Congratulations and many thanks to our trailblazers, the very best, the allies, the uplifters, the creators, and the amplifiers. Most are from St. Louis and surrounding communities. All have left a lasting legacy on the African American experience locally, nationally, and internationally.
We also recognize the incredible contributions and influence of The Divine Nine, the African American sororities and fraternities which collectively impacted St. Louis and the entire nation.
Table of Contents
Adelaide Lancaster & Laura Horwitz
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
David C. Mason
Dr. Donald Suggs
June & Flint Fowler
Gena Gunn McClendon
Geoff K. Ward
Dr. Jason Newland*
Hon. Jimmie M. Edwards
Ketanji Brown Jackson
Kira Hudson Banks
Lacy Clay Jr.
*Open Classroom Black History Month Series Presenters 2023
Adelaide Lancaster & Laura Horwitz
Adelaide Lancaster is the co-founder of We Stories, a St. Louis-based non-profit organization that engages white families to change the conversation about and build momentum towards racial justice and equity. She served as the director of community and collaboration and was executive director until 2021. She is honored to currently sit on the board of directors at Forward Through Ferguson and serve as a board member for Progress Women.
Laura Horwitz is the co-founder of We Stories, a St. Louis-based non-profit organization that engages white families to change the conversation about and build momentum towards racial justice and equity. She has more than a decade of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating social justice programs. She believes empathy is often a missing ingredient in efforts to solve our most pressing problems.
For 42 years, Anna Crosslin was the president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis. The Institute offers integrative services to more than 6,000 immigrants from 60 countries annually. Since 2000, she has routinely been identified as one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s “Most Influential St. Louisans” including awards for Diversity and Women’s Leadership. In June 2015, she was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for World Refugee Day.
Brian Hurd is the director of Community Planning and Implementation at Rise Community Development in St. Louis and has been with Rise since 2003. Hurd has two decades of urban planning and community development experience including housing, transportation, and economic development. He currently serves on the Maryland Heights Planning and Zoning Commission and is a member of the American Planning Association where he is actively involved with local food systems planning in the Greater St. Louis region.
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
Brittany Packnett Cunningham rose to national prominence as an activist, leader, and organizer during the Ferguson protests in August of 2014. She went on to serve as a Congressional policy advisor and co-founded Campaign Zero, a police reform campaign. She served on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and currently continues her work in social justice, as an NBC News and MSNBC contributor, and as co-host of Pod Save the People and Undistracted podcasts. This St. Louis native is a Washington University graduate in African and African American Studies from the School of Arts & Sciences.
Carlton Adams is the chief operations officer of Operation Food Search. He recently served as Acting executive director of the National Conference for Community & Justice of Metropolitan St. Louis (NCCJ St. Louis), in addition to being their Board President. He is passionate about using his skills in “analyzing systems and identifying opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce expenses” to advance equity and improve the lives of individuals and families in the region who are working hard to put food on the table.
Congresswoman Cori Bush is a registered nurse, community activist, organizer, single mother, and ordained pastor for the people of St. Louis. Congresswoman Bush is serving her second term as the representative of Missouri’s 1st Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. She is the first Black woman and first nurse to represent Missouri; the first woman to represent Missouri’s 1st Congressional District; and the first activist from the movement fighting for Black lives elected to the United States Congress.
Cynthia Williams is the Assistant Dean, Office of Community Partnerships at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a St. Louis native that leads efforts at the Brown School to build and sustain bi-directional and meaningful partnerships with organizations and communities to advance social impact, eliminate inequities and improve the health and wellness of individuals, groups, communities and neighborhoods. She is on the Board of Directors for Delmar DivINe, and creator and Co-Chair of the Black History Month Committee where she continues to elevate Black voices and stories.
Dalychia Saah is an Assistant Professor of Practice with the Brown School, a writer, and a speaker who facilitates space for people to connect deeply with their desires. She is the co-founder of Afrosexology, a sex education platform that centers the pleasure, empowerment and liberation of Black people. She teaches courses on social theory, social justice, and sexuality education; and she is a sought-after subject-matter expert, facilitator and keynote speaker in media, for conferences, and events. Her work has been featured in many magazines and she has received numerous awards for her advocacy.
David C. Mason
David C. Mason is the circuit judge with the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in St. Louis. He worked tirelessly for almost two decades to help preserve historic court documents, and to ensure that the names of enslaved Africans in Missouri who sued for their freedom would be remembered forever. Among the many names on the memorial are Dred and Harriet Scott whose appeal went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 1857. The Freedom Suits Memorial, sculpted by African American artist Preston Eugene Jackson, was dedicated on June 19, 2022 at the Civil Courts Building in downtown St. Louis.
Dawn Higgins is director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Nestlé Purina North America. She promotes and fosters a culture of appreciation, equity, and inclusion and supports global Nestlé DEI initiatives. Previously, Higgins served as the senior manager of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Human Resources Business Partner at Nestlé Purina. Her more than 20-year career includes time spent in human resources at May Merchandising Company and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Dr. Donald Suggs
Dr. Donald Suggs is the publisher and executive editor of The St. Louis American Newspaper, Missouri’s largest Black newspaper. He served as chief of oral surgery at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and was the first African American to serve as an associate clinical professor at St. Louis University Dental School. He served as chairman of the Poor People’s March-On-Washington in 1968. Later, he became founder and chairman of the African Continuum, organized to bring serious non-commercial African American artistic endeavors to St. Louis. Currently, he serves on the St. Louis Art Museum Board of Commissioners and its Collections Committee.
Durrell Smith is a lecturer for the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. He has over a decade of experience actively combatting institutionalized racism and advancing social mobility through the lens of social and economic development. His work is focused on bridging institutional resources and civic leadership in order to mobilize community-based agendas. He brings together education, housing, transportation and small business development to make wealth-building more equitable for BIPOC communities.
See the recording of Durrell Smith’s Open Classroom Black History Month Series presentation on Anti-oppressive and De-colonial Approaches to Community Engagement in St. Louis (February 22, 2023)
Ebony Hutchinson is a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Ebony Therapy. She is dedicated to partnering with individuals in order to assist with navigating through life’s challenges. She is committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental health treatment and increasing awareness within marginalized communities. For 16 years, she has partnered with clients and watched them heal through trauma and break generational patterns.
Dr. Erica Bumpers is the managing director of the Brown School’s Race and Opportunity Lab. She oversees people operations, HomeGrown StL Campaign, and works directly with and supports the principal director to execute strategic implementation and growth of HomeGrown StL. She is passionate about making a difference in youth development, bringing an awareness that engages them with intellectual development, character building, self-confidence, and skills needed to grow into productive, civic-minded, and responsible citizens of society.
See the recording of Erica Bumpers’s Open Classroom Black History Month Series presentation on From Darkness to Light: Examining Oppression and Liberation Through Poetry (February 8, 2023).
June & Flint Fowler
June McAllister Fowler is the senior vice president of communications, marketing and public affairs for BJC HealthCare. She leads internal, external and public policy communications and government and community relations efforts. She currently serves as the board chair of Citizens for Modern Transit and is on the boards of Lambert St. Louis International Airport, The Muny, the Cortex Innovation Community and KIPP St. Louis. She is a past chair of the Girl Scout Council of Greater St. Louis and the Metropolitan Association for Philanthropy.
Flint W. Fowler has served as president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (formerly Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club) since 1996. Other professional positions include managing director for INROADS/St. Louis, a national not-for-profit career development organization for talented minority students; executive director, Operation Teamwork; Upward Bound director and employment supervisor at St. Louis University; and district executive for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. Fowler is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and a graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
Gena Gunn McClendon
Gena Gunn McClendon is director of the Brown School’s Community Engagement at the Center for Social Development. She is also CSD’s director of the Voter Access and Engagement Initiative and codirector of the Financial Capability and Asset Building initiative. Dr. McClendon’s nationally recognized work focuses on issues related to voter suppression and civic participation of low- and moderate-income households and marginalized populations. As director of the Center’s Voter Access and Engagement initiative, McClendon seeks people to join in the work of strengthening democracy and ensuring that every eligible voter can exercise their right to vote and have that vote counted.
Geoff K. Ward
Geoff K. Ward is the Professor of African and African-American Studies, Faculty Affiliate in Sociology and American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a historical sociologist and author of The Black Child Savers: Racial Democracy and Juvenile Justice. He was awarded the Michael J. Hindelang Outstanding Book Award (American Society of Criminology, 2013) and the Outstanding Book Prize (History of Education Society, 2013). He also successfully advocated for the removal of a historic marker in Clayton, Missouri that represented “historical debris”.
Gwen Moore is a historian and curator of Urban Landscape and Community Identity at the Missouri Historical Museum. She preserves, assembles, and tells stories that go untold in the St. Louis area. Her exhibit, #1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, is one of those stories that showcases how free Blacks and whites in St. Louis played a pivotal role in civil rights since 1819. She is working on an exhibit that will address why St. Louis is one of the most segregated cities in America. She is inspired by a quote from W.E.B. Dubois, “Black institutions are a source of strength. We cannot be afraid of our history.”
Hakeem Sekou Jeffries is an American politician and attorney who represents the diverse 8th Congressional District of New York and is serving his sixth term in the United States Congress. Recently, he was elected to be the House Minority Leader and leader of the House Democratic Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jeffries’ reputation is that of a gifted orator and extremely skilled leader. He was hand-picked by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as her successor.
Helen Kornblum is a retired psychotherapist with more than 40 years of experience assisting clients in the St. Louis area. She is an advocate for women’s reproductive health, women’s art, entrepreneurship, and social justice. On display in 2022 at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum reframes restrictive notions of womanhood, exploring the connections between photography, feminism, civil rights, Indigenous sovereignty, and queer liberation.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee has won six Olympic Medals. She is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. She is the first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the heptathlon, the first African American woman to win an Olympic Medal in the long jump, and the first woman to score 7,000 points in the heptathlon. She is an active philanthropist in children’s education, racial equality and women’s rights. She is a founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which encourages young people in East St. Louis to pursue athletics and academics.
Dr. Jason Newland
Dr. Jason Newland, professor of pediatrics, infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has been at the forefront of research on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for children. Dr. Newland’s work is focused on the impact of antimicrobial stewardship programs in children’s hospitals. His team has developed a large national collaborative of stewardship programs, SHARPS, dedicated to the appropriate use of antibiotics for hospitalized children. This network is working to demonstrate the importance and needed research to improve antimicrobial use.
See the recording of Dr. Newland’s Open Classroom Black History Month Series presentation on COVID-19 Pandemic and the Impact on Our School Communities (January 25, 2023).
Jason Purnell’s research focuses on how socioeconomic and sociocultural factors influence health behaviors and health outcomes and on mobilizing community action to address the social determinants of health. He currently leads Health Equity Works, the new name and expanded mission of the Brown School initiative previously referred to as For the Sake of All. Health Equity Works is committed to St. Louis and to translating data and research into collaborative community action to advance health equity. Their work in St. Louis continues and will expand in school health, economic opportunity, early childhood, quality neighborhoods and housing.
Hon. Jimmie M. Edwards
Hon. Jimmie M. Edwards is the founder of the Innovative Concept Academy in St. Louis, the only alternative high school for at-risk teens in the country headed by a judge. Judge Edwards joined Lashly & Baer, P.C. in March 2021. He was appointed the Public Safety Director for the City of St. Louis in October 2017 after serving 25 years as a Circuit Judge for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court in the State of Missouri, including serving as presiding judge of the St. Louis City Juvenile Court.
Ketanji Brown Jackson
Ketanji Onyika Brown Jackson is the first African American woman to serve as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Hon. Jackson graduated from Harvard University in 1992 with a B.A. in Government, magna cum laude, and then worked as a staff reporter and researcher at Time Magazine, Inc. She went on to earn her J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1996, where she was a supervising editor of the Harvard Law Review. Judge Jackson’s experience included serving on the U.S. Sentencing Commission and in the District of Columbia’s Office of the Federal Public Defender. Jackson was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Joe Biden on February 25, 2022. She was confirmed with bipartisan support by the United States Senate on April 7, 2022, and sworn into office on June 30.
Kira Hudson Banks
Dr. Kira Hudson Banks is the co-founder of the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity at Saint Louis University, where she is a Professor in the Department of Psychology. She also served as a racial equity consultant for the Ferguson Commission and continued as the Racial Equity Catalyst for Forward Through Ferguson. Her research, teaching, and facilitation around equity, diversity, and inclusion have helped frame racial equity in the St. Louis region and beyond.
Kizzmekia Corbett is a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). She was appointed to the VRC in 2014 and uses her expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness. She has 15 years of expertise studying the dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus and coronaviruses. She is an avid advocator of STEM education and vaccine awareness in the community.
Lacy Clay Jr.
William Lacy Clay Jr. served as the U.S. representative from Missouri’s 1st congressional district from 2001 until 2021. He Sponsored the African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017, which establishes a U.S. Civil Rights Network to commemorate and honor the history of the civil rights movement from 1939 to 1969 through a network of national parks sites. As the former Missouri congressman, he now advises and advocates on behalf of clients whose interests intersect with the federal government.
Laurna Godwin is a three-time Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist who spent more than 20 years in television as a news anchor, reporter, talk show host and producer. She worked at a variety of cities and television stations throughout the country including WNET-TV in New York City and served as a mid-west stringer for CNN in St. Louis. Godwin earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. For more than 40 years, Godwin has used her communication skills to educate people about issues affecting how they live, work and play.
Malika Poindexter is the executive director of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office Victim Services Unit and has always been drawn to the impacts a social worker can have on society. She has opened the door for other St. Louis-area college undergraduate and graduate students fulfilling their social work foundation and concentration practicums by helping students “put the practice in practicum.”
Monique Gilliam Thomas is the executive director at Cornerstone Corporation, a nonprofit Christian community development in St. Louis. She leverages her background in urban planning/policy and experience with regional systems-change efforts to fulfill Cornerstone’s mission to love the whole person by championing choice and dignity. Thomas completed her BA at Cornell University and her MBA/MPH at Washington University in St. Louis.
Nicole Hudson is the assistant vice chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis’s Academy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She was previously deputy mayor for racial equity and priority initiatives for the City of St. Louis. Prior to joining the mayor’s office, Hudson served as communications director for the Ferguson Commission, appointed in 2014 by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to study the underlying root causes that led to the unrest in the St. Louis region following the death of Michael Brown Jr., and to make policy recommendations based on the identified issues.
Percy Green II
St. Louis native Percy Green II is a battle-tested activist who led proactive volunteer direct-action; interracial protest organization, ACTION (1965-1985); and was a plaintiff in the U. S. Supreme Court landmark employment discrimination case, ‘Green vs McDonnell Aircraft Corporation’. In his remarkable leadership to our nation for over 50 years, Green’s enduring legacy includes pressuring construction companies to hire African American contractors and workers for the Gateway Arch project in 1964. Activist, trailblazer, and game-changer Percy Green II received his Master of Social Work from the Brown School at Washington University.
Ruby Freeman & Shaye Moss
Wandrea’ “Shaye” Moss and her mother “Lady Ruby” Freeman were election workers in the Fulton County Department of Registration & Elections in Atlanta, Georgia. In December 2020, both women became the targets of a vicious smear campaign by those seeking to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. Although state officials repeatedly debunked the accusations against Moss and Freeman, the mother and daughter continued to receive death threats and racist taunts even years after the election. Despite these relentless attacks, Moss and Freeman continued to defend the integrity of our elections and even bravely testified before the January 6 Committee where they spoke of their dedication to the right to vote especially within marginalized communities. In 2022, Shaye Moss received the JFK Profile in Courage Award. In January 2023, Joe Biden awarded one of the highest honors — the Presidential Citizens Medal — to Shaye Moss and Lady Ruby Freeman.
Rudy Nickens is an executive coach, facilitator, educator, entrepreneur and thought leader with expertise in cultural diversity, business management and community development. For over two decades, Nickens has consulted, educated and trained hundreds of local, national and international organizations in workforce diversity, leadership development, cultural competence and conflict resolution. He specializes in efforts to eliminate the effects of internalized racism and sexism and violence against women.
Dr. Sean Joe is a nationally recognized authority on suicidal behavior among Black Americans and is expanding the evidence base for effective practice with Black boys and young men. His research focuses on Black adolescents’ mental health service use patterns, the role of religion in Black suicidal behavior, salivary biomarkers for suicidal behavior, and the development of father-focused, family-based interventions to prevent urban African American adolescent males from engaging in multiple forms of self-destructive behaviors.
See the recording of Sean Joe’s Open Classroom Black History Month Series presentation Resistance Requires Excellent Scholarship: Seeding a Vision for Change (February 15, 2023).
Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes is a developmental psychologist and has expertise and scholarly work on the impact of racism and the use of culturally strength-based assets on the educational and health outcomes of Black American families. With the Brown School Center for Social Development, her research focuses on youth development in the context of race, inequality, and social mobility. Dr. Butler-Barnes seeks to understand Black girls’ racialized and gendered experiences within their mathematics classrooms.
See the recording of Dr. Sheretta Butler-Barnes’s Open Classroom Give Me the Strength: Race-Related Stress, Parenting Practices & Socialization Messages of Black Parents.
Rev. Susan Talve is the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish Congregation located within the city limits of St. Louis. She has led her congregation in promoting radical inclusivity by developing ongoing relationships with African-American and Muslim congregations, and by fostering civil liberties for the LGBTQ community. Today CRC serves as a home to generations of LGBTQ families and to many Jews of color of all ages. In 2007, she became a founding member and president of Missouri Health Care for All promoting access to quality affordable health care.
Dr. Terry Harris is the Executive Director of Student Services in the Rockwood School District. He is one of the St. Louis region’s most innovative educators working to build equity and well-being among students and the African American community. To further advocate for children, he has worked on issues that affect the well-being of African American adults because without healthy adults, you cannot have healthy children. He is also the co-founder of The Collective STL, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing free yoga and wellness programs to African American communities in St. Louis.
Thelma Ferguson is the Vice Chair of JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking and one of the few Black women to successfully navigate to a top tier executive position in commercial banking. In her current role, she advances how Commercial Banking supports diverse-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. She helps historically underserved business owners gain access, connections and opportunities to create new pathways of success that will impact generational wealth.
Tishaura Jones was sworn-in as the 47th mayor and the first Black female mayor in the City’s history on April 20, 2021. The three values she lives by are Transparency, Integrity, and Service. These values have guided her through life. Mayor Jones is ready to harness the boundless potential of the incredible people of our great City to turn challenges into opportunities, change entrenched systems, and reform the way our City works.
Tonya Edmond is the Interim Co-Dean of the Brown School. Her research focuses on testing the effectiveness of interventions for survivors of childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, sex trafficking and intimate partner violence. She is committed to strengthening services for survivors through research and teaching to advance the development of trauma-informed systems of care and the implementation of evidence-based trauma treatments. Prior to coming into academia, she practiced for 15 years in clinical and administrative roles in domestic violence and rape crisis centers.
Valerie Bell & Kelvin Westbrook
Valerie D. Bell is an attorney and civic volunteer specializing in not-for-profit administration and management. She is actively involved in local, regional and national efforts to ensure equity in educational opportunity, improve race relations, and foster economic parity. She is the immediate past chair of the Board (and former Interim CEO) of the St. Louis Public Schools Foundation. She currently serves on the boards of the National Network of Schools in Partnership, the Equal Housing Opportunity Council, the National Advisory Council of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement of Washington University, and the national board of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.
Kelvin R. Westbrook is president and chief executive officer of KRW Advisors, LLC, which provides strategic and general business and consulting services to companies in telecommunications, media and other industries. He is a member of the boards of several public companies, including Archer Daniels Midland Company; Camden Property Trust (Lead Trust Manager); The Mosaic Company; and T-Mobile USA, Inc. In addition, he is the immediate past Chairman of the board (2014-2019) of BJC Healthcare. He has been featured by Black Enterprise magazine as the CEO of one of the nation’s 100 largest businesses owned by African Americans.
Vetta Thompson is an E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity and the Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research focuses on the health and well-being of diverse communities, particularly the African-American community. In May 2022, she was named the inaugural Associate Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Siteman Cancer Center.
Dr. Will Ross
Dr. Will Ross, MD, MPH, FASN, FACP, FSACME is associate dean for Diversity and Principal Officer for Community Partnerships at Washington University School of Medicine, where he is a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology. He has recruited and developed a diverse workforce of medical students, residents and faculty while promoting health equity locally, nationally and globally through collaborations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and public health officials in Ethiopia, Haiti, and South Africa.
Yvonne Berry is the community resilience and diversity manager for the American Red Cross, St. Louis Area Chapter. In 2019, She was awarded the Outstanding Field Instructor Award by the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has been at the Red Cross for 40 years and supervised 75 social work students from programs across the region.
The Divine Nine
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity – Founded 1906, Cornell University
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority – Founded 1908, Howard University
Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity – Founded 1911, Indiana University
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity – Founded 1911, Howard University
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority – Founded 1913, Howard University
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity – Founded 1914, Howard University
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority – Founded 1920, Howard University
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority – Founded 1922, Butler University
Iota Phi Theta Fraternity – Founded 1963, Morgan State University
“Family is my beloved Alpha Kappa Alpha, our Divine Nine, and my HBCU brothers and sisters.”Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris,
member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority