COTS CEO Cheryl P. Johnson Elected as First Black New Detroit Chair  

Coalition on Temporary Shelter CEO Cheryl P. Johnson holds a position as the first Black person elected to be the New Detroit Chair.  

Photo courtesy of Cheryl P. Johnson  

  

Waves are being made in the non-profit world after New Detroit, Inc. recently elected Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS) CEO Cheryl P. Johnson as its board chair.  

Johnson, a non-profit leader is the first person of color and Black woman to lead in the racial equity organization’s 55-year history. Johnson replaced Gardner-White president Rachel Tronstein Stewart who also broke the glass ceiling in her own right as the board’s first female chair serving in that role since 2018.   

“I’m excited about it and look forward to it,” Johnson said of her historic position, adding that she is going to show up in her new role with plans to help combat injustices locally and extending beyond that through outreach. “If you show up in something that is a little bit daunting and really push through it, it turns into excitement. For me, I’m really excited about this opportunity. Fear is excitement without the breath. I’m breathing and … leaning into this role.”  

New Detroit was created in response to civil unrest in 1967 that revealed a bevy of deep social, societal, and community problems, according to its website. At the request of then-Michigan Governor George Romney and Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, business executive Joseph L. Hudson Jr. created a unique coalition—the country’s first—to pinpoint what went wrong in July 1967, what should change, and how to make that change a reality.  

New Detroit is a coalition of 57 nonprofit, corporate and civic leaders working to achieve racial understanding and racial equity in Metropolitan Detroit. Today, NDI reaches its mission by providing thought leadership, advocating for policy change and offering direct services including facilitated conversations on race and customized training on racial diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ).  

New Detroit also appointed Reginald Dozier and Kevin Prokop as vice-chairs, Andrew Stein as treasurer and Peter Kellett as secretary; elected Maja Freij, Patricia McCann and Monique Stanton as new board members; and recognized out-going members Antoine Garibaldi, Hassan Jaber, Gilda Z. Jacobs and Paul Riser Jr.  

“Cheryl is purpose-driven and accomplished. She and the board made history by finally electing the first person of color and Black woman as chair. As the longtime CEO of COTS, she transformed the organization’s business model into a sophisticated nonprofit enterprise, using the Passport to Self-Sufficiency model to change the legacy of generational poverty. Cheryl manages multiple facilities, with a budget of $8 million,” said New Detroit CEO Michael Rafferty. 

“Cheryl is the perfect person to lead New Detroit as we transform and grow our organization and combat racism,” continued Rafferty. “Cheryl has demonstrated remarkable leadership during her 12 years on the New Detroit board, most recently serving as one of our vice-chairs. I believe she will help us further the mission of dismantling racism and injustice in our boardrooms, classrooms and all throughout our society.”  

In addition to her role as New Detroit’s board chair, Johnson also works to further the missions and growth of several local, regional, and state organizations through committed board service. Johnson said that with her line of work, when people think of racism and dealing with injustices that happen, which she refers to as “one of the greatest sins of the world,” it is no easy feat when discussing it.  

“For most people that is daunting,” she said of the hundreds of years of racism and discrimination against disenfranchised populations. “But oh, to believe you can change it. [To know] there is some opportunity to create a better world where this form of suffering does not exist for people is the greatest excitement … for me.”   

Johnson added that some of her priorities in her new role include having a racial equity summit in the fall to bring national thought leaders to be part of the hybrid October event.  

“That will be a big feat,” Johnson said adding that she is hoping to capitalize on the event. “To really …create opportunity for people to have racial understanding, particularly [to put] metro Detroit on the national stage to make sure opportunities are happening.”  

For more information visit https://www.newdetroit.org/.  

  

  

  

 

 

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