Chamber names 5th class in Black history series

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber announced the fifth class of its “We are Making Black History” series.

Throughout February, the chamber will share the stories of seven Black leaders currently living and working in the Cincinnati region and making change in Greater Cincinnati.

Derrick Braziel, Liza Smitherman, Rosemary Oglesby-Henry, Claudia Abercrumbie, Christie Kuhns, Marcus Thompson and Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney

The tribute will culminate at the chamber’s annual dinner March 2 at the Duke Energy Convention Center.

“The Cincinnati chamber started this recognition to celebrate the stories of Black leaders who are making history today, redefining the standard in his or her career, and creating a path for all who follow,” said Danielle Wilson, the chamber’s vice president of marketing and communications. “These 2023 honorees are shining examples of this type of leadership. Over the past five years, we’ve been honored to recognize 35 leaders representing different walks of life, careers, and experiences, and over the years, we’ve come to learn about their unique leadership and perseverance which is inspiring to all.”

The 2023 “We are Making Black History” honorees are:

  • Claudia M. Abercrumbie is the President & CEO of The Abercrumbie Group, a company that creates and manages signature events that add value to the community and help its corporate partners advance their business objectives. She began her career in Brand Management and Ethnic Marketing at Procter & Gamble; managed Ethicon Endo-Surgery’s participation in over 100 national medical conventions; and raised over $10 million for university-wide initiatives for the University of Cincinnati Foundation.
  • Derrick Braziel is the CEO and co-founder of Pata Roja Taqueria. Pata Roja provides high-quality street tacos, family-style taco kits and catering inspired by the culture and traditions of central Mexico. Previously, Derrick co-founded MORTAR, an organization dedicated to enabling historically marginalized entrepreneurs to start businesses, change communities and build generational wealth. Derrick’s work has led to recognition from the Indianapolis Star, YES! Magazine, Next City, Politico, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Essence Magazine and NBC Nightly News. He has also been named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs and the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 40 under 40 list. He is an Echoing Green and 2016-17 BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) Fellow, a 2018 Next City Vanguard and a 2019 Obama Foundation Fellow.
  • Christie Kuhns is the President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio fulfilling the Urban League’s mission to help African Americans and others in underserved communities achieve their highest true social parity, economic self- reliance, power, civil rights, and justice. She attended law school and practiced at both a major law firm and Fortune 500 company. In 2015, Christie was elected as an Ohio State Representative in the 131st General Assembly, 32nd District. She then gained experience in the not-for-profit sector at UC Health, as Vice President of Operations and Community Relations, and Chief of Staff to the Chief Operating Officer.
  • Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney owns a multi-media publishing company, Sesh Communications, that includes ownership of the award-winning The Cincinnati Herald newspaper. She was appointed to Cincinnati City Council in 2020, and then elected in the 2021 election. Mayor Aftab Pureval appointed Vice Mayor Kearney, chair of the Healthy Neighborhoods Committee, and vice chair of Public Safety and Governance. She has been an active volunteer in many organizations.
  • Rosemary Oglesby-Henry is a nationally known leadership educator, author, philanthropist, and award-winning founder/ CEO of Rosemary’s Babies, an impact organization (501c3) committed to helping teen parents master the concepts of self-leadership to leave a legacy. Her work has been published in three magazines including Forbes and four novels.
  • Liza Smitherman joined Jostin Construction in 1998, in partnership with her husband in their first generation, family-owned business. Liza played a key role in developing the driving purpose behind Jostin Construction – To create & provide a diversity of opportunities for all. Now celebrating almost twenty-five years in business, she facilitates the development of growth strategies for Jostin and its subsidiary companies and continues to drive the direction and planning for all aspects of human resources (employee relations, compensation, training & development etc.) and workforce development. As owner of Brewster Pumping, Liza provides direction for establishing and implementing short and long-term goals for the business. She also works closely with the Brewster team to manage day-to-day activities. Liza is very active in community organizations that share her passion for creating new opportunities for others.
  • Marcus Thompson works as Director of Corporate Development at TriVersity Construction one of the largest construction firms in the Cincinnati region. Prior to joining Triversity, Marcus held the title of Director, Supplier Diversity at Skanska Building USA. In his free time, Marcus serves on several boards including NewPath, Great Parks of Hamilton County Board of Commissioners and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky African American Chamber. He also serves as President of the Board of Trustees for the Center for Addiction Treatment, is a Board member for Council on Child Abuse, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Ambassador Council, is a mentor, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. One of Marcus’ favorite philanthropic positions is serving as a volunteer at Saturday Hoops, a growing group of friends and local youth from all walks of life who get together on Saturday mornings (January through May) for fun, faith, and positive role modeling through a variety of activities.

Visit each week during the month of February to read and hear stories from all the honorees.

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