Black Power 2019: The 49 Most Influential Black Leaders in Wisconsin, Part 1


    We’ve published our Black Power list every year since our founding, and it’s become the most anticipated thing we do. Every year, I’ve intended this list to highlight the beauty of the diversity across our state. I want kids here in Wisconsin to see role models of people who are succeeding, to know that it’s possible for African Americans to achieve great things here.

    That’s exactly what our first three lists accomplished, and what we hope to continue with this year’s list.

    A lot has happened since we published Black Power 2018 a year ago. The second annual Wisconsin Leadership Summit in October drew nearly 600 people and has become the state’s premier professional development, networking and community building event for leaders of color. It grew directly from past lists of the most influential African American and Latino leaders, and included leaders of Asian and Native American descent, truly showing the power of gathering these influential leaders of color to work together on issues, learn from each other and create new and lasting connections. This list is no longer just a list. It is also an invitation — an invitation to engage, to create, to make Wisconsin a better place to attract and retain leaders of color.

    We have never intended this list to be exhaustive. Obviously, no list has been, because we keep finding more and more dynamic leaders doing real work across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. This list will, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the state or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.

    It was important for us to expand the way we think about influence, and to highlight more of the people doing what it takes to improve their community. That’s one reason this list is entirely new — we considered anyone named on previous lists to be ineligible for this one, even though most of the people on past lists continue to wield considerable influence.

    Over the next five days, I hope you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout Wisconsin, and that we might be able to make some connections and start conversations that really move communities forward.

    Henry Sanders
    Publisher and CEO, Madison365

    This is the first of a five-part series.

    Marlon Anderson is a security guard at Madison West High School, which might not sound like the most influential position. But when he was fired for using a racial slur in his own defense — telling a student “don’t call me (n-word)” — he didn’t take it lying down, and neither did his students. More than 1,500 students marched to district headquarters and demanded he get his job back — which he did the following week. He’s clearly influential among the student body in Madison, especially Black students. In fact, when he worked at Madison East in 2015, the senior class asked him to deliver their commencement address. And he’s been influential in the wake of the incident, pushing the school board and administration to revisit the district’s policy on racial slurs and racist language. Anderson also now has a broader platform, too, as his story gained international attention, even catching the attention of music superstar Cher, who offered to pay legal expenses if he wanted to sue the school district.

    Gia Gallimore is the director of diverse alumni engagement at Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. One of her core goals is to connect alumni of color with the alumni association at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To do so, Gallimore had a hand in creating a strategic plan for diverse engagement, including strengthening the alumni of color network, enhancing marketing and engagement programs and cultivating student-to-alumni connections. She is also the founder of and driving force behind Badger Vibes, a monthly newsletter highlighting faculty, students and alumni of color in order to celebrate the diverse UW experience, produced in partnership between the WFAA and Madison365.

    Andrew McKinney is the first Black president of the Monona Grove School Board, near Madison, and Community School Site Coordinator for CH Bird Elementary School in Sun Prairie.  He grew up in Gary, Indiana but moved to Madison Wisconsin to finish his last two years of high school at Madison East. He served more than six years in the US Army during the Gulf War. He went on to work for Madison schools while attending college courses, then worked for American Family and worked for nearly 10 years, but missed working with students. After completing his BA of business management, he earned his masters in counseling and has worked in institutes of higher education, community organizations and school districts.

    Sherina Smith is Vice President and Head of Marketing at American Family Insurance, a position where she’s trusted with one of the strongest brands in the country. Smith is a relative newcomer to Wisconsin, joining AmFam earlier this year following three years as Vice President of Brand Loyalty, Customer Relationship Management and Marketing Analytics at JC Penny in Plano, Texas, as well as leadership positions at Chicago-based AbbVie and Kraft Food Group. She earned a degree in marketing at Ohio State and an MBA from the Marshall School of Business at USC.

    George Koonce is Vice President of Advancement at Marian University in Fond du Lac, where he provides leadership and strategic direction while being responsible for growing awareness and increasing philanthropic support for the university through community and alumni engagement. But he’s better known across Wisconsin as a starting linebacker for eight years for the Green Bay Packers. After going undrafted out of Eastern Carolina, he played one year with the Ohio Glory of the World League of American Football before joining the Pack in 1993. He played in two Super Bowls, winning one in 1997. After retiring from the NFL in 2000, he returned to East Carolina to earn a master’s degree in sports management, and then became only the second former Packer in history to earn a Ph.D., which he earned from Marquette while working there as associate athletic director. Koonce also serves as an on-air personality at Green Bay’s CBS affiliate for “Backstage with George Koonce,” and “Locker Room”.

    Suzanne Johnson is vice president of banking at Park Bank. She has over 15 years of banking experience and takes pride in working with her business clients, big or small, from start to finish with customized business banking solutions. Johnson is also passionate about giving back to the community and to the importance of supporting local businesses here in Dane County. Suzanne is a Financial Literacy Council Member at the Wisconsin Banker’s Association and volunteers in local schools and Secure Futures.

    Kevin Anderson is the Wisconsin Region CEO for Old National Bank (ONB). He joined ONB in 2013 as Corporate Relationship Manager in the Louisville Region and was promoted to Milwaukee Region President in 2016. Prior to joining Old National, Kevin was Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking Manager at Fifth Third Bank in Louisville. He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. Anderson is an active community leader and serves on the board of directors for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the United Performing Arts Fund. He is also a member of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

    Shaniqua Crawford is the new Title IX Coordinator at Lawrence University, administering the federal law that guarantees equal access to educational and extracurricular activities for all genders. Her main role is to work with students, faculty and staff on prevention methods, education around Title IX and giving survivors resources while making sure all processes are fair. Prior to Lawrence University, Crawford was the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer and Title IX coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She earned a degree in philosophy and history at Georgia Southern University and a law degree from Ohio Northern University.

    Tiffany Henry is president of the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals. The organization’s mission is to engage young professionals in the National Urban League’s movement. Through its committees, MULYP sponsors a variety of community service projects, fundraising activities, social and cultural events, leadership development workshops, and educational and political forums, according to their website. Henry’s biography describes her as “ a wealth of federal political astuteness, longevity, and commitment.” Before becoming president of MULYP, she was a senate staff member for U.S Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Milwaukee and still serves at the Milwaukee Office Director for the senator. She is a 2017 graduate of the African American Leadership Program.

    Al Thompson serves as the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UW-Stevens Point, working to provide leadership, vision, and strategic direction for the Division of Student Affairs. Through his work, he has served on the Taskforce on Sexual Violence and Harassment and the Affirmation Action Committee among other committees for the University of Wisconsin system. Thompson also has served on the Board of Directors for United Way, the Portage County Coalition for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention and is involved in the Stevens Point Rotary Club.

    Part 2 coming tomorrow!

    Browse previous lists:

    Black Power 2015

    Black Power 2016

    Black Power 2017

    Black Power 2018