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Press Release Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito Celebrate Black History Month with Launch of Black Advisory Commission

For immediate release:
  • Governor Charlie Baker | Lt. Governor Karyn Polito

Media Contact for Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito Celebrate Black History Month with Launch of Black Advisory Commission

William Pitman

Deborah Enos address the Black Advisory Commission event.

Boston — Today during Black History Month, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito celebrated the launch of the Black Advisory Commission, signing an executive order and swearing-in several members of the commission who will advise on issues relating to the economic prosperity and well-being of the black community living in Massachusetts. Deborah Enos, Executive Consultant and former CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan, will serve as Chair.

“Our priority will continue to be the fostering of economic inclusion and equality for all citizens of the Commonwealth, and we recognize the challenges to advancement many in Massachusetts’ black community still face,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Commonwealth continues to be a diverse and global community, and through this Commission, we look forward to the opportunity for additional engagement and dialogue with leaders and experts in the black community and re-affirm our commitment to addressing their concerns and ensuring we promote their strength statewide.”

Members of the Commission include gubernatorial appointees with varying roles in many community, professional and non-profit organizations and represent a group diverse in gender, race, industry, region, age and education. The Commission will also include the involvement of the secretariats for Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Economic Development, Public Safety and Security and Labor and Workforce Development. Appointees serve for a term of four years.

“Massachusetts’ black community has contributed greatly to advancing progress in the Commonwealth’s economic, education, social, cultural and technological fields, and we remain dedicated to supporting and enhancing opportunities for it to continue doing so,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “I am confident the members of this Commission will significantly aide in identifying more ways to create economic prosperity drivers and opportunities for every Massachusetts resident across the state and I look forward to their recommendations.”

The Commission will review and assess the priorities of the black community on a statewide basis and make recommendations to the Governor and Lt. Governor by identifying up to three priority areas to be addressed by the Commission over the course of the next two years. It will meet at least quarterly and will submit a formal written report on its work, findings, methodology and recommendations to the Governor and Lt. Governor every two years.

“Massachusetts’s strength comes from its diversity. Reestablishing the Governor’s Black Advisory Commission acknowledges the importance of having the black community’s voice and issues at the table,” said Senator Linda Dorcena Forry (D – Dorchester).“There are many areas this Commission will be helpful like working with the Office of Access and Opportunity in making sure the state increases procurement dollars for black owned businesses. Also, one of the priorities we want to tackle this legislative cycle is real criminal justice reform.  I look forward to continue working with the Baker Administration and my colleagues in the legislature in breaking down barriers and creating a level playing field for all of our residents,” concluded Senator Forry.

“Massachusetts has a vibrant and diverse community and I am focused on making sure that all are able to share in that prosperity,” said Representative Russell E. Holmes (D - Mattapan). “I’m proud to be involved in the reestablishment of the Black Advisory Commission and to further our progress in the areas of economic, educational and social justice here in the Commonwealth.”

The Black Advisory Commission expands the mission and scope of the African-American Commission, recognizing the black community’s inclusion of those identifying with many national origins and ethnicities, not limited to African-American, Cape Verdean, Haitian, Jamaican, Somali, or Ethiopian.


Deborah Enos
Executive Consultant 

Robert Lewis, Jr.
Vice Chair
President and Founder, THE BASE

Bithia Carter
President, New England Blacks in Philanthropy

Damon Cox
Assistant Secretary of Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Massachusetts Executive office of Housing & Economic Development

Darla DeGrace
Diversity Consultant, DeGrace Group Consulting

Licy Do Canto
Founder and President, the Do Canto Group 

Paul Francisco
Chief Diversity Officer & Head of Workforce Development Programs, State Street Corporation

Angela Gomes
Counsel at Skaddem, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Keith Greenaway, Esq.
Managing Director, Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council

Conley Hughes, Jr.
Senior Pastor, Concord Baptist Church of Boston

Elisabeth Jackson
Executive Director, Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Imari Paris Jefferies
Managing Partner, Parenting Journey

Robert Johnson, Ph.D
Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Rachel Kemp
Registered Representative, Pickwick Capital Partners 

Myechia Minter-Jordan
President and CEO, The Dimock Center

Chiderah Okoye
Industrial Sales Manager, Northeast Electrical Distributors

Jacques Parent
Deputy Director of Military Family Programs, Army National Guard

Anthony Samuels
President, Done-Right Building Services Inc.

Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq.
Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD, Inc.) 

Azanda Seymour
Director of the Urban Education Program, Westfield State University 

Cheryl Stanley
Dean of Education, Westfield State University 

Ronia Stewart
President & CEO, Garden of Eden & Associates, Inc.

Henry Thomas
President and CEO, The Urban League Springfield

Tanisha Sullivan, Esq.
Senior Corporate Counsel, Sanofi

Kirk Sykes
Senior Vice President, New Boston Real Estate Investment Funds

Macken Toussaint
Associate, Riemer & Braunstein Law

Victor Woolridge
Managing Director, Real Estate Debt Capital Markets Barings Real Estate

Abdi Yusuf
Executive Director, Somali Development Center


Black Advisory Commission Biographies


Bithiah Carter

Bithiah Carter assists philanthropists and philanthropic entities that support and invest responsively in communities of color. As president of New England Blacks in Philanthropy, a membership driven organization, Ms. Carter focuses on informing, reforming and transforming the practice of philanthropic giving. Prior to her current employment, Ms. Carter was the Executive Director for the Grand Circle Foundation from 2011 to 2012. She also served as a consultant in the philanthropic sector at Carter & Associates from 2010 to 2011, focusing on the needs of children and families in the Greater Boston and surrounding areas. Ms. Carter also spent 6 years as Senior Director, Community Impact Division, of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and was a Program Director for the Girl’s Coalition of Greater Boston. Before entering the non-profit sector, Carter worked for nearly ten years in the financial services industry in New York, NY and Boston, MA. Ms. Carter is a graduate of Harvard University and serves on the boards of several local and national non-profit organizations.


Darla P. DeGrace

Darla DeGrace is a Diversity Recruitment Consultant, Higher Education Recruitment Professional, and Recruitment Manager/Talent Acquisition Specialist with over 15 years of experience directing the development and implementation of human capital solutions. Ms. DeGrace currently serves as the Director of National Diversity Recruitment and Strategic Partnerships for Boston’s City Year. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Emmanuel College and a Master’s of Science degree in Communications Management at Simmons College. Currently, she sits as the President and CEO of the National Black MBA Association – Boston Chapter.


Licy Do Canto

Mr. Do Canto is the founder and president of the Do Canto Group, a bipartisan government relations firm specializing in public health and health care legislative and regulatory policy, with a particular focus on underserved communities. Mr. Do Canto has over twenty years of successful government relations experience with organizations such as The Raben Group, AIDS Alliance for Children Youth and Families, the National Association of Community Health Centers, and the American Cancer Society. Mr. Do Canto obtained his Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Spanish Studies from Duke University in 1995, and went on to earn his Certificate in Public Health Leadership from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in 2004.


Deborah C. Enos

Ms. Deborah C. Enos is currently a Director at Partnership for Healthcare Excellence, Inc. She served as the President and Chief Executive Officer at Neighborhood Health Plan, Inc. from 2005 to 2015, where she was responsible for providing strategic leadership by working with the Board of Directors and the Senior Leadership Team to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans and policies. Prior to her time as Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Enos served Neighborhood Health Plan as Vice President of Business Development from 1997 to 2004. In addition, Ms. Enos builds and maintains working relationships with key external industry organizations both locally and nationally, including the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, and the Association of Community Health Plans, as well as advocacy groups, state regulatory agencies, and others. Ms. Enos obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Dartmouth College and went on to earn her Master of Science in Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Paul Francisco

Paul Francisco is currently a Managing Director and Head of the Diversity Consulting and Sourcing Office, as well as the Head of Workforce Development programs, at State Street Corporation. In these roles, Mr. Francisco is responsible for overseeing State Street’s diversity recruitment strategies and community recruitment programs, as well as other Workforce Development initiatives. Prior to these involvements, Mr. Francisco served as State Street’s Vice President of Global Inclusion from 2011 to 2015. Before joining State Street, Mr. Francisco was a Managing Director and Co-founder of Foster & Francisco LLC, an executive search and diversity-consulting firm based in Boston. Mr. Francisco has also led recruitment and Relationship Management functions at Bank of America and Fidelity Investments, and began his career at Gillette as a Recruiting Specialist from 2000-2002. Before his corporate career, Paul was a standout Tight End and co-captain for Boston University’s football program. He then had the opportunity to play in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and the New England Patriots. Paul remains active with the Patriots organization as a member of NEPAC, the New England Patriots Alumni Club as well as the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. Mr. Francisco graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He is also a graduate of the UMASS-Boston Emerging Leaders Program for the Center for Collaborative Leadership and The Partnership Inc., Next Generation Executive program.


Angela Gomes

Attorney Angela Gomes currently serves as Legal Counsel of Corporation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, & Flom LLP in Boston, MA, where she represents both public and private companies. Prior to her current position, Attorney Gomes worked as a Referral Paralegal at Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association from 2001 to 2004 and also interned as a Paralegal in the Property Department of Beachcroft Wansbroughs Solicitors in London, UK. Attorney Gomes obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University in 2001, and earned her Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law in 2005. Attorney Angela Gomes speaks several languages, including Cape Verdean Criolo.


Keith A. Greenaway, Esq.

Keith Greenaway is a Mergers and Acquisitions specialist and entrepreneur who has leveraged hard-earned legal expertise in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions to cultivate competencies that today are essential in advising SMEs in growth strategies. Over the course of his twenty-year legal and business career, Keith has been exposed to a broad range of sectors and has served at the fulcrum of the conclusion of several domestic and cross-border transactions. Over the arc of his career starting with his formative days as a broker-assistant at Lehman Brothers, Keith has accumulated an experiential knowledge base of timeless principles, methods, and tactics that have facilitated exponential corporate growth historically and continues to serve as the bedrock for unleashing full business and human potential. He is a true disciple of the philosophy of essential quality of strategic plans, strategic partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions as indispensable components to meaningful SME growth. Keith is an alumnus of Georgetown University Law Center and Boston College where he studied Political Science and Philosophy. 


Elisabeth Jackson

Elisabeth Jackson has more than 22 years of professional experience within organizations whose mission is to provide transformational services to at-risk youth. Ms. Jackson is currently the Executive Director of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. In this role, Ms. Jackson addresses the needs of Boston’s runaway, homeless, and at-risk young people with the hope of creating new opportunities for them. Ms. Jackson worked as a Counselor and Medical Coordinator at Bridge and has served on the Bridge Board of Directors since 2008. She previously worked as Director of Finance at Summer Advantage USA and as an Accounting and Purchasing Director at Building Educated Leaders for Life. Ms. Jackson is a licensed social worker certified as a substance abuse counselor and an HIV/AID counselor. Ms. Jackson has a degree in Human Service Management from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Ms. Jackson is also involved in many other community organizations such as the City of Boston Continuum of Care Leadership Council, the Midtown Park Plaza Neighborhood Association, the National Network for Youth, MANY, Opportunity Youth Collaborative, the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, and she is on the Board of Save the Harbor/Save the Bay.


Imari Paris Jeffries

Imari Paris Jeffries has over twenty years of experience serving the community of Boston. Mr. Jeffries is currently a Managing Partner at Parenting Journey. Prior to this role, he was Chief Executive Officer of the Italian Home for Children, and former Director-Cofounder for the Community Fellows Program at Boston University. Mr. Jeffries served in the Jumpstart organization, beginning as a Team Leader from 1996 to 1998, then in 2013 as Senior Vice President of Field Management and Policy before being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2014. Mr. Jeffries also served as interim CEO/Partner at Boston Rising in 2013. He attended the University of Massachusetts where he received his Master’s degree in Education, a Master’s degree in American studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Africana Studies.


Robert E. Johnson

Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., took office as the 10th president of Becker College in 2010 and has evolved Becker into an adaptive, nimble, and entrepreneurial institution that is a model for small private colleges in the United States. He believes higher education is a public good, and has dedicated his more-than-25-year career to transforming the lives of young people. Dr. Johnson has also served as Board Chair for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and a Board Member for the Higher Education Consortium of Central Massachusetts. Dr. Johnson obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Morehouse College, went on to earn his Masters of Education degree from the University of Cincinnati, and graduated with his Doctorate of Education from Touro University.


Rachel Kemp

Rachel Kemp serves as a Registered Representative with Pickwick Capital Partners assisting middle-market companies to achieve their strategic, financing and M&A objectives. She started her career in economic development while participating in the recovery of the Massachusetts economy as Assistant Secretary of Economic Affairs to Massachusetts Governor William Weld from 1991 to 1998. In 2000, Ms. Kemp completed her MPA in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She has participated in the identification/quantification of enterprise growth opportunities for Booz, Allen and Hamilton International clients.


Robert Lewis Jr.

Robert Lewis Jr. has over 20+ years of experience with community-based organizations as well as youth development and violence prevention throughout Greater Boston. He is the President and Founder of The BASE urban youth program, an organization that provides student athletes with year-round, superior baseball and academic training, access to college fairs and showcases, professional visits and academic scholarships available through partnerships with several colleges and universities throughout the country. Prior to this role, Robert has held important leadership positions at The Boston Foundation, The Boston Centers for Youth and Families, The National Conference for Community & Justice (NCCJ), City Year, The Boston Housing Authority and The Boston Community Centers.


Myechia Minter-Jordan

Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan has served as President and CEO of The Dimock Center, the second largest community health center in Boston, since 2013. She is a graduate of Brown University, where she received both her AB in Health and Society and her medical degree. In 2007, she graduated from Johns Hopkins University Carey School of Business, with an MBA in Health Services. After graduating, she joined Johns Hopkins Medical Center as an Attending Physician and Instructor of Medicine and Director of Medical Consultation Services at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. In 2015, Dr. Minter-Jordan was appointed to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Health Planning Council Advisory Committee and the Boston Public Health Commission. She has served as one of seven Governor-appointed physician members of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Registration and on the Boards of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and The Boston Foundation, the Advisory Boards of the Kraft Center for Community Health at Partners HealthCare and the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Steering Committee for the Center for Primary Care.


Chiderah Okoye

Chiderah Okoye is an Industrial Inside Sales Manager at Northeast Electrical Distributors. She earned her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University, and then transitioned from research to industry by assuming a channel management role for Rockwell Automation’s northern New England territory. Her interests in education and community development led her to a leadership role with Venly, a Cambridge-based initiative to help local businesses grow through online marketing training as delivered through recent graduates and returning veterans, where she directed Venly’s Fellowship program and community partnerships. Since shifting into an advisory role for that initiative, she currently manages the industrial inside sales team for Sonepar’s New England operating company, Northeast Electrical Distributors. She leads a team of specialists in developing automation solutions for manufacturing companies, systems integrators, and engineering procurement companies.

Chiderah currently serves as the President for the Boston Professional chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers in addition to serving as Chair for Boston’s Affinity Leadership Consortium – a forum of Greater Boston affinity leaders collaborating on diverse programming initiatives.


Jacques Parent

Mr. Jacques Parent is currently serving as Deputy Director of Military Family Programs for the Army National Guard. Prior to his current position, Mr. Parent was an ROTC Military Instructor and Recruiter for the Army National Guard. He attended the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree Criminal Justice in 2009.


Sharon Scott-Chandler, Esq.

Sharon Scott-Chandler currently serves as Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President for Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). In this role, Attorney Scott-Chandler oversees a wide array of human services programs for the 100,000 low-income families that are served. Prior to joining ABCD, Attorney Scott-Chandler served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and before that, she was an associate at Morrison, Mahoney & Miller Law firm in Boston. Sharon received her Juris Doctor from Northeastern University Law School and her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tufts University.


Azanda Seymour

Azanda Seymour has been serving as Director of the Urban Education Program at Westfield State University since July 2016, after finishing her work as the Executive Assistant to the President of the university. Prior to that, she was Staff Associate in the Academic Advising Center and the Assistant Director of the Urban Education Program, respectively. Azanda has also held positions at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Mount Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and INROADS. An alumna of Westfield State College and the Urban Education Program (’92), Azanda holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, a Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is completing her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Hartford. 


Cheryl Stanley

Cheryl Stanley is the current Dean of Education at Westfield State University, a role she has served in since 2010. Prior to this, Cheryl served as the chairperson for Westfield State University. Cheryl received her Doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Ronia Stewart

Ronia Stewart, a professional leader with over twenty years of corporate experience in the financial services and legal arena, has served as the President and CEO of Garden of Eden & Associates, Inc. since 2014. The organization is a privately funded non‑profit that conducts seminars and workshops that provide practical life building and leadership development skills to individuals and organizations. Previously, Ms. Stewart was a Director of Development at the Boston Higher Education Resource Center (HERC), a Latino first generation-to-college readiness program. During her tenure, she led a team in meeting the organizational development, public relations, marketing and branding needs. Ms. Stewart earned a Paralegal Certificate from Northeastern University. She currently serves on the board of Yawkey Boys & Girls Club of Roxbury and the West Roxbury YMCA. In addition, she is Board member of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Board President of Nubian United Benevolent International Association (NUBIA), and the Treasurer of the board for Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.


Tanisha Sullivan, Esq

Tanisha Sullivan, currently Senior Corporate Counsel at Sanofi, serves as the newest President of the NAACP’s Boston Branch. Attorney Sullivan served as Chief Equity Officer for Boston Public Schools, where she was responsible for matters related to employment and educational equity. Prior to joining Boston Public Schools, Tanisha was an attorney at Axiom Global, working with biotech and pharmaceutical companies to negotiate complex commercial contracts. She graduated with a J.D. from Boston College Law School and Master’s in Business Administration from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Attorney Sullivan serves as co-chair of the GSEM Scholarship Committee. She’s also a regional leader for the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.


Kirk Sykes

Kirk Sykes currently serves as Senior Vice President, New Boston Real Estate Investment Funds and President of Urban Strategy America Fund, L.P., where he oversees investments in urban communities. A licensed architect, developer, and fund manager, Mr. Sykes has many years of experience in real estate and development and has worked on a number of important development projects aimed at improving urban communities. In 1980, Kirk graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Architecture and from 1997-1999, he attended the Owner/President Management Executive Program at Harvard University Business School.


Macken Toussaint

Attorney Macken Toussaint is currently an Associate at Riemer & Braunstein Law where she concentrates her practice on corporate restructuring and insolvency matters, corporate finance transactions, and commercial law. Prior to joining Riemer & Braunstein, Attorney Toussaint served as a law clerk to the Honorable Henry J. Boroff of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts from 1999 to 2001. Attorney Toussaint obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern University in 1996, then went on to earn her Juris Doctor from Northeastern University School of Law in 1999, and graduated with a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Suffolk University Sawyer Business School in 2011. Attorney Toussaint is currently President of Boston Women in Finance and served as Co-Chair of the Membership Committee, Bankruptcy Law Section, of the Boston Bar Association from 2013 to 2015.


Victor Woolridge

Mr. Woolridge is responsible for coordinating the financing of assets and portfolios in Barings Real Estate Advisers broader equity real estate portfolio, including execution of derivatives to manage interest rate risk. Mr. Woolridge was previously a Managing Director for Babson Capital Management responsible for the origination, structuring and distribution of commercial mortgage investments for external clients. Third-party client activities included providing pricing and structuring advice on whole loan transactions, loan participations, mezzanine and other subordinate debt structures, Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities (CMBS) and the creation of commercial mortgage investment funds. Mr. Woolridge joined Cornerstone, which was consolidated into Barings in 2016, in 2010, its affiliate Babson Capital Management, in 2000 and MassMutual in 1980.  Victor is a designated Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association and served on the Bankruptcy Working Group established by the MBA to formulate and implement the industry’s bankruptcy relief policy during the late 80’s and early 1990’s.  Mr. Woolridge has been a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) and is a current investment committee member of the Springfield Venture Fund and Life Initiative investment committee which finances community based non-profit entities across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Woolridge is currently Chair of the UMass Building Authority as appointed by Governor Baker in January 2017 and served as Chair of the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2016. Mr. Wooldridge is also former Chair of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, the Behavioral Health Network, and the Dunbar Community Center.


Abdi Yusuf

Abdirahman A. Yusuf is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Somali Development Center. Prior to joining the Somali Development Center, Abdi was a senior public health program manager at the Boston Public Health Commission where he was responsible for programs providing prevention and educational activities for under-served families. Abdi obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of South Dakota and his Master in Public Administration from Suffolk University. Yusuf has served as a Chair for the Community Partnership Opening Doors Project for Youth with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs Project, Massachusetts Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition, and the Refugee Health Advisory Committee. He is a recipient of the Massachusetts Mental Health/Refugee Committee Award for Outstanding Community Service.


Media Contact for Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito Celebrate Black History Month with Launch of Black Advisory Commission

Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito 

Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and members of their administration are committed to making Massachusetts the best place to live, work, and raise a family.