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Chicago Defender: The Chicago Defender Honorees the 2024 Women of Excellence Honorees

This year’s Induction Ceremony Honors Exemplary Black Women in the Chicagoland Community at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk on March 22, 2024.

Chicago, Illinois – Desirée Rogers, former White House Social Secretary to President Barack Obama and chief executive officer of Johnson Publishing Company, headlines an extraordinary list of Black women luminaries who will be honored at the 17th Annual Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Awards and Ceremony.

The Women of Excellence (WOE) event will be held Friday, March 22, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, starting at 5:30 p.m. The theme of this year’s event is “EmpowerHer: Celebrating Strength, Resilience, and Unstoppable Women.”

Rogers, one of the nation’s most powerful businesswomen, will be honored as the 2024 WOE “Woman of the Year.” She will join pioneering chef and restaurateur Josephine Wade (Lifetime Achievement Awardee), civic leader, executive, and educator Dr. Carol L. Adams (Vanguard Awardee), and longstanding State Senator Mattie Hunter (Vanguard Awardee) as special honorees.

And the honored class of women, along with Rogers, embodies this theme.

“Women’s History Month brings immense gratification to our team. It perpetuates our tradition of recognizing the remarkable women in our community for their invaluable contributions. As we mark our 17th year, we eagerly celebrate the achievements of 850 women and look forward to many more.” — Dyanna Knight Lewis, Publisher- The Chicago Defender

Moreover, 50 Black women will be inducted into the 2024 Women of Excellence class, joining 800 women already members of this prestigious sisterhood.

Since its inception in 2007, the Women of Excellence Awards and Ceremony has recognized Black women entrepreneurs, corporate executives, community leaders, educators, and media members who are at the forefront of their respective fields and blazing a trail for future generations.

The Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award recognizes these exceptional individuals for their hard work, dedication, creativity, resilience, and commitment to excellence.

The Women of Excellence awards honor admirable women while forming a solid network of accomplished individuals. This year’s honorees include:

Kimberleigh Bailey


Kimberleigh Bailey Exclusive Agency, Inc.

Jennifer M. Beckham


Restore Hope DNJ Therapy, PLLC

Dr. Pamela Blackman


Building Brighter Futures Center for

the Arts

Yumeka Brown


Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Lori Carlton-Jordan

Human Resource Consultant

Property Care Management

April V.Lewis Carter

Payroll& Benefits Coordinator

Posen-Robbins SD143.5

Colby Chapman

Alderwoman, 2nd Ward

City of Harvey

Erin Cloyd

Early Childhood Specialist

Chicago Public Schools – Network 12



District Outreach Initiatives


Joy v.Cunningham

Supreme Court Justice

State of Illinois

Andrea L. Davenport

Director of Community



JaNet Defell

President & CEO

Community Desk Chicago

Tia Ewing-Walker

News Anchor/Reporter

Fox 32Chicago

Sabiena Foster

District Administrator

FedEx Express

Monica Fox

Senior Director of Outreach and Government Relations

National Kidney Foundation of Illinois

Lisa Gardner

Executive Director

Illinois Liquor Control Commission

Stacy Davis Gates


Chicago Teachers Union

Kimberley Goode

Chief Communications and Social Impact Officer


DeAnna Grant


Grant’s Financial Services-Tax &


Tene Gray

Training& Design Manager

Adler University

Darlene Hill

Executive VP of Communications

Rise Strategy Group


Dr. Marlyn D. Hirsch

Owner and Operator

Hirsch Advanced Practice Providers LTD.

Tenille Jackson

President/ CEO

Digital Vision Enterprises, LLC

Diannia Jemison


Keller Regional Gifted Center

Lola Jenkins

Vice President of Operations

Westside Association for Community Action

Arielle Johnson

Chief Executive Officer

Business Leadership Council

Mariann Jordan


J & P Consulting Group LLC

Yvonette Clarice Lawson

Manager- Customer Service Operations

CMBM/Elevance Health Inc.

Caprice Lindsey

AVP, Business Development


Wintrust-Hyde Park Bank

Lorell E.Lynch

Director of Public Affairs, Community Outreach & Events

Allvvyn North America

MaToya S. Marsh


Simpson Academy for Young Women

Lisa Merchant-Harrell

Chief Human Resources Officer

Cleveland Avenue, LLC

Kelli Merrick

Alderwoman, Ward 7

City of Chicago Heights

Dr. Aginah M. Muhammad

Assistant Vice Provost

University of Illinois Chicago

Shenita Muse

Executive Director

Hope Center Foundation

Sainab Taiwo Ninalowo

Senior Manager, Smart Grid&



Letina Brady Pettis

Board Member

League of Women Voters of


Cherie Price


Illinois Diversity Council

Alisha Roberts-Novak

CEO/Director of Operations

Administrative Resolutions Network,


Dr. Kisha Roberts-Tabb

Special Population Program Manager

Cook County Juvenile Probation & Court Services

Tina Sanders

Chief Executive Officer

Phalanx Family Service

Aris Singleton

Chief Executive Officer

tgin (Thank God It’s Natural)

Jessica Sivels

Senior Director, Public Engagement

Chicago Housing Authority

Dr.Erica E.Taylor



Kimberly M. Thomas


Kimco International, Inc.

Michelle D. Turner

Release Train Engineer


Angela K. Waller

Vice President

Catering Out The Box


Morgan Waller

External Affairs Manager

Crown Castle

Tiffany N. Williams

Senior Director, Corporate Relations

American Cancer Society

Kenyatta Young

Human Resources Executive



“I can’t imagine a more impressive list of accomplished Black women who have made our community stronger and more resilient by their very deeds and presence. I remain in awe and find comfort in knowing these changemakers are present in our community. They deserve their flowers.” — Tacuma R. Roeback, Managing Editor-The Chicago Defender

The Women of Excellence Red Carpet Awards Presentation Reception will occur on Friday, March 22, 2024, at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, 301 E North Water St, Chicago, IL 60611, at 5:30 p.m. ComEd is the presenting sponsor. The emcees are Samantha Chatman, ABC 7 Chicago, and Marseil “Action” Jackson, Inspiration 1390 AM WGRB.

This event is SOLD OUT. For more information, please visit


About the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence:

Each year, the Chicago Defender takes great pride in recognizing African American women in our community who inspire others through their excellence, vision, leadership, achievements, and commitment to empowerment. We are proud of the accomplishments of these men who are doing amazing things across broad spectrums of society.

About the Chicago Defender

The Chicago Defender is a multi-media content provider of news and information. The Chicago Defender offers marketing solutions, strategic partnerships, and custom events covering the African American market. Our platform equips us to leverage audience influence to reach, connect, and impact the Black Community with culturally relevant content not often serviced by mainstream media.

Founded in 1905, The Chicago Defender celebrated its 118th Anniversary in 2023 and was recognized nationally as the second most widely read and best African American Newspaper by Nielson and Essence Survey 2014. In July 2019, the Chicago Defender transitioned from a printed newspaper into a digitally focused, high-traffic content platform dedicated to online editorials, premiere events, sponsored advertising, custom publishing, and archival merchandising. We distribute relevant and engaging news and information via multiple platforms daily.

Leaders and readers nationwide look to the Chicago Defender to stay informed about issues that impact their lives. As the community’s voice for more than eleven decades, we take great pride in having access to grassroots community connections and established relationships with influencers and opinion leaders. As a result, we stay abreast of the pulse of the neighborhoods. Our readers trust us. They trust The Chicago Defender will portray the news authentically.

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