biographies, A-C

This is A-C. For the three other pages of bios, click:

Ava Johnson: I was born the 5th of 7 children to parents who valued hard work, education and giving. My father was president of the Orange Mound Civic Club and my mother was “Mama Lou” to half the kids in the neighborhood. I earned a BS degree in psychology and Masters degree in counseling from University of Memphis. I have held three positions working with special populations. As a psychometrist, I evaluated students for placement in special education programs with Memphis City Schools. I worked as a behavior specialist with Department of Juvenile Justice. I currently work as a disability adjudicator with Social Security. Working with these special populations of mentally challenged students, troubled youth and adults with severe health conditions, has heightened my awareness of our society’s need and challenge to help others less fortunate. I am honored and proud to be a part of the Circle of Joy. We have been able to provide both support services and dollars to several metro Atlanta organization that target helping youth.

Some of my other people pleasures have included serving as a Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher, working with Habitat for Humanity and being a grandma. I also enjoy “playing in the dirt”, 5:00 AM walks and reading. Marian Wright Edelman, Kahlil Gibran and St Francis of Assisi are my heroes.

I am glad I am learning the math of “collective giving” and “giving by design.”

Barron J. Damon is a graduate of the University of South Carolina in Columbia where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Industrial Psychology and a Masters degree in Business Management. He also completed post graduate work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Business and Public Health.

Mr. Damon started his professional career at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia Inc., where he served as Vice-President of Operations. Prior to his relocation to North Carolina Mr. Damon owned and operated Lotus Consulting, LLC for three years. Some of his clients included the U.S. Department of Education, the University of South Carolina, Department of Labor, Department of Social Services, Communities and Schools, Department of Health and Environmental Control, as well as several non-profits, churches, and colleges.

Belinda Alston

Benjamin Dixon is a veteran educator with experience as a teacher, administrator and superintendent in public K-12 systems, private schools and higher education. He has served as Deputy Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, and was The Travelers (Insurance) Companies first Workforce Diversity Director. His most recent position was with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University where he served as the institution’s first Vice President for Multicultural Affairs. His primary role was to advise the President and university administration on policy and practice related to intercultural relations, diversity and equity issues. He retired in 2006, at which time he was appointed to Emeritus Status.

In his capacity as Deputy Commissioner of Education, Dr. Dixon was responsible for managing the development and implementation of the state’s Comprehensive Plan for Elementary and Secondary Education. He also served as an executive-on-loan from the State Department to the Hartford Public School System. In this role he served as Interim Superintendent of Schools, managing a $184 million budget in this 25,000 pupil district. At the Travelers Companies, Dr. Dixon managed and coordinated diversity and equal employment opportunity/affirmative action activities for the home office and fifteen field site complexes nationwide.

Dr. Dixon earned degrees at Howard and Harvard Universities. He received his Doctorate from the University of Massachusetts, where he was a Ford (Foundation) Fellow. He has been a member of the New Mountain Climbers Giving Circle in VA. Currently, he is chairing a small committee organized to explore the possibility of establishing a Giving Circle in Columbia, SC.

Dr. Dixon utilizes his knowledge and experience to advise, guide and assist leader managers of public, non-profit and corporate entities committed to making their organizations more diverse, inclusive, and productive. He accomplishes this through an executive coaching, training and consultation company he founded, called Sankofa Futures Consulting, LLC.

Benzel Jimmerson is a servant and the Father of two amazing children who are the center of his world and the driving force for
his personal goals and professional involvements. Benzel is the owner of Diversity Dynamics Consulting where the overall mission is “One Healthy Generation of Children” and is currently contracted as the Arapahoe/Douglas Family Leadership Training Institute Site Coordinator.
Benzel has been a part of founding, and/or reorganizing organizations, initiatives, conferences, and groups including the Denver African
American Philanthropist. He is also a certified facilitator for groups, meetings, and several family and leadership programs. Finally, he is also a sports official. He is currently working to create a fatherhood and social movement starting in Colorado where all fathers are engaged with each other, leaders, organizations, and communities. It is also a bridge: From problems to solutions, organizations to people, and generally a one stop clearing house for community engagement and mobilization. Still an engaged athlete who plays some basketball from time to time and enjoys other outdoor games and activities.

Dr. Beverly Guillory Andry holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Xavier University, a graduate degree in Urban Studies from the University of New Orleans a M.B.A. from the A. B. Freeman School of Business – Tulane University, and a Ph. D from the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy – Urban Affairs Southern University A & M College. She was a Lecturer in the Division of Business and faculty member at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA. She has also taught Entrepreneurial Training and Small Business Development at various non profits throughout the community. She is a certified NxLevel Entrepreneurial Trainer.

Beverly served as interim executive director of St. Mark’s Community Center. She was Deputy Director of the Historic Landmarks Commission and was an Urban Planner for the Regional Planning Commission for the Parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, St. Bernard and St. Tammany in the City of New Orleans. She also served as Senior Counselor for the Job Training Partnership Act in New Orleans assessing applicants for job training programs,

She served as President of the Mid City Community Development Corporation, a community development corporation, which provided fiduciary oversight and coordination of staff overseeing construction of 19 units in an economically disadvantaged Mid City area. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and Festival where she has been chair of the SEED (Supporting, Economic program of the NOJHF), a micro loan program designed to assist small business owners and potential homeowners. She is currently faculty advisor for Ashé College Unbound, an innovative partnership for higher education that brings Efforts of Grace, Inc. /Ashé Cultural Arts Center together with Roger Williams University and Big Picture Learning to provide an Ashé CAC-based college program.

Byron D. Baldwin is an IBM Advisory Software Engineer who works for CICS z/OS Level II Support. Byron joined IBM is 1998 after earning a B.S. in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. He is currently responsible for providing technical support for IBM’s world-wide customer base for the CICS product which runs on the z/OS and VSE operating systems. Byron is a member of Next Generation African American Philanthropist (NGAAP ) and A Legacy Of Tradition ( ALOT ) giving circles which provide Time, Talent and Treasure to support nonprofit organizations in the triangle area which are in-line with our mission and vision. Byron is a youth bible study teacher, coach (life, sports), mentor and community oriented activist.

A Year in the Life of Cathy Peterson, RN.

Church (2012) – I delivered the morning message (The ACT of Giving) at Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church where I encouraged the congregation to have a positive Attitude, be Confident and Tenacious when they give. Tangible results – 42 coats for Crisis Ministries and 300+ toiletry items for the Uptown Men Shelter and Giving Back books.

Work (Carolinas Rehabilitation) – My department has been short staffed for the 8 months. I have been doing the work of 2 people but still getting paid for doing the work of 3/4 person. I am fundraising for ASAP (riders with physical disabilities ride handcycles from Charlotte to Myrtle Beach in 3 days).

  • 2/9/13 – NGAPP Charlotte Retreat
  • 2/15/13 – TEDx – Charlotte
  • 2/16/13 – Donald, my man for the last 4 years, proposed to me at a sweetheart ball (no, I’m not pregnant).
  • 3/2013 – My daughter, Cayla (16) and I performed our interpretation of Ain’t I A Woman/Phenomenal Woman at the Bethune’s Women Club Annual Banquet in Morganton (my home town).
  • 4/2 and 4/3 – I took Cayla and her 2 friends to visit NC State (yuk!), UNC – Chapel Hill (my Alma Mata) and Wake Forest.
  • 4/4 – 4/7 – Donald and I rented a cabin in Bryson City (overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains) where I built a fire, made s’mores, won $100 in Cherokee on the penny slots and lost my contacts.
  • 4/13 – Cayla got her driver’s license. My insurance tripled. Please pray for me.

As I write this bio, I am keeping a 3 y/o and a 5 y/o for 1 week. During the past 4 days, I have flown a kite, retrieved that kite from a tree, eaten at McDonalds 3 times, fed the ducks twice and cleaned poop from underwear (not a diaper) once. 4 days down, 2 to go. Please pray for me.

Celena Green is the Senior Program Manager-Africa at Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based NGO that identifies and invests in women leaders worldwide through grant-making, training, mentoring, advocacy, visibility, and technical assistance. Celena leads Vital Voices’ Africa Region in developing and implementing programs for women’s political participation, economic empowerment, and human rights in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prior to joining Vital Voices, she worked with other global nonprofits such as the International YMCA and Global Kids, Inc., and spent several years living in Zimbabwe leading capacity-building and training programs serving women and youth throughout Southern Africa.
Her love for travel, Africa and its Diaspora, cultural exchange, philanthropy and service was cultivated through her family’s faith traditions of tithing and outreach through the AME Church, as well as in annual family reunions and summer road trips to the far corners of the country. Her family has a long history of commitment to justice, faith, and philanthropy, and have participated in the struggle for freedom locally and globally. Knowing that history instilled a sense of purpose in her early in life. Now giving, and maintaining the financial freedom to be able to give and serve freely, are her guiding principles to achieving that purpose.

While Celena has traveled to 30 countries (and counting), she continues to give back at home as a member of Black Benefactors Giving Circle, the African American Women’s Giving Circle, the Global Kids DC Advisory Council, and the Diaspora African Women’s Network. A New York native, she has a BA in Africana Studies from Brooklyn College-City University of New York.

To make the circle complete and find a way to give back where it all began, Celena took the African Ancestry DNA test last year. Her maternal and paternal heritage is pan-African, and her ancestry includes the Ateke (Gabon), Manding, Fula (Senegal), Mende (Sierra Leone) and Balanta (Guinea Bissau) people. Her journey continues…

Chad U. Jones is Executive Director of the Community Investment Network. He lives in New Mexico, was born in Denver, and has lived in Kenya, Guatemala, Swaziland, Virginia, Minnesota and New York. Over the past decade, he has worked with multiple foundations nationally supporting economic justice, movement building, and immigrant rights. In 2001, he was a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. In 2008, he was an ABFE Fellow. He served on the boards of Resource Generation, and the 2009 Endorsement Committee of the Freelancers Union PAC.

Two transformative moments in his life were: being 8 blocks from the twin towers on 9/11, and being a White House intern for 7 weeks in the scandalous summer of 1998. Since then he has been reminded of the significance of electoral politics, food and interdependence by reading Gary Rivlin’s Fire on the Prairie, Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, and Octavia Butler’s sci-fi slavery classic, Kindred. Chad has spoken about storytelling, people and possibilities at Making Money Make Change, the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders, the International Human Rights Funders Group, and GoodWork among others.

Chad supports community supported agriculture for the fresh onions and other veggies, public libraries for the book borrowing, and drinking fountains since there is no bottle afterwards. He studied Economics and History at Macalester College in the Twin Cities.

Charles Lewis obtained a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering at Auburn University. Charles obtained a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Charles is also registered professional engineer in the states of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

In addition to numerous professional activities, Charles is active in various community organizations. Mr. Lewis has been actively involved in organizations such as the Future Engineers of America, NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Big Brothers Big Sisters, Hands-on-Birmingham, Habitat for Humanity, Junior Achievement, and United Way of Central Alabama, CATALYST of Birmingham. Charles is also a founding member and former chairman of the Birmingham Change Fund, an organization of young African Americans that collectively pools their time, talent and treasure to create positive change in Birmingham.

Cheryl Alston

Christina Theodorou currently serves as Program Manager for the NC Indian Economic Development Initiative, and her position has led to greater economic development for 98,000+ Americans Indians that live in North Carolina.

Having grown up in Charlotte, North Carolina in a family of small business owners, Christina has a deep rooted sense of utilizing available state and local resources. In mobilizing the social, economic and political engines of North Carolina, Christina believes it necessary that American Indian Enterprises be a viable part of the State’s Economic Development. Theodorou works to show that native populations of North Carolina are a vital voice in the economic and social standing of the state.

As a member of the Lumbee Tribe, graduate of UNC-Pembroke, the first American Indian public school in the nation, and founder of Alpha Pi Omega Sorority, the first national American Indian sorority, Christina has 20 years’ experience advocating for and networking with American Indian populations in North Carolina. She serves as a member to the External Committee for the American Indian Center at UNC, the Native American Indian Advisory Council at NCSU, Wake County Indian Education Committee and board member of the North Carolina Folk Life Institute.

Christina resides in Raleigh, NC with her husband Ioannis, daughter, Chrisoula Rose and son, Athanasios James. Christina is devoted to her tribal history and stories, a powwow enthusiast and supporter of the American Indian and North Carolina cultural art.

Cristina Rivera Chapman has been working in rural and urban communities around land and food for the past 10 years. Most recently she co-founded Tierra Negra Farm, a collective of farmers, educators and cultural workers based in Durham, NC, striving to model a community controlled food system that is just and sustainable. Tierra Negra Farm grows food and provides accessible classes and trainings for our communities in NC and the Southeast. We are also proud members of a new collaboration called, Earthseed Collective, a group of black and brown visionaries who came together to re-imagine/re-member our relationships to land, to livelihood and to each other. We are currently working with Earthseed to acquire land in the NC Piedmont and manifest our community resilience through cooperative ownership of land and resources.

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