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Posted on: November 16, 2020

Sheriff Clayton Appointed by Gov. Whitmer to the Black Leadership Advisory Council

Sheriff Clayton and Gov. Whitmer Image

Last week Governor Gretchen Whitmer made appointments to the Black Leadership Advisory Council, which brings together a diverse group of Black Michiganders to serve in an advisory capacity to the governor and develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to prevent and eradicate discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan. Housed within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the Council will also work to identify state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities, collaborate to promote legislation and regulation that ensures equitable treatment of all Michiganders, serve as a resource for community groups, and promote the cultural arts in the Black community.

The Black Leadership Advisory Council is among a set of diverse ethnic commissions within the state of Michigan. Although African Americans are the largest racial minority in the state, this Council is the first of its kind in Michigan to elevate Black leaders. In response to the announcement, Sheriff Clayton made the following statement: “I applaud Governor Whitmer's insight in creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council. Similar to the voice provided by the Hispanic/Latino Commission and the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission. BLAC is recognition that the best public policy is created when a diverse perspective is included as an integral part of the decision-making process. I am honored to be a part of this initiative to better serve all the people of Michigan".

Michigan has emerged as a nationwide leader in reducing health disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 15% of Michiganders are African American, but in April, African Americans accounted for over 40% of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The Michigan Task Force on Racial Disparities, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, studied this issue and recommended actions to immediately address it and the historical and systemic inequities that underlie them. And now, thanks to their hard work, the state has seen significant progress: with Black residents accounting for 9.1% of cases and 5.7% of deaths as of early November.

The Governor has appointed the following 16 individuals to represent Black leadership in various fields:

Jerry L. Clayton, Sr., of Ypsilanti, is the Sheriff of Washtenaw County. He also serves as a training consultant for the National Institute of Corrections and CEO of The Cardinal Group II, a policing and corrections training company. Sheriff Clayton is appointed to represent Black leadership in community safety and preparedness for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.

James E. Atterberry, Sr., of Benton Harbor, is the founder and pastor at the Brotherhood of All Nations COGIC Church and a former Berrien County Commissioner. He holds a Certificate of Achievement in Ministry from Moody Bible College. Pastor Atterberry is appointed to represent Black leadership in the faith-based community for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2022.

Donna L. Bell, Ph.D., of Southfield, is the global director of technology and features strategy and planning at Ford Motor Company. She holds Master of Science degrees in Engineering Management and Electronics and Computer Control Systems, as well as a Ph.D. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Wayne State University. Dr. Bell is appointed to represent Black leadership in technology for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2022.

Christopher Burtley, of Flint, is an associate attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Michigan State University’s James Madison College and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Mr. Burtley is appointed to represent Black leadership in law, and a member between the ages of 18–35, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.

Kelli A. Ellsworth Etchison, of East Lansing, is the chief marketing & diversity officer for LAFCU. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Northwood University. Ms. Ellsworth Etchison is appointed to represent Black leadership in economics for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023.

Justin N. Onwenu, of Detroit, is an environmental justice organizer for Sierra Club. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Health and Policy from Rice University. Mr. Onwenu is appointed to represent Black leadership in the environmental sector, and a member between the ages of 18–35, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.

Kelsey Perdue, of Grand Rapids, is the project director of Kids Count in Michigan for the Michigan League of Public Policy and the director of storytelling and communications for the Urban Core Collective. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Howard University. Ms. Perdue is appointed to represent Black leadership in public policy, and a member between the ages of 18–35, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2022.

Kathy Purnell, Ph.D., of Kalamazoo, is a staff attorney with Justice for Our Neighbors-Michigan, a non-profit providing immigration legal services. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University, and a Juris Doctor degree from the DePaul University College of Law. Dr. Purnell is appointed to represent Black leadership in law, and a member who is an immigrant or individual with expertise in immigration policy, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.

Rochelle Riley, of Detroit, is the director of arts and culture for the City of Detroit and a former award-winning columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ms. Riley is appointed to represent Black leadership in media and communications, and arts and culture, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023. The Governor has designated Ms. Riley to serve as Co-Chair of the Council.

Theresa Roach, of Flint, is the program director of active communities for the Crim Fitness Foundation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Central Michigan University and a Master of Arts in Communications & Digital Media Design from Saginaw Valley State University. Ms. Roach is appointed to represent Black leadership in health and wellness for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2021.

Joel Rutherford, of Warren, is the chair of the Official Democratic Black Caucus of Macomb County. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force where he served as an air traffic control specialist. Mr. Rutherford is appointed to represent Black leadership in government for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2022.

Michele Samuels, of Farmington Hills, is the vice president, general auditor, and compliance officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Windsor and an Executive MBA from Michigan State University. Ms. Samuels is appointed to represent Black leadership in health and wellness for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023.

Seydi Sarr, of Detroit, is the founder of the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA). She also works as a program associate for the Detroit Public School Community District. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Wayne State University and a Master of Arts in Social Justice from Marygrove College. Mrs. Sarr is appointed to represent Black leadership in education, and a member who is an immigrant or individual with expertise in immigration policy, for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2022.

Michelle Sourie Robinson, of West Bloomfield, is the president and CEO of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Administration from Oklahoma State University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Kansas. Ms. Sourie Robinson is appointed to represent Black leadership in economics for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023.

Carl M. Williams, of Saginaw, is the vice president of the NAACP Saginaw Chapter. He previously served as a state representative for the 95th House District, mayor pro tem, and a member of the Saginaw City Council. Mr. Williams retired from Delphi Automotive Systems where he was a production supervisor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. Mr. Williams is appointed to represent Black leadership in public policy for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023.

Robert Womack, of Grand Rapids, is a county commissioner in Kent County where he serves on the Finance and Physical Resources Committee. He is also the general manager and program director for WYGR 94.9 FM and Community Empowerment Radio, Inc. Commissioner Womack is appointed to represent Black leadership in public policy for a term commencing November 12, 2020 and expiring December 31, 2023. The Governor has designation Commissioner Womack to serve as Co-Chair of the Council.

Additionally, Rep. Brenda Carter, of Pontiac, will serve on the council as an honorary representative of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. To assist the council in the performance of its duties, advisory committees will be formed specializing in select fields, including education, community safety, health, and business.

Terrence D. Martin, of Detroit, is the president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) and a former elementary teacher for Detroit Public Schools. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from St. Francis University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Marygrove College. Mr. Martin will serve as the Chair of the Education Committee.

Teferi Brent, of Detroit, is co-chair of Dignity 4 Detroit, a coalition of community leaders created to address violence in Detroit. Mr. Brent is the founder, leader, and member of several criminal justice reform organizations and has been organizing against urban violence for over 25 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University and a Master of Business Administration from Baker College Center for Graduate Studies. Mr. Brent will serve as Chair of the Community Safety Committee.

Alexis Dye, of Muskegon, is the communications and development manager for Hackley Community Care. She currently serves as chair of the Muskegon Health Disparities Coalition and as a board member with Community enCompass. Ms. Dye will serve as Chair of the Health Committee.

Karen Carter, of Midland, is the chief human resources officer and chief inclusion officer for Dow Chemical Company. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Howard University and a Master of Business Administration in International Business from DePaul University. Ms. Carter will serve as Chair of the Business Leaders Committee.

For media inquiries, please contact Director Derrick L. Jackson at (734) 891-2243 or [email protected] 

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