The Chicago Defender 2024 Women of Excellence Honorees

This year’s Induction Ceremony Honors Exemplary Black Women in the Chicagoland Community at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk on March 22, 2024.

Chicago, Illinois – Desirée Rogers, former White House Social Secretary to President Barack Obama and chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing Company, headlines an extraordinary list of Black women luminaries who will be honored at the 17th Annual Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Awards and Ceremony.

The Women of Excellence (WOE) event will be held Friday, March 22, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, starting at 5:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s event is “EmpowerHer: Celebrating Strength, Resilience, and Unstoppable Women.”

Rogers, one of the nation’s most powerful businesswomen, will be honored as the 2024 WOE “Woman of the Year.” She will join pioneering chef and restaurateur Josephine Wade (Lifetime Achievement Awardee), civic leader, executive, and educator Dr. Carol L. Adams (Vanguard Awardee), and longstanding State Senator Mattie Hunter (Vanguard Awardee) as special honorees.

And the honored class of women, along with Rogers, embodies this theme.

“Women’s History Month brings immense gratification to our team. It perpetuates our tradition of recognizing the remarkable women in our community for their invaluable contributions. As we mark our 17th year, we eagerly celebrate the achievements of 850 women and look forward to many more.” — Dyanna Knight Lewis, Publisher- The Chicago Defender

Moreover, 50 Black women will be inducted into the 2024 Women of Excellence class, joining 800 women already members of this prestigious sisterhood.

Since its inception in 2007, the Women of Excellence Awards and Ceremony has recognized Black women entrepreneurs, corporate executives, community leaders, educators, and media members who are at the forefront of their respective fields and blazing a trail for future generations.

The Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award recognizes these exceptional individuals for their hard work, dedication, creativity, resilience, and commitment to excellence.

The Women of Excellence awards honor admirable women while forming a solid network of accomplished individuals. This year’s honorees include:

Kimberleigh Bailey CEO/Owner Kimberleigh Bailey Exclusive Agency, Inc.
Jennifer M. Beckham CEO Restore Hope DNJ Therapy, PLLC
Dr. Pamela Blackman President/CEO Building Brighter Futures Center for

the Arts

Yumeka Brown Commissioner Metropolitan Water Reclamation District
Lori Carlton-Jordan Human Resource Consultant Property Care Management
April V. Lewis Carter Payroll& Benefits Coordinator Posen-Robbins SD143.5
Colby Chapman Alderwoman, 2nd Ward City of Harvey
Erin Cloyd Early Childhood Specialist Chicago Public Schools – Network 12
Dori J. Collins President District Outreach Initiatives

Joy v. Cunningham

Supreme Court Justice State of Illinois
Andrea L. Davenport Director of Community


JaNet Defell President & CEO Community Desk Chicago
Tia Ewing-Walker News Anchor/Reporter Fox 32Chicago
Sabiena Foster District Administrator FedEx Express
Monica Fox Senior Director of Outreach and Government Relations National Kidney Foundation of Illinois
Lisa Gardner Executive Director Illinois Liquor Control Commission
Stacy Davis Gates President Chicago Teachers Union
Kimberley Goode Chief Communications and Social Impact Officer BMO Bank
DeAnna Grant Director Grant’s Financial Services-Tax & Accounting
Tene Gray Training& Design Manager Adler University
Darlene Hill Executive VP of Communications Rise Strategy Group



Dr. Marlyn D. Hirsch Owner and Operator Hirsch Advanced Practice Providers LTD.
Tenille Jackson President/ CEO Digital Vision Enterprises, LLC
Diannia Jemison Educator Keller Regional Gifted Center
Lola Jenkins Vice President of Operations Westside Association for Community Action
Arielle Johnson Chief Executive Officer Business Leadership Council
Mariann Jordan CEO J & P Consulting Group LLC
Yvonette Clarice Lawson Manager- Customer Service Operations CMBM/Elevance Health Inc.
Caprice Lindsey AVP, Business Development


Wintrust-Hyde Park Bank
Lorell E. Lynch Director of Public Affairs, Community Outreach & Events Allvvyn North America
MaToya S. Marsh Counselor Simpson Academy for Young Women
Lisa Merchant-Harrell Chief Human Resources Officer Cleveland Avenue, LLC
Kelli Merrick Alderwoman, Ward 7 City of Chicago Heights
Dr. Aginah M. Muhammad Assistant Vice Provost University of Illinois Chicago
Shenita Muse Executive Director Hope Center Foundation
Sainab Taiwo Ninalowo Senior Manager, Smart Grid&


Letina Brady Pettis Board Member League of Women Voters of


Cherie Price President Illinois Diversity Council
Alisha Roberts-Novak CEO/Director of Operations Administrative Resolutions Network,


Dr. Kisha Roberts-Tabb Special Population Program Manager Cook County Juvenile Probation & Court Services
Tina Sanders Chief Executive Officer Phalanx Family Service
Aris Singleton Chief Executive Officer tgin (Thank God It’s Natural)
Jessica Sivels Senior Director, Public Engagement Chicago Housing Authority
Dr. Erica E.Taylor Obstetrician-Gynecologist Kindbody
Kimberly M. Thomas President Kimco International, Inc.
Michelle D. Turner Release Train Engineer CNA Financial
Angela K. Waller Vice President Catering Out The Box


Morgan Waller External Affairs Manager Crown Castle
Tiffany N. Williams Senior Director, Corporate Relations American Cancer Society
Kenyatta Young Human Resources Executive Meta


“I can’t imagine a more impressive list of accomplished Black women who have made our community stronger and more resilient by their very deeds and presence. I remain in awe and find comfort in knowing these changemakers are present in our community. They deserve their flowers.” — Tacuma R. Roeback, Managing Editor-The Chicago Defender

The Women of Excellence Red Carpet Awards Presentation Reception will occur on Friday, March 22, 2024, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, 301 E North Water St, Chicago, IL 60611, at 5:30 p.m. ComEd is the presenting sponsor. The emcees are Samantha Chatman, ABC 7 Chicago, and Marseil “Action” Jackson, Inspiration 1390 AM WGRB.

This event is SOLD OUT. For more information, please visit


About the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence:

Each year, the Chicago Defender takes great pride in recognizing African American women in our community who inspire others through their excellence, vision, leadership, achievements, and commitment to empowerment. We are proud of the accomplishments of these men who are doing amazing things across broad spectrums of society.

About the Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender is a multi-media content provider of news and information. The Chicago Defender offers marketing solutions, strategic partnerships, and custom events covering the African American market. Our platform equips us to leverage audience influence to reach, connect, and impact the Black Community with culturally relevant content not often serviced by mainstream media.

Founded in 1905, The Chicago Defender celebrated its 118th Anniversary in 2023 and was recognized nationally as the second most widely read and best African American Newspaper by Nielson and Essence Survey 2014. In July 2019, the Chicago Defender transitioned from a printed newspaper into a digitally focused, high-traffic content platform dedicated to online editorials, premiere events, sponsored advertising, custom publishing, and archival merchandising. We distribute relevant and engaging news and information via multiple platforms daily.

Leaders and readers nationwide look to the Chicago Defender to stay informed about issues that impact their lives. As the community’s voice for more than eleven decades, we take great pride in having access to grassroots community connections and established relationships with influencers and opinion leaders. As a result, we stay abreast of the pulse of the neighborhoods. Our readers trust us. They trust The Chicago Defender will portray the news authentically.

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