35th Annual Black Excellence Awards recognizes dozens of Milwaukee’s most influential African Americans

Talis Shelbourne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Published 9:33 AM EST Mar 2, 2020

Forty-six talented and trailblazing local African Americans were to be honored Friday evening at the 35th Annual Black Excellence Awards.

The event, at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St., was hosted by the Milwaukee Times.

The awards, which began in 1985, were created to celebrate high achievers in the black community. Past awardees include Vel Phillips, Dr. Joan Prince, Reuben and Mildred Harpole, Andre Lee Ellis and James Cameron.

At the event, 11 African American women were recognized as special honorees, 35 African American men and women were honored as “the best in our community” and 12 high school students received scholarships for their scholastic and civic engagement.

Special Honorees

Aronica V. Williams, a family medicine doctor at Milwaukee Health Services, Inc.

Ashley A. Smith, a corporate law associate at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C.

Bridgett Moss, a family medicine doctor at Ascension Health Care

Brittany Grayson, a Milwaukee County circuit judge of Branch 16 at the Vel R. Phillips Youth and Family Justice Center

Candice Lovell, a primary care physician and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin

Carolyn Stanford Taylor, state Superintendent of Public Instruction

Denise M. Thomas, president and owner of The Effective Communication Coach, LLC

Kristen D. Hardy, a corporate attorney at Briggs & Stratton

Regina Manns, a Milwaukee Public Schools teacher

Stephanie Findley, owner and CEO of Midwest Construction and Management Services LLC

Tamara Johnson, executive director of Malaika Early Learning Center

Saluting the Best

Andre Douglas, director of the Graduation Plus program at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee

Angela Stinson, a retired Army veteran and Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Service volunteer

Bennie Morris Sr., deacon of New Hope Baptist Church

Bobbie Kelsey, Milwaukee Public Schools’ commissioner of athletics

Brandon Watkins, senior leader of operations, portfolio management, engineering and leadership development at MillerCoors

Sister Callista Robinson, of the St. Martin De Porres Parish of Milwaukee

Carol Bullock-Haywood, a soprano singer and trailblazer in the world of opera

Cecilia Nation-Gardner, a Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) bus driver who rescued a stranded 6-year-old boy and a young girl walking along in Cudahy

Chanaye Brown, an MCTS bus driver who helped rescue the residents of a burning apartment building

Pastor Clara Atwater of the Love Tabernacle Church, founder of Gingerbread Land

Cressida Neal, MCTS bus driver who rescued a stranded toddler

Darrin Reasby (posthumous), heart transplant survivor and creator of “Born 2 dream”

Deidre “D” Mingo, creator of On Eagles Wings 4UL, an organization for struggling women

Dewayne Walls, Wisconsin Silver Circle awardee at WISN-TV (Channel 12)

Dionne Grayson, president, CEO and founder of Lead2Change, Inc., a career-readiness organization for youth

Edward J. Bryant, vice president at Wintrust Commercial Banking at Town Bank

Felice Green, a community volunteer with the African American Breastfeeding Network

Gerry Howze, executive director of PEARLS for Teen Girls, an empowerment organization for young women

Jim Gaillard, vice president of Ezekiel Community Development Corporation

Karen James, owner of Karen James’ Creations and Design

Margaret Todd, a retired teacher who worked at elementary schools, colleges and the Milwaukee Urban League

Marvin Pratt, former alderman and mayor of Milwaukee

Michael Cummings, a retired coach and educator at North Division High School

Nita Farrow, performance auditor at MPS

Reginald Baylor, founder of the Reginald Baylor Studio

(Elder) Ricky Price Sr., motivational speaker, founder of “A Weekend With The Teamsters” and pastor at Mt. Zion Assembly Healing Temple

Ronnie Gilchrist, owner of SerFuture Fashion Hair & Barber Salon, home of the famous “fire cut”

Ronnie Lockett, owner of Ronnie’s Barbershop

Rosemary Ollison, a self-taught mixed media artist

Samuel McClain Jr., a pianist and leader of the band, “Keepin’ It Clean”

Santana Lee, founder of All4Kidz, a foster care support nonprofit

Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes, an associate professor of ethics, morality and Black Catholic Studies at Mount Mary University

Thérèse Bailey, aerial yoga practitioner and the artistic director and owner of ZenZen Yoga Arts

Vedale Hill, a mixed media, visual artist

Yvonne McCaskill, coordinator of the Century City Triangle Neighborhood Association

Scholarship recipients

High school students Daelon Adaway, London Bates, Noah Cotton, Treyvon Hamberlin, Shak’la Harrington, Courtney Johnson, Naoshi Johnson, Asani Mashaka, Tanya McNeal, Kevin Norris, Devaki Sanon and Joshua Williams were all recipients of the 2020 Louvenia Johnson Scholarship.

Enjoy reading positive stories about Milwaukee’s black community? Is there someone in your community we should highlight? If so, let us know: text Talis Shelbourne at (414) 403-6651 or email her at tshelbourn@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at @talisseer and Facebook at @talisseer.

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