The Power of Diversity: Black 100 (51-100)

The most influential Black individuals in New York politics.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams stepped up during a summer of Black Lives Matter protests.

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams stepped up during a summer of Black Lives Matter protests. Kevin RC Wilson/Shutterstock

51. Kiara St. James

Co-Founder and Executive Director, New York Transgender Advocacy Group


Via her efforts as a community organizer and public speaker for more than 20 years, and now through the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, Kiara St. James has fought for the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Last year, James helped pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act in Albany. With the recent spate of murders of trans people, the work of James and her organization has become more important than ever.

52. Sheena Wright

President and CEO, United Way of New York City

Sheena Wright
Sheena Wright

Last year, Sheena Wright said her 2020 mission was to make city residents’ life more affordable and increase the response rate for the 2020 Census – issues that have become even more important in the time of COVID-19. It’s an uphill climb: her organization’s census outreach is at odds with the Trump administration’s efforts to curtail the decennial count, and there are increasing numbers of residents facing housing crises.

53. Darren Walker

President, Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation

As the head of the $13 billion Ford Foundation, Darren Walker has furthered the massive nonprofit’s mission to make art and culture more accessible and to expand the foundation’s social justice mandate. In addition to his duties at Ford, Walker is a member of Cuomo’s Reimagining New York Commission and co-chair of NYC Census 2020. He previously chaired the philanthropy committee that tackled Detroit’s bankruptcy.

54. Jamaal Bowman

Congressional Candidate

Jamaal Bowman defeated Rep. Eliot Engel for the NY-16 Congressional seat.
Guerin Blask

Jamaal Bowman is seemingly everywhere this year. From an appearance on Showtime’s “Desus & Mero” to his recent endorsement of Scott Stringer for mayor, Bowman wants his name to be ubiquitous as he runs for New York’s 16th Congressional District seat. What intrigues people about Bowman is how he and other progressive Black politicians will try to fill the void left by the deaths of John Lewis and Elijah Cummings.

55. Mondaire Jones

Congressional Candidate

NY-17 candidate Mondaire Jones.
Mondaire for Congress

As the Democratic nominee for New York’s 17th Congressional District, Mondaire Jones has aligned himself with the progressive wave. He’s in favor of both the Green New Deal and a $15 minimum wage, supports “Medicare for All,” and opposes new fossil fuel infrastructure. Jones got a major endorsement from President Barack Obama this year. Young, Black and gay, Jones is looking to make waves in Washington. 

56. Ingrid Lewis-Martin

Deputy Borough President, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office

As Brooklyn deputy borough president, Ingrid Lewis-Martin has remained loyal to both the borough and to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Before taking on her current role, she served for more than five years as a senior adviser to Adams, and for seven years as his chief of staff in the state Senate. Her profile could be raised with an Adams mayoral bid.

57.  Maya Wiley

2021 New York City Mayoral Contender

Attorney, political commentator, and now mayoral candidate Maya Wiley.
Arman Dzidzovic

Maya Wiley, who recently left a gig as a pundit for MSNBC, formed an exploratory committee for a possible run for New York City mayor. Her prior work leading the Civilian Complaint Review Board brought her up close and personal with the fight for police reform, and she served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio. If she wins, she would be the first female mayor in the city’s history.

58. Raymond McGuire

Vice Chair, Citigroup

Raymond McGuire is exploring a run for New York City mayor, which would have him following in the footsteps of Michael Bloomberg as a deep-pocketed first-time candidate for City Hall. McGuire has been an outspoken voice against income inequality and police brutality. Last year, Citigroup overhauled its consumer banking division while restructuring the company, which led to the departure of a number of executives – but not McGuire, who’s still running the company’s global endeavors. 

59. Sochie Nnaemeka

State Director, Working Families Party

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Sochie Nnaemeka became the state director of the New York Working Families Party in January of 2020. The community organizer wants to take on “corporate Democrats” and hopes to move the party to the left of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Among her notable achievements in recent months are assisting breakthrough congressional candidates Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones, as well as dozens of state legislative candidates who won their June primaries. 

60. Jonnel Doris

Commissioner, New York City Department of Small Business Services

Jonnel Doris took over as commissioner of New York City Small Business Services this spring. In his role, he helps more than 220,000 businesses looking to hold strong during the coronavirus pandemic. Doris previously served as senior adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio and as the city’s first director of the Mayor's Office for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises.

61. Shaun D. Francois I

President, District Council 37

Shaun Francois
Shaun Francois

The president of District Council 37 and of New York City Board of Education Employees Local 372, Shaun D. Francois I has had his hands full in 2020. Representing school crossing guards, health aides, school lunch workers and other public school staff, Francois’ union was part of the campaign to delay the beginning of the school year and efforts to ensure his constituents are done right by the de Blasio administration. 

62.  Jessica Walker

President and CEO, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce

Jessica Walker joined other business leaders this year in demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo come up with a plan to help businesses struggling because of the pandemic, pointing out that minority-owned businesses were disproportionately impacted. Last year, Walker raised concerns about legislation overhauling the city's private trash hauling system and the possibility of the New York City Council expanding legislation that would make it harder to fire fast-food workers to all businesses in the city. 

63. Mara Gay

Editorial Board Member, The New York Times

Editorial writer at the New York Times Mara Gay
Kevin Hagen

Mara Gay has become an important figure at the New York Times. Whether you read her opinions on state and New York City politics, follow her on social media or watch her punditry on MSNBC, Gay’s influence on local politics can’t be denied. During the pandemic and its wide-ranging fallout, Gay’s voice has become even more important when critiquing the policies of both Albany and City Hall.

64. Kirsten John Foy

President and CEO, Arc of Justice

As one of New York City’s leading voices against police misconduct and structural racism, Arc of Justice President and CEO Kirsten John Foy has also been a leading voice for casinos downstate, reasoning that they would create jobs for New Yorkers of color. He called for the creation of more specialized high schools like Bronx Science, Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech, and has been a longtime adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the the Rev. Al Sharpton.

65. Christina Greer

Associate Professor of Political Science, Fordham University

Christina Greer
Tiffany McGee

In addition to Christina Greer’s work as an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, she frequently lends her voice to other media outlets, including one of her own – the FAQ-NYC podcast – to express herself and her views. Greer was the 2018 fellow in residence for the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University Silver School of Social Work.

66. Rudolph F. “Rudy” Crew

President, Medgar Evers College

When two Brooklyn subway stations were renamed after civil rights leader Medgar Evers, Rudy Crew, the president of nearby Medgar Evers College, touted it as “a tangible representation of the role that this institution plays in the academic and cultural fabric of this community.” Yet Crew, a former schools chancellor for New York City, has had a rocky tenure leading the college.

67. Clinton Miller

Pastor, Brown Memorial Baptist Church

Pastor Clinton Miller’s ability to sway his followers has made him one of New York City’s go-to figures for any public official who is looking to make inroads into the community. Recently, Miller, who was appointed to the New York City Charter Revision Commission by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, threw his support behind the recently nixed city rezoning of Industry City on the Sunset Park waterfront.

68. Alphonso David

President, Human Rights Campaign

NYS Executive Chamber/Office of General Services

Alphonso David has long been part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s circle, working with the governor on everything from immigrant issues to the causes important to the LGBTQ community. In his role as president of the Human Rights Campaign, David has expanded the HRC’s influence outside of New York. Recently, the organization helped secure a grant for Pearl Bar, the only lesbian bar in Houston, to stay afloat during the pandemic.

69. Camille Joseph-Goldman & Rodney Capel

Group Vice President for Government Affairs; Vice President of State Government Affairs, Charter Communications

Camille Joseph
Charter Communications

Camille Joseph-Goldman has become a key player at Charter. She recently helped the Black News Channel launch on Feb. 10 with a focus on news that affects the diverse African American community. One of her top colleagues is Rodney Capel, who has been with Charter for three years after working in the Cuomo administration and as the New York director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

70. Geoffrey Canada & Kwame Owusu-Kesse

President; CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone

Since its launch in the 1990s, Harlem Children’s Zone has garnered national acclaim for its groundbreaking efforts to revitalize the community through its comprehensive strategy to serve local children and families. The nonprofit organization was founded by Geoffrey Canada, who remains its president. This summer, Kwame Owusu-Kesse was promoted from his position as chief operating officer to the role of CEO, replacing Anne Williams-Isom.

71. Juanita Scarlett

Partner, Bolton-St. Johns

Juanita Scarlett
Columbia Photo Studio (Manhattan)

During her lengthy career in public service before joining Bolton-St. Johns, Juanita Scarlett served with political figures from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to former Gov. Mario Cuomo to former New York City Comptroller John Liu. In addition to her role with the government relations and public affairs firm, Scarlett is on the boards of The Stars of New York Dance, the Citizens Union Foundation and Camp Fort Greene. 

72. Elinor Tatum

Publisher and Editor-in-Chief,  New York Amsterdam News

As the head of one of the most important newspapers in the city, Elinor Tatum is a key conduit for the city’s Black community and beyond. Tatum’s duties as the leader of “The New Black View” are focused on keeping the New York Amsterdam News as one of the essential venues for politicians when they need to speak to the community or get an endorsement.

73. Janella Hinds

Secretary-Treasurer, New York City Central Labor Council

Last year, Janella Hinds testified before the New York City Council in favor of desegregating the city’s public schools. Serving as the No. 2 at the New York City Central Labor Council – the city’s umbrella group for public and private sector unions – Hinds also serves as vice president for academic high schools at the UFT, the powerful teachers union that has shaped the restart of classes this fall. 

74. Terrence Melvin

Secretary-Treasurer, New York State AFL-CIO

Terrence Melvin is second in command at the New York State AFL-CIO, the umbrella group representing millions of public and private sector union members statewide. Melvin is also an ordained minister and an outspoken advocate on political issues. In May, in his role as president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, he endorsed Joe Biden for president, arguing that a President Donald Trump victory “could push America to the point of no return.”

75. Michael Garner

Chief Diversity Officer, Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Michael Garner has touted the MTA’s leadership in securing new contracts with businesses owned by minorities and women since the pandemic hit New York, saying those contracts account for 32% of the agency’s procurement contract funds going toward the virus response. Garner previously held positions at the New York City Housing Authority and the New York City School Construction Authority.

76. Milton Tingling

New York County Clerk

The first Black county clerk in New York history, Milton Tingling oversees summoning locals for jury duty, handling marriage licenses and keeping court records. A lifelong friend of Manhattan Democratic Party Chair Keith Wright with decades of experience, Tingling helped with outreach as the co-chair of the census committee for the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

77. Bertha Lewis

Founder and President, The Black Institute

Bertha Lewis
The Black Institute

You want an opinion on the happenings of Black New York? Bertha Lewis is right there to provide one – or more. Not one to mince words, Lewis, the founder and president of The Black Institute, called for the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to conduct an independent study on how and why Black and Latino New Yorkers have been suffering more severe consequences from COVID-19 infections than others.

78. Meredith Marshall

Co-Founder and Managing Partner, BRP Companies

Meredith Marshall has been a major player in developing affordable housing in the tri-state area. BRP Companies is currently developing 2,300 residential units in New York City and Philadelphia while working with a portfolio of $1.7 billion. With New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate Scott Stringer calling for more affordable housing if he makes it to City Hall, expect Marshall’s company to play a significant role.

79. Lloyd Williams

President and CEO, Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce

Lloyd Williams
Hubert Williams

As the president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Lloyd Williams leads the oldest continually operating business organization in Upper Manhattan. Focusing on the economic development of the area, Williams has had his hands full dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic. Williams is also working on the Second Harlem Renaissance Commission and is a member of the executive committee of NYC & Company.

80. L. Joy Williams

President, Brooklyn NAACP

L Joy Williams
Maro Hagopian

Two decades in politics and social justice have made L. Joy Williams a major player in New York City – and the Brooklyn NAACP president’s schedule reflects how in-demand she is. In addition to being the legislative coordinator for the New York State NAACP Conference of Branches, she is frequently asked to appear on MSNBC and as part of the weekly roundtable on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” program.

81. Gloria Middleton

President, Communications Workers of America Local 1180

Gloria Middleton
Gloria Middleton

To confront the current crisis, Gloria Middleton has been working with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to find cost cuts that would allow her union’s members to keep their jobs during the pandemic. This summer, the union prevailed in an 11-year fight to give New York City Health + Hospitals assistant directors the right to unionize.

82. Leecia Eve

Vice President of Public Policy, Verizon Communications

Anthony Alvarez

Leecia Eve currently serves as vice president of public policy for Verizon. She’s in charge of corporate interests, public policy, government and external affairs, regulatory matters, and philanthropy. Lee also serves as a member of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. In 2018, Eve unsuccessfully ran for state attorney general, finishing fourth in the Democratic primary.

83. Frederick Watts

Executive Director, Police Athletic League

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Frederick Watts' Police Athletic League, known for its partnerships with the New York City Police Department and New York City's Summer Youth Employment Program, found ways to serve youth despite the coronavirus pandemic. From early in the pandemic through the summer, the organization had over 5,000 children visit its virtual programs, served hundreds of preschoolers remotely through its Head Start program, and even offered in-person Playstreets programs while practicing social distancing. 

84. Stanley Martin

Co-Leader, Free the People Roc

Rochester has become an epicenter of protests against police violence in the wake of revelations that Daniel Prude had died when police subdued him and put a mesh hood over his head – and that city officials then tried to keep the circumstances secret. In response, Stanley Martin, a local activist, has been calling for reforms and for local officials to resign. 

85. Michael and LaKeesha Walrond

Senior Pastor; Preaching Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church

New York Theological Seminary appointed LaKeesha Walrond as its president in 2019, making her the first Black woman to lead the 120-year-old institution. LaKeesha Walrond is also the preaching pastor of First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem and continues to lead community and social justice initiatives in the five boroughs with her husband Michael Walrond, one of New York City’s leading Black clergymen.

86. Sean T. Campbell

President and Principal Officer, Teamsters Local Union 813

As president and principal officer of Teamsters Local Union 813, Sean T. Campbell leads New York’s private sanitation and demolition debris removal workers as well as the corrugated paper industry, automobile rental, funeral and cemetery workers. His union, which has suffered a myriad of losses during the pandemic, recently joined forces with Align New York to create a relief fund to help overlooked essential workers.

87. Theresa Sanders

President, Urban League of Long Island

Theresa Sanders makes sure people don’t forget about the issues affecting Black people as head of the Urban League of Long Island. In 2019, Sanders focused on Black economic equity – and she continues to call on officials to address income disparity, economic independence and the lack of support for marginalized communities. This year, Sanders is holding Long Island leaders’ feet to the fire to provide more help to the Black community.

88. Vanessa Wakeman

Founder and CEO, The Wakeman Agency

Vanessa Wakeman
Stefan Radtke

A longtime champion of social justice, Vanessa Wakeman launched her own public relations firm in 2003 and has since consulted for nonprofit clients including The New York Women’s Foundation, YWCA of the City of New York, the New York Urban League and Alliance of Families for Justice. The agency provides free media training for people of color through its Narrative Justice Project and leadership training for women through the She Roars training program.

89. Lupe Todd-Medina

President, Effective Media Strategies

Lupe Todd-Medina
Regina Fleming Photography

Lupe Todd-Medina’s political consulting firm does work in New York and New Jersey, but she also has national clients like the Equal Rights Amendment Coalition. Among the political candidates that she has worked with in New York are Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, New York County Defender Services and Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. This cycle, she worked on Grace Lee’s effort to oust Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou.

90. Christopher J. Williams

Board Chair, Shank Williams Cisneros & Co. LLC

The Williams Capital Group, founded and led by Christopher J. Williams, was a large Black-owned investment bank that recently merged with Siebert Cisneros Shank & Co. LLC to form Siebert Williams Shank & Co. LLC. Williams was installed as board chairman, with Suzanne Shank as its president and CEO, making it the largest minority- and woman-owned financial firm in the country.

91. Deidre Sully

Director, NYC Smoke-Free

Deidre Sully, the director of NYC Smoke-Free at Public Health Solutions, is on a one-woman mission to make the five boroughs tobacco-free. While the issue, like so many other urgent health concerns, has taken a backseat to the fight against the coronavirus, Sully is still working on and planning for the most effective ways to address the dangers of menthol cigarettes.

92. Jacques Andre DeGraff

Minister, Canaan Baptist Church of Christ

Jacques Andre DeGraff is one of the many Black church leaders who also choose to focus their energies on social justice and politics. The head of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ has been a longtime advocate for minority- and women-owned businesses – and for granting them a greater share of New York City and state government contracts. He says the city needs to do a better job at supporting a more equitable economy.

93. Paul Thomas

Partner, The Parkside Group

As a partner at The Parkside Group, Paul Thomas spearheads government relations efforts for Fortune 500 companies, educational and cultural institutions, nonprofit organizations and other clients. Before joining the lobbying firm, Thomas worked as assistant director of intergovernmental and community affairs under then-state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, as chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and as a senior aide to state Sen. Kevin Parker.

94. Tunisha Walker-Miller

Principal, Capalino+Company

Tunisha Walker-Miller
Leigh Beckett

Tunisha Walker-Miller has led Capalino+Company’s Minority and Women Business Enterprises Consulting Group since its founding in 2015. Before joining the government relations and strategic consulting firm, she held positions with the state Senate Democrats, in the Cuomo administration and at community activist group ACORN. She’s taken part in the creation of a directory for minority- and women-owned businesses and helps match contractors with subcontractors.

95. DeAnna Hoskins

President and CEO, JustLeadershipUSA

DeAnna Hoskins has served as president and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA since 2018. She advocates for systemic change for those who have suffered the most in society. Hoskins has been committed to the movement for racial and social justice, working to help marginalized populations for more than two decades, including a stint at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Obama administration.

96. Candis Tolliver

Political Director, 32BJ SEIU

The property services workers union 32BJ SEIU suffered a blow last year with the death of its leader, Héctor Figueroa. But under the leadership of Kyle Bragg – and with Candis Tolliver elevated to political director – the union hasn’t missed a beat. The union is known for its political muscle, and Tolliver is keeping the union on the forefront of progressive efforts to protect workers.

97. Anthony Kendall

Chairman and CEO, Mitchell Titus

Anthony Kendall has run Manhattan-based Mitchell Titus, which bills itself as the biggest minority-owned accounting firm in the country, since 2009. The firm specializes in government and public sector work as well as asset management, private equity, nonprofits and real estate. Kendall has served on the boards of Project Renewal Inc. and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, among others.

98. Vaughn Mayers

Chief of Staff, State Sen. Kevin Parker’s Office

Vaughn Mayers
Allen P.

Vaughn Mayers’ day job is being chief of staff to state Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn lawmaker who chairs the Energy and Telecommunications Committee. But Mayers has also been making a name for himself as a political consultant. In the past year, he assisted the victors in two high-profile races: New York City Council Member Donovan Richards’ primary race for Queens borough president and Rep. Yvette Clarke’s rematch against Adem Bunkeddeko.

99. Johnnie Green

Senior Pastor, Mount Neboh Baptist Church

While the Rev. Johnnie Green spends his days leading Mount Neboh Baptist Church, he also devotes plenty of time to advocating for social and economic justice for Black New Yorkers. Last year, he opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana if the Black community wouldn’t benefit from the legislation. This year, he’s devoted himself and his church to assisting families and members of his parish who have been affected by the coronavirus.

100. Dee Bailey

Founder, Our Watchful Eye

Dee Bailey
Photolife Photography

As the founder of Our Watchful Eye, Dee Bailey keeps activism and confronting HIV/AIDS in communities of color at the forefront of her efforts. She also serves as the chief negotiator for the United Auto Workers pension plan and is the chief of operations for the African American Clergy and Elected Officials coalition. Bailey’s organization has been leading partnerships to encourage more HIV testing and host free health screenings.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce's Jessica Walker called on the New York City Council to amend or avoid legislation that would make it harder to fire fast-food workers. Walker raised concerns about potentially expanding the legislation to all businesses in the city.