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YWCA Leaders Among Black Leaders You Should Know

By YWCA Minneapolis
March 14, 2023
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To commemorate Black History Month, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal compiled a list of 200 Black leaders in the Twin Cities region. Editors of the Business Journal, helped by a team of well-connected community and business leaders, have chosen these individuals across business, government, advocacy, community work and other sectors as leaders to know. To celebrate Women’s History Month 2023, we are uplifting those connected with our organization. Thank you for your contributions and ongoing work to advance our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women. Read more below.

Congratulations to all!

Shelley Carthen Watson

Shelley Carthen Watson has served as president and CEO of YWCA Minneapolis since August 2021. She is a nationally renowned labor and employment law expert and came to YWCA Minneapolis from the University of Minnesota, where she served as senior associate general counsel in the Office of the General Counsel. Shelley also serves on numerous boards, including Children’s Minnesota, Minneapolis Park Board Foundation, Minneapolis Downtown Council and Northwestern Pritzker Law School Fund.

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Atum Azzahir

Atum Azzahir is executive director of the Cultural Wellness Center, a co-owner of the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, a recognized authority on cultural approaches to health and well-being and our 2023 Woman of Power Award recipient! Elder Atum has developed and managed organizations, written and produced materials on African intellectual heritage and designed rites of passage programs, initiations and ceremonies for healing.

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Kelly Baker

Kelly Baker is executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Minneapolis-based Thrivent, which provides financial advice, investments, insurance, banking and generosity programs. She is also active in the broader Twin Cities community and is a former YWCA Minneapolis Board Member.

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Colette Campbell

Colette Campbell is chief talent acquisition and diversity officer at St. Paul-based Bremer Financial Corp and serves on the boards of YWCA Minneapolis and Minneapolis Foundation. In her work, She creates and executes Bremer’s talent acquisition and diversity and inclusion strategies and is passionate about creating spaces for people to understand themselves better and help others to work better together.

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Angela Davis

Angela Davis is the host of “MPR News with Angela Davis,” a weekday talk show that airs at 9:00 am. She joined MPR in November 2018 after 25 years in television reporting and anchoring. and also a former YWCA Minneapolis board member.

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Duchess Harris

Duchess Harris is a professor of American studies and political science at Macalester College, a private liberal arts college in St. Paul, and was our 2022 Woman of Power Award recipient. She is also on the boards of the Friends of the St. Paul Libraries and Regions Hospital Foundation. Beloved author and an advocate at a national level for the Congressional Black Caucus. Locally, she was appointed as a Minneapolis Civil Rights Commissioner by Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and appointed to the Board of Public Defense by Governor Tim Walz.

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Velma Korbel

Velma Korbel joined APi Group Corp. in New Brighton as vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer in November 2020, and previously served as director of civil rights for the city of Minneapolis for over 10 years. She also served as YWCA Minneapolis Board Chair and on the boards of Achieve Twin Cities, Urban League Twin Cities, Minneapolis Institute of Art and Ace Mentor Program of America.

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Lynn Littlejohn

Lynn Littlejohn, vice president of community affairs and development at real estate developer M.A. Mortenson Co. She is also a former YWCA Minneapolis board member, served as a member of the HIRED board of directors and has previously held seats on the boards of Twins Community Fund, National Association of Minority Contractors, Association of Women Contractors, Alexandra House and others.

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Gaye Adams Massey

Gaye Adams Massey is CEO of our sister organization, YWCA St. Paul. Before joining YWCA, she served as senior deputy general counsel for UnitedHealth Group Inc. and general counsel of its Ovations division. She also has held leadership positions at QualChoice Health Plan and Aetna Inc. and practiced with the law firm of Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C.

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Gwen McFadden

Gwen McFadden, president and owner of Risk Management Consulting Service (RMCS), a minority- and woman-owned Minnesota corporation founded in 1997. Prior to forming RMCS, Gwen provided similar services to commercial clients as a vice president and National Accounts manager at Norwest Commercial Insurance Services for seven years, and vice-president and senior marketing specialist at Alexander & Alexander for nine years. She also served as the former YWCA Minneapolis Treasurer and is currently one of our Finance Committee members.

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Michelle Miller

Michelle Miller, is a member of the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice board of directors, and recently retired as vice president and chief counsel in employment law for Medtronic after 26 years. She also served on YWCA Minneapolis It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race™ Committee and is currently Chair of YWCA Minneapolis Empower Possible Committee.

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Wenda Weekes Moore

Wenda Weekes Moore is a philanthropist whose board memberships have included: regent, University of Minnesota; trustee, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; member, Ms. Foundation for Women; member, Association of Black Foundation Executives; member, Women’s Funding Network; member, Graywolf Press. She also received our inaugural Kate Berman Leadership Award in 2022.

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Angela Myles

Angela Myles is the vice president of Racial Justice with YWCA Minneapolis. She brings extensive expertise in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, specifically through her experiences leveraging project management principles to orchestrate data-driven strategies. Throughout her experiences, she has collaborated skillfully with stakeholders across all business levels to drive organizational and cultural change, as well as cultivate community partnerships.

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Susan Bass Roberts

Susan Bass Roberts is executive director and vice president for the Pohlad Family Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life and opportunities for those most in need in the Twin Cities. She also served as a board member of YWCA Minneapolis.

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Barbara Butts Williams

Barbara Butts Williams, executive dean, external relations and partnerships, and dean emerita of business at Capella University, serves as a board member for Allina Health and Home Federal Savings Bank and is a former board member of YWCA Minneapolis.

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This list is just a handful of the powerful Black women leaders in the metro who have shaped our culture and changed our community and world for the better.

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