Watch the 2021 Men of Excellence Ceremony

2021 Men of Excellence Honorees

  • Dwayne Pickett
    Dwayne Pickett
  • Damien B. Trimuel
    Damien B. Trimuel
  • William Townsell
    William Townsell
  • Rodric Miller
    Rodric Miller
  • Jonathan McGee
    Jonathan McGee
  • Mitchell R. Davis III
    Mitchell R. Davis III
  • Terry Hunter
    Terry Hunter
  • Shaka Ahmed Rawls
    Shaka Ahmed Rawls
  • Rael Jackson
    Rael Jackson
  • Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond
    Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond
  • Michael Wilder, Esq.
    Michael Wilder, Esq.
  • Marc A. Pullins
    Marc A. Pullins
  • Marcus Manning
    Marcus Manning
  • Keith Wyche
    Keith Wyche
  • The Honorable Kam Buckner
    The Honorable Kam Buckner
  • Hosea Sanders
    Hosea Sanders
  • Gavin Jackson
    Gavin Jackson
  • Frank Latin
    Frank Latin
  • Emmanuel Jackson
    Emmanuel Jackson
  • The Honorable Elgie R. Sims, Jr.
    The Honorable Elgie R. Sims, Jr.
  • Alderman Derrick G. Curtis
    Alderman Derrick G. Curtis
  • Mayor Darren E. Bryant
    Mayor Darren E. Bryant
  • Anthony Simpkins, Esq.
    Anthony Simpkins, Esq.
  • Al DeBonnett
    Al DeBonnett
  • William Andre Buchanan
    William Andre Buchanan
  • Thurman Smith
    Thurman Smith
  • Thomas Henderson
    Thomas Henderson
  • Mayor Terry Wells
    Mayor Terry Wells
  • Stephen W. Beard, Esq.
    Stephen W. Beard, Esq.
  • Sharone Mitchell Jr., Esq.
    Sharone Mitchell Jr., Esq.
  • Sean Howard
    Sean Howard
  • Rick Nesbitt
    Rick Nesbitt
  • Pha’tal Perkins
    Pha’tal Perkins
  • Luther Lampkin
    Luther Lampkin
  • Mark Walker
    Mark Walker
  • Kevin Betton
    Kevin Betton
  • Kenneth Coles
    Kenneth Coles
  • Dr. Julious Lawson
    Dr. Julious Lawson
  • Jerry Brown, Esq.
    Jerry Brown, Esq.
  • Jeffery Beckham Jr.
    Jeffery Beckham Jr.
  • Gregg Arnold
    Gregg Arnold
  • Darryl Hughes
    Darryl Hughes
  • Dr. Cortez McCoy
    Dr. Cortez McCoy
  • Alex Levesque
    Alex Levesque
  • Vaughn Bryant
    Vaughn Bryant

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Dwayne Pickett

Dwayne Pickett graduated with honors from the Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. Dwayne worked in politics, government and lobbying for 9 years. Before joining Exelon, Dwayne worked in the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Senate, and he served three years at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in the Office of the Chief of Staff.

In 2013, Dwayne joined Integrys Energy Services as a Government Affairs Representatives and rose to become a Manager of State and Regulatory Affairs at Exelon after the company acquired Integrys. In that role served as the State Chair for the Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA) in Ohio, focusing on power issues, and he was the State Chair for RESA in New Jersey on Gas issues. Dwayne was also the President of Energy Choice Now in Michigan, advocating for the preservation of electric competition schools and businesses. In 2017, Dwayne was hired as the Chief of Staff to the Chief Strategy Officer of Exelon. In that role helped manage and operate Exelon’s Corporate Development, Legal, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Investments, Corporate Strategy and Communications practice areas. In that role, Dwayne focused on creating a culture of sponsorship and inclusion.

Dwayne is currently the Director of Regulatory Solutions at ComEd where he manages projects and interactions between ComEd, regulatory agencies and stakeholders. He resides in Chicago with his wife, Christina and his dog, Pumpkin.

Damien B. Trimuel

Damien B. Trimuel is the Senior Manager of Financial Planning and Strategic Projects in the Office of Human Resources at Northwestern University, and has been with the university since 2006. He also has been part of Northwestern University’s Staff Advisory Council for five years and served as Treasurer for two terms. Damien graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from the University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana. He also has completed the Kellogg School of Management Executive Scholar Program and received a certificate in Nonprofit Management. Damien also served on the Board of Directors at New Life Covenant Southeast church for twelve years. In addition, he also has a passion for mentoring young men that are beginning their careers. Damien resides in the South Loop with his wife, Jamila, and enjoys the outdoors and working out.

William Townsell

William Townsell is an Assistant Director with the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Community Policing. Over a 20 year career, he has developed and implemented a myriad of crime abatement and community abatement strategies for residents and stakeholders alike. In addition, he has served as an Acting Supervisor for civilian field staff assigned to south and north sides of the city. Mr. Townsell began his career with the City of Chicago in 1998 with the Development of Planning and Development working in the West Garfield and Austin communities. Prior to this, he worked for Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) in the North Lawndale and West Englewood communities as a Loan Officer. A graduate of the University of Illinois, William has been happily married to his best friend, the former Kelda Sims for 19 years and is the proud father of two beautiful daughters Faith (16) and Joy (13). Past and Current Civic Activities: • Greater Chicago Food Depository • NHS of Chicago (Board Member) • Lawndale Christian Health Center (Board Member) • Chicago Church of Christ (Board Member) • Maryville Nursery

Rodric Miller

Rodric Miller started his career over 25 years ago when he opened Driver Solutions Incorporated, one of few African-American owned temporary agencies for CDL truck drivers in the Chicagoland area. Throughout the years, he has secured contracts with several Fortune 500 companies, with locations in Illinois, Texas and Georgia.

 

Mr. Miller has expanded his reach in the field with M5 Logistics, a nationwide 3rd-party transportation company. As owner, one goal is to help youth and young adults gain financial independence in the trucking industry.

 

Rod’s love of pizza led to frequent visits to Miller Pizza, located in Miller Beach, Indiana. His friendship with the owner led to him opening Miller Pizza Chicago, which soon became a favorite of many!

 

Rod credits a lot of his success to his wife of 29 years, Johnnetta Miller. They are the proud parents of three children; Tatyanna, Romel and Raven. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity (Theta Mu Lambda) and the Chicago Assembly, and attends Salem Baptist Church of Chicago. Rod enjoys traveling and riding and breeding his Friesian Sport horses.

Jonathan McGee

Jonathan McGee is an Economic Developer, Civic Leader, and Social Entrepreneur with over 8 years of non-profit, public sector, and civic engagement experience. He currently serves as Deputy Director of Regional Economic Development for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Regional Economic Development (RED) bureau serves as the face of the DCEO in communities statewide. He manages a field team of 15 regional economic development managers who cover all geographies of Illinois. His bureau develops and executes the strategy for regional economic development statewide, coordinates workforce development efforts, business development/attraction/expansion, local investments, and partnerships. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Jonathan led frontline economic recovery efforts for local units of government, businesses, and workers, helping to deploy over 1 billion dollars in COVID-19 relief on behalf on the State of Illinois. Jonathan also founded The Global Organization for Applied Political Leadership, the first of its kind training incubator for advocacy, specifically focused on lower socioeconomic communities of color. He has consulted for Get in Chicago and The Chicago Community Trust’s Civic Engagement team where he led social capital initiatives

Mitchell R. Davis III

Mitchell R. Davis III is Chief of Police in Hazel Crest. He is completing his dissertation addressing ‘Policing and the Black Community’ for his PhD in Organizational Leadership. He was ‘Police Chief of the Year’ and received the Jefferson Award for ‘Lifetime Achievement in Public Service’. He is the first Black President in the 80-year history of the Illinois Association of Chiefs and worked on the new police reform legislation. He is also the first Black Chairman of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. He serves on Boards for the International Association of Chiefs, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, Southland Juvenile Justice Council, NBC5 Community Action Board, and South Suburban Family Shelter. He is an outspoken advocate for police culture reforms and is a national speaker on race and policing. He was a subject matter expert for the evaluation of the Louisville PD after the Breonna Taylor killing. He is a married man of faith with 4 adult children and 4 grandchildren and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Terry Hunter

Terry Hunter has traveled the globe sharing his passion for house music. Born and raised in Chicago, he was introduced to music at a very early age by his father, a DJ who played mostly soul and disco music at a west side tavern. As a teen, Terry built a following by DJing at neighborhood and high school parties, then went on to play several seminal Chicago clubs and parties. In 1990, as the Chicago house music sound was exploding internationally, Terry produced his first release, “Madness”, which became an underground hit. While continuing to DJ all over the world, he honed serious production skills, contributing his talents to top artists, including Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, R. Kelly, Raheem Devaughn, Chantay Savage, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Estelle, Byron Stingily (of Chicago’s Ten City), Barbara Tucker and May . Terry launched his own label, T’s Box Records, in 2004. And has continue to release critically acclaimed music to date.

Shaka Ahmed Rawls

Shaka Ahmed Rawls is in his sixth year as Principal at Leo Catholic High School, in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Mr. Rawls grew up in the Woodlawn community, attending Holy Cross Elementary School, Leo High School and Aurora University. Mr. Rawls received a Bachelor’s degree in History from Aurora University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently completing his Doctorate in Educational Policy Analysis at UIC.

In addition to being the loving husband of Rukiya Rawls, he is the proud father of Samira Aniyah Rawls. As the first African-American alumnus to serve as principal in Leo’s 95-year history, Mr. Rawls has overseen a sixty percent increase in the school’s enrollment over the last four years, as well as a three-point increase in overall ACT scores. He and his staff is also responsible for the much higher profile the school enjoys, with articles featuring Leo appearing in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times along with broadcast coverage from NBC, CBS, FOX, WGN and MSNBC.

Rael Jackson

Rael Jackson is the President of Real Men Cook®, with nineteen years in Brand Building and Marketing. Rael has created multi-million dollar brands for entertainers and corporations. Mr. Jackson has participated in a White House Briefing on the Digital Divide, co-hosted a White House Briefing on African-Americans in Business & Technology with his company Marketing Opportunities in Business & Entertainment (MOBE). Under Rael’s Supervision MOBE received commendations for marketing innovation from both President William J. Clinton & President George W. Bush. After participating in the re-branding of the National Urban League Conference and the Young Professional seminars in 2005, Rael had the opportunity to integrate MOBE panels into the NULYP programming and delivered standing-room only panels and increased overall participation in the National Urban League Conference. Rael Jackson also helped launch mobile content provider and early innovator, Urban World Wireless.

Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond

The Rev. Dr. Patrick L. Daymond serves as Senior Pastor of Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland, IL (CUCC). His passion is rooted in engaging and empowering all of humanity, locally and globally, through preaching and teaching the life changing Word of God and living out the convincing gospel of Jesus Christ. A native of Winter Haven, FL, Dr. Daymond graduated from Davidson College with a BA in Political Science. He holds a Master of Divinity (M.Div) degree from Princeton Theological Seminary, from which he garnered honors and distinctions. He also earned his Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where his primary research focused on Congregational Leadership. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Dr. Daymond also holds ministerial standing in the United Church of Christ. A sought after preacher, teacher, revivalist, conference and workshop facilitator, he has been awarded numerous citations for his community and civic activism and involvement. Dr. Daymond is the husband of Antonia Michelle Daymond, Ph.D and they are proud parents of twin sons, Bryce Ellington and Benjamin Miles

Michael Wilder, Esq.

Michael Wilder is a Shareholder and Board of Directors Member at Littler Mendelson, P.C., a global management-side labor and employment law firm. Michael’s practice focuses on complex employment litigation, including federal trials and appellate work. He has the high distinction of being named one of the “Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 in Illinois,” “One of the Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Chicago,” “One of the Top Lawyers in Illinois,” “One of the Top 40 Labor and Employment Lawyers in Illinois,” “40 Gamechangers Under 40,” and numerous other awards. Michael is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Black Men Lawyers’ Association, which was founded in Chicago and has grown to become a national organization that focuses on fellowship/networking, mentorship, and civic engagement for lawyers, judges, and law students. Michael also currently serves on various other Boards of Directors, including Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Program, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, the Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Board of Directors, and the National Able Network. Michael is also a member of the first cohort of “The Black Bench.” Michael has also served as an Adjunct Law Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law teaching Legal Writing IV for Labor and Employment. Michael is a published author (“The Playbook for a Dollar & a Dream”) and has another book on the way – a romantic comedy due out February 2022. Michael is also a successful entrepreneur. His company, Wilder World Productions, develops and sales exciting board games and card games (“Rep Your City” and “Rep Your Music”). Michael received his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law and his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.

Marc A. Pullins

Marc A. Pullins is an advocate for the community where he was born & raised, Roseland. Founding Roseland Matters has afforded him the perfect vehicle to dedicate himself in making this community a better place to live for its residents. Over the past 10 years, they’ve mentored young men, given away thousands of toys, coats, turkeys/sides, filled backpacks during their holiday and back to school events. They’ve also hosted Community Conversations with CPD- building familiarity with residents, Cleaning Roseland- where as many as 500 residents volunteered with business owners & police to clean the street and Spring Into Health wellness events. Marc currently serves as Executive Director of Jordyne Cares/Roseland Matters. Jordyne Cares, Roseland Matters parent organization, was founded by Marc & his sister Deirdre Pullins in 2009. Jordyne, Deirdre’s daughter, was a student at The Ancona School of Hyde Park, when she passed away at the age of 9. Marc has over 20 yrs sales experience with two earned degrees- Bachelors in Public Relations & Masters in Public Administration.

Marcus Manning

Marcus Manning is an education leader and entrepreneur. A native of Chicago’s southside, he’s driven by both purpose and passion.

 

Marcus has been an educator for 14 years. He is currently Dean of Students for a Chicagoland charter school where he lives out his purpose of impacting the lives of young people inside and outside the classroom. Through building and maintaining strong relationships, he’s able to help scholars develop, not just as students, but also as leaders. He seeks to inspire and empower scholars to “be great on purpose”.

 

Marcus has always been passionate about capturing special moments on film. In 2012, he co-founded M28 Photography. Whether he’s serving as photographer at a birthday party or videographer at a wedding, he enjoys making sure people have quality keepsakes of memorable times in their lives.

 

Marcus is an alumnus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and DePaul University. He is a lifetime member of the illustrious Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and serves as Historian for the Mu Mu Lambda Chapter. Most importantly, Marcus is a loving husband and father.

Keith Wyche

Keith has spent the past 40 years working for companies such as AT & T, IBM Cub Foods, and Pitney Bowes as a change management leader. He has an exceptional record of turning around underperforming operations and improving bottom line results. Currently, Keith is the Vice President, Community Engagement & Support for Walmart. In this role, Keith is responsible for creating Walmart’s strategy for developing meaningful relationships with the communities in which they have stores. In Chicago this work includes providing economic empowerment and up-skilling opportunities, as well as working with local elected officials and community nonprofit organizations. Prior to this role, Keith was responsible for the operation of over $8 billion in sales and 30,000 Associates as the leader of Walmart stores in New York. Keith holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Cleveland State University and an MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College. He is a frequent public speaker and author of, “Good Is Not Enough: And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals”, and “Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life.”

The Honorable Kam Buckner

Kam Buckner is a native of the Southside of Chicago. He has the honor of representing the 26th Legislative District in the Illinois House of Representatives. The district, completely situated in the city of Chicago contains parts of South Shore, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Downtown, River North, and the Gold Coast. He serves as the Chair of the Illinois House Black Caucus, and as Majority Whip for the House Democratic Caucus. He sits on the Higher Education, Tourism, Judiciary- Criminal and Executive Committees. He previously served as executive director of World Sport Chicago and in the front office of the Chicago Cubs. He spent a number of years in the public sector on the staff of Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, LA, and US Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. Kam has taught Public Policy at the University of Chicago and was a 2017 Emerging Leader with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He holds a BA from the University of Illinois and a JD from DePaul University.

Hosea Sanders

Hosea Sanders, is a 16-time Emmy Award-winning Anchor/Reporter, who plays a major role at ABC 7 Chicago, both in the news and programming areas. Sanders is a main contributor for the “Chicago Proud” series of stories which give voice to everyday Chicago-area heroes. He also covers entertainment features for the station. In addition, Sanders spotlights the differently-abled community in a regular series of stories called “Celebrating Abilities.” His reporting on this beat was lauded in a story published in the Columbia Journalism Review. On the programming side, Sanders hosts ABC 7’s Emmy Award-winning series, “Our Chicago: Black Voices of Change” (formerly “Heart & Soul”), which showcases Chicago’s vibrant African American community. He also helps host one of the highest rated local shows in Chicago, the popular New Year’s Eve special, Countdown Chicago, as well as ABC 7’s Bud Billiken Parade broadcast and is one of the faces of the ABC7 Blood Drive and Food Drive. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and has worked at TV stations in Los Angeles, Dallas and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Gavin Jackson

Gavin R. Jackson is a business leader, investor, and author who takes great pride in being a lifelong student and teacher of the methods and mind set of superior achievement. A graduate of Hampton University and Northwestern University School of Law, his career has taken him from the lofty heights of Wall St. as an Investment Banker and Trader, to his current role as the Chief Operating Officer of one of Chicago’s largest and most historic ministries. He is the co-owner of the Jackson Nuckolls Group, a multi-million dollar restaurant and hospitality enterprise. He is deeply devoted to his family, close friends, and community. Gavin is a shining example of professional, personal, and spiritual success, and looks to share his learned wisdom with other explorers of spiritual swagger. He is the author of “Mind+Grind: A Thinker’s Guide to Practical Spirituality, which shows readers how to use Bible scripture to combine elevated thinking with intelligent works. Gavin’s conscientiousness in helping to raise his community makes him a sought-after speaker, teacher, and mentor.

Frank Latin

Frank Latin is the Founder and Executive Director of Westside Media Project/Storyline Studio. The organization is in its 15 year of providing media arts programming and exposure to west side youth and community residents. Frank earned a bachelors and masters degree in Economics and minored in African American Studies while at Roosevelt University. He has worked extensively in labor-related issues throughout his nearly 20 year career with state and federal agencies.

 

Mr. Latin serves as an Immigration Program Analyst with the United States Department of Labor and formerly served as Statistical Research Supervisor for IDES where he collected and analyzed wage and employment data.

 

Frank is a member of the 2020 cohort of McCormick Foundation’s Leadership in Democracy Program as well as the Goldin Institute’s 2019 Chicago Peace Fellows. Mr. Latin has a demonstrated record of working to improve the quality of life on the city’s west side through workforce development and community programming.

Emmanuel Jackson

Emmanuel Jackson is CEO and Founder of Evanston Technology Partners (ETP). ETP is a Cybersecurity services provider in Bronzeville. They serve clients such Archer Daniel Midland (ADM) and Northwestern Medicine. Mr. Jackson has worked to send hundreds of young people to college. He is also a founding board member of the Youth Job Center of Evanston. He is recently married to Jennifer Bridgeforth. He has two adult children Amber and Emmanuel Jackson, Jr.

The Honorable Elgie R. Sims, Jr.

SEN. ELGIE R. SIMS, JR. serves as State Senator for the 17th Illinois Senate District, which includes portions of the South Side of Chicago, Chicago’s South Suburbs, and Will and Kankakee counties. Prior to joining the Illinois Senate, he served nearly four terms as State Representative of Illinois’ 34th House District. As State Senator, Elgie continues to put families and communities first. During his time in the Illinois General Assembly, Elgie has championed legislation focused on improving the quality of our schools, strengthening the middle class by creating good paying jobs and economic opportunities, bringing fiscal discipline to Springfield and passing commonsense public safety initiatives with the aim of making our streets safer. Elgie currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Vice Chairman of the Criminal Law and Redistricting Committees and also serves as a member on the Senate Ethics, Judiciary, Public Safety and Revenue Committees. Born in Chicago, Elgie holds an undergraduate degree in political science from Illinois State University, a master’s degree from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago.

Alderman Derrick G. Curtis

Derrick G. Curtis is a lifelong resident of Chicago, and serves as Alderman of the 18th Ward. He grew up on Chicago’s West side and is a proud alum of John Marshall High School. One of six siblings, he discovered his love for singing early in life, while also becoming a percussionist and guitarist. Ald. Curtis has an extensive background in law enforcement and served over 10 years as a Superintendent for the Department of Streets and Sanitation for the18th Ward. Most of his constituents simply know him as Derrick- and he prefers that. He credits former Ald. Thomas Murphy with helping him enter into politics, and in addition to his pursuits such as Scoutmaster, LSC Chair, coaching and mentoring both youth and adults, and fraternal organization memberships, his passion for helping people is at the core of everything he does to improve the community. A proud father and husband, Ald. Curtis is also known for making some of the best Bbq ribs on the South Side when he isn’t busy running the Ward.

Mayor Darren E. Bryant

Darren E. Bryant is a proud native of the Village of Robbins, Illinois. Bryant was elected mayor on April 6th, 2021. At the age of 29, he became the youngest African American in the history of Illinois to serve as mayor. In 2015 at the age 23, Bryant was elected Commissioner and Vice President of the Robbins Park District. At 25, Bryant then was elected to serve on the Village Council board as Trustee in 2017. Bryant also built his career within the community. Currently Bryant is a physical education and health teacher at his alma mater, Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Blue Island Illinois. Bryant began his career as a teacher at Thomas J. Kellar Middle School in Robbins, Illinois. Bryant earned his teaching degree from Kentucky State University, an historically black university located in Frankfort, Kentucky. While at KSU, Bryant served as Junior Class President, a position that furthered his interest in public service. Bryant continued his education at Governor’s State University in Illinois, where he attained a Master’s degree in Educational Administration.

Anthony Simpkins, Esq.

Anthony Simpkins received his Law degree and masters in Political Science from Loyola University Chicago in 1994. He began his legal career at the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, the fair housing organization founded by the Rev. Martin Luther King, and as a Skadden Foundation fellow, representing victims of illegal evictions at the Legal Assistance Foundation and Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. In 1997, Anthony joined the City of Chicago Law Department, as Senior Counsel, focused on public safety litigation, and then in 2007 became Deputy Commissioner for affordable housing preservation for the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. In 2014, Anthony was appointed a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County by the Illinois Supreme Court, and served until 2016, when he returned to the City as the Managing Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Housing, overseeing housing and community development programs. Anthony is currently the President and CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which provides education, counseling, lending, home repair and other services to promote homeownership and community revitalization in low- and moderate-income communities of color in Chicago.

Al DeBonnett

Mr. Allison “Al” DeBonnett is a lifelong resident of Chicago and COO of International CyberBanque, Ltd who has performed admirably in numerous corporate leadership positions, with more than 30 years of financial services and information technology experience. Notably, Mr. DeBonnett developed the architecture for innovative digital payment first introduced at Harvard University. His past civic duties include counseling Chicago homeowners undergoing foreclosure and property tax delinquency proceedings. He currently Co-chairs the board of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc., Educational Division, responsible for 75,000+ CPS graduates enrolling in college since 1968 and $100 million in college scholarships over the last ten years. Mr. DeBonnett is Chairman of Jackson Park Golf and Community Leadership that assists Chicago Park District in restoration of the Tiger Woods redesign of Jackson Park Golf Course, while working closely with the Obama Foundation’s development of the Obama Presidential Center. He is also an author of numerous software copyrights, trademarks and pending patents. Mr. DeBonnett is an avid reader, writer, tennis player, golfer, and runner. He attended Western Illinois University and DePaul University College of Law.

William Andre Buchanan

William Andre Buchanan also known as Andre Buchanan or Dre Buchanan is former Electrical Engineer with a degree from Northern Illinois University and now a producer (music & film), film financier, angel investor, promoter & corporate marketing & advertising liaison. He was born in Tokyo, Japan and raised on the southside of Chicago and is a Hyde Park Alum. He has worked for over 18 years in entertainment/business consultancy and senior management. Buchanan is a serial entrepreneur/business owner and in addition to angel investing in mostly BIPOC founders, advisory & community investing, has helped startups raise $1M+ combined in crowdfunding while also offering an influencer program, having access to several celebrities, athletes, brands & media outlets via his boutique marketing and advertising agency titled ILL4Real Entertainment (I4R services). He works with several non profits via sponsorship, fundraising and talent acquisition via celebrity and grassroots organizations including the Be The Miracle Foundation and serves as a mentor to Chicago youth, at-risk students and future entrepreneurs with a passion for changing the narrative of the image of young black men to a positive one.

Thurman Smith

Tony leads PNC Bank’s community lending and investing for Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota. His imprint on communities of color can be observed across Chicago, where his team was the lead investor on the Englewood Whole Foods, the new Ogden Commons development which will house Mt. Sinai’s community health practice in West Lawndale, the Local Market grocer in South Shore and Pierce House in Humboldt Park which secures housing for the homeless. Through the pandemic, Tony served as a co-chair of the Chicago Inclusionary Housing Task Force and on several boards, including the Cook County Land Bank, CIC and NHS. Most recently, he was named a co-chair of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago’s Capital Campaign. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Chicago State University where he was inducted in the school’s Academy of Distinguished Alumni. He completed his MBA at the University of Southern California. Tony also served in the Marine Corp. where he was assigned to the Presidential Helicopter Squadron as a White House Liaison Officer.

Thomas Henderson

Thomas began his professional experience working for the Chicago Public School system. He experienced a career change that led him into State Farm Insurance Company, which took him through a myriad of positions ranging from claims representative, human resources, agency and executive leadership. Currently is CEO/President of Thomas B Henderson Insurance Agency Inc. He has participated on a number of boards, inclusive of civic and non-profit organizations in Chicago, Detroit, MI, Mount Prospect and Elmhurst, IL. Most notably has been his involvement with the 100 Black Men of Chicago for the past 15 years, as gala chairman, Vice-President of the Executive committee, as most recently, as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors. Also serves as Co-Chairman of the National Leadership Institute Committee for the 100 Black Men of America. He is an active, 36 year member of the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago, and is Co-Director of the Marriage Ministry. He and his wife Patrice have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. They are expected to publish their first book this September.

Mayor Terry Wells

Terry Wells currently serves as Mayor of the Village of Phoenix. He is serving his eighth term making him the longest serving African American Mayor in the State. Terry is also active outside of the Village of Phoenix. He is the past President of South Suburban Mayors and Managers; currently serves as Trustee at South Suburban College; President of the Thornton Township Regular Democratic Organization; Member of the Board of Directors of Bank Financial and Pace.

In 2018 he retired from Thornton High School. He was named Business Teacher of the Year; He is the recipient of District 205 Academic Enrichment Foundation Star Teacher Award and The Jefferson Award for Academic Excellence by a Teacher; he is a 2019 Thornton High School Hall of Fame Inductee.

Terry has spent his career trying to motivate and inspire young people to achieve their goals. That has been the focus of his life work. Terry is a graduate of Illinois State University and holds a master’s degree in education. Terry and his wife Loretta have been married 36 years and have three children.

Stephen W. Beard, Esq.

Stephen Beard was appointed chief operating officer at Adtalem in 2019. In his role as chief operating officer, Stephen is responsible for the leadership and financial performance of Adtalem’s Financial Services vertical. In addition, he leads strategy, corporate development, and external relations. In both capacities, Stephen provides strategic counsel to the CEO, senior management team and board of directors. Stephen joined the organization in 2018 as senior vice president, general counsel before taking on the responsibility of chief operating officer in 2019 and responsibility for the Financial Services vertical in 2020. Prior to Adtalem, Stephen was executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel of Heidrick & Struggles (NASDAQ: HSII). Prior to joining Heidrick & Struggles, Stephen was in private practice with Schiff Hardin, LLP. Stephen began his legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Frank Sullivan, Jr. (ret.), associate justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. Stephen received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a juris doctor degree from Indiana University – Bloomington and completed the Advanced Management Program at Duke University.

Sharone Mitchell Jr., Esq.

Sharone Mitchell is the Cook County Public Defender, serving a six-year team that began on April 1st, 2021.

The Cook County Public Defender is one of the largest unified public defender offices in the nation with nearly 700 employees, a budget of approximately $80 million, and 23 divisions and units.

In 2016, Mitchell joined the Illinois Justice Project (ILJP), a policy reform organization dedicated to supporting people, programs, and policies that can reduce inappropriate incarceration, improve community safety outcomes, and increase justice in the legal system.

Mitchell became Director of ILJP in 2019 and solidified its reputation as one of the state’s leading criminal justice reform non-profits.

During his tenure as Director, ILJP helped lead the Coalition to End Money Bond’s successful effort to outlaw wealth-based pretrial incarceration in Illinois. ILJP also worked with coalition partners to convince state leaders to direct 25 percent of cannabis tax revenues towards treating the root causes of harm through the R3 grant program.

Mitchell has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and law degree from DePaul University. A lifelong resident of Chicago, he grew up in the West Pullman neighborhood and is alumnus of Morgan Park High School.

Sean Howard

Sean Howard is President & CEO of Howard & Associates Public Relations Firm. He has served as Spokesman for countless individuals, villages, municipalities, and counties for more than 25 years. Having gained national prominence, Howard is the calm, trusted, familiar, and distinctive voice heard over radio waves, television, and throughout the internet. Using skillful communication, he addresses some of the most challenging civic, social, and communal issues with tact and ease. Additionally, he is the conduit for and among citizens, advocacy groups, and policymakers. As a philanthropist, he has contributed countless hours, resources, and finances to tackle and address issues including poverty, violence, and natural disasters. Howard has several notable philanthropic achievements. He managed successful political campaigns throughout Cook County and helped establish legislation to address illegal adoption practices. He delivered thousands of gallons of drinking water to Haiti, and the cities of Dallas, Houston, and Memphis. Mr. Howard established racial injustice &; police brutality protests, alongside organizing efforts to assist families of gun violence victims. With a heart of gold, he also funds annual Christmas sprees for underprivileged families.

Rick Nesbitt

Rick Nesbitt is the founder and winemaker at Vintrendi Wine Company, Illinois’ first Black- owned and operated winery. He has over twenty years of marketing, sales and distribution experience in the adult beverage industry. After graduating from Northern Illinois University, he went into sales. He began his career in packaging sales and transitioned to wine and spirits soon after. From there he found his passion in wine and made it a point to learn as many aspects of the business as he could. He consistently excelled in his sales role but it was never as satisfying as the thought of being an entrepreneur. In 2009, he started a boutique wine and spirits distribution company, Vanguard Beverage. Prior industry relationships played a key role in opening doors to opportunities to work closely with wine and spirits producers. The idea was then born to restructure the company to become what we now know as Vintrendi Wine Company. In this role, Mr. Nesbitt is able to develop the beverage, marketing, and trade channels for brands that will represent the future of wine.

Pha’tal Perkins

Pha’tal Perkins was born, raised & currently resides in Greater Englewood. Recognizing his influence in Chicago, he committed himself to being the person to our youth that he needed growing up before taking a turn down the wrong path. Pha’tal is the founder & CEO of Think Outside Da Block, whose mission is to improve the quality of life of disadvantaged youth & build community. To achieve this objective, he believes we must address the root causes of, social norms and health including, but not limited to, environmental and economic development… Which is why Pha’tal created the program #GetchaMindRight; an innovative approach to raising trauma awareness and connecting individuals to resources. Think Outside Da Block also hosts 5 annual events but of the 5, Roll N Peace, the night time community bike tour has been the most impactful & successful. Outside of the amazing work Pha’tal does with Think Outside Da Block, he also coordinates the Community Based Crime Reduction initiative funded by the Department of Justice better known as TIME 21:36 for Teamwork Englewood.

Luther Lampkin

Luther Lampkin is the Director of Technology & Innovation at RG Construction in Elmhurst, Illinois, whose skilled background in digital technology pairs him with clients enhancing their adoption of Building Information Modeling (BIM), Virtual Design Construction (VDC) and Design Asset Management (D.A.M.). Luther is a change agent in a traditionally non-diverse profession. His current and past projects combined, consist of $14 Billion in revenue including Hospitals, Wet Infrastructure, Industrial, Educational, and Federal projects. These major projects both domestically and internationally also include his extensive infrastructure work on the Panama Canal Third Set of Locks. His skilled background in vertical construction design and engineering was shown in past roles as BIM Manager, R & D Technology Consultant, and Virtual Design/Construction (VDC) for Architecture, Civil, and Construction firms. Luther has worked to identify where people, culture, and technology processes bottleneck improving business expansion, client engagement, and construction coordination. Luther received his undergraduate degree from Lawrence Technological University and is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) as a Technology Chair. When not at work, Luther enjoys competitive bowling, as well as traveling and spending time with his two sons.

Mark Walker

Mark Walker is best known for his Oooh Wee Sweet Tea, which he created over 6 years ago. Mark traded his 9 to 5 blue collar job at Ford Motor Company to become a 24/7 entrepreneur and now a restaurateur. Mark’s journey began with selling homemade donuts and sweet tea in 2014. When the tea sales increased, he decided to resign from his position at Ford and expand his tea brand. When asked how he chose the name Oooh Wee Sweet Tea, he explained that it was a customer’s response after she took her first sip. He immediately changed the name from Sweet Tea to Oooh Wee Sweet Tea!

During the Pandemic in 2020, Mark and his new wife, Shae Walker of 2 years started cooking at home and sharing their creative dishes with a few friends and family. The Walkers received rave reviews and were asked to provide more to please their palates. In October 2020, the first Oooh Wee it is opened in Burnham, Illinois. Four months later, the 2nd location opened in the Chatham neighborhood.

Mark is also sharing his delicious dishes with the community. Oooh Wee It Is Restaurant teamed up with MyBlockMyHoodMyCity and fed 2000 senior citizens.

Kevin Betton

Fire Chief Kevin Betton wears many hats. Fire Chief, Lieutenant, Instructor, Marine, Past President of the African American Firefighters and Paramedics League, Coach, and Mentor. Chief Betton has been in the fire service for over 25 years. Serves as Chief of the Phoenix Fire Department and Lieutenant for the Chicago Fire Department. Chief Betton is also a USMC veteran and served in Operation Desert Shield. Chief Betton has participated in many community events. From food and toy drives, Firefighter For A Day, and feeding families at the annual Bud Billiken parade. He has mentored and help many cadets achieve their dream to become firefighters. Assisting candidates to go through the fire academy to be fire fighters and EMT-B. Chief Betton teaches Basic Operations Firefighter at Prairie State University. Chief Betton’s favorite motto is “All that I am I owe, I live eternally in the red.” That mean that he is standing on the shoulders of giants who have paved the way for him as he is now doing for others.

Kenneth Coles

Lifelong Chicagoan from the far southside’s Maple Park neighborhood, Kenny is a product of Fenger HS and So. IL University. A Sr. Pharmacy Coordinator at University of Chicago Hospitals & Clinics the first 10yrs of his career, Kenny changed focus in 1996 to operate in the federal public housing administration arena assisting troubled agencies to reach High Performer status – HUD’s highest rating for a public housing agency. After 14 years in senior staff positions for Chicago Housing Authority, since 2015 Kenny is serving as Executive Director and CEO for two county-level housing authorities supporting nearly 4,000 low to moderate income families through DuPage County Housing Authority and Kendall County Housing Authority. With a personal motto of “low-key, but dynamic”, it’s notable that Kenny is the first Black Executive Director/CEO in the 80 year histories of both agencies. A Life Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Kenny is married to his beautiful wife Gale for 33 years. Choosing the DINK life, they are happy travelling, being foodies… and being the favorite Aunt and Uncle in the room at family events.

Dr. Julious Lawson

Dr. Julious Lawson is a committed educational leader from the South Side of Chicago with robust organizational leadership experience in urban schools and an unwavering belief in the potential of all children. He believes in a distributive approach to building the capacity of school teams and leaders in order to generate a culture of continuous improvement in partnership with community stakeholders. He has proven successful in developing administrators, and leadership teams through systemic collaboration and strategic coaching. Dr. Lawson is Chief of Schools for Network 11 at Chicago Public Schools, leading twenty-nine elementary schools within the Englewood and Auburn-Gresham communities of the city. His student-centered leadership is anchored in a developed understanding of social emotional learning that ensures schools provide safe and rigorous learning environments for all students. By infusing schools with optimism, a sense of place, pride, and purpose, Dr. Lawson is working to build a culture of “HOPE” and transforming education for children in poverty. He believes “…hope and optimism are more important for boosting achievement than IQ, and without it, all other strategies will fail.”

Jerry Brown, Esq.

Jerry Brown is an attorney at Siegel & Callahan, P.C. where he practices property tax appeals. Jerry earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago and his Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota School of Law. Jerry is also an Adjunct Professor at UIC Law School, where he has taught Remedies, Federal Courts, Appellate Advocacy and Legal Drafting. Jerry is a member of the Cook County Bar Association (Board Member, 2015-present), Southside Builders Association (Board Member), Marshall Bennett Real Estate Institute Advisory Board, American Constitution Society (Board Member), and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce (Government Relations Committee). Jerry serves as General Counsel for 100 Black Men of Chicago, Inc. and is a volunteer for Edward J. Lewis II Lawyers In the Classroom program, and is also a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness (2015-present).

Jeffery Beckham Jr.

Jeffery Beckham Jr. is CEO at Chicago Scholars. In his role, Jeffery is responsible for leading the development of the organization that serves more than 4,000 first-generation and low-income students to reach their dreams to pursue a college education. Jeffery is a community leader, artist and tech-entrepreneur known for advancing the fight for equity for youth and marginalized communities throughout the United States. Jeffrey’s thoughtful and dedicated leadership has received numerous awards. WVON and Ariel Investments named Jeffery one of Chicago’s Top 40 Game Changers Under 40 years old in 2015, he was a finalist for the Chicago Inno 50 on Fire Award in 2016, and The RAY Awards named him their 2018-2019 Man of the Year for his work in the community. Amid his numerous impactful leadership positions, Jeffrey began painting last year and uses his art for social and economic justice to make an impact in Chicago at Art by Jeffery Beckham. As a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, his work has been on display around the world.

Gregg Arnold

Gregg Arnold, aka, windycitychef, is a Chicago native, born and raised on the Southside in the Pill Hill neighborhood. His culinary career was inspired by his mother and 3 aunts who were originally from New Orleans. Times spent at family events, weddings, births, graduations, and holidays, always centered around the women in his life, who were always cooking up the most amazing New Orleans cuisine. His father’s tough love drove his tenacious work ethic to be the best at whatever he chose to do in life. A diligent food and beverage professional with 20 years tenure in keeping a finger on the pulse of operations in a casual dining restaurant setting. After receiving his Culinary Arts degree in Los Angeles CA, he worked his way up the ranks in the kitchen from prep cook to Operations Manager. Upon returning to Chicago, Gregg has worked in various restaurants, venues as well as Personal Chef assignments crafting and serving up the most amazing dishes and helping to “create guests experiences” through his Love of family and community.

Darryl Hughes

As an animator, Darryl created award-winning shorts for Encyclopedia Britannica and Warner Bros. Tiny Toons. It lead him to become a video game developer for Viacom New Media, Konami, Incredible Technologies, and WMS Gaming; earning him over 10 game patents. For 25 years Darryl taught animation, and game development at Columbia College, DePaul University, and Tribeca-Flashpoint Academy, and lead a four-student team to a first place win at the U.S. Microsoft Imagine Cup Game Design Competition and semi-finalist in the world competition. Throughout his career, there were few who looked like him. He is changing that. After starting Hughes Who Technologies, LLC, game development company, Darryl, and wife Edye started Hughes Who Technologies Studio a STEAM/job readiness nonprofit to teach underserved youth the business. This lead him to a faculty position at Kennedy King College teaching the gaming curriculum he created. Darryl wants underserved youth to not just play the game but get in the game. He’s helping level the playing field in the gaming and interactive industries, by exposing underserved and at-risk youth to the bu

Dr. Cortez McCoy

Cortez McCoy is a product of CPS and has been in the educational field for fifteen years. As a proud graduate of Chicago Public Schools, Cortez has dedicated his career to Chicago’s children and their families. He has been a substitute teacher, teacher, assistant dean and assistant principal in both the public and charter school sector. He is currently the principal of Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts and has been the principal for the past two years. He also is the first contract principal of Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts. Last year was the school’s first graduating class since the reform. The Class of 2020 accumulated over 4 million dollars in scholarships and had a 98% graduation rate. Cortez is a proud native of the south side of Chicago and holds a Bachelors in Business Management from Illinois State University, a Masters in the Art of Teaching from Chicago State University and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Concordia and he recently completed his doctorate in Urban Education Leadership from UIC.

Alex Levesque

In 2012, Alex Levesque started the Automotive Mentoring Group a non-for-profit in Chicago. AMG’s mission was to be proactive against gang violence with fatherless boys and girls with the intent to give them an experience of what it is like to have a father and by training them in the art of automobile restoration. But after further study, he realized that a lot of these boys had mental health issues due to untreated trauma that they had experienced earlier in their lives. The intent of the mentoring program is multi-faceted that includes mental health services, workforce development, and people skills. Alex’s intent is giving these boys the ultimate amount of exposure to life experiences so that they can dream bigger than ever. Most important is that they have life experiences that allow them to dream bigger than big and to realize that the word “impossible” doesn’t have the same meaning as “hard.” This mission is to train them to work harder than they ever have before and reap the benefits.

Vaughn Bryant

Vaughn Bryant, is the Executive Director of Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, a division of Metropolitan Family Services. Bryant convenes Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), a cross-agency effort involving community-based organizations whose mission is to engage and build trusting relationships with individuals most vulnerable to gun violence and mobilize and provide them with a comprehensive set of services that lead to their healing and the healing of our communities. Since joining Metropolitan Family Services in April of 2017, Bryant has led the growth of CP4P from a $9M operation to $32M. The collaborative now includes 14 partners serving 28 communities whose highest risk individuals now have access to free behavioral health, civil legal aid, education and job readiness service. Prior to his work with Metropolitan Family Services, Bryant spent four years as the Chief Program Officer for the Chicago Park District. Bryant joined the Park District after working on the Violence Prevention Initiative as a Deputy Officer at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) where he created “Safe Passage”. Bryant received a master’s from Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree from Stanford.