Dr. Shonda R. Jones

Dr. Jones is executive director of academic programs at the School of Professional Studies, Wake Forest University in Charlotte, NC and the Principal Investigator for The COMPASS Initiative® Faith Coordinating Center/Black Faith & HIV Initiative at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She was previously Senior Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives & Assistant Teaching Professor in Intercultural Theological Education at the School of Divinity.  Dr. Jones is a much sought-after consultant for educational organizations, focusing on academic evaluation, intercultural practices, and equity and inclusion engagement.  

Committed to building healthy communities and reducing health disparities, Dr. Jones interests include faith and health, the intersection of school choice and race, and her focus broadly examines intercultural practices that promote communal thriving with and among leaders and communities. She was an instrumental founding member of the African American Task Force for HIV/AIDS, a task force that formed a collaborative effort among service providers to render care in specific ways to impact the rising HIV infections in the African American community.  With a primary focus on Black Faith and HIV/AIDS, Dr. Jones’ work affirms the inherent dignity and worth of all people, including peoples of African descent, women, young people, and LGBTQ+ individuals, as bearers of the divine image (Imago dei). Recognizing the disproportionate impact of HIV and other diseases on these communities, Dr. Jones is passionate about building the capacity of faith communities to address health disparities through a lens of liberation and social justice.  

She is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church certified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), and trainer for intercultural communication. As a visionary higher education administrator, she has an established track record of providing strategic leadership at academic institutions, establishing best practices in recruitment and admissions, promoting diversity and inclusion, engaging student learning through teaching and co-curricular programming.  Jones earned a BA, Texas Christian University; MDiv, Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University; and Doctor of Education in Higher Education (Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies) from the University of Alabama. 

Stephanie K. Hall

Stephanie K. Hall, an established public policy career analyst, currently serves as Chief Government and Legislative Affairs Officer at Coppin State University. She previously served as the Executive Director for the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, Inc. where she was responsible for managing 61 elected officials of the Maryland General Assembly and working with the Black Caucus of Maryland Foundation and other stakeholders to keep them informed of the function of the state legislative body. Another key component of her responsibility was working on public policy that affected the African American community of the state and surrounding jurisdiction and building a regional partnership with other states Black Caucuses. In addition, she coordinated legislative issues with national government officials. She continues that work advocating for issues that affect HBCUS. She demonstrates efficiency and effectiveness in coordinating government relations strategies with relevant internal and external stakeholders along with enhancing the development and management of strategies for strengthening Coppin State University relationships with local, state, and federal elected officials, government agencies, and community-based organizations. 

Stephanie has an extensive background in fundraising and development along with program management. A Shreveport, Louisiana native and graduate of Jackson State University, she has double master’s in public health and public policy from University of North Texas Health and George Mason University respectively. Stephanie is a PhD student at Howard University pursuing a degree in Higher Education & Leadership Policy Studies and has Certification & Training from institutions that include but not limited to: Yale University, Boston College, and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute Political Education and Leadership.

Bakari Sellers

Two-time NY Times best-selling Author, Civil Rights Activist, Attorney,

Entrepreneur, Legislator, and overall Prolific voice of the Culture, Bakari Sellers

continues to build upon the strong legacy he inherited as the son of Gwendolyn

Sellers and civil rights leader Cleveland Sellers. While his dad helped shape

movements working alongside Stokely Carmichael, Bayard Rustin, and Malcolm

X, Bakari has come into his own helping to write the blueprint for today’s

movements with the likes of Rep. James Clyburn, Attorney Benjamin Crump,

and President Barack Obama.

Bakari forged his own path from very early on. He entered Morehouse College at

the age of 16. He went on to become a graduate of the University of South

Carolina Law School and he became the youngest legislator in the South

Carolina state legislature at 22. He carries this mantle of success with the right

balance of gravitas, style, generosity, and humility-a nod to his humble

beginnings in Denmark, SC where “please and thank you” are the chief currency

in town. In penning both his memoir My Vanishing Country and a children’s book

entitled “Who Are Your People?,” Bakari pays homage to the working-class

values that encouraged him to “dream with his eyes wide open” and that are the

predicate for his persistent fight for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the

US and abroad.

A CNN analyst, Bakari also brings an ability to elevate discourse such that

people always feel one step closer to a solution or resolution after he speaks. He

combines these and many other talents in his new podcast, The Bakari Sellers

Podcast which airs two times a week on the Ringer Podcast Network. Sellers has

also been an attorney with the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. in Columbia, South

Carolina since 2007, where he heads up the firm’s Strategic Communication and

Public Affairs team and the DEI Consulting practice.

He is married to Dr. Ellen Rucker-Sellers and they are the proud parents of three

children.

Joe Leonard, Jr., PH.D

Joe Leonard, Jr. currently serves as Assistant Vice President for External Affairs for Howard University.  Throughout the years Leonard previously served as the Chief of Staff to the Senior Advisor (Beverly Perry) for the Mayor of Washington, DC.  Leonard also served in President Obama’s administration as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), from 2009-2017, where he was nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the US Senate on April 2, 2009.  

Under Leonard’s Leadership, USDA was able to accomplish several historic accomplishments. To address long standing allegations of past discrimination, Leonard spearheaded an effort to settle large standing class action lawsuits with Native American and African-American farmers and ranchers and established a voluntary claims process for women and Hispanic farmers and ranchers, which provided payments of more than 2.5 billion combined and over 118 million dollars in debt forgiveness. 

Before joining USDA, Leonard served as Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). While at the CBC, Leonard managed the daily activities of the Caucus and helped guide the legislative policy for its 43 congressional members.  Prior to his role at the CBC, Leonard was hired by Dr. Dorothy Height and Rev. Joseph Lowery to serve as the Executive Director of the Black Leadership Forum, an umbrella organization of 32 member groups that together work to develop and implement public polices for African Americans in urban and rural America.  Leonard also worked for five years as the Washington, DC bureau Chief of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition where worked directly under the tutelage of Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. 

Throughout his life Leonard has been an advocate for people who have not been afforded equal protection under law.  His activism began in kindergarten when Leonard helped to desegregate the public schools of Austin Texas.  In junior high school he was a part of an NACCAP effort to educate citizens on the importance of the census and remind people to submit the form on behalf of the community.  In high school Leonard worked on several voter registration efforts and volunteered on Rev. Jackson Sr.’s 1984 campaign in Austin Texas.  These early experiences provided the precursor to his career of advocating on behalf of people. 

Leonard is a native of Texas, He holds a Ph.D. in American history with a specialization in civil rights history from Howard University, Washington, DC; an MA degree from Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA; and a BA degree from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX. Leonard and his wife, Dr. Natasha Cole-Leonard are proud parents of 20-year-old son, Cole. 

Dr. Allison Mathews

Dr. Allison Mathews serves as Executive Director of the Gilead COMPASS Faith Coordinating Center and Research Fellow in Faith and Health in the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University. She also serves as the founder and CEO of a consulting company, Community Expert Solutions, Inc., which uses technology, social marketing and community engagement to innovate clinical research engagement for underrepresented groups. She specializes in integrating technology, social marketing, community engagement and social science to examine the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality and religiosity on HIV-related stigma and to innovate clinical research engagement and access to health care for underserved populations. Dr. Mathews has been invited to speak about HIV and COVID-19 on national and international platforms, including TEDxCaryWomen. Dr. Mathews and Ms. Kimberly Knight co-founded and had December 14 officially declared by the state of North Carolina as HIV Cure Research Day to raise awareness about HIV cure research and encourage community involvement in ending the HIV epidemic. During her tenure as Executive Director, she and her team have launched the North Carolina HIV & Faith Ambassador Program, which boasts 50 faith leaders and 10 medical providers and the Black Faith & HIV Initiative, which offers self-paced online educational modules to educate the public about how to implement HIV and faith programming in their communities. They also hosted the inaugural “Proclamation at the Intersections: Faith, Healing, and HIV” conference in June 2022 in Dallas, TX. She earned her BA in Sociology from Howard University and her MA and PhD in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill. She completed her postdoctoral work at UNC-Chapel Hill in the Department of Social Medicine and the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease.

Slim & Husky’s

Slim & Husky’s was founded on a shared dream inside of a garage in 2015. The clever name came from a joke the longtime friends Emanuel Reed, Derrick Moore, and Clinton Gray have been laughing about for years. One of them has always been a slim guy, but the other two were always big fellas, forcing their mothers to shop for clothing in the children’s husky section.

The Tennessee State University grads started the fast casual, gourmet pizza joint as a way to serve unique pies and provide jobs to their neighborhood in North Nashville. Now, Slim & Husky’s offers build-your own pizzas, take out options, catering services, and delivery through third party vendors. 

Dr. Stacy Johnson

Dr. Stacy Johnson is an Associate Medical Director in Clinical Development at Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston, MA. She received her MD and PhD degrees from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. Dr. Johnson then went on to complete internal medicine residency and nephrology fellowship at Duke University. 

Prior to joining Vertex, Dr. Johnson worked as an Assistant Professor in the division of nephrology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis. While at UTHSC, Dr. Johnson served as the medical director for the acute dialysis unit and plasmapheresis service at Regional One Hospital – Memphis’ only level 1 trauma center and main safety net hospital, catering to many uninsured patients. 

Dr. Johnson brings with her over 10 years of experience practicing medicine in diverse clinical settings. 

LaVarne Addison Burton

LaVarne Addison Burton is President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Kidney Fund (AKF), a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight kidney disease and help people live healthier lives. Ms. Burton hasled AKF since 2005. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease — from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization directly impacts more lives than AKF.

In 2022, nearly 75,000 low-income people on dialysis and living with kidney transplants nationwide were able to pay for insurance premiums, emergency pandemic-related costs and other health care-related costs not covered by insurance, thanks to financial assistance grants from AKF. Millions of people benefit annually from AKF’s efforts to fight kidney disease through the organization’s numerous educational campaigns about living with chronic kidney disease and its comorbidities. For more than 30 years, AKF’s Clinical Scientist in Nephrology Program has contributed to the pipeline of the most promising clinical researchers who have become leaders in the field of nephrology. AKF advocates on behalf of people with kidney disease and provides aplatform to help ensure that patients are enabled to tell their own stories and have their voices heard. Through its peer-to-peer KidneyNation platform, AKF engages patients, their loved ones and caregivers in funding the fight against kidney disease.

AKF has significantly enhanced its programs and services during Ms. Burton’s tenure, and her leadership has propelled the organization to many notable milestones. AKF has been a pioneer in the development and operation of patient assistance programs by providing grants to cover health insurance premium costs for low-income patients. To run this program, AKF applied for and received the very first Advisory Opinion under a statute that allows the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish conditions under which nonprofit organizations may partner with private sector providers in the health industry to cover patient health insurance premiums. AKF has successfully run the program while navigating a complex maze of legal, regulatory, financing, corporate and public relations challenges. During this time, AKF has more than quadrupled revenues; established the largest nationwide kidney disease prevention and education program; partnered with corporations to develop award-winning public awareness campaigns; increased patient financial assistance to ensure access to care; established  a nationwide AKF Advocacy Network that has grown to nearly 30,000 Ambassadors; and  launched the renal community’s only national annual gala, The Hope Affair, which honors patients, advocates and caregivers.

Because kidney failure disproportionately impacts people of color, AKF cannot successfully carry out its mission without addressing issues of health disparities. AKF’s Health Equity initiative is focused on helping to close gaps around early prevention and diagnosis of kidney disease, participation in clinical trials and disparities in access to home dialysis and transplantation.

As a champion of people living with kidney disease, AKF has long been engaged with stakeholders across the health care sector, utilizing these relationships to identify both the barriers that this patient population faces in seeking a diagnosis and the challenges that not having a clear diagnosis causes in patients’ lives. AKF’s Unknown Causes of Kidney Disease Project seeks to improve understanding of how undiagnosed or misdiagnosed causes of kidney disease directly impact patient care and outcomes.

Ms. Burton also established the AKF Quality of Work Environment Initiative (QWE), an ongoing effort to involve employees in defining workplace values and practices, carrying them out and evaluating progress. QWE has resulted in staff workplace evaluations that have steadily improved throughout Ms. Burton’s tenure and attrition rates that are far better than industry standards.

AKF is included in the Consumer Reports list of “Best Charities for Your Donations” and has received Charity Navigator’s highest, 4-star rating for 21 consecutive years. Charity Navigator’s rating system evaluates nonprofits for their financial health, accountability and transparency, and impact. AKF is also listed on “America’s Top 100 Charities” list by Forbes.  Ms. Burton was born in Augusta, Georgia and attended public schools there. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University and Master of Arts from George Washington University, both in Washington, D.C.

Alonzo Mourning

Alonzo Mourning, commonly known as “Zo” is an American icon; Miami Heat NBA Champion, Vice President of Player Programs and Development, Naismith Hall of Famer, Philanthropist & Community Leader.

Alonzo Mourning is the Co-Founder of Mourning Family Foundation (formerly known as Alonzo Mourning Charities), a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) public fundraising foundation, created to inspire others through advocacy, education, and enrichment services. Since 1997, Mourning has been instrumental in raising more than $50 million for various programs; as well as building a new state of- the- art youth center that will aid in the bridging gaps and strengthening communities in the urban core.

In addition to supporting numerous educational initiatives throughout South Florida; Alonzo Mourning co-founded The Overtown Youth Center in the historic South Florida area of Overtown in 2003. The Overtown Youth Center provides a comprehensive approach designed to bridge educational, social, emotional, health and opportunity gaps. OYC deliver services that foster hope and promote lifelong learning and success for inner-city youth and families.  As part of the Mourning Family’s philanthropic legacy; Alonzo is an advocate for uplifting girls specifically through the Honey Shine Inc. Mentoring Program Initiatives, founded by Tracy Wilson Mourning to empower young girls to shine as leaders by nurturing experiences that enlighten their paths and empower their future.

In 2000, Mourning was selected to join an elite group of NBA players to represent the United States in the Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Mourning won the coveted gold medal, but was soon diagnosed with Focal Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), a rare genetic kidney disease.

After being diagnosed with FSGS, Mourning personally led a campaign to raise $2 million to aid in the research, education, and financial relief of patients who cannot afford medication and named the campaign Zo’s Fund for Life.  Mourning eventually underwent a successful kidney transplant in December 2003. He continues to raise awareness about the importance of becoming an organ donor and is also active with the National Kidney Foundation, educating the public on the importance of early detection.

Consistently recognized for his charitable efforts;  Mourning has received numerous awards such as:  the NBA’s Community Assist Award in 2006, National Urban League’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 2003, Silver Medallion Community Service Award by the National Conference for Community and Justice in 2003, the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Sportsmanship Award in 2002, The Children’s Trust Excellence Award for Public Policy in 2007, and recently,the Sapphire Award from Florida Blue Foundation in 2019, just to name a few.

In August 2009, Miami Dade County Public School honored Alonzo and his contributions to Miami by naming a school after him and Tracy Wilson Mourning in North Miami, Florida.

Mourning is a highly sought after sports champion, philanthropist, community and business leader. Alonzo has traveled the world encouraging sports teams, business executives, health care professionals, community leaders, philanthropic leaders, young professionals, children and others who aspire to maximize their full potential of greatness. From the President of the United States to the 3 year- old boy suffering from kidney failure, Mourning has the ability to reach, empower, and inspire everyone he encounters. He engages audiences of all sizes and ages, emphasizing the importance of education, leadership, and perseverance.

Understanding the importance of a holistic approach to strengthening low income communities; Alonzo developed a $22M affordable housing development to Overtown in 2016 in partnership with HTG; with others coming on-line in similar communities in the near future.

Mourning is a graduate of Georgetown University and holds a degree in Sociology. He is a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, a member of his alma mater’s Board of Directors, Vice President of Player Programs and Development with the Miami Heat, and has been the Chair of the McDonald’s All-American Game Advisory Committee since 2008. Alonzo resides in Miami, Florida and is the father of the three children – sons Trey and Alijah and daughter Myka.

Brittney Cooper

Brittney Cooper is Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Africana Studies. Prof. Cooper is also the Principal Investigator and Founding Director of the Race and Gender Equity (RAGE) Lab at Rutgers. Her books include Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, winner of the 2018 Merle Curti Prize for Best Book in U.S. Intellectual History from the Organization of American Historians; the New York Times bestseller Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower; Feminist AF: A Guide to Crushing Girlhood (co-authored with Susana Morris and Chanel Craft Tanner) a Kirkus top Young Adult Book of 2021 and a nominee for the Garden State Teen Book Award from the New Jersey Library Association; Stand Up!: 10 Mighty Women Who Made a Change; and The Crunk Feminist Collection (co-edited with Susana Morris and Robin Boylorn). Cooper co-founded the Crunk Feminist Collective, a Hip Hop Generation Feminist Collective of Women of Color Activists and Scholars. They ran the highly successful Crunk Feminist Collective Blog which was named a top blog by New York Magazine in 2011. Today, they co-edit The Remix, a weekly substack newsletter.

Dr. Cooper has also been awarded prizes or been a named finalist for several awards related to her digital commentary. She is currently a contributor at The Cut/New York Magazine and she is a former columnist at Salon.com, Cosmopolitan.com, and a former contributor at Time.com. Dr. Cooper frequently appears as a commentator on MSNBC and NPR, has appeared in several documentaries on Netflix and PBS, and her commentary has been published at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Ebony Magazine, Essence Magazine, Time Magazine, Marie Claire, PBS and many other outlets. In 2016, she gave a TED Talk for TED Women on “the Racial Politics of Time.” To date, her talk has been viewed over 1 million times. She has been named to The Root.com’s Root 100, an annual list of top Black influencers four times.

An award-winning teacher, Professor Cooper teaches courses on race, gender, and sexuality, Hip Hop, Black Intellectual History, and Black Feminist Thought. She was the 2016 recipient of the Masters Level Teaching Award from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools.

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