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Announcing The 2023 Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Leaders of Color Fellows

By September 13, 2023No Comments
Close up of rocks in Niagara Falls

Photo by Daniel Lincoln

Started in 2019, The John R. Oishei Foundation’s Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color has built a reputation of providing space to transform, support, and attract the most inspired leaders of color in the Buffalo-Niagara region. This year’s cohort is no different. 

Looking at this year’s applications, past years’ themes of collaboration, community partnership, and commitment to the Buffalo-Niagara region continued to shine through. When curating our 5th cohort, I focused on applicants that were committed to a rigorous learning experience to explore personal vision, increase sustainability, and build relationships with other leaders of color in the Buffalo-Niagara region while balancing diversity of gender, age, types of organization, and professional experience. 

The leaders profiled on these pages join more than 90 alumni in Western New York contributing to what is already a powerful network of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders ready to make collective change in their community.

Please join me in a warm welcome and congratulations to the newest participants in the 2023 Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color.

The 2023 Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Leaders of Color fellows are…

Maria Cruz | President, Liga de Mujeres Hispanas

Maria is currently the Director of Treatment and Prevention Adherence at Evergreen Health and the current President of the Hispanic Women’s League. Maria is a strong advocate for health equity for our community of color and spends endless energy to make sure that there is a seat at the table to tell our own stories. Most recently appointed to be an advisory board member for the Office of Health Equity. She is extremely confident in coaching, developing others, building teams and using talent while creating a positive culture. Her passion for diversity, desire to seek out and enact positive change in the lives of people, and her exemplary commitment to the WNY community through her work at Evergreen Health, the Hispanic Women’s League and beyond has allowed her to receive various leadership awards by the City Mayor Byron Brown and other organizations.

Kenyana David | President, National Black MBA Association, WNY Chapter

Kenyana is the president of the Western New York Chapter of the National Black MBA Association, established in 1984, has 150+ members in 17+ counties and provides educational, wealth-building, and growth opportunities for Black professionals in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Rochester, Corning, and Syracuse. Kenyana is also the founder of 81Eighteen, LLC, a boutique marketing firm specializing in email marketing. She is the creator of the Fe-Mail Marketing for Entrepreneurs (FEMME) Academy, an international e-school teaching entrepreneurs and small business owners email marketing. She is a Harvard Business Publishing educator, an affiliate of the Harvard Business School at Harvard University and a doctoral candidate at National University, earning a Doctor of Business Administration in Strategic Marketing degree.

Rahsaan DeLain | Project Coordinator of Health Equity, Community Health Center of Buffalo, Executive Director, COPE WNY

Rahsaan has worked in community-based agencies, the mental health and substance abuse systems, opportunity youth and young adults, jails and prisons, higher education, DEI in healthcare, and the non-profit sector. Rahsaan currently works for the Community Health Center of Buffalo, a Federally Qualified Health Center in a dual capacity focused on Health Equity, and as the Executive Director of Collaborating on Poverty Elimination WNY Inc., which is a non-profit combining the Community Health Center of Buffalo, Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, and Community Action Organization. His most proud accomplishments include being a husband and a father of four adoptive children, taking risks in his career to diversify his experience, uplifting black boys and men, working in spaces with some of the most stigmatized populations, and furthering his education by pursuing a Ph.D.

LeAnthony Freeman | Executive Director, Y.A.L.E. Academy

LeAnthony is a visionary leader, mentor, and a man seeking to enact change in the world. In 2016, LeAnthony graduated from Erie Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in Mass Media and Communications. Following graduation from Erie Community College, LeAnthony found that he was not yet educationally fulfilled, leading to the pursual of a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science at the prestigious Morehouse College, which he completed in 2022. LeAnthony later accomplished a lifelong dream and established his own organization in 2017. Y.A.L.E. (Youth Acquiring Leadership & Excellence), which was a youth development program inspired by his vision of uplifting communities and providing services to urban youth. In 2018, Y.A.L.E., L.L.C. expanded its services to urban families, institutions, and communities and thus evolved into Y.A.L.E. Academy, Inc., which provides services and leadership at both global and national levels. While LeAnthony has accomplished many of his life goals, he notes that Y.A.L.E. Academy is only the beginning and looks forward to making a lasting impact on the world through his contributions and legacy.

Daniella Gallego | Community Engagement Coordinator, Homeless Alliance of WNY

Daniella is the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Homeless Alliance of Western New York. Her role is to engage with persons currently homeless or with lived experience of homelessness and co-facilitate the Youth Action Board (YAB) and the Lived Experience Advisory Council (LEAC). Before Daniella joined the Homeless Alliance of WNY, she received her bachelors in Criminal Justice from SUNY Oswego and pursued a career in Human Services. As a first generation Colombian-American woman, Daniella’s heritage and passion to help the community has shaped her career. During the COVID 19 pandemic, she was furloughed from her position as a Criminal Justice Specialist at ESJS and decided to use the time as an opportunity to help the community. Daniella’s desire to help the homeless community resulted in becoming the Associate Director of a non-profit organization at the age of twenty-two.

Adamaah Grayse | Food Justice Organizer, Grassroots Gardens of WNY

Adamaah grew up on the Eastside of Buffalo, NY and attended Buffalo Academy of Visual & Performing Arts high school majoring in Fine Arts. She earned a B.S. in Business Studies and a M.S. in Student Personnel Administration from Buffalo State College. After working in higher education and the corporate world for some time in the greater Washington DC area, she decided to pivot and trained as an organic farmer. Adamaah ran farmer’s markets, served in a Black farmer’s cooperative, and co-lead the Baltimore City Residence Food Advisory Committee. Adamaah returned to the nonprofit world at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Farmer to Farmer program where she served as an international guest instructor, built a digital agricultural library, and recruited other African American agriculturalists to become international volunteers for the program. Adamaah returned home to Buffalo and is a NYS Graduate Public Health Fellow doing Food Justice Organizing with Grassroots Gardens of WNY.

Keesha Habeeb | HUD Certified Housing Counselor, Belmont Housing

Keesha is currently a HUD Certified Housing Counselor and Financial Coach at Belmont Housing of WNY. Although new to Belmont Housing, Keesha has worked in the direct service support field for more than 10 years. One of Keesha’s favorite passions is working with those who are less fortunate. She loves connecting clients to resources they did not know existed and being that listening ear for clients who may need just a little extra time. When off from serving folks in the community, Keesha spends time traveling with her husband and visiting family. Her favorite place to visit is Jamaica.

Hagar Hafez | Manager of Organizing and Strategy WNY Region, New York Immigration Coalition

Hagar is currently the Manager of Organizing and Strategy WNY at the New York Immigration Coalition. Hagar’s current role involves taking the lead in effective advocacy and organizing around campaigns about issues facing immigrant communities and plan strategies for collective action in the region and the State. She moved here with her family from Egypt in 2015 and graduated University at Buffalo with an Economics and Political Science BA. Prior to her work with the NYIC, Hagar worked at the United way of Buffalo and Erie county establishing networks with organizations and employers to facilitate employee access to community resources, and provide employers with data driven insight on their needs. Additionally she worked with the refugee community at Journey’s End Refugee Services on multiple capacities on advocacy for refugee language and health care access, education, intensive case management and socioeconomic well-being. Hagar also worked with other organizations like the Borgen project doing advocacy and mobilization work to downsize global poverty, as well as other buffalo based organizations that provide services for immigrants in the WNY area.

Tala Harden | Digital Media Specialist, The Buffalo History Museum

Tala wears many hats. Tala works as the Community Manager for LOC Step, an online platform for Leaders of Color in the nonprofit sector. She also works for The Buffalo History Museum as their Digital Media Specialist. Tala has a background in Filmmaking and Video Production, including owning a Photography and Videography business, Talagraphy. Through her work, she hopes to continue to help build up the Buffalo community through her talents and passions. 

Sam Hill | Chief of Mission Advancement, Heritage Ministries

Sam, BS, MBA, is a thoughtful, enterprising, and motivating leader who lives his commitment to being a change agent for his colleagues and community. Growing up in a nontraditional household in the inner city of Buffalo, NY, he proudly tells his story of starting his career as a part-time housekeeper at Sister’s Hospital and steadily becoming a trusted operations leader at Sodexo and now an executive at Heritage Ministries. He thrives in large organizations with diverse experience, fact-based decision-making, and high emotional intelligence. Today, Sam is the Chief of Mission Advancement at Heritage Ministries, which operates in the four states. He leads the support service departments while promoting and protecting the brand through advocacy, philanthropy, and marketing. In addition, he supports the organization through strategic planning and change management. As a passion project, he has started Success + Me, a boutique consultancy group focusing on teaching and bringing awareness to success principles and skills for underserved youth populations.

Asantewa Holley  | VP of Operations, Northland Workforce Training Center

Asantewa is the Vice President of Operations for Northland Workforce Training Center (NWTC). NWTC is New York State’s signature workforce initiative under the Buffalo Billion initiative. Asantewa holds an MBA from The University of Buffalo, B.S. in Accounting from Empire State College and is a 2020 Graduate of Leadership Buffalo and 2023 Graduate of the New York Association of Training and Employment (NYATEP) Workforce Academy and serves as an Adjunct instructor at The University of Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center. She also currently serves as a Board Member for House Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation – Nash House and Trustee at True Bethel Baptist Church. She has won several awards including Business First 40 Under 40, the Buffalo Black Achiever Award and Purposeful Women of Faith Business Award.

Antoine Johnson | Program Manager, Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network

Antoine is currently the Program Manager for the Buffalo Fatherhood Initiative of Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network, Inc. His past experiences and expertise have involved helping underserved and marginalized community members achieve equitable opportunities in affordable housing, support services, and mental health. Antoine currently is a Fatherhood Practitioner whose work involves providing interventions and services to low-income fathers and families in communities throughout Western New York. The focus of his work is to help close the gap in the disparity of services available to men and fathers and reduce the number of father absenteeism homes for the one in four children who grow up without a father.

Amiyah King | Director of Operations, Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center

Amiyah is a proud Buffalo native and wellness practitioner. She is an alumna of Howard University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Communications, Film and Political Science. Amiyah holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Buffalo State University, which she obtained right before serving as the 2022 Miss Buffalo, byway of the Miss America Organization. She is deeply rooted in values relating to culture, spirituality and restoration. Amiyah is an informed traveler and researcher. She has studied themes of mindfulness, cultural competence, trauma-informed care, and community restoration in her academic career and volunteerism. She believes in the transformative powers of land healing and addressing past traumas for future success. Amiyah incorporates these values in her work and business as Director of Operations for the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center and Founder of OYÉ: Out Your Estimate, a wellness company offering trauma-informed healing services.

Jennifer Loughran | Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, Horizon Health Alliance

Jennifer LMSW, started her career in behavioral health at Horizon Health Services in 2010, as a Substance Use Counselor. In 2012, Jen left Buffalo and moved to Las Vegas, NV and then Cary, NC, where she worked primarily as a therapist on an acute and residential unit of a behavioral health hospital, working with children and adolescents. Upon returning to Buffalo in 2018, Jen returned to Horizon as a Clinical Trainer and also assisted in the development of the Children and Adolescent Program. Jen’s experience on the DEIB Council and personal passion and dedication towards social justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, led to Jen becoming Horizon’s first Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in 2021. Jen is now the Director of DEIB for Horizon Health Alliance and is overseeing DEIB programming at all Horizon affiliates, including Horizon Health Services, Horizon Village, and Endeavor Health Services.

Luis Maisonet | Domestic Violence Advocate, CFS – Haven House

Luis is a licensed master social worker. He received his Master of Social Work from the State University at Buffalo with a concentration in community mental health, LGBTQIA+ advocacy, and child welfare advocacy. Luis has dedicated his role as a social worker to providing inclusive and gender-affirming therapeutic support to local LGBTQ+-serving non-profit organizations. He is currently a full-time employee at Child & Family Services Haven House, a residential domestic violence shelter. While there, he provides empowering advocacy and case management to victims of domestic violence. As a community member, Luis prides himself on advocating for underfunded and underrepresented communities through advocacy and consultations. Some of his previous works include Say Yes Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools, and the Pride Center of WNY. Some accomplishments include participating in the launch of Inside Out Faith, an advocacy organization for LGBT people of faith founded by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jennifer Knapp.

Anna Miller | Director of Clinic Services, Native American Community Services

Anna is a multiracial first-generation Filipino-American, proud mother of three, and a seasoned leader in child welfare with over two decades of service in Western New York. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Leadership and Policy at Niagara University, Anna’s research focuses on enhancing a competent and diverse child welfare workforce post-pandemic. Her influence extends through statewide initiatives, including workshops addressing historical trauma in marginalized communities. Beyond her impactful work, Anna finds joy in adventures with loved ones, traveling, immersing herself in music, sharing laughter, and indulging in well-deserved moments of rest and relaxation. Her commitment to her family, leadership in child welfare, and passion for fostering positive change make Anna a dynamic force for enhancing the well-being of children and families across her community and beyond.

Yuki Numata Resnick | Director of Arts and Culture, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Yuki is a violinist, nonprofit leader, and educator. Originally from Vancouver, BC, she is passionate about her adopted home in Buffalo, NY. As a violinist, Yuki has performed on stages from the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall and is a passionate advocate for new music. Yuki has also played with and recorded for artists and bands including Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The National, and Beirut. Yuki was the Assistant Professor of Music at the University at Buffalo from 2013-2016. During this time, she co-founded Buffalo String Works, a social change-focused music program. She was the Executive Director from 2019-2023, steadily growing the organization to serve 150+ refugee and historically-marginalized youth. Yuki is currently the Director of Arts and Culture at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo where she is dedicated to ensuring that the values of equity and inclusion are lifted up throughout Western NY’s arts and culture sector.

Cecelie Owens | Founder/President, The G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation

Cecelie has been an educator in Buffalo for 32 years and has been a teacher, Program Coordinator, Assistant Principal and is currently the Principal at West Hertel Academy #94 in the Buffalo Public School District. She is also the Founder/President of the G.I.R.L.Sports Foundation, a not for profit sports and mentoring program for underserved girls. Her organization recently had the opportunity to launch a free sports sampling and mentoring camp at Buffalo State University. Cecelie is most proud of being the first African American woman inducted into the Buffalo State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame for Basketball and received the 2023 Principal of the Year Award for Excellence in Education. In 2018, she became a Toyota/ ESPN Everyday Hero for the work her organization does in the community. 

Tesha Parker | Executive Director, Rooted in Love

Tesha is from the East Side of Buffalo and went to Niagara University where she earned a Dual Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations as well as a Master’s in Criminal Justice. She founded Rooted in Love, a non-profit organization, in 2018. Rooted in Love provides accessibility to quality fresh produce items, nonperishable items, and hygiene products. Their goal is to provide items free of cost, expand their reach, and continue programming on healthy living and providing sustainable meal accessibility for all. Tesha is also the President of Vision Consulting and Events, a company that focuses on connecting professional athletes with local charity partners and developing their charitable brands, scaling their markets and establishing long lasting relationships.

Daniel Robertson | Director, Boys and Men of Color Initiative & Mentoring, Say Yes Buffalo

Daniel is a native of Buffalo, NY and currently serves as the Director of the Boys and Men of Color Initiative with Say Yes Buffalo. Daniel has always had a passion for serving and mentoring youth, while helping to provide them with the same opportunities he was afforded to reach his goals as a student. He was recognized by Buffalo Business First as a 30 Under Thirty Honoree, along with recognition from CAO’s Education Task Force, Mayor Byron W. Brown, Grassroots, Ballin For a Cause, Inc. and the Communities of Giving Initiative due to his valuable contributions in the field of youth services and the community. Recently, Daniel was awarded the IDEA Award from Business First in 2023 for his work related to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Awareness. Daniel is now charged with what he refers to as “the most challenging and important work of his life” which involves improving the life outcomes for boys and young men of color. 

Courtney Santasero | Director of Residential Programs, Peaceprints of WNY

Courtney is a daughter, sister, friend, partner, community member, food and land steward, student of herbalism, and inaugural Director of Residential Programs at Peaceprints of WNY who approaches all her roles with the intention of remembering, honoring, and embodying the ways of her ancestors. As someone born and raised on land stolen from the Haudenosaunee people, Courtney believes that in all her work, it is important to practice in ways that acknowledge her position as a guest on the land. In her work in housing, Courtney seeks to spread awareness of housing as a human right. She knows that having a place to call ‘home’ that is connected to a physical space can cultivate the possibility for transformative healing – the kind that helps us remember how to live in good relationship and promote safety and well-being in communities. Courtney hopes to expand our understanding and practices so that housing spaces can allow people to experience home and community more fully.

DeWan Stroud | Chief People Officer, BestSelf Behavioral Health

DeWan is a seasoned Human Resources Leader with over a decade of experience, including six years of leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). He currently serves as the Chief People Officer at BestSelf Behavioral Health in WNY, where he drives the development and implementation of strategic human resource and talent management initiatives to enrich the employee experience. As a co-chair of the agency’s Racial Equity and Inclusion initiatives, DeWan is dedicated to fostering an inclusive environment that values and celebrates all. Outside of work, DeWan cherishes spending quality time with his wife Jalila and their three daughters, Amia, Liana, and Brielle. Additionally, he enjoys coaching young athletes in football and basketball.

Sonya Tareke | Senior Program Manager, The Exchange at Beverly Gray

Sonya is Senior Program Manager at The Exchange at Beverly Gray, a nonprofit Entrepreneur Service Organization serving the underrepresented and BIPOC entrepreneurial community on the East Side of Buffalo, NY. An entrepreneur herself, Sonya began in the space as Co-founder/COO of her own B-corp Team Real Talk, Inc., an eLearning platform for primary and secondary schools. Sonya recently served as Program Manager for EforAll Buffalo where she co-led the organization’s development efforts in fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem for small business owners. Sonya is a 30 under 30 Buffalo Business First awardee and serves on several local boards including the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women and Good Neighbor Fund. In her spare time, Sonya enjoys paint nights, comedy shows and poetry.

Chad Williams | Founder/CEO, dooProcess

Chad is the founder of dooProcess, a street clothing brand that advocates for social justice, and is a Buffalo State University graduate who earned his undergraduate degree in Economics in 2020. As a Project Manager at Launch NY, Chad brings his experience working with startup companies and maintaining investor relations while growing his own brand, dooProcess. Through the Founder Go Big program at Launch NY, Chad and dooProcess have gained invaluable resources and support, leading to their success and recognition by notable publications such as Forbes, ABC, Buffalo Business First, 1st place winner of the NY Business Plan Competition, and more. Chad is passionate about using his platform to advocate for social justice and is thrilled to continue working with Launch NY to create a positive impact in the community.

Rockwood Community Call

India Harville

disability justice consultant, public speaker, somatics practitioner, and performance artist

April 25 | 12 PT / 3 ET

India Harville, African American female with long black locs, seated in her manual wheelchair wearing a long sleeveless green dress. Her service dog, Nico, a blond Labrador Retriever, has his front paws on her lap. He is wearing a blue and yellow service dog vest. They are outside with greenery behind them.