Adair is the organization’s first hired CEO since AALF was founded in 2006. He 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. 

Adair’s framework for Pillsbury United, moved the agency’s focus upstream to building infrastructure 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 to prevent gentrification while prioritizing wealth creation in black and brown communities.

Adair led a $7M capital campaign to build North Market, a grocery store that’s transforming food access in N. Minneapolis. He serves on the boards of the Women’s Foundation of MN and MinnPost. In 2019, he was selected to represent the Twin Cities region at Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program. 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 



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 7-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 15 years she has partnered across sectors including nonprofit, corporations, and the arts community to implement systems of change that include  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. 



As Chief Brand Officer, Marc oversees the organization’s Branding functions, consisting of content creation, marketing, narrative and events. In 2022, he served as Co-Interim CEO during a 7-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 original video, digital and written media content. Marc holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Washington, where he played football. Marc 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. 

He has lectured at universities across the U.S. and has published an online course about athlete branding. Marc has won fifty writing, reporting and TV interviewing awards. He also used to be a media talent agent, negotiating optimal contracts for top newscasters across the world and is a former board member of the national Museum of Broadcast Communications. A word geek, Marc believes impactful comprehension of communication hinges on the specific vocabulary to specific audiences.


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, 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 and Until We Are All Free.



As Chief Insights Officer, Leondra oversees market research, data analysis and public policy. As a public historian, researcher and educator Leondra has been responsible for producing relevant insights about Black communities for 20 years. Passionate about the intersectionality of race and class, she is most concerned about the systems that delimit Black power, equity and justice.

Prior to joining AALF Leondra was the CEO of WoMN ACT, a Minnesota nonprofit, from 2019-2022. She is recognized as a nonprofit management expert and has worked with the Minnesota Humanities Center, National Endowment for the Humanities and several UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Leondra has taught History, Black Studies and English at the college level. A published author too, she has written several articles on the inequity of the dominant narrative.

A mental health advocate, 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 a former board member of Turning Point. She holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Howard University and is ABD from Kent State University.



As Chief Innovation Officer, Gabrielle oversees the organization’s work of building transformative solutions to systemic inequities. She leads the newly created Innovation and Design team, a breakthrough unit that utilizes multiple design models to create advanced solutions in building out AALF’s Black Agenda For Change.

Prior to joining AALF, 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.  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.

She has a Master of Education degree from the University of Minnesota in Youth Development and Leadership. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the UMN as well in Fine Arts and Youth Studies. Gabrielle holds a Post Graduate Certificate from Boston College in Corporate Citizenship & Measurement Sustainability.  



Dr. Catherine R. Squires joins AALF having recently retired as Associate Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and is 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.  Through these explorations Dr. Squires became a certified yoga instructor creating writing practices for healing and reconnection.

She earned her PhD in Communication Studies from Northwestern University. Prior to that, she was a doctoral fellow in the Center for Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1999 Dr. Squires began her first faculty position at the University of Michigan. She moved to Minnesota in 2007 to be the inaugural Cowles Professor of Journalism, Diversity & Equality at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism & Mass Communication.



As Assistant to the CEO and Special Projects Manager, Paula conceptualizes and then launches special initiatives for the CEO and AALF’s senior management team. She leads cross-functional projects from start to finish while providing key logistical support to the Board of Directors and senior leadership. In addition, she coordinates AALF’s Operations work related to Information Technology and office maintenance.

Paula has a distinguished 30-year administrative and writing background, having worked in the U.S., Europe and South America. She specializes in project coordination and process improvement. Paula also works as an independent journalist for the Minnesota Women’s Press Institute based in St. Paul and serves as Board Chair for The Uptake community news group in Minneapolis.

An alumna of Indiana University-Bloomington, Paula enjoys reading, kayaking and archery. She volunteers for New City Church in South Minneapolis, on the music and grant writing teams. Paula has brought a multitude of skills to AALF that benefit the organization across many of its platforms. She is currently studying for her master’s degree at Metro State University.



With a decade of experience in the nonprofit sector, Adora directs the organization’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. Dr. Johnson herself served as the cohort’s opening speaker.

Adora is the driving force behind the growth and popularity of the JRJLA, along with it being named, “One of the finest leadership academies in the Midwest.” In 2022 she launched a leadership webinar series for AALF called GRIT: Grow. Reflect. Inspire. Transform. Adora also served as webinar host for this leadership series. 

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.



As Managing Director of Operational Effectiveness and Culture, Ingrid oversees structures, systems and processes that ensure organizational effectiveness. Her work touches all departmental units at AALF, from contracts and financial procedures, to effectively onboarding new employees. If there’s a system that will benefit an organization in running smoother, chances are Ingrid has already implemented it at AALF.

Ingrid is a skilled connector, a natural curator of community and passionate change agent who finds inspiration in people and possibilities. She brings a wealth of leadership experience to identifying new opportunities and strategizing successful partnerships.

Ingrid has worked closely with organizations of all kinds, from high-growth digital startups, mission-driven nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies. Proficient in numerous platforms and computer programs, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Ingrid majored in Strategic Communications and holds a double minor in Social Justice and African American Studies.



As Managing Director of Brand Strategy and Marketing, Brittany oversees the strategic development and management of AALF’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.

Versatile in her expertise, and always eager for a new challenge, she’s had the pleasure of working with a variety of Fortune 500 brands on award-winning, national multi-media campaigns.

Brittany is a skilled narrative builder and collaborator who enjoys finding the intersection between data-driven insights and creativity.

A proud Minnesota native, she holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in Strategic Communications and Design.



As Managing Director of Policy Impact, Amber leads the organization in developing AALF’s policy initiatives and advocacy priorities, through coalition building and policy entrepreneurship. During the state legislative session each year, she spends a bulk of her time at the capital in St. Paul speaking to legislators and advancing AALF’s policy directives. She has extensive experience in community organizing, governmental advocacy, and systems change.

Prior to joining AALF, Amber was a 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. Plugged-in and familiar with state politics, Amber is a frequent point of contact for community influencers who are seeking the latest information about state government.

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, and serves as a podcast host for “Revival,” a show dedicated to helping Christians advance justice and liberation in Minnesota.



As Director of Institutional Giving, Kenneth manages AALF’s initiatives in generating new partnerships and business. Well-plugged into the Twin Cities community and a 14-year veteran of economic development in the nonprofit sector, Kenneth has been instrumental in AALF diversifying its donorship base and landing new funding. He has created unique models at AALF, offering donors innovative ways to pledge their financial support.

Kenneth always has a smile and is a gregarious engaging gentleman. He was a fellow of AALF’s Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy (Class of 2019), and thrives at building professional relationships. Kenneth is a successful entrepreneur as well and lends his hand to numerous charities in the Twin Cities.

He serves as AALF’s point person in the annual funding drive, Give to the Max, and plays a key role in the organization’s grant-writing. Prior to landing at AALF, Kenneth served as the Donor Relations Manager at the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ).



Karen joined AALF in Spring 2023 as a member of the newly created Innovation and Design and 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 the 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 PhD 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 UMN, along with her bachelor’s degree from Beloit College, where she double majored in Anthropology and English Literature, minoring in Spanish.



Jessica joined AALF in April 2023. She and Karen Bauer came onboard the same day following an extensive search for two accomplished Design Strategists. In her role, 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 communities most affected by long-standing patterns of inequity hold the solutions to dismantle the forces of oppression.

Prior to joining AALF, 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. She transfers those skills and much more to AALF in advancing a Black agenda rooted in the genius of Black Minnesotans.

Jessica is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota studying Higher Education. She completed her undergraduate degree in Youth Studies at the UMN. She received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan.



Cassandra joined AALF as an accountant at the start of 2023. She brings 17 years of experience in financial management, bookkeeping and accounting functions. Maintaining an active MN Certified Public Accounting license, Cassandra has a passion for streamlining financial systems and maintaining efficiency of accounting procedures.

As a business owner, she has worked with clients across a diversity of spectrums in educating them about finances and assisting them in the reconciliation of their finances come tax time. With a keen eye for numbers, transactions and tax law, Cassandra is a specialist in creating effective solutions along with financial expediency. She also offers her time to work with youth and young entrepreneurs, in order for them to ensure success in their startup ventures along with self-sufficiency.

Cassandra is an alumna of the Accounting and Business, Human Resource Management program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.



Kevin Lindsey, Board Chair | Executive Director, Minnesota Humanities Center

Duchesne Drew, Board Treasurer | President, Minnesota Public Radio


Dr. Sylvia Bartley | Chief of Staff, JSI Research and Training Institute; BSc (Hons), Pharmacology, PhD; Internationally Recognized Health Equity Advocate

Lauren Boulware | Financial Advisor and Pacesetter’s Club Distinguished Honoree, Morgan Stanley-Global Financial Solutions

Dr. Nerita Hughes | Interim Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs and Workforce Innovation; Dean of Business School, Careers, Education & Workforce Innovation, North Hennepin CC; Past AALF Board Co-Chair 2021; Incoming President, Bay College

John Taylor | Senior Director, Supplier and Outreach, Medtronic; Past AALF Board Co-Chair 2021