Micheal P. McMillan/President & C.E.O. of Urban League of St. Louis
Michael P. McMillan is the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. In this capacity, he is responsible for overseeing the management and strategic growth of the agency throughout the St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Clair County areas. He has been a member of the Urban League since the age of 16 and a Lifetime member for over 14 years. Previously, he served as a member of the Urban League’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee as well as its Alderman for ten years. The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis is the #1 ranked affiliate in the country with almost 200 employees, ten locations and twenty-five programs. He holds a Lifetime Membership with the East St. Louis NAACP where he also serves as a Regional Ambassador and Honorary Co-Chair of its annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet. McMillan was recently selected to the Ebony Power 100 most influential African Americans in the United States. Additionally, he is the recipient of the 2013 Trumpet Award for Community Service; Chairman’s Award presented by the St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montford Point Marines (counterparts of the Tuskegee Airmen) and for the Salute to Women in Leadership Awards program. Michael McMillan is a native of St. Louis, MO. He is a graduate of Bishop DuBourg High School and Saint Louis University with a degree in African American Studies, and a minor in Political Science with an emphasis on Finance.
Randi Weingarten/President of AFT
RANDI WEINGARTEN is president of the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which represents teachers; paraprofessionals and school-related personnel; higher education faculty and staff; nurses and other healthcare professionals; local, state and federal government employees; and early childhood educators. The AFT champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for students, their families and communities. The AFT and its members advance these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through members’ work. The AFT and a broad array of parent and community partners have collaborated on events across the country to advance a community- and educator-driven agenda for public school reform. Parents and many others have joined the AFT’s efforts to end the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and to fix—not close—struggling schools, something Weingarten has advocated since her involvement in the creation of New York City’s Chancellor’s District, which dramatically improved achievement in what had been some of the city’s lowest-performing schools.
Hon. Ras J. Baraka/Newark Councilman of the South Ward
Ras J. Baraka has served as South Ward Councilman since May 2010 and is running for Mayor in the 2014 election. A native of Newark where his family has lived for over 70 years, Baraka was educated in the Newark Public Schools and went on to receive a BA in Political Science from Howard University in Washington, DC and an MA in Education Supervision from St. Peters University in Jersey City, NJ. In addition to his many accomplishments as the South Ward Councilman, Baraka is credited with transforming Central High School where he has served as principal since 2007. Baraka’s love for teaching and education is matched only by his passion for political equality. An accomplished legislator and administrator, Baraka has tackled issues affecting the current and future quality of life for Newark residents, including employment, public health and safety, development, and civic engagement A community organizer for over 20 years, he energetically ran his first campaign for mayor in 1994, at the age of 24, after returning home from Howard University. On September 27, 2002 He was appointed Deputy Mayor where he served until 2005, when Newark Municipal Council voted for Baraka to fulfill the unexpired term of the late Councilman Donald Tucker as South Ward Councilman. Baraka established Newark’s Committee on Violence, served as a key organizer for the Newark Ceasefire Peace Initiative in 2004, and is a founding member and served as chairman of the historic 1st National Hip Hop Political Convention. Ras Baraka is the son of renowned poets Amina and Amiri Baraka and the loving father of three daughters. A published author, his latest work Black Girls Learn Love Hard is dedicated to the life of his late sister, Shani Baraka.
Gemar Mills/Principal of Malcolm X Shabazz High School
Gemar Mills, born and raised in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, always possessed a fervent affection to provide urban youth with an alternative perspective on life. As a high school student, he quickly acknowledged the significance of becoming an educated African-American male in his community. He sought empowerment through education where he discovered its positive attributes and its significance to personal and societal development. He went on to obtain a Bachelors of Science degree in Math Education from Montclair State University. In 2005, Gemar Mills began teaching math at East Side High School in Newark, New Jersey. While working fulltime, he began his graduate studies at American Intercontinental University where he earned a Master’s of Educational Leadership. In spring of 2008, Mills embarked on his first leadership role as the Department Chairperson of Mathematics at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ. It is there, where he began to fulfill his true passion of educating the youth. After two years as Math Department Chairperson, Mills was promoted to Vice Principal. After one stellar year, at the age of 28, Mills was promoted to Principal of Malcolm X Shabazz High School (MXS). One of the most troubled schools in the Newark Public Schools District, with a history of low-test scores, MXS was threatened with possibility of closure. Mills took on the challenge and fully implemented his strategy of education reform by becoming an accessible and relatable leader for the school community. He accomplished the unthinkable, by drastically improving student test scores, created a safe school atmosphere and made the students believe in their
Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr. is Professor of Social Work and a Fellow in the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is also a Fellow in the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Farrell has appeared on National Public Radio (NPR)—The Connection and the Today Show (with Matt Lauer) to discuss education reform (vouchers, charters, and privatization of public education).
Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr. /Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina
Levi A. Holmes, II/ President of the Newark Bronze Shields, Inc.
Since 2010 Detective Holmes has served as the President of the Newark Bronze Shields, Inc. The Newark Bronze Shields, Inc. is the largest African American police organization in the state of New Jersey with approximately three hundred members. Established in 1959, this mighty organization was founded to combat racism within the Newark Police Department. The organization’s focus quickly shifted to community service. The Newark Bronze Shields, Inc. has awarded over $27,000.00 in the past three years in college scholarships to Newark youths. We have partnered with various church/community groups in mentoring projects, book bag giveaways, voter registration drives and community outreach programs. The Newark Bronze Shields, Inc. has recently partnered with the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center to sponsor a Youth Forum for the residents there. We are also co-hosting a Holiday Feeding at the Detention Center where our members will feed and fellowship with the residents. Detective Holmes is the President of the Greater New Jersey Chapter of the National Black Police Officers Association. The National Black Police Association (NBPA) is a national organization comprised of regional African American Police Associations whom are dedicated to promoting justice, fairness, and effectiveness in law enforcement. The NBPA has several chartered organizations throughout the United States and has associate members abroad, in Canada, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom. The Greater New Jersey chapter is comprised of the Newark Bronze Shields, Inc., Bronze Shields of Passaic County, Montclair Sentinels-16 and the Plainfield Ebony Police Association.
Captain Amanda Koontz/Irvington Police Department
Captain Amanda Koontz is the Patrol Bureau Commander at the Irvington Police Department, in Irvington New Jersey. She graduated from the Essex County Police Academy in June of 1990 and began her career as an Essex County Police Officer. After 10 months of being employed as a police officer Amanda was laid off and was hired by Rutgers University Police Department. Amanda was the Sexual Assault Liaison and infiltrated several student groups that were conducting illegal student take-overs. After serving with Rutgers Police Department for two years she was called back to work for the Essex County Police Department, where she was assigned to the narcotics unit. After four months of being back with the County Police, the Irvington Police Department called Amanda off the Civil Service list. She accepted the call and began her career as a patrolwoman with the Irvington Police Department on January 31, 1994. Amanda was promoted to Sergeant in 2001, Lieutenant in 2008 and Captain in 2013. Some of Amanda’s assignments included, Neighborhood Stabilization Unit, Police Youth Organization (Explores), Police Academy Instructor, Internal Affairs supervisor/Commander, Domestic Violence Coordinator and Auxiliary Police Coordinator.
Asia Smith/ Founder & C.E.O of Purple R.E.I.G.N. Social Services
Asia D. Smith – Founder/CEO, Purple R.E.I.G.N. Social Services brings a unique combination of sharp business acumen and strong commitment to empowering victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, while simultaneously educating communities, providing preventative strategies, and eradicating the vicious cycles of violence. Using the funds she saved to attend law school to start the organization, Asia is an NJ Hero (an honor bequeathed by First Lady Mary Pat Christie), a recipient of a State of NJ Senate Commendation by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, and a Citation from Mayor Steven Fulop. Asia is also a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Academy of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence /WOCN, and demonstrates bold, innovative leadership by laying the foundation to set an unprecedented standard of care for victims of abuse, particularly in underserved communities. With strategic partnerships that include the Family Justice Center, the Essex County Prosecutors Victim-Advocacy Office, beneficiary of numerous awards, national media appearances (to name a few) on CBS News, MSNBC’s The Grio, Hot 97, the Tavis Smiley Network, and as a research analyst, Asia’s greatest attainment is that she is an OVERCOMER of domestic violence, and that she has “Turned Tragedy into Triumph” through: Restoration, Empowerment, Integrity, Grace, and Nobility!
Calvin West/The Berger Organization, LLC
In 1966 at the age of 33, Calvin Became the first African American to be elected councilman-at-large in history of Newark. In 1986, Calvin served as the personal Aid and Chief Advisor to Mayor Sharpe James. He was the Mayor’s Liaison to the Police Department, the Housing Authority and the Municipal Council. Calvin was also The Mayor’s legislative aid to the Essex County Delegation (Senate and Assembly) in New Jersey legislature, and also the New Jersey congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. Calvin became Mayor Sharpe James Representative to the National Organization on Disability, New Jersey Conference of Mayors, New Jersey Urban Mayors Association, National League of Cities and United States Conference of Mayors. Calvin has played an active role in numerous New Jersey Gubernatorial Campaigns. He served as Campaign Advisor and local Director to The McGreevey and Corzine Campaigns. At the Municipal and County Levels, Calvin served as the Campaign advisor and Director of the Joseph N. DiVincenzo for Essex County Executive in 2002 and the Campaign Advisor of the Sharpe James for Newark Mayor in 1986 and his successive re-election campaigns. Calvin also Directed the successful Mayoral Campaign of Orange Mayor Joel Shain and Paul Monacelli.
Michelle Y. Lee
Michelle Y. Lee is the Northeast Community Banking regional president for Wells Fargo, the fourth largest U.S. bank. In this role she provides executive leadership for all retail, small business and business banking operations in Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, which includes 764 retail banking stores, 1,234 ATMs, 17 business banking teams and 8,300 employees. She is also an executive vice president for the company. Michelle has spent her entire 29 year banking career with Wells Fargo and its predecessor companies. Joining Wells Fargo (then First National State Bank) as a teller in 1984, she quickly assumed leadership positions of increasing responsibility. She served as Wachovia’s Retail Bank Executive for Georgia and as the bank’s Group Retail Banking Executive for East Coast markets from Connecticut to Florida. Earlier this year, Michelle was honored at the Girl Scouts of Greater New York’s 100th Anniversary Gala for being a powerful role model of leadership for young women. In 2012, she was honored for her support of the Newark School of the Arts. She was named to NJBIZ’s 2011 Best 50 Women in Business list and received the prestigious New York Women’s Agenda STAR Award, which honors women who hold distinguished positions and who serve as role models. She received Stand & Deliver’s 2011 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award for helping to improve the lives of youth living in Newark, N.J. Michelle has also been honored by 100 Black Men of America, Executive Women of New Jersey and was selected for inclusion in the 2009 edition of Diversity Profile’s Women to Watch.
Rev. Ralph M. Branch, Jr./Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church
Reverend Ralph M. Branch Jr. was born July 29, 1964 to the late Ralph and Martha Branch in Newark, New Jersey. He is their only son and the youngest of five children. Rev. Branch accepted Christ at the age of seven and was baptized in the same church he now pastors. Rev. Branch is married to the former Tammi Tellis of Newark, New Jersey, and they have two children, Reshawn Marcus and Chelsea Synclaire. He is a devoted husband and father. Reverend Branch was educated in Newark Public Schools and at a very early age demonstrated a flare for academic excellence. In 1982 Rev. Branch began his matriculation at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in Biology and Chemistry. His goal was to one day practice medicine, but God’s plan was different. He would later study at the Somerset Bible College (formerly known as Zarephath Bible Institute), and the New Brunswick Theological Seminary both of which are located in New Jersey. Currently, he is continuing his education at the Palmer Theological Seminary in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. On May 20, 2001, Rev. Branch was called to be the Fourth Pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. He was installed on the second Sunday in October 2001. As Pastor, Rev. Branch presented the church with an innovative and timely vision that was received with great enthusiasm. He believes that the church must be about the Father’s business.
The Positive Community
The Positive Community is the only faith-based lifestyle magazine targeted to the African American consumer in the New York /New Jersey market. As its tagline denotes, the magazine focuses on the "Good News from the Church and the Community." The Positive Community fills a void that exists in dominant media, which pro¬vides little or no attention to the best of what is happening in the Black church and community. It was the vision of the co-founders, Jean Nash Wells and Adrian A. Council, to create a balanced medium that accurately reflects the community-building efforts of churches, small businesses, corporations, and concerned individuals. Wells and Council were both veteran media experts having a combined total of over 50 years of experience in radio, television and print that marketed to black consumers. Consequently, the publication was designed to provide advertisers access to a growing niche market—the African American faith community, via a much-needed alternative to mainstream media. Now in its fifteenth year of publication, The Positive Community continues to grow in circulation and influence as a leadership chronicle.
Hon. Verlina Reynolds-Jackson
East Ward Councilwoman of Trenton
I am a product of the Trenton public school system and I have obtained advance degrees from Trenton State College and Central Michigan University. My career as a Social Worker coupled with a commitment to public service has led me to the elected position of East Ward Councilwoman where I legislate laws for the City of Trenton. My first concern is constituent services. My second area of responsibility is equally important, approving the municipal budget. I also review and enhance municipal finances and set purchasing controls for the City of Trenton. I have continued my education at the NJ Redevelopment Authority and Rutgers, Center for Government. For the past 10+ years, I have always been committed to serving Trenton residents through public service. I have achieved great satisfaction working with various populations, including my neighbors, the homeless, elderly, children, and people with disabilities. My work has focused on enforcing business and landlord responsibility, demanding accountability for students, and working with the police regarding Crime Prevention through Environmental Design in the East Ward Trenton.
Our Vision is to ‘Save the lives of children and Re-Direct them towards healthier lifestyles; while developing productive men and women who will pursue a better quality of life.”