On June 14 the African-American Leadership Association held its 4th annual summit. Themed “Misson Possible With Black Leadership,” the summit educated members of the Black community on how to be strong leaders in various aspects of their personal and professional lives.

“Our purpose always is to help people understand their influence and to help them be leaders wherever they are,” said Bernadette Turner, AALA co-founder.

HONOREES—From left: Charles Cook, Reggie Good, Tamanika Howze, Tiffani Best, Sylvester Struthers (accepting on behalf of Odell Robinson) and Ricky Moody. (Photo by Erin Perry)

The day-long summit concluded with a keynote speech by Rev. Jacquie Hood Martin, nationally recognized author, speaker, and life coach. Earlier throughout the day, attendees were given leadership lessons in education, money, politics, technology and the workplace.

“We’re working to bridge the gap in leadership,” said Darcel Madkins, AALA co-founder. “I thought it was a great success. We had a lot of people come out who weren’t here last year and I just hope it continues to build momentum.”

In the “P-3-Producing Political Power” session, facilitator Majestic Lane, senior executive assistant to State Senator Jim Ferlo, encouraged the group to not only increase their presence at the polls, but also to increase their contributions to political campaigns. He said money is the deciding factor in many political campaigns and the public needs to get more involved in political action committees in order to have their voices heard.

“Everyone here is more aware and more engaged in the political process,” Lane said. “Two out of every ten folks are actually deciding what is happening in our communities. When folks know only 20 percent are coming out, how much money do you think they’re going to spend in our community? If we’re not voting then they know how much attention they need to pay. Politicians know who’s voting.”

The panel discussion “Lets Talk Money” featured accounting and finance professionals who examined the state of the economy in the Black community. They also discussed the collapse of the housing market and the failure of many African-American businesses.

“A lot of our success is going to come from self-sufficient, African-American empowerment,” said Joe Washington, senior credit audit manager with PNC Financial Services. “We need to stop relying on the government. We keep asking them to pull us up, help us, save us. We need to get away from that.”

At the morning session “Leadership in Education,” Penn Hills School District Superintendent Thomas Washington translated the leadership lessons he has learned guiding teachers and administrators into leadership techniques for all professionals. With specific regard to education, he said it could be difficult for teachers to demonstrate leadership roles in their schools because many of them feel all teachers are on the same level.

“As a leader, how you toss and say what you do, sets up the ability for how it is received,” Washington said. “We call it the toss principle. What you toss sets up how people catch it.”

At this year’s summit, AALA also recognized local leaders and organizations that exemplify African-American leadership. The Innovative Inclusion award went to Calvary Episcopal Church led by Rev. Canon Harold Lewis. Influential Trailblazer awards went to Odell Robinson, director of Robinson Funeral Home Inc., and Tamanika Howze, an education advocate who served as project director of the Kingsley-Lincoln Freedom School for 10 years.

AALA also honored Tiffani Best, a volunteer for the Early Childhood Head Start Policy Council; Charles Cook, owner of 1-on-1 Personal Training & Fitness; Shameca Crenshaw, principal of Westinghouse High School; Reggie Good, community program supervisor with the NorthShore Community Alliance; and Ricky Moody, a member of the West End Alliance Community Development Board with the Blazing Emerging Leaders award.

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