Serving as Congresswoman for the District of Columbia since 1991, Congresswoman Norton is the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. She also serves on the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Before her Congressional service, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to serve as the first woman to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She came to Congress as a national figure who had been a civil rights and feminist leader, tenured professor of law, and board member at three Fortune 500 companies (Rockefeller Foundation, Board of Governors of DC Bar Association, as well as boards of civil rights and other national organizations). She has been named one of the 100 most important American women in one survey and one of the most powerful women in Washington in another. Congresswoman Norton's accomplishments in breaking barriers for her disempowered district are matched by her success in bringing home unique economic benefits to her constituents.She has taught law full time before being elected, is a tenured professor of law at Georgetown University, teaching an upper-class seminar there every year. She is the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees. The Congresswoman is a third-generation Washingtonian, and is the mother of John Holmes Norton and Katherine Felicia Norton.
H.H. Leonards is the founder of O Museum in The Mansion and co-founder of 51StepsToFreedom.org. O Museum is a Historic 20th Century Civil Rights Site, on The African American Heritage Trail. H was the recipient of Purdue University's Distinguished Service Award, and the DC Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Legacy Award. She has authored seven books and her writings have appeared in Newsweek and Ms. Magazine. She has been a featured speaker at The Rosa Parks Museum (AL), The National Museum of African American Music (TN), The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (OH), The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival (CA), The Southern Kentucky Book Festival (TN).
Tracy is Co-Creator of 51 Steps To Freedom and EVP of O Museum in The Mansion. A University of Florida alumni, Tracy’s unlikely path from children’s book designer to high-tech marketing director, to executive vice president at “The Coolest Place in DC” — O Museum in The Mansion — has fueled her conviction that everything happens for a reason and all things are connected. Her career spans over 35 years and has afforded her the opportunity to work in three of the greatest cities in America; New York, Boston, and Washington, DC. She’s worked in advertising agencies, technology companies, publishing houses, and nonprofit organizations where she’s developed, launched, and marketed a plethora of products and services.
Founding Committee, Benny Bennafield
Benny Bennafield was born and raised in DC. He graduated from Mayor Barry’s First Summer Youth Program. He attended Denison where he double majored and received his bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science. He has been a partner at Propellant Media for nearly 8 years, and was the Cofounder and President of Diversity of Thought Inc. for 3 years, and was the Cofounder and President elect from 2013-2015 of MOCA (Men Of Color Alliance) - Publicis Groupe USA. He also has been the Cofounder and CMO of HUMINT for more than 7 years.
Founding Committee, Paul J. Cohn
Born in Baltimore, Paul J. Cohn, attended the University of Wisconsin. He served for four years in the US Air Force, then returned to DC as manager for singers Peaches and Herb in the 1970s. He was the Senior Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Capital Restaurant Concepts, founded in 1983 with Bechara Nammour. He has also been Chairman of the DC Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of Destination, DC, and Chairman Emeritus of Washington Restaurant Association and former Board member of Georgetown BID. He was also a Founding Board Member of Walter Washington Convention Center Authority.
Kujanga Jackson attended the University of San Diego and Liberty University where he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and religion. He has been a pastor for 20+ years at Zion Community Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is co-founder and CEO of Solaos, Inc. He now resides in Tulsa, OK, and is a motivational speaker and Owner of JXN Xr Solutions.
Ted is President of O Museum in the Mansion and has called DC home for twenty years. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where his passion for music was born. He brings heart, soul, and hope to everything he touches — and everyone he meets, and is the proud father to his three children.
Z Stein, Esq.
Z Zoltan Stein is a lifelong resident of DC and General Counsel for O Museum in The Mansion. He is the ANC Commissioner, representing Ward 2B05. He went to DePaul University where he graduated Cum Laude. He was a member of the DePaul Track & Field Team, and named to the Big East Academic All-Star team all four years, and became a member of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. He got his law degree at DePaul. He has his own law firm, and represents professional athletes, music industry executives, television producers and more.
James Towne, Esq.
James T. Towne Jr. was in the Navy until he came to the Capital District of Albany, NY in 1972, after his discharge from the United States Navy. He then attended the University of Vermont and received his bachelor’s degree in Russian history and Russian literature. He also attended Albany Law, and has been an attorney and managing partner at The Towne Law Firm, P.C for over 40 years, and has received numerous awards for his work. He has been named in the Upstate New York Super Lawyers for fifteen consecutive years as well as being on the “Top 25” Hudson Valley Lawyers list, and in 2017 Mr. Towne was asked to be a visiting Professor at the Univerzita Pardubice in the Czech Republic to teach United States corporate, commercial and contract law. He has been a board member of the National MS Society for 20 years, a Board Member of the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, and a board member to the Saratoga County Youth Board. Towne Jr. now resides in Albany, NY and has eight grandchildren along with being an avid sailor as he has logged nearly 15,000 miles of open ocean sailing.
Michael Akin, attended George Washington University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in political communication and received his MBA at the George Washington School of Business. He was the George Washington University’s assistant vice president of government, international, and community relations for a year. Akin is now the President of LINK Strategic Partners in DC, and a Chairman Emeritus of the Greater Washington Urban League.
Virginia Ali, was born December 17, 1933 in rural Virginia, and moved to Washington D.C. in the 1950s. She worked as a teller at the historically black owned Industrial Bank, and then opened Ben’s Chili Bowl with her husband, Ben Ali, in 1958. She has had three sons with her husband, and in 2002 was inducted into the DC Hall of Fame and received the Lifetime Legacy Award from the DC Chamber of Commerce.
Advisory Board, Philip Armstrong
Philip Keith Armstrong is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice. Prior to this he served as the Executive Director of Tulsa’s Greenwood Rising The Black Wall Street History Center. During his tenure he helped develop the augmented reality app for the outdoor exhibit examining the Tulsa Race Massacre. He also oversaw stakeholder communications, donor relations, educational curriculum, economic development, and day-to-day operations of the museum.
Lyles Carr attended the University of Virginia, where he received his bachelor’s degree in finance. He has been the Senior Vice President at The McCormick Group for over 47 years, and has received the Leadership Washington’s Volunteer of the Year, the Leader of the Years Award from The Greater Washington Board of Trade, and selected as a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine and selected to Washington Business Journal’s Power 100. He is now a resident of Arlington, VA and enjoys saltwater fly fishing and is a tournament poker player.
Doug Duncan is known for his work as he served three terms as Montgomery County, MD Executive. He is also known for revitalizing Silver Spring, MD which has led to his decisions being closely followed and replicated by tens of other community leaders in other cities. Duncan has been mentioned in the Washington Business Journal Power 100, selected as a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine, and as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion by the Washington Business Journal, and is now the President & CEO of Leadership Greater Washington
Michael Foster founded MTFA Architecture in Arlington, Virginia. He enjoys challenging “stuff” and is known for his work on churches, the preservation for the Cosmos Club and Folger Library, S.E. Tennis Center, and commercial multifamily high rises, offices and hotels. He has been involved in about 260 faith based, cultural and religious facilities over the past 30 years, including about 20 in DC. In addition to church and faith based planning and design, most of our work is new commercial and preservation of government, buildings Whitehouse and Capital, preservation for the Cosmos Club and Folger Library, and commercial multi-family high rise, office and hotels, like the new full service Hilton in Rosslyn going up now. Churches are one very special area of our work, and include strategic planning, renovations, additions, and new buildings. We have been involved in about 260 faith based, cultural and religious facilities over the past 30 years, including about 20 in DC. This work has taken us around the world including a refugee resettlement village for Tibetan refugees in India and a Peace Hospital for the Lost Boys in South Sudan.
Angela Franco, was born in Colombia, and attended the CESA (College of Higher Administration Studies - CESA (Colegio de Estudios Superiores de Administración) in Bogota, Colombia, where she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration. She also attended the Universidad EAFIT in Medellin, Colombia where she received her Master’s degree in science and finance and the School of Banking of Wake Forest University. She was the Assistant Vice President of Marketing of Colmena Seguros, the Manager of Institutional Relations at Banco Andino, the Senior Manager at BB&T for the DC Metro Area 2002-2009, and was the President & CEO of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce from 2009 - 2017. She is now President and CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce. She now resides in Rockville, MD and is on the D.C. Policy Center Board of Directors.
Carry Hatch was a member of the 2013 class of The Leadership Foundry, Cary has completed the National Association of Corporate Directors Professionalism Program. She is also a member of Heroes, Inc., the Federal City Council and the Economic Club of Washington DC. She purchased MDB 1987. MDB was then recognized as an Inc. 500 company in 1996 and she is the CEO & Brand Advocate for MDB Communications. Hatch has been listed in the Power 100, the Washington Business Journal's list of the most influential business leaders, for 4 consecutive years, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Board of Governors for the American Association of Advertising Agencies and was recently appointed to the National Government Relations Committee by the 4A's.
Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis
Dr. Drew Jarvis was born to DC Royalty, being the daughter of the blood plasma and blood transfusion pioneer Charles Drew. Charlene Drew Jarvis is an American educator and former scientific researcher and politician who served as the president of Southeastern University until March 31, 2009. Jarvis is the daughter of the blood plasma and blood transfusion pioneer Charles Drew. She previously served as Ward 4's representative to the Council of the District of Columbia from 1979-2000.
Marie Johns attended the University of Indiana where she received a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in public affairs. She began her career as a secretary and worked her way up to be President and CEO of Verizon, and after leaving the position was nominated and confirmed to be the deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration under President Barack Obama in 2010. She is an annual participant in the Girl Scouts Camp, a former chair of Leadership Washington, the DC Chamber of Commerce, and has served as a director of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Economic Club of Washington, the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, and the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation. Johns is the Founding Chair of the Washington DC Technology Council, and is a member of the senior board of stewards of Washington's historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. She has been married to Wendell Johns for over 45 years, and has been awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Howard University in 2013 and from Trinity College (now Trinity University) in 1999.
Advisory Board, Diem Jones
Diem Jones is a thought leader, writer, poet/musician, multi-disciplinary producer, content-provider and program designer. In addition to having directed creative writing programs on 6 US university campuses, his work as a writer has won critical acclaim in: books, anthologies, music videos, industrial films, documentaries as well as commercials. He is currently the COO of Penn Global Visions/Penn Global Medical Group, CEO of All One Consulting, and Vice President/Co-founder of Institute for Community Evolution. He is co-founder and past Executive Director of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA). Additionally, he has served as: Executive Director of Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center; Deputy Director of Arts Council Silicon Valley; Program Officer at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities as well as Director of Grants at the Houston Arts Alliance and Administrative Director of East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Jones was Art Director for George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic. Additionally, he has managed health and wellness practices in California, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Diem Jones has also completed advanced courses in Mind, Body Medicine protocols from the Center for Mind, Body Medicine in Washington, DC as well Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of South Florida.
George Lambert, President and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League attended Virginia Union University where he received a bachelor’s degree in urban studies. He then became a community organizer for the Northern Virginia branch of the Washington Urban League. He and his wife, Bernadette Curtis-Lambert, have five children together.
Doyle Mitchell, is CEO of Industrial Bank, founded by his grandfather 1934, which is now the 6th largest African American owned financial institution in the country. He has been awarded the 2015 Small Business Champion Award from the DC Chamber of Commerce, the 2015 Minority Business Leader Award from the Washington Business Journal, the 2015 Torch Award from the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation, the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable Chairman’s Award, and the 2015 Human Servant Award from the Training Grounds DMV Organization, and the Nationals Bankers Association Chairman's Award. He is also a minority partner in the Washington Nationals sports franchise.
Patricia Mitchell is Executive Vice President of Strategic Programs at Industrial Bank in Washington, D.C., founded by her grandfather over 8 years ago. Industrial Bank is now the 6th largest Black owned financial institution in America. She is the author of the Book Industrial Bank. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb6pG0BFjbY
Dr. Carolyn Rudd
Dr. Rudd, born in Richmond, Virginia, attended Virginia State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and a doctoral degree in higher education administration and a minor in business from William and Mary. She then served in various capacities at Virginia State, Bowie State, and Howard Universities, until she founded CRP, Inc. in 1988, where she serves as President and CEO. Dr, Rudd served as chair of the DC Chamber of Commerce, the DC Commission for Women, and currently serves on the University of the District of Columbia Board of Trustees. She is currently married and lives in Upper Northwest DC.
Debra attended the University of Temple where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications and theatre. From 1980-1986 she worked as an anchor and reporter for three different news stations, and then she attended the graduate school of journalism at the University of Columbia where she was a fellow of economics and business journalism. She was Deputy director of the U.S. Senate Leadership Committees from 1993-1997, and was vice president of the bipartisan U.S. Senate Press Secretaries Association. Silimeo was Executive VP at the Hager Sharp Inc. for over 19 years, and has also been a member of the Board of Governors of the National Press Club for the Washington DC-Baltimore Area since 2021. She has been President of The Silimeo Group since 2019, and a member on the board of directors of Leadership Greater Washington