They are the fearless, bold and beautiful class of women honored for helping hold up their corner of the world.
The Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence Class of 2021 is here, and did we also mention that they are as glamorous as they are dedicated to their craft?
For the past 14 years, the Michigan Chronicle has recognized these Black women, pillars in their community, for their work, community achievements, success, and more.
These influential women were celebrated during a virtual induction ceremony on Thursday, May 27. The new class of 50 women in Metro Detroit were featured on video, photos, and highlighted for their amazing work during the event.
Radio-television personality Frankie Darcell, who emceed the ceremony, said that “empowered women empower women” and this year’s class is an example of that.
“Welcome to this esteemed group of incredible women,” Darcell told the awardees, adding that the legacies they are leaving, and leading, are a vibrant one.
During a recent, in-person mixer, the winners shared their thoughts on being honored.
Rev. Katrese Kirk, Pastor, Smith Chapel AME Church in Inkster said that it is a “complete honor” to receive the award.
“This has been such a pivotal year for women … this is a season that women are truly being inspired to become all that God has purposed them to be,” she said during the vibrant event filled with female powerhouses. “I’m just excited to be with women of destiny creating their own paths and being recognized for it.”
Jasmin DeForrest, director, Community Sponsorships, Rocket Community Fund, and fellow winner echoed similar sentiments.
“It’s truly an honor to be a Woman of Excellence,” she said. “I am almost at a loss for words to be honored.”
Another fellow winner, Trina Scott, chief diversity officer, Rocket Companies, said during the event that to be recognized by the Michigan Chronicle is a “big honor.”
“When I think about the women of excellence in my life, I think about my grandmother … my mother who taught me to be self-sufficient… so you can give to others,” she said, adding that many women close to her influenced her. “I have the same responsibly to show my daughter, my niece what it means to continue to show up and show out in a good way. To contribute not only for yourself but to your family and community itself.”
In a virtual interview, Darcell asked Hiram E. Jackson, publisher of Michigan Chronicle and chief executive officer of Real Times Media (RTM), why he decided to create this much-needed recognition.
Jackson said that the “incredible opportunity” for the Black press (and beyond) to recognize these women – our sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties — was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
He added that RTM has properties all over the country (including Chicago, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh) where Women of Excellence are also honored – and this great work has no signs, thankfully, of slowing down.
“A very prominent friend of mine said, ‘You’re going to run out after two to three years,’” Jackson said of Women of Excellence awardees. He added that he knows the Black community is accustomed to getting negative news, but there is good news to be told, too, which continues. “(I) thought it would be an excellent way to show … to recognize the best and brightest in our community.”
Jackson shared more good news. The Women of Excellence classes of 2020 and 2021 will be able to celebrate their recognition in person at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17 at the new outdoor Musical Hall Ampitheater, 350 Madison St in Detroit.
“We’re going to have big Women of Excellence celebration,” Jackson said, adding that everyone is invited and should wear white. “I got my white linen ready.”
Back at the mixer, more winners reflected on words of wisdom for the next generation of women to live by.
Paulina Johnson, MBA, Ford Global Account Manager, ArcelorMittal NA, said that it is important to have a “trinity” in one’s life: a mentee, a peer mentor, and a mentor to look up to.
“As you are achieving in your life have someone in your corner you can seek information from … someone you can lean on going through the same thing as you and be able to lift somebody up,” she said. “I think that is very critical as you achieve throughout life and be successful.”
Congrats 2021 Honorees!:
Crystal Bailey, Founder, and CEO Walk Fashion Show
Kristen Barnes-Holiday, Ph.D., Faculty, Wayne County Community College District
Melani Bender-Ivery, District Controller & Associate Vice Chancellor, Wayne County Community College District
Saranna Berger, General Dentist, Michigan Center for Oral Surgery
- Jann Caison-Sorey, MD, MBA, Medical Director, Clinical Quality & Network Management, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Katrenia L. Camp, Executive Director, Project Dream, Inc.
Robin Cash, Ph.D., President, Founder & CEO, Robin Cash, P.H.D. LLC Consulting
Karen Clark-Sheard, Gospel Artist/Preacher, Karew Records
Cali Crawford, Director of Athletics, Schoolcraft College
Tanisha M. Davis, Attorney at Law, Tanisha M. Davis, Attorney at Law, PLLC
Jasmin DeForrest, Director, Community Sponsorships, Rocket Community Fund
Laura Dickerson, Region 1A Assistant Director, UAW
Denise Z. Fair, Chief Public Health Officer, Detroit Health Department
Rev. Dr. Tia Finney, Supervisor-SOM Medical Testing, Wayne State University School of Medicine
Tatiana Grant, Principal, 2050 Partners, Inc.; Cultivate MI Solutions
Dr. Shekitra Green, Principal, Detroit Public Schools Community District
Audrey Gregory, Ph.D., R.N., Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Medical Center
Sabrina E. Groshek, Director of Engineering – Induction, Controls, Exhaust and Active Thermal Management (ICE-T), General Motors
Dion’trae Hayes, Supervisor, The Charter Township of Lansing
Jerry Hebron, Executive Director, Northend Christian CDC
Tiffany Jackson, Chief Operating Officer, Ignition Media Group
Eunice Myles Jeffries, Chair of Board of Regents, Eastern Michigan University
Paulina Johnson, MBA, Ford Global Account Manager, ArcelorMittal NA
Desiree Jones, Chief Compliance & Revenue Officer, The Children’s Center
Stephanie Jones, Lead Counsel Electric Vehicle Growth Operations, General Motors
Rev. Katrese Kirk, Pastor, Smith Chapel AME Church, Inkster, MI
Amy McClain, Vice President of Client & Community Relations Director, PNC Bank
Krista McKinney-King, Principal, Randolph Career & Technical Center
Rev. Dr. Robyn Diane Moore, Pastor, First Baptist Institutional Church
Jacqueline Munson-Gaines, President and CEO, JMG Connects
Monique Owens, Mayor, City of Eastpointe
Juliana M. Perry, Relationship Manager, Vice President, Fifth Third Bank Corp.
Nancy L. Quarles, Oakland County Road Commissioner, Oakland County Government
Deadra Rahaman, Vice President of Brand Planning, HUGE, Inc
Rev. Cindy Rudolph, Senior Pastor, Oak Grove AME Church
Lauren Sanders, Founder, The Elevate Project Inc.
Trina Scott, Chief Diversity Officer, Rocket Companies
Casandra Shortridge, UAW President’s Office, Administrative Assistant, International UAW
Khalilah V. Spencer, Inclusion, Equity and Social Responsibility Partner, Honigman LLP
Misha Stallworth West, School Board Member, Detroit Public School District
Kenyatta Stephens, CEO, Black Family Development
Kristi Stepp, partner, Sigred solutions
Georgina Tait, Principal, Detroit Public Schools Community District
Jamila Taylor-Crocker, MD, Family Medicine Physician, Ascension Providence
Joni Thrower Davis, CEO, Jamjomar III, LLC
Rema Reynolds Vassar, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Eastern Michigan University
Terri Weems, President, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation
Monique Wells, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, DTE Energy
Rhonda Welsh, Executive Director- Detroit Outreach, Central Michigan University
Nikki Wright, Assistant Vice President and Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, Wayne State University