YOUNG, GIFTED & BLACK
How a new generation of African-American leaders is guiding Las Vegas into the future.
Las Vegas has an outstanding history of black leadership, and a new generation of young and talented leaders is drawing up their own blueprint for success in the 21st century. Their relentless drive for success, and genuine desire to uplift the community, certainly warrants our attention — that’s why we asked a distinguished group of them to share their aspirations for the community.
Kelcey West: Pastor of Nehemiah Christian Church
As I look through the window of time, I pray that God will continue to bless me with strength and spiritual insight to not only serve as a devoted husband and father, but also as a community leader with goals to develop educational, social, and economic programs to help redefine the purpose and power of our churches and our families.
With the support and assistance of the Nehemiah Ministries family, my goal is to lead and position our church as a place for ministry as well as a school for Christian education. Within the next five years, I plan to fulfill my desire to write and produce affordable and motivational theatrical stage productions, as well as launch a summer college preparatory program and HBCU tour for eighth graders. It is also a goal of mine to develop a motivational speaking team to tour our Clark County schools and community centers, and to provide a fully sponsored HBCU tour for deserving high school students.
Latoya Holman: Owner of Blowout Dollhouse
I credit my mother for teaching me the concept of leadership when I was just a child. It was a given in my family’s view that taking responsibility for important projects or issues within our community required strength, a voice, and vision.
Seeing your actions turn into resolutions for the betterment of the people around you is the positive outcome we should all seek. Advocacy and giving back to my community is who I am and how I was raised. I am proud to be considered a leader in Nevada whether as a board member and ambassador of the Human Rights Campaign [the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the country] of Nevada, or Social CIRKISH [a local nonprofit that provides at-risk youth with opportunities to learn critical coping and social skills through the art of circus performances]. It can all be described as the way I view leadership in Nevada — as a gift and a responsibility.
Symmie Mitchell: Educator, Event host and Comedian
Good leadership is synonymous with service, and my leadership aspiration is to develop outreach events geared toward helping women and young people.
This year, I am excited about my STRUT (Speaking Truth Representing Unashamed Temples) program. It is a faith-based women’s group that believes in walking with confidence, overcoming challenges and building nourishing relationships. I look forward to the practical impact STRUT will have — taking to the streets to hug, help, and offer a hand to women in need of food, hygiene items, and encouragement. STRUT’s core belief is that it’s no longer a dream in sweet 2016!
Ken Youngblood: Law Enforcement Officer
One of the reasons I became a law enforcement officer is I have always had a great love for serving my community. I’m currently assigned to the department’s diversity committee and help recruit minority officers into our department.
My goal is to rise in the ranks of the Henderson Police Department to foster better relationships and mutual respect between the police department and our community. I’m also passionate about decreasing our community’s infant mortality rate. As a member of the “March for Babies” executive leadership team of the Nevada March of Dimes chapter, my goal is to educate our community about the importance of reducing infant mortality and bring awareness of the resources that are readily available to them.
I am also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., and serve as the Las Vegas chapter president. I aspire to be the District Director overseeing Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. It’s an honor working with the men of Alpha Phi Alpha collectively working to mentor our young men and women. We motivate, educate and encourage them, making sure they receive opportunities otherwise not afforded to them.
Keysa Rogers: Management Consultant, Owner of Russell-Lee & Associates
Leadership is about people, your voice, learning and taking action — a breakthrough vision for changing the world with the ability to make it happen! As the owner of Russell-Lee & Associates Management Consultant Group, I am passionate about using my skills and expertise to assist business owners and help organizations prosper.
Denise Gallant: Owner of Cosmetology Institute of Las Vegas
I am a dreamer and doer — inspired first and foremost by God, my husband and my children. I’m always seeking avenues to support and empower young people and help guide them away from challenging environments. That is my passion. In 2009, I founded the organization, Sister2Sister Connection for young girls in our community. I take great pride in paving the way for a new generation of women who use their wisdom, experience, and skills to give back to their communities.
Later, I started, “Men of Tomorrow” — a similar initiative for young men. After successfully launching these viable community-based programs, I was able to secure a building for expansion. The Center for Life Enhancement houses programs from mentoring to after-school care. My Cosmetology Institute of Las Vegas started in 2015 and produces new entrepreneurs with each graduating class. As a young black woman, opportunity for success does not come easy. When I couldn’t find opportunity, I created my own. I’m never looking for easy. All I need is possible.
Kolanda Scott: Development and Activities Coordinator for United States Veterans Initiative
In my role as Development and Activities Coordinator at U.S.Vets-Las Vegas, I’m committed to finding innovative solutions for homeless veterans in the Las Vegas community. I facilitate and inspire the community to become involved in ending homelessness among veterans by securing connections and relationships with donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders.
I believe integrity and innovation are the basis for attaining these connections. Passion and creativity are my core driving forces in addressing community problems. As an effective leader, this is my mindset: I must lead “with,” and not “for” or “over.” I am a lifelong learner. I challenge myself daily to pursue excellence in the areas of serving, change, and creativity.
I believe in the power of interconnectedness. Making connections among people, theories, teams and ideas are key aspects of an effective leader.
Angel D. Washington: Author, Owner of Angel’s Diary Books
For as long as I can remember, I have aspired to be a renowned writer — because I love the artistry of writing and the emotion that accompanies it. Interestingly enough, only recently did my life’s purpose and aspiration truly became one and the same. I have a gift — a God-given ability to touch the spirit and emotion of people through poetry.
I aspire to inspire the world through my writings for generations to come. My purpose is to give humanity a tangible appeal for their innermost thoughts and feelings. I’m in total pursuit of my purpose, and that is to serve humanity through words — emotionally and spiritually.
Cameron Miller: Actor/Producer, Community Program Leader
The essence of true leadership is influence. Influence is a characteristic that enables you to develop opportunities for those who follow in your footsteps. To achieve it, you must learn how to inspire, encourage, and nurture others. The right influence will bring positive change to communities by helping people to realize their optimum abilities. The end result: successful, self sufficient people, living their best life.
As a leader, my supreme aspiration is to become a man of great influence in all areas of my life: personal, business, and community. As an actor, I have my eyes set on contributing to the much-needed diversity shift within the Academy Awards — not only as a winner, but also within the elite voting pool.
My goal as a producer, along with my partner, Sharon Tomlinson, is to position Studio 11 Films as a leader in the industry. Our focus is on creating relevant content that matters; training the next generation of filmmakers; and being the progressive benchmark that uses the power of film to inspire people to make better choices for their lives. It is my ultimate hope that the body of work that forms my legacy will provide inspiration, encouragement, and the vision needed to dream big, believe, and diligently pursue one’s own greatness for generations to come!
Rey Bouknight: Director of Corporate Communications MGM Resorts International
After more than a decade of experience managing the communications needs of business, government and nonprofit senior officials — I have risen as a communicator and aspiring leader. I still pursue every undertaking with passion and drive, which accounts for my expertise in corporate communications, public relations, community relations, reputation management, government affairs and corporate social responsibility.
As the Director of Corporate Communications for MGM Resorts International — one of the world’s leading global hospitality and entertainment companies, boasting more than 62,000 employees — I engage and strengthen the MGM Resorts International brand to targeted businesses, communities, consumers, and media audiences.
Supporting the communications and staffing responsibilities for the company’s senior executives including the Chairman and CEO, my single greatest aspiration is to be a positive influence everywhere I step. Whether that’s out in the community, in the corporate boardroom, or raising my children and being home with family.
Detrick Sanford: Resource Development Officer for Southern Nevada’s Culinary Academy, owner of Eagle Eye Strategies
I am a versatile and self-motivated individual. After developing many levels of experience throughout my 10-plus years of working in the community, government and private sectors, I started my own “Eagle EYE Strategies” company.
My company offers a diverse list of services which include strategic relationship development, event planning and volunteer coordination — to name just a few.
I also serve my community as a resource development officer for Southern Nevada’s largest hospitality training agency, The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. In my role I serve as a key member of the administration team responsible for communications, marketing, fundraising, corporate, community and foundation partnerships.
William McCurdy II: Service Employees International Union Organizer, Political Candidate
I am a lifelong resident of Las Vegas and I am seeking election to the Nevada State Assembly in District 6. As a graduate of the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), I served as student body president and received the President’s Award from the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Committee.
Currently, I am an organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), where every day I work for better pay and working conditions for SEIU members. I hope to work in the legislature and focus my service on improving education, economic development, healthcare and public safety.
Sandra Morgan: City Attorney, North Las Vegas
I am a lifelong resident of Nevada, and contributing back to the community is a passion of mine. I am a dedicated member of various organizations that include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and The Links Inc. Since I have been City Attorney, I have provided professional counsel that resulted in a global settlement that resolved several lawsuits with multiple unions.
I am optimistic that I will continue to serve as a judicial officer by informing the public of their legal rights. I will continue to encourage the legal community to do what it can to ensure that all people have access to justice — regardless of their socioeconomic status.