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New Leaders Council

Our Board

2017-2018 NLC Executive Committee


Myra Lee - District Business Outreach Coordinator, U.S. House of Representatives
NLC Chapter Director

Myra Lee is the Co-founder and Chapter Director of NLC Detroit. Throughout her career, she has been committed to dismantling systems of oppression that are legally legitimized by federal, state and local governance which perpetuate social injustices of racial and gender inequality, economic injustice, and the removal of human dignity in marginalized communities of color. She is passionate about advancing effective social policy to address systemic issues of poverty, racial inequality and the gap between the private and public sector in leadership, investment and development in Detroit. Ms. Lee attended Michigan State University where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Horticulture, specializing in Environmental Economics and Policy.

After graduation, Ms. Lee served a two year term as an AmeriCorps Member in Detroit, which provided her vast community organizing, project management and capacity building experience. During her first year of service she was sited at Young Detroit Builders in Southwest Detroit as the Deconstruction Association of Detroit Organizer, Deconstruction Business Plan Project Implementer and Youth Advocacy Coordinator. During her second term, she was placed at Church of the Messiah Housing Corporation on the lower eastside of Detroit. Due to her tenacity and passion for community ownership and community based-food system design, after the completion of her service, Ms. Lee’s position evolved into the Director of Sustainability and Healthy Food Access.

For several years, Ms. Lee has been working as an independent consultant in the non-profit sector as a policy analyst specializing in issues related to food security and malnutrition for women and children, social determinants that cause health disparities in African American and communities of color, and policy implications to promote women's economic empowerment within urban and rural communities both domestically and internationally. Some of her consulting work domestically included strategizing market-based solutions, such as business incubators and resource-sharing opportunities to support entrepreneurs in agriculture, processing, distribution, and value-added product production. In addition, she provided innovative financing and business assistance to food enterprises that are supporting farmers in meeting the growing demand for local, sustainably-grown food.

After her completion of serving as an Executive Office intern with Governor’s Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives, Ms. Lee completed her graduate studies at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan where she received her Master of Public Policy degree and obtained invaluable experience on Capitol Hill. First serving as a clerk and legal intern for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings and then being selected as the inaugural Riecker Michigan Delegation Fellow. During this time of public service, Ms. Lee served a six month term as a legislative fellow with the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry for U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in Washington D.C.

DeAndree_Watson_eBoard.jpgDeAndree Watson, Policy Analyst for Councilman James Tate
NLC Chapter Vice-Director

DeAndree Watson is a highly ethical, principled and passionate servant leader dedicated to enhancing the quality of life and committed to preserving social justice and equality for all people. He graduated from Lewis Cass Technical High School in 2008 before attending the University of Michigan where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 2012.

During his time on campus, DeAndree proudly served as a member of the Michigan Research Community, the U.S. Army ROTC Wolverine Battalion, the College Democrats, the Black Student Union, the U-M Chapter of the NAACP, the Dean of Students Advisory Board, the Mustard Seed Campus Ministry of Second Baptist Church of Ann Arbor, and eventually as the first black male President of the Student Body in the U-M Central Student Government where he worked extensively on restructuring student government to promote transparency, reforming hate and bias response protocols to promote a culture of inclusiveness, civility, and respect throughout the campus and changing perceptions about diversity and inclusion.

After graduation, DeAndree returned home to Detroit to serve as a policy analyst for former Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh and now serves in the same capacity for Councilman James Tate. As a policy analyst, his responsibilities include developing policy proposals, reviewing proposed legislation, resolving constituent concerns and advising the councilman on the merits of items proposed for legislative action, focusing primarily on matters of economic development, urban planning, risk management, civil litigation, human resources and historic preservation. DeAndree has aspirations for a fulfilling career in public service and plans to practice constitutional law after attending law school.

AKUNNA_OLUMBA_-_eBoard.jpgAkunna Olumba, Managing Partner, Mischief Managed
NLC Institute/Curriculum Chair

Ms. Olumba is a Nigerian American from Detroit. She began her professional career as an engineer with General Motors after deciding against a career in engineering, She started her own marketing and urban real estate development and consulting company. The company focused on providing homes and homeownership training to Detroit’s low-income population. Additionally, she served as a consultants on several mix-used developments within the City of Detroit.  As a developer and consultant she helped to construct and plan six real estate projects in Detroit, Michigan.

She is a graduate from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with a degree in Engineering.  She completed her Juris Doctor at Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University – College of Law with honors in May 2013. Finally, she holds an LL.M in International Taxation from one of the best LL.M taxation programs in the country, the University of Florida - Levin College of Law.

Currently, Ms. Olumba is the Managing Partner of Mischief Managed PLC, a federal practice that specializes in Taxation and Intellectual Property. She is also the principal in charge of running Mischief Managed Foundation, the foundation provides compliance support to federally recognized non-profit organizations. Ms. Olumba is member in good standing of the Massachusetts Bar, the United States Tax Court, and the Eastern District of Michigan.

Quentin_Love_eBoard.jpgQuentin Love, Strategic Marketing Manager, Growth Stats, LLC
NLC Curriculum/Institute Vice-Chair

Quentin G. Love has nearly two decades of strategic marketing and operational management experience as a professional and entrepreneur. Stints have included consulting, a digital startup, social enterprises, advertising, and sports & entertainment.

Previous accomplishments include brokering a partnership between En Garde! Detroit and the Detroit Sport Commission that evolved into a successful bid for a national fencing tournament-Detroit’s first in over twenty years. This resulted in an estimated $2 million impact to the Detroit area economy. Quentin has also assembled and run experiential projects in various markets across the country. Some of the brands and clients include the NBA, Chevy, USA Fencing, Walmart, Subway, NCAA® Basketball, White Castle and Pepsi.

Prior to this, Quentin was selected to help lead the Blackstone LaunchPad program at Wayne State University, an incubator for student ventures funded by Blackstone’s Charitable Foundation. There, he helmed digital communications, cohort recruitment and advised early stage ventures – reporting to the Executive Director. Love also served as a member of the Detroit 2009 NCAA® Men’s Final Four® Organizing Committee primarily responsible for community outreach.

Quentin began his career as an advertising executive assigned to the McDonald’s account managing budgeting and strategic planning for diversity initiatives. During this time he worked on new and test product launches as well as identifying and executing strategic community partnerships.

Quentin holds a B.A. in sports management and communications from the University of Michigan and an M.B.A. from Wayne State University.

Sean_Harness_eBoard_2.jpgSean Harness, Buyer, General Motors
NLC Finance Chair

Confident. Charismatic. Concise. Creative. In short, these are just a few words that describe Sean Harness, a well exposed young professional from the metro-Detroit area. Sean is a first generation college graduate with a strong passion for youth mentorship, enticing cuisine and international travel. His expertise includes but is not limited to: Project Management, Design Engineering, Technical Writing, Business Strategy, Relationship Development, Change Management, Competitive Benchmarking and Cost Management. Sean currently works as a Buyer within the General Motors Global Purchasing and Supply Chain division. Harness manages approximately $400 million in annual spend across the Corvette, Volt, Camaro, Equinox as well as many other car and truck chassis programs. His major responsibilities include strategic negotiation, contract management and global supplier development. Additionally, Sean has had the unique opportunity to work as a Global Sourcing Manager and Process Improvement Manager with Caterpillar and Intel Corporation respectively. Harness was born in Chicago, IL although he spent most of his time growing up in the historic city of Detroit.

Sean is a 2013 graduate of the Broad School of Management at MSU (Michigan State University). In addition to his MBA, he holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering, also from MSU. Just last year Sean completed two business study abroad trips to Europe and Africa. In his leisure Harness dedicates his time and energy to service. Sean has volunteered for programs like the City of Lansing Boys and Girls Club, DAPCEP (Detroit-area pre-college engineering program), Meals on Wheels, The Ideal Education Foundation and COTS (Coalition of Temporary Shelters). Sean recently started a company, Harnessing Innovation, LLC. with a major focus on the critical thinking, leadership and communication aspects of inner-city youth development. Harness is very excited about the transformation Detroit is currently beginning to undergo and has a strong belief that youth education is the key to successful economic sustainability in the future. 


Jordan Twardy, Community & Economic Development Director, City of Ferndale
NLC Finance Vice Chair

Jordan Twardy, is the Community and Economic Development Director for the City of Ferndale, MI, a progressive suburb of Detroit. He grew up in Warren, Detroit’s largest suburb, and studied political science, international relations, and history, before getting his Master’s in Urban Planning. Jordan was always passionate about politics and policy craft, even running for Warren City Council in 2007, when he was 21. While he lost that election, Jordan learned a great deal about running campaigns, building a platform and meeting residents face to face. He set off on a path to hone his skills and achieve personal and professional growth. Before taking on his current role in August 2016, Jordan’s path took him through multiple leadership roles. He served as Student Body Vice President at Oakland University, and served as Vice President, then President, of the statewide Student Association of Michigan, a consortium of 15 public university student bodies he helped found. After completing his degrees, Jordan worked for, then was ultimately chosen to lead as Executive Director, the regional nonprofit Eight Mile Boulevard Association for nearly three years, and worked in local government for six years prior to that (much of this during his time as a student). Jordan has extensive experience in project management, strategic planning, fundraising and project implementation. In all of these experiences, Jordan has sought to champion increased civic awareness and strategic collaboration toward change. In his current role, and as he looks to the future, Jordan is focused on finding ways to transcend political gridlock through tangible projects. His goal is to help communities articulate their visions and challenges, then help them distill ideas into action that can improve lives and expand opportunity. Jordan’s experience has primarily been in working with stakeholders that are fractured and disengaged, whether along Detroit’s 8 Mile corridor or in many of Michigan’s ideologically “purple” neighborhoods. In those environments, Jordan has found that redefining conversations around core objectives, not ideologies, has been a productive path toward progress, and he plans to continue that approach in his current and future work. 

Kamilia_Landrum_eBoard.jpgKamilia Landrum, Program & Member Services Director, NAACP
NLC Alumni Chair

Kamilia Landrum, is currently the Program & Member Services Director for the Detroit Branch NAACP. She oversees programming for their strategic priorities in the areas of civic engagement, criminal justice, economic sustainability, education and health, and is responsible for membership engagement. She is a member emeritus of the NAACP National Board of Directors serving on the Audit, Finance, Image Awards and Youth Works Committees. In her local chapter she serves as Advisor to the Youth Council, Chair of the Young Adult Committee, and 3rd Vice President to the Michigan State Conference. In addition to her social justice work and community involvement she is a Managing Partner for The GlassDrum LLC, a venture started in 2014 to provide expert event management, conference planning and entertainment services. She received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University followed by her Master of Public Administration in Non-Profit Policy and Management from Wayne State University. She was recently named one of the Michigan Chronicle’s 40 under 40 and serves as a community advisory council member for Health Alliance Plan and the Detroit Sports Zone. She guides her life by the scripture, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jer. 29:11. 

Cory_Connolly_eBoard.jpgCory Connolly, Clean Energy Project Manager, Levin Energy Partners
NLC Alumni Vice Chair

Cory Connolly is a Clean Energy Project Manager with Levin Energy Partners, a company developing financing solutions for clean energy projects in Michigan, specializing in Property Assessed Clean Energy. Previously, Cory was a Senior Research Associate at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC, where he contributed to, among other projects, the implementation of Mexico's 2012 Climate Change Law and related goals. His work on energy, climate, and carbon markets has taken him to Argentina, Japan, and Mexico. In 2011, Cory helped plan and run the Green Economy Leadership Training program – an environmental training program in Highland Park, Michigan. As an undergraduate, Cory interned at the US Department of State on climate policy. In 2015, Cory was one of 10 young Midwestern clean energy professionals or "Clean Power Players" profiled by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and he was also named a 2015 Adams Entrepreneurial Fellow through Automation Alley. Cory was a member of the 2014 Young Climate Leaders Network, a member of the 2011/2012 cohort of Roosevelt Fellows, and in 2012 Cory was named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 for Law and Policy. His writing has been published by the Environmental Law Forum, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Americans For Energy Leadership, and the Roosevelt Institute's Next New Deal, among others. As an undergraduate, Cory was an active member of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and remains involved as an alumni. Cory graduated with honor from James Madison College at Michigan State University with a BA in International Relations.  

Axel_Cooley_eBoard2017.jpgAxel Cooley, Executive, Metallon, LLC - Automotive Industry
NLC Communications Chair

Axel Cooley was raised in the heart of Canada's prevalent "Technology Triangle", Kitchener-Waterloo. Reckoned as a gifted individual, she attended Canada's #1 innovative university, University of Waterloo, while still in High School. She graduated from the prestigious Wilfrid Laurier University, one of the top business schools in the nation, accredited by AACSB obtained by only the top 5% of business schools worldwide. Here, she earned an Honors BBA degree and was hand-selected for its co-op program exclusive to its top 400 students.

For 10 years, Axel's career focused on empowering individuals and helping to advance communities around the world. She served as Press Officer for RDS TV & Radio, oversaw Press Departments in 30 nations, and collaborated with outreach programs to teach individuals their self-worth, since prosperity begins in the mind. She traveled around the world conducting press conferences, investigative reports, and documentaries, collaborating with global media outlets: CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, DISCOVERY, NATGEO, TELEMUNDO, UNIVISION, and more. She was also the mastermind behind history-making Public relations campaigns for high networth individuals and corporations that made headlines worldwide. In fact, the media expert established a php system to manage communications with 130,000 media reporters in 7 languages. 

Widely known as a woman of vision, commitment, and courage, Ms. Cooley has also made her mark as a creative force in the world of business. She currently serves as President at Metallon, LLC which provides precious metals to the automotive sector. Due to her unparalleled global exposure, in 2013 she was hand-selected to partner with the owner of one of North America's top Automotive group, a multi-billion dollar consortium of manufacturing companies, which gave her unimaginable insight into the compelling global automotive market. Ever since, she has been fueling her positive energy and creative ideas into this industry. 

The accomplished Latina entrepreneur co-owns a hair care line, Rejuve3, and a a sports cream, MuscleMagic Pain Relief. She maneuvers through making business decisions confidently, having gained distinguished Technology and Finance experience through positions at some of the world's largest companies including Goldman Sachs, FritoLay, Open Text, and marketing for high-tech corporations: DSPFactory Ltd. (now ON Semiconductor, NASDAQ:ONN) and ITOPA Technologies. The well-rounded and tenacious professional began her career as a Supervisor at ServiceMaster where she hired, trained, and motivated 60+ telemarketers at the young age of 17.

Ms. Cooley's philanthropic endeavors have extended beyond pushing limits and helping individuals enjoy better lives. One of her major philanthropic concerns has been helping victims of abuse. To this end, she led the Press Dept. of a Foundation that exposed crimes against children and women worldwide. With a keen interest in current affairs and global issues, Axel served as an investigative reporter for NG Radio, handling LIVE newscasts and authoring articles widely syndicated. Since moving to USA, she is focused on business and currently serves on a MI International Business Council identifying new trends in international trade and foreign direct investment while helping ensure the region remains at the forefront of innovation.

Heather_Olden_eBoard.jpgHeather Olden, Epidemiologist, Henry Ford Health System 
NLC Mentorship Chair

Heather is currently an Epidemiologist and Project Manager for the Department of Public Health Sciences at Henry Ford Health System (HFHS). Specifically she works with the Patient-Engaged Research Center (PERC) which aims to build a sustainable resource for patient-centered outcomes research at HFHS. A Durham, North Carolina native, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from Hampton University, and a Master of Public Health in International Health Epidemiology from the University of Michigan. For her thesis at the University of Michigan, she conducted original research on the relationship between asthma, exercise, obesity and barriers to exercise among 20-22 year old young adults in Santiago, Chile. She also traveled to Grenada where she developed and facilitated education modules on cancer, diabetes, diet and exercise for hotel resort staff and presented on the effectiveness of the education modules to high-level resort management. At HFHS, she serves as the Coordinator for the Patient Advisor Program and is responsible for ensuring PERC engages patients through many modalities including focus groups, in-depth interviews, and by recruiting Patient Advisors. Patient Advisors are patients, family members and caregivers who participate as partners on Councils and committees around the Health System to bring the patient voice to the table and ensure that all decisions made have the patient perspective represented. In the two years Heather has been working as the Patient Advisor Coordinator she has recruited, trained and placed over 300 Patient Advisors throughout HFHS and has engaged an active, diverse, and representative group of patients and their caregivers as Advisors. Outside of her work at Henry Ford, she is a member of the Eastern Market Cultivation Committee which strives to fundraise, engage the Detroit young professional community, and strengthen Eastern Market’s presence and impact in the non-profit realm. She is a member of the NAACP Young Adult Committee, a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit and also serves on the Executive Board of the Detroit Chapter of the National Hampton Alumni Association. She is the owner of Bella Blossoms, LLC, a small business that specializes in designing and producing handmade home and event décor. Heather has aspirations of starting her own non-profit geared towards introducing, engaging, and retaining underrepresented youth in STEM careers. She lives life to the fullest, loves to travel and can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Latonya Garth, Founder, Imagine Mentoring Program of Michigan
NLC Mentorship Vice-Chair

Motivated to “encourage the lives of people who desire change”, Latonya’s objective is to help people save their own lives. Her core beliefs focus on leadership, integrity, and education.

Latonya received her Bachelor's degree in Communication and Master's degree in Higher Education from Michigan State University. She is a true advocate for higher education and works as a High School Representative for EDMC Management in addition to serving as the Founder and Director of a non-profit organization; The Imagine Mentoring Program of Michigan. She strives to encourage teenagers and adult learners about the importance of education, increasing their self-esteem and living life to the fullest. In addition to her roles in education and mentoring, Latonya is a business consultant, life coach and teaches hip-hop and confidence building dance classes to youth and adult women on behalf of her company, Motown Dancer, LLC.

Latonya is also very committed to working to advance the knowledge and transform the lives of others in the Metro-Detroit area. She is very involved in the community and partners with National Heritage Academies, Detroit Public Schools, I AM A Priority Women's Organization, Wayne County Community College and other successful organizations to break the barriers of low self-esteem and to help young ladies become better at the way they carry themselves, with the intention that they can take all they have learned and help someone else along the way.

Specialties: Motivational Speaking, Mentoring, Branding and Marketing, Dance, Business Consulting, City Liaison, Business Planning, and Personal Coaching 

Matthew_Robb_eBoard.jpgMatthew Robb, Law Clerk 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
NLC Recruitment/Engagement Vice Chair

Matthew Robb currently serves as a clerk to the Honorable Judge Damon J. Keith on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Matthew has committed his life to seeking a fairer, more just society for all people. In 2007, after helping to start a grassroots student group on campus at Michigan State University, Matthew left school to work with Barack Obama's Iowa Caucus staff. He was promoted from Intern to Deputy Field Organizer, empowering hundreds of volunteers, making thousands of voter contacts, and coordinating a historic turnout in five Des Moines precincts. Matthew returned to school where he became the statewide Field Director of Students for Barack Obama in Michigan. During the general election, he left school to organize eight counties, including his hometown in Northern Michigan, where Barack Obama earned historic wins in Leelanau and Benzie Counties. After graduating with honors from MSU's James Madison College, Matthew wrote ""An Unlikely Radical,"" an autobiographical history of his father Dean Robb--a famed civil rights lawyer who was a member of the first interracial law firm in Michigan during the McCarthy Era and Civil Rights Movement. In 2010, Matthew joined Teach for America Detroit, where he taught American History, Civics, Economics, and Civil Rights in Detroit schools. While teaching at Cody High School, Matthew inspired his students to take action to improve their community. His homeroom students led a ""Take Back the Neighborhood Rally"" that garnered support from local non-profits and Detroit City Council. Detroit 20/20 named his class ""Detroit Person of the Week"" and the following year, Life Remodeled donated $5 million to help advance the community vision created by his students. Matthew joined Wayne State Law School in 2013, where he recruited 21 first-year students to partner with Cody High School students to organize a Detroit Youth Symposium in which students could voice local issues to leaders in business, government, and academia. As co-chair of the Keith Students for Civil Rights, Matthew helped organize two Youth Civil Rights Conferences aimed at building cross-cultural conversations surrounding race, identity, and community in Metro Detroit. He graduated Cum Laude from Wayne Law in 2016, and hopes to use his legal education to help people and advocate for a fairer society. Matthew and his wife live in the Woodbridge neighborhood of Detroit and enjoy biking, community events, and getting together with friends to watch sports.

Reda_Taleb.jpgReda Taleb, Legal Intern, Wayne County Prosecutor's Office
NLC Selections Vice Chair

A native Detroiter, Reda Taleb is an accomplished and motivated State Bar of Michigan Candidate, who currently works at the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office in the Preliminary Exams Unit. She is a proud alumnus of Fordson High School, the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. As a law student, Reda had the distinct honor of interning at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, for the Hon. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon, and the Hon. Chief Magistrate Judge R. Steve Whalen. During her time in Chambers, she actively participated in settlement conferences, reviewed search warrants, and researched and drafted legal memoranda on habeas corpus petitions and social security disability cases for judicial orders. Before law school, she worked at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), the largest Arab American human services nonprofit in the United States. She served as a program coordinator for the Nature in Our Neighborhood project, whereby she collaborated with community stakeholders to promote environmental stewardship, developed project curriculum, assisted in grant funding, and managed a six-figure annual budget.

Reda successfully executed the project's goals of recruiting a diverse group of residents from the South End of Dearborn for their participation in creating a school yard habitat, community garden, attending monthly family outings, and a Family Fun Day event that was attended by over 500 residents. Similarly, her passion for improving the quality of life for immigrants and mentorship intersected when she was promoted to project leader of Join In to Revitalize Arab American Neighborhoods (JIRAN), which means ‘neighbors' in the Arabic language. She successfully recruited, trained, and mentored 45 underserved immigrant residents from diverse backgrounds to serve on neighborhood committees, increased voter registration, created graffiti clean-ups, beautification projects, block parties, secured grant funds, and managed an annual six-figure budget. The JIRAN project culminated in a community summit, where participants of the program were awarded certificates for their outstanding commitment to improving the quality of life for their neighborhood, and was attended by 500 guests. Additionally, Reda has mentored underprivileged youth in several local organizations, including serving as a Big Sister with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit. Reda is the proud daughter of Lebanese Muslim immigrants, who in the 1970's fled their war- torn homeland in pursuit of the American Dream. She and her siblings were raised by their faithful, devoted, and loving mother, and overcame extraordinary socio-economic hardships. Reda's mother impressed upon her the importance of higher education, social justice, integrity, faith, humility, volunteerism, and compassion towards self and others. A trailblazer, Reda is the first female attorney in her family, and she passionately embraces that role in changing the trajectory of her family's lineage for future generations. With that same spirit, she is highly equipped and committed to scaffolding emerging minority females, with the goal of promoting their ascension into high level leadership roles in all sectors of society. Specifically, Reda aims to utilize her NLC platform, legal, grassroots organizing, writing, and interpersonal skill sets, to advocate for equal wages for women, and protect the civil rights of minorities. In her free time, she enjoys being Godmother to Adam and Ava, gardening, the outdoors, traveling, cooking, music, fundraising, and volunteering her time with the Federal Bar Association.

Advisory Committee

Ken_Harris.jpgKen L. Harris – Chairman

Kenneth L. Harris is known for his innovative style and visionary approach to addressing societal and economic challenges within disadvantaged, minority and underserved communities. Harris has always been  passionate  about  helping  minorities  realize their dreams through entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. Harris's purpose in life has been to advance minority-owned businesses throughout the state, both regionally and nationally. Harris has become one of the most influential 40-and-under leaders in the country, with a track record of helping entrepreneurs and organizations succeed in commerce-driven activity.

Born and raised in Detroit, Ken started the International Detroit Black Expo, Inc. (IDBE) on May 24, 2005, which hosted more than 1,000 exhibitors  from  around  the  globe  and  reached 300,000 consumers, becoming one of the largest expositions  in  the  entire  country  in  5  years.  On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Harris was elected to the Detroit Charter Commission by 40,149 votes in a highly contested citywide race featuring 54 candidates. The Honorable Commissioner Harris's political and economic experience helped to craft and eventually pass a new city charter in November 2012 by an overwhelming 64% of the votes cast, which has only been revised 3 times since 1918, forging a new direction for the city of Detroit.

 As a former NCAA Academic All-American point guard in basketball for Clark Atlanta University in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC), Harris has made tremendous strides and professional accomplishments at the age of 40. Born on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1973, Harris became the first African-American chief of staff and executive assistant to the mayor of Southfield and the first African- American director of Greek affairs at Wayne State University. Additionally, he served a counseling psychologist for St. John Community Health and served as vice president of business development for the Michigan Minority Supplier Diversity Council, Inc. Harris now serves as the president and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce.

Kenneth Harris served on the board of directors for the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce and was the Midwest regional director over 12 states. He is an active life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and the 33rd Degree United Supreme Council of Scottish Rite Prince Hall Freemasonry, chairman of the Human Rights Commission for the City of Detroit appointed by Mayor Michael Duggan in 2014, a member of Governor Rick Snyder's Urban Initiatives Strategic Planning Task Force and a member of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, amongst many other

Harris received the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) 2007 Minority Business Advocate of the Year award and was inducted into Crain's Detroit Business's 40 Under 40 Class of 2007 and the Who's Who in Black Detroit's Most Influential. Harris was honored by the Michigan Women's Marketplace and CEED as the 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year and received the 2008 Excellence Award for Economic Empowerment by 100 Black Men of Greater Detroit, Inc. Harris also accepted the 2009 CBS-WWJ 950 Emerging Leader Under 40 Award for Black History Month, and the 2010 Michigan Front Page's 30 in Their 30s award. He was chosen as one of DBusiness Magazine's 30 in Their 30s Most Influential in September 2011 and featured in Ebony Magazine in 2011. Harris was recently featured in the 2012 Aetna African American Black History Calendar and received the 2012 Men of Excellence Award from the Michigan Chronicle Newspaper. Additionally, he has been named by the 2013 New York-based Counselors International as one of the "40 Under 40" top economic development professionals in the United States. Most recently, Harris was featured in the 2014 CBS TV 62 and WWJ 950 Black History Month Distinguished Leader Showcase.

Kenneth Harris graduated with a B.A. in psychology and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. He also received a Doctor of Humane Letters from Detroit's Lewis College of Business in 2008 and an educational specialist (EDS) degree from Wayne State University in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Ken Harris is currently a PhD candidate at Michigan State University in African American and African Studies and the Eli Broad School of Business program.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-04_at_1.25.07_PM.pngTamekia N. Ashford

Tamekia N. Ashford is a public relations consultant with more than 16 years across the private, agency, and government sector. She has a successful track record in strategic planning, community affairs and executive positioning. From managing a press conference for Freddie Mac & the NID Housing Counseling Agency to creating community partnerships for McDonald’s and developing events for former Detroit City Council Member Alberta Tinsley-Talabi; she has skillfully enhanced brand identity within the marketplace.

Some of Tamekia’s career highlights include: providing media relations for educational institutions; Knight Foundation’s BMe (Black Male Engagement) Award Recipients; media consultation for Sprint; serving as communications director for Maurice G. Morton’s Campaign for Congress, media relations for The Children’s Center; marketing seminar at Wayne County Community College District; creating a winning business plan/video presentation to build metro Detroit’s first “Green” McDonald’s; media relations for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Detroit visit, managing the National Urban League Conference interviews with White House staff for President George W. Bush;  publicity for Chrysler Jeep Superstores, executive positioning for Molina Healthcare, and event management for Betty Crocker Recipes for the Soul Contest.

Tamekia is serving her second term as president of the National Black Public Relations Society, Detroit Chapter, vice chair of communications for The New Leaders Council, member of the National Association of Black Journalists, and an active participant in Public Relations Society of America.

In addition, she’s a contributing writer for DBusiness, Hour, Ambassador, B.L.A.C. Magazine, Who’s Who in Black Detroit and Who’s Who in Black Cincinnati. She is also a 2013 recipient of the Michigan Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 Award.

Most recently, she tapped into the television world and is a co-host for a local cable show, Brenda Perryman’s “Table Talk.”

Tamekia has a Bachelors of Arts in Mass Media Communications from Wilberforce University in Ohio and is a graduate of Cass Technical High School.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-04_at_1.25.11_PM.pngStephanie Fries

Stephanie Fries holds the position of Business Development Manager with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) serving existing Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park companies to support expansion and job creation.  Her role allows her to engage and maintain strong relationships with local leadership to ensure collaboration for city, regional, and state growth.  Stephanie enjoys meeting new people in an effort to foster meaningful connections for growth, information sharing, and capacity building.

Stephanie’s professional career started in 2000 in fund development with non-profit organizations serving low- income  and homeless  individuals  and  families. Her commitment to the community and service to those in need served as a strong foundation as she continued her professional development.  She worked with The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW) and Forgotten Harvest before accepting the position of Associate Director of Community Affairs at Wayne State University (WSU).  In this capacity, Stephanie elevated the University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute event as one of the premiere Detroit events to honor Dr. King while inviting thousands of local students to participate in celebration and honor.  Stephanie then moved within WSU to become the Relationship Manager for the newly created Front Door Office for Business Engagement. In this role it was her responsibility to connect businesses to University resources for mutual benefit and overall economic growth.  Here she created the annual BizGrid Live event which connects local business service provider organizations to regional start-ups and small businesses looking for business growth connections.

Stephanie is a metro Detroit native and had the unique experience to be a part of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion youth programs in high school as well as countless other leadership and diversity development opportunities.  She is a Michigan State University, James Madison  College  alumna  with  a  B.A.  in  Social  Relations  and  earned  her  M.P.A.  with  a concentration in economic development (graduating with honors) from Wayne State University.


Diana McBroom

Prior to partnering with Dickens, McBroom had established herself as a top congressional staffer, directing Michigan district operations for Congressman Sander Levin and Congressman Gary Peters.

For a decade, McBroom served as a key figure and coordinator in Congressman Sander Levin’s offices, serving as both his Michigan District Office Director and as Finance Director for the Levin for Congress Campaign Committee. During that time, she successfully implemented direct mail fundraising strategies for Levin’s 1994, 1996 and 1998 re-election campaigns, raising over $7 million for his nationally targeted races. As his state office director, she implemented  an  extensive  outreach  and  community engagement plan for Levin when redistricting pushed his district further into Macomb County. Levin has been re-elected to that seat each time since.

In 2009, McBroom joined Congressman Gary Peters’ team as Michigan Director for the 9th Congressional District, and lead efforts in community outreach, constituent service and strategic planning. After redistricting dismantled Peters’ old 9th district seat, she served as Peters’ Campaign Manager in 2012 for a race that garnered national interest.

Overseeing a nearly $3 million budget in a competition between two incumbent congressmen, McBroom was instrumental in orchestrating Peters’ historic election in a challenging majority- minority district. On that campaign, Dickens directed community outreach, endorsements and communications for Congressman Peters’ successful election bid to the newly drawn 14th Congressional District, sprawling 18 diverse and unique communities throughout Oakland and Wayne Counties, as well as a sizable piece of the city of Detroit.

McBroom is a licensed attorney who has worked in civil litigation defense and represented a wide array of individuals and business entities in Michigan. She has been active as a mentor for foster youth and served on the advisory board of the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, a pro-bono law clinic affiliated with the University of Michigan Law School that provides legal services to foster families and children. She holds a Law Degree from Wayne State University.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-04_at_1.25.20_PM.pngJanecki A. Nance, Esq.

Janecki A. Nance is an attorney who has practiced law in the metro-Detroit area for the last decade.  Currently, her legal practice focuses on criminal law, estate planning, and bankruptcy matters. Prior to entering private practice she served as a Deputy Defender and Staff Attorney for Legal Aid and Defender Association and represented numerous residents throughout Wayne County, Michigan regarding criminal, landlord-tenant, consumer defense, tax, real estate, family, utility, and bankruptcy matters.

Ms. Nance is a graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School and she has earned a B.A. in Spanish Literature and a B.S. in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English from Louisiana Tech University.  While in law school, she served as the Co-Communication and Circulation Editor for the Journal of Practical and Clinical Law.  She was also a Legal Intern for the Sixty Plus, Inc., Elder Law Clinic and represented citizens over the age of sixty with numerous legal matters. Ms. Nance is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and has been admitted to practice law before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Ms. Nance believes that if you touch your community you will affect your community.  Her career has been one of an advocate for the disadvantaged and for those who need direct legal services and systemic change in the Detroit area.

Currently, Ms. Nance serves on the Board of Directors for the Alpha Kappa Alpha Foundation of Detroit, an Advisory Board member for the Black Mothers’ Breast Feeding Association, an Advisory Board member for New Leaders Council Detroit, and holds numerous memberships in various civic and social organizations.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-04_at_1.25.25_PM.pngTonya Myer Phillips, Esq.

Tonya Myers Phillips is an attorney with a passion for using her legal skills to improve her community. Tonya was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated with honors from Renaissance High School and the University of Michigan, and received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. She is married to Nathaniel Phillips Jr., and is the mother of Nathaniel Ryan Phillips.

Tonya began her legal career working as Millender Fellow (in honor of the late Robert L. Millender) at the historic Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice. While at Sugar Law, she worked to strengthen the investigatory and enforcement provisions of the Detroit Living Wage Ordinance, which mandated workers be paid a “living wage” for their services on high-value city contracts. She also worked on litigation on behalf of Detroit Public Schools students to force the district to remediate a school that had been built on an environmentally contaminated site.

After working at the Sugar Law Center, Tonya entered private practice, where she helped small business owners and nonprofit organizations all across the city. She also began teaching a “How to Become a Nonprofit” mini-course, free of charge to the community, in conjunction with the Detroit Association of Black Organizations.

Tonya currently works at Michigan Legal Services as a foreclosure defense attorney where she fights for Detroit homeowners going through foreclosure. She was also active in the Michigan Poverty Law coalition to extend laws (i.e. MCL 600.3205) providing additional notice requirements and foreclosure forbearance to homeowners. She also works with the Save Our Spirit Coalition which advocates for the preservation of block grant funding for community-based organizations.

Tonya served as a member of the City of Detroit Charter Revision Commission, where she frequently advocated for increased citizen participation in government. She currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice. She also serves on the board of the National Lawyers Guild-Detroit Chapter, Habitat for Humanity-Detroit Chapter, Richard Austin Center for Election Law and Administration, the Michigan Democratic Party Justice Caucus, and Mothering Justice Inc.

Mrs. Phillips has been recognized for her leadership and community service. She is the recipient of distinguished awards such as “Distinguished Young Lawyer Award” from the Wolverine Bar Association, and the “Maryann Mahaffey Public Servant of the Year Award” from the United Community Housing Coalition.

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