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Outstanding Black Achievers to be Honored at 43rd Annual Gala!

Black Achievers, Inc., will host the 43rd Annual Black Achievers Awards Banquet on Saturday, October 10 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, 120 Church Street.  The organization will recognize 28 outstanding individuals- all of whom have inspiring stories of personal, professional, spiritual and community achievements.  

In addition to the 28 Black Achiever Awards, two special awards will also be presented at the banquet.  Charles E. Brice, a former Buffalonian who now makes his home in Fort Washington, MD, will be recognized for a lifetime of achievements as the recipient of the Homecoming Award.   Cecelie A. Owens, Principal of West Hertel Middle School and co-founder of G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation, will receive the Mayor Byron W. Brown Youth Award for her exceptional programs to uplift young women. 

Also to be recognized at the banquet will be two Buffalo public schools, the Buffalo Academy of the Visual and Performing Arts and South Park High School. The event, an evening of fine dining, networking and entertainment, will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and awards presentations at 7 p.m.  

The Co-Chairs for this much anticipated gala are Nina Price, Senior Business Planner for Global Supply Chain and Community Relations Manager at General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant and Herbert T. Courtney, Administrative Vice President and Senior Community Development Officer at M&T Bank.  The Buffalo News has partnered with Black Achievers, Inc. as the Media Sponsor for the gala. The Black Achievers awards was founded by the late Herbert L. Bellamy.

For more information on the gala or to purchase tickets, call 884-1490, or visit the Black Achievers, Inc. web site at This year’s honorees and their sponsors are:

Ama T. Kerr - First Niagara Financial Group

Ama T. Kerr is an Assistant Vice President at First Niagara Bank, N.A. as a Special Assets Relationship Manager with her own portfolio of over 5 million dollars. She has been in banking for over 18 years and achieved several certifications in Business Management with The Risk Management Association and Professional Development within First Niagara. She also partnered with her husband, Gregory Kerr, since 2005, on KLASSIC KUTS Inc. located at 1471 Kensington Ave. and co-founded KLASSY LADY'S CLEANING, which services M&T and Bank of America branches in the Erie & Niagara county regions.  She is currently in the process of obtaining her Women’s Business Enterprise certification (WBE) and Minority Business Enterprise certification (MBE).

Pastor Anita Williams - WUFO

Dr. Anita Williams holds an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the National School of Theology and is re-ordained in the National Fellowship of Christian Churches currently serving as Pastor of God’s Ministry of Deliverance church. She has conducted revivals, conferences, and seminars locally and nationally for many years and is a recipient of numerous notable awards. As a result of her passion Pastor Williams created God’s Ministry of Deliverance Prison Ministry in 1988, Well Done Media in 2001 and Suffering Women in Ministry (SWIM) in 2003. All three ministries are still active today. She is the host of “The Prophetic Word” radio broadcast on WUFO 1080 AM and organizes the annual event “Taking it to the Streets International Crusade Rally & Festival.” She has a Bachelors degree from the University of Buffalo in Nursing and the U.S. Army Nurse training course and is a licensed Registered Nurse at Buffalo General Hospital (Kaleida Health System) She is also a Notary Public.

Barbara Jean Jones - Belmont Management Co., Inc.

Barbara has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Hilbert College in Hamburg, NY, and a Master Of Science Degree in Counselor Education from St. Bonaventure University in Olean, NY. She served in outpatient alcohol and drug facilities, withdrawal and stabilization units, inpatient rehabilitation units and currently in a Federal Halfway House. Barbara is also in service to her community as a Minister in Training, under Bishop Darius G. Pridgen of True Bethel Baptist Church where she is a liturgical dancer, and has served as an artistic director, bible study teacher and youth mentor. She plans to one day become a private practitioner, who provides both mental health and substance abuse treatment in one location. 

Bishop Michael A. Badger - Evans Bank

Bishop Michael Badger has been the Senior Pastor of Bethesda World Harvest International Church since 1990 and is also founder of the Bethesda World Harvest International Fellowship of Churches, Inc. Under his leadership, Bethesda has completed a multi-million dollar church renovation . He is the founder and chairperson of Bethesda CDC which is responsible for the 1.3 million dollar purchase of the Utica Square 17,000 sq. ft. property, President of Destiny Enterprise. He is founder and chairperson of the Sarah Minnie Badger Foster Care Agency and treasurer of The Jeremiah Partnership. Bishop Badger is also a member of the UB 2020 Opportunity Advisory Council to the President of the University of Buffalo and founder of the Ace Charter School of Buffalo, New York which will open in 2016.

Booker Edgerson - Tony Martin Awards

Booker Edgerson is the 26th member inducted to the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame and one of the finest athletes to ever come out of the small town of Rock Island, Illinois. A four-year letterman in football, baseball, wrestling and track and field at Western Illinois University, leading the Leathernecks to the only consecutive undefeated seasons in the school 's history. He began his eight-year career with the Buffalo Bills, as #24 signing as an undrafted free agent in the role of defensive back and was very productive his entire career and still stands tied for seventh on the team’s all-time interception list. Booker is a member of the Western Illinois Hall of Fame, the Quad City Hall of Fame and the American Football League Hall of Fame and currently serves as the President of the Bills Alumni chapter. 

Christopher L. Hayes-Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP

Christopher L. Hayes joined M&T Bank in 2014 as Counsel and Vice President where he negotiates, and interprets contracts between the bank and vendors and other third parties and provides counsel regarding data security issues.  A proud Buffalo native Chris graduated from City Honors high school, Canisius College for undergrad and Notre Dame for law school and thereafter specializing in a variety of areas in commercial and personal litigation. Chris enjoys giving back to his community by speaking with inner-city youth to help demystify the legal profession and encourages them to be the best they can be.

Darryl W. Johnson - General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant

Darryl Johnson is an Area Manager at the General Motors Tonawanda Engine Plant. With over 19 years of service to GM, in his current position, as Area Manager of the LGE (large gas engine) Assembly program, he oversees more than 400 hourly, and salary employees. He was responsible for the launch the Gen5 V8 small block engine for the all-new C7 Corvette Stingray, which was awarded Wards 10 Best Engines in 2014, and lean manufacturing, GMS (global manufacturing system) System to Tonawanda.  Darryl is active in various community-based organizations, in the Buffalo & Rochester area, and co-founded Missy’s Home Cleaning Services LLC., with his wife Lorraine.  He is also Deacon at his church Zion Dominion Global Ministries and mentors several church Men’s Ministries in Buffalo and Rochester.

Ernestine Wilbon - Lawley Insurance

Ernestine joined Lawley in 1979 and has been employed with the organization for 36 years a valuable contributor in several areas and has traveled with the firm to three different office buildings. She is very active and involved in her community.  For the past 25 years, she has been providing care, groceries, meals, and a quiet friendship to the elderly in her neighborhood.  She is also a participant on her neighborhood watch team and has been an active member of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church for the past 30 years under the leadership of Pastor William Gillison. Serving on the Ushers Ministry at the church.

Frank S. Williams - Daemen College

Frank currently serves as the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions at Daemen College, and is responsible for First Year, Transfer, and Graduate Student Enrollment. Along with a strong Enrollment Management team he has been successful in regularly meeting the institutional enrollment goals. He holds a Master of Education in College Student Services & Development from University at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in Secondary English Education, with a minor in Sociology from the State University of New York College at Fredonia. Frank serves on a variety of educational committee’s and regularly presents in Western New York, throughout NYS and nationally, speaking to students, parents, and educators with the goal of increasing the College Going Community. He is an active member of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church where he serves as an Associate Minister

Joseph Jackson, Jr. - Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Programs

Joseph (Joe) Jackson Jr. has been employed with the Internal Revenue Service for the past 26 years. After serving in the United States Army he obtained a degree in Business from Bryant & Stranton and went on to complete a degree in Criminal Justice from Buffalo State College ,where he also played basketball. Joe dedicates his time volunteering as a coach and mentor for the Burgard High School basketball team and to the Willie Hutch Jones Educational & Sports Programs where he coaches and is a member of the Advisory Board.  He has a strong passion for volunteering and he feels that he needs to give back to the community to help our struggling youth.”

Keisha Alston -Belmont Housing Resources for WNY

Keisha Alston has worked at the University at Buffalo Educational Opportunity Center for over 7 years, and is currently an academic counselor. She advises students and provides support and encouragement as they progress towards the completion of their chosen programs. She graduated from Buffalo State College with a BS in Art Education and has a MS in Human Services with a concentration in Counseling. Keisha believes that her job is to advocate for her students and ensure that they have all the necessary resources to successfully complete their programs and gain employment or continue on and further their education. She is also a graduate of the 2014 Mayor Byron Brown Citizen Participation Academy.

L. Darnell Donalson MS. ED. -Greater Works Christian Fellowship/ Lil Workers Child Development Center, Inc.

 Pastor L. Darnell Donalson, a native of Syracuse, N.Y. founded and presently serves as the Senior Pastor and Teacher of the Greater Works Christian Fellowship and currently serves as the National Adjutant to the presiding Bishop of Turning the World Upside Down Covenant Fellowship Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Bronner. He is employed as a Secondary School Social Studies Teacher in the Buffalo Public School system and established Lil Worker’s Child Development Center where he is currently the Director and CEO. He has completed his Master’s Degree and is seeking an administrative license to become a school administrator.

L. Nathan Hare - Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc. 

L. Nathan Hare is the President and CEO of the Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc. A lifelong resident of the City of Buffalo, Hare has been involved in some aspect of youth employment, youth training and education, foster care, or juvenile justice for more than 35 years.  Under his tutelage, CAO's workforce has grown to well over 700 employees offering 35 programs and services to over 21,000 individuals and 9,000 families annually. His integrated approach to poverty alleviation by addressing its complex and interrelated causes has made him one of the most sought-after experts in New York State's War on Poverty. Hare received countless awards for his accomplishments and is the popular host of Living Now with L. Nathan Hare on WUFO-AM, The World of Community Action on WBLK-FM & Time Warner Cable, and Think Again with L. Nathan Hare on WWKB-AM. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Medaille College and a Master of Management from University of Phoenix. 

LaVonne E. Ansari, Ph.D. - Hodgson Russ LLP

Dr. LaVonne Ansari PH.D., is currently the CEO/Executive Director of Community Health Center of Buffalo, Inc. She is an experienced educator, administrator, recreation therapist and manager with more than twenty years of combined experience in the areas of equal employment opportunity/affirmative action compliance, workforce development, higher education and community-based health care and hospital administration. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Brockport State College, Master’s from Buffalo State College and Ph.D. in Sociology of Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She also has a certificate in career development and management in Women’s Studies from Cornell University.

Leonard T. Hubbard - NFTA

Leonard T. Hubbard, Transportation Supervisor, began his career at the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA)/Metro 17 years ago and has the responsibility of providing supervision to approximately four-hundred (400) bus operators and nine (9) transportation clerks. He also assists the Taste of Buffalo Board of Directors with various aspects of planning. He obtained an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Erie Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administrationand  Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Medialle College. He is a member of St. John Lodge # 16 .

Lisa Bell-Wilson - Buffalo News

Lisa Bell-Wilson is Executive Sports Editor of the Buffalo News and the only African American female in the country to lead a sports section at a major metropolitan daily. Under Wilson’s direction, The News has earned two Grand Slams (2014 and 2012) in the Associated Press Sports Editors’ annual contest as a Top 10 daily, Sunday and special section, as well as a Top 10 website, in the 75,001-175,00 circulation category. She was named to the Buffalo Business First Power 250 and Power 100 Women lists in 2015. She is a graduate from Canisius College and the daughter of the late William and Ocie Bell and the niece of former Buffalo Common Council member Clifford Bell and the late Jim Bell.

Lonnie Green - Entercom Buffalo, LLC (AM 1400)

Lonnie Green is the proud owner of a two locally respected businesses He has been a local barber in Buffalo for over 15 years and owner/operator of HeavenSent Community Barbershop and CEO of ICU Photography capturing images for many entertainment events with known comedians like Bill Bellamy, Tommy Davidson, DL Hugley and Talent.  He also works with the NAACP at their annual events.  Lonnie is an active member of True Bethel Baptist Church.

Luciana Heard - KeyBank

Luciana Heard is a veteran banker with more than 14 years of experience in the industry.  A renowned sales professional in the KeyBank community, she was recently promoted to Branch Manager of the Broadway Market Branch located at 1017 Broadway Street in Buffalo, New York. She has saved countless dollars for members of the WNY community by helping them create personal financial strategies to win. This year alone, Luciana helped her clients achieve their financial goals by closing almost $2 million in personal loans. She serves as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Super Refund Saturday at Belmont Housing and Adopt-A-Family. She also participates annually in KeyBank’s Neighbors Make the Difference day, Corporate Challenge, March of Dimes, Families Helping Families and Food/Clothing Bank Give-a-way. 

Marc Cortney Dade - La Nova Pizzeria

Marc is currently the daytime manager at La Nova Pizzeria and supervises 12-14 employees each day. Hi his current career is a manifestation of his passion and love of, the culinary arts. He is often thought of as the traveling concierge to the celebrities from La Nova as they specifically request Marc when they order the famous La Nova wings and pizza while they are in town. Over the years Marc has catered events for many stars including Frankie Beverly & Maze, Pattie LaBelle, and Harold Melvin & Blue Notes, to name a few.

Matthew T. Smith, Sr. - Rich Products

Matthew Smith has been with the Buffalo Fire department for over 25 years, and is a newly appointed Lieutenant. In addition to saving lives with the fire department, Matt gets the opportunity to mold young minds in the school system as a substitute Teacher for the Buffalo Board of Education.  He graduated from Virginia Union University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and is member of the Fraternity Omega Psi Phi Inc., presently serving as Treasurer. He now serves on the Deacon Board at the Second Temple Baptist Church. His future goal with the fire department is to one day reach the rank of Captain. 

Myia J. Cheatom - M&T Bank

Myia J. Cheatom has been an employee of M&T Bank for 11 years and is currently a Technology Administrator within the Technology Division, responsible for supporting the Enterprise Architecture and Data department with project management and onboarding of technology resources.  As an active board member of M&T Bank’s African American Resource Group of Western New York, Myia has been instrumental in the promotion and coordination of Professional Development, Community Activities, and Recruitment and Retention initiatives. Mayi offers her time and talents to internal and external resource groups and various community organizations. She is a graduate from Hutchinson Central Technical High School and is currently working towards her Bachelors of Science in Industrial Engineering at Buffalo State College.  

Nicole E. Powell - Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Nicole E. Powell is a Clinical Laboratory Technologist in the Center for Immunotherapy GMP at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She manages the GMP facility, which deals with the groundbreaking technology of creating cancer vaccines. Under Nicole’s leadership, the facility has been so successful that Roswell is planning the development of a spinoff company to widen the endeavors of the GMP. She has over 20 years of experience in the medical field and a  graduate from Utica College with a bachelor's degree in Medical Technology. Nicole is currently working towards a Masters of Health Care Administration at Utica College in hopes to better serve her facility and the Center for Immunotherapy.

Ruthie Alvena Colston - Colston Enterprises, Inc.

Ruthie Alvena Colston, has been an employee at General Motors for over 20 years and held several management positions at different locations around the country. She has been instrumental in contributing to several new product launches while also making time to be involved in a number community outreach projects. Ruthie is currently completing her MBA with concentration in Operations and Supply Chain Management and has begun a second Master’s program in Data Analytics. She was the first African-American recipient of the Most Athletic Student award in her Junior and Senior years at South Park High School and also represented the United States Army  in competitive athletics. 

Salome Tsige - People, Inc.

The daughter of Ethiopian refugees, Salome Tsige is a Rochester native but continues to work and live in Buffalo as a Behavioral Health Specialist at People Inc. Following the completion of a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Buffalo State College, Salome began working as a Behavioral Health Technician, providing support for children and young adults with developmental disabilities and mental illness and their families within the home and community. In has a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Canisius College and working diligently to obtain her NYS license in Mental Health Counseling with the ultimate goal of obtaining a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology.

Sharrell Billups -Tops Markets, LLC

Sharrell Billups is the Executive Administrative Assistant to Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Merchandising for Tops Markets and also supports the V.P. of Sales Development and Marketing. Her commitment to meaningful charities is very important to both her and to the Tops organization. Under her direct leadership, thousands of dollars have been raised for Junior Achievement and for the Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.  Sharrell is also a Minister in Training, a Trustee for the President of Helps & Hospitality Ministry.

Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Bronner - ELIM Christian Fellowship

 A trailblazing visionary, Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Bronner, a native of Philadelphia, is known for his exegetical teaching and remarkable preaching ability. Dr. Bronner is the Senior Pastor of ELIM Christian Fellowship of Buffalo and Rochester and is also the founder and presiding prelate of Turning the World Upside Down Covenant Fellowship Inc.,  He earned his Doctorate of Ministry at Northeastern Seminary in 2014 and holds a Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies from Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He established the Sound of Genuine Biblical Institute, and conducted groundbreaking research titled “Prayer: A Gateway to Belonging in an Urban Church,” where he identified how Morning Prayer Revival contributed to the sense of belonging in an Urban Church setting.

Tanitsha M. Sikes - M&T Bank

Tanitsha M. Sikes is Assistant Manager of M&T Bank and has been with the company for over 18 years. She has a NYS Life/Accident and Health insurance license and encourages customers on the importance of acquiring life insurance and estate planning. Tanitsha also serves on the Board of Directors of Group Ministries Inc. and partnered with Mt. Aaron Missionary Baptist Church, Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, African Cultural Center and the Juneteenth Festival Inc. as a way of giving back. She is a member of State Tabernacle COGIC. 

Cecelie A. Owens - Mayor Byron W. Brown Youth Award

Cecelie A. Owens is a product of the Buffalo Public School System and is currently the Principal of West  Hertel Academy #94. She attended Buffalo State College and Canisius College and holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, a Masters in Education, a Masters in Educational Leadership and a School District Administration Certificate. In 1998, Ces  was the first African American Woman to be inducted into the Buffalo State College Athletic Hall of Fame for Basketball. She also served as the Director of the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) at the college for ten years. She and her sister Carlette founded the G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit sports and mentoring program for girls. The mission of the G.I.R.L.S. Sports Foundation, Inc. is to promote the importance of academic achievement, respect, self-confidence, healthy lifestyle, teamwork and good sportsmanship through sports participation and mentoring.  She is a member of Elim Christian Fellowship

Charles E. Brice - Creative Structures Services

Mr. Charles Brice is a native of Buffalo and former United States Marine.  After completing his service in the Marine Corps he was honorably discharged and continued his government service by accepting a job as a Federal civilian employee in Buffalo at the Veterans Administration Hospital and later at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1979. He continued his life experiences and education by obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1980 from Daemen College and a Master of Science Degree from Buffalo State College in 1986.  Residing in Fort Washington Maryland, Charles is giving back the only way he knows how by spending  his spare time teaching young boys and girls how to ride horses and mentoring young men of color who are in need of guidance and direction. Charles is a member of the Ebenezer AME Church of Fort Washington, Maryland.