Leon W. Russell was elected chairman of the NAACP at its annual Board of Directors meeting in New York on February 18, 2017. Russell has served as a member of the NAACP Board of Directors for 27 years.
Mr. Russell retired in January 2012, after serving as the Director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County Government, Clearwater, Florida since January 1977. In this position, Mr. Russell was responsible for implementing the county’s Affirmative Action and Human Rights Ordinances which provide for the development of a racially and sexually diverse workforce reflecting the general make up of the local civilian labor force and the implementation of the county’s Equal Employment opportunity Programs. Programs involved in the implementation of this ordinance cover employees in all the departments under the County Administrator and the five Constitutional Officers.
The Pinellas County Human Rights Ordinance provides protection from illegal discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for the county’s 923,000 residents. This ordinance has been deemed “substantially equivalent” to Title VIII of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Over five hundred formal complaints of discrimination are filed under the ordinance annually.
In September 2007, Mr. Russell was elected President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) during its annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The IAOHRA Membership is agency based and consists of statutory human and civil rights agencies throughout the United States and Canada as well as representation from other nations. These agencies enforce state and local civil rights laws and are actively engaged in reducing and resolving intergroup tension and promoting intergroup relations. Mr. Russell concluded his second term as IAOHRA President at the conclusion of the IAOHRA Annual conference in Austin, Texas in September 2011.
Additionally, Mr. Russell served as the President of the Florida State Conference of Branches of the NAACP from January 1996 until January 2000, after serving for 15 years as the First Vice President. He has served as a member of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP since 1990. He has served the Board as the Assistant Secretary; Chair of the Convention Planning Committee; and Vice Chairman of the National Board.
Mr. Russell has served as a member of several organizations: International City Management Association; National Forum for Black Public Administrators; Board of Directors of the Children’s Campaign of Florida; Blueprint Commission on Juvenile Justice with responsibility for recommending reforms to improve the juvenile justice system in the state of Florida; past board member of the Pinellas Opportunity Council; and past President and board member of the National Association of Human Rights Workers.
Mr. Russell also served as the Chairman of Floridians Representing Equity and Equality (FREE). FREE was established as a statewide coalition to oppose the Florida Civil Rights Initiative, an anti-affirmative action proposal authored by Ward Connerly. Ultimately, the initiative failed to get on the Florida Ballot, because of the strong legal challenge spearheaded by FREE.
Mr. Russell has received numerous civic awards and citations.
Karen Boykin-Towns has built a reputation as a visionary and strategic results-driver in complex business and government environments based on demonstrated success in the areas of policy, advocacy, communications, and proactive change management. Since concluding her impressive 22-year career at Pfizer Inc, she now serves as President/CEO of Encore Strategies, LLC. She was recently re-elected Vice Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors, the oldest and largest non-partisan civil rights organization in the nation established in 1909.
Ms. Boykin-Towns’ career at Pfizer spanned 22 years where she advanced quickly into executive management roles. She was recruited as a Senior Legislative Analyst based on her reputation for success in state government and held key leadership roles in public affairs, government relations, global policy, and human resources. Based on her positive impact driving change across the organization, in 2008 she was selected by Pfizer’s CEO to serve as its first Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she successfully developed an integrated, global strategy resulting in internal progress and external recognition of the company’s advances in diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage. Karen concluded her career as Vice President Corporate Affairs for their $34B Innovative Medicines business where she served as a member of the Senior Leadership Committee (SLC) that consists of the top 200 leaders in the 90,000 person global organization.
Karen is credited with numerous contributions at Pfizer that were instrumental in maintaining Pfizer’s brand integrity and ensuring the company’s global expansion during periods of industry consolidation, economic instability, and dynamic organizational restructuring. One of her key accomplishments involved preserving Pfizer’s brand reputation in spite of a controversial corporate decision to close the company’s headquarters in Brooklyn, NY, a historic landmark and cornerstone for the company and the community. Karen was also sought out to provide public affairs advocacy in response to proposed government legislation that threatened continued use of a multi-million dollar drug providing significant healthcare benefits.
Embracing her passion for policy and politics, Karen’s early career involved serving as Legislative Director then Chief of Staff to New York State Senator David Paterson, who later became the 55th Governor of New York In this role, she led strategy and execution of legislative efforts related to civil and human rights, community development, and environmental issues.
Ms. Boykin-Towns leverages her talent as a coalition-builder and social change agent through her active participation in various organizations. Along with her work with the NAACP, Karen serves on the boards of Visiting Nurse Services of New York (VNSNY), Brewster Academy, and past Co-Chair of the Business Council of New York State. She has been featured in Black Enterprise, Bloomberg Businessweek, PR Week, WWD, Ebony Magazine, Crain’s, African American Career World, Black Her, Network Journal, and Crisis Magazine. Savoy Magazine named her a “Top Influential Woman in Corporate America” in 2016 and in 2020 she was named “Woman of the Year” by Seeds of Fortune.
Karen holds an MBA degree from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. A mother of two girls, Karen is married to former State Assemblyman Darryl C. Towns and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
A longstanding member and leader of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson is guiding the Association through a period of re-envisioning and reinvigoration.
Born in Detroit, Mr. Johnson attended Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS. He then continued onto Houston, TX to receive his JD from the South Texas College of Law. In later years, Mr. Johnson furthered his training through fellowships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the George Washington University School of Political Management, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has served as an annual guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, lending his expertise to Professor Lani Guinier’s course on social movements, and as an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College.
Mr. Johnson is a veteran activist who has dedicated his career to defending the rights and improving the lives of Mississippians. As State President of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, he led critical campaigns for voting rights and equitable education. He successfully managed two bond referendum campaigns in Jackson, MS that brought $150 million in school building improvements and $65 million towards the construction of a new convention center, respectively. As a regional organizer at the Jackson-based non-profit, Southern Echo, Inc., Mr. Johnson provided legal, technical, and training support for communities across the South.
In recognition for his service to the state of Mississippi, the Chief Justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court appointed Mr. Johnson to the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, and the Governor of Mississippi appointed him Chair of the Governor’s Commission for Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Johnson founded One Voice Inc. to improve the quality of life for African Americans through civic engagement training and initiatives. One Voice has spawned an annual Black Leadership Summit and the Mississippi Black Leadership Institute, a nine-month training program for community leaders.
Stacey Abrams is a New York Times bestselling author, serial entrepreneur, nonprofit CEO and political leader. After serving for eleven years in the Georgia House of Representatives, seven as Minority Leader, in 2018, Abrams became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, when she won more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. Abrams was the first black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the United States.
After witnessing the gross mismanagement of the 2018 election by the Secretary of State’s office, Abrams launched Fair Fight Action to ensure every Georgian has a voice in our election system. Over the course of her career, Abrams has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues at both the state and national levels. In 2019, she launched Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement, and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.
She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the 2012 recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, and a current member of the Board of Directors for the Center for American Progress. Abrams has also written eight romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery, in addition to Lead from the Outside, formerly Minority Leader, a guidebook on making real change.
Richard Besser, MD, is president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a position he assumed in April 2017. Besser is the former acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and ABC News’ former chief health and medical editor.
At RWJF, Besser leads the largest private foundation in the country devoted solely to improving the nation’s health. RWJF’s work is focused on building a comprehensive Culture of Health that provides everyone in America with a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. Access to healthy food, clean air and water, safe housing, secure employment at a living wage, transportation, education, and the elimination of barriers from discrimination are all important contributors to health and well-being.
In Besser’s role at ABC News, he provided medical analysis and reports for all ABC News programs and platforms. His weekly health chats on social media reached millions.
While at ABC News, Besser traveled all over the United States and around the globe to cover major medical news stories. He walked the Ebola wards in Liberia in 2014, reporting from the center of the deadly epidemic, and continued to provide extensive coverage for months. In 2011, he led ABC’s global health coverage, “Be the Change: Save a Life,” reporting on critical global health issues from seven different nations.
Before joining ABC News in 2009, Besser worked as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response at the CDC. In that role he was responsible for all the CDC’s public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He also served as acting director of the CDC from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC’s response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic.
Besser’s tenure at the CDC began in 1991 working on the epidemiology of food-borne illness. He then served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego as the pediatric residency director, while also conducting research and working for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to the CDC in 1998 as an infectious disease epidemiologist working on pneumonia, antibiotic resistance, and the control of antibiotic overuse.
The author or co-author of hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials and publications, Besser has earned many awards for his work in public health and for his volunteer service. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. He received the Surgeon General’s Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response, and in 2011 he accepted the Dean’s Medal for his contributions to public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His investigative reporting into umbilical cord blood banking was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2011. In 2012, he received an Overseas Press Club award as part of ABC’s coverage of global maternal health issues, and two Peabody Awards as part of ABC News’ coverage of Hurricane Sandy and Robin Roberts’ health journey. In 2017 and 2018, he received an Emmy award for “Outstanding Morning Program” as part of the Good Morning America team. His book, “Tell Me the Truth, Doctor: Easy-to-Understand Answers to Your Most Confusing and Critical Health Questions,” was published by Hyperion in 2013.
Besser received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Williams College and medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore.
He continues to practice as a volunteer pediatrician at the Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton, N.J. He and his wife Jeanne, a food writer, have two sons, Alex and Jack.
In the years since Aloe Blacc’s last album, Lift Your Spirit, the global superstar spent time working on an even dearer project: his family. All Love Everything, his upcoming album, is the singer-songwriter’s first collection of material written as a father, a journey that’s expanded Blacc’s already heartfelt artistic palette. “Becoming a father made me want to share those experiences in music,” he says, admitting it’s a challenge to translate such a powerful thing into lyrics and melody. But the listeners who have followed Blacc over the course of his career know that his facility with language and sound is deep — if anyone was up to the task, it’s him.
Raised by Panamanian immigrants in Southern California, Blacc grew up around the sounds of salsa, merengue, and cumbia. He initially developed his own taste by throwing himself into hip- hop before trying out his soulful voice to other ends. Across three albums, his sound evolved and grew, finding a pocket that reflects the long and beautiful history of American soul with timeless, descriptive songwriting that speaks to the broad range of human experience, from platonic love to love for humanity, from politics to aspiration. Versatile and compassionate, his songwriting is classic in a way that makes categorization irrelevant; indeed, Blacc’s lyrics have been paired with dance music and country — always to stirring effect. Aloe Blacc isn’t defined by Genre.
“Rather than a genre, my music follows a theme I call A.I.M.: affirmation, inspiration, and motivation,” he explains. Beloved hits like “I Need a Dollar,” “The Man,” and “Wake Me Up,” with Avicii, may not fall under the same musical umbrella, but they’re united by how they make the listener feel. That’s Blacc’s wheelhouse, the place where he excels. “After so many opportunities to talk about my music and not feel comfortable saying, ‘I’m a pop artist’ or ‘I’m a folk artist,’ I had this realization. My songwriting genre is thematic.”
All Love Everything is a generous addition to the A.I.M. catalog. It fulfills Blacc’s ambition to express the richness of familial love on songs like “Glory Days” and “Family,” while also making room for anthems about perseverance and support like “My Way” and “Corner.” Working with producers Jonas Jeberg, Jugglerz, Jon Levine, and Matt Prime, Blacc has crafted his most open-hearted album to date. Generous and warm, All Love Everything draws on soul, folk, and contemporary pop, reminding listeners that there’s no pigeonholing the human experience.
Lisa Cortés is an Academy Award® nominated film producer and celebrated director. The film Precious (2009), which she executive produced, received Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for best drama. Marking the acting debut of Gabourey Sidibe, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards® and won two. 2019’s The Apollo, an HBO documentary, explores African American cultural and political history through the story of the legendary Apollo Theater. Her directorial debut, The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion (2020), traces the impact of street fashion and African American creativity on global cultural trends. Her early career as a music executive was launched at the iconic Def Jam label and Rush Artist Management; she also was VP of A&R at Mercury Records, and founded the Loose Cannon label. Her film productions have received over 70 international awards and nominations.
Ray Curry was elected UAW secretary-treasurer at the 37th Constitutional Convention in June 2018.
Curry was first elected director of UAW Region 8 in June 2014, at the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention in Detroit after having served four years as the region’s assistant director.
As Region 8 director, Curry was instrumental in securing new labor agreements with various parts suppliers. In July 2015, under his leadership, the region successfully organized the first gaming bargaining unit of Region 8 as part of a coalition of four other unions to represent the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, Maryland. In October 2017 the combined coalition reached its first individual collective bargaining agreements. UAW Local 17 represents the table dealers. Under Curry’s leadership the region also won an election for representation at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, in June 2018, bringing 1,250 new members into the union.
A North Carolina native and military veteran, Curry served three years on active duty in the U.S. Army and five years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration / Finance. He holds a Master of Business Administration, MBA, degree from the University of Alabama.
Curry joined the UAW in July 1992 when he hired in as a truck assembler at Freightliner Trucks in Mount Holly, North Carolina, (now Daimler Trucks, NA) and later became a quality assurance inspector. He remained in that job until 2004. His first involvement was on the local’s civil rights committee and as a delegate for the area A. Philip Randolph Chapter.
From 1998 to 2004, UAW Local 5285 members elected him to serve in numerous leadership positions, including as UAW Constitutional Convention delegate, chairman of the trustees, financial secretary-treasurer and alternate committeeperson. He also served as chairman of the UAW North Carolina State Political Action Committee, executive board vice president of the North Carolina AFL-CIO and as a UAW member organizer on the 2003 and 2004 Freightliner organizing drives in Cleveland, Gastonia and High Point, North Carolina.
In October 2004, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger appointed him as an International representative assigned to Region 8. His assignment as a servicing representative included aerospace, automotive (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors facilities), heavy truck, and numerous automotive supplier locations in Alabama and Tennessee. He was responsible for collective bargaining, arbitration, organizing, political action and other bargaining-unit assignments. In June 2010, he was appointed Region 8 assistant director by then–Region 8 Director Gary Casteel.
Curry was elected as a 2012 Democratic National Convention alternate delegate on behalf of the state of Tennessee and later became a full voting delegate at the convention.
He is the 2017 recipient of the A. Philip Randolph Leon Lynch Lifetime Achievement Award, 2017 recipient of the Tennessee State AFL-CIO Presidential Award, as well as the 2018 PR Latta Rank and File Award from the North Carolina AFL-CIO.
A longtime grassroots activist, Curry is a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, a Silver Life member of the NAACP, and member of the NAACP National Board of Directors. He is also an active member of numerous community and social organizations including but not limited to the Michigan State Democratic Party, American Legion Post 177 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Unique Masonic Lodge #85, Charlotte Consistory #35, and Rameses Temple #51 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and various others. He resides in Detroit.
Two-time Academy Award®-Nominee, two-time Emmy Winner, Peabody Winner, Grammy Nominee, DGA Nominee, and BAFTA-nominated director Liz Garbus is renowned for creating electrifying archival-driven historical documentaries that retain all the narrative velocity, artistic craft, and conceptual depth of propulsive verite films, as well as verite films which take deep dives into today’s most hotly debated topics. Garbus’ latest series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark premiered on HBO in June 2020. Her narrative feature debut, Lost Girls, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and was released on Netflix and in theatres in March 2020.
The Fourth Estate, for Showtime, was nominated for a 2018 Emmy for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series. Her 2015 feature, Sundance opener, What Happened, Miss Simone?, a Netflix original, was nominated for a 2016 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and took home the Emmy Award for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special. Other credits include: The Innocence Films (Netflix, 2020), Who Killed Killed Garrett Phillips (HBO 2019), There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane (HBO), The Farm: Angola, USA (AA nominee 1998) and many others.
Tai Barber-Gumbs is a proud third-generation member of the Johnson County NAACP. She has been a lifetime member of this organization since the age of seven. She has attended 13 NAACP National Conventions and has improved communication amongst units in the NAACP’s most geographically diverse region.
In 2019, she graduated from Johns Hopkins University with two bachelor degrees in both Public Health and French. While at Hopkins, she studied abroad for a year in Dakar, Senegal. During this time, she interned at SAMUSocial Sénégal, where she worked with children and adolescents living on Dakar’s streets. After returning from Senegal, she completed her Public Health honors thesis by conducting a diabetes study in Baltimore. She looked at the effectiveness of an app in helping African-Americans better manage their diabetes. Post-graduation, she took a job teaching English in France, which she used as an opportunity to educate the French about African-Americans. She taught them about Kwanzaa, the Black Lives Matter Movement, mass incarceration, and many historical figures, such as Emmett Till and Harriet Tubman.
Rev. Terrence L. Melvin holds the second highest office in the New York State labor movement – Secretary-Treasurer of the 2.5 million members, New York State AFL-CIO. In July 2007, Mr. Melvin was elected to this position. In August 2008, he was re-elected to a four-year term.
In 1980, Mr. Melvin started his career as a member of Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) Local 427 at the Western New York Developmental Center. CSEA is a Statewide Union representing over 250,000 state, county, municipal and private sector workers throughout New York. After being hired on the nightshift, he quickly moved from shop steward and grievance representative to Vice President of the Local.
As a member of CSEA he was the former President of CSEA Local 427 and Secretary of CSEA Western Region 6, which covers 14 counties, 78 locals, and 220 units. He also has an extensive background in numerous CSEA elected and appointed positions.
In January 1996, Mr. Melvin was appointed the Executive Assistant to CSEA Statewide President Danny Donohue. In this position, he oversaw and directed the day to day activities of the President’s office and was responsible for overall coordination of the Senior Staff of the Union.
In 2006 the incumbent NYS AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer retired leaving a vacancy in the position. With his extensive knowledge of the Labor movement and years of service managing one of the largest unions in New York State, Mr. Melvin was tapped, July of 2007, to take the helm and lead beside then President Denis Hughes.
In the community, Mr. Melvin is a long-time activist who has touched many lives. Outside of his Labor life, Mr. Melvin is actively engaged in Labor allied and community organizations. In August 1996, he was elected Director of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) Region One, representing unionists in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Ontario, Canada
In May 2012, at the 41st International Convention of the CBTU, Mr. Melvin was elected unanimously as the organization’s new president, succeeding William (Bill) Lucy, who had held the position since he co- founded CBTU in 1972. CBTU, which is dedicated to addressing the unique concerns of black workers and their communities, has 50 chapters in major U.S. cities and one in Ontario, Canada. President Emeritus Lucy is a heralded Civil Rights and Labor Leader, marching with Dr. King and working with Nelson Mandela advocating the end of apartheid in South Africa. President Emeritus Lucy has long been a mentor and guidance for Mr. Melvin.
In August 2016 Mr. Melvin was re-elected as Secretary-Treasurer of the NYS AFL-CIO and in May 2018 he was re-elected to the presidency of the CBTU. In this span he was also elected to Chair the Labor Coalition for Community Action which seats all the constituency groups of the AFL-CIO. In addition to his elected titles Mr. Melvin serves on the board for Medicare Rights Center, he sits on the board for the National AFL-CIO, and is on the board for the NYS ARA.
Amongst his various Labor and community roles, Mr. Melvin is a man of devout faith and spiritual belief. He is an ordained Baptist Minister. He serves as Associate Minister and Assistant to the Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Lackawanna, New York.
Mr. Melvin is a graduate of the Rochester Center for Theological and Biblical Studies with a bachelor’s degree in Ministry. He is married to Sonja Marie Melvin, and has three children: Candice, Terrence II and Crystal; and one beautiful granddaughter, Cadence.
Francesca Olivia Yvette Mitchell is 17 years old and a proud senior at West Port High School, Ocala FL in the class of 2021. Since birth, she has practiced and worked as a civil rights activist for all 17 years of her life in the NAACP. She serves as youth president of Marion County NAACP Youth Council and State Secretary of the Florida State Youth & College Division. As she supports BLM and believes in developing young black militant leadership, she continues to fight for black students, with or without learning disabilities, to have fair and equal education in this country. Lastly, a moto that was given to her by her grandmother and has driven her to be the best that she can be is “reach for the moon, and if you fall, you will fall among the stars.” She will always believe in all people, regardless of their race, gender, or age, can overcome societal labels, feel free to aspire to be different, and challenge the impossible.
Kelsey Perine is a senior student majoring in Political Science at THE Southern University and A & M College from Mobile, Alabama. She currently serves at current president of Southern University Chapter of NAACP and the Vice President of the Louisiana State Conference Youth and College Division. Kelsey is an active student leader on campus and a dedicated volunteer in her surrounding community.. With a passion for civic engagement and advocacy, she has led many initiatives geared toward getting young people to use their voice in the ballot box. During the 2019 Louisiana Gubernatorial Election, Kelsey co-organized a school-wide initiative that got 500 students registered and to the polls. Her chapter also created the High School Voter Program that taught over 100 high school students the importance of voting and got 80 eligible students registered. Kelsey hopes to use her passions to fulfill her aspirations of become a special litigation and advocacy attorney and working for the NAACP Legal Defense FundKelsey lives by the Mother Teresa quote that goes, “I alone cannot change this world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
Liz joined the United States Postal Service in 1970 as a part time flexible clerk, working at the Hempstead, NY Post Office on Long Island while at the same time working as a Teacher’s Aide for the Hempstead School District. She became actively involved in the Hempstead Local APWU early in her postal career, serving as Chief Shop Steward and Secretary-Treasurer. In 1979 she was elected as the first female president of the Hempstead APWU Local, now known as the Western Nassau, NY Area Local. She held that position until 1983 when she became one of the first two women to be elected as a full-time National Business Agent, New York Region, Clerk Division for the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.
Liz served the membership as a National Business Agent from 1983 until 1989, when she was elected as the first and only female member of the APWU National Executive Board as the Regional Coordinator, Northeast Region, representing Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
On October 16, 2009, she was appointed by APWU President William Burrus, and approved by a vote of the National Executive Board, in accordance with the APWU Constitution, to serve as the union’s national Secretary- Treasurer, making her the first woman executive officer in the union’s history. In the 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2019 National Officer’s Election, she was elected to serve three-year terms as Secretary-Treasurer of the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO.
Liz believes that the membership is the most important faction within the APWU and has consistently extended herself to provide the state and local unions any and all of the assistance necessary to give maximum representation. Education and information are a top priority with her and is shared with all state and local officers through mailings and seminars.
In 1979, POWER (Post Office Women for Equal Rights) was formed. Liz served as one of the founding members, and has continued to support women issues within the APWU as well as within the Labor Movement. At the APWU POWER 18th Biennial Convention, held August 18-21, 2005 in New Orleans, LA, APWU President William Burrus paid a special tribute to Liz, by announcing that an Elizabeth “Liz” Powell Executive Award will be presented at future APWU POWER Conventions. Liz has received numerous awards including the 2011 APWU POWER Glass Ceiling Award, the 2012 National CBTU Addie Wyatt Award and the 2017 CBTU Award of Distinction, the 2013 National Coalition of Black Civic Participation, BWR – Black Women’s Roundtable Phenomenal Woman, Social Justice Trailblazer Award and the 2017 Spirit of Democracy Leadership Award. In March 2014, she was presented with CLUW’s Olga Madar Leadership Award. Liz is an active participant of all of those organizations as well as several others including APRI – A Phillip Randolph Institute, where in August 2014 she received the Rosina Tucker Labor Pioneer Award and was one of NAN’s 2016 MLK Breakfast honorees where she received the Breaking the Barrier Award. In February 2017 the Irish National Caucus honored her with the “Roving Ambassador for World Peace” Award and in February 2019 they honored her with the “World Peace Prize for Labor Leadership”. At the 2018 AFL MLK Gala she received the “At the River I Stand” award. In November 2019 the UFCW Minority Coalition presented Liz with an Addie Wyatt award and on July 27, 2020, The Summit for Civil Rights presented Liz with the “2020 Shirley Chisholm Breakthrough Leader” Award. Liz has gone to Lisbon, Portugal; Montreal, Canada; Rio de Janeiro, and Chicago, to participate with the UNI World Women’s Committee (Union Network International).
As an only child, Liz was born in the coal-mining state of West Virginia and graduated as Salutatorian of her class at Aracoma High School in Logan, West Virginia where she received a scholarship and attended West Virginia State College. She is the mother of Robert, Barbara, Renee and Greg and is the proud grandmother of Patrick, Greg Jr., Aaliyah, Eddie and John Michael and the proud great grandmother of Eli.
She believes that “A Woman’s Place is in Her Union” and “In Unity There is Strength, and Together We Can and Will Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow”.
NEA president Becky Pringle is a fierce social justice warrior, defender of educator rights, an
unrelenting advocate for all students and communities of color, and a valued and respected voice
in the education arena. A middle school science teacher with 31 years of classroom experience,
Becky is singularly focused on using her intellect, passion, and purpose to unite the members of
the largest labor union with the entire nation, and using that collective power to fulfill the
promise of public education.
Although she often describes herself as “just a Black girl from North Philly,” Becky is a
strategic, dedicated and tireless union leader who is—at her core—an educator who has been and
continues to be motivated by what is best for students. Her passion for students and educators,
combined with her first-hand classroom experience, equip her to lead the movement to reclaim
public education as a common good. Becky was elected in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged Black,
Brown, and indigenous communities nationwide. When the pandemic shuttered the nation’s
schools, Becky helped to focus the nation’s attention on ways in which the crisis laid bare and
exacerbated inequities that have for generations existed in schools, colleges, and communities
nationwide—inequities that Becky herself encountered as a student, and has fought against for
her entire career as an educator. Yet, Becky isn’t merely focused on shining the light on these
inequities, she has a sturdy track record built upon years of work that has focused on
transforming public education into a racial and socially just and equitable system designed to
prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.
Before assuming NEA’s top post, Becky served as NEA vice president and before that as NEA
secretary-treasurer. She directed NEA’s work to combat institutional racism, and spotlight
systemic patterns of racism and educational injustice that impact students. Under Becky’s
guidance, NEA works to widen access and opportunity by demanding changes to policies,
programs, and practices. The Association’s goal is to ensure the systemic, fair treatment of
people of all races so that equitable opportunities and outcomes are within reach for every
student. This is why Becky is a staunch advocate for students who have disabilities, identify as
LGBTQ+, are immigrants, or English Language Learners.
Becky co-chaired NEA’s Task Force on School Discipline and the School to Prison Pipeline. In that role, she guided the development of a school-to-prison pipeline policy statement that calls attention to and compels NEA’s 3 million members to address the inequitable and unfair policies and practices that push many students out of public schools and into the criminal justice system. Through this work, NEA is challenging zero-tolerance discipline policies, increased police presence in classrooms, and rising class sizes.
Becky has also led NEA’s work to transform the education professions and improve student learning. Most notably, she led the work group that produced the Association’s groundbreaking “Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability”—NEA’s first broad endorsement of the need to develop a compelling vision of a system of accountability that relies on quality, capacity, and trust, and embraces inspiration, innovation, shared responsibility, investment, authentic assessment, and continuous improvement. This led to the development of two seminal frameworks, “Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility With Student Learning” and the “ Professional Growth Continuum for Education Support Professionals,” which focused on how we can improve educators’ professional practice to make an even greater impact on the health, safety, well-being, learning, and development of their students. Becky also led the Association’s development of a policy statement on Community Schools to guide NEA’s work to transform and create an educational system worthy of our students, their families, and
Becky has a long and notable record of Association advocacy at the national, state, and local levels. She began her leadership journey as a local president, and then went on to serve on the Board of Directors for NEA and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. She also served two terms as a member of NEA’s Executive Committee where she distinguished herself as a thoughtful and passionate advocate for the nation’s public school educators and students. As NEA secretary-treasurer, Becky skillfully led the union through one of the worst economic periods in recent history. Her efforts enabled the Association to emerge on strong financial footing with more power to advance its mission.
The impact of Becky’s leadership is far reaching, and includes serving as finance chair of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; treasurer of the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation; and on the Institute for Educational Leadership Task Force. She is a recipient of the National Peace Medal for Leader of Educational Excellence, a recipient of the Black Women’s Roundtable Education Innovation & Social Justice Leadership Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; the Woman of Power Award from the National Action Network; and she was named Community Woman of the Year by the American Association of University Women. She is also a lifetime member of the NAACP. Becky served with distinction on President Barack Obama’s Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Her work included addressing issues on teacher recruitment and retention, STEM access and opportunities, and college preparation and completion.
Those who know Becky best know that she is also a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan, loves anything purple, and for two special someones holds the coveted title of “Best Nana B” in the
One of the hottest young names in music, singer and drummer, Jamison’s music shimmers between jazz, R&B, soul, gospel and blues. Think of a mix of Donny Hathaway and Elvin Jones. One minute you’re enjoying his super-soulful voice, gospel inflections and infectious love of melody; the next you’re digging his grooving, swinging drumming with his band.
His 2015 debut release, Jamison, introduced the world to his concept of rhythm and melody and also garnered a GRAMMY® nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album. His sophomore release, All For One, takes listeners a level deeper into Jamison’s ethos. The album is a result of a personal revelation that “we all have the capacity to love with empathy in a deeper way.”
Angela Rye delivers thoughtful yet incisive commentary and real talk about the power of activism, advocacy, and politics, and stokes much-needed conversation about the state of America.
Politico, lawyer, and self-described empowermenteur, Angela Rye is one of America’s most influential voices for positive change in the political process. As the principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, she advocates for economic empowerment, civic engagement, and political involvement among young professionals. She is a prominent CNN political commentator and NPR political analyst, and a regular figure in the media, with features in Marie Claire, Ebony, and The Washington Post, and appearances on BET, HBO, and HuffPost Live, with whom she shares insights on everything from political campaigns to legislation that bears long-term implications nationally and internationally. She also hosts the weekly podcast On 1 With Angela Rye, where she delivers honest answers to the most pressing political, racial, and pop culture questions of the day.
Rye served as the Executive Director and General Counsel to the Congressional Black Caucus for the 112th Congress. In her role as Executive Director, Rye was tasked with developing the overall legislative and political strategy for the Caucus
On stage, she keeps it 100 with thought-provoking insights on the importance of political advocacy and community activism in today’s civic climate. With her engaging, tell-it-like-it-is style of commentary and razor-sharp humor, she brings a fresh perspective to a range of topical issues of the day, from politics, social justice, and inequality to Beyoncé, the women’s movement, and current events.
Lee Saunders is the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, with 1.4 million members in communities across the nation, serving in hundreds of different occupations – from nurses to corrections officers, child care providers to sanitation workers. He was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.
Saunders, the first African American to serve as AFSCME’s president, was previously elected secretary-treasurer at the union’s 39th International Convention in July 2010.
Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. This inspired him to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. His father was a bus driver and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. His mother was a community organizer and, after raising two sons, returned to college and became a community college professor and a member of the American Association of University Professors.
Saunders began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist. He has served in the capacities of assistant director of Research and Collective Bargaining Services, director of Community Action and deputy director of Organizing and Field Services. Saunders also served as executive assistant to the president of AFSCME and was responsible for managing what is acknowledged to be one of the most effective political and legislative operations in the history of the American labor movement. AFSCME’s fundraising clout, member mobilization and lobbying expertise are unmatched in the ranks of the AFL-CIO and beyond.
Under Saunders’ leadership, the union has launched a program called AFSCME Strong that builds power through internal and external organizing and recognizes the individual contributions AFSCME members make to serving and strengthening their communities. The program is credited with growth in AFSCME membership despite current challenges faced by the labor movement as a whole.
He has served as administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country.
For nearly four years, he served as administrator of AFSCME District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, representing 125,000 members. In that capacity, he was successful in restoring the fiscal health, integrity and good name of the council and its 56 affiliated local unions.
Saunders serves as a vice president of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily
work of the labor federation; he also serves as chair of its Political Committee. He is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, president of Working America and treasurer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He also serves as a board member of Priorities USA and the Democracy Alliance.
He received a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1974, a year after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University.
Saunders and his wife Lynne live in Washington, DC, and have two sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan and three grandsons.
Dr. Shah serves as President of the Rockefeller Foundation, a global institution with a mission to promote the well-being of humanity around the world. The Foundation applies data, science, and innovation to improve health for women and children, create nutritious and sustainable food systems, end energy poverty for more than a billion people worldwide, and enable meaningful economic mobility in the United States and around the world.
In 2009, he was appointed USAID Administrator by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Dr. Shah reshaped the $20 billion agency’s operations in more than 70 countries around the world by elevating the role of innovation, creating high impact public-private partnerships, and focusing US investments to deliver stronger results. Shah secured bipartisan support that included the passage of two significant laws – the Global Food Security Act and the Electrify Africa Act. He led the U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake and the West African Ebola pandemic, served on the National Security Council, and elevated the role of development as part of our nation’s foreign policy. Prior to his appointment at USAID, Shah served as Chief Scientist and Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics at the United States Department of Agriculture where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Shah founded Latitude Capital, a private equity firm focused on power and infrastructure projects in Africa and Asia and served as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at Georgetown University. Previously, he served at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he created the International Financing Facility for Immunization which helped reshape the global vaccine industry and save millions of lives.
Raised outside of Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Shah is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and the Wharton School of Business. He has received several honorary degrees, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the U.S. Global Leadership Award. He is married to Shivam Mallick Shah and they have three children.
Just how mesmerizing is Kierra Sheard’s voice? Captivating enough to shut down a noisy audience until you can hear a pin drop.
Case in point: Sheard’s recent Grammy Week performance at BET’s annual Music Matters showcase. Those lucky enough to be in the audience were treated to a brief but powerful set that included a song about insecurities, both physical and emotional in her latest single, “Flaws,” as well as a goose bump-raising cover of the Mary J. Blige classic “No More Drama.” That colorful versatility provides the creative blueprint for Sheard’s contemporary urban inspirational sound.
“It’s about singing an inspiring song that everyone can listen to,” explains Sheard, “especially those people who may never step foot in a church. It’s about R&B/hip-hop and gospel beats mixed with Coldplay and other pop/rock sounds—but always with a positive message.”
Sheard delivers that and more on her Stellar Award-nominated fifth album, Graceland (Karew Records), which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s and iTunes’ Gospel Albums charts. Leading off with the exuberant pop-infused single “2nd Win,” the set is now spinning off its second single, the ballad “Flaws,” which provides an introspective about life’s insecurities.
“I know I try to claim that I’m flawless then I look in the mirror,” says Sheard, who confesses to an ongoing battle with weight. “But you have to get to the place where you’re content with what God has given you and not go by what society says is beautiful. That’s why I love and am excited about ‘Flaws’: any human being can relate to that message.”
To help further craft her signature sound, Sheard collaborated for the first time with Grammy Award-winning pop songwriter Diane Warren (Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion) on “Flaws.” She also teamed with rising songwriter/producer Harmony Samuels (Ariana Grande, Fantasia, Michelle Williams) on the ballad “Save Me.” Rounding out Sheard’s suite of collaborators: her longtime producer/brother J. Drew (“2nd Win”) and songwriters Justin Jones, Justin Brooks and Lakisha Barnes. Additional standout selections range from the folky, guitar-driven mid-tempo title track to the rap-accented anthem “Moving Forward.”
Triggering what is arguably her best and most versatile work to date, Graceland brims with self-introspection and lessons learned as a fearless Sheard bares her soul and shares a revelatory journey that anyone can personally embrace. Her versatility, however, stretches beyond music.
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in psychology from Wayne State University, Sheard is currently working on a master’s degree in clinical psychology. A budding entrepreneur as well, she started her own clothing line June 20, 2015 entitled Eleven60 (www.myeleven60.com).
A self-professed “people person,” Sheard fervently believes in giving back. She’s the founder of BRL (Bold! Right! Life!), a national organization with 15 local chapters dedicated to youth empowerment (www.boldrightlife.org).
Being able to “express myself and inspire others is an amazing, fun thing,” says Sheard of her various ventures. “But at the same time, I’m always trying to make it bigger and better.”
Sheard’s quest began when she launched her professional solo career in 2004. Gifted with a mezzo-soprano range soaring from angelic riffs to deep lows, Sheard is a next-generation member of pioneering inspirational group, the multi-Grammy Award winning, Clark Sisters. Its members include the singer’s three aunts and her mother, Karen Clark Sheard. Singing in her pastor father’s church from the age of six, Sheard later appeared on two songs from her mother’s Grammy-nominated 1997 solo debut, Finally Karen. One song, “The Will of God,” earned the then nine-year-old a Stellar Award for Best Children’s Performance.
After honing her skills as a backing vocalist for her mother and the Clark Sisters, Sheard came into her own. The 30-year-old Detroit native gained notoriety out of the box with her 2004 debut album I Owe You. That was followed by 2006’s This Is Me. The Grammy Award-nominated sophomore set bowed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart. Two years later came Bold Right Life and then 2011’s Free, her first album on the Sheard family’s Karew Records. Hit singles include “You Don’t Know,” “Why Me” and “God in Me.
“Fans have told me they want message-oriented music they can listen to without feeling they have to be at a revival,” says Sheard of her work on Graceland. “Quality, fun music with an inspirational message that you can play at home, in a shop or bang in your car with the windows down … that’s my calling.”
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Aman Victoria Tune is a 2020 graduate of Hampton University with a dual major in political
science and international studies. She has been admitted to the University
College of London in England to pursue a master’s degree in international public policy starting
in the fall. She is also doing an internship this fall for a U.S. House committee. She currently
serves as the President of the NAACP Virginia State Conference Youth and College Division.
An active student on campus, Aman served as President of the Hampton University chapter of the NAACP, Vice President of Generation Action, a member of the SGA Senate, Social Action Chair of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Gamma Iota chapter, and was also involved in many other campus organizations. Aman has had the distinct pleasure of speaking at national conferences and has been actively engaged in working on voter registration and GOTV efforts while she was on campus and in the Hampton Roads area. As a result of this work, she received a grant from the Democratic National Committee to continue to get out the vote in the Hampton Roads area and engage in important conversations around Black Women and activism.
Matthew A. White is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He has been involved in the NAACP since elementary school in the Louisville Youth Council. Matthew remains highly active in the local branch and the NAACP. He is currently the Youth Works Chair for the Kentucky State Conference.
Matthew graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a Bachelor’s degree. He has continued his educational pursuit at Indiana Wesleyan University for his Masters degree in Social Work.
Matthew’s desire is that youth have the passion to continue to educate themselves on the importance of civil rights advocacy and its history. Everyone can contribute their gifts and talents to this movement and great organization. Matthew wants his leadership in the NAACP to develop a relationship with the youth and college division and help them to be the leaders of our communities.
Matthew currently serves in education as a Dean of Students at a high school in his city.