Black Power 2017: Wisconsin’s 35 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 5


    This is the fifth in a five-part series. Read Part Four here.

    Dan Hawk recently joined the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County as Director of Sports and Teen Programs, where he directs not only athletic and recreation programs but also employment readiness programming. It’s the next step in a career that’s been all about developing citizens through sports. Hawk, the founder of Crush Basketball Club, has been coaching hoops at all levels for 13 years and recently founded the Prairie Power Hour, a chance for kids 11 and up to play basketball with adult supervision two nights a week at Prairie Phoenix Academy in Sun Prairie. Hawk developed the program, which has grown from about 15 to more than 80 participants every session, in partnership with Sun Prairie Community Schools. Hawk was also one of the unsung heroes of the Greater Madison community’s efforts to help victims of hurricanes in Houston and Florida, driving volunteers and supplies thousands of miles.

    Art Howell became the first black police chief of Racine — one of Wisconsin’s blackest cities — back in April of 2012. The 32-year veteran with the Racine Police Department leads the force of more than 200 sworn officers and annual budget of more than $26 million. Howell graduated with a bachelor’s in human services from Springfield College in 2006 and master’s in management from Cardinal Stritch in 2008. Howell was the first among his siblings to hold a college degree.

    Velena Jones is an award-winning journalist, one of a precious few African American voices in Madison’s mainstream media. Her coverage of the fatal shooting of Tony Robinson by a police officer, which made national news in 2015, earned her a Midwest Regional Emmy Award. She also received a Michigan Broadcasting Award for Insights into Northern Michigan, a program she hosted while at WBKB. You can see Velena covering a range of community issues and events on Channel 3 and, where she’s been a reporter and fill-in anchor since 2014. She has been the station’s go-to reporter for issues involving marginalized groups such as the officer involved shooting of Tony Robinson, an unarmed black male, local “Black Lives Matter” protest and demonstrations and coverage of University of Wisconsin – Madison student who was charged with sexually assaulting over a dozen women. 

    Ossie Kendrix is one of the key leaders of Wisconsin’s black business community. He was named president and CEO of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AACCW) earlier this year. Prior to joining AACCW, Kendrix has had an impressive career in the public sector, serving as vice president with Feeding America of Eastern Wisconsin, manager with the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Small Business Development and program consultant with the Milwaukee Urban Entrepreneur Partnership. A native of Milwaukee, Kendrix earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and communication from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University. He is a 2015 graduate of Cardinal Stritch University’s African American Leadership Program and was presented with an Award of Excellence from the Wisconsin Minority Supplier Diversity Council in 2012.

    Jeff Mack, the new vice president of private banking at Park Bank, is a lifelong pillar of the Madison community. A former Southside Raider, Mack went on to follow his father’s footsteps to play football as a Badger. As a contributor to the community, he’s also following the footsteps of his mother, who ate, slept and bled civil rights. He is a Board Member for Overture Center for the Arts, program committee member at the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and an adviser for the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development.

    Eric Upchurch, a Milwaukee native, made a name for himself in Madison as one of the firebrand leaders of the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition. He’s also an active entrepreneur. He started strategic development consultancy ESUCEO in 2007, while still an undergraduate at UW-Madison. He’s also worked as director of development and marketing at YWCA Madison and as the executive director of the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce. He recently founded the Madison Alliance for Black Economic Empowerment, which gives grants to local Black entrepreneurs.

    Johnny Winston, Jr has been a Madison firefighter for more than 20 years, though any Madison old-timers who were around in the late 1980s might remember him as a member of local rap group Fresh Force. Since 2015 he’s been MFD’s Division Chief of Organization and Community Liaison. In this role, he oversees hiring and promotions, community outreach, racial equity and social justice initiatives and grants. In many ways he sets the direction for the 350-member fire department. He comes from a barrier-breaking family, the son of Madison’s first black police officer Johnny Winston, Sr, and longtime community organizer and activist Mona Winston. Johnny Jr. started his career working with several youth organizations and served on the Madison school board from 2004-2010.