AT&T Proudly Presents the 31st Installment of the Black History Month Digital Calendar, a Celebration of Remarkable Achievements and Contributions

Joe York
February 23, 2024
Community Impact

AT&T Proudly Presents the 31st Installment of the Black History Month Digital Calendar, a Celebration of Remarkable Achievements and Contributions

Decades ago, AT&T embarked on a journey — one that has now become a time-honored tradition — of commemorating the profound impact and historical contributions that Black Americans have made to our communities. AT&T has always held the belief that thriving and dynamic communities make for the perfect environments to live, work, and nurture families. This initiative is a testament to that commitment.

In keeping with this enduring tradition, AT&T is delighted to introduce the 31st edition of our Black History Month Digital Calendar. This interactive chronicle is a symbol of our respect for the distinguished Black leaders who have shaped the world we live in. These exceptional individuals serve as role models for the generations of tomorrow, inspiring them to reach for the stars. Our digital calendar serves not just as a testament to the honoree’s accomplishments, but also as an engaging tool to educate, inspire, and celebrate their legacy.

Check back throughout the month as we feature additional leaders:

Ruth and Jerry Bell









For over thirty years, Gerard Alfred “Jerry” Bell, who runs his own information technology company, Bell IT, and his wife Ruth, who serves as Sr. Vice President, Public Affairs, at LifeLink Foundation, have had a long and deep connection to the University of South Florida and the Tampa community.

After meeting at Arizona State where Jerry played football, they made their way to Tampa, first Jerry as a third round, 74th overall draft pick of the Buccaneers, and then Ruth. While Jerry played tight end for the Bucs, Ruth began building her career in Tampa – earning her master’s in public administration at USF, starting as community relations manager at Tampa General, moving to Hillsborough County in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and then going to work as a communications executive for LifeLink, an organization dedicated to the recovery and transplantation of organs and tissue.

While Jerry’s athletic career was winding down, Bell’s impact on their community was just getting started. After retirement, Jerry remained active with the NFL, serving for four years as president of the Tampa Bay chapter of the NFL Players Association, which named him the 1986 recipient of the Ricky Bell Award for Community Service for Jerry’s behind-the-scenes work in the area – organizing food drives for the United

Way, buying Bucs tickets for the Boys and Girls Clubs, tutoring Black youths to help prepare them for the SATs and ACTs, and running his Jerry Bell football camps. Through the years, the Bells have advocated for retired NFL players who are now able to receive better recognition, compensation and medical care because of their efforts.

In 1990, the Bells established the Ruth and Jerry Bell Endowed Minority Scholarship with a gift of $75,000 to the USF Institute on Black Life.

The Bells’ impact on USFstudents grew stronger when in 2017 they, along with a handful of other dedicated supporters, established the Black Leadership Network, a partnership based group focused on enhancing the educational and leadership opportunities of USF System African American students and African American student initiatives through the support of scholarships and programmatic initiatives throughout the USF System and in our communities. Through the BLN, the Bells have been instrumental in establishing over 20 scholarships and securing a $2.1M grant from Helios Education Foundation to provide scholarships and programming opportunities for BLN students.

Throughout their time in Tampa, the Bells have served in key leadership roles for several local and national non-profits, professional sports organizations and education related governance boards, including Jerry serving as a member of the USF Foundation Board of Directors, while Ruth has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors. In his tenure as a Hillsborough Community College (HCC), Board of Trustee, Jerry helped to stabilize the administrative leadership and contributed to instituting a strategic plan that resulted in much of the HCC success that is realized today.

Both have also volunteered and served in leadership roles with the American Cancer Society, MOSI, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, Boys and Girls Clubs and Tampa Crossroads; and worked on various service projects through their Greek organizations and they have recently been honored with the Lightning Foundation Community Hero Award.

Marsha Lewis Brown

Marsha Lewis Brown, the former Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director of Northside Mental Health Center, Incorporated (also known as Northside Centers, Inc.) located in Hillsborough County, is and has been active in many community organizations and has served on a number of community boards of directors.

An active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, from her initiation in Zeta Omicron Chapter at Florida State University until today, she has continued her commitment to service via her active membership in the sorority. She served as President of the Tampa graduate chapter, Gamma Theta Omega and has held positions of Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Parliamentarian. Through her chapter leadership she was afforded the opportunity to serve on several regional committees for the South Atlantic Region of the sorority and chaired a regional conference affording her the opportunity to continue to be active and visible in the South Atlantic Region. She was elected and served as the regional director of over 10,000 members in the South Atlantic Region of the sorority. She has served as a former chairman of several international committees of the sorority including serving on the Sorority’s Board of Directors. She authored the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s ten-year strategic plan, 2018-2028 and has provided numerous workshops as a member of the sorority’s International Standards Committee and the South Atlantic Region’s Heritage Committee.

She recently became an Alumna Member of the Tampa Chapter of The Links, Incorporated after 25 years of active service. She served as President of the local chapter of Links and has chaired numerous chapter committees including serving on the executive committee. As a member of Links, she chaired or co-chaired the African American Read-In at Sheehy Elementary School for eight years, served on the local chapter’s Arts Facet, Services to Youth Facet and was a hostess for the Southern Area of Links, Incorporated area conference in Orlando, Florida. During her tenure as President of the Tampa Chapter of the Links, the chapter was designated as an All-Star Chapter by the Southern Area of The Links. She is proud of the fact that during her tenure as president, the chapter established its archives at the University of South Florida, the first African American women’s organization to establish its historical archives at the university.

Marsha is a member of the Top Ladies of Distinction, a life member of the National Council of Negro Women and life member of the local chapter of the NAACP. A member of the Athena Society since 1999, she has served on several committees including Membership and Young Women of Promise.

Marsha’s first gubernatorial appointment was by Governor Bob Graham when she was appointed to a committee to conduct a statewide conference on the Black Family, a conference held here in Tampa at the University of South Florida. She was appointed by two former governors of the State of Florida, Governor Lawton Chiles and Governor Jeb Bush to serve on the Correctional Medical Authority (CMA) where she served as chairman of the CMA for two years and chaired the mental health committee for five years.

Marsha served as a board member of the Florida Council for Behavioral Health, the state association of mental health and substance abuse agencies and served previously as President of the Council. She was the recipient of the Fellows Award, the most distinguished and highest recognition by the association.

A long history of service, she was the first African American to be elected to the GTE Florida Telecommunications Board of Directors (retired).  She was the recipient of the Executive Director of the Year Award by the Executive Services Corps of Tampa Bay.  She served on the boards of the Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida School of Social Work Community Advisory Board, the Junior League of Tampa Community Advisory Board, and LifeLink Community Advisory Board. She currently serves on the Tampa Metro Area Board of The Community Foundation Tampa Bay.

In addition to her community service and her CEO obligations, she served for 10 years as a consultant and independent contractor for the Centers for Mental Health Services reviewing states’ Federal Block Grant applications and consultant reviewing and monitoring states’ mental health systems.

A long history of community affiliation and service on governmental boards and not-for-profit organizations, she takes pride in giving back to her community. She was recently appointed by Hillsborough County Commissioner, Gwendolyn Myers, as her appointee to the Commission on The Status of Women (COSW).

When asked what her greatest accomplishment is, she proudly notes that she successfully designed and built with legislative funding the facility on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard known as Northside Mental Health Center and secured two HUD grants to build two residential facilities in the university area for housing individuals with mental illnesses. Recognizing that it takes a village to accomplish these two things, she acknowledges that she will forever be grateful to those individuals, board members and staff, who had the confidence in her and appointed her as the Executive Director of Northside Mental Health Center.

Born in Tallahassee, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she has worked and contributed her time and energy to service, professionally and civically, in her community.

Thema Campbell

Thema Campbell is the Founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Girl Power Rocks, Inc., a gender specific day and after-school social change program. Girl Power was created to promote and foster positive social skills and behavior and to improve academic performance in at-promise girls ages 7 to 17. The mission of Girl Power is to empower girls and their families in order to protect, restore, and preserve the family unit. The agency serves girls throughout Miami-Dade County, focusing on Liberty City, Little Haiti, Overtown, Brownsville, Allapattah, and the Richmond Heights communities.

Ms. Campbell’s involvement in “the greater good” for young women began, in part, when she started encountering the abuse, neglect, assault and abandonment of young girls. She is an expert on children’s issues and a true champion and advocate for girls. Since Girl Power’s inception, the suspension rate of its participants has dropped by 85 percent and the arrest rate by a staggering 90 percent.

Ms. Campbell believes passionately in her personal mission at Girl Power: to protect, preserve and nurture the integrity and moral conscience of girls. Her ambition for this mission, along with her training and experience in the Public Defender’s Office has allowed her to journey down an amazing career path. Ms. Campbell is currently the Executive Producer of the annual “It Takes a Village” Girls Summit and a current member of the Overtown Council for the Common Good. She is a former member of the Miami Commission on the Status of Women and a proud member of Sojourner Truth Book Club. She is the former State Director of the Miss Black Florida USA Pageant and former Chair and Co-Chair of the Juvenile Justice Board – Circuit 11. In 1989, she co-founded Concerned African Women and the New Dimensions in Community Education Program.

In January 2013, Ms. Campbell was honored with the prestigious “Thelma Gibson Award of Excellence Corporate Winner Award”. In 2016, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club presented Ms. Campbell with the “National Sojourner Truth Meritorious Service Award” for her meritorious community service in advancing the status of women and girls. Ms. Campbell was presented with the Miami-Dade County Bar Association “Women of Distinction – Community Champion Award” and the “Black History Lifetime Achievement Award” from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime in 2018.

Because of Ms. Campbell’s dedication to improving the lives of at-promise girls and advocacy on their behalf, she was honored in 2019 with the prestigious “Thelma Gibson Award of Excellence” and also received the “Essie Silva Community Builder Award” from the United Way of Miami-Dade County. In 2021, Ms. Campbell was awarded the “Small Non-Profit Organization of the Year Award” by the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce, and in 2022 under her leadership, Girl Power was selected as one of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Florida by the Commonwealth Institute.

In addition to her role as Girl Power’s CEO, Ms. Campbell is currently focusing her attention on the Mama Hattie’s House Capital Campaign. Among other things, Mama Hattie’s House will serve as a permanent home for Girl Power’s programs and services and a safe “Place to Call Home,” for girls who are aging out of foster care, at risk of human trafficking, or who are wards of the courts.

A real “Southern Bell,” Ms. Campbell’s hospitality, good heart, and helping hands come from her early years, growing up in Sparta, Georgia, where she was raised in a family of ten children by loving parents and grandmother “Mama Hattie.” In 1977 she moved to Miami, Florida, got married, and raised two sons and a daughter. Currently, she surrounds herself with positive, like-minded individuals – one of those being her daughter, who works by her side at Girl Power – helping to serve the community.

Pastor Marcel Davis

Pastor C. Marcel Davis is a proud native of Pensacola, Florida and loves his community. He is the Pastor of Adoration for A New Beginning Church located in downtown Pensacola. He is married to his helpmate of 26 years, Carla Davis, and the proud father of three. Pastor C. Marcel Davis exemplifies true servant leadership through his volunteerism at local schools, food pantries, and other non-profits. He served as a campaign strategist, manager, and advisor for community leaders in Northwest Florida. He currently serves on the Board of Bright Bridge Ministries and Westside CRA. He served on the Board of Directors of Boys & Girls Club, Pensacola Chapter of United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, and People Improving Community through Organizers (PICO). Pastor Davis worked on Naval Air Station Pensacola with NAMI, as an Electronic Technician. He transitioned into full time ministry for the last 25 years. His passion for advocacy and service led him to serve as Executive Director of Community Information Network, a leading agency in HIV & AIDS prevention and education. Pastor Davis is a licensed insurance agent.

He truly leads from his heart with compassion and his love for the community. His ultimate goal is to serve through faith and action.

Reverand Gregory Gay Sr.

Reverend Gregory V. Gay, Sr., is a born native of Plant City, Florida. After graduating from Plant City High School, Rev. Gay enlisted in the U.S. Army. He selflessly served 10 years as a Soldier, a Cobra Attack Helicopter Mechanic/Crew Chief & Warrant Officer. Reverend Gay is the founder of Mt. Sinai AME Church in Medulla, Florida, the builder of Allen Chapel AME Church in Plant City, Florida, the mortgage liquidator of St. John AME Church in South Miami, Florida, and he currently serves the Mt. Olive AME Church in Tampa, Florida. Reverend Gay has Ministered for over 30 years.

While in South Miami, he served as the Police Department Chaplain, the Director for the Wounded Healer’s Organization, the Director for the South Florida Rights Restoration Program and the founder and past President of the Concerned Clergy and Citizens Coalition. Rev. Gay also served as the Secretary of the South Miami Free Pediatric Clinic Board and worked as a Community Representative for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

Rev. Gay currently serves as the 11th Episcopal Voter Mobilization and District Disaster Relief Coordinator.

His educational background:

  • Germany Defense Language School, Ft. Ord, CA
  • Hartnell Vo-Tech., Ft. Ord, CA
  • Hartford Community College, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD
  • Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, FL
  • Northwood University, Michigan—Tampa Satellite Campus/Presently on-line courses
  • Institute of Church Administration and Management (ICAM) ITC, Atlanta, GA

Rev. Gay currently holds a 2-15 Insurance License in the state of Florida. He has been married for 28 years.

Drs. Abraham and Kristen Hollist

Drs. Abraham and Kristen Hollist, through their unwavering commitment to healthcare and community service, co-founded Optimal Health Medical Center (OHMC) in Miami Gardens, FL. Their journey, marked by a deep understanding of healthcare’s complexities, began with managing their eldest son’s Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and evolved into a mission to transform healthcare delivery.

With a focus on holistic healthcare, emphasizing lifestyle and nutrition adjustments, the Hollists’ approach, initially aimed at addressing SCD, became the cornerstone of OHMC. This center offers a comprehensive range of services, including primary and immediate care, with a specialization in managing infectious diseases and mental health.

Beyond OHMC, the Hollists have established various entities including Optimal Health Pharmacy and Optimal Health Nutrition, broadening their scope in the healthcare field. Dr. Abraham Hollist also founded Hollist Consulting Group, which partners with healthcare organizations to enhance care for vulnerable populations.

The couple’s dedication extends to community advocacy through the Optimal Health Foundation. This commitment is exemplified by their annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive and scholarship program for graduating high school seniors, reflecting their dedication to community upliftment. The foundation is also pivotal in providing free and affordable health services to uninsured and low-income populations, offering nutritional support, co-pay assistance, and essential care packages.

The exceptional work of Drs. Abraham and Kristen Hollist in healthcare and community service has been rightly acknowledged. Both have been honored with the “Most Powerful and Influential Black Business Leader of 2019” award by Legacy Miami. Additionally, Dr. Abraham Hollist has been recognized with the “2023 National Minority Pharmacy Entrepreneur Young Entrepreneurs Award.” These accolades are a testament to their profound impact on the community and the healthcare sector.

Drs. Abraham and Kristen Hollist, both alumni of Howard University College of Pharmacy, reside in South Florida with their three children. Their life and work are a testament to their values of family, community, and a relentless pursuit of health and well-being for all.

To learn more about their innovative medical practice and community engagement, visit Join them on their journey towards creating a healthier, more empowered community in Miami Gardens and beyond.

Stephanie Jones

Stephanie Jones, a native of Miami and a graduate of Nova Southeastern University (NSU), is a uniquely qualified, goal-oriented executive with over 30 years of healthcare experience. Following graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1992, Stephanie immediately began her career in healthcare, working as an Account Manager and an Underwriter for Cigna. While pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting, Stephanie was on the fast track in her career, quickly progressing up the ranks into leadership roles for major healthcare organizations, including Vista Health Plan, Coventry Healthcare (now Aetna), and UnitedHealth Group. At the age of 32, Stephanie was promoted to Vice President of Product Development for one of South Florida’s largest health plans. In this role, Stephanie led product design and portfolio management for the Medicare Advantage and Medicaid HMO products, helping the company grow to 250,000 customers and $500 million in annual revenue during her tenure.

In 2005, Stephanie joined Convey Health Solutions as the head of its newly formed Managed Care business and progressively assumed more responsibility over the years. In 2021, she was promoted to President of the Technology Business Unit, helping take the company public. She had the privilege of ringing the bell on the New York Stock Exchange. Most recently, Stephanie was promoted to Enterprise Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In this role, Stephanie is the top executive operations leader for the enterprise, leading the strategic direction and execution of the company’s operating units. She has P&L accountability for the Company’s $400 million in annual revenue, management of strategic client relationships, and operating responsibility for over 2,500 employees in the US and the Philippines. Stephanie has a proven know-how for gaining client trust through consistent execution, customer service, operational execution, and a solutions-based approach to program oversight. She has the ability to add impactful value to the organizations and clients she serves by building relationships and delivering results. Stephanie is a strong leader and developer of global operating teams in the US and the Philippines. Stephanie is a dynamic and fast-paced leader, strong negotiator of complex technology and services contracts, change agent, and trusted advisor to internal partners and clients. One of Stephanie’s strongest attributes is her ability to make tough decisions without compromising relationships.

Stephanie has been married to her college sweetheart, Morshee, for 31 years and they have two children, Mikel and Miles who live in Los Angeles. Stephanie and Morshee are active philanthropists and give to a number of local charities. Stephanie is on the Board of Directors for Miami-based Girl Power Rocks and is the Chairperson of Fundraising and Sustainability.

Jeffrey T. King

Jeffrey currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of 24 Hour & Residential Programs for Banyan Health Systems, a South Florida health care system including a primary care and behavioral health care Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), mental health and substance use residential treatment facilities, a 24-hour mobile crisis response team and an independent crisis stabilization & detox unit. Jeffrey’s experience in community-based health care, managed health care and value-based contracting assists Banyan with transition into the new health care environment and his responsibility includes the growth and development of Banyan’s services through innovative value-based contracting.

Jeffrey most previously served as Principal for Total Managed Care Services, Inc (TMCS), a healthcare consulting firm specializing healthcare business development and strategy. Through TMCS Jeffrey has overseen operations for national healthcare systems, manage care organizations and integrated provider groups including population health and disease management program implementation, compliance and quality improvement plan development and general medical operations consulting services.  Through TMCS, Jeffrey most recently served as Interim Senior Director of Quality and Utilization Management for AlohaCare Health Plans, a Medicaid managed care plan in Waikiki, Hawaii, owned and operated by nine FQHCs.  In this role, Jeffrey oversaw both health plan and clinic operations and performance.

Prior to TMCS Jeffrey served as Vice President of Healthcare Services for Molina Healthcare for more than six years, overseeing clinical operations for the Florida, Puerto Rico and Mississippi health plans, covering more than 750,000 Medicaid, Long-Term Care and Dual Special Needs Plan enrollees.  In his capacity as VP Healthcare Services, Jeffrey had P&L responsibility over a medical budget of more than $2.8B annually.

Jeffrey also served as Vice President of Clinical Operations for Independent Living Systems (ILS), a health management services organization in South Florida.  In his role at ILS, Jeffrey was responsible for managed care operations including the Post-Acute Support Systems (PASS®) care transition program, and the organization’s participation in the national Community-Based Care Transition Program (CCTP).  Jeffrey also had direct oversight of the organization’s Special Needs Plan (SNP) (Institutional SNP & Dual SNP) programs and Florida Nursing Home Diversion programs. Both programs provided case management and provider network management services to coordinate services and benefits for enrollees.

Jeffrey has overseen the operations of local and national Medicare Advantage MCOs through the transition from Medicare +Choice to Medicare Advantage and the introduction of the Prescription Drug (Part D) plan and Special Needs Plan (SNP) structure; he has participated with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) for the development and oversight of government programs and policy including acute, post-acute and long-term care programs.  Jeffrey has developed and managed Medicare and Medicaid special needs health plans and programs.

Jeffrey has served as the Chairman for the Board of Directors for Fellowship House, a multi-service Psychosocial Rehabilitation program in Miami, Florida.  Over the 35 years since its inception, Fellowship House has expanded to include vocational, social, employment, case management, outpatient services and residential programs; serving approximately 1500 members (recipients of service) annually. Fellowship House is widely recognized as a model for psychosocial rehabilitation.

Jeffrey holds a Bachelor’s in Science of Nursing from Howard University and is a licensed Registered Nurse.  Jeffrey also holds a master’s in business administration with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from Barry University as well as a master’s in the Science of Nursing from United States University.  Jeffrey is currently the Basileus (President) of the Pi Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and oversee all the mandated programs which provide direct services to the community.

Jeffrey is married and his wife – Gina and he six children between them ranging from ages 7 to 27. Jeffrey and Gina are both natives of Miami and currently reside in Kendale Lakes.

Jeffrey currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of 24-Hour Programs for Banyan Community Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with integrated primary care and behavioral health services. Jeffrey’s experience in community-based health care, managed health care and value-based contracting assists Banyan with transition into the new health care environment and his responsibility includes the growth and development of Banyan’s services through innovative value-based contracting.

Jeffrey serves as COO and EVP of 24-Hour Programs for Banyan, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with integrated primary care and behavioral health services. Jeffrey is a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and currently serves as Basileus of the Pi Nu Chapter.

Frederick H.L. McClure

Frederick H. L. McClure is a shareholder in the law firm of Trenam Law, resident in its Tampa, FL office. He is an experienced trial lawyer with a concentration in complex product liability, consumer protection, employment, commercial and insurance coverage, and bad faith single plaintiff and class litigation, having tied many such cases to verdict in both bench and jury trials as lead counsel. In addition to his active trial practice, Fred maintains an active appellate practice, successfully arguing in multiple jurisdictions.

Fred is rated “AV Preeminent” by Martindale Hubbell International Law Directory, the highest rating attainable from the highly respected directory and rating system. Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business recognizes Fred for his litigation practice and notes that he is “commended by clients for his excellent networking skills and strong legal knowledge.” Best Lawyers in America has named Fred to its peer-reviewed ranking for his commercial litigation, insurance litigation, class action litigation and personal injury litigation practices. Since 2004, Florida Trend Magazine has named him to Florida’s Legal Elite, an honor accorded to less than 2% of the nearly 50,000 resident members of the Florida Bar. Additionally, since 2006, Law & Politics magazine has named Fred as Florida Super Lawyer.

Fred has been a frequent faculty member of the ABA Tort Insurance & Trial Practice Section/BOTA National Trial Academy in Reno, Nevada and served as Director of the Academy in 2015.

Jessica Modkins

“You only get one time to make a first impression.” Jessica Garrett Modkins’ award-winning diverse career as a media executive has afforded her the business acumen for success. She is a Film Maker & Producer, Advertising Executive, noted Podcast Show Host, Public Speaker, and Author.  She is listed as the Top 50 Women Leaders of Miami for 2024 and 2023.

She is the Director & Executive Producer for the Inaugural HBCU Honors Awards Show as well as the DocuSeries: Miami’s Richmond Heights and HBCU Homecomings on streaming platforms. HBCU Honors acknowledges the top HBCU Alum in Industry and found favor with Oprah Winfrey who makes a special appearance. The show is hosted by Wendy Raquel Robinson.

She is the founder of Hip Rock Star Advertising, a trailblazing, award winning, advertising, marketing, and communications agency that focuses exclusively on building today’s socially conscious brands. Under Modkins’ leadership, Hip Rock Star is currently listed by Inc. Magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the Southeast. It has received the Key to Miami and was listed by Roc Nation as a Black owned firm to do business with.  The firm has won numerous Telly Awards, Communication Awards and AIVA Awards.

Walter T. Richardson

Walter T Richardson was born at Christian Hospital in 1948, a time when Jackson Memorial’s staff and patient population were lacking in diversity. It was one of the only hospitals in Miami-Dade that would serve Black people.

His arrival came in the midst of a battlefield between segregation and integration. Unlike his experience at Christian, Richardson was one of the first Black students at Holmes Elementary School in Liberty City.

Between the ages of 8 and 9, his family moved to Opa-locka, where he transferred to Bunche Park Elementary School. Still, he continued a regular commute to Liberty City to attend church, where his father, Walter H. Richardson, was a minister.

Richardson went on to attend North Dade Junior Senior High School, which served the Black students of northern Miami-Dade County from 1957 to 1966. He was part of the school’s final graduating class, but one of the first students to be considered as having a high stanine, a measure of test scores that determined one’s eligibility for dual high school-college course enrollment.

By the time he began his higher education at Florida A&M University in the fall of 1966, he had completed a semester’s worth of college credits.

Richardson returned home before graduating Florida A&M, instead beginning his studies in applied piano at Miami Dade College.

It was around this time that he says he had a major religious experience and felt called to by the church. He earned a bachelor’s degree in religion at St. Thomas University, carrying on the legacy of his family that began five generations ago with his great-great-grandfather, a Black enslaved minister.

Once slavery was abolished, his great-grandfather continued the family tradition by building and serving as the first pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Ansonville, N.C., in 1870. Richardson’s grandfather and father both attended that church, which still stands today, before the family moved to Miami.

Richardson has also studied theology and pastoral counseling at Trinity Theological Seminary, philosophy at University of Miami, and religion and counseling at St. Thomas University, where he returned to teach as an adjunct professor of religion from 1989 to 2015. He taught several belief systems throughout the years, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and is still frequently called upon to speak upon similar matters of faith today.

The church began as a small ministry with 125 members who met for worship twice a month. Under Richardson’s leadership, a larger sanctuary was built, and the congregation grew to hold multiple services each Sunday. Now pastor emeritus at Sweet Home, he retired in 2010.

After retiring, Richardson stayed active in the county as a community leader, advocating for the rights of marginalized communities. After being elected as chair of the Public Health Trust on June 29, he will continue that work.

Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya, who works closely with the board chair to direct the institution’s programs, has known Richardson for nearly 30 years. The two collaborated to rebuild communities after Hurricane Andrew hit the region in 1992.

“He is a great community leader,” said Migoya. “He obviously was very well-known for his leadership in South Dade for many years, but really, his leadership goes throughout the entire Miami-Dade community.”

The role of chair is traditionally held by leading businesspeople with strong ties to the community. Some of those who formerly served include Marcos Jose Lapciuc, who had business stakes in real estate, textiles and consumer electronics and was successful in turning Jackson Health’s debt into a surplus in 2011; former Miami City Manager Joe Arriola, also a former CEO and chairman of Avanti/Case-Hoyt Press; and – most recently – former Miami Shores Mayor William J. Heffernan, a past president of Total Bank.

Kerry-Ann Royes

Kerry-Ann Royes is the president and CEO of YWCA South Florida. Utilizing more than 25 years of social sector experience, Kerry-Ann has dedicated her talents, time, and heart to the advancement of marginalized communities, particularly in the fight against social issues affecting women and girls. Kerry-Ann leverages a wealth of expertise in social justice and innovation, strategic alliances, management, and leadership in spearheading YWCA South Florida’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women into the next century.

As head of YWCA, Kerry-Ann is committed to the enrichment and longevity of the organization’s mission of rooting out and effecting injustices that happen at the intersection of race and gender. Under her leadership, YWCA South Florida has rebranded to expand its services and regional presence to Dade and Broward counties, developed the board to include men for the first time in 100 years and successfully mobilized the largest community-wide social justice learning movement in South Florida. She also led the launch of the First But Not The Last, an annual platform to recognize and elevate South Florida trailblazers whose accomplishments as the first in their fields serve as meaningful representation for generations to come. In the coming years, Kerry-Ann is locking arms with South Florida’s leadership to fully transformation YWCA South Florida’s programs, buildings and assets in response to the housing and childcare crisis being experienced by working families and women in the region.

Before joining YWCA, Kerry-Ann was the founder, president, and chief strategy officer of The Arrow Group, advising industry leaders on corporate social citizenship, non-profit leadership, and collaborative community development issues. She previously served as executive director of YMCA of South Florida, helping to grow its reach and impact while overseeing its largest youth and family services portfolio across organizational departments, contracts, and partners to modernize services for the 4,000 young people served daily.

Originally from Jamaica, Kerry-Ann has devoted herself to her South Florida home for more than 30 years. In that time, Kerry-Ann has served on boards for Partners In Education, Inc., Nautilus Oceans Exploration Trust and Philanthropy Miami, and is a trustee of The Miami Foundation while also lending her voice and expertise to Miami Herald’s CEO Roundtable and Florida Influencer Series, South Florida Racial Justice Table, South Florida PBS, South Florida Sun Sentinel and WLRN Public Radio and Television. In 2022, she was awarded Leadership Florida’s Equity, Equality & Justice Influencer Award, and the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women Spirit of Community Award. She has ingrained herself in the heart and culture of her community, working every day to improve the lives of those around her.

Bemetra Simmons

Bemetra Simmons is the president and chief executive officer of the Tampa Bay Partnership, a coalition of regional business leaders working together to improve the personal and economic well-being of Tampa Bay residents.

Simmons previously served as the chief strategy and operations officer for United Way Suncoast. She held leadership and executive leadership roles at Mutual of Omaha Bank, Wells Fargo, and BB&T.

She currently serves on the board of trustees for St. Leo University, and serves on the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Board. Board of Directors St. Pete Free Clinic. She is a Leadership Tampa graduate and a member of Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class XXXVIII. She was named a finalist for the Businesswoman of the Year by Tampa Bay Business and Wealth Magazine in 2023. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Simmons is the daughter of an Air Force Chaplain and has lived in ten states and two countries. She attended Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN, on a basketball scholarship and received a B.S. in business administration, and her MBA from Wake Forest University.

Along with her twin sister, Demetra, Simmons co-founded Corporate Homie, a career, lifestyle, and advice company and podcast dedicated to assisting professionals in navigating the waters of corporate America.

Simmons and her lovely wife Abeba live in Tampa with their dog, Charlie.

Leroy Sullivan Jr.

Mr. Leroy Sullivan Jr. started his career at Texas Electric Service Company (now ONCOR) and worked there for 23 years before retiring early. He and his wife, Carol relocated to Tampa in 1994 and shortly after their arrival, Mr. Sullivan began working as a Methods Analyst with Peoples Gas System (now known as TECO Peoples Gas). He experienced many positions through promotions at TECO including Regional Manager, Local Government, Community Relations, and Economic Development. He retired from TECO in 2018.

Mr. Sullivan enjoys being an active part of his community. He has served on many boards such as Leadership Tampa Bay, Pinellas County Urban League, and as a past Chair of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. Currently, he serves on the board for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, a Non-profit called Starting Right Now, and Elevate. He has a passion for providing young entrepreneurs and organizations with insights and guidance. 

George and Seretha Tinsley


Born and raised in Louisville, KY, Seretha Summers graduated from Louisville Male High School in 1967 and became the first African American female to attend and graduate from Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1971. She became a Jefferson County School System teacher. While teaching, Seretha interned with her father, William E. Summers, III, at his WLOU Radio Station in Louisville. After two years in a non-paying internship, Seretha left teaching and went to work full-time at WLOU Radio Station.

During her first 5-year tenure at WLOU, Seretha was a Talk Show Hostess, Program Director, and Operations Manager. When KFC promoted George and the family relocated to Atlanta, GA, Seretha secured an entry-level position with WAOK-AM and within 6 months, she was appointed Station Manager.

After three years in Atlanta, George and Seretha moved back to Louisville due to another KFC promotion for George. Back in Kentucky, she returned to WLOU as a Station/Sales manager, leading WLOU to substantial growth.

While working at WLOU, she was recruited to become VP/General Manager position at WPDQ in Jacksonville, FL. This time, George and their two children relocated with her to Florida. While in Jacksonville, Seretha was named “Radio Station Manager of the Year” Award at the Jack the Rapper Annual Convention.


The story of George Tinsley, Sr’s road to success is a classic rags-to-riches tale. Growing up impoverished in the Smoketown area of Louisville, Tinsley overcame numerous obstacles in his formative years.

Despite significant obstacles that would derail the growth and development of most, Tinsley persevered. He discovered athletic gifts that led him to obtain an athletic scholarship to attend Kentucky Wesleyan College. In college, he found his academic abilities could be as formidable as his athletic talent.

During his college career, Tinsley led Ky. Wesleyan College to a national championship in his freshman year and won three NCAA Division II Basketball Championships out of four appearances in the NCAA finals. In 1976, Ky. Wesleyan named Tinsley their greatest basketball player ever.

While in college, he met Seretha Summers, who became his wife and business partner.

After his professional basketball career, Tinsley worked as a teacher and basketball coach, became a KFC Franchisee Trainer with Colonel Harlan Sanders, and became a KFC corporate executive.

Tinsley is an award-winning and respected hospitality veteran, and civic leader featured in numerous media publications during his 35-plus years in business and community involvement.  Notably, he has been inducted into seven halls of fame for his athletic and business achievements.

In 1983, George and Seretha went into business by themselves. Together, they stepped out on faith, quitting their jobs to become KFC Franchisees. This ‘Leap of Faith’ landed George, Seretha, and family in Winter Haven, FL, to open their first KFC restaurant in Auburndale, FL. Working together as the ultimate “inside/outside team,” they have owned and operated over sixty franchises and licensed businesses in Florida and Kentucky, now led by their son, George W. Tinsley, II.  He has accepted the sole mantle of generational leadership in the business as his older sister, Penni, passed away in 2020.

George and Seretha have demonstrated their commitment to the biblical principle, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Both have received local and national recognition for significantly and generously giving their time, talent, and resources to many youth, education, faith, and business development organizations and initiatives.

Simply put, they have consistently demonstrated their commitment to their Corporate Excellence and Community Service motto. 

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