Dennis Archer moderates the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics event on Thursday, June 24 at the Detroit Athletic Club as the all-female panel of high-ranking professionals look on.
The Michigan Chronicle and Real Times Media (RTM) welcomed back with open arms the movers and shakers of metro Detroit for the first time since last year for the prestigious Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics event.
On Thursday, June 24 at the Detroit Athletic Club, dozens of business and political leaders, visionaries, and community members gathered to synergize on what vision they could cast next for metro Detroit.
It was an easy task they were up for at the annual event, “Women Who Lead,” which focuses on Detroit’s women leadership. The four-person panel, moderated by Dennis Archer, Jr., included Melanca Clark, president and CEO of Hudson Webber Foundation; Heather Geisler, executive vice president, and chief market, Communications & Experience Officer, Henry Ford Health System; Dr. Tracy Joshua, vice president, external supply chain, The Kellogg Company; and Kerry Duggan, CEO of SustainabiliD.
Hiram Jackson, Michigan Chronicle publisher and Real Times Media CEO, shared his excitement with the full crowd.
“I’m super happy to be back at the Detroit Athletic Club — we’ve been here for 16 years,” he said, adding that Pancakes & Politics is one of many staple events that the Chronicle (and other media properties nationwide through RTM) organizes. “Those of you who don’t know, the first Pancakes & Politics we had was with Kwame Kilpatrick and L. Brooks Patterson … 16 years ago feels just like yesterday.”
He added that the RTM and Chronicle staff have worked tirelessly with hosting virtual events over the past year – 50 to be exact.
“We’ve essentially reinvented ourselves by building a studio (Studio 1452) hosting town hall meetings — everything you can imagine we’ve been able to do virtually, and by the grace of God our sponsors have not left us, not one. We appreciate you.”
Archer said that there are many “dynamic, bright, smart, driven women” in the metropolitan Detroit area, and on the stage were four women among them.
“A lot of attention is being paid to the African American experience, how we experience COVID disproportionally, the … police interaction,” Archer said, adding that there is a tendency to “shift our focus” and not always focus on everything all at once. “We have to make sure (we focus on) women as well … who are not able to be in the room or at the table … we all have a responsibility.”
Clark, agrees, and does her part, and leads the way. She has worked on President Joe Biden’s transition plan into the White House, and served on President Barack Obama’s administration, has “tremendous background” as Archer put it.
“Why philanthropy?” he asked her.
Clark said that throughout her career she has had the privilege to “lookup in the world” and ask what is the solution?
Clark, who also went to law school, said that she was inspired to attend her school because of the Brown V. Board case.
“One of my first jobs out of school was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund,” she said, adding that from working on economic justice to the foreclosure crisis and more, she is now in a place out of the law realm where she can get things done in a new way.
“(I am) in a place I can support leaders addressing the issues that are going to move our country forward,” she said.
Duggan added on the panel that it’s vital to think about women, and others, who need to know about resources available to them, especially when they might not know where to start.
Duggan said when she went through the process of being on a public board, the night before she had to prepare her documents for her position, and she needed a notary at about 10 p.m. the night before in Detroit.
“I live on the eastside so I hit the Nextdoor app and I found a young lady who was a mobile notary, but she was at home with her kid and couldn’t come to me,” Duggan said, adding that she drove to her. “This young woman she moved me so much.”
Duggan said as she was filling out her paperwork she noticed the woman’s workspace, her young son doing his homework nearby, and more.
“This is one piece of her business she sells wares and things like that, and I said, ‘Surely, you’ve heard of Detroit Means Business.’”
The woman was unaware, and Duggan asked the crowd to do the policy work, and work as change agents in the community, but beyond that more has to be done.
“Look around you … the other human beings five blocks over and try to take care of each other, and that is the beautiful thing about Detroit — we are totally capable of doing that.”
Joshua agreed and said that throughout her illustrious career spanning from the automotive and pharmaceutical industry and beyond, she’s learned to give back on and off the job.
“I am a proud product of Detroit,” the Cass Tech graduate, who is now on the westside of the state, said. “I come back and forth to home a lot but being on the west side of the state our company is focused on feeding America; making sure everyone is fulfilled. That mission resonates with me my background … my folks always told me to use your leadership, talents to give back to the community … leave this place better than you found it.”
She added that bringing others along on the way is crucial, too.
“My mantra is I may be the first and I may be the only but I won’t be the last,” she said. “I really focus on bringing others along and I challenge you as well and all of us if you’re in the room you need to bring at least five people … I want to be able to look right, left, up, and down the organization. It is about the collective and I know that is how we move things forward.”