Recognizing 28 Modern History Makers this Black History Month

As we learn from the past this Black History Month, Mindr also celebrates today’s trailblazers and modern history makers. Here are 28 of the individual changemakers who inspire us daily as we work to build belonging in the world’s leading workplaces.
The Champion: Tashia Millstein, Mindr
Tashia Millstein is Workplace Mental Health Lead at Mindr, where she works to support companies of all sizes build a strong sense of belonging in the workplace. She is also a psychotherapist specializing in individual, couple, and group therapy with adults. Tashia works with people from all backgrounds, including the LGBTQ+ community and individuals with diverse cultural and religious orientations. Tashia earned her Master of Social Work degree at New York University, her Juris Doctor at Columbia Law School, and her undergraduate degree at Harvard University. She has completed additional training in PMADs at Postpartum Support International and is a member of the National Association of Social Workers, Postpartum Support International, and the Women’s Mental Health Consortium. Tashia's best advice? "Find your happiness and learn to put it first."
The Changemaker: Tenisha Buckley, Ares
Tenisha Buckley is Senior Associate, Communications at Ares Management Corporation. Tenisha’s work focuses on advocating for and amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups while ensuring a healthy, safe, and inclusive organization. It is her goal to lead people through a movement that enables an equitable and inclusive culture where all members of the community feel empowered, supported and are able to thrive. Tenisha is the proud Founder and Co-Chair of Unidos (the Ares Latinx ERG) as well as the Black Women Thriving Network. In 2021, she was awarded the Ares Impact Award which recognizes team members driving tremendous impact in ESG, DEI and Philanthropy. Tenisha believes we are all changemakers: "We all have the capacity to positively impact the spaces we share with others."
The Coach for Impact: Jonathan Simon, Apollo
Jonathan B. Simon is Managing Director and Global Head of Leadership Development and Diversity at Apollo Global Management, Inc. Mr. Simon became the first Chief Diversity Officer for Apollo in August 2020. Prior to joining Apollo, Mr. Simon was an Executive Director on the Advancing Black Leaders team at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Mr. Simon also led JPMC’s firmwide recruitment strategy at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities). Jonathan works to coach others to maximize their impact: “My role as head of DEI and Leadership Development affords me an opportunity to meet leaders where they are and coach them to increase engagement and greater belonging on their teams. Coaching in a high performance culture is focused on how to create deeper connections; inspire others; and lastly, optimize our talent to achieve better outcomes.”
The Community Builder: Rachael Sampson, KeyBank
Rachael Sampson is a passionate and enthusiastic servant leader with nearly 20 years of banking experience and various leadership positions in end-to-end banking. As National Director of Key4Women, Rachael develops and leads the strategy for over 3,500 Key4Women Certified Advisors across Key's footprint, collaborating closely with senior and market leadership teams and community organizations to advocate for, empower and connect women in business. Rachael serves on the Women in Manufacturing Board of Directors, Women of Color Foundation Board of Directors, Advocates for Youth Education member, Co-Chair of The Superior Initiative, and is a YWCA Women of Professional Excellence Award Recipient. What drives Rachael forward? “We, as female leaders and people of color, must "carry as we climb," meaning we need to look out not only for ourselves but also for others coming after us.”
The Chairperson: Margaret Anadu, Goldman Sachs
Margaret Anadu is a Partner and Global Head of Sustainability and Impact for Goldman Sachs Asset Management, leading the development and oversight of the firm’s strategy for delivering commercial solutions and leading advisory services to clients related to inclusive growth and climate transition, the two core pillars of the firm’s sustainability strategy. She is also the chairwoman of the Urban Investment Group (UIG), co-chair of the Asset Management Sustainability Council, leads Goldman Sachs' One Million Black Women initiative, and is a member of the Board of Advisors of Launch with GS. Margaret shares: “Black women are starting businesses at the fastest rate in the United States – and are receiving under 0.1 percent of all venture funding. That’s a number that should shock you. For investors, it should also get you excited.”
The Corporate Visionary: Pamay Bassey, Kraft Heinz
Pamay Bassey is Chief Learning and Diversity Officer at Kraft Heinz, where she drives a culture of continuous learning, bold creativity, and intellectual curiosity, leads global learning and development, and amplifies the work that every Kraft Heinz employee does to create and nurture a diverse and inclusive workplace. Pamay is a true believer that learning can be a superpower that transforms people, families, communities, and organizations. Her 365 Days of Learning project – where she made a promise to learn and share something new every day for a year – has been the foundation of a learning transformation at Kraft Heinz, and inspired her book, Let’s Learn Our Way Through It, Shall We? What drives Pamay? “There is no more powerful a catalyst for change or tool for transformation than a commitment to lifelong learning.”
The Catalyst: John Belizaire, Soluna
John Belizaire is a versatile CEO and serial entrepreneur who has successfully founded and scaled multiple technology companies over a 20-year career. He is currently the CEO of Soluna Computing, the world’s first utility-scale company developing high-performance computing facilities powered by renewable energy. Before Soluna, John was the founder and CEO of FirstBest, a transformative insurance software company acquired by Guidewire Software, and Theory Center, an e-commerce software company acquired by BEA Systems. He is also the editor of CEOPLAYBOOK, an online publication for first-time founder CEOs. He is on the board of IFG Companies, one of the largest privately-held insurance groups in the United States. John is also a trustee of Harlem Academy. John's guidance for catalyzing change: “Don’t accept norms. Question them. That is how you innovate. Deconstruct the norms and reconstruct in new groundbreaking ways.”
The Communicator: Tamika Hawkins, Brunswick Group
Tamika is a Director at Brunswick Group, where she develops strategies and campaigns on issues ranging from DEI to litigation communications for some of the most recognizable global brands. Her clients have included McDonald’s, Google and UnitedHealthcare. Tamika is actively involved in the firm’s internal Inclusion and Diversity initiatives, serving as the inaugural host of Brunswick’s “Perspectives” series, a monthly dialogue that takes a deep dive into matters of DEI. In addition, she is a member of the Public Affairs practice, where she conceptualizes and executes thought leadership programming. Prior to Brunswick, Tamika was a senior member of Edelman’s Federal team and the International Affairs Team, where she won a Silver Anvil for her work on behalf of the Panama Canal Authority. How does Tamika approach leadership? "Be a hard-working, detail-oriented, "grace under pressure" team-builder, focused on getting the job done."
The Cutting-Edge Leader: Nicole Turner, Mastercard
Nicole Turner has more than 25 years of experience in senior level HR positions in the financial services, technology and healthcare industries. Nicole Turner is senior vice president, Tech Hubs. In this role, Nicole oversees all Tech Hubs across Dublin, Pune/Vadodara, Sydney, Vancouver, St. Louis and Arlington, and leads the New York City Tech Hub. Nicole drives the development and implementation of Mastercard's Tech Hub Strategy, including partnering with People & Capability on talent acquisition and driving employee and community engagement. Nicole is an advocate of diversity and inclusion for women and POC in technology. Nicole is a considered a change agent. She cofounded Mastercard’s first business resources group, LEAD -“Leveraging Employees of African Descent” to support the advance of black employees at her organization. Nicole's most prioritized leadership trait? "Be empathetic and have the ability to listen to learn and not to respond."
The Conversation Starter: Wade Davis II, Netflix
Former NFL Player Wade Davis is a thought leader, public speaker, and writer on gender, race, and orientation equality. He was the NFL's first LGBTQ+ inclusion consultant. Wade is currently the Vice President of Inclusion Strategy for Product at Netflix and has consulted with Google, MTV/VH1, 21st Century Fox, AppNexus and others to co-create transformative solutions to build inclusive corporate cultures. In addition to his work as a Global Champion for Innovation for UN Women, Wade is a founding member of VICE’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board with Gloria Steinem, Roberta Kaplan and others. Wade stresses the importance of having uncomfortable conversations: “The more that you risk, the more that you learn that the world isn’t as dangerous as you thought it was, that people aren’t as different as you thought you were, that we’re actually really alike.”
The Culture Carrier: Wil Lewis, Experian
Wil Lewis is the first-ever Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Experian. In this role, Wil strives to build on the company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, institutionalize inclusive processes as a key to innovation, ensure every employee and key stakeholders feel connected to the organization, culture and that talent represents the communities in which Experian operate. Prior to this role, Wil was Diversity & Inclusion Executive and Head of Bank of America’s global disability LGBT+, and military strategies. Wil also had responsibility for the firm’s Global Employee Networks and D&I recognition. In this role, he was responsible for 11 networks with more than 350 chapters in forty countries with 180,000+ memberships. Additionally, Wil served as a market HR generalist. When it comes to driving change, Wil says: "Action is paramount."
The Cell Whisperer: Dr. Racquel Sherwood, QIAGEN
Dr. Racquel Sherwood is a Customer Business Manager at QIAGEN, prior to which she worked as a Life Science Specialist at VWR. She completed her PhD at Brown University, and a Postgraduate Fellowship at Yale. Racquel mentors young scientists through the non-profit organization BioBuilder, working currently with a group from the Manhattan Comprehensive Day and Night School, an institution dedicated to providing high school Regents diplomas to older, under-credited students. She also volunteers as a CASA GAL (court appointed guardian) for abused and neglected children in New Hampshire, with responsibility for representing and advocating for their best interests in court. Racquel is committed to increasing access to a diversity of perspectives in the sciences: "We can always continue to learn from each other by taking a moment to appreciate the value in new perspectives everywhere we go."
The Car Master: Richie Parker
Richie Parker is Chief Engineer of Government Projects at Hendrick Motorsports, where he leads their engineering efforts on government and military defense-related projects. Previously, he worked as the Vehicle Design Group Manager for the four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. Parker was born with bilateral Amelia, which is a non-genetic birth defect in which his limbs are not formed. Parker has pursued his dreams at one of NASCAR’s most successful organizations and as a result, has been profiled by ESPN and is a frequent public speaker, sharing his experience in overcoming obstacles and facing adversity. As a child, Parker designed a bike that would allow him to ride around his neighborhood with the other kids. Later in his career, Parker partnered with Drive Master to develop a system that allowed him to drive and steer his car with just his two feet. Is there a limit? Richie says "I can’t say there’s anything that I can’t do… just things that I haven’t done yet."
The Cross-Industry Leader: Devin Glenn, Blackstone
Devin Glenn is Managing Director and Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Blackstone. She is responsible for continuing to implement policies and initiatives that help Blackstone achieve a more diverse and inclusive workplace at Blackstone and its portfolio companies. She joined from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP where she was the Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Prior to that, she spent the last decade in various positions related to diversity and inclusion at the law firm, as well as working as an associate in its banking and institutional investing division. She received a BA from the University of Virginia and a JD from Columbia Law School. She is a member of the New York State Bar. Devin shares: "I’m proud of the work our employee affinity networks and allies across the firm are doing to promote a culture of inclusion. Looking forward to continued progress in the year ahead.”
The Creative: Kwadwo Adae, Adae Fine Art Academy
Kwadwo Adae is Founder, Director and Head Instructor of the Adae Fine Art Academy, an independent drawing and painting school located in New Haven, Connecticut, in addition to maintaining a rigorous art studio practice as a professional visual artist and muralist. Kwadwo also runs a Mobile Art Studio Service which provides art instruction to children in afterschool programs; artists in transitional living facilities for people living with schizophrenia; young adults in mental health clinics; and elderly artists living with Alzheimer's and dementia in assisted living centers. He is committed to community empowerment through artistic practice and regularly contributes to the discourse of public art in our local and international communities. Kwadwo says of his chosen craft: “Public art is a vital contribution to the creative health of the inhabitants of any city, town, or business."
The Cultivator of Excellence: Kusawn Foster, Silicon Valley Bank
Kusawn Foster is Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Silicon Valley Bank. Prior to SVB, Kusawn was Head of Diversity Talent Acquisition at TIAA where she created the organization’s diversity talent and campus recruiting models. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, she served as Vice President and Diversity Campus Talent Manager where she created the company’s first enterprise-wide campus diversity recruiting model. With over 15 years Fortune 100 and non-profit experience, Kusawn Foster is a trusted advisor to both organizations and recruitment candidates. She has dedicated her career to understanding and cultivating the bond between both. Kusawn's guidance for organizations: "If you really want to build a diverse workforce for your organization - make sure your hiring managers avoid 'looking-glass merit'."
The Campus Champion: Fred Lowery, Thermo Fisher Scientific
Fred Lowery is an accomplished and dynamic corporate leader with a proven track record leading teams to drive profitable growth for over 25 years while working for several Fortune 500 companies. He is currently Senior Vice President, Thermo Fisher, well as President, Customer Channels at the company. Fred is also the executive sponsor of Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Just Project initiative, as part of which the company has donated $25M in equipment and solutions to enable COVID-19 testing at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the U.S. to support the safe return of students and faculty back on campus. Fred states: “Given the societal good that we can create in this industry, it is imperative that we have the best talent. And if the industry is not diverse, then we will not have the best talent... I am proud to be a part of the Thermo Fisher team as we build bridges.”
The Cloud Innovator: Mich Razon, Google
Mich Razon is Vice President, Engineering at Google Cloud. She is a customer-focused senior technology executive with a proven track record for strategic execution.  Mich has led and scaled global product development organizations in agile, digital and cloud transformations for Fortune 500 and privately held companies. She has driven technology due diligence for M&A and advised on corporate technology strategy and innovation. Prior to Google, global product engineering and operations for Commercial & B2B solutions at Mastercard, where she engineers technologies that make payments safe, simple and smart and that power financial inclusion. What drives Mich? "Taking action and making meaningful commitments for a sustainable and inclusive world that works for everyone, everywhere."
The Corporate Citizen: Andrea Cooper, Citizens Bank
Andrea Cooper is a DE&I Program Manager at Citizens Bank, where she is responsible for delivering the talent acquisition strategy across specific geographical retail markets by managing and coaching a team of recruiters, building and maintaining relationships with senior business leaders, using market intelligence and existing analytics and metrics to develop, improve and execute plans to consistently deliver quality candidates. She specifically focuses on management, client relationship and recruiting strategies for her team and business partners. Andrea is also passionate about corporate volunteering initiatives: "Volunteering is good for you and good for your community. Last year, our colleagues volunteered over 122,000 hours. I’m happy to have contributed to our overall effort (and had fun while doing it)!"
The Collective Shaper: Malika Savell, Prada
Malika Savell is Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for Prada North America. Malika is responsible for developing policies, strategies and programs to help ensure diverse representation of cultures and perspectives at all levels of the company. She is in charge of working with global leadership to strengthen inclusive culture and advancement for the company’s talents. Malika’s expertise and  experience leading diversity initiatives at global luxury companies is instrumental in supporting the Group’s mission and vision. Malika also works closely with Prada’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, chaired by artist and activist Theaster Gates and award-winning writer, director and producer Ava DuVernay, to continue providing opportunities for students of color and investing in scholarship, internship and apprenticeship programs. How do Malika's colleagues describe her? As a "dynamic, impact-driven leader."
The Content Disruptor: Kamala Avila-Salmon, Lionsgate
Kamala Avila-Salmon is the first-ever Head of Inclusive Content for the Lionsgate Motion Picture Group. Her role is aimed at developing and implementing programs and strategies that intentionally embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into how the studio evaluates, produces, and markets film content across the slate. Her career has always been marked by a commitment to elevating underrepresented voices and advocating for content that represents the intersectional, diverse audience that consumes it. She has led marketing campaigns for entertainment tentpoles from Janelle Monae to The Voice and Red Table Talk as well as at Google and Facebook (where she was named one of AdWeek’s 2019 Young Influentials). Kamala shares: "Storytelling is the lifeblood of our society. It shapes how we see ourselves and others and telling inclusive stories has the power to change the world."
The Consultant for Change: Marquis White, Attentive
Marquis White is Senior Manager - DEI at Attentive, and a change maker, doer, and strategist. His work sits at the intersection between inclusion and business practices — in other words, he helps companies do better work by creating structures for an equitable workplace. His background is in general HR work, learning and training, and recruiting. All of his work has had diversity and inclusion strategies built in it and he has created D&I strategies from the ground up for companies. Marquis has worked for and consulted across tech, insurance, logistics, and agencies (staffing, marketing, and events). His mission in life is to be sure everyone has a seat at the table. But that alone is not enough: "If the past has taught us anything, it’s that it’s not enough just to make sure people have a seat at the table. We must provide them with the environment, resources, and tools to succeed."
The Cross-Disciplinary Collaborator: Meeka Kortmulder, Houlihan Lokey
Meeka Kortmulder is an Executive Administrator at Houlihan Lokey and part of the founding leadership of the Houlihan Black Alliance, which aims to strengthen the hiring, retention and professional development of Black employees across all levels, and to identify and dismantle biases and foster education. Meeka was previously a Junior Board Member of Astor Services for Children & Families, a community based non-profit organization that provides children's mental health services, child welfare services and early childhood development programs. What's the next frontier for Meeka? "The biggest step is engagement. In order to move the needle and achieve the impact we are working towards, we need the investment of our colleagues. Diversity of thought, equity of opportunities and inclusion in the process inspire the most creative and effective results.”
The Children's Advocate: Kwame Owusu-Kesse, Harlem Children's Zone
Kwame Owusu-Kesse took over as Chief Executive Officer of the Harlem Children’s Zone on July 1, 2020. Prior to assuming this role, he served as HCZ’s Chief Operating Officer for six years. Kwame grew up against a backdrop of poverty, single parenthood, and family struggles. However, he was fortunate to have opportunities as a young boy to receive a high-quality education and reach his academic potential. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Economics, Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy from Harvard University. On his approach to change, Kwame says: “Most interventions focus on one piece of a complicated giant puzzle, but that’s not enough to solve the puzzle. You don’t solve education without understanding the home context or the home environment of a young scholar. Or the broader context of health, nutrition or criminal justice.”
The Caregiver: Marisa Renee Lee
Marisa Renee Lee is a writer, grief advocate and entrepreneur. serves as the CEO of the social impact consulting firm Beacon Advisors, co-founder of Supportal, an online platform that makes it easier for people to respond when someone they care about is faced with a life-changing challenge such as death, serious illness, pregnancy loss, or divorce.  She is the author of the forthcoming book, Grief is Love: Living with Loss, out on April 12th, 2022. To know Marisa is to know her mother Lisa. Marisa served as a caretaker for Lisa who had MS and ultimately died from breast cancer in 2008. Marisa has also battled infertility and pregnancy loss, and these experiences have taught her that grief is really just another form of love. Marisa's work is dedicated to helping others through "being awash with grief while still living with joy, and it’s about finding and building support that encourages you to process and accept your pain."
The C-Suiter: Chinwe Esimai, Citigroup
Chinwe Esimai is a multiple award-winning lawyer, trailblazing corporate executive, writer, and speaker who helps women leaders discover and embrace their genius and live lives of impact and fulfillment. She is Managing Director and Chief Anti-Bribery Officer at Citigroup, Inc, the first person to hold this title in the bank’s history. Chinwe spent five years at Goldman Sachs in various regulatory risk-management roles, and also served as a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Chinwe has received numerous awards, including American Banker’s Most Powerful Women in Banking, Leading Ladies Africa’s Most Inspiring Women, Nigerian Lawyers Association Trailblazer of the Year, and Face2Face Africa Corporate Leadership Award. She encourages others to take the time to slow down: “We often flip through the pages of life so quickly and we forget to pause and consider the most important lessons.”
The Commentator: Morgan DeBaun, Blavity Inc.
Morgan DeBaun is a serial entrepreneur and corporate advisor. As the Founder & CEO of Blavity Inc., the leading digital media company for Black culture and millennials, Morgan has grown the company into a market leader for Black media, reaching over 100 million readers per month through a growing brand portfolio which includes: Blavity News, 21Ninety, AfroTech, Travel Noire, Shadow & Act, and Lunchtable. Under DeBaun’s leadership, Blavity has launched several leading consumer summits, including Summit 21 for Black women creators, and AfroTech, the largest tech conference for Black innovators and founders. DeBaun acts as an advisor to influential global brands and companies including Disney, American Airlines, CES, Pantora Bridal and Rosen Skincare. Morgan advises companies: "Understand racial equity is a financial and global business imperative, not just a moral one."
The Co-Founder: Gayle Jennings O'Byrne, WOCSTAR Fund
Gayle Jennings-O'Byrne is a venture capitalist who co-founded the WOCSTAR Fund, an early stage investment fund that invests in the future of consumption and innovation using a female arbitrage strategy - women of color tech entrepreneurs and diverse/inclusive competitive advantages. Gayle (pronounced: Gay-lä) takes a unique builder capital approach to help entrepreneurs scale and grow to success while working with investors and allies to participate in the innovation, wealth, and success being built. Gayle was named one of "10 Women Changing the Landscape of Leadership" by the New York Times, March 2021. She hosts "VCs off the Record," a real talk podcast for both entrepreneurs and investors. Gayle shares: “It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with and survived cancer that I went from being afraid of dying to a place of being fearless about living. I just thought…if not now, then when?”