Keynote Speakers

Tish Norman

Friday's Breakfast

A dynamic and results-driven professional with a highly successful background in higher education through the creation and execution of educational programming focused on leadership development, Tish Norman uses public speaking as a platform for change.  She is the Executive Director of Transforming Leaders Now, Inc., a leadership development company, specializing in college & career readiness, women’s empowerment, and the African American experience. 

Experienced in working with leading brands in the career development industry, with the primary focus on Communication & Interpersonal Skills, Tish is a highly regarded presenter, which is why her keynotes have become favorites among organizations, universities, associations, and leadership conferences from coast to coast.  She is venerated for delivering tailored, measurable training solutions for corporate, government, and non-profit organizations of all sizes and challenges her audiences actively contribute to the transformation and growth of their organizations’ development.

Tish is a contributing author of two books: Leading the Way: Stories of Inspiration and Leadership and From Mediocre to Magnificent: How to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life.  Additionally, she's written several articles featured in higher education magazines and was a finalist in Campus Activities Magazine’s Speaker of the Year

Tish is a graduate of Kentucky State University, has a Master of Arts in Education from Pepperdine University and is currently a PhD pursuant in Pan-African Studies at the University of Louisville, where her research focuses on the intersections of memory & Black sororities.  Among several campus presentations, Tish has presented her research at the Dr. Joseph H. McMillan National Conference on The Black Family in America and the National Council for Black Studies.  Having spoken in 44 states and 13 countries and despite her rigorous academic obligations, Tish still maintains an active speaking schedule, keynoting at dozens of leadership conferences and campuses every year.


Eunique Gibson Jones

Friday's Lunch

Eunique Jones Gibson is an award-winning content creator, director and speaker who develops campaigns that ignite conversation and introspection. Her talent is to get people talking: either through her campaigns and the awareness generated by their message or through her role as a speaker, host or moderator at events and panels that address timely and relevant issues impacting a variety of communities.

Eunique recently directed commercial spots featuring Kevin Durant and Jennifer Hudson. She was also selected by Warner Bros. to host the screenings and director Q&A’s for the movie Everything, Everything staring Amandla Stenberg.

She began her career in online advertising with Microsoft and over the past decade she has worked with a variety of companies such as American Family Insurance, Nickelodeon, 1800Flowers, Green Bay Packers, Kathy Ireland Worldwide and Custom Ink to name a few. Eunique not only conceptualizes and creates groundbreaking campaigns, she also frequently operates behind the camera to bring them to life as director and photographer.

Always socially conscious with a burning desire to effect change, Eunique began exploring and developing ways she could marry her business acumen with her artistic passions and the results were tremendous. In February 2012, following the death of Trayvon Martin, Eunique created her first photo awareness campaign – I AM Trayvon Martin. The campaign spread through social media and online news outlets around the world and inspired others to use their voice to highlight social injustices and the need for change.

In 2013, Eunique launched Because of Them We Can, an award-winning campaign and movement that helps people reimagine their possibilities. Launched during Black History Month with a mission to empower the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors, the campaign featured photographs of adorable children channeling leaders, activists, and celebrities, past and present. It has evolved into a positive platform for Black Excellence that reaches millions of people each month.

Throughout her travels promoting Because of Them We Can, Eunique met fellow dreamers and started thinking, “What if we had a space where we could build our dreams and at the same time, build our village?” So, she created it. This year, Eunique launched Dream Village, a co-working space for dreamers that will allow them to build a supportive community in both physical and virtual spaces. The space hopes to bring back the village values that every community needs. The very first Dream Village opened right outside of DC in Hyattsville, MD this February.

A native Marylander, Eunique received her Bachelor’s degree from Bowie State University. She is a White House Champion of Change and has been featured on numerous media outlets, including MSNBC and O Magazine. She credits her biggest support and inspiration to her husband Christopher and their children, Chase, Amari and Sage. 


Adam Foss

Friday's Dinner

Adam J. Foss is a former Assistant District Attorney in the Juvenile Division of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office (SCDAO) in Boston, MA, and a fierce advocate for criminal justice reform and the importance of the role of the prosecutor in ending mass incarceration. Mr. Foss believes that the profession of prosecution is ripe for reinvention requiring better incentives and more measurable metrics for success beyond, simply, “cases won” leading him to found Prosecutor Impact - a non-profit developing training and curriculum for prosecutors to reframe their role in the criminal justice system. 

During his nine years as a prosecutor, Mr. Foss collaborated with the courts and the community to develop programming that continues to have a positive impact on the neighborhoods he prosecuted in. One example of these efforts is the Roxbury CHOICE program, an initiative Mr Foss co-founded, to turn probation from a punitive sentence into a beneficial relationship with the court, the probation department, and the District Attorney’s Office. He is also the founder of the SCDAO Reading Program, a program he started, to bridge the achievement gap of area elementary school students. Before leaving the District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Foss was a critical piece of the foundation of the first juvenile diversion program in Suffolk County, keeping young people out of the cradle to prison pipeline. 

Most recently, The Mandela Foundation recognized Mr. Foss as the 2017 Nelson Mandela Changemaker of the Year. Fast Company named him one of the Most Creative People in Business of 2017. The NAACP awarded Mr. Foss with the 2017 Roy Wilkins Next Generation Leader Award. The Root named Mr. Foss one of the 100 most influential black Americans of 2016.He was named Graduate of the Last Decade by his alma mater, Suffolk University Law School and is a visiting senior fellow at Harvard Law School. He also is a fellow at the Open Society Foundation Leadership in Government initiative as well as a Director’s Fellow in the world renown MIT Media Lab. In February of 2016, Mr. Foss delivered a TED talk that has already eclipsed 2 million views. In 2015, he was voted one of the country’s 40 most up-and-coming lawyers by National Law Journal and in 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association voted him Prosecutor of the Year. In both his professional and personal capacities, Mr. Foss volunteers much of his time to the community he works in. 

Follow him: Twitter/IG: @adamjohnfoss and @prosecutorimpct or


Young, Gifted and Black

Saturday's Breakfast 

Nekpen Osuan

Nekpen Osuan is a seasoned business development professional, certified Project Manager, and an Adjunct Professor at New York University (NYU). A 2017 Council of Urban Professionals Fellow and 2017 City & State Above and Beyond Woman, Nekpen is the co-founder of the non-profit WomenWerk (@WomenWerk) which empowers women and girls in the tri-state area. 

Nekpen is a 2008 Baylor graduate (BA University Scholars, Honors) and is passionate about economic justice and adequate education for all children. After completing Teach for America in Boston, Nekpen earned her Masters at Columbia University in Economics and Education Policy. Her prior roles include teaching at Columbia University, leading wealth management strategy at Morgan Stanley, serving as a state data lead for President Obama's re-election campaign in Florida, and serving on the New York City School Board for her local district (CEC6).

In addition, Nekpen is passionate about community organizing and has worked as an advisor to the Mayor's Office for Community Affairs in New York City, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and the Advisory Council to Bronx Borough President Reuben Diaz. Nekpen serves on local non-profit boards including the Junior Boards of Generation Citizen New York, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, New Leaders Council and The College Initiative. Stay connected with Nekpen on Twitter: @NOsuan


Jewell Jones 

State Representative Jewell Jones is serving his first term representing the 11th House District of Michigan as the Democratic Deputy Caucus Chair. Representative Jones’ district includes all of Inkster, Garden City and portions of Dearborn Heights, Livonia and Westland. He is a lifelong resident of Inkster.

Before serving in the Michigan House of Representatives, Representative Jones served as a member of the Inkster City Council. He was also a member of the Inkster Task Force, Inkster Youth Coalition, Inkster Chamber of Commerce and many more community organizations.

Representative Jones is completing graduation requirements at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where he is receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science and business studies. He is also a candidate in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a member of the Michigan Army National Guard, UM-Dearborn Black Student Union, Student Veterans Association, and is a volunteer in the Inkster Auxiliary Police Unit.

Prior to holding office, Representative Jones operated a small business and has participated in political campaigns for several years. In the House, he focuses on improving public education, keeping young talent in Michigan and maintaining strong, vibrant communities.


Paakow Essandoh

Paakow Essandoh is the founder and CEO of MIZIZI, an athleisure lifestyle brand, and co-founder of One Tribe Magazine, a digital publication catering to the African Diaspora. Born in New York, raised in Dallas, and adopted by Tampa- where the idea of MIZIZI born- Paakow was inspired by the lack of African cultural representation around him. At the University of South Florida, the Ghanaian-American student met George Kariuki, a Kenyan transfer, who would help bring MIZIZI to life. At the age 20, the pair launched MIZIZI in the summer of 2015. Since then, the line has grown into a coveted streetwear brand, with a global cult following. A common speaker, Paakow's views and ideas have been featured in media and forums on topics of entrepreneurship, afropolitanism, and pop culture in the Diaspora.


Malcolm London 

MALCOLM LONDON, called the Gil-Scott Heron of this generation by Cornel West, is an internationally recognized Chicago poet, activist, educator & musician. London brings vim & vigor to his energetic performances tackling tough contemporary issues head-on. He has appeared on PBS for the first ever televised TED Talk with John Legend & Bill Gates & has shared stages with actor Matt Damon & rapper Lupe Fiasco as a part of the The People Speak, Live! cast. He also appears on Season 2 of TV One’s Verses & Flow. In 2011, Malcolm London won the Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry slam in his native Chicago, scooping the top award as both individual performer & with a team. The poet, performer & activist recently wrote & directed a spoken word infused play responding to the Zimmerman verdict called Two Years Later at the Goodman Theatre with an ensemble of five youth poets. As an organizer London was apart of a historic youth delegation to the United Nations in Geneva to address police violence in Chicago. In November of 2015 London was targeted & arrested by Chicago Police who claimed London assaulted a police officer but due to a international outcry via social media & hundreds of people's presence at Cook County jail for court hearing to address these false claims all charges were dropped the very next day (#FreeMalcolmLondon). London, who runs the largest youth open mic in Chicago alongside friend Chance The Rapper, sees art as the intersection between justice & poetic imagination. Malcolm is now taking what he's learned from teaching & becoming an activist & putting it into music. In 2016, London released his album OPIA which is available free on Sound Cloud & for streaming on I-Tunes & Apple Music & Spotify. His new project Right Away Series released January 19th, and is at the intersection of poetry and music. Listen for free at Sound Cloud.


Erin Gaddis

Erin Gaddis is a native of Dallas, TX. She graduated from Baylor University in 2016, where she studied Film, Digital Media and Communications. Erin currently represents Region 6 on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. Also in NAACP, Erin has served as Texas Youth & College Division President, a member of the National Youth Work Committee and a member of the nominating committee for the annual NAACP Image Awards that is broadcasted on TV One.                                                                 

Erin is the Founder of The Cultural Competency Consortium, where she works to encourage cultural competence and awareness in predominantly white institutions, through research, short films and special events programming. Erin is also the Executive Director of Bridge Media where she produces special films on topics impacting marginalized groups within American society. Her most recent accomplishment in filmmaking, is winning the NAACP Criminal Justice Film competition where her team produced a film on Living with a Criminal Record, entitled “JustUs”. She is currently producing an extended version of the award-winning project that will air on ShortsTV in the Spring of 2018.                                                                      

Erin is also a Media Relations Specialist and Public Information Officer with the Department of Homeland Security. Most recently, she provided support and services for residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey in the Houston, TX area.                                                                       

As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Erin takes “service to all mankind” to heart daily. She is passionate about the intersection of activism, film and media and like Maya Angelou, Erin’s “mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.                                  

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 NIV


Ramona Curtis 

Saturday's Lunch


Damien Thaddeus Jones 

Saturday's Dinner

Damien Thaddeus Jones is one of the leading intellectual voices in the country. 

He is CEO of Dame Thad & Co, a strategy, policy, and community engagement firm committed to empowering America’s next generation of leaders. An award-winning leader, Damien cut his teeth as a grassroots activist in Houston using religion and hip-hop as a tool to engage youth in social change around issues such as community policing, education, incarceration, and environmental justice.

Since his days as a youngster in Jackson, MS, Damien has been a servant leader dedicated to ensuring all Americans enjoy life, liberty, and can pursue happiness. He previously served as Program Coordinator of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Leadership Institute where he prepared the next generation to take its place in the fields of community service and policy development and increased the pool of young African American leaders in public service careers and public policy positions. Damien also serves as Environmental Justice Outreach Advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of America's leading environmental organizations.  

Damien, a veteran of the United States Air Force and host of the Thank You for Your Leadership Podcast, is regularly called upon by the media for his innovative opinions on politics, popular culture, leadership, and social justice. An engaging national speaker, he conducts keynote presentations for corporations and conferences on servant leadership, purpose, team building, racial equity, community policing, education, mass incarceration, environmental justice, economics, voting rights, civic engagement, and other social justice topics.