mind even when your present self-talk says you’re not worthy to participate. I know that I must invest in a new pot for my plant. It’s well past the time to do so if I want it to continue to grow. So, how about you? Have you made the decision to invest in a new “pot?” Like a pot bound plant, your “roots” — dreams, goals and aspirations — may die because they cannot spread beyond their current confines. Poet Langston Hughes in his poem “Harlem” said it this way: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? Happy planting! | 19

The Delta Variant Mutation: More Contagious but the Vaccination Protects You by Charles Modlin, MD, MBA dying, up to 99 percent are people who have not been vaccinated or have developed natural immunity. This being the case, the CDC is on record stating that the nation is currently experiencing a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

I am certain by now most everyone is aware that the nation continues to be under attack from the COVID-19 virus, with the new Delta Variant being the most predominant form of COVID-19. The Delta variant is a mutation of the original form of the virus, and it originated in the nation of India. This Delta mutation has not been observed in all 50 states and across the globe. Research of this new Delta Variant has demonstrated that, compared to the original form of the virus, is more contagious (more easily transmissible) and more virulent, meaning that it has the potential to cause more serious disease in those most at risk. Those who are unvaccinated are at the greatest risk of acquiring and dying from the Delta Variant Individuals who are most at risk are primarily those individuals who have not yet been vaccinated with the Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In fact, of those individuals currently hospitalized with severe infections and 20 | FALL 2021

Research has clearly demonstrated that those individuals who have either already experienced a COVID-19 infection and recovered, and hence have developed antibodies and natural immunity, and those who have been vaccinated, are at very low risk for illness. Those who do acquire the Delta variant and have either natural immunity or have already received the vaccine will develop only mild symptoms. Yes, there have been some documented cases of “breakthrough” infections, meaning some people who have received the vaccine or previously become ill, have subsequently contracted the Delta variant. Again, many of these individuals have only developed mild symptoms and not required hospitalizations, unlike those who are unvaccinated. What are the some of the symptoms of the COVID-19 Delta variant? Common symptoms may resemble cold or flu symptoms, with nasal or sinus congestion, cough, shortness of breath, fever, lethargy and malaise and body aches. Remember, also that both unvaccinated as well as vaccinated individuals may carry the COVID-19 virus in their systems and not manifest any symptoms at all, thus reinforcing the fact that if you as an individual are found to have come in close contact with a person who tested positive, you too should be tested, even if you have already been vaccinated. It is imperative that those individuals who are unvaccinated to seriously consider getting vaccinated.

Vaccines are Free and Widely Available Vaccinations are free and available at numerous locations. The controlled clinical research trials whereby all three vaccinations were tested and developed all included a very diverse group of individuals, including African Americans and Hispanic Latinos. The vaccinations are safe and effective in preventing individuals from developing severe infections requiring hospitalizations, admission to intensive care units and helping prevent deaths. In addition, findings have demonstrated that perhaps 10 percent or more of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 and recovered go on to have long-term chronic medical problems, including medical conditions causing heart, lung, kidney, neurological and musculoskeletal debilitating maladies. Blacks and other people of color are more at risk of dying Current statistics show that the group of individuals who have been more reticent/ hesitant to receive vaccinations are African Americans, with roughly only 33 percent of African Americans nationwide having been vaccinated. Many African Americans and people of color have been hesitant to get vaccinated due to the current and historical distrust of the health care system and health care professionals. This is based upon mistreatments that they and/or their ancestors have received at the hands of the medical establishment. Many cite the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and other incidents that still drives their mistrust and unwillingness to receive the vaccinations. As a Black physician I support vaccination As a Black male physician and surgeon who has a proven track record of advocating for eliminating health disparities which disproportionately afflict and kill Blacks and other people of color, I have reviewed the scientific research reports of the clinical trials that occurred in developing the vaccines. I am a strong advocate that all people,

including Blacks and other minorities, strongly consider getting vaccinated. This pandemic has unmasked the fact that those most burdened by health disparities, namely Blacks and other people of color, are most likely to contract, suffer and die. Statistics have borne out that African Americans die three to five times more often compared to whites. Why? Because Blacks and other minorities disproportionately suffer from, and are afflicted with, many chronic diseases and are often subject to the social determinants of health (living in poverty, having less access to proper nutrition, working and living in unsafe conditions, less access to health care, poor transportation, etc.). All conditions and situations which contribute to lowering the immune systems, thereby making Blacks and people of color are more susceptible to the virus, and dying from it. So, it really is important that we, people of color, do get vaccinated. Currently, children age 12 and older can also receive the vaccine. Before getting vaccinated, I recommend that everyone consult with their physician or health care provider to ensure that you do not have any contraindications. Even if you don’t have a primary care physician, it is easy to gain access to consult with a physician, including through virtual and distance health avenues and by calling COVID-19 hotlines. Getting vaccinated will help us see an end to this pandemic In the meantime, if you are not vaccinated, please continue to social distance, and wear a mask. All of us must also continue to use proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette (cover our mouths). The recommendations for masking indoors are evolving and I recommend that you consult the CDC and other reputable resources for current recommendations, including those for kids and college students returning to school. Charles Modlin, MD, MBA is a surgeon and was a BPACF Award recipient in 2015. | 21


Celebrating Powerful

Black Women Black women have always had “power.” From Nandi and Makeda, queens on the African continent who ruled the South African Zulus and Sheba, Ethiopia respectively, to the many women who lovingly and intentionally support us. When it comes to holding it down, Black women “got this.” “This” is the ability to listen with a discerning ear, lead with strength and by example, communicate for understanding in all languages, whether it’s corporate-speak or just hanging out. Black women know how to get it done. Take Stacey Abrams who, after losing the Georgia gubernatorial election, mobilized all forces in her state and around the country, to effect much needed change. Who can deny Kamala Harris, our illustrious highest-ranking female official in U.S. history? Our Black women boast powerful, phenomenal leaders: Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Shirley Chisholm, and Madam C. J. Walker are only a few, for there are too many to mention. India Birdsong, Ariane Kirkpatrick and Margaret Mitchell are passionate, professional women who walk in their power, using their positions to effect change. As they discuss their career paths, challenges, and futures, their experiences encourage and motivate women to overcome any obstacles to success that they may face. India Birdsong, CEO, and General Manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority The path toward excellence is not always straight or planned. Six months after starting her new job in September 2019 as the Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional 22 | FALL 2021

By Montrie Rucker Adams, APR

Transit Authority, our country experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a different experience digitally navigating her new climate, customers and personnel. She oversees more than 2,300 employees at the largest transit system in Ohio, providing more than 35 million annual rides. India Birdsong didn’t miss a step. She also took two maternity leaves in two years, having children in 2020 and 2021. Of this she said, “There were those who questioned, for a moment, the ability to keep things clicking and keep things moving. It was a challenge for me and my team. It pushed me to be able to think outside the box and keep the same level of respect going as I had before my leave. I was able to move on and multi-task. As an effective leader, you should be able to come back more motivated, task oriented and assertive.” CAREER JOURNEY

Unlike most of her peers, Birdsong’s career didn’t start out in the transportation industry. In college, she majored in English and minored in Spanish. Birdsong forged a path in community organizing and development, writing, and editing. With career thoughts leaning toward the legal profession. That route wasn’t chosen. Birdsong realizes her community development background lends itself to her public transportation career. Birdsong is typically one of a few or the only female in the room. She noted that there are expectations of a female in a male-dominated environment saying she often must prove herself. “You don’t have to be the loudest in the room, but you have to have a strong voice,” she said. There is also the expectation of females being emotional versus level-headed because a lot are mothers and heads of households, wanting to take care of people and having to balance that

with business acumen. These are expectations of a female executive when you walk into a predominately male-dominated room. “There is an innate need to prove that you should be at the table. We are there for a reason. We deserve to be there because we have done the work,” she said. Many people in her industry work their way up from field operations, so the male culture is prevalent. That fact is slowly changing. She’s noticed that those who are CEOs or in high level management hired over the last two to three years are women. “It’s come to where on industry panel discussions, there are four to five women, which is unheard of,” Birdsong says. For example, Debra A. Johnson, a Black female, is the new CEO of Denver, Colorado’s Regional Transportation District. Tampa, Florida’s Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority named a Black female, Ruthie Reyes Burckard as interim CEO, and Stephanie Wiggins has been selected as the new CEO of Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. THE CLICK OF THE HEELS

Those with whom Birdsong typically interacts are male and more than half a foot taller than her five-foot-five inch frame. “My power lies in the click of the heels (as I walk down the hall). It has

its own power. I must be able to hold my own when coming against a person with an imposing stature. She notes that there is a difference in feeling welcome versus comfortable. “There are telltale signs,” she says. “They may not be comfortable because you are bringing ideas contradictory to the way they’ve always done things. There are new ideas that challenge the status quo, which is their idea of what’s right. New school versus old school veiled behind the gender conversation. Because I am in this body, I should come to the table with something a little different. It’s a fear of change that’s expected coming from what looks a little different than what you already have,” Birdsong explains. FEMALE INSPIRATION

When asked to describe women who inspired her, Birdsong mentions the people in her industry she often doesn’t see. “In addition to my mother, I would also say the folks that are operating buses, in janitorial, performing security… the customers see them but I don’t see them. It’s the people who are behind the scenes. The higher-level executives don’t see those faces. Knowing what they have to do to be ambassadors for the brand is important. They go through an amazing num-

India Birdsong in action. Photos supplied by India Birdsong | 23

ber of human interactions, emotional support, the brunt of the police calls and arguments. They are the first responders whether they want to be or not. They are the ones who have to continue to move things forward and execute the ideas that come out of this office. They drive me to be as equitable and accessible as possible. They are the inspiration for work I do.” Birdsong describes a few women in the industry that have given her advice on how to do the “balancing act” with a home and career. One person she admires is Shirley A. DeLibero, the retired “Queen of Transit” who served in the industry over three decades. She worked in Boston, MA; Washington, DC; Dallas,TX; New Jersey; and Houston where she served as CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. “She is an example of someone who has helped shape the idea of moving forward at the female CEO level,” mentions Birdsong. WHAT DOES BLACK GIRL MAGIC MEAN TO YOU?

“Black Girl Magic is not unicorns, fairy tales, and magic sprinkles. I think of the people who are out here doing stuff every day that you would never imagine. I think about the youth, teens, and young girls breaking barriers. There are superhuman things that are going on,” answers Birdsong. “There are things we do that we don’t do intentionally. Something is happening, but we don’t know why. There is no scientific reason for it. It just happens and you are enthralled with it. It’s been there. It just wasn’t on front street until the diversity conversations began. We do things in the background and are getting things done. Women created generations of Black Girl Magic. We have had that responsibility through so much adversity, it’s amazing we come as far as we have. We do it and still look amazing. We are beautiful people. We all look different and are different - and it’s all Black Girl Magic. WOMAN TO WOMEN

“Focus on the work. Try to surround yourself with a close cabinet of people who are interested in your personal success, not just your professional success,” advises Birdsong. “If someone 24 | FALL 2021

cares if you’ve eaten, they care more about you than the work that you do. If I am sitting at the desk and haven’t eaten all day and slumped over at the desk, and no one cares – instead they say, ‘Where’s the document?’ They probably are not invested in or care about your personal well-being. They will not tell you the truth, may throw you under the bus. I like to keep folks around me who actually care if I’ve eaten,” she offers. “Stay true to your personal truth and personal agenda,” Birdsong adds. “Have a reason for being where you are. Have a purpose in what you’re doing. My mother always says, ‘Don’t let anyone take you off your square.’ You have to be able to understand what your purpose is. Try to stick to it. If you’re coming off your idea, have a plan for it to come back. Don’t deviate for no reason, then your ethics might be compromised.” Lastly, Birdsong comments that it’s important to serve as an example to another Black girl or female in the manner that you want for yourself. “Don’t hoard the knowledge that you’ve gained at whatever level you are. If you can offload some of that experience or knowledge to someone else who needs that advice, you are not making room for someone else to help you go even higher. “I am not a fan of hoarding information. To me, that signals someone who doesn’t want to learn anything else, who doesn’t want to go anywhere else. It’s an insecurity that’s not attractive on anybody, let alone a woman. Open yourselves up and give the knowledge that you have in order to receive something else. That serves well professionally. No one is an island. You don’t know everything. Know what you don’t know and be comfortable with that. You don’t have to know it all just because you’re female. You have the capacity to learn like anyone else. Ariane Kirkpatrick, President and CEO, The AKA Team When you’re a female dominating a predominately all white male industry, there’s a lot of education that comes along with the territory. Ariane Kirkpatrick heads a Cleveland-based, 10-year-old, full service, multi-million-dollar commercial construction and facilities company.

She tells stories about having to constantly prove that a Black female runs a successful construction company. Once when two white gentlemen came to meet with “the president of the company,” they assumed that it was a man in her organization. “Those are the type of things that happen constantly,” Kirkpatrick said. “I was a single mother, and I would often get asked, “Does your husband run the company?” With services that include construction management, commercial waterproofing, pre- and post-construction services, The AKA Team has The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art, Thistledown Racino, Horseshoe Casino, Lakewood City Schools, Cuyahoga Community College and most recently the Quicken Loans. Transformation in their list of successful engagements. TEAM BUILDER – ACCOMMODATING AND NURTURING

Kirkpatrick has been in the construction industry

for over 25 years. She previously owned a “Mom and Pop” construction company, and was the only certified commercial building inspector for the city of Warrensville. She recalls being the only Black female member of the Building Officials Conference of Northeast Ohio, a membership association of more than 350 members spanning the building community, from code enforcement officials to building designers. She acknowledges that for most, they are not accustomed to seeing a Black female in their spaces. “Sometimes we don’t get ahead because we are an accommodating people. Black people are accommodating, and Black women are nurturing. It’s a characteristic that I love about us, but I want to make sure that it doesn’t hold us back, or people don’t take advantage of it,” she said. “Unfortunately, that happens a lot. Out of that, when you have a combination of those two together, they are community builders. I am fine with being nurturing and accommodating. It’s always about the community. That’s the passion that makes me go and do bigger things.”

Ariane Kirkpatrick at work and with family. Photos supplied by Ariane Kirkpatrick | 25

When Kirkpatrick meets people who are looking for jobs or career opportunities, she’s the first to help. She’s a team builder, creating teams to help others and get the work done. “It’s very important that we uplift people in this business,” she said. One of her biggest challenges, aside from the construction industry, is her experiences in the cannabis industry. “As soon as we won the contract, everyone wanted to know why. “Why was she chosen? Why did she win the contract? Is this a front company?” She noted that some people helped her along her journey, but many stood back. It was the stigma of the cannabis business, capital, the people working with her… Kirkpatrick eventually won her case which moved through the justice system to the Ohio Supreme Court. A savvy businesswoman, Kirkpatrick was familiar with and proficient in partnerships and acquisitions. She has given Black businesses opportunities that were not previously available to them. “I am very intentional about hiring a diverse team. In my cannabis business, seventy-five percent of my employees are minorities. It’s highly regulated. I want to build a legacy for my birth, blood and community families. I cannot be the only one. We need to thrive together. I decided to be a pioneer and put a lot of things on my back for the betterment of my community. It’s who I am. I am accommodating and nurturing,” she said. INSPIRING WOMEN

Biddy Mason, the first Black real estate developer in the 1800s, is one of Kirkpatrick’s idols. Harriett Tubman, whose real name is Araminta (also her mother’s name), is another one of her idols. Ariane mentions that her mother and younger sister are her biggest idols. Her mother is “one of the baddest women I ever met,” she said. Kirkpatrick remembers her first boycott. Her mother took her to a McDonald’s to protest the company’s decision to not allow Black franchise owners in their organization. Her sister, Amonica Davis, is the Chief Operating Officer for Harvest of Ohio, one of Kirkpatrick’s cannabis companies. “She put together a 26 | FALL 2021

group called Jabali in Swahili means rock. There are many components and crystals that come together to form one solid rock. That’s what we’re building with our legacy,” she said. WOMAN TO WOMEN

“One of the big things that has been important to me is getting involved in your industry specific organizations, even if you’re the only one,” offers Kirkpatrick. “It’s important to be in places where we may be the only one. That’s how you learn and get access.” “I love what we’re doing as Black women,” she adds. “Don’t let anyone stop you. Follow your dreams. Don’t rest on your laurels and get settled in your comfort zone. The comfort zone that other people defined for you.” One of her favorite mantras - She believed she could, so she did. Margaret A. Mitchell, President & CEO, YWCA of Greater Cleveland She’s called a visionary and program creator, strategic agility and financial acumen specialist, partnership and community advocate, organizational spokesperson and the person who heads one of the premier organizations for women. Leading the charge in Cleveland to declare racism a public health crisis, Margaret Mitchell is keenly aware of the disparities that plague many women in the city. She works tirelessly to ensure the lives of women are positively impacted by the programs she helps create which include but are not limited to domestic and sexual violence, child services, racial injustice, and young women services. CAREER JOURNEY

Mitchell’s professional career began in journalism. In the sixth grade, she was a serious writer. “Life interrupts you,” she said as she described married life with three children. She stayed at writing while raising a family. “It was always a joy for me to write, to be in that space. I had lots of opportunities as a writer,” she said. For Mitchell, there was something interesting about a business career. She notes that journalists are trained around curiosity, getting answers, and

quickly digging in. They map out the framework deciding what they need to know. Those qualities and attributes lend themselves to a business career. Mitchell worked at Menttium, which offers a variety of mentoring programs that support executives and mid-level leaders. There she had various responsibilities: Associate Director; Managing Director; International Director and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “If you approach sales and marketing through relationships, it’s similar to journalism,” said Mitchell. “It was surprising to find myself going into non-profit. I thought it would be a detour and not a major part of my career. I thought I would do it for a few years. I enjoyed the non-profit space, it’s an interesting part of my career.” Prior to coming to the YWCA, Mitchell served as the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland. Prior to that, she was Vice President Business Development at Big Brothers Big Sisters in Irving, TX. “When you are often the only one at the table, you play an interesting role as a torch bearer, an

interpreter for black culture and the black community. It’s an interesting experience for some people. Grow weary always having to decipher for others what other people are doing and why,” offers Mitchell. WOMEN WHO INSPIRE

Mitchell mentions five women who give her inspiration: Barbara Jordan, Dolores Huerta, Coretta Scott King, Dorothy Height and Ntozake Shange. Barbara Jordan, the Texas Congresswoman who was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate (1967-1973) after Reconstruction and the first Southern African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives (1973-1979). “I remember her speaking at the Democratic National Convention,” Mitchell recalls. “She had an incredible voice and presence. I always thought that she was amazing.” Dolores Huerta, who along with Cesar Chavez, co-founded the National Farmworkers Association which later became the United Farm

Visionary and program creator Margaret Mitchell. Photos supplied by Margaret Mitchell | 27

Photo by Alvin Smith Workers. “She was an amazing organizer. I grew up in California watching her. I have always been fascinated by her and in awe of her,” said Mitchell. “Recently I have become enamored with Coretta Scott King. I’m shocked at how I relegated her to a wife and mother. I’ve become aware of the fact that she was an intellectual giant, very much focused on women’s rights. She had a huge role to play in understanding environmentalism as it relates to Black women. She had a keen and critical role in the movement. We don’t know what a giant she was, how critical and influential she was to Dr. King. I have come to admire her very deeply. It’s funny how we can minimize women…Black women and Black women in the movement,” Mitchell said. Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf. “She was not only writing about mental health struggles but was struggling with her own mental health,” explains Mitchell. “Later in her life she has been transparent with her struggles around mental health. We all have mental health and we should all protect and nurture it. We have come through a year of mental health. We are beginning to understand the value of mental health, cost and toll and not being willing to pay that price,” said Mitchell. Most interesting part of my career has been 28 | FALL 2021

the valleys, said Mitchell. She recalls the feeling of sadness when Menttium, the organization with which she worked, was sold. “The leadership team walked out and the new team came in. I was a super star, but now I’m on the hit list. I had a great relationship with that organization. Mitchell remembers crying for days. “I looked up and thought…this is crazy. I don’t do crazy. That became an important truth for me.” WOMAN TO WOMEN

“My advice is to remember that it’s your exit that says everything about you. We tend to do a good job entering into things. We enter well into relationships and partnerships. The way we exit can often be messy. It’s the way we exit that tells us who we are. There are not a lot of models around exiting well. In the business world, we see a lot of leavings and endings. It’s Important to remember that it’s our exit that says everything about us.” “We should exit understanding that the collective is being able to honor others. In closing a season, we should be able to value what others have brought and what you have given and be willing to close that without looking back with regret,” Mitchell responded. “You should be able to recognize the journey and thank those around you for supporting you through the journey even though there are pieces and parts that are difficult.”

Connexions Consulting, Inc. is an organizational development firm dedicated to creating inclusive, culturally competent workplaces. We help organizations achieve their mission, goals, and objectives by optimizing talent, unleashing creative and inclusive environments and enhancing organization’s reputation in the marketplace. At Connexions Consulting, we focus our services on helping our clients to define the end goals. Along the way, we tap into some, or all, of our core services, including:

◉ Customized strategic plan consulting ◉ Inclusion and Diversity strategic plans, audits and assessments ◉ Development and implementation of diversity councils and employee resource groups ◉ Alignment of talent management with diversity ◉ Inclusion and Cultural Competence education and training ◉ Community capacity building facilitation ◉ Human resource compliance Together we can achieve your mission. Find out how: Charmaine Brown President / CEO Connexions Consulting, Inc. 216-970-6740

Part I

Surviving and Thriving While Black:

The Cruciality of Preserving Our Mental & Physical Health While Navigating Corporate Spaces By Angela Adams Ali, PhD I recently witnessed a group of college graduates describe their anxieties about entering Corporate America. Their responses revealed apprehensions such as a lack of access to equal opportunities in the workplace, not being taken seriously for the value they can add to the company, the absence of cultural competence that may result in traumatizing experiences, being hired ‘only’ as a response to the recent post-George Floyd climate of social justice, and their belief that the anti-racist policies corporate America has responded with of late will go unenforced. As a Black woman who navigated the Corporate America space for many years, I’m amazed at how accurate the younger generations now entering this space are with 30 | FALL 2021

their predictions. They are not off the mark, even though they’ve yet to be thrust into it. I’m sure that they’ve heard their parents, Black professors, mentors, and trusted others speak of the racial biases and discriminatory practices that exist daily within Corporate America. More importantly, it prompts me to reflect on how they have spent much time and effort preparing themselves to be effective at engaging in their future work, yet that same preparation has ridden alongside feelings of anxiety, ambivalence, fear, and doubt. Nonetheless, we understand the value of being honest with them as they will experience these things directly, and indirectly. This begs the question, ‘What does it mean to prepare yourself for success in a chosen field while simultaneously fearing

that the value of what you bring to the table will often be unappreciated, or even diminished?’ What these up-and-coming business leaders were referring to are the experiences of racial discrimination that have been and continues to be prevalent and familiar to Blacks in predominantly white corporate and organizational spaces. Over time, the chronic and negative experiences of these phenomena either establish or increase what is called racial trauma. What about racial trauma? Racial trauma is defined as the direct or indirect exposure to the prolonged and damaging effects of racial discrimination that people of color endure in society by the dominant culture. It is caused by consistent

experiences of psychological stress reactions to undesirable events of racism when one exists as the ‘minority.’ In Corporate America’s private spaces and educational institutions, Blacks experience ongoing racial discrimination which leads to or increases the racial trauma that has been a significant part of our health profiles. There is a garden variety of experiences describing the ways racial discrimination is levied upon Blacks perpetually in the workplace including implicit bias, microaggressions, underrepresentation, tokenism, exclusion, etc. Be reminded that these workplace events do not include the racial discrimination that blacks regularly experience in other parts of society, nor do they account for the transgenerational effects of racial trauma that we have inherited from our ancestors and is recorded in our bodies. Ultimately, health disparities continue to exist for Black lives as the persistent stress of discrimination takes a toll on our health. If we look at the reality of how white supremacy is practiced in these environments, that either deny or dismiss racism, all while exercising and promoting discriminatory actions against Blacks in the workplace, it makes for an emotionally abusive relationship. The common and damaging effects of being in an abusive relationship are universal. These include symptoms of anxiety and depression, sleep deficits, panic symptoms, paranoia, worthlessness, hopelessness, helplessness, lack of motiva-

tion, irritability, isolation, shame, anger, sadness, loss of focus and concentration, and decreased confidence and self-esteem. Anxiety and depression often occur when abuse is internalized, and it often compromises the energy that is necessary for people to thrive, and sometimes to even survive. As prevalent as racial trauma is among people of color, namely Black people, it has yet to be recognized or accepted as a mental health disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Consequently, it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental health disorders which is published approximately every 10 years. This does not mean that Black social workers and psychologists have not advocated for its inclusion with ongoing research and proposal. Its exclusion from the manual is an official determination that the disorder does not exist, let alone warrants funding for increased research. Without the ‘official’ acceptance of this health condition, foundational treatment methods and protocols designed to improve health outcomes of racial trauma are non-existent. I’ll just put that right there. The Myth of John Henryism A very pronounced value that my grandfather held and practiced was that of ‘hard work.’ After a certain time in the morning, he’d often profess to those still sleeping in the house, “Get’s time to go to work. The bed is ‘not’ your friend.” Everyone knew what he meant and rose to the occasion. It grounded

in us that ‘hard work’ provided a sense of responsibility and nobility. Working hard was one of the pillars of self-determination that Blacks committed themselves to in the struggle to restore their dignity and reestablish their lives. The myth of John Henryism posits that Black people who chronically engaged in hard work as a practice of self-determination was done so to achieve the mobility necessary for independence. However, this practice was regularly executed within the space of systemic racism, and too often under conditions of dehumanization. This historical value of being a hard worker has been passed down generationally, and the pervasive plight of many ambitious Black people in Corporate America has been to work ‘ten times harder’ than their Caucasian counterparts. In either scenario, our desire to self-determine has often been characterized by the need to realize a level of success that renders us worthy of our achievements, to feel good about who we are, and to get a piece of the American dream. But, when that hard work towards the dream must be carried out under circumstances of oppression and includes damaging ‘obstacles’ levied by the dominant race, those efforts often result in the reinforcement of what we don’t want, which is overworking ourselves under conditions damaging to our health and well-being. The myth of John Henry is a message based on a folkloric character who was known throughout the south as the ‘steel driving man.’

Part II of Surviving & Thriving will be published in the December 2021 issue of The Black Professional. | 31



The beginning of college can be an exciting time, but comes with a lot of uncertainty. Navigating classes, internships and a difficult job market can be confusing. How does a student find success? BPACF dedicates itself to supporting, mentor-

ing and retaining minority youth in the Greater Cleveland area. It does this by providing scholarships and internships, creating opportunities for career development and modeling leadership. BPACF’s goal is to ensure that African American youth can realize their potential in higher education, and eventually become some of our region’s amazing leaders.


Kennedy Ashford will attend Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, majoring in computer science. Adrian Bolling will attend Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio, majoring in criminal justice/law enforcement. Chayna Byrd will attend Kent State University, majoring in architecture. Keandre Graves will attend Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, majoring in the intervention specialist program. Tanaziona Lucious will attend Cleveland State University, majoring in pre-physical therapy. Kynnedy Smith will attend Columbia University in New York, New York, and will major in computer science. She also plans to do a dual program with Juilliard and study music performance.


Graves 32 | FALL 2021

New scholars:


Smith | 29

College Now & Adult Learners by Michele Scott Taylor, Ed.D

Founded in 1967, College Now Greater Cleveland is the nation’s oldest college access organization and has been serving traditional high school students for over 50 years. However, College Now also provides these same robust services to adults and nontraditional college-going students and has done so since 1991. In that year, the Cleveland Foundation awarded College Now a $100,000 grant from the Jane D. White No. 2 to establish the Adult Student Counseling Program, recognizing that adult students face the same financial barriers as traditional high school students. Did you know: • That Ohio must significantly increase its number of citizens with postsecondary education credentials to meet current workforce demands. The state has set a goal that, by 2025, 65 percent 34 | FALL 2021

of Ohioans ages 25-64 will have a degree, certificate, or other postsecondary workforce credential. Currently, Ohio sits at a 49.5% attainment rate and ranks 33rd in the country, despite being the seventh most populous state. • We can’t reach this attainment goal on the backs on high school students alone; we need to increase the number of adult students returning or completing their degrees. • Nearly 440,000 adults ages 25+ in Cuyahoga County are eligible to start or continue their postsecondary education, with just over 192,000 of these adults having some college but no degree. • Over the past 30 years, College Now has grown its Adult Programs and Services department to a full-time team of four with at least one AmeriCorps College Guide supporting the team every year. The team staffs the College Now Resource Center, a free community resource located

in College Now’s downtown Cleveland main office, which provides college access and career advising, financial aid counseling, scholarship services, and student loan debt counseling to adults and non-traditional students. All services offered in the Resource Center are free and the service is open to all community members, regardless of age or income level. The services provided in the Resource Center can range from basic guidance to in-depth future planning for adult students. Advisors are trained on all aspects of the college-going process and can help adult students determine what sort of degree program they want to pursue, what financial aid or support may be available to them, and what institutions would be good fits for applications. The team also uses an innovative tool called the MAP Database that highlights in-demand career pathways in Northeast Ohio and the corresponding postsecondary programs that would help adult students find success in those fields. A major aspect of College Now’s work is economic and workforce development, and the MAP Database is a helpful tool to show adult students what opportunities are available for employment and what specific postsecondary pathways can help them get there. College Now also works directly with colleges to help them reenroll adult students who may have stopped out through the (Re)Connect to College program. College Now reaches out to students who left an institution without completing their degree and offers them guidance and support to complete their degrees, along with helping them secure financial aid and resolve any past due balances owed to the college that may prevent them from re-enrolling. On the financial side, College Now also offers an Adult Learner Scholarship to support adult student in their postsecondary journeys. Since 1994, over $4 million has been awarded to adult students to help them finance their postsecondary journeys. The Adult Learner Scholarship has a rolling application and is open to adults 19 and over who have discontinued their education for one year or more and are residents of one of the following counties: Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geau-

ga, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, or Trumbull. Applicants must qualify for the federal Pell Grant and plan to take at least six credit hours at a public or private notfor-profit institution. College Now’s Adult Programs and Services team also works directly with community organizations and area businesses to bring College Now services to their employees. College Now often contracts or partners with community organizations such as the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, the MetroHealth System, or Cuyahoga County to bring its student loan debt counseling services to employees. College Now’s Adult Programs team are experts on the nuances of the various student loan repayment plans and can help adults with student loan debt figure out the most beneficial and cost-effective way to repay their student loan debt, including helping them sign up for programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, in which the federal government will forgive a borrower’s student loan balance if they make 10 years of qualifying payments while working full time for a qualifying nonprofit or government employer. Additionally, College Now partners with area employers through a program called College Now @ Work that helps employers offer their employees tuition and upskilling benefits through their organization. Many companies hire employees who do not have college degrees for entry level jobs, but those employees have limited mobility within the company without earning that degree. College Now @ Work helps those employees understand what type of program they should be pursuing in order to move ahead in their organization and helps them develop a plan to reach that goal. To learn more about College Now’s supports for adults and non-traditional students, you can visit our website or contact the Resource Center at 216.635.0151 or resourcecenter@collegenowgc. org. Dr. Michele Scott Taylor, Ed.D, GCDF, is the Chief Program Officer at College Now Greater Cleveland and CEO and Principal of Global Learning Solutions LLC. | 35

BPACF PROFESSIONAL PROFILES The Black Professionals Association (BPA) was founded in 1977 as an organization dedicated to networking, professional growth, and career development of Greater Cleveland Black professionals. To celebrate over 40 years of professional excellence, The Black Professional Magazine highlights 40 professionals who embody the tenets of the Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation (BPACF), an outgrowth of

Crystal Bryant Executive Director Cleveland Branch NAACP

Michelle S. Felder Creative Genius & CEO Felder & Co. 36 | FALL 2021

BPA - leadership, professional development, and excellence. Many professionals work diligently behind the scenes, honing their professional development skills, exhibiting excellence and paying it forward to the next generation. For our Powerful Black Women issue, we’re profiling 16 influential women. It’s a diverse group with careers in non-profit, corporations and entrepreneurship.

An East Cleveland native, Bryant began serving the public as a Drug Court case manager, assisting those charged with first-time drug offenses to lead a clean and sober life. She was promoted to the Adult Program Specialist with the Cuyahoga County Alcohol Drug Addiction Mental Health Services Board where she was responsible for the oversight of government funding and resources that supported substance abuse and criminal justice programming. Since April 2021, Bryant has served as the Executive Director of Cleveland’s NAACP. She monitors discriminatory practices in the Greater Cleveland area and takes appropriate action to address and to eliminate racial discrimination.

She creates a legal redress structure that ensures all claims are properly investigated and addressed. The communication tools she builds engages membership and ensures the branch’s visibility.

For over a decade, Michelle S. Felder has been the Creative Genius and CEO of Felder & Co. the parent company of Style My Event, an event planning company; Gorgeous Living, a boutique interior style firm; and The Silent Bell, a luxury concierge and lifestyle management service. An entrepreneur at heart, Felder tapped into the changes happening around the world by creating masks. Her masks showcase African beauty, establishes a direct line to artisans on the African Continent through curated, handmade

textiles, and educates people about the Black activists, artists, and thinkers who have shaped American history. Felder co-founded Black Women Werk, an online community providing a space and place for Black women and their voices, and AMN Productions, an event production company creating large-scale events. Felder actively supports causes and organizations that work to eliminate racism. She is a cheerleader of women entrepreneurs, a loyal friend, world traveler, a food-

What is your superpower? I believe God has blessed me with a few superpowers that have proven critical and effective in providing opportunity and producing results: Building others up, convening, and information sharing. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic means everything to me. It is the epitome of connectivity, sisterhood, strength, leadership in action, grace, and fearlessness.

ie-amateur chef who has received several culinary awards, and a lover of great conversations with loved ones over bourbon!

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? A celebratory phrase that acknowledges and honors our beauty, brilliance and resiliency.

What is your superpower? My faith

Chardonnay Graham created Touch Cleveland LLC (Touch CLE) out of her passion for community growth and development. She specializes in developing processes and building client relationships to support integrated marketing strategies. Touch CLE is a full-service marketing and public relations firm focused on community and business development. It collaborates with organizations to evolve, Chardonnay Graham eradicate, or bring awareness to Founder & Chief Market Officer socioeconomic issues and advanceTouch Cleveland LLC ment opportunities. Concurrently, they work with startups and small businesses to educate and provide agency level resources and services for a fraction of the cost. Subsequently, Touch CLE has positioned itself as a liaison between grassroot and grass top organizations.

What is your superpower? My superpower is my intuition and resiliency. I have a keen ability to grasp multiple perspectives which allows me to easily connect, communicate and appeal to various audiences. My resilience has influenced me to seek challenges; I thrive and flourish most when under pressure.

The Cleveland Airport System (CAS) is owned and operated by the City of Cleveland, comprising both Hopkins International and Burke Lakefront airports. In this role, Harrison, who is also a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, works to improve processes that support timely and positive performance outcomes which, in turn, facilitate best-in-class operational initiatives. Prior to joining the CAS in 2009, Harrison was an adminApril Harrison istrator for the City of Cleveland’s Strategic Performance Manager Finance Department. Cleveland Airport System Harrison’s career began as a Program Coordinator at Vocational Guidance Services, where she man-

aged the performance of several grant-funded programs, as well as developed and executed various supporting initiatives. Additionally, Harrison served on the Board of Examiners with the Partnership for Excellence and in that capacity she participated in the administration of the Baldrige assessment for Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia.

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black girl magic is like the underdog card for Black women. No one expects us to be great. But we often take over rooms with that certain je ne sais quoi or IT Factor, and quickly eliminate all doubts. Like magic, they’re watching your every move, yet never see you coming.

What is your superpower? My superpower is my ability to discern, understand and process the needs of my audience to drive success. What does Black Girl Magic mean | 37

India Johnson GIS Developer and Drone Operator Cleveland Metroparks

TiaMarshae Johnson Owner, Lead Digital Strategist EGO Trip Media

38 | FALL 2021

to you? I am thankful that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. I have the audacity to live this life bold, full of color and without lim-

its. Every Black girl should know that we are made with sparkle. Watch us as we twirl and light up the world.

With a background in biology and computer science, India Johnson is an unmanned aerial systems pilot, entrepreneur, public servant, and geospatial developer. In addition to running her own unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business, Johnson is responsible for flying, processing data, and maintaining the Cleveland Metroparks drone fleet. Applications of her work include natural resource management, planning, and engineering projects, as well as marketing videos and stills.

information into solutions. Perseverance has gotten me through so many issues and problems and saw me to many a goal in my life. Understanding the importance of not giving up and striving through hard times is important, but superpowers can sometimes become weaknesses. I had to learn when something wasn’t worth it, when something could wait, and when to take a step back and reassess my goals and situation. Clarity, self-awareness, and perseverance go very well together, I think.

What is your superpower? My superpowers are innovation and perseverance. I couldn’t just pick one because they are both so important to my life goals. I like to take in as much knowledge as possible from as many sources as possible and synthesize that

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic means resilience more than anything. It is the ability to recover or work through whatever life throws at you and not only survive but thrive. And to not only thrive but to do so boldly and beautifully.

TiaMarshae Johnson is a talented, results-producing marketing professional with over 20 years of proven accomplishments in planning and leading comprehensive marketing strategies in support of business goals and objectives. For clients she develops, implements, and manages social media marketing strategies. Through her company, EGO trip media, Johnson develops content for websites, blogs, Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter pages and other social media platforms. She creates and evaluates email marketing campaigns and conducts and develops training and tutorial modules for clients.

ative digital solutions to problems. Whether it’s personal or on a professional level, I seem to be the go to person when it comes to finding a creative way to solve a problem and helping others implement the technology to make it happen.

What is your superpower? Not sure if it is a super-power, but I am pretty good at finding cre-

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Hmm... I’m going to be a little different here ... I don’t believe in “magic.” I believe God grants us all with gifts and talents and expects us to steward them well, whether we are black, brown, or white. I know it’s a fun term to use, but I think we are so much more than that. Our experiences often give us a different way to approach a variety of challenges.

LaToya Logan Founder & CEO Project LIFT Services

Janiece Smalls Mitchell Process Improvement Advisor, VP, PNC Financial Services Owner & Manager Miraj Naturals Karamu House

LaToya Logan, LISW-S is invested in eliminating the antecedents of incarceration, homelessness, and mental instability related to community and institutional dysfunction. She has served on the Cleveland Community Police Commission since 2016, chairing the Accountability Committee, which focuses on evaluating the police reform process. She also serves as the Region 3 Director for the National Association of Social Workers OH Chapter since 2017, advocating for the inclusion of anti-oppressive practices in social work education, hiring, and direct services. She founded Project LIFT (Learn, Ingenuity, Fortitude, Triumph) Services to level the playing field for at-risk youth, particularly young Black men. By exposing them to skills, strategies and disciplined principles, they can experience a

solid foundation for emotional and financial wellness. As they begin to embark on a commitment to personal growth, they will learn how to tap into their ingenuity, uncover their fortitude and celebrate their triumphs, big and small.

Janiece Smalls Mitchell is a Vice President - Process Improvement Advisor with PNC Financial Services, and aspiring entrepreneur/ owner of Miraj Naturals; a beauty and skin care line that fosters healthy skin through handmade natural and organic products. As an engineer at PNC she develops strategic vison for back office operations. Outside of PNC, she is active in the STE[A]M community through involvement in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Software Engineer (SWE) programs. As a budding entrepreneur, Mitchell is becoming more involved in community economic advancement, and often can be found at community expos and trade shows as a vendor and supporter. Her foundation and strength comes through her family and

friends, as she is a proud mother, sister, and a loving wife. As an active member in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, she supports and participates in many of their sisterhood and philanthropy activities.

What is your superpower? Using my imperfections to remain rooted in my humanity. The best of who I am is knowing that our liberation is connected and working together is vital to our collective healing and justice. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic is a reminder that existing as your authentic self is enough. When you fully accept your unique composition is valid in any arena... magic happens!

What is your superpower? The ability to understand and grasp things quickly. In my work life, I’m able to grasp concepts, identify problems and lead teams to solutions expeditiously. In my personal life, I’m able understand people for who and where they are at that time and meet them there. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black girl magic means defying ALL odds. | 39

Yentil Rawlinson Vice President, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity The Sherwin-Williams Co.

Shanice Settle Director, Content & Communications The NRP Group

40 | FALL 2021

Yentil Rawlinson serves as the Vice President of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity for The Sherwin-Williams Company. In this role, she is responsible for establishing and leading global strategies and goals to attract, develop, and retain underrepresented talent while fostering a culture of belonging for all 61,000 employees. Since joining the company in 2018, Sherwin-Williams has been recognized by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity, America’s Best Employers for Women, America’s Best Employers for New Grads, and America’s Best Employers for Veterans. Rawlinson is the recipient of the Top 25 under 35 Movers & Shakers Award by the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club, Rising Buckeye Award by The Ohio State University Alumni Association, a Her-Story Honoree by Radio One Cleveland,

and the HR Excellence Award by Crain’s Cleveland.

Shanice Settle is a communications strategist and former TV journalist. She works as the Director of Content & Communications for The NRP Group, a national real-estate developer. Settle started her journalism career as a General Assignment Reporter for Cleveland 19 News, covering breaking news stories across the city. In 2019, she was named one of the top “25 under 35 Movers & Shakers” in Cleveland.

media and communications is my passion but it is also an industry that is ever changing and demands that you are nimble and able to roll with the punches. I am proud of my ability to push forward.

What is your superpower? I believe my superpower is my resiliency. Storytelling through

What is your superpower? My superpower is being a positive disruptor to help individuals, teams, and organizations to think differently about who they are, what they can achieve, and how to get the results while remaining true to their core values. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? To me, it means leaning into your power and breaking down barriers. Sometimes, it is about being the first. Other times, it is about being the only one. Either way, Black Girl Magic means being unstoppable in pursuit of your goals. It is about unapologetically leveraging your unique talents, uplifting others, being authentic, and feeling seen.

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? When I think about Black Girl Magic, I like to reflect on all the things Black women have contributed to the world. Our beauty, resilience, struggle, talent, and unparalleled style is the essence of Black Girl Magic. It’s the special sauce we sprinkle wherever we go.

Siobhan Sudberry Founder BeFree Project

Simone Swanson Director of Community Outreach, The Gathering Place

Siobhan Sudberry is a community cultivator, keynote interviewer, and podcast host passionate about showing women how to grow and flourish from the inside out. Feeling stuck and unfulfilled after a 15-year corporate career, Sudberry invested in her dreams and founded a lifestyle empowerment brand committed to encouraging women to show up for themselves and cultivate a life of fulfillment and freedom. BeFree Project offers community and provides support to women starting and navigating their paths of self-discovery. Sudberry has helped women around the world take daily action steps towards the change they want to see in their lives with more confidence and clarity. Through her work, this leading powerhouse of light and inspiration intends to help more and more women see themselves for the first

time. When she’s not firing up audiences, Sudberry enjoys traveling and connecting with like-minded individuals. Books, music, and the perfect cup of joe are other must haves for this wife, mother, and entrepreneur.

Simone Swanson has experience in public speaking, writing, community building and strategic planning for nonprofit and for-profit organizations. She strives to live a purpose driven life and is passionate about helping Black women discover, connect and thrive in their purpose through conscious conversations on her Soul 2 Soul podcast and on Instagram LIVE for her weekly inspirational message, Morning Brew. She spends time serving the Women of Color Foundation M Suite Network and Soul of Philanthropy Cleveland.

on a stage to hundreds of people or speaking to someone one-on-one, my goal is to connect a message of hope and inspiration in a way that their heart and soul receive the sincerity of my words.

What is your superpower? My ability to listen and communicate beyond words. I’ve been blessed to hear and speak to the hearts of people. I believe this superpower is a direct connection to my purpose. Whether I’m speaking

What is your superpower? My ability to light up any room I walk in. My positive energy is contagious. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black girl magic means… Celebrating Black Women Supporting Black Women Honoring Black Women Cheering for Black Women Collaborating with Black Women Showing up for Black Women Loving Black Women

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic to me is the intersection of black ancestry, confidence, faith, and purpose. When a woman is educated about her history, she develops pride. The stories of her greatgreat-grandmother’s beauty and strength help birth her confidence. Her rock in wavering times helps build faith. When she unapologetically follows her dreams, she starts to live a life on purpose. All these together is a unique recipe that creates Black Girl Magic. | 41

Tameka L. Taylor, PhD, CDE President & Co-Founder Compass Consulting Services, LLC

Nkiruka Uguru-Washington Technical Director Kalcor Coatings

36 | SUMMER 42 FALL 20212021

Tameka Taylor manages and leads the day-to-day operations of Compass Consulting Services LLC and consults organizations to assist them with organizational success. Across the country, the company presents and facilitates tailored workshops/retreats on the following topics: Diversity and Inclusion Management including EEO and Anti-Harassment topics, Communication, Conflict Management, Leadership, and Team Building. What is your superpower? Multitasking is my superpower. I can effectively be engaged and aware of multiple things at once. Whether it is facilitating a group where I’m aware of what’s going on with the participants, or occasionally working and playing with my grandchildren in order to meet a deadline. Not to mention

Nkiruka Uguru-Washington is a skilled chemist with over 10 years of experience working in the paint manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries. Her career has led her to serve in various technical and research and development roles at companies throughout Northeast Ohio including KalCor Coatings where she works as the Technical Director. In this role, she oversees a team of chemists in the production of paint, coatings and adhesives and manages $6,000,000 in key resources/accounts. Uguru-Washington’s passion for science and technology resonates both in her professional career and personal life. Beyond the lab and office, she has served as a mentor to youth and Vice President of Volunteer Recruitment in Cleveland through Minds Matter and

the number of times I’m working and either listening to music or an audiobook. And there is nothing like being on my daily walk while being in a meeting at the same time. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic means Black women making things happen (of course with the help of God) with one another and for one another. It’s about excelling for you, your family, your profession, and your community. Sometimes that means getting it done even when it’s against the odds, so creativity often comes into play. In many cases you’re using those superpowers to accomplish the task at hand.

is a strong advocate for women of color in STEM. What is your superpower? My superpower is my fervent desire to grow and become my highest self. What I’ve found is that this energy is contagious and ignites in others the desire to do the same. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic is the collective and supernatural energy shared between and among dope black women who are keenly aware of who they are, what they can achieve and the power they hold within themselves. Because our oppression has been so intentional and long lasting - when black women finally see themselves for who they are – Magical things happen.

Jacinda Walker Founder & Creative Director designExplorr

Renee T. Willis, PhD Superintendent Richmond Heights Local Schools

Jacinda Walker is renowned for her work in design, diversity, research and strategy. A former national chair of the American Institute of Graphic Art’s (AIGA) Diversity & Inclusion task force, Walker’s clients include Amazon, Target, Intuit, Adobe, and Kellogg. She is the founder and creative director of designExplorr, a social impact organization whose mission addresses the diversity gap within the design profession by expanding access to design education for youth and raising awareness for corporate organizations. She has partnered with the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, MoCa Cleveland, the Boys and Girls Club and numerous AIGA chapters.

What is your superpower? Design! It’s the driving force of everything I do, the reason I wake up every morning, the wind beneath my wings!

For seven years, Renee T. Willis has served as Superintendent of Richmond Heights Local Schools. She spearheads full-scope operations for the small urban/suburban school district of 850 students and 125 employees, known for its diver student body in terms of race (90% African American), socioeconomic status (75 percent free-reduced lunch), ethnicity (11 countries), and transiency (20 percent mobility). She steadily improves educational outcomes for all students as evidenced by annual increases in the state performance index (PI): 52.5 in 2015-16, 54.9 in 2016-17 and 59.9 in 2017-18. Willis successfully administered a $14.5M budget which resulted in the Ohio Department of Education removing the schools from “fiscal caution” designation, and authored several grants to receive over $1M in funding for student enrichment programming.

What is your superpower? My superpower is my faith! I have a rock solid faith in God but I also have faith in people. I believe that people are “good” at their core and that in the end the right decisions will prevail.

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Intergenerational sisterhood. My mentee is a student who’s driven and passionate. It’s my job to protect her from spaces where that passion gets stomped on by the outside world. I’ve known Black women who provided that covering for me, and now I’m that person for her. That’s Black Girl Magic. Visit to learn more about her work developing youth activities and establishing design education initiatives.

What does Black Girl Magic mean to you? Black Girl Magic is that inner strength that we possess as we have been taught from day one that we have to be twice as good to get the same recognition as men, particularly white men. Resilience, grit, and fortitude are the ingredients that make up our magic potion. We stand tall in all rooms, and we are not “respecters of persons.” We drink wine with kings, but we also know how to drink wine with paupers. Black Girl Magic is revered by all, as we are undaunted by the fight! ||43 37

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