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Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy

Grass with dandelions

The Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy (JRJLA) is a six-month leadership development cohort experience designed to meet the cultural, personal and professional development needs of 20 African American leaders. Known as fellows, these 20 individuals share a lifelong commitment to improving outcomes in the Black community. Each fellow builds a vocabulary for articulating their passion and purpose.

JRJLA leverages the success and influence of established African American leaders, referred to as Torchbearers, dedicated to mentoring, advocating and championing other leaders. With individualized professional coaching and connection to these leaders, the JRJLA fellows actively engage in experiential learning sessions to deepen our framework around Leadership, Sankofa, Community and Thriving. Each fellow designs an individual project that will benefit the community through their leadership exploration and connections made with local businesses and community organizations.

This is a unique opportunity for any individual looking to grow their leadership skills. Join the fellowship completed by more than 120 JRJLA Alumni, hundreds more Torchbearers and community dignitaries.


Six months of the year. Held annually.


Awarded to fellow upon completion of academy training.


Various locations in the Twin Cities.


Upon successful completion of this Academy experience, fellows will have the opportunity to share their leadership projects to community members and celebrate their graduation from the JRJLA. Additionally, each fellow has the opportunity to earn an investment into their continued leadership development in the form of a $1000 grant (based on participation and attendance).

Through this initiative the African American Leadership Forum provides emerging leaders with the guidance and tools needed to improve outcomes for African Americans in Minnesota. The success of JRJLA is measured by accomplishing the following objectives:

  • Becoming a brand ambassador of the The Forum and its extended network
  • Comprehending leadership from multiple perspectives
  • Applying evidence-based strategies and framework to your leadership journey
  • Completing an individual project that impacts one of the six impact areas of The Forum
  • Developing a continuous learning plan
  • Developing a Black-Centered self-care practice/plan
  • Dismantling white supremacy in leadership
  • Understanding how Blackness is an asset in Leadership
  • Joining the community of JRJLA Alumni, who are diverse in age, profession and life experiences, to deepen connections and strengthen The Forum’s pipeline of leadership

Whom Are We Looking For?

  • Someone who considers themself a valued leader
  • Someone looking to improve their leadership skills
  • Someone who is coachable with a willingness to learn
  • Someone committed to dismantling white supremacy in leadership
  • Someone willing to apply learned leadership principles going forward in their career

June 21 & 22, July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18 and November 15.



  • JRJLA is an in person, Twin Cities-based academy. Attendance at community excursion events throughout the program’s duration is required with no exceptions. Fellows are expected to attend each excursion on time and stay for the entire event. Some sessions will require reading and other work assignments.


  • Fellows are required to execute an individual community leadership project that will influence one or more of AALF’s focus areas. They’ll be responsible for providing reports on progress throughout the academy. Each fellow will make a short presentation or pitch to key stakeholders (alumni, community members, Torchbearers, staff and board members). These stakeholders will champion launch opportunities while sharing knowledge to better the proposals.

  • The African American Leadership Forum has invested in offering six months of leadership development coaching for each JRJLA Fellow. During the leadership academy experience, fellows are required to engage the coach they are assigned for a minimum of one hour each month.

  • Growing your network is a significant part of the fellowship. Each fellow will be paired with a Torchbearer, a community/organizational leader committed to being a champion for Black leaders. Fellows are expected to meet with Torchbearer mentors at least once a month. BECOME A TORCHBEARER TODAY: APPLY HERE TO BECOME A CHAMPION AND MENTOR IN THE GROWTH OF OUR FELLOWS.

  • Alumni are the gemstones of the academy. Each fellow will be matched with an alum for support during the leadership academy to share experiences and gain insights on how to strengthen a leadership project. This is the first connection to the network.

Our Fellows

  • Airrion Williams

  • Amber Shannon

  • Ashlyn Crawford

  • Ayolanda Evans Mack

  • Christopher Guy

  • Dr. Amanda Bolton

  • Dr. Gabriel Warren

  • Gabriel L. Ijjo

  • Gage Urvina

  • Hassan As-Sidiq

  • Holly Bishu

  • Joshua (Brotha Ase) Gillespie

  • Khamara Pettus

  • Lachelle Cunningham

  • LaTricia Tate

  • Muna Abdullahi

  • Nicole Pacini

  • Ryan McKee

  • Yasin Williams

  • Zanele Nyabusha



“This was an amazing experience and I look forward to staying connected with AALF and JRJLA for years to come!”

– JRJLA 2023 Fellow


“The Forum Leadership program has been a transformative journey for me, preparing me for the path that was meant for me…through this program, I’ve received invaluable support in various forms, including clarifying my purpose, learning the importance of self-care, and maintaining focus and resilience amidst challenges in my field. Moreover, I’ve created bonds with fellow participants who have become more than friends—they are now my extended family and unwavering support system. This program embodies Black excellence, empowering individuals to tap into their Black Magic and radiate brilliance in the world.”

– JRJLA 2023 Fellow