Meet the Instructors of the Birth & Breastfeeding Leadership Institute
Kiddada Green is the founding executive director of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA). In this role, she is responsible for the organization’s vision, administration, operations and program development. Before fully transitioning into her role with BMBFA, Kiddada spent much of her early career with Detroit Public Schools. She often attributes the development of her leadership to her years with DPS, where she served as both a literacy coach and instructional specialist.
As a community organizer, Kiddada advocates for racial justice in maternal child health. She has spearheaded the formation of the Black Breastfeeding Caucus and is the co-creator of both Mommy- Friendly Detroit and Black Breastfeeding Week. Kiddada serves on several committees and special projects including the US Breastfeeding Committee COVID-19 Infant Young Child Feeding Constellation and MI Department of Health & Human Services Maternal Infant Strategy Group.
A thought leader and field builder – Kiddada put forth recommendations for The U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding and the State of Michigan Breastfeeding Plan. Her work has been published internationally in Breastfeeding Medicine and she has been featured in several noteworthy publications, including Ebony Magazine, Womens eNews and The Root.
An avid learner, Kiddada is a proud esteemed member of the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network Fellowship Program. She is a social entrepreneur, successfully completing a business accelerator fellowship with Ascension Health. In 2020, Kiddada launched Ask Kiddada, a leadership consulting firm.
A Spartan and a Grizzly, Kiddada holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University and a Master’s Degree in the Art of Teaching from Oakland University. She is a proud and devoted wife, mother and advocate.
Victoria Reese is the founder of CH∆NGEworks LLC ~ Coaching & Nonprofit Consulting a company specializing in building human and organizational capacity by equipping, educating, and empowering leaders. CH∆NGEworks was birthed from her realization that in order to impact real community change you have to equip the leader.
With 30 years of mission-driven work encompassing equity, social justice, and expanding economic opportunities for vulnerable populations, Victoria has been at the forefront of many community development issues.
She has developed many programs, spearheaded efforts to obtain a federal charter to operate Michigan’s first credit union in a 25-year span, worked with a multi-disciplinary team to conduct a systems audit to eliminate institutional practices that re-victimize survivors of domestic violence, and spent 4+ years in public health focusing her energy on creating strategies to decrease health disparities. She has a niche for moving programs from inception to fruition. She is actively engaged in the community serving on numerous agency boards, committees, coalitions, and grantmaking bodies.
Victoria holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University and has two passions: Building capacity within nonprofits and awakening the purpose in women enabling them to walk boldly and authentically in the world. She is a certified professional coach, and has wide-ranging facilitation instruction from Thinking Collaborative and the Interaction Institute for Social Change and holds a certificate in fund raising management from The Fund Raising School.
She has experience with organizations at every stage of the nonprofit lifecycle and specializes in individual and peer coaching, organizational development, strategic planning, board development, fund development, and program development strategies.
Victoria has an inherent belief that communities are whole and resilient and that the solution to any community problem is in the community. She also believes that when we co-create strategies with the public, we develop tactics that meet their needs and enable real change to occur.
In her personal life she is married to her best friend, Tim and has one child, two bonus children, and five grandchildren. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, indoor cycling, spending time with family, and traveling.
Dr. Nakeitra L. Burse, is the CEO/Principal Strategist of Six Dimensions, a certified woman owned, minority owned public health research, development and practice company. Dr. Burse has been a servant in the field of public health for over thirteen years. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biological Sciences and Master’s in Health Education Health Promotion both from Mississippi State University. She also holds a doctorate in Public Health from Jackson State University.
Dr. Burse is dedicated to understanding the impact of systems on the health of communities. Her work is centered around health equity and social justice issues and ensuring that populations that have been historically underserved, overlooked, and discriminated against receive equitable treatment in health and healthcare settings.
Dr. Burse is the Executive Producer of the short documentary, Laboring with Hope. The film highlights the issues of maternal morbidity and mortality among Black women. Laboring with Hope is being used as a call to action to implement, support, and uplift strategies that aim to improve maternal health and birth outcomes. Additionally, she has been on the forefront of improving Black maternal health outcomes in Mississippi and across the country through a variety of strategies and practices including community-based programming, systems level strategy change, and collective advocacy for policy change.
Dr. Burse is currently a Leader in the 4th Cohort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Leaders Program. In 2019, she was named one of Mississippi’s 50 Leading Business Women. In 2020, she received the Candace Award for Health from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., Central, MS Chapter. Dr. Burse’s work has been featured in a variety of settings, including Soledad O’Brien’s Disrupt and Dismantle series on BET. She considers herself an innovator and visionary, as she enjoys creating solutions, cultivating relationships, and supporting work that will change the world.
She is married to Dr. Creston Burse and they have two rambunctious boys, Chandler and Cooper.
Jaye Clement is the Director of Community Health Programs and Strategies with the Office of Community Health, Equity and Wellness at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. She is responsible for aligning the System's commitment to its communities by engaging new and existing partners around issues of community health and managing metrics and data sets to continuously improve strategies that contribute to engagement and community health improvement strategies. She serves as a health care advocate and liaison to external audiences, including community, civic and faith-based organizations, volunteers and other key publics. Besides working to align the HFHS Community Health Needs Assessment and the corresponding Implementation Plans for each of its 5 hospitals, Jaye also staffs the Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force and holds administrative oversight for their nationally-recognized and award-winning Women-Inspired Neighborhood Network: Detroit program. Jaye helps staff the health system’s community health steering committee, Community Health ANchor Council Enterprise-wide (CHANCE). CHANCE aims to improve social and environmental factors affecting the health of our communities with an ultimate goals of reducing unnecessary care, cost and suffering, and promoting equity, community well-being and sustainability as core principles of healthy communities. Jaye also directs the Community Health Worker Hub for the health system, which is responsible for the integration and deployment of CHWs throughout the System for the purpose of promoting a culture of wellness through enhanced care coordination that simultaneously addresses clinical factors and social determinants of health, ensuring CHWs are a valued part of the healthcare workforce, and taking a population-based approach to extend care beyond hospital walls.
Jaye earned her MPH in health behavior and health education from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and her MPP from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, both in 2005. Her experiences range from working in major health systems, nonprofits and local government as her career is dedicated to community health, advocacy and the pursuit of health equity. In 2017, she completed a three-year fellowship in the inaugural class of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network. She also serves as chairperson on the board of directors for the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance, is an advisory board member for Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association and was recently elected as the first public member of the American College of Nurse Midwives’ board of directors. Jaye is a mother of two boys, wife and life-long Detroiter.
Ciara Coleman is a philanthropist, advocate, and social change agent committed to improving outcomes in the Black community. By day, she is a program manager for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, working in the foundation’s priority place of New Orleans where she manages a multi-million-dollar portfolio focused on thriving children, working families, and equitable communities.
By night, she focuses on her personal philanthropic efforts including The Purposeful Project. The Purposeful Project aims to activate the power of giving among young, Black social change agents and aspiring philanthropists. Ciara is dedicated to shifting the narrative around what it means to be a philanthropist by engaging Black millennials and highlighting the many ways they give back and contribute to their communities. This passion led her to found Geaux Girl Giving, a Black women-led giving circle dedicated to supporting Black women and girls.
She is an alumnus of the 2020 ABFE Connecting Leaders Fellowship Program, a 2018 PLACES fellow through The Funders Network, and a past member of the 2019 Emerging Philanthropists of New Orleans giving circle.
Ciara is a graduate of Western Michigan University and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University.
Twylla Dillion, MBA, PhD is the Executive Director of HC One. She brings 10+ years of experience in the nonprofit sector spanning philanthropy, Medicaid reform, maternal-child health, data analytics, and academia.
In her prior work at United Way of Greater Rochester, Dr. Dillion focused on using data and analytics across the fundraising, grantmaking, and evaluation cycle. Additionally, Dr. Dillion has conducted research on breastfeeding, served as program officer for maternal-child health programs, and worked as a research lead on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the project focused on collaborating with Black moms better to understand contributors to Black maternal mortality/morbidity and develop strategies for better outcomes. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, where she received her Ph.D. in Health Services Research, Policy and Outcomes, and St. John Fisher College, where she received her MBA.
Eric K. Foster is the Co-founder, Chairman and Managing Director of Rende Progress Capital (RPC), an emerging Michigan Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and the only racial equity focused not-for-profit loan fund in the nation. Foster founded RPC to provide loans, investments and services to Excluded Entrepreneurs facing barriers to conventional small business financing because of racial bias and inequity. In only its third year, RPC has deployed more than half-a-million small business loans to businesses of color in West Michigan. RPC was named by the Grand Rapids Business Journal as the 2019 Newsmaker of the Year in the Finance Category.
Foster is responsible for RPC board governance, product innovation, strategy, day-to-day operations and staff management, capitalization and relationship cultivation with investors, grantors, partners and customers. He also is responsible for ensuring that the loan consideration processes are administered through the proprietary tool he created, Financing Approval through Racial Equity (FARE)(sm). Foster works with lending staff to ensure that the RPC portfolio is managed with financial due diligence, social impact tracking, high-quality loan performance and culturally competent relationships with customers.
Foster completed certification course work from the University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy and Opportunity Finance Network for his Certificate in Community Development Finance in the areas of loan approval, CDFI Capitalization, Lending Policies, CAMEL Analysis and Portfolio Management.
As a businessman, he is also founder and principal of Progress Strategies+, LLC, a Project Management company providing project management services for corporate, business and organization clients that also specializes in Diversity & Inclusion, Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Policy & Advocacy. Foster is a graduate of Hope College and is certified in project management from the Northwestern University School of Professional Studies and Advanced Intercultural Management from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.
His experience has also contributed to effective board service, staff recruitment and economic impact for organizations and companies such as the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and the Varnum Law Diversity Advisory Council. He serves as Chair of the Meridian Township Corridor Improvement Authority to promote the business growth of the corridor. As former Vice Chair of the Grand Rapids Urban League Board of Directors and member of its Chief Executive Officer Search Committee, he helped lead strategic and management restructuring.
Foster has worked in the public and private sectors for U.S. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, U.S. Congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, former Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the Corporate Diversity Counseling Group of the law firm Holland & Knight among other institutions. He has received awards for his work from the West Michigan Urban League, Progressive Women’s Alliance, Corp! Magazine Diversity Award and Sustainability Champion from Grand Valley State University. He is also a former W.K. Kellogg Foundation Fellow of its prestigious inaugural class in the Community Leadership Network.
Meredith Freman has extensive experience in the social impact sector and community development. She has worked with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Citibank Global Community Relations and is currently the Director of Alignment and Impact Investing with the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation where she also served as the Foundation’s Interim Executive Director during an executive sabbatical. In 2014, Meredith was selected for the inaugural class of the WK Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network. Meredith received a B.A. from Michigan State University, and an M.S. in Management and Urban Policy from the New School in New York. She has also served as adjunct faculty for graduate level courses in Nonprofit Management at Seton Hall University and the New School.
Erika Geiss has a proven track record of fighting for Michigan families. Senator Geiss previously served two terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, during which she served on the House Standing Committees of Commerce and Trade, Health Policy, Michigan Competitiveness (Democratic Vice Chair), Workforce and Talent Development and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. She currently sits on the senate standing committees of Economic and Business Development, Education, Insurance and Banking, and Transportation and Infrastructure, of which the latter two, she is the Democratic Vice Chair. Geiss is also the Senate Democrats Caucus Chair and Exec. Vice Chair of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. During her tenure as a state legislator, she has participated in two national leadership fellowship programs, earned several awards, presented at several conferences, and has had three bills signed into law.
Before joining the legislature, Geiss wore multiple professional hats including as an adjunct faculty member at several institutions of higher education, and in her field in museum curatorial work and education. She also has an extensive publication history as an author and editor of non-fiction books and articles.
Geiss also has been an active local community member, having served on Taylor’s Master Plan Steering Committee and its Cultural Arts Commission. She also served for nearly a decade on the PTO at her children’s former elementary school. She is currently a member of four civic organizations in Taylor and the metro-Detroit area.
Geiss earned her bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Brandeis University and her master’s degree in art and architectural history from Tufts University. She and her husband, Doug, live in Taylor, Michigan and have two children.
Waymond Hayes is the Director of Early Learning /Youth Development at Focus: HOPE. He was one of the first students to attend a Head Start program on the southeast side of Detroit, as well as the first male center administrator to open a Head Start all-male leadership academy at the same agency and location. With over 22 years of experience in the field, Waymond credits deep family involvement in Early Childhood Education as his source of motivation.
Waymond earned his Associate Degree from Oakland Community College in Early Childhood Development, Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education/Family Studies from Rochester College, and a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Oakland University. He is currently a Doctoral Candidate enrolled at Grand Canyon University in Organization Leadership.
Waymond is an active leader in the community as well sit on the Board of Directors for Michigan Head Start Association at the Treasurer, and President of the Board of Director at Genesis.
Waymond is a frequent workshop presenter and speaker who brings complementary but distinctly different experiences to Child Development. He trains teachers and parents on many early childhood topics. Waymond integrates his work at Focus: HOPE with the work he does in the community as a Phi Beta Sigma brother. Through this integration, he has orchestrated comprehensive programs and supportive services for the community. He looks forward to continuing this work into the future, guided by Phi Beta Sigma’s motto, “Culture for service and service for humanity.”
Immersed in community health & public service for 17+ years. Shardae Herriford’s Owner/Founder The Baby Bond: Birth & Beyond passion thrives through caring for people as they overcome challenges in the most vulnerable times of their life. Her empathetic nature allows to connect on a real and intimate level. Shardae has double Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology and Human Biology. Ulteriorly obtained her Masters of Science in Chemical Biology. For the past 6+ years, her joy has been caring for mothers and babies. With vast knowledge and experience in the stages of Mother Baby Postpartum Care, Special Care Nursery, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Pediatrics. Working in the Maternal and Infant support role was the catalyst in her pursuit to solidify her dreams. Certified in Global Quality Maternal and Newborn Care from Yale Health. Full Spectrum Doula; Fertility, Birth and specializing in Postpartum care. In addition to, Childbirth Education and Lactation Counselor & Educator with emphasis on placenta encapsulation. She has experience working with different religions, race, age, sexual orientation, gender expression, and other identities. She believes in “Wellness For Families; Creating Happy Baby Bonds”.
Dr. Angela M. Johnson is an applied social scientist, researcher, advocate, and published author in the area of maternal child health and breastfeeding equity.
Her work is community-focused, mom-centric, and designed to highlight psychosocial risk factors that inform the development of interventions designed to enhance racial and social equity for mothers and their families. Dr. Johnson’s research findings have informed maternal child health programs, policy, and research. Her work is published internationally in several top-tier peer reviewed scientific journals and other outlets.
She formerly served several years on the Board of Directors for Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association. She now works closely with various community, local, state, and national organizations and networks.
Dr. Johnson completed advanced translational research training (NIH-funded) as a postdoctoral fellow at the Michigan Institute for Clinical Health Research (MICHR). She earned her PhD and her Masters’ degree in medical sociology and Urban Affairs from Michigan State University and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Black Studies from Amherst College in Massachusetts.
Dr. Johnson leads the development of health education, health promotion, training, and research programs designed to reduce racial and other social inequities for two divisions at Michigan Medicine:
1) as Community Outreach Specialist Senior, in the Department of Community Health Services, and
2) as Director Equity and Community Engagement for Zero to Thrive in the Department of Psychiatry.
Dr. Johnson lives in Ypsilanti with the loves of her life, husband and partner, Oliver and three children: Khai, Olivia, and Kaleb.
Nekisha Killings MPH IBCLC is an equity strategist and maternal and child health advocate who speaks, teaches, and facilitates on topics related to equity and dismantling bias across various sectors. She acts as a Director of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging and consults organizations on creating and implementing strategies to better support marginalized communities. Nekisha penned the chapter titled Cultural Humility in the latest Core Curriculum for Interdisciplinary Lactation Care. Coined the Aha! Moment Maven, Nekisha works to wow audiences with new realizations that will impact their approach to business and life positively. Nekisha is on a mission to normalize brown breasts in health provider education, thereby better equipping providers to accurately diagnose and treat people of color. Accordingly, she founded The Melanated Mammary AtlasTM in 2021. Nekisha‘s work is rooted in a compassion and candor that could only have been cultivated in years of supporting new parents through their first days of parenthood. To eager audiences, she extends her own brand of wisdom, wit, and eureka moments to shift the way they approach life and work.
Jessica Lee is a Staff Attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law. She works to advance gender equality in the workplace and in education, with a particular focus on pregnancy and breastfeeding discrimination. Jessica leads the Center’s work to ensure people who are pregnant or parenting have an equal access to higher education through the Pregnant Scholar Initiative, the nationwide legal resource center for pregnant and parenting students.
Jessica’s advocacy focuses on empowering pregnant and breastfeeding students, working parents, and their advocates by providing them with the legal, policy, and strategic tools they need to overcome and dismantle structural barriers. She provides know-your-rights resources and trainings to educate parents and change-makers on the legal rights of caregivers in the workplace and in educational opportunities. Jessica also seeks to prevent discrimination by working with institutions to draft and implement family responsive policies.
Prior to joining the Center, Jessica was a Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where her work focused on a range of human rights issues, including humanitarian law violations, discrimination, and freedom of speech and information. Her previous work also includes research and advocacy in support of women in the criminal justice system and women facing discrimination and human rights violations internationally.
Jessica earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jametta Lilly is an Innovative, Social-Preneur and Change Agent that has served as a CEO, administrator and consultant with government, private non-profit agencies, foundations and the private sector. Jametta is a consummate advocate for Equitable policies, programs and practices that address structural racism and positively impact vulnerable children, families and communities.
Her collaborative program design, training, evaluation and systems work has resulted in numerous start-ups and initiatives in early childhood, maternal-child health, behavioral health, K-12 to higher education, workforce development and community/business/entrepreneurism.
Jametta has successfully written and implemented over $20 million in cutting-edge grants such as The Wayne Children’s Healthcare Access Program, Charter County of Wayne Head Start and Early Head Start, and the County Wide Infant Vitality Action Network, IVAN, to name a few. As a previous business owner on Detroit’s historic Avenue of Fashion she was recruited for local and international engagements and served in community and mayoral revitalization initiatives.
At DPN since May 2018, Jametta is pivoting the 18-year-old organization into; an intentional cradle to career multi-generational institution that is data informed and driven by DPN’s mission and best practices in the field. This expanded service array includes; building on its parent-to-parent training and support model to help more youth and adults into education, careers and economic mobility in collaboration with Detroit Regional Chamber and others; a greater focus on parent-child early learning in the home and online; and reducing educational and health disparities in partnership with educational equity leaders, health and mental providers and systems, universities and foundations.
Janetta's leadership is evident in multiple strategic settings including Detroit Regional Infant Mortality Reduction Task Force, the MI 0-3 Collaborative, the MI Partnership for Equity and Opportunity and as an appointee to Governor Whitmer’s Coronavirus Racial Disparities Task Force. There she continues her racial equity advocacy and being intentional to root out systemic racism and the bureaucratic silos between health, mental health, education and social services that continue to under-resource and undervalue community solutions.
She is a staunch champion for; parent engagement in early literacy as part of 313 Reads, informing parents about their rights and opportunities in the 3rd Grade Reading Law; serving as a thought leader and champion in the city-wide Hope Starts Here Initiative and the MI 0-3 Collaborative where she advocates ‘connecting the dots’ between health, education and economic systems and outcomes. This perspective propels her as an educational equity champion with the Community Education Commission - Design Team and as an advocate in the multi-state work led by the Education Trust Mid-West. Drawing on the multi-cultural dimensions in her childhood and diverse experiences in West Africa and the Caribbean, Jametta works to assure that marginalized communities and families are empowered as co-designers in a future where All Children Thrive.
Bio coming soon…
Bio coming soon…
Kimberly Seals Allers is an award-winning journalist, five-time author, international speaker and strategist for maternal and infant health. A former senior editor at ESSENCE and writer at FORTUNE magazine, Kimberly is a leading voice on birth, breastfeeding and motherhood at the intersection of race, class and policy. She is the founder of Irth, (as in Birth but without the B for bias), the first-of-its-kind “Yelp-like” review and rating app for Black and brown women and birthing people to leave and find reviews of Ob/GYNs, hospitals, and pediatricians as a digital tool to address bias and racism in care and bring transparency and accountability to the medical system.
With funding from the California Health Care Foundation, Kimberly launched Birthright— a podcast about joy and healing in Black birth to counter the doom and gloom mainstream narrative in Black maternal health. Kimberly’s fifth book, The Big Let Down—How Medicine, Big Business and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017. Irth and Birthright are projects of Kimberly’s non-profit, Narrative Nation, which creates community-centered media and tech to eradicate health disparities. In 2019, Kimberly raised over $600,000 in grants to develop Irth with an all femmes of color team and it is now available in the Google Play and Apple app stores.
A frequent contributor to The New York Times and Washington Post, HuffPost, Slate and others, her online commentaries received over 10 million page views last year. Kimberly was named one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews for her media advocacy work in maternal and infant health. As a consultant, Kimberly creates narrative strategies for non-profit organizations and for-profit brands that serve mothers and babies, with an expertise in engaging communities of color.
For nearly a decade, Kimberly has created and directed innovative community-partnered projects in New Orleans, Birmingham, Detroit and Philadelphia, among other cities, working to improve birth, breastfeeding, and maternal health outcomes. She recently served as editorial director of the Maternal and Child Health Communication Collective, a national consortium of over 80 organizations, working to shift the narrative of maternal and infant health, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Kimberly is also the author of The Mocha Manual series of books, published by HarperCollins (2006-2009) and founded an award-winning pregnancy and parenting destination for Black parents in 2007. Her first book, The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy was nominated for a NAACP Image Award and turned into a DVD sold at Wal-mart. The Mocha Manual to Turning Your Passion into Profit and The Mocha Manual to Military Life round out the top-selling series.
Kimberly has appeared on Good Morning America, CNN, Anderson Cooper, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Fox News and has been featured in various international and national media outlets, including the British Medical Journal, The Guardian (U.K.), Essence, Pregnancy and in various online media.
Kimberly is a graduate of NYU and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A divorced mother of two, she lives in Queens, NY. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @iamKSealsAllers. Learn more at www.KimberlySealsAllers.com, www.IrthApp.com and www.BirthrightPodcast.com. Follow @theIrthApp on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Kendra Shelby has worked in the public and private sectors of lactation for more than ten years. She noticed a deficit in breastfeeding families having resources within their reach. She also noticed that this fact directly connected to lower breastfeeding rates. The Spilled Milk Podcast Chicago was birthed from this information. After dedicating herself to six months of research, and shadowing local podcaster she launched her own. The Spilled Milk Podcast is dedicated to supporting birthing families of color in the Chicagoland by connecting local business within their reach.
Heather Skanes, MD, (she/her) is a compassionate, patient-centered obstetrician and gynecologist who is proud to serve her community of Birmingham, Alabama, at Oasis Women’s Health. Born and raised in Birmingham, Dr. Skanes is dedicated to uplifting her community and is a supporter of Black Lives, birth rights, and a believer of womxn everywhere. As a health care provider at a Black-owned and operated practice, Dr. Skanes is an avid participant in the movement to protect and celebrate Black lives and strongly believes that when Black women are protected, all women will be protected.
Dr. Skanes attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she received her bachelor’s degree in African and African American Studies. She then studied maternal and child health at the University of Alabama School of Public Health for one year before pursuing medicine. She then earned her medical degree at Wright State Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, and completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Skanes was given the honor of being named Chief Resident in her final year of residency.
Dr. Skanes provides a wide range of obstetric and gynecology services, from birth control and pregnancy care to infertility and menopause treatment. She emphasizes shared decision-making when helping her patients choose the best course of treatment and offers low-intervention and minimally invasive options when possible.
Dr. Skanes and the entire Oasis Women’s Health team strive to address issues of racial disparities in maternal morbidity and mortality as well as gynecology. She believes in creating safe, inclusive spaces for all patients, regardless of gender identity, to receive expert treatment for all their needs.
Author of The Black Girl’s Guide to Healing Emotional Wounds Series and CEO of the Emotional Wellness Hub, Nijiama Smalls is a writer, emotional coach, and speaker. She has written for various publications and spoken on numerous platforms on the topics of healing emotional wounds, emotional intelligence, self-love, and destroying generational patterns.
The wife of Pastor Shamon Smalls, Nijiama Smalls is a mother of two and a southern bell. A native of Rock Hill, SC and current resident of Northern Virginia, she has spent many years working in various leadership roles in Corporate America. In addition, she has served as an adjunct faculty member at two local post-secondary educational institutions where she taught professional development and business-related courses. Mrs. Smalls has earned a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Winthrop University and a M.S. A certified life coach, Mrs. Smalls also holds certifications in Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness Mediation, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She enjoys sharing her wisdom with women and leaders on their journey towards healing and managing their emotions.
Entrepreneurship and women's empowerment are at the crux of Mrs. Smalls’ experience and passions. Serving the community is also an important factor and she has taken great pride in being a part of several local initiatives. Mrs. Smalls is the President and Founder of the Prince William County Chapter of Mocha Moms Inc. There she is able to empower women of color to be the best moms they can be while encouraging them to maintain a balance within their lives. She is also the founder of the Prince William County Women in Business Network. She also serves as the leader of the Family Life Ministry at Zion Church Woodridge where she is able to pour into families within her local community.
Yvelette Stines is principal of Stines Communications Group. As a person who is passionate about health and writing she has found a way to merge her passions to create a space for clients to bring their story to life and share it with the world.
Her work has been published in INSIDER, SHAPE, Essence, Black Enterprise, Essence, Ebony, Green Build, Design, and more. She has worked on campaigns for T Brand Studio, FX, Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) and more. Her books for children and adults focus on health and wellness.
Presently she represents clients in the health, lifestyle, and hospitality industry. Her clients have been featured in INC Magazine, Business News Daily, NPR, Fox2, WDIV 4, Essence, and more. Stines enjoys working with youth, writing, and doing her part to leave the world a better place. She holds a B.A. in Communications, M.Ed Education and M.S. in Holistic Nutrition.
Zainab "Zee" Sulaiman, MSc is a reproductive justice and mental health advocate, feminist, and pan-Africanist. Zee is a sexual and reproductive health researcher, educator, and communications expert passionate about health equity, reproductive and gender justice, and access to knowledge, information, and services to produce sustainable communities. Zee is HealthConnect One’s Director of Communications and is training to be a full-spectrum doula.
Through compassionate advocacy, nurturing mentorship, and resilient mothering, Jatesha “Jaye” Madden-Wilson is reshaping the world of maternal health for women of color. She is a nurse, CEO, founder, social impact speaker, maternal health advocate, self sufficiency coach, and mother to two brilliant young girls. Drawing from her own experiences with adversity, motherhood and overcoming, Jaye’s work has influenced the lives of women across the globe and is changing how we think of parenting. In her professional career, Jaye has worked in community health and outreach as a nursing operational manager while simultaneously lobbying in Washington DC, New York and New Jersey as a community advocate for the LGBT+ community.
Through these positions, she has gained a more nuanced understanding of the importance of advocacy, and how public engagement can create better physical, emotional and mental health outcomes for communities. Inspired by her own personal transitions from marriage to divorce, Jaye created a community of support that changed the narrative of motherhood, sisterhood and womanhood. Melinated Moms was born out of Jaye’s desire for a space to be seen, heard, and valued after her divorce. That desire continues to serve as the organization’s foundation.
Melinated Moms is a community-centered women empowerment membership for moms and women of all shades and hues of melanin. Working primarily with nonprofits, the organization focuses on filling the gap and ensuring BIPOC mothers from all walks of life are supported in their journey, with the tools they need to flourish. Through curated events, Melinated Moms provides teachings, lessons and mentorship that has the power to uplift and inspire, by interweaving the many facets of motherhood, sisterhood, and womanhood. Jaye began her work with Melinated Moms hosting events in Bayonne, NJ (Hudson County) at The Bridge Art Gallery. Over the last four years, she has curated over 100 in-person and virtual events for moms and women of color cultivating a virtual community spanning communities of color in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Her work has given her the opportunity to connect, empower and build with women throughout the melinated spectrum. In doing so, Jaye has found her life’s purpose and is committed to improving maternal health for Black women across the globe through policy, community and empowerment.