CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Adair is the organization’s first hired CEO since the African American Leadership Forum was founded in 2006. He joins AALF 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. Over the course of his leadership journey, he has demonstrated radical and inclusive solutions to the community’s most urgent needs, co-created with people most affected.
Adair’s bold strategic framework for Pillsbury United, moved the agency’s focus upstream to building infrastructure and collaborations that addressed multi-dimensional social issues. That led to a $1M community-health partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and a $1M investment from Kresge Foundation. In 2020, he launched Justice Built Communities, an equitable economic development corporation created to prevent gentrification and displacement along with prioritizing wealth creation in black and brown communities.
Previously as Pillsbury’s Chief Innovation Officer, Adair led a $7 million dollar capital campaign to build North Market, a first-of-its-kind grocery store that’s transforming food access and economic vitality in North Minneapolis. Adair is a member of the Itasca Project, and serves on the boards of the MinnPost, Center for Economic Inclusion, and Women’s Foundation of MN.
In 2019, he was selected to represent the Twin Cities region at Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program. The General Mills Foundation has honored Adair with its Local Legend Award for the embodiment of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision and legacy.
Currently, he’s a candidate for 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
As Chief Operating Officer, Shanaya oversees organizational health and effectiveness of Finance, Operations, and Human Resource functions. She served as Co-Interim CEO in 2022 during a 6-month transition in leadership.
Shanaya is a strategic thought leader, community advocate, and artist known for being a results-driven, transformational, truth-teller. She is a builder and facilitator of growth who utilizes focused strategy, connection-making, and an abundance mindset to promote resources and drive action. For more than 15 years she has partnered across sectors including nonprofit, government, corporations, and the arts community to implement systems of change that include programmatic development, building organizational cultures, strategic efficiency, and operational excellence.
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 holds professional certifications from University of St. Thomas Executive Education. In 2020, she led youth programming for Twin Cities nonprofit, The BrandLab, which was honored as a Standout Diversity Program and highlighted in Forbes. Shanaya has been awarded competitive opportunities and grant funding for her artistic and community endeavors from the Minnesota Humanities Center, American Craft Council, Minnesota State Arts Board, and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
CHIEF BRAND OFFICER
As Chief Brand Officer, Marc oversees the organization’s Branding and Communication functions, consisting of content creation, marketing, narrative and events. In 2022, he served as Co-Interim CEO during a 6-month transition in leadership. He joined AALF in August 2021, after a 20-year career in the media industry.
Marc has worked in senior management for TV networks and has owned a journalism training academy in California. His passion lies in the creation of video, digital and written media content. Marc holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Washington and earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota. He later became a National Political Correspondent with CNN, reporting from various locations around the globe. Marc got his on-air start at WCCO-TV in Minneapolis.
CHIEF STRATEGIC ENGAGEMENT OFFICER
As Chief Strategic Engagement Officer, Niila oversees the development of the AALF volunteer network with the core strategies of network management, network insights and leadership development. She was promoted to the Vice President/Officer role in 2022, after joining AALF in 2021 as a Senior Program Director.
Niila is 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, in the Alignment function of AALF’s mission. 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 and Until We Are All Free.
CHIEF INSIGHTS OFFICER
As Chief Insights Officer, Leondra connects high-impact individuals, organizations, and businesses with the advocacy, policy legislation and collaboration needed to accelerate Black communities. Passionate about the intersectionality of race and class, she is most concerned about the erasure of the Black voice and generational poverty. Leondra is a public historian and recognized as a nonprofit management expert.
Prior to joining AALF she worked at the Minnesota Humanities Center, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Endowment for the Humanities, several UNESCO World Heritage Sites and as CEO of the Minnesota nonprofit WoMN ACT.
Leondra has taught History and Black Studies at the collegiate level. She is also a published author having written numerous articles on the inequity of the dominant narrative. Her voice is often sought out to comment on the stigmatization of mental health conditions, systems change and DEIA initiatives. Leondra is a board member of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Turning Point. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Howard University.
ASSISTANT TO THE CEO & SPECIAL PROJECTS MANAGER
MANAGING DIRECTOR, OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS & CULTURE
MANAGING DIRECTOR, BRAND STRATEGY & MARKETING
MANAGING DIRECTOR, POLICY IMPACT
As Managing Director of Policy Impact, Amber leads the organization in developing and advancing AALF’s policy initiatives and advocacy priorities, through coalition building and policy entrepreneuship. She has a wealth of experience in community organizing, governmental advocacy, and systems change. Amber is a former policy advisor to MN Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, where she managed policy and legislative relations on public safety and criminal justice reform. Amber is a 2015 Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy Fellow and holds a bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from the University of Minnesota. She’s currently studying for her master’s degree at Luther Seminary.
MANAGING DIRECTOR, LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
ADORA LAND TOLEFREE
With nearly a decade in the nonprofit sector, Adora directs the organization’s development strategies that create leadership pipelines to drive collective action. She manages the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy as well. Adora completely revamped the Leadership Academy curriculum in 2022, which attracted a record number of applicants to the program for the 2022-2023 cohort. She stays active as a community volunteer throughout the Twin Cities, and hails from the St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. Adora is passionate about developing strategies to increase community wealth and is a firm believer that collective work is the best way to generate opportunities for community. She holds a master’s degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration from Metropolitan State University.
DIRECTOR, INSTITUTIONAL GIVING
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Kevin Lindsey, Board Chair | Executive Director, Minnesota Humanities Center
Duchesne Drew, Board Treasurer | President, Minnesota Public Radio
Anisha Murphy, Board Secretary | Adjunct Professor, Hamline University
Sylvia Bartley, BSc (Hons), Pharmacology; PhD, Neurophysiology Global Director, Medtronic Philanthropy
Lauren Boulware, Director, Morgan Stanley
Robbin Frazier, Associate Director of Equity and Community Engagement Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation, University of Minnesota
Dr. Nerita Hughes, Dean for the School of Business, Careers, Education & Workforce Innovation, North Hennepin Community College (Past AALF Board of Directors Co-Chair, 2021)
Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director, Way To Grow
John Taylor, Director Strategic Sourcing, Medtronic (Past AALF Board of Directors Co-Chair, 2021)
Stella Whitney West, CEO, NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center