We launched just over five years ago as a nonprofit news outlet to carry the voices of, and tell the stories from, communities of color in Wisconsin.
We’ve published our list highlighting the most influential Black leaders in Wisconsin — every year since our founding, and it’s become the most anticipated thing we do. Since 2015, we’ve also published five lists of Wisconsin’s most powerful Latino leaders, and just this year we’ve added lists of the state’s most influential and accomplished Indigenous and Asian American leaders.
And now, this year more than ever, it’s time to look beyond Wisconsin. To people on the coasts, and even in the mainstream media, even the word “Midwest” is often a substitute for “white.” But we know better, and so do you — from the Twin Cities to Cincinnati, from Michgan’s UP to central Iowa, people of color are thriving, leading and changing their communities.
We can’t pretend, of course, that this is just another year. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our communities — our health and our jobs and our financial wellbeing and our education system, and all of these effects are most pronounced in our Black communities. Add to that the brighter-than-ever spotlight on the injustice of systemic racism — it’s been a tough year for everybody, but even more so for our communities of color.
Many have responded to this extraordinary year by expressing an authentic desire to learn more about Black communities, celebrate Black excellence. This has also led to a reckoning with regard to other communities of color and a desire to learn more about and celebrate communities of color more broadly. That’s what this list is about. This list is not just a list. It is also an invitation — an invitation to engage, to create, to make your states and your communities, wherever you are across this region, a better place to attract and retain leaders of color.
We have never intended our lists to be exhaustive. It’s also not limited to people we agree with, politically or otherwise. This list will, however, introduce you to some people you’ve never heard of who are doing great things in other parts of the region or simply working behind the scenes, doing the work without the accolades.
Over the course of this week, I hope you learn something you didn’t know about some of the real leaders in communities throughout the Midwest, and that we might be able to make some connections and start conversations that really move communities forward.
Publisher and CEO, Madison365
This is the second of a five-part series.
José Almeida is chairman, president and chief executive officer of healthcare giant Baxter International Inc, based in Deerfield, Illinois. Every day, millions of patients and caregivers rely on Baxter’s broad portfolio of essential healthcare products, which can be found in dialysis centers, homes, clinics and innumerable hospitals worldwide. Almeida assumed his current responsibilities at Baxter in January 2016. Prior to joining Baxter, Almeida was chairman, president and CEO of Covidien plc from 2012 through 2015. He previously served as president of Covidien’s Medical Devices organization, and in several senior leadership roles at Covidien’s predecessor, Tyco Healthcare. He has also held leadership positions at Wilson Greatbatch Technologies, American Home Products’ Acufex Microsurgical division, and Johnson & Johnson’s Professional Products division. Almeida is a member of the board of directors of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. and Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, Inc., a Carlyle Group Company. He also serves on the board of trustees of Partners in Health. A native of Brazil, Almeida received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia.
Marlene Dotson is the president and CEO of the Indiana Latino Institute. As president of ILI, she engages with the Indiana Latino community and through the organization, creates opportunities for the community members. Dotson has served as president and CEO of the National Latino Tobacco Control Network and has worked as the Immigrant Affairs Liaison for Indiana’s Seventh Congressional District. Dotson has received numerous awards as well as nationwide recognition from organizations such as UNIVISION Television, the Mexican Consulate of Indiana, the NFL and more.
Nu Huynh is executive director of the Iowa Asian Alliance, where she was a board member beginning in 2012. Prior to her position as IAA’s Executive Director, Huynh spent over 15 years with The Principal Financial Group. Her extensive work experience includes talent acquisition, community relations, diversity recruiting, scholarship programs, event planning, college relations, program development and strategic leadership. In her previous role as Diversity & Inclusion Manager with The Principal, Huynh focused on the development and execution of diversity and inclusion strategies to maximize the attraction and retention of a strong diverse workforce. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations from Iowa State University and is a 2009 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute. Huynh currently sits on the Greater Des Moines Partnership Diversity Council and chairs the Employee Resource Group Forum. She also serves on the Iowa Insurance Education & Foundation Scholarship Committee.
Mary Sheffield serves as the Detroit City Councilperson for District 5. In 2013, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Detroit City Council at age 26. As a legislator, she has sponsored Inclusionary Housing, Notification/Right to First Refusal and Poverty Tax Exemption Ordinances, restored Police Commission powers after emergency management and successfully fought to save the Senior Home Repair Grant program.
Shannon Holsey is the current President of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohican Indians in Shawano, Wisconsin, after eight years as a member of the Tribal Council. Holsey also serves as the Tribal Advisor for the Blue Stone Strategy group and as the Vice President of the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council. Holsey has worked in the hospitality industry serving as the Director of hospitality at the North Star Mohican Casino; Executive Director of Red Lake Nation’s Boys and Girls Club; and Interim Director of Education, Employment and Training and Cultural Affairs for the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe. Holsey received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in strategic leadership and communication from Seton Hall University with distinction.
Mandela Barnes was elected Wisconsin’s 45th Lieutenant Governor on Nov. 8, 2018. Barnes is the first African-American to serve as a Lieutenant Governor in Wisconsin, and the second African-American ever to hold statewide office. Within his current role, Lt. Gov. Barnes uses a platform of sustainability and equity to fight for solutions that invest in opportunities and fairness for every child, person, and family in Wisconsin. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Lt. Gov. Barnes grew up attending Milwaukee Public Schools and graduated from John Marshall High School and Alabama A&M University In 2012, at the age of 25, Lt. Gov. Barnes was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, where he served two terms. His tenure in the State Assembly included serving as Chair of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus and becoming a recognized leader on progressive economic policies and gun violence prevention legislation.
Part 3 coming tomorrow!