Black Power 2019: Wisconsin’s 49 Most Influential Black Leaders, Part 3


    This is the third of a five-part series.

    Sheridan Blanford joined the University of Wisconsin Athletics Department Diversity & Inclusion staff in August of 2017 and was named the Director of Inclusion in 2018. She assesses and leads the current Division of Intercollegiate Athletics programming, initiatives, policies, and procedures regarding diversity issues, and facilitates a diverse and inclusive culture across dimensions of diversity for student-athletes, coaches, administration, and other constituents on campus and in the community. Blanford has attended the Learfield Minority Academy each of the last two years, serving as an alumni ambassador at the 2018 event. Women Leaders in College Sports also selected Blanford as a 2018 Rising Star Award winner and she received a scholarship to attend the 2018 Women Leaders National Convention, held in October 2018 in Atlanta.

    Kathy Thornton-Bias is president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee. She is an experienced executive in the business and retail space with a career that spans almost three decades. During that time, she has held senior leadership roles for more than 15 years in large organizations and possesses a wealth of fundraising experience. Thornton-Bias has also served on numerous non-profit boards including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Ron Brown Scholars Program, and the University of Virginia, where she serves as a trustee. She is also a member of the Junior League and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She has received widespread recognition from a number of esteemed publications including Ebony Magazine, which placed her on their “Power 100” list, and Essence Magazine, which named her to their list of “Game Changers.”

    Harper Donahue was appointed as the City of Madison’s Human Resource Director in January. Prior to his appointment, he served as the Interim Director of the Human Resources Department since September 2017. As the director, Donahue is responsible for leading and directing the work of the Human Resources Department. He works closely with the mayor and other managers to achieve a diverse City workforce.He is a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

    Ruben Hopkins of Milwaukee is the CEO of the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce. Hopkins founded the organization in 2007 and since then the chamber has grown initiatives such as the Wisconsin Black Restaurant Association, the “Black Milwaukee: Where to go and what to do” visitors guide and the popular Men Who Cook competition. Hopkins is also a 14-year military veteran. The Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce was voted Chamber of the Year in the first-ever Wisconsin Leadership Community Choice Awards at the 2019 Wisconsin Leadership Summit.

    Renita Robinson is the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Greater Green Bay, Wisconsin’s third-largest city. She has been working in social justice all her life. Robinson worked as a middle school teacher for several years and spent about 27 years working against domestic and sexual violence. She was the Executive Director for the largest service provider in southern Minnesota for domestic and sexual violence. In her role as CEO, Robinson has tackled covert racism. 

    Anthony E. Woods is the President of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield Wisconsin, a role he’s served in since last November. Woods began his career with Anthem as Vice President of Sales & Marketing in in New York in 2005. He served as a member of the board of the North Brooklynn YMCA and a member of the managing board of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce before taking the helm at Anthem’s Wisconsin operation just over a year ago.

    Rayon Brown is Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton. He works to ensure all of FVTC’s 11,000-plus students are welcome and supported, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age, religion or socio-economic status. Under Brown’s leadership, in 2016 FVTC became Wisconsin’s first two-year college to receive the Ann Lydecker Educational Diversity Award from the WIsconsin State Council on Affirmative Action. To earn the recognition, Brown’s team increased retention of multicultural students by five percent above projected targets in addition to seeing a 220 percent spike in the number of learners served over the previous three years.

    Deborah Biddle runs The People Company LLC, a consulting, training and coaching firm. She also serves as a member of the Verona School Board. One of the state’s few diversity and inclusion certified trainers, she consults with organizations who want to leverage the power of change to heighten development and performance for their people. She brings more than 25 years of business leadership, operations, talent development, project and change management, strategic planning and financial analysis experience that empowers audiences with impactful and engaging strategies to develop inclusive and high performing teams and organizations.

    Chris Walton is chair of the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County, where the attention of the nation will be focused next summer for the Democratic National Convention. He is the first Black person to hold that position since the 1980s, and the first openly LGBTQ person ever. His organizing experience goes all the way back to his teen years, when he volunteered on Matt Flynn’s 2004 campaign for Congress. He went on to work on both of Barack Obama’s campaigns for president and earn a degree in political science from Mississippi State University. He’s worked in nine states on numerous campaigns. Since returning to his native Milwaukee in 2015, Walton has worked as Southeast Regional Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and then Political Director of the Milwaukee County Party until being elected Chair in 2018.

    Part four coming tomorrow!

    Browse previous lists:

    Black Power 2015

    Black Power 2016

    Black Power 2017

    Black Power 2018