Black Power 2017: Wisconsin’s 35 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 4


    This is the fourth in a five-part series. Read Part Three here.

    Victor Barnett is founder and Executive Director of Running Rebels Community Organization. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has over 35 years experience in youth services, primarily dealing with inner city, at-risk youth. He served in an advisory capacity to the league director of the Midnight Basketball League. He was the Warning League’s Commissioner in 2005 and prior to that was league director for three years. Victor has directed RRCO’s growth to its present day while becoming an expert leader in at-risk youth relations through his ability to connect with them when others have failed.

    Cedric Ellis was promoted by CUNA Mutual Group earlier this year to Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer. A native of Waterbury, Conn., Ellis cares deeply about making a positive impact in the community and donates his time and talents to several local organizations including Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Dane County. He is also a member of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment (CWI) and the CWI partnership development committee. Before joining CUNA Mutual Group, Ellis served as senior vice president of HR for the Atlantic region of Wachovia. Ellis joined CUNA Mutual Group in 2005 and previously served as a senior vice president. He was also recognized on Our Lives Magazine’s inaugural “Queer People of Color” list.

    Dr. Eve Hall is the President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League and the former President and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin. Dr. Hall has extensive leadership experience in education, government and non-profits. The core of her work has been fundraising, building programs and partnerships to increase education and career opportunities for students, enhancing professional training and development for adults while leveraging the power of education, business, government and community working together. Past roles have included Chief Innovation Officer/Vice President of Programs/Executive Director for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund; Vice President of Public Affairs for Family Service of Milwaukee; MPS School to Work Administrator reporting to the Superintendent, and Director of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson’s Milwaukee Office. Dr. Hall received a B.S. degree in educational psychology from Florida A&M University, a M.S. in administrative leadership from University of Wisconsn-Milwaukee, and Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

    Sagashus T. Levingston is quite simply a powerhouse woman. She’s an award-winning social entrepreneur, speaker, author, educator and mother of six. Born in Chicago, she is currently a PhD Candidate in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation is titled “Infamous Mothers: Bad Moms Doing Extraordinary Things.” While her research focuses primarily on literature, it is informed by theory and criticism from rhetoric, motherhood studies and black feminism. Her coffeetable book, also titled Infamous Mothers, is inspired by her work and so is Infamous Mothers, LLC., a social enterprise that focuses on the empowerment of women who mother from the margins of society.  Levingston herself is an “infamous mother” of six children and is a product of an infamous mother. She calls her experience, once a source of shame, now her most valuable asset in serving women.

    Vanessa McDowell gets people moving — on the dance floor as DJ Ace and in the community as the first African-American woman CEO of the YWCA in the 109 year history of the organization. McDowell also spent nine years as executive assistant to the pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Madison’s south side. McDowell has led the YWCA Moxie Conference and Women of Distinction helping to empower women and eliminate racism. She is also an active member of the Madison Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, where she currently serves as the chaplain.

    Jeff “JP” Patterson knows better than anyone what “the barbershop” means to any black community, and makes the most of it. Stop byu JP Hair Design on Madison’s west side on any weekday and you’ll likely find some of Madison’s most prominent black and Latino leaders, Badger athletes, even the occasional NBA star in his chairs. JP’s Hair Design has an innovative partnership with the Rebalanced Life Wellness Association (RLWA)’s Men’s Health and Education Center (which was recently featured on the Megyn Kelly Today television show on NBC), which promotes good health for African-American men and reduces racial health disparities right inside the JP Hair Design building. Patterson, who is very active in the African-American business and entrepreneurial community, also hosts his own talk show, “Behind the Chair,” on a YouTube channel and at his website where he interviews prominent African Americans in the community. He also teaches in the barbering and cosmetology program at Madison College. During JP Hair Design’s annual back to school event, which will be celebrating 10 years next year, JP provides hundreds of free haircuts for area students to get them ready for school.

    Ahmad Kweku Qawi is committed to helping young people – especially African American boys and young men – reach their full potential. He is currently the Chief Operations Officer at Racine Family YMCA where he has dedicated over 13 years of his professional career. Qawi also sits on the board of the Women’s Resource Center of Racine. Originally from Chicago, Qawi graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in Mass Communications. During his tenure at YMCA, Qawi has been dedicated to implementing programming to help youth reach their full potential.

    Watch for Part Five tomorrow!