Industry professionals as well as aspiring media professionals

in college and high school are welcome to register for free tickets.


How to Apply for Teacher PD Credits


Conference Schedule

DAY 1 Tuesday April 27



President Scott

Z. Scott


Chicago State University

CSU Logo

President Scott currently serves on the:

  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital Medical Center Board of Directors — where she co-chairs the board’s subcommittee on diversity
  • United States Coast Guard Academy Board of Trustees
  • Just the Beginning Board of Directors — a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the diverse pipeline in the legal field.

President Scott in the past has served as:

  • Chicago Housing Authority Chair of the Board of Trustees — the nation’s third largest housing authority
  • Indiana University Maurer Sc ool of Law Board of Visitors Chicago State University Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees
  • Chicago Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Chapter General Counsel

Prior to her current role, President Scott was an equity partner in a national law firm with an international practice that focused on corporate internal investigations, counseling clients on regulatory compliance and crisis management. She also spent more than 16 years as a federal criminal prosecutor in the position of Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, where she served as Chief of the General Crimes Section. Upon leaving the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Illinois State Senate confirmed her appointment as Illinois’ first Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Governor and its public universities. In this role, she created an independent executive branch state agency from its inception, developed the United States’ first statewide ethics training platform for state government employees, and created a protocol for the investigation of claims of misconduct, waste, fraud, and abuse.

President Scott taught at some of the nation’s most competitive law schools, including Northwestern University School of Law, The University of Chicago Law School, and UIC John Marshall Law School. The Indiana University Maurer School of Law honored her with its Distinguished Service Award (2012) and selected her for induction into the Law School’s Alumni Hall of Fame (2019).

President Scott is a highly sought-after speaker and lecturer on topics related to leadership, crisis management, trial advocacy, ethics and compliance. She has received numerous awards honoring her service from organizations including the American Bar Association, the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, La Rabida Children’s Hospital and the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Chicago. She was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of the Most Powerful Women in Chicago Business (2018). She is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and the Commercial Club of Chicago. President Scott’s peers rank her among the nation’s top lawyers, resulting in her inclusion in Chambers and Partners USA, U.S. News Best Lawyers, Women in Business Law Guide, The Best Lawyers in America, Leading Lawyers 2015, Top 10 Women in Criminal Defense, and Illinois Super Lawyers.

President Scott holds a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.


Louis Carr Louis Carr

President of Media Sales

BET Networks

Louis Carr has been with BET Networks for 35 years, serving as the President of Media Sales for the last 19 years. During his tenure with the company, Carr has transformed the multicultural space for some of the world's biggest brands. Through strategic partnerships with corporations like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, McDonald's, General Motors, Facebook, Apple, and many more, he has been a guide and a consultant on opportunities that exist within black and brown communities. Through his deep understanding of linear TV and digital and social platforms, he has made BET Networks the number one brand and choice for Black consumers. Carr's mantra, "Be led by data and insights," has driven BET to have the largest repository of information on Black consumers than any other media company worldwide. His understanding of this data has inspired him to create content and messages that help marketers sell products and services and help them become good corporate citizens.

In addition to Carr's stellar professional career, he has had a long-term commitment to young people and his community. Carr founded the Louis Carr Internship Foundation (LCIF) 17 years ago to help improve diversity in corporate America through paid internships. The foundation has provided 178 paid internships, in which 45 alumni now have full-time jobs within the industry.

He has also created The Blueprint Men's Summit, which brings together some of Black America's high profile thought leaders to educate Black men in the areas of Finance, Health, Careers, Relationships, and Entrepreneurship. Staying true to his commitment of giving back, Carr launched his latest brand called WayMaker. He purposed this initiative to help provide direction, wisdom and inspiration to people wanting to grow their life and change the world. Through the quarterly WayMaker Journal and other avenues, the umbrella brand offers insight from subject-matter experts across a wide range of fields.

Carr has authored two books, Dirty Little Secrets and Little Black Book: Daily Motivations for Business and Personal Growth. He openly lays out his blueprint to greatness, covering much-needed topics like Leadership, Culture, Strategy, Vision, Success, and Diversity.

Carr has served on more advertising industry boards than any other African American. He has served on the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS), the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), the Advertising Council, and the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

He currently serves on The United States Track and Field Foundation (USATF) Board, Cedar Fair’s Board of Directors, Drake University’s Board of Trustees, and Chicago State University’s Board of Trustees.

Mr. Carr attended Drake University on a full athletic scholarship and received a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. He has been happily married for 34 years. For more information, visit or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @iamlouiscarr and Louis Carr on LinkedIn.


Host: Derek Dow

Lecturer in Digital Media


Melody Spann Cooper

Melody Spann Cooper


Midway Broadcasting Corporation


Melody Spann Cooperis Chairman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, a best-in-class African-American owned media boutique whose properties include radio and digital platforms. The properties combine to provide niche programming to Chicago’s thriving Black and Hispanic populations. As Chairman of Midway Broadcasting Corporation, she joined an elite list of America’s female broadcast owners after purchasing the company’s controlling interest in 1999.

Midway Broadcasting properties include WVON 1690, the oldest Black-oriented radio station in Chicago. With its urban talk format, the station is recognized nationally as a leading source of information and community empowerment.In 2007, Spann Cooper spearheaded the corporation’s expansion with the development of WRLL 1450, Chicago’s Home for Hispanic Independent Broadcasters. In fall 2020, the corporation launchedVON-tv, a digital streaming network reaching more than 100 million households on ROKU, Apple+ and Amazon Fire.

Spann Cooper’s other professional affiliations include: Commissioner of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission; Vice Chair of the Illinois Broadcasting Association; Co-Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Council for the Obama Library Foundation; Executive BoardMember of Chicago’s tourism board, Choose Chicago; Trustee of the Museum of Science & Industry; Executive Committee Member of the Business Leadership Council; Executive Board Member of The National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters, and Co-Founder of the Color Us Women Organization.

Spann Cooper’s accomplishments in broadcast media have been recognized by numerous organizations that have highlighted her achievements in leadership and business. She recently added ‘author’ to her list of accomplishments with the release of her first book, The Girlfriend’s Guide To Closing the Deal.

Spann Cooperholds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University of Chicago.She is married and the daughter of legendary radio personality PervisSpann “The Blues Man,” the co-founder of Midway Broadcasting Corporation.

Host: Troi Tyler, General Manager WCSU Radio


Melody Spann Cooper

Michelle Flowers Welch

Chairman and CEO

Flowers Communications Group


A visionary public relations and marketing entrepreneur, Michelle Flowers Welch is an award-winning expert in the field of multicultural communications. She is Chairman & CEO of Flowers Communications Group, one of the nation’s top multicultural integrated marketing agencies. Flowers Communications Group was recently named to Forbes list of American’s Best PR Agencies 2021. Known as a strategic, innovative thought leader, Flowers Welch serves as a trusted senior counselor to clients and an inspiring mentor to the next generation of communications professionals. As a tribute to her meaningful contributions to the industry, the PRSA Chicago Michelle Flowers Diversity Fellowship was established in 2020.

Her career path has taken her from her native North Carolina beginnings as a communications specialist at an insurance company to PR Director at the Chicago Urban League. She began her career in agency public relations at Golin/Harris Communications, one of the top PR firms in the country. Pursuing her desire to work in ethnic marketing, Flowers Welch later joined Burrell Communications Group and rose to senior vice president in three years. She left in 1991 to form Flowers Communications Group.

Flowers Welch holds a master’s degree in advertising from Northwestern University and is a proud magna cum laude graduate of Winston-Salem State University, a renowned HBCU. She has received more than 100 industry awards for communications excellence. She was named one of Chicago’s “Top 100 Black Business and Professional Women”; one of the Chicago Jaycees Ten Outstanding Young Citizens; is the recipient of the National Council of Negro Women “Woman of the Year Award”; and is a Chicago Urban League “Beautiful People” honoree. A charter inductee into Northwestern University’s Medill Hall of Fame, Flowers Welch is also the recipient of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago. She also was named the 2014 Illinois Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year by former Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka. Flowers Welch was recognized among the Chicago Defender “Women of Excellence,” and was honored as the 2017 Distinguished Senior Leader by the Public Relations Society of America Chicago Chapter.

Flowers Welch serves on the national board of the PR Council, The Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division Board and the Public Relations Society of America Chicago Board. She is a member of The Economic Club, the Chicago Urban League, Public Relations Society of America, Publicity Club of Chicago, National Black Public Relations Society and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. During her career, she has served as chair of the Alliance of Business Leaders & Entrepreneurs’ (ABLE) “Evening with the Chairman” featuring former Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons; Advisory Board Chair for the Museum of Science & Industry’s Black Creativity program; and an Advisory Committee member, Kennedy-King College Communications Department; and an Advisory Committee member for ETA.

Host: Dr. Liefu Jiang, Assistant Professor of Public Relations


DAY 2 Wednesday April 28




Rodney "Hot Rod" Washington

On-Air Personality

Power 92


Rodney Washington was born in Chicago, IL and raised on the Southside. He is the only child of his mother and father (Latanya & Rodney Washington) who are also from Chicago, IL. Rodney was inspired by music at an early age with the bond he and his father had with his father taking him to school having karaoke in the car singing “Vanilla Ice” & “Gangsta Party”. As Rodney got older he took his passion in music to school where he attended Morgan Park High School. He would sell Cds & make Mix Playlist for the entire school, and would always be up on new music to introduce people to. Even though music was a passion he also had another passion which was basketball. Rodney attended Morton College (Cicero, IL) after leaving Kennedy King College after a semester to play basketball for 2 Years then went off to Graceland University (Lamoni, IA). He then came back and attended Chicago State University where he found his passion back for music but with a twist in being a radio personality. Rodney started an online show with a friend (Which is now his producer on Power92.3) every Tuesday and Thursday calling it “TTU Radio” (Too Turnt Up Radio). The show was inspired by Tone & Shagg, DJ Pharris, Mike Love & The Dez, and The LA Leakers. The goal was to bring excitement to college radio and radio in general with introducing the city to new artists and music. Rodney then was introduced to Tone Kapone where he was mentored by him and guided. With Tone showing him the ropes of radio he also was trained by Teefa and Tony Scofield where they guided Rodney in creating his sound on radio and opening his mind to doing more than just radio but actually being a voice for the people. With that Rodney took that to heart as he did his Saturday show as a start he created a Organization for the youth called “PepRallyTakeOver” where he goes to the school with his team to create a high energy for the school, bridging the gap between the youth and teachers, and motivating the youth with talking to them, and bringing artist to motivate them as well.

Rodney Washington otherwise known as "HotRod" is a radio personality on Power92.3 Chicago M-F 7pm-10pm and Saturdays 6pm-10pm. He is also the official DJ for the University of Notre Dame (Football and Mens Basketball Team). Rodney graduated from Chicago State University with his bachelor degree in communication. As he continues to grow in the city of Chicago with collaborating his brand with many others like ChanceTheRapper (Social Works hosting Teen Open Mics), Hosting Nickelodeon Slime Fest 2019, and being featured on WGN TV on Chicago's Very Own segment he shines a special light on the city motivating, guiding, and helping others in the community and city.

Brands & Sponsors:

  • Reebok (Sponsor) - ComplexCon & PRTO
  • Sovereign Brands including (Belaire, Bumbu, & McQueen)
  • University of Notre Dame DJ (Football & Basketball)
  • Nickelodeon (Host Slimefest)
  • Divvy x Lyft (Sponsor) PRTO
  • Featured on WGN TV
  • Box Water (Sponsor)

Host: Troi Tyler, General Manager WCSU Radio


Marcella Jones

Program Director
WKKC 89.3

If ­­you have ever heard the following words “I Love Me Some You,” then you know you are listening to the golden voice of Marcella Jones, affectionately known as the Sweetheart of Gospel Music!

Marcella began her radio career over 25 years ago by taking her choir’s CD to the radio station; she ended up volunteering for 7 years. Because of her sincere dedication to her listeners, the community and to the spirit of excellence, in March, 2005, Marcella joined the ranks of Gospel Radio 1390 (Inspiration 1390 AM) and was blessed with the opportunity to become host of “Evening Inspiration!” Marcella had the chance to host middays, weekends, fill-in for “Get Your Praise on, V103, and formerly hosted the “Ride Home.”

Marcella Jones wears many hats. She does volunteer work in the community, speaks with the youth and started “The Journey” that made its debut at the Black Women’s Expo in 2019 with standing room only. Marcella is currently Program Director of WKKC 89.3FM Radio Station of the City Colleges of Chicago where she currently trains and manages students in their quest to become media broadcasters.

Marcella has received many industry awards: “CPD Certificate of Appreciation,” “Hope Award,” “Women of Influence,” “Triumphant Woman Award,” “CPS Outstanding Partnership Award,” Chicago Alliance of Gospel Professionals, Excellence in Media Award,” “The Arnold Mireles” and “Special Partnership Award (CPD),” among others!

Marcella’s goal: To be passionate about one’s purpose in life, ALWAYS giving more than what is expected.

 If you know nothing else about Marcella Jones please know --

“She Loves Herself Some You”

Keno Greer

Keno Greer

Rejoice FM 102.3


Emmy® Award-winning, two-time Stellar Gospel Music Awards nominee Keno Greer is a radio host, television producer, actor, as well as creator and host of Street Sermonz Urban Gospel radio show. Street Sermonz with Keno gained notoriety on Chicago Hip-Hop and R & B station WPWX Power 92.3 FM, where the show lived for 5 years before relocating to sister station WYCA Rejoice 102.3 FM. Street Sermonz is now syndicated in Grand Rapids, and Lansing, Michigan; as well as in Phoenix, Arizona.

Keno’s Emmy® is the result of his contribution to the documentary Chicago Sinfonietta: Sounds of Diversity, on Chicago PBS station WYCC-TV20. This behind-the-scenes look shows the nation’s most culturally diverse orchestra and it’s conductor, Maestro Paul Freeman.

Keno’s two nominations as Stellar Awards announcer of the year are due, in part, to Keno’s strides in delivering gospel-music variety to listeners: “If you want everybody to listen, play music for everybody!” Greer says. In addition to refreshing and inspiring music, Keno delivers inspirational messages about relationships—with God, family, friends, and community—and about overcoming struggles, adversity, and excelling in life.

Functioning as what he calls “a radio missionary,” Keno reaches out to unconventional listeners—the people who call in to Street Sermonz to say, “I don’t go to church, I don’t usually listen to gospel music, but I love your show!” or “I can’t make it to church and your show is church for me.” Street Sermonz with Keno is a beacon.

Keno also shines in his role as a radio personality in the internationally distributed movie  Blessed & Cursed, which features Sheryl Lee Ralph, Drew Sidora, Dr. Bobby Jones, Rance Allen, Karen Clark-Sheard and other gospel stars. He landed a cameo in “Dreams” (, a Lionsgate release featuring Tommy Ford, Angie Stone, Jazsmin Lewis, Mel Jackson, Geoffrey Owens, and additional cast.

Keno can be found reaching out to youth at community events, church services; through hosting concerts; and while deejaying. Most recently, Keno has worked with inner-city Chicago youth, assisting the next generation in learning broadcasting skills. As a volunteer at his church, New Life Covenant Church Southeast, Keno works with the media ministry.

Host: Reggie Miles, Lecturer in Radio

Tracy Williamson

Tracy Y. Williamson, is a radio and music industry executive, entrepreneur and author. A native of Chicago, IL, Tracy has worked in the music industry for over 20 years as record label executive for Tyscot Records, owner of Tre7 Entertainment and currently the Program Director for WYCA Rejoice 102.3 FM Radio in the Chicago, IL. 

Tracy is the author of Own Your Moment and Take the Stage: Laying the Foundation for a Successful Music Career. A graduate of Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Business/Marketing and Anderson University with a Masters of Business Administration M.B.A., Tracy Williamson began her career in the music industry in 1999. 

As a leader and entrepreneur, Tracy’s story has been featured on WGN-TV – People to People, TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network), MTV, Chicago Public Radio, Ebony Magazine as one of the Top 30 Leaders of the Future, and featured in several other national publications. Tracy was also awarded the Outstanding Alumni of the Year award from Northern Illinois University. 

As a business owner through Tre7 Entertainment, Tracy has provided publicity and marketing services for countless national and independent Gospel artists and labels and television shows BET-Celebration of Gospel and BET Awards, and The Allstate Gospel Superfest Television Show. 

Tracy is the radio host of Real Talk which airs Sundays on WYCA, WSRB, WPWX and WYRB and has hosted music industry segments on On Stage with Earl Bynum on Rejoice Musical Soulfood (syndicated), and WWWE 1100 AM radio (Atlanta, GA). 

As a songwriter and producer, she has written and produced several national Gospel songs and projects and served as Minister of Music for The Father’s House Church and Emmaus Christian Church, both in Indianapolis, IN.

For more info visit: here

Tracy Williamson

Johnnie D. is in the top ranks of Urban Radio’s Next Generation of Leaders. Currently he is one of iHeart Media’s youngest Urban Program Directors at 107.5 WGCI in Chicago. He is a native of Chicago, IL who attended Jackson State University, and Howard University where he began his radio journey. He has spent over 13 years in the radio industry working at some of the country’s premier Urban Radio Stations including V103-Atlanta, HOT97 –New York, WPGC 95.5- Washington, DC, WPWX Power 92-Chicago,and 100.3 The Beat-Philadelphia. He has served in all capacities from Intern, On- Air Personality, Promotions Assistant, Board Op, Assistant Music Director, Producer, Music Director, and Assistant Program Director.

Under Johnnie D’s leadership 107.5 WGCI has continued its legacy of being Chicago’s #1 Hip Hop and R&B Radio Station, and a huge force in the community. In addition, the station is constantly recognized by the City of Chicago, and has won several accolades to include The Illinois Broadcaster’s Association Local Broadcast Team of the Year, and Best Community Service Projects. The most recognizable community initiatives that 107.5 WGCI has developed under Johnnie D’s leadership is the Adoption of Scott Joplin Elementary School, where the station raised money to implement a music program, and pay an annual salary for a music teacher each year. 107.5 WGCI has also become known for its iconic concerts & events that Johnnie D. produces each year to include 2 Arena Shows (Summer Jam & Big Jam), and the newly developed WGCI Music Summit. These 3 events each year generates close over $1,500,000 of revenue each year for the radio station.

 Johnnie D. accounts most of his success from working under great leaders to include Elroy Smith, Ebro Darden, Reggie Rouse, Derrick Brown, Thea Mitchem, and Doc Wynter. He has a genuine passion to make an impact in Urban Radio that will positively change the community, and make Hip Hop one of the most respected genres of music in the world. In 2021, Johnnie D. shows no signs of slowing down as he ventures into educating the next generation of radio leaders, and growing his career as a leader in Black Music. Johnnie D. is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., and enjoys recruiting for HBCU’s.


Jiba Molei Anderson

CEO Griot Enterprises


Host: Derek Dow, Lecturer in Digital Media

comic book coverJiba Molei Anderson is the CEO of Griot Enterprises, a publishing company / visual communication studio and creator of its flagship property, The Horsemen. He is also the curator of 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape, an anthology which focuses on independent works from creators of color and maintains The Afrosoul Chronicles, a blog about comics, pop culture, politics and race.

Anderson has had numerous one-man and group shows, art directed and published over 12 books and has been invited to speak about his work and the representation of race and culture at various institutions including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Ohio State University. The Horsemen: Divine Intervention and the anthology 4 Pages 16 Bars: A Visual Mixtape have been used as textbooks for classes at OSU.

Anderson has been employed as a graphic designer, animator, art director and graphic novelist for entertainment and educational institutions such as Universal Music Group, the University of Illinois - Chicago, the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Chicago Academy of Music including The Song of Lionogo: An Indian Ocean Mythological Remix for the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art (with Brightseed Collaborative).

Currently, Mr. Anderson is employed as a Part – Time Lecturer at Chicago State University.


DAY 3 Thursday April 29



Charles Andrew Gardner



Born and raised on Chicago's south side, SAG-AFTRA Chicago local president Charles Andrew Gardner is an actor, producer, and arts educator with a passion for illuminating the stories of the underrepresented. On-camera credits include television shows The Chi, Chicago PD; feature films Olympia, Noise and Color, Every 21 Seconds, and Holding On; as well as multiple national commercials for brands including Hyundai, Liberty MutualFord, and AT&T. Voice-over credits include Pepsi Co. McDonald’s, Comcast, Walmart, and Dunkin' Donuts.

Charles is a company member with TimeLine Theatre Company where he appeared in Paradise Blue (BTAA nomination for Best Featured Actor) and My Kind of Town (BTAA nomination for Best Actor) for which Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune named him one of 2012s “Hot New Faces to Watch”. Other Chicago theatre credits include Objects in the Mirror, Stop.Reset.(us), and Buzzer(us) at Goodman Theatre; How Long Will I Cry at Steppenwolf Theatre; Macbeth and Othello at The Suitcase Shakespeare Company; The Great Fire(us) at Lookingglass Theatre Company and Spectacle Lunatique at Redmoon Theater.

He received his BFA in Acting from Northern Illinois University, and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association.

In addition to his work on stage and in front of the camera, Charles is a faculty member at The Acting Studio Chicago as well as a teaching artist with TimeLine Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre and Goodman Theatre. Charles sits on the Associate Producer board at Gene Siskel Theatre and is Vice President of Creative Cypher.

Hosts: Jerrell Henderson, Assistant Professor of Theatre and Christopher Taylor, Actor and CSU Alumnus


Boris Franklin

Writer Caged

descBoris is the author of The Poetic Side of a Man’s Mind, published in 2007 and a co-author of Caged published in 2020. He was the lead writers of the play “Caged” written inside East Jersey State Prison by 28 inmates and the Pulitzer Prize winning journals and New York Times Best selling author Chris Hedges. Boris also performed in the play “Caged” which was mounted at the Passage theater in Trenton, New Jersey in the spring of 2018.

Since his release in the spring of 2015 Boris has emerged as a public speaker advocating for prison reform and social justice. He has spoken at a verity of academic institutions such as; Queensboro Community College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, College of New York, Rutgers Newark, Rutgers New Brunswick, Kutztown University, Princeton University.




Chris Hedges


descChris Hedges is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for two decades in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.  He was The New York Times Middle East Bureau Chief and the paper's Balkan Bureau Chief.  He is the author of 14 books.  He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto.  He also teaches college credit courses in the New Jersey prison system through Rutgers University.




Genesis Hale

Actress "Maisha" on the hit series



Genesis Denise Hale is a powerful, artistic force...and she's just getting started. At 12-years-old, she landed a leading role on the Showtime hit series, "The Chi" as she plays the role of "Maisha"- a highly intelligent, quick witted, school bully who occasionally licks faces, steals bikes and sends her boy crushes to the corner store for snacks while taking care of her brothers and sisters while her mom is at work. The difference between Genesis and Maisha: Genesis went from surviving being bullied at her elementary school to playing a bully on T.V. While navigating through her high school social structure to keeping up with school work while serving on her LTAB (Louder Than A Bomb) poetry troupe, it is very clear that Genesis is definitely destined for great things.


Rashada Dawan
Actress, Vocalist, Dance
"Shenzi" in the hit musical

Lion King

Rashada is a proud South Shore native, born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She has been teaching and working within the community since she was 17 years old. While serving in her church as a praise dancer, she worked with youth from ages 5-17. After graduating from Florida A&M University, she went on to work with the all girls praise dance ministry at St. Paul CME Church for over 5 years. Since then, she has worked as a recreation leader with J at Schools program with the Jewish Foundation, having fun with youth from 1st thru 5th grade. Most recently, she has hosted several teen talks, talk backs and career day activities with Junior Achievement, while touring with The Lion King and served as an After School Matters Instructor with the South Side Community Arts Center with the high school age youth. Her resume includes anti-violence and bullying prevention and she serves as the CEO of community arts organization, B.Fli Productions, Inc. where the mission is to increase mental wellness and decrease violence through performing arts. She is also the mother of Genesis Denise Hale who plays Maisha on Showtime’s hit series, The Chi.

Other professional credits include: Madagascar, Junie B. Jones, The Nutcracker (Marriott Lincolnshire), Elf (Paramount), Caroline or Change (Firebrand/Timeline), Djembe (Foresight), Something In The Game (AMTP/ Wirtz), The Winner of Our Discontent, A Red Line Runs Through It (Second City), Aida (MUNY), Dynamite Divas, Black White Love Play and The Other Cinderella (Black Ensemble Theatre). 

TV/Film: Chicago PD, Shameless, Hope Springs Eternal, Easy, The Red Line and Proven Innocent.

Rashada is a Jeff award nominated actress, SAG/AFTRA and AEA union members and proud mother of 2 beautiful daughter. She is most thankful for God, her Village, family, community and friends, Paonessa Talent Agency and her two managers aka daughters, Journey and Genesis. 

 Host: Kamesha Khan, Associate Professor of Theatre



Ashley Atkins

Vice President, Health


A passionate DEI champion, Ashley brings over 15 years of marketing and communications experience in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. Ashley has a relentless enthusiasm for helping organizations find their voice, creating conversation around stories with impact and fostering change through intentional communications that drive people to action. Prior to joining Edelman, she was Vice President of Public Relations at Ogilvy after many years in the social impact space focusing on veteran homelessness, pancreatic cancer and IBD. Ashley is a native of Los Angeles, CA and graduate of Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Most recently, Ashley was selected to be a CA Black Health Network Board Member and received her DEI Certification through Cornell University.


Amira Barger

Senior Vice President

Public Affairs & Public Relations


Since joining Ogilvy in 2019, Amira has worked with various initiatives across clients to help build brands and tell their stories, all with a DEI approach. Amira has 15+ years of experience in strategic communications, and serves as a lead strategic advisor of integrated campaigns that stimulate public action and interest for a portfolio of nationwide clients spanning the healthcare, government, and education sectors, including: the Public Health Institute, Feeding America, First 5 Los Angeles, FEMA, Pfizer, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, California Community Colleges, Zoetis PetCare and United Cerebral Palsy Los Angeles, among others. Amira also co-leads Ogilvy’s North American Black Diversity Advisory Council, working in direct partnership with CEO Andy Main. To add to her extensive experience, Amira recently completed the DEI Certificate of Mastery through SDS Global Enterprises and a DEI Certification through Cornell University.


Bianca Bradford

Executive Vice President

Account Director


The first time Bianca walked into an ad agency, she knew she’d found her calling. Fast forward to 20+ years later, Bianca continues to thrive in the fast-paced ad world, with a knack for retail and QSR. She currently leads integrated teams across Wingstop, Purina and Exelon at Leo Burnett. Bianca has also partnered on ALDI, led award-wining campaigns for Allstate, and has a long history setting strategy for other QSRs including McDonald’s, where her work was recognized for consumer insight, creativity and business effectiveness. Bianca has also worked on behalf of General Motors national and regional business, JCPenney and The Home Depot. 

Bianca is also a vocal advocate for DEI and values the power of mentorship in shaping one’s path.

 Hosts: Dr. Liefu Jiang, Assistant Professor of Public Relations
Tarana Hammond, Lecturer in Communications 


DAY 4 Friday April 30


Daniel Willis

Daniel Willis



Daniel Willis is a writer/director from the south side of Chicago. His short films and television projects have screened at festivals including The HBO Short Film Competition, The Chicago International Television Festival, ITVFest and The New York Television Festival. Wednesday, Daniel’s latest short film was recently acquired by HBO. Daniel’s TV directing credits include ABC’s The Rookie, NBC’s The Blacklist, and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. On the writing front, Daniel recently served as Story Editor for two Lena Waithe produced comedy series: Twenties and Boomerang. Daniel will next direct 2 episodes of the new Freeform drama Cruel Summer.




Keith Walker

Keith Walker

Director of Photography



Keith Walker started his illustrious career at MPG straight out of Columbia College in 1987.
Over the years Keith has shot hundreds of broadcast segments for shows like “60 Minutes,” “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” “Dateline,” and “HBO Real Sports,” as well as numerous award-winning documentaries for PBS, NBC and CBS. He has also shot many corporate marketing and educational projects for clients like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Gates Foundation, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Starbucks.
The documentaries he’s shot include: “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” (Sundance premiere and PBS broadcast), “Mavis!” (The Mavis Staples story, HBO), “No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson” by Steve James (ESPN 30 for 30 series), “A Good Man” and “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” by Bob Hercules and “Catching Hell” by Alex Gibney.
A story Keith shot for “60 Minutes” featuring Oprah Winfrey (about the lynching museum in Alabama) won a 2019 National Emmy Award for Best Newsmagazine Segment.
In those rare moments away from filming moving images, Keith enjoys his first love of still photography and hanging with his better half, Delores (aka ‘Button’).



Tyra Whitney


News nation



Tyra Whitney is a News Producer with NewsNation in Chicago whose passion for journalism started when she was 7 years old. In her current role she produced one hour of a three hour prime time newscast and also produces packages with national appeal.

She started her career at WAVY-TV in Portsmouth, VA as a part-time production operator, and associate producer before landing in Richmond at WRIC.While in Virginia’s Capital she produced newscasts with several breaking news stories that caught national attention including the Governor Ralph Northam blackface scandal, and the Virginia Beach Mass Shooting. Tyra has produced two local specials for Nexstar that highlight Black History and Hispanic Heritage months. She currently works as an adjunct professor at Virginia Union University where she teaches Television Production.

Tyra is a graduate of Norfolk State University where she got her bachelor’s in communication and a master’s degree in Public Relations. While in college, she helped implement a new segment for the University’s TV station called ‘Inventing Our History’ which told the stories of African-American Inventors; the project became a part of the TV Production Curriculum at Norfolk State University. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and works to mentor young journalists of color who are aspiring to work in news. 



Derrick Young

Derrick Young

Former Journalist

Derrick Young is on a mission to create the best version of himself. Along the way, he shares his lessons as a speaker, trainer, and financial advisor.The health club is his second home, and he addresses his need for speed by sky-diving and driving fast cars. His slow days are spent in the kitchen making a mean pot of seafood gumbo.

Derrick is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and volunteers for numerous organizations. He is a prostate cancer survivor and spends much of his time advocating for awareness. He is committed to supporting other men during the ups and downs of the prostate cancer path. Derrick was raised in the Roseland community and graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Host: Alvin Daniels, Lecturer in Broadcasting 


Sara Finney Johnson

Co-Executive Producer

BET's American Soul

After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Sara Finney-Johnson began her television career as a Writer on several classic television comedies including:  “The Jeffersons,” “The Facts of Life,” “Married with Children” and “227.”  She later worked as a Producer on “Family Matters” and “The Parenthood.”  Sara was thrilled and proud to Co-Create and serve as Executive Producer/Showrunner on the groundbreaking UPN/CW hit comedy, “Moesha” and its equally successful spin-off, “The Parkers” starring Academy Award winner, Mo’Nique. 

 She was a Consulting Producer the first two seasons on the BET comedy, “The Game” as well as the hugely popular BET hour drama, “The Quad.”  She served as Co-Executive Producer on “American Soul” and “Games People Play” before landing at her current position as Consulting Producer on the award winning OWN series, “Queen Sugar.”

 She loves the theater and has written and produced numerous plays over the years, including: “Mens,” which was nominated for an NAACP Theater Award.   She was also the co-founder of Los Angeles Black Playwrights, which was based at the Mark Taper Forum for several years and produced plays throughout the Los Angeles area.

 Sara pursues her passion for writing by telling stories that not only entertain but also enrich and uplift.


Alisha Cowan


Southside on Comedy Central

Alisha Cowan attributes her edgy street smarts and quirky outlook to her South Side of Chicago upbringing. Raised in a home where she was forced to attend Catholic school for twelve years — even though no one else in the family was Catholic — where her father converted to Islam when she was in the fourth grade, where her mom occasionally attended a Baptist Church, and where her brother also attended a Catholic school but wasn’t forced into confirmation like she was, Alisha rapidly learned about vastly different perspectives which she uses to her full advantage in her writing. Shortly after college she took a leap of faith and moved to LA. Landing a job in publicity was her first mild success. Fast forward four years later, Alisha managed to sweet-talk her way into NBC’s Writers on the Verge program (2014-2015). Fast forward even more, Alisha wrote a short film (The Big Chop) that got into the American Black Film Festival and licensed it to HBO. Currently, The Big Chop can be seen on Issa Rae’s digital channel and has over two million views. Alisha is staffed on Harlem (Amazon), recently wrapped Season 2 of South Side (Comedy Central/HBO Max) and has several projects she’s developing. 

Host: Christine Houston, Lecturer in Scriptwriting


Kwame Amoaku


Chicago Film Office

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Sheila R. Brown,

Executive Director

Cinecares Foundation

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Host: Derek Dow, Lecturer in Digital Media