The Black community is not a monolith, and neither is our staff. We are a diverse leadership team that represents the vast lived experiences of Black communities.
Chief Executive Officer
Adair joined AALF in October 2022, after a distinguished tenure as the president and CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. Adair is recognized as a passionate change-maker and relentless strategic innovator. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated radical and inclusive solutions to the community’s most urgent needs.
During Adair’s tenure at Pillsbury United, he moved the agency’s focus upstream – addressing multi-dimensional social issues. This led to over $3M in incremental funding to launch a community health partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, a policy department with the Kresge Foundation and increased resources on narrative justice. In 2020 he launched Justice Built Communities, an equitable economic development corporation to prevent gentrification while prioritizing wealth creation in black and brown communities, securing $5M for its launch. In his time at Pillsbury, he also led a $7M capital campaign to build North Market, a grocery store that’s transforming food access in North Minneapolis. One of his career highlights was securing $1M in scholarship funds for the graduating class of 2022 at North High School (Minneapolis.)
Adair serves on the boards of the Women’s Foundation of MN and MinnPost and the Community Advisory Board for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. In 2019, he was selected to represent the Twin Cities region at Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program and named by Twin Cities Business Magazine as 100 People to Know in 2022. He has an Executive MSc in Cities from the London School of Economics, having previously attended the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan’s Executive Leadership Institute. He earned a certificate in Human Centered Design at Stanford’s d.school.
Chief Operating Officer
Shanaya oversees Finance, Operations and Human Resource functions as well as the organizational health and effectiveness of The Forum.
She is a strategic thought leader, community advocate and artist known for being a results-driven, change agent. Shanaya has over 15 years of experience partnering across sectors including nonprofits, corporations, government, and the arts community to implement systems of change that include organizational cultures, infrastructure building, strategic efficiency and operational excellence. In 2020 Shanaya led youth programming for Twin Cities nonprofit, The BrandLab, which was honored as a Standout Diversity Program and highlighted in Forbes.
Last year she launched an artistic cultural heritage preservation program focused on preserving the familial history of Black families. In 2023, Shanaya was one of the 16 leaders selected to represent the Twin Cities region as part of the prestigious Minnesota Young American Leaders Program cohort. She is a builder and facilitator of growth who utilizes focused strategy, connection-making and an abundance mindset to promote resources and drive action.
Chief Brand Officer
Marc joined The Forum in August 2021, after a 20-year career in the media industry. He oversees our branding efforts, from content creation and marketing to brand narrative and events. Marc has worked in senior management for TV networks and has owned a journalism training academy in California.
A multi-media journalist by training, he’s passionate about creating impactful content in all mediums. Marc holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Washington, where he played football (go Huskies!). Marc earned a master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Minnesota (GO GOPHERS!). He’s used his passion for fairness to negotiate optimal contracts for top newscasters across the world as a media talent agent. Marc got his on-air start at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis. He later became a National Political Correspondent with CNN, reporting from Africa and various locations around the globe.
Marc has lectured at universities across the U.S., published an online course about athlete branding/NIL and has won forty-five awards for his writing/reporting, hosting, documentary productions and interviewing. He is a former board member of the National Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Chief Strategic Engagement Officer
Niila oversees The Forum’s fund development activities, partnership engagement and Black-centered leadership development. She joined AALF in 2021 as a Senior Program Director and was promoted a year later in 2022.
Niila is a passionate and energetic community leader who has worked with nonprofit organizations for more than 15 years. She carries a zest for developing collective strategies to increase community access, wealth and opportunities. Highly skilled in creating partnerships, Niila centers her work on being a catalyst for transformative change, through collaborative engagement. She also carries a wealth of experience as a DEI trainer, bringing the core values of equity, inclusion and justice in what she advocates for Black and LGBTQ+ communities.
Niila is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach University, majoring in Communications and Black studies. In addition to her bachelor’s degree, she holds CVA/Certified Volunteer Administrator and CPPM/Certified Professional Project Manager certifications. Niila currently serves on the boards of the MN Alliance for Volunteer Advancement, Nexus Community Partners, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie and Until We Are All Free. Additionally, she serves as a community builder with the MN Black Collective Foundation.
Chief Insights Officer
As Chief Insights Officer, Leondra oversees data collection and analysis, market research, and public policies that support The Forum’s Black Agenda for Change. Drawing on her expertise as an academic and public historian, Leondra synthesizes information gleaned from published studies, public reports, and community conversations to identify real-time needs and solutions for Black communities.
Prior to joining The Forum Leondra was the CEO of WoMN ACT, a statewide advocacy organization committed to counteracting gender injustice and racial inequity in Minnesota. Recognized as a nonprofit management expert, Leondra has worked with nonprofits across the U.S. to improve the efficacy of their operations, programs and board relations. She has also worked with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Leondra is a published author who has written several articles on the inequity of the dominant narrative. A health advocate, she speaks out against the stigmatization of mental health conditions in Black communities. In 2022 MN Gov. Tim Walz recognized Leondra for her work, with an African American Heritage distinction. She’s a board director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and a proud alumna of Howard University.
Chief Innovation Officer
Gabrielle oversees The Forum’s work of building transformative solutions to systemic inequities. She leads our newly created Innovation and Design team, a breakthrough unit that utilizes multiple design models to create advanced solutions in building out our Black Agenda For Change.
In her work, Gabrielle thrives by generating strategic thought, recognizing through partnerships that complex social problems can be solved. She brings a wealth of already existing relationships to AALF along with her successful track record of implementing innovative change. Prior to joining The Forum, Gabrielle was the Managing Director at Juxtaposition Arts, a North Minneapolis nonprofit youth art and design education center. A visionary artist, she led JXTA for five years as a contemporary change agent and relational builder.
She holds a BA from the University of Minnesota in Fine Arts and Youth Studies, a Master of Education degree from UMN in Youth Development and Leadership, and a Post Graduate Certificate from Boston College in Corporate Citizenship & Measurement Sustainability.
Dr. Catherine Squires
Senior Fellow in Residence
Dr. Catherine R. Squires joined The Forum, having recently retired as Associate Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Professor Emerita of Communication Studies, at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of multiple books and articles on media, race, gender, and politics, including Dispatches from the Color Line (2007), The Post-Racial Mystique (2014) and the edited collection Dangerous Discourses: Feminism, Gun Violence & Civic Life (2016).
Dr. Squires has engaged in multiple Twin Cities community partnerships to uplift and share local Black histories, support BIPOC youth writers, share accessible yoga practices and facilitate intergenerational story sharing over the last 15 years. Named a Bush Fellow in 2017, her fellowship focused on understanding intergenerational trauma, culturally relevant healing practices, embodied story sharing and gentle movement. Dr. Squires is also a certified yoga instructor. She works with individuals and curates classes and events focused on Black healing through movement and story sharing practices.
She earned her Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Northwestern University. She was a doctoral fellow in the Center for Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and held a faculty position at the University of Michigan.
Managing Director | Leadership Development
Adora directs The Forum’s development strategies that create leadership pipelines to drive collective action. She manages the critically acclaimed Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy [JRJLA] as well. Adora completely revamped the Academy’s curriculum in 2022, which attracted a record number of applicants to the program for the 2022-2023 cohort.
With a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, Adora is passionate about cultivating relationships and developing collective strategies to increase community wealth through education, economics, and leadership development.
She stays active as a community volunteer on several community boards and advisory councils throughout the Twin Cities and hails from St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. She holds a master’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration from Metropolitan State University, along with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology of Law, Criminology and Deviance, and African American & African Studies from the University of Minnesota. Adora also has multiple certifications; CPPM/Certified Professional Project Manager and a certificate as an Intercultural Development Inventory Qualified Administrator.
Managing Director | Impact, Evaluation & Learning
Ingrid oversees structures, systems and processes that ensure organizational impact at The Forum. Her work touches all departmental units at AALF and various functions, from contracts and operational procedures, to effectively onboarding new employees. Ingrid’s oversight provides proper framing for The Forum to generate maximum community impact and adherence to the processes in place to deliver effectiveness. She leads the organization’s commitment in establishing evaluative measures that gauge overall success of The Forum.
Ingrid has worked closely with organizations of all kinds, from high-growth digital startups, mission-driven nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. She brings a wealth of leadership experience to identifying new opportunities and strategizing successful partnerships. Ingrid is a skilled connector, a natural curator of community and a passionate change agent who finds inspiration in people and possibilities.
Ingrid holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and is pursuing her master’s degree in Change Management. She majored in Strategic Communications and holds a double minor in Social Justice and African American Studies.
Managing Director | Brand Strategy & Marketing
Brittany oversees the strategic development and management of The Forum’s communication, marketing, and public relations functions. Driven by her passion for impactful storytelling, she leads communications and media planning as well as content development and management of creative partners.
Brittany has a deep knowledge of marketing, gleaned from years of working with a variety of Fortune 500 brands. She is a skilled narrative builder and collaborator who enjoys finding the intersection between data-driven insights and creativity. Brittany has helped to craft award-winning, multi-media campaigns. Some of her most recent work with the Smithsonian launching, “Our Shared Future, Reckoning with Our Racial Past,” brought together a team of world-class creative and production talent; collaborating with museum curators to bring to life a multi-tiered program including live-streamed events, in-person experiential pop-ups, digital and curated content. The initiative won gold at the Telly Awards and led her to formally pursue her passion for equity advocacy in the nonprofit sector.
A proud Minnesota native, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Strategic Communications and Design.
Managing Director | Policy Impact
Amber leads the organization’s development of policy initiatives and advocacy priorities, carrying out her work through coalition building and policy entrepreneurship. Amber is committed to advancing Black-led policy solutions with elected and community leaders, which is also a goal of The Forum’s newly formed policy entrepreneur fellowship cohort. She holds extensive experience in community organizing, governmental advocacy and systems change.
Prior to joining the organization, Amber was a policy advisor to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, where she managed policy and legislative relations on public safety and criminal justice reform. Amber is passionate about advancing Black liberation and joy through expansive, broad-scale systems change that increases the quality of life and self-determination of Black communities.
Amber is a 2015 Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy Fellow and holds a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in African American & African Studies from the University of Minnesota. She’s currently studying for her master’s degree in Justice and Reconciliation at Luther Seminary.
Director | Institutional Giving
Kenneth manages The Forum’s initiatives in generating new partnerships and business. Well-plugged in to the Twin Cities community and a 14-year veteran of economic development in the nonprofit sector, Kenneth has been instrumental in diversifying our donorship base and landing new funding. He has created unique models here, offering funders innovative ways to pledge their financial support.
Kenneth always has a smile and is a gregarious engaging gentleman. He was a fellow of the 2019 Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy class, and thrives at building professional partnerships. Kenneth is a successful entrepreneur as well and lends his hand to numerous charities in the Twin Cities.
He serves as The Forum’s point person in the annual funding drive, Give to the Max, and plays a key role in the organization’s grant writing and sponsorships. Prior to joining us, Kenneth served as the Donor Relations Manager at the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ).
Karen joined The Forum in Spring 2023 as a member of the newly created Innovation and Design team. As a Design Strategist, she works immersively with her team in utilizing insights and innovative solutions to design projects centered on Black people and communities, to advance racial equity.
A sociocultural anthropologist by training, Karen has conducted extensive cross-cultural research in Latin America at the intersections of resource extraction, race, and class. Through a commitment to a deep understanding of local networks and community cultures, she specializes in building strong relationships with diverse communities and stakeholders. Karen’s cultural bridge-building skills benefit her immensely in her role at AALF.
An Anthropology Ph.D. graduate from the University of Minnesota, she holds minors in Heritage Studies & Public History and Feminist Critical Sexuality Studies. Karen also has her master’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota, along with her bachelor’s degree from Beloit College, where she double majored in Anthropology and English Literature, minoring in Spanish.
Jessica works collaboratively with the newly created Innovation and Design team in bringing insights and innovative Black-led solutions to persistent social issues. Drawing on her expertise in Black-Centered Design, Jessica aims to center and embed the voices of Black Minnesotans in power structures, processes, and the culture of systems. Her approach is based in a strong belief that communities most affected by long-standing patterns of inequity, hold the solutions to dismantle the forces of oppression.
Prior to joining The Forum, Jessica founded and led the consulting firm Designing for Equity. While there, she utilized equity-centered design to create spaces for excluded and marginalized student populations in leading decision-making for college campuses.
Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota studying Higher Education. She completed her undergraduate degree in Youth Studies at the University of Minnesota. She received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan.
Digital Content Lead
She has a diverse background in communications, graphics and strategic brand development, along with a decade of experience in professional photography. Gifted with a camera, Delali has a keen eye for proper framing, imagery, design and words and how they’re packaged in creating impactful content and engaging stories. She was drawn to AALF by the call to reimagine a completely new future for Black Minnesotans and beyond, filled with prosperity, equality and excellence. Having joined the organization in spring 2023, Delali is enthusiastic to bring her vision, collaborative spirit and communications pedigree to the talented staff.
She has thrived in previous work, serving as a professional dialogue facilitator, leading conversations and panel discussions with global participants in the examination and exploration of contentious social issues. Delali earned her bachelor’s degree at Penn State University in Communication Arts and Science. She grew up in Central Pennsylvania, influenced by a bustling international community, in the city of State College. Her mother is a distinguished poet and teacher. Her father, from Ghana, is a Spanish professor at Penn State. So it’s easy to see how words, expressions and cross-cultural experiences were powerful components of Delali’s upbringing!
Policy Entrepreneur Fellow
Kendrick joined The Forum in spring 2023 as a member of the newly created Policy Entrepreneur cohort. It’s a two-year program. This cohort will serve to advance transformative change by developing policies to improve the standard of living for Black Minnesotans.
In previous employment, Kendrick has worked as a Restorative Justice Practitioner with a community organization, serving Hennepin County. In that role, he primarily provided direct services to schools and their districts. Kendrick has also served as an educator and debate coach in Minneapolis Public Schools, where his focus was promoting equitable practices.
Carrying a passion for restorative practices in education, Kendrick cultivates spaces that are healing-focused, well-being centric and forward-thinking. He also holds extensive experience in providing victim-centered, trauma-informed training and assistance for criminal justice, social service and other professional organizations. Kendrick earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from St. Cloud State University
Executive Assistant to the CEO
Shuriah joins The Forum as Executive Assistant to the CEO following more than a decade of work in the nonprofit, healthcare administration and healthcare research sectors. She has focused much of her work towards the advancement of underrepresented communities. Detailed and process-oriented, Shuriah’s approach is to analyze and implement strategies that sustainably improve organizations and the lives of others.
She hails from Michigan, earning a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a master’s in Healthcare Administration from University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Passionate about cultural learning models, Shuriah has served as an Adult Literacy tutor for African American communities to help address inequalities in education, and she has an extensive research background. She has conducted studies in the West African country of Ghana to identify health disparities pertaining to mercury poisoning within small-scale mining villages. Her research results were published in an international women’s health magazine. Additionally, Shuriah has served on multiple multicultural councils to improve diversity and inclusion.
Our board members
Executive Director | Minnesota Humanities Center
President | Minnesota Public Radio
Dr. Sylvia Bartley
Chief of Staff | JSI Research and Training Institute, Internationally Recognized Health Equity Advocate
Financial Advisor & Pacesetter’s Club Distinguished Honoree | Morgan Stanley-Global Financial Solutions
Dr. Nerita Hughes
President | Bay de Noc Community College, Past AALF Board Co-Chair 2021
Senior Director, Supplier & Outreach | Medtronic; Past AALF Board Co-Chair 2021
Dr. Michael Favor
Superintendent | Intermediate School District #917