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Announcing The 2022 Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Leaders of Color Fellows

By September 20, 20222 Comments
Close up of rocks in Niagara Falls

Photo by Daniel Lincoln

In 2019, the Oishei Foundation partnered with Rockwood Leadership Institute to launch the Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color. Since, our fellowship has quickly built a reputation of providing space to transform, support and attract the most inspired leaders of color in the Buffalo-Niagara Region. Curating our third cohort for this year was no easy feat.

As a Rockwood Program Manager, I searched through applications from leaders not searching out factors of supremacist ideologies (i.e. collegiate experience, social media influencer status), but instead, honing in on leaders representing non-profit organizations who provide wrap-around services, describe their work as collaborative, expressed a dedicated partnership with their communities, and who viewed themselves as a connecting resource for the region. With each candidate, it was a balance of what they do and the impact they hope to achieve.

The twenty-four leaders profiled in these pages, join their seventy-one counterparts from the past three years’ cohorts, and what we have – what I hope – is a complex balance of hierarchal positions, diversity in leadership experience, service type, and issue area.

More than this, we have the beginning of a powerful network of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders ready to make collective change in Western New York.

Please join us in a warm welcome and congratulations to our 2022 cohort of the Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color:

 

Alexis Webster  | Community Relations Coordinator, Gerard Place  

Born and raised in the Buffalo area, Alexis has earned her Bachelor of the Arts in Communications from the University at Buffalo and Master of Science in Public Relations Management from Buffalo State College. She currently resides in Cheektowaga, NY and loves her plants as she is a plant mom. Alexis is the Community Relations Coordinator at Gerard Place, responsible for building and maintaining positive relationships with other non-profits organizations and business in the community. She also implements community outreach programs and coordinate events. For fun she likes to travel and spend time with her family and friends creating memories from fun experiences. Alexis is very dedicated to her community as she sits on two boards and a number of committees, she strives to make a difference for the those around her.

 

Angelica Hernandez | Housing Counselor, Belmont Housing Resources for WNY     

Angelica is a recent graduate of SUNY Empire State College, class of 2022 graduated with a BA in Human Development. Angelica is the first in her family to graduate high school let alone obtain a college degree. She has worked in the direct support field for 7 years and she is passionate in being a resource to those who are less fortunate or those who do not have the proper knowledge of the different resources offered in WNY. Angelica strives to make a difference in people’s lives.

 

Bobby Anderson | Founder and President, F BITES             

After many years of a rewarding career in culinary, Chef Bobby realized he no longer wanted to make soufflés rise. He was now inspired to make souls rise. And with that, he founded the nonprofit organization, F BITES. F BITES has partnered and contracted with multiple schools and organizations bringing its unique curriculum where needed: Niagara Falls City School District, Buffalo Public School District, Niagara Charter School, Orleans/Niagara BOCES, Niagara County Jail, Niagara University, NCCC, Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Erie County Youth Detention Center, Say Yes Buffalo, Matt Urban, BestSelf, Buffalo Urban League. Chef Bobby has opened multiple eateries in Niagara Falls with 95% of the workforce coming directly from F BITES programs. Recipient of multiple awards & recognitions including the NU Saint Vincent de Paul Medal 2021, Buffalo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Community Impact Award 2021 and the Community Heroes Award 2022.

 

Bradford Watts | Associate Vice President Community Relations and DEI, People, Inc.           

Bradford has been at People Inc. for 19 years and loves his job as Associate Vice President for Community relations and DEI. Bradford is a community Chaplain and co-associate Pastor with his wife of the Dayspring Church of God of Prophecy in Buffalo. In addition, Bradford serves as Co-Chair of The Parent Network of WNY, Co-Chair of the National Federation of Just Communities of WNY(NFJC), former board member of the Buffalo Urban League, and representative of VOICE Buffalo for People Inc.  In his community he works with his block club Jes Breathe and committee member of Fillmore Forward for East side community and business development and stability initiatives.Bradford loves spending time and traveling with his wife, watching sports with his father and grandson, ice skating and cocoa with his granddaughter, hearing his daughter sing, seeing all his family and loving and laughing each day the good Lord grants him. It’s the journey and sometimes the sojourn, but definably “Where hello can take you and where our world opens up, hopefully it opens us up to LOVE!

 

Brittany Triggs | Senior Immigration Staff Attorney, ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project Inc.    

Brittany is a Senior Immigration Staff Attorney at the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. Her responsibilities include helping detained immigrants navigate the immigration system through universal representation and mentoring attorneys.  She has spent time living in many places around the country and world and found herself in Buffalo after law school graduation. Through ECBA VLP, she serves on the Immigrant ARC Steering Committee, an organization working to increase justice for immigrant New Yorkers across the state.  For the last 5 general elections, Brittany has worked the polls. In her spare time, Brittany enjoys exploring new places, listening to music, reading, finding a bargain, and spending time with her loved ones.

 

Dalia Caraballo Muller, PhD | Executive Director, The Impossible Project             

Dalia is a bilingual, multicultural, multi-racial researcher and educator. Her twin passions are the study of the African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the study of transformative learning models in education. The through line that connects her historical work and her work in education is the concept of “impossibility.” In the classroom, Dr. Caraballo Muller invites her students to stretch their minds and think at the limits of the possible in order to dream up new futures for our ailing world and planet. She is the founder and Executive Director of The Impossible Project, a new 501c3 that aims to create an international community of radical education praxis among university faculty, k-12 teachers and community educators.

 

Daphne Ross | Senior Director, Postsecondary Success and Communications, Say Yes Buffalo           

Daphne is the Senior Director of Postsecondary Success and Communications for Say Yes Buffalo.  In her role, Daphne catalyzes Say Yes’ efforts by expanding on what the organization knows has worked to remove barriers to student achievement in the K-12 space, and mirrors those supports on college campuses.  She is responsible for implementing the organization’s entry into youth apprenticeship, providing Buffalo students with a new path to postsecondary success.  Additionally, Daphne manages communications and marketing activities to promote the organization’s work with the goal of increasing awareness and understanding of the Say Yes Buffalo initiative’s, services and supports. Daphne is a lifelong Buffalo resident and was educated through the Buffalo Public School system. After high school, Daphne attended Canisius College earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications and St. Bonaventure University earning a masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications.  Daphne is actively involved in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Buffalo Alumnae Chapter and is a Board Trustee of Villa Maria College.

 

David Hall | Area Director, Boys and Girls Club 

David is an educator, entrepreneur, and activist. When he’s not in the classroom or on the field leading groups of people, he spends his free time gardening and watching documentaries. He has a bachelor’s and associates degree in sociology with a focus on Restorative Justice. And his mother is his Best Friend.

 

Daysi Ball | Director, BFNC Hope Center, Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Inc. 

Daysi is the Director of the BFNC Hope Center at Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, where she develops programs and support services for individuals and families focusing on economic advancement, empowerment, and financial education. Daysi also leads BFNC Senior Services at the newly developed Westminster Commons a senior community for aging in place in Buffalo, NY. Currently, Daysi is a board member of Legacy CDC Buffalo – where she serves as Vice Chair, Edison Community Church CDC of Buffalo and Rise CDC of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Her former community service and board affiliations include: The Journey Church – Groceries to Seniors Initiative, Buffalo City Mission, Grassroots Gardens, The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County CASH Coalition, Erie County Long Term Care Council; and Urban Christian Ministries.  Daysi is a graduate of Erie Community College – Business Administration Program, and of the University at Buffalo where she studied Communications and Higher Education Leadership & Policy. Daysi is a licensed Minister and member of Edison Community Church. She currently resides in Cheektowaga, NY.

 

Denise Walden-Glenn| Executive Servant Leader/Director, VOICE Buffalo

Reverend Denise is a woman of faith and the Director of VOICE Buffalo. She has been a proud member of the Buffalo community for over 10 years. It is where she has transitioned from concerned parent to community organizer to Executive Servant Leader. Reverend Denise is dedicated to empowering, educating, supporting, uplifting, and creating equity and racial justice in our community through restorative practices and organized, collective action.

 

Digna Saad | Executive Director, The Oneness Project    

Digna is a social scientist who brings the strong combination of operational acumen and learning/talent development expertise. She has held leadership positions in Fortune 100 companies, academia and several Non-profits. Digna is proud of being able to bridge the gap between ideas and results. She holds a doctorate and two master degrees; a Master in Business Administration from Boston University, a Master in Education and a Doctorate from The University of Pennsylvania. Digna is a polyglot, able to speak Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, English and basic Arabic. Her life mission is to help underserved populations breath better.

 

Dr. Kamalah Poles, EdD | Youth Director, Buffalo Center for Arts & Technology        

Kamalah designs programs that encourage youth to grow and improve their school retention through the arts. Her passion and purpose in life have been to help our community heal, strengthen, and grow. Kamalah has always followed her passion and, in the process, defined her purpose. She knows she is here to mentor and coach the children, youth, and young adults in this community. Kamalah does this wholeheartedly because she values them as individuals and recognizes the strength they possess even during their most difficult experiences. She demonstrates empathy, compassion and serves as a reminder that no matter the struggle, you are never alone. Her career path has been working with youth since age 14. She started at the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Center (BFNC) for five years serving children age 5-11; Child & Family Services as a Child Care Therapy Aide for nine years; William-Emslie YMCA for five years as the Program Director.

 

Dwight Lowe | Executive Director, Home Beneath Our Feet, Inc  

Dwight’s passion and devotion to his community prompted him to start the non-profit, Home Beneath Our Feet Inc. By partnering with other organizations and keeping youth development at the heart of his mission, Dwight has been able to seed the development of children, youth and adults to improve the quality of life in our community, while keeping crime prevention a key goal. When he is not working in the community, Dwight is advocating for individuals with disabilities and on the DEI board for People Inc.

 

Jasmine Fluker | Executive Director, Teach for America Buffalo    

Jasmine is the Executive Director for Teach For America Buffalo she leads with servant leadership and equity at the forefront of her work. She has established herself as a visionary leader over the past 10 years, with empathetic leadership, and a community proximate approach. From the classroom to leading a nonprofit she has utilized storytelling, bridge-building, individual & collective healing, & collective liberation as her source. It has grounded her as a professional and propelled her to executive leadership, regional programmatic leadership, fund development, and board governance for a region that reaches 2500+ students in the Buffalo Metro area daily.

 

Jerrell Mason | Director of Community Engagement, BestSelf Behavioral Health        

Jerrell is BestSelf’s first Director of Community Engagement. Jerrell earned his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Hilbert College and his Master in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. Jerrell’s 10 years of experience includes a skill set of grant writing, fundraising, and wrap around services, program development, and student development in the field of Higher education.  It is Jerrell’s mission to use his lived and professional experience to connect leaders within BIPOC Community in an intentional way. He is a father to his 3 year old son, Liam.

 

Kaamalal Robinson | Refugee Services Manager, Jewish Family Services of Western NY.

Kaamalal is a native of Buffalo, NY and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Mental Health Counseling, both from Medaille College in Buffalo, NY.  Ms. Robinson has over fifteen years’ experience working in the nonprofit sector.  Currently, Ms. Robinson serves as the Manager of Refugee Services for Jewish Family Services of Western New York.  As a Refugee Services Manager, Ms. Robinson is motivated to help newly arrived refugees make their new home in the area. Ms. Robinson’s career is characterized by helping people of all ages to improve their quality of life physically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

 

Loc Tran | Community Garden Coordinator, Grassroots Gardens of Western New York

Loc is the Community Garden Coordinator at Grassroots Gardens of Western New York. He has a background in botany and working in food security. Loc has a passion for gardening and using gardening as a way to address issues of food access and food insecurity. He has served as a food security volunteer for Peace Corps Nepal and then worked as a garden coordinator and food security coordinator before moving to Buffalo in 2021 to start his current position at Grassroots Gardens.

 

Marthe Limage | Homeless Outreach Case Manager, Heart, Love & Soul

Marthe is 26 years old, born in Brooklyn, raised in Buffalo, and now lives in Niagara Falls with her 5 year old son Christian. She is the Homeless Outreach Case Manager at Heart, Love, and Soul, volunteer and Secretary of Niagara Falls Peacemakers. She is currently in school to get a Business Degree and is a Veteran of the Air Force. Organization, communication, and empathy are a few of Marthe’s skills. Connecting and empowering others is one of her passions. It is her goal one day to become a motivational speaker/life coach who will help people achieve their goals and live life to its fullest. Marthe believes that being emotionally and mentally healthy is the first step toward being successful in life. As she works towards that, she serve her community and fights for justice and equality. Marthe’s favorite quotes states “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” ― Barack Obama.

 

Maxwell Anderson | Deputy Director, Open Buffalo

Maxwell is a first-generation American and lifelong New Yorker. Growing up at an intersection of ethnic identities and social systems, Anderson developed a passion for personal growth through linguistics, communication, and cultural mash-ups. As Deputy Director of Open Buffalo Inc., Anderson focuses on strategic planning, building community partnerships, training up-and-coming community leaders, and oversight of administrative and financial matters.

 

Nancy Abdelhaq | Executive Director, RAHAMA

Nancy is the Executive Director of RAHAMA: Resources And Help Against Marital Abuse, a not-for-profit organization that provides culturally appropriate emotional, spiritual, material, and advocacy support to survivors of domestic violence in Buffalo and Western New York. Nancy has worked with RAHAMA since 2017 in varied roles including as an advocate, a case manager, and an interpreter – roles which have shaped her grounded approach to leadership. A specialist in special education, Nancy brings significant expertise in social work, multilingual skills (in Arabic), and deep knowledge of WNY faith and immigrant communities to her work at RAHAMA. Her commitment, passion, and outreach have helped expand the visibility and reach of RAHAMA in the last 5 years.

 

Purnima Mohan | Food as Medicine Program Coordinator, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

Purnima works at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) as Food as Medicine Program Coordinator to coordinate the grant-funded Food as Medicine Research Study, by working with BNMC’s member institutions and community partners. She also works at WEDI as Economic Development coordinator & Team Leader where she works with business owners with diverse backgrounds at the West Side Bazaar by guiding them through the incubation process. She is also a facilitator at EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) and facilitates parenting workshops. In the past she has worked at Rich Products Corporation and Coca Cola India. She volunteers with numerous non-profits – Friends of the Night People, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to name a few and is involved with the PTSA at the School and Western Region. She is the VP of Membership for Downtown Toastmasters and is on the Erie County Arts and Cultural Advisory Board. The Best Advice She Ever Received is “When the going gets tough the tough get going”.

 

Stephanie Rivera | Director of Student Success Program, Buffalo Prep

Stephanie currently serves as the Director of Scholar Success Programming at Buffalo Prep, where she assists 9th-12th grade scholars thrive as they navigate high school and prepare for their post-secondary journey. Ms. Rivera is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo State College where she majored in Elementary Education and Social Work and graduated with honors. She spends much of her free time engaged in the community through her volunteerism. When she’s not working and giving back to her community, she enjoys spending time with her family- traveling, being active, and embracing the small things in life.

 

Tiffany Lewis | Founder & CEO, Confident Girl Mentoring Program

Tiffany is the owner of Image Ignite 360 and President & CEO of Confident Girl Mentoring Program, a non-profit organization that utilizes evidence-based practices to raise awareness about the effects of trauma on mental health and yield youth confidence and self-esteem to cultivate a healthier society for over 2,500 girls ages 7-19 throughout WNY. She received numerous honorary awards and a Congressional Record for her contributions to youth advocacy. She is certified in ACES and SEL and is currently Chairwoman of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, committed to gender equality for women and girls.

 

Tiffany Valentin | Diversity and Inclusion Project Manager, Evergreen Health

In her role, Tiffany is responsible for managing, supporting and implementing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and initiatives. She partners with employee resources groups to assist in their development and ensure they run effectively. She has been an instrumental part of event and program planning while working to increase the engagement and visibility of the groups. Her goal is to create brave spaces for employees to learn and dialogue about issues in the workplace, provide opportunities for networking, professional development and community engagement, especially in diverse, marginalized and underserved populations. She is co-chair of the Communities of Color ERG, member of each active ERG, and member of the Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council. As way to give back to the community, Tiffany serves as Vice Chair of the Hispanic Women’s League of WNY, Mentor/Advisory board of KLGPhi Youth Organization, Mentor for the NYS Latina Mentorship Initiative, and serves on the Secretary/Merchandise/Worship teams for Thy Kingdom Era Collective.

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