As evidenced by a quick glance at the top spots in this year’s Power of Diversity: Black 100, people of color are ensconced in positions of political power at historic rates. Austin Davis is the state’s first Black lieutenant governor. Joanna McClinton is the state’s first Black female majority leader in either chamber of the General Assembly. Timothy DeFoor continues in his term as the state’s first Black auditor general. Summer Lee is the state’s first Black female Member of Congress. This list recognizes the most influential Black Pennsylvanians in politics, nonprofits, business and other arenas. It was researched and written by City & State staff and freelance journalist Jordan Snowden.
First elected in 2015 to serve the 191st House District, Joanna McClinton has made history by becoming the first woman and the first Black American to be elected as the state House Democratic Caucus chair, the first woman elected House Democratic leader, and the first woman in the chamber to be named majority leader. Previously, McClinton served as an assistant public defender as well as chief counsel to state Sen. Anthony H. Williams.
Elected in 2016, state Sen. Sharif Street represents the neighborhoods of North Philadelphia, Nicetown, Roxborough, Lower Germantown, Logan, Olney, Fern Rock and more. Prior to becoming a state senator, Street served as the chief legislative adviser to the Democratic chair of the Housing and Urban Development Committee, where he oversaw legislative, housing, environmental and economic development initiatives. Street, who was elected as chair of the state Democratic Party last year, serves as the Democratic chair of both the state Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and the State Government Committee.
Formerly a state representative for the 35th House District, Austin Davis became Pennsylvania’s first Black lieutenant governor in January. Davis, who is the state’s 35th lieutenant governor, will be responsible for leading the state Senate and chairing the Board of Pardons and the Local Government Advisory Committee. Davis will also be a member of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Council and the Military Base Community Enhancement Commission.
Pennsylvania’s 181st House District, which serves a population of more than 60,000 residents in Philadelphia County, has been represented by Malcolm Kenyatta since 2019. Along with being the first openly queer person of color to be elected to serve in the General Assembly, Kenyatta is also one of the youngest members. He holds various other leadership roles, including secretary of the Philadelphia House Delegation, and is part of the Governor’s Taskforce on Suicide Prevention.
In late 2021, Ryan Boyer became the first Black leader of the Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council. Already serving as business manager of the Laborers District Council, his landmark 2021 appointment has since brought more than 50 unions under his leadership. In that role, he is in charge of supporting the organizing and needs of more than 5,000 union members who work in trades across the region.
Since 2019, U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans has represented Pennsylvania’s Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives. His political career began in 1980 at age 26 when he was elected to represent the 203rd state House District. He went on to become the first Black chair of the House Appropriations Committee in 1990. In this position, he was vital in the funding of Philadelphia’s economic development, job training, and education initiatives. His main focal points continue to be centered around urban renewal and uplifting poor and underserved communities.
Summer Lee, who previously served as a state representative for the 34th House District, now represents Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her career in politics includes multiple firsts: She was the first Western Pennsylvanian Black woman to be elected to the state legislature and is the first Black woman from Pennsylvania elected to Congress. Her platform is driven by voting rights, disability justice and LGBTQ rights, among others.
Representing North and West Philadelphia’s 195th House District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is Donna Bullock. Bullock has extensive governmental and public work experience, including serving as special assistant to Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke and time as City Council research fellowship director. She is currently the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus chair and serves on the Appropriations, Consumer Affairs, Professional Licensure and Urban Affairs committees.
Representing Pennsylvania’s 7th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, is state Sen. Vincent J. Hughes. His career includes time as a state representative and chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. A key player in Pennsylvania’s administration of the Affordable Care Act, Hughes has been the Democratic chair of the powerful state Senate Appropriations Committee for more than a decade.
Darrell Clarke, who is the current president of Philadelphia City Council, started out as a community activist in North Philadelphia. His work caught the eye of public service members, leading to his recruitment to serve as a constituent service representative for City Council. Clarke rose through the ranks, becoming chief of staff before his election to president in 2012. Under his leadership, Clarke has expanded City Council’s technical staff and overseen the city’s Actual Value initiative, which requires regular property tax reevaluation.
State Rep. Jordan Harris began representing the 186th House District in 2012 and now serves as Democratic Caucus Whip – a high-ranking role that falls just under caucus leader; he is the second-ever Black American to hold this position. Harris has championed the fight for educational and criminal justice reform: Along with fellow state Rep. Sheryl Delozier, he wrote Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law, which then-Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law in 2018. The law became a model across the country for certain criminal records to be automatically sealed. As a result, more than 40 million Pennsylvania criminal records have been sealed as of June 2022.
The current mayor of Pittsburgh, Ed Gainey, became the first Black person to hold the position after beating out the city’s two-term incumbent. Formerly serving as a state representative for the 24th House District for 10 years, Gainey is dedicated to the uplifting of communities and fighting injustice. During his first year as mayor, he oversaw the approval of an $805 million budget proposal that centered on public safety and infrastructure.
West Philly native Quinta Brunson created, wrote and stars in “Abbott Elementary,” which became a hit on ABC when it debuted in 2021 – and earned her a ranking on Time Magazine’s “Most Influential People of 2022.” Last month, Brunson’s homage to Philly school teachers – including her mother – was renewed for a third season and scooped up a handful of Golden Globes, including for best comedy series and a best actress in a TV series.
Four decades after a “Dreamgirls” Tony nomination made a star of Sheryl Lee Ralph, she won her first-ever Best Supporting Actress Emmy last fall for her star turn as Barbara Howard on “Abbott Elementary.” It’s a role that has garnered Ralph honor after honor in that category, including wins at this year’s Critic’s Choice and Film Independent Spirit awards. She founded the nonprofit DIVA Foundation in 1990 to both spread awareness about and combat HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses and, as the wife of longtime state Sen. Vincent Hughes, serves as the First Lady of Philadelphia’s 7th Senate District.
In January 2021, Gregory Deavens became CEO of one of the nation’s top health insurers, Independence Blue Cross/Independence Health Group. Deavens, the first Black American to take on the role, joined the health group five years prior and has served as executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer. He previously held senior financial roles at MassMutual, NY Life, CIGNA, and GE Capital. Deavens is an active member of the board of directors of Hartford Healthcare and serves as board treasurer for the Executive Leadership Council, among others.
In early 2021, Timothy DeFoor became Pennsylvania’s 52nd auditor general. Defoor ran for the position to help every resident of the state by ensuring Pennsylvania’s tax dollars were spent to create better jobs and schools while improving the cost of living for both families and seniors. His more than two decades of experience includes serving as a special investigator with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s office of inspector general, and as a special agent with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s office of attorney general.
Anthony Williams has been in the Pennsylvania Legislature for more than 30 years, starting as a state representative for the 191st House District before taking on his current role as state senator of the 8th District in the late 1990s. Williams was a key player in Pennsylvania’s landmark Clean Slate legislation and founded the Philadelphia Illegal Gun Task Force. He sits on the Banking & Insurance, Education, State Government, and Policy committees, and is the Democratic chair of the Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.
In her fifth term, state Rep. Morgan Cephas was elected as this legislative session’s chair for the Philadelphia House Delegation. The West Philadelphia native has a record of collaboration that has resulted in securing $25 million for maternal health initiatives across the commonwealth and $21 million for community development, including funds for schools, parks and libraries. Cephas currently serves on the boards of the Pennsylvania Association Workforce Development and the Community College of Philadelphia, among others.
Serving the 179th House District is state Rep. Jason Dawkins. Dawkins brings with him almost a decade of experience working as a legislative aide for former Philadelphia City Council Member Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez. In this role, Dawkins assisted in providing capital funding for the redevelopment of recreational facilities in underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods. He is part of the Judiciary, Health, and Insurance committees in the state House of Representatives, is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and serves the Policy Committee as its vice chair in addition to being a member of the Philadelphia Delegation.
Serving as Temple University’s 12th president is Jason Wingard. Among his priorities, Wingard aims to make sure the university is prepared for higher education’s changing landscape. He brings with him varied senior administrator and executive experience in the higher education and business fields, including serving as the dean and professor of the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University and chief learning officer of Goldman Sachs. In addition to his role as president, Wingard is a professor of management and policy, organizational, and leadership studies and has served as chair of The Education Board Inc. since 2004.
Leadership today is changing, according to Erika James – and should you need proof, look no further than last year’s record 52% female MBA enrollment at Wharton, where James is the first woman and person of color to lead Penn’s storied business school. James and her Simmons University counterpart, Lynn Perry Wooten, co-authored last year’s book, “The Prepared Leader,” detailing the crisis preparedness techniques that helped see them – and their institutions – successfully through the pandemic.
Previously serving as deputy director and deputy chief of staff for then-Gov. Tom Wolf, Jalila Parker took on the Delaware River Port Authority chief executive officer role in July 2022. The Delaware River Port Authority is responsible for overseeing regional transportation between Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the four bridges that connect the states. Prior to her time serving in Wolf’s office, she worked as a special assistant to state Sen. Art Haywood and was a Democratic State Committee Member for the 4th Senatorial District.
Reelected as majority leader last September, Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. has held the position since 2017 and is in his fourth term serving East Falls, Manayunk, Overbrook and other West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Jones currently chairs the Appropriations, Public Safety, and the Legislative Oversight committees and is vice chair of four others, including Housing and Neighborhood Development. He spearheaded the 100 Shooting Review Project, introduced legislation that formed the Citizens Police Oversight Commission, and secured a state grant for the New Market West development project.
A former Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas judge, Carolyn Nichols now serves on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. She began her term in early 2018 and is currently the only Black woman on the court. Her public service experience spans decades, including time as PHDC legal counsel for the City of Philadelphia, deputy secretary of external affairs for the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, and assistant city solicitor. Nichols is a member of the International Association of Women Judges, the National Association of Women Judges, the National Bar Association Judicial Council and the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Currently serving as Harrisburg’s 39th mayor is Wanda R.D. Williams. A lifelong resident of the city, Williams is a former Harrisburg City Council member, a position she was elected to in 2005 before leading the Council as president from 2010 until 2021. Williams is also a Pennsylvania Municipal League executive board member, a Dauphin County Democratic Committee person, and sits on the Downtown Improvement District board.
Danielle Bowers joined the Harrisburg City Council in 2018 after beating out 14 other candidates. A Harrisburg native, Bowers now serves as the president of the Council as well as the Administration Committee chair. Formerly serving as Building and Housing Committee chair and a member of the City of Harrisburg Zoning Hearing Board, Bowers is currently on the Broad Street Market Alliance Board of Directors.
As CEO of Visit Philadelphia, the city’s tourism organization, Angela Val boosts Greater Philadelphia’s profile, visitation and economy through campaigns aimed at both tourists and business travelers. Val, who began her career at the organization in 1998, came full circle when she returned as CEO last year after 25 years of destination marketing experience. Her past leadership roles include stints with the Philadelphia 2016 DNC Host Committee and Ready. Set. Philly!, where, as executive director, she spearheaded a collaborative, citywide post-pandemic reopening initiative in 2021.
In January, Sharmain Matlock-Turner celebrated nearly $600,000 in state grants for violence reduction programs at the Urban Affairs Coalition, which she leads. The same month, Matlock-Turner was also appointed deputy chair of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank for 2023. The UAC’s first female leader, she has grown and diversified funding and collaborations over nearly a quarter-century in the role, coordinating support for 80 Southeastern Pennsylvania nonprofits and myriad educational, social and cultural programs.
Whether opining on a shakeup in Harrisburg or a racial equity issue in Philadelphia, Mustafa Rashed is frequently called upon by media and power brokers for his insights into policy, politics and personalities. Rashed heads Bellevue Strategies, a Philadelphia public affairs firm known for building relationships between government and clients, including Black institutions like the African American Museum of Philadelphia, the African American Chamber of Commerce and Cheyney University. Rashed served on the Shapiro transition team’s economic development advisory committee.
Eagles fans celebrating this Super Bowl season include Moravia Health, whose founder, Frank Igwe, inked a 2021 deal making Moravia the team’s official home-care agency. Igwe’s decade-old firm is now a leading state provider of Medicaid and Medicare in-home care, with 1,500 clients statewide and The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval. Igwe, a Wharton MBA and a one-time Harvard Kennedy School of Government fellow, is a former management consultant who holds a doctorate in information science and technology.
Lifelong Central Pennsylvanian Blake Lynch is on a mission to connect his neighbors with trustworthy news, entertainment and culture. Since 2021, he has served as senior vice president and chief impact officer at WITF, the region’s PBS and NPR media outlet, where he oversees local engagement, corporate sponsorship, marketing and fundraising. Lynch previously directed community relations for the City of Harrisburg and, prior to that, led development efforts for the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg.
A product of Philadelphia public schools with numerous family members working as teachers in the city, Jerry Jordan, the current president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, remembers well the plight of teachers before the impact of the Civil Rights era. For example, Black teachers were not allowed to become principals or teach in white high schools. This motivated him to join PFT in 1987, where he served as a district staff representative before getting elected as legislative representative on PFT’s executive board. He was then director of the staff, becoming president in 2008.
Championing legislation on behalf of his low- and middle-income constituents, second-term Council Member Rev. Ricky Burgess draws on his faith as longtime pastor of the Nazarene Baptist Church. He is also a commissioner with the city’s Housing Authority and a professor of communications at Community College of Allegheny County. Elected in 2009 to represent core Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Robert Daniel Lavelle currently chairs the Council’s Finance and Law Committee. He also serves as treasurer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Board, works as a realtor with his family’s business, Lavelle Real Estate, and is vice president of Fear No Man Productions, a local film company.
Longtime community activist Olivia Bennett won election in 2019 to the Allegheny County Council, where she represents Pittsburgh’s District 13 and chairs the Public Safety Committee. Now Bennett is running again, this time for county executive. Bennett’s sales pitch is part biography – a former teen mom who lives in public housing, she brings lived perspective to social issues – combined with a legislative record that includes banning LGBTQ conversion therapy and hair discrimination, making Juneteenth a paid holiday and declaring racism a public health crisis.
John L. Jackson Jr. is the author of numerous books, including “Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America,” “Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity,” and, most recently, “Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment,” co-authored with Carolyn Rouse and Marla Frederick. He serves as the Walter H. Annenberg dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, as well as Richard Perry University professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a former dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice and special adviser to the provost on diversity, and will serve as Penn’s provost starting in June.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey’s top aide is Jake Wheatley, a former state representative and a decorated U.S. Marine. Wheatley brings decades of inside knowledge of Pittsburgh politics to his role with the city’s first African American mayor, helping drive progressive priorities like criminal justice reform, economic development and improved public services. Wheatley also serves on the boards of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the University of Pittsburgh, and is a member of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition.
Since 2020, Bret Perkins has served as Comcast’s senior vice president of external and government affairs. He joined the company in 2001 as the director of governmental affairs, serving in various executive positions throughout the years, including as vice president of governmental affairs and senior director of public policy. In his current role, Perkins is responsible for the company’s local government affairs and state and local intergovernmental strategic partnerships, among others. He also serves as a Class B director on the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Board and executive committee member for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia.
Lifelong Montgomery County resident Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr. is vice chair of the Board of Commissioners – the first Black American to take on the role in the county’s history. He joined the board in 2017, filling a seat vacated by now-Gov. Josh Shapiro. Lawrence also chairs the Montgomery County Board of Elections. In 2019, he oversaw the purchase of a new voting system and the execution of mail-in ballots a year later. Lawrence previously worked as a public policy representative for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and as senior vice president for government, community and public affairs at Temple University.
Lincoln University is currently headed by Brenda Allen. Appointed the university’s 14th president in 2017, Allen has since implemented a strategic plan designed to ensure Lincoln’s place among great liberal arts institutions, including increased support for faculty teaching, and expanding scholarship and co-curricular opportunities. In 2020, Lincoln University received the largest monetary gift in its history: $20 million donated by MacKenzie Scott. Allen, who previously held executive positions at Winston Salem State University, Brown University and Smith College, is a member of the board of trustees for Colby College, Oxford Main Street, Voices Underground, and YMCA Brandywine.
Chad Dion Lassiter has dedicated his life to the prevention of violence in the lives of Black Americans. Currently serving as the executive director for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Lassiter is also the president and co-founder of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, which provides social work recruitment for Black men and anti-racism and violence prevention training to schools nationwide. As PHRC executive director, Lassiter oversees diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious bias, and anti-racism trainings in Pennsylvania. He sits on the board of St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.
Two years ago, Ernest Garrett was elected president of AFSCME District Council 33, one of Philadelphia’s largest unions, representing a wide range of blue-collar workers from sanitation to health care and public safety. It was the first election AFSCME held since 1996, and Garrett, who previously served as an official for water department workers in the district’s Local 394, defeated longtime president Herman Matthews by over 1,000 votes.
With the Philadelphia mayoral race focused on the gun violence crisis, Danielle Outlaw, the city’s first African American female police commissioner, is once again in the spotlight. Outlaw recently reported an 8% decline in homicides for 2022 and announced a plan to further reduce shootings, including an ongoing push to recruit more officers for her short-staffed department. But as mayoral candidates debate the way forward on crime, Outlaw’s future as commissioner is an open question.
Robert Cherry was named CEO of Partner4Work, a Pittsburgh-based workforce development organization, in 2021. Cherry has more than 10 years of workforce development leadership experience, previously serving as the deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and in senior roles at Employ Milwaukee, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, and the Center for Urban Population Health. He is also an elected board trustee of the Village of Brown Deer.
At the head of Luminous Strategies, which provides government relations, public affairs and campaign management services to minority businesses, is David Dix, who has a long history of political expertise and public advocacy. Dix served as chair for the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs; was a council member for the Pennsylvania Council On Reform/Protection of Vulnerable Populations Executive Order; supported political campaigns for former Govs. Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker, PA House Majority Leader Dave Reed and former Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto; and was a finance director for Obama for America – forming relationships on both sides of the political scale.
The marketing and public relations team at Perry Media Group has been led by Marcia Perry Dix since 2014. She has more than two decades of experience in the industry, working as a promotions director and regional marketing consultant at Clear Channel Communications before becoming the director of brand integration and strategic partnerships for Top Flight Media in Harrisburg. She is an associate board member of the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg; serves as recording secretary, chair of Health and Human Services facet, and chair of strategic planning for The Links, Inc.; and is a member of the Four Diamonds board of advisors.
In 2004, Osagie Imasogie co-founded the private equity firm PIPV Capital, previously titled Phoenix IP Ventures. He has more than three decades of law, finance and business management, health care, and pharmaceutical industry experience, including serving as vice president for product development strategy at SmithKline Beecham, vice president for international sales and marketing at DuPont Merck, and general counsel to DuPont Merck’s International Manufacturing and Generic Drug Divisions. Imasogie also works as an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he sits on the school’s Board of Overseers, serves as a member of the Board of Trustees and chairs the Budget and Finance Committee.
Democratic power broker Joe Hill leads government relations across Southeastern Pennsylvania for Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies, where he is a senior principal. Hill, a Teach for America alumnus, began his career working for Sen. Bob Casey on Capitol Hill. He was Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Pennsylvania deputy political director and helped Gov. Tom Wolf win reelection as his statewide political director and deputy campaign manager. Hill served on the Shapiro transition team’s personnel committee, advising the governor on administration hiring.
Philadelphia’s first elected female sheriff, Rochelle Bilal, has overseen the distribution of 3,000 gun locks since launching the 2022 giveaway program. Her campaign is highlighting Bilal’s expertise as a 27-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, with which her office has partnered in criminal justice operations. Despite being at the center of a number of controversies that have made headlines since taking office, Bilal is favored to win reelection this year.
Whether ogling trout at the Pennsylvania Farm Show or advising holiday travelers on staying healthy, Valerie Pritchett keeps viewers up to date every weeknight on ABC27, where she is a news anchor and reporter. Social consciousness is a thread running through Pritchett's reporting: Many know her best for “Val’s Kids,” a regular segment spotlighting children in need of adoptive homes. And Operation Safe Kids, her fire safety feature, helped Pritchett’s station win the National Association of Broadcasters’ Service to Community Award.
Overseeing PNC Bank of Greater Pennsylvania employees is Marc Jenkins, who serves as the financial institution’s regional managing director. He began this role in June 2022 after serving as PNC’s market leader for Southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey, and as wealth director for Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey before that. His financial industry experience is vast; Jenkins served in executive and managerial roles at Bryn Mawr Trust and Wells Fargo before joining PNC.
Over a three-decade career in workforce development, Michael Kenyatta Joynes has championed numerous initiatives on behalf of communities of color and job-seeking Pennsylvanians. At Philadelphia Works, the city’s labor force development agency, Joynes has worked on the development of PA CareerLink centers; the Pennsylvania Employment, Advancement, and Retention Network; and other regional jobs programs. Joynes previously served as deputy director for the city’s enterprise zone and director of employment for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.
As head of impact at FS Investments, Michael Newmuis leads philanthropic and civic engagement efforts for a Philadelphia-based firm with $35 billion in assets and offices in New York, Orlando and Kansas. Newmuis joined FS in 2022 after eight years in various leadership roles at Visit Philadelphia, including a stint as interim leader last year, overseeing advocacy and grant development that yielded $5.5 million. He currently sits on the boards of the Avenue of the Arts, Inc. and the Global Philadelphia Association.
Last month, Gov. Josh Shapiro tapped Khalid Mumin to head the state’s education department. Mumin was serving as superintendent of the highly rated Lower Merion School District; prior to that, while holding the same position in Reading, he was recognized by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators as its Superintendent of the Year for turning around Reading’s troubled schools. The Philadelphia native comes to Harrisburg with a mission to improve student achievement, access and outcomes in a state roiled by litigation over school funding.
After retiring as Merck’s president and CEO, a position he held for 10 years, Kenneth Frazier was elected executive chair of the pharmaceutical company’s board of directors in July 2021. He started at Merck in 1992, working his way up to become general counsel and, in 2011, president and CEO. Frazier previously served as a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, a Philadelphia law firm. He is a member of various boards, including Weill Cornell Medicine, Eikon Therapeutics and the National Constitution Center, and serves as chair of health assurance initiatives for venture capital firm General Catalyst.
Aaron Walton’s career spanning business, education and human services came together at Cheyney University, the nation’s oldest HBCU, which he has headed since 2017. Walton recently celebrated a $5 million state grant for a bioscience innovation center and inked a vocational partnership with the AtlantiCare health system. He also spearheaded Cheyney’s Institute for the Contemporary African American Experience. Previously, while an executive at Highmark, Walton helped establish the Children's Health Insurance Program; he also held board leadership positions with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
While advocating for Independence Blue Cross as its longtime vice president for government relations, Lorina Marshall-Blake also helps the influential insurer make a positive social impact. Marshall-Blake founded the Independence Blue Cross Foundation a dozen years ago as the Independence Health Group’s philanthropic division and has since overseen the distribution of $70 million in grantmaking. Under her leadership, the foundation steers funding to more than 200 local nonprofits that work to eradicate disparities in health care access and address the needs of underserved communities.
After serving as statewide political director for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s successful gubernatorial campaign – which garnered a record 3 million-plus votes – Larry Hailsham is now Shapiro’s executive deputy chief of staff. Hailsham’s political career goes back to Allegheny College, where he was student government president and interned at the White House. Since then, Hailsham has worked for Sen. Bob Casey’s reelection campaign, served as now-President Joe Biden’s Pennsylvania campaign political director and managed government affairs for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
By age 33, Marcel Pratt was Philadelphia’s youngest-ever city solicitor, leading a 330-lawyer team and helping Mayor Jim Kenney navigate legal issues around COVID-19. Now, Pratt heads the crisis management team as a managing partner at Ballard Spahr, where he had previously worked in the litigation and antitrust group. He now specializes in commercial litigation, products liability, business law and government relations. The native Philadelphian is also helping resolve questions surrounding remains from the city’s 1985 MOVE bombing, which killed 11 people.
For more than a decade, Tiffany Newmuis has worked to broaden representation and community engagement at some of Philadelphia’s most storied institutions. At Comcast, she directs corporate administration and local media development, and previously oversaw town hall and campus programming. Newmuis has also led community engagement and philanthropy for Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, headed diversity efforts for the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority and managed diversity and community outreach for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Until 2020, when Denise Pearson joined as vice-chancellor, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education had never had a coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion. Pearson, a first-generation college graduate, inaugurated the role to facilitate higher education access for more diverse and representative student bodies. Having spearheaded the system’s first-ever campus climate survey, Pearson is using the data to improve recruitment, retention, equity and outcomes as the commonwealth’s universities undergo a strategic reorganization.
The Philadelphia Tribune is headed by Robert W. Bogle, who serves as chair, president, and CEO, a position he has held since 1989. Before taking on this leadership role, Bogle worked as the paper’s advertising director, director of marketing, and executive vice president and treasurer. Previously serving as president of the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association, Bogle currently chairs the Hospitals and Higher Education Facilities Authority of Philadelphia, and is a member of the regional Independence Blue Cross Board.
In late 2021, Catherine Hicks was named president of the Philadelphia NAACP. A longtime member of the civil rights organization, she was the second woman to be elected to the position. In a statement following her appointment, Hicks said, “Our new leadership brings diverse experience and a solid network of relationships and partners. We will expect to be held accountable to the people of this city and we will hold others accountable as well.” Hicks is also the publisher and co-owner of the weekly newspaper the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, a position she’s held for over a decade.
White men have historically been overrepresented in banking – but not on Evelyn Smalls’ watch at United Bank of Philadelphia, founded 31 years ago with a focus on Black, Latino, Asian and female clients and a mission of economic development. Smalls, who previously oversaw human resources for the once-fledgling bank, has held the top job since 2000. Under her leadership, the United Bank has fostered the growth of scores of small businesses, creating hundreds of local jobs annually and alleviating poverty in Philadelphia neighborhoods.
Rachel Ferguson has more than 15 years of experience in the media industry, including serving as KYW-TV/CBS 3 and WPSG-TV/CW Philly 57’s public affairs coordinator, and as the director of communications and public affairs for CBS New York. She joined the Visit Philadelphia team in 2019 for a short stint as the vice president of innovation and diverse marketing before becoming chief innovation and global diversity officer. In this position, Ferguson is responsible for growing the leisure tourism segment and leading revenue-generating partnerships. Since serving in this role, she has launched award-winning campaigns that have helped attract minority travelers.
A year after his 2015 Philadelphia mayoral bid, Douglas Oliver brought his communications and governmental savvy to PECO, where he directs public affairs for the state’s largest electric and natural gas utility. Oliver previously held a similar role with Philadelphia Gas Works and, prior to that, communications positions with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and the City of Philadelphia. He is currently vice chair for the board of the Philadelphia Youth Network and served on the energy advisory committee for the Shapiro transition team.
Since January 2022, Andrea Fields has served as the director for Western Pennsylvania for government relations firm Bellevue Strategies. Most recently, she was the executive director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus for four years, where she was also a committee member of the Diversity and Inclusion Council and the internship coordinator for the Democratic Internship Program. Her governmental experience doesn’t end there: Fields was a legislative assistant for the House of Representatives prior to serving as a Democratic whip leadership legislative assistant.
When she joined Triad Strategies as a senior associate in 2019, Brandi Hunter-Davenport brought 20 years of experience in higher education, state government and the nonprofit world. Hunter-Davenport previously headed PA Forward, the Pennsylvania Library Association’s outreach and training initiative, where she grew its Star Library Program, a literacy project, to include 200 participating libraries. The Harrisburg native has also served as director of communications for the state Department of Agriculture and, prior to that, worked in communications for former Gov. Ed Rendell.
Over the past year, Kadida Kenner spoke out publicly about what Pennsylvania’s Black residents want, rallied voters across communities of color for the November midterms and led a Jan. 6 remembrance event. Kenner is the founding director of the New Pennsylvania Project, a voting rights nonprofit modeled on the work of Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams. When she’s not getting out the voters, Kenner also co-chairs Why Courts Matter–Pennsylvania, a group advocating for independent state and federal courts.
In response to the disproportionate number of Black Americans who died during the onset of COVID-19, Dr. Ala Stanford, an American Board of Surgery-certified physician with more than two decades of experience, founded the Black Doctors Consortium in Philadelphia with the mission to address the racial disparity in the health industry. In early 2022, Stanford was appointed regional director of Region 3 of the Department of Health and Human Services by President Joe Biden. A 2021 George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award recipient, Stanford serves on the CDC Philadelphia Department of Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee.
Representative leadership is a guiding principle for Keir Bradford-Grey, a partner in the litigation department at Montgomery McCracken and an expert in white-collar and government cases. In addition to leading the law firm’s executive leadership practice group, Bradford-Grey co-chairs its diversity, equity and inclusion committee and mentors other professional women. She is a previous chief defender for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she managed 500 employees and an annual budget of $50 million, spearheading 10 community justice hubs across the city.
With enrollment rising fast at the Community College of Philadelphia, President Donald Generals recently unveiled a new $40 million Career and Advanced Technology Center to prepare the college’s students for high-demand jobs. His hybrid degree program for Philadelphia high school students has saved them thousands in tuition – and for those still owing, Generals directed federal funds to pay off $4.2 million in student debt in 2021 and 2022. It’s no surprise that Generals was named “Best of Philly College President” by Philadelphia Magazine last year.
Labor advocate Nicole Fuller heads the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, where she had worked as OSHA training coordinator earlier in her career. Fuller, a former longtime Detroit auto worker, also held roles at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. Hoping to inspire others, Fuller founded Women in Nontraditional Careers, a labor force initiative of Philadelphia Works, and is also a member of the Philly Coalition of Labor Union Women.
When Fulton Bank decided to create a new position around engagement with historically underrepresented business clients, it turned to Joel Barnett, a veteran of both the banking industry and the Marine Corps. As director of commercial affinity banking, Barnett is tasked with outreach to businesses owned by people of color, women and military veterans. Prior to assuming the role last year, Barnett had a long career at PNC, where he most recently served as senior vice president and business banking market executive.
WellSpan Health Vice President Kim Brister knows a more diverse workforce has myriad benefits for both employees and the clients they serve. Brister, who has headed talent acquisition as well as diversity, equity and inclusion for the organization, inaugurated the role of DEI chief last year. In addition to diversifying WellSpan’s recruitment, Brister has committed WellSpan to inclusivity efforts such as the CEO ACT!ON Pledge for Diversity and Inclusion, a national initiative, and the Pennsylvania Values Business Pledge, which advocates for updated state nondiscrimination laws.
Starting his career as a commercial banker before becoming CEO of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation, Jonathan Bowser now serves as CEO and managing partner of Steel Works Construction and its development group, Integrated Development Partners. His primary focus is on helping clients seeking construction work in multifamily, medical, office, affordable housing and industrial projects. He sits on various boards, including Community First Federal Credit Union and Harrisburg Area Community College, and serves as board chair for Community First Fund.
To combat recent enrollment declines – especially among Black students – Quintin Bullock is spearheading an ambitious campaign for the Community College of Allegheny County, fundraising and refocusing on practical job skills. Having secured a recent 12% increase in county monies this year, Bullock will unveil a $40 million workforce development and training center later in 2023, with new programs in technology, manufacturing and culinary arts. He’s also investing in enhanced student resources for mental health, mentoring and other support services.
After a long career with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, where she retired as executive deputy secretary, Shirley Moore Smeal founded her own Huntingdon County-based consultancy, Moore Smeal and Associates, in 2019. She is also a past president of the National Association of Women Executives in Corrections, on whose board she continues to serve. Along with advising clients on issues ranging from criminal justice and security to diversity and representation, Moore Smeal mentors other women in a traditionally male-dominated field.
As CEO of WURD Radio, journalist Sara Lomax-Reese built the commonwealth’s only Black-owned talk radio station into a full-fledged multimedia empire, with a number of original programs on air, online, and in person throughout Greater Philadelphia. Two years ago, Lomax-Reese also co-founded URL Media, a resource-sharing network of news organizations operated by and for people of color. She was a 2022 community impact journalism fellow at Stanford University and, in 2020, served as program lead for Facebook’s inaugural BIPOC Sustainability Accelerator for journalism outlets.
When Sydney Etheredge became the new CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania a year ago, Roe v. Wade was still the law of the land. With the measure’s reversal bringing uncertainty as well as out-of-state patients to the region, Etheredge has guided her chapter through a challenging time for reproductive health, focusing on underserved populations and leading pro-choice advocacy in the midterm elections. She previously worked for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, prioritizing social equity as director of its Health Care Investment Program.
Ensuring the welfare of Pennsylvanians has been Tina Nixon’s calling for over a quarter-century – most recently at UPMC, where, since 2015, she has served as vice president of mission effectiveness and chief diversity officer. The publication “Women We Admire” named Nixon among its Top 50 Women Leaders of Pennsylvania of 2022 for her work at the not-for-profit hospital system, which includes launching a cultural awareness education initiative, promoting community engagement and fostering a culture of inclusivity. Nixon previously directed the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg.
Ryan Sanders wears multiple hats. Currently serving as partner of full-service real estate development group Vice Capital, Sanders is also the Pennsylvania regional director and African American engagement coordinator for the Republican National Committee, a position he has held since 2014. Sanders was inspired to start a career in real estate after attending a financial empowerment seminar at the age of 21, which included Robert Kiyosaki and former President Donald Trump as speakers.
Veteran financier Les Brun recently co-founded Ariel Alternatives with an ambitious goal – to help close the racial wealth gap by investing in minority-owned businesses. Supported by an investment from JPMorgan Chase, Brun’s marquee initiative, Project Black, helps middle-market, Black- and Latino-helmed firms scale up to collaborate with Fortune 500 companies, increasing the corporate presence of people of color. Brun is also chair and CEO of Sarr Group, an investment holding company, and a lead independent director on the board of Broadridge Financial Solutions.
From the Thanksgiving parade to the Wawa Welcome America Festival, Jazelle Jones makes sure Philadelphia events go off without a hitch. Since 2005, Jones has served as the city’s deputy managing director and director of operations for special events, coordinating services, costs and reimbursements. Jones, a longtime member of the Pennsylvania Women’s Commission, where she is currently vice chair, was appointed by former Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on the state Court of Judicial Discipline.
Serving as director of engagement and advancement for the Republican Party of Pennsylvania is Calvin Tucker, who is responsible for recruiting Black, Latinx and Asian Americans as well as women to Pennsylvania’s Republican Party. In addition, Tucker is managing director at the economic development consulting firm Eagles Capital Advisors, LLC, as well as West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution’s capital manager. He has more than three decades of experience in the financial services industry, including serving as an executive and senior officer with Advance Bank, United Bank of Philadelphia and GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corporation.
Regina Hairston, a former lobbyist at Bellevue Strategies, leads the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. As head of the 30-year-old organization, Hairston has championed a mentorship program, facilitated access to capital and spearheaded partnerships on behalf of Black-owned businesses. Under Hairston’s leadership, the Chamber has embraced a mission of advocacy for the region's Black communities, co-hosting a recent Philadelphia mayoral candidates’ forum and last year’s national convention of Black mayors.
Keith Leaphart is the founder of digital and social engagement platform Philanthropi, which works to transform charitable giving by amplifying excitement and awareness around philanthropy. He serves as board chair for the Lenfest Foundation, a position he was appointed to in 2013. In this role, he assists Philadelphia’s disadvantaged youth with career planning, early learning and out-of-school care. A recipient of the Vision for Philadelphia Award, Leaphart sits on numerous other boards, including the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and he works at Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital as a relief staff physician.
As a child, Gary Horton canvassed for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. Sixty-three years later, Horton – like his parents and brother before him – is a social activist who heads the NAACP’s Erie chapter. He is also the longtime president of the Urban Erie Community Development Corporation, collaborating with local officials to advocate for social and economic opportunity. An alumnus of two HBCUs – Hampton and Cheyney – Horton has a long involvement with the Walking in Black History school initiative, which introduces Erie schoolchildren to civil rights landmarks.
Malcolm Yates’ career in public affairs was inspired by the Philadelphia crossfire killing of his 5-year-old brother, Marcus. More than 30 years later, Yates led the Delaware County Black Caucus’ crusade for justice for Fanta Bility, an 8-year-old shot by police in 2021. He is now the first-ever government relations chief for Public Health Management Corporation, where he secured $6 million in state funding for capital improvements and helped improve local health care access through a partnership with Penn Medicine.
As president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, Doris Carson-Williams has been advocating to change the vast disparity in the quality of life between Black and white residents in the City of Pittsburgh through the organization, which she launched in 1998. The ninth-largest chapter in the 10-county region, the chamber provides access and opportunity to local Black businesses. Carson-Williams is also part of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, working as deputy chair prior to being appointed as board chair for 2023.
Evan Frazier, the founding director of The Advanced Leadership Institute, an organization that cultivates Black executive leadership in order to strengthen companies, institutions and communities, is now its CEO.
Under his leadership, TALI is launching its fifth cohort of the Executive Leadership Academy at Carnegie Mellon, Frazier’s alma mater, with graduates serving as mentors for the Institute’s Emerging Leaders Program. Frazier also co-founded The National Society of Minorities in Hospitality and he currently chairs its legacy fund.
In early 2020, the Rev. Robert Collier was elected president of the religious organization Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity. Two months later, the pandemic hit. Through numerous Zoom and Facebook Live town hall meetings and seminars, Collier oversaw public education on COVID testing and, eventually, vaccination. In 2021, he told The Philadelphia Sunday Sun, “I appreciate the support of our members and the confidence they have shown in me by giving me two more years as president. I look forward to the work that God will allow us to do as an organization over the next two years.”
Running on a platform of sustainable economic development, progressive community activist Khari Mosley is challenging incumbent City Council Member Ricky Burgess to represent Pittsburgh’s District 9. Mosley currently directs 1Hood Power, a nonprofit aimed at mobilizing and empowering voters and reforming the criminal justice system. He previously was Pennsylvania state director for BlueGreen Alliance, a national organization that aligns labor and environmental goals. Mosley is married to Chelsa Wagner, a county judge who has served as a state representative and as county controller.
NAACP Allegheny East President Kenneth Huston is a familiar face around Pittsburgh, not only in civil rights circles – he’s an immediate past president of the NAACP Pennsylvania state conference – but also in various community spheres. He heads Future Champs, a career development nonprofit; is pastor of Temple of Faith Ministries in nearby Greensburg; and runs Huston Trust Co., a commercial cleaning and workforce outfit. Huston has also held leadership positions with the Black Political Empowerment Project and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.
By spearheading socially conscious initiatives, community activist Sulaiman Rahman aims to build a more diverse, prosperous Philadelphia. Rahman is the founder of DiverseForce, a diversity recruiting consultancy that partners with OneTen, a Black employees career program; P4 Hub, a philanthropic partnership aimed at enhancing racial equity; and BBEx Network, a networking community for professionals of color. Rahman serves on the executive committees of the boards of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Community College of Philadelphia, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Mastery Charter Schools.
Joe Watkins has served as CEO of Community Council Health Systems since 2021, overseeing a range of mental and behavioral health services. Watkins also hosts “State of Independence,” a weekly talk show on Lighthouse TV. In addition to having worked for then-U.S. Sen. Dan Quayle, served in George H.W. Bush’s administration and run for Congress from Indiana, Watkins, who offers political commentary on numerous cable channels, is also the former longtime pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia’s oldest African American Lutheran church.
Erie County Council’s District 2 has been represented by Council Member André R. Horton since 2014. Under his leadership, more than 400 part-time jobs have been provided to city and county residents ranging from ages 16 to 21 as part of the Summer Jobs and More program. He is passionate about the care and safety of Erie’s youth, fighting against conversion therapy, co-founding the nonviolence initiative Blue Coats in local school districts, and successfully working to get a downtown community college built. Additionally, Horton has been a Laborers Local 603 member for more than 25 years and is a delegate to the Ohio-based organization Blue-Green Alliance.
After taking a hiatus to help elect John Fetterman to the U.S. Senate, Celeste Trusty has returned to Families Against Mandatory Minimums as its Pennsylvania political director and chief advocate for state-level criminal justice reform. In this role, Trusty worked with then-Gov. Tom Wolf to launch the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, resulting in the release of 200 people with minor convictions. Trusty also helped bolster staffing at the state Board of Pardons, where she recently served as secretary, to reduce the office’s application backlog.
For over a decade, David Arthur has guided federal government relations for PPL, the Allentown-based utility company. Arthur oversees public affairs and policy strategy for a Fortune 500 company with energy subsidiaries across multiple states, nearly 7,000 employees and 3.5 million customers. The longtime lobbyist – who oversaw government relations for Calpine, a power company, prior to joining PPL in 2009 – began his career working on Capitol Hill and at the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Like Lazarus, the biblical figure for whom his criminal justice consultancy is named, Brandon Flood has found new life. In recent years, Pennsylvania’s former secretary of pardons received a heart transplant, ran for lieutenant governor and launched The Lazarus Firm, which specializes in criminal record clearing, sentence commutation and other reentry services. Few know the system quite like Flood, who was himself pardoned by then-Gov. Tom Wolf for drug and firearm violations and, in his state-level role, spearheaded an overhaul of Pennsylvania’s clemency procedures.
A veteran and former adjunct professor of corporate finance, Kathy Barnette is a conservative political commentator who regularly appears on national television and radio shows, including “Fox & Friends,” Newsmax and One America News Network. In early 2020, she published the book, “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America,” which discusses how being Black does not equate to being a Democrat and includes her thoughts on how the party has failed Black communities.
Legions of Philadelphians wake up to the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler’s “The POWER Hour” on WURD Radio, and scores more fill the pews of Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church to hear him preach. Tyler is the 52nd pastor at the Philadelphia church, which held its first service in 1794 and is the oldest U.S. property continuously owned by African Americans. A social justice activist who holds a doctorate in educational leadership, Tyler also co-directs the POWER Live Free criminal justice reform initiative.
Editor's note: Joseph Hill, Michael Newmuis, Sharmain Matlock-Turner and Keir Bradford-Grey are members of City & State’s Advisory Board.