Recorder Media Group, home to Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper and Indiana Minority Business Magazine, will honor 10 individuals who are Rising Stars in their chosen careers during the Golden Laurel Professional Reception 5:30-7 p.m. May 16 at Mid-State Minority Supplier Development Council, 2126 N. Meridian St. The Rising Stars, listed below, represent minority role models.
Bunmi Akintomide, systems specialists manager at Sales force
As manager for the marketing automation team at Salesforce, Bunmi Akintomide oversees projects, initiatives and system maintenance to ensure work is completed according to quality standards and in a timely manner. Akintomide is also a liaison between the business and IT application development organization departments to identify issues and recommend resolutions.
Akintomide, an immigrant from Nigeria, has worked at Salesforce in different roles since 2016 and has developed analytical, troubleshooting and project management skills in that time.
He is president and founder of Indy Black Millennials; social committee liaison for Indiana Urban League Exchange; a mentor for Big Brother, Big Sister of Central Indiana; and is a member of Boldforce Indy, Equality Council Business Technology Indy, Indy Site Council Employee Engagement Subcommittee, all of Salesforce.
Ebony Chappel, multicultural
community relations coordinator at Indiana Donor Network
In her role as multicultural community relations coordinator at Indiana Donor Network, Ebony Chappel educates people of color, the LGBTQ community and faith groups on the importance of saving lives through the gift of organ, tissue and eye donations.
Along with her work at Indiana Donor Network, Chappel, former editor of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper, volunteers with organizations such as 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, Indianapolis Public Library and Indianapolis Press Club Foundation. Chappel is an award-winning journalist and radio host. She hosts a weekly radio program, "Eye on the Community," which airs Sunday mornings on Hot 96.3 FM and is one of the top three shows in its time slot.
Taylor Fitzgerald, pharmaceutical sales representative at Eli Lilly
Taylor Fitzgerald serves as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Eli Lilly's east region, where she is responsible for advancing care for people with diabetes.
Outside of her work at Eli Lilly, Fitzgerald is a writer, singer and author. In November 2018 she co-authored the book, "The Journey to Joy: 5 Generations Share Stories Every Woman Needs to Hear," with her mother, Joy Fitzgerald and Sa Phillips. She and her co-authors share different generational perspectives on issues such as dating, marriage and motherhood.
Fitzgerald is a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army.
Juan Gonzalez, Central Indiana market president at KeyBank
With more than 18 years of experience in the banking and financial industry, Juan Gonzalez is the Central Indiana market president for KeyBank and also serves as the business banking sales leader in Indiana. Gonzales works with the company's Corporate Responsibility Group to develop lending and investment strategies that allow Key-Bank to not only be good stewards of its resources to meet its corporate and social responsibilities.
He is a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series.
Gonzalez, who has a master's degree in business administration and finance from Butler University, is on numerous boards of directors, including the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation and the 500 Festival. Gonzalez is also on the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, chairs the Indiana Latino Scholarship Fund and is president of Dynamo F.C. and treasurer of Employ Indy. He has received numerous awards for his community involvement including the 2016 La Plaza Outstanding Community Award.
Ashley Gurvitz, community development manager at Eastern Star Church
Thanks to her adoptive parents, Ashley Gurvitz has known the importance of serving your community since early childhood. However, following the murder of Trayvon Martin, Gurvitz decided she needed to do more to strengthen her community. That desire led her to become the community development manager for Eastern Star Church's ROCK Initiative, which includes resources such as a grocery store and financial literacy services.
Before joining Eastern Star Church, Gurvitz worked as a senior legislative aide and internship director for the Indiana House Democratic Caucus.
Gurvitz is also involved with other community organizations such as the Emerging Leaders Project, Kennedy King Memorial Initiative, Northeast Community District Resource Council and the Damien Center. She is part of Indianapolis' Citizens Police Complaint Board and is president of the Indianapolis chapter of the Democrat African American Caucus.
Jordan Rodriguez, director of the Office of International and Latino Affairs for the mayor's office in Indianapolis
As the director of the Office of International and Latino Affairs, Jordan Rodriguez frequently engages and supports minority communities in Indianapolis. One of his largest responsibilities is managing the city's outreach efforts to Latino populations.
Born to Colombian and American parents, Jordan Rodriguez lived in Guatemala, Mexico and Spain before moving to the United States. Rodriguez's passion for Hispanic communities defines his career in local government. He began working for the city of Indianapolis in 2014 as a bilingual constituent services representative at the Mayor's Action Center. In 2016 he received a promotion to neighborhood advocate for Wayne, Decatur and West Center townships. He was promoted to his current position in 2017.
Rima Shahid, executive director of Women4Change
Rima Shahid is the executive director of Women4Change, a nonprofit that equips and encourages women to engage in civil conversation about political and civic issues. Her job involves overseeing the daily operation of the organization while fostering its growth and engaging its volunteers. Shahid is the organization's first executive director.
Shahid, a native Hoosier who lived in the Middle East for more than a decade, previously worked as a trade development officer at the Pakistan Embassy in Bahrain.
Adrianne Slash, senior employment program specialist, talent management-human resources at Community Health Network and president of The Exchange at Indianapolis Urban League
Adrianne Slash serves as senior employment program specialist, talent management-human resources at Community Health Network. Slash worked at every department at United Way except finance and was named among United Way's 100 Heroes in 2018. She is president of The Exchange at the Indianapolis Urban League and is also a board member of the local chapter. She is a board member of Visit Indy, the Jewish Community Center and a member of the Marion County Judicial Selection Committee and Indianapolis Cluster for CEOs for Cities. Slash is a Indianapolis Foundation Fellow and an Exchange Leadership Fellow and was named a 2018 Breakthrough Women in Public Policy by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Indianapolis Chapter.
Amy Titus, owner and CEO of Rooted Scales
After studying herbalism for 10 years, Amy Titus was introduced two years ago to cannabidiol (CBD oil) to ease some of her medical issues — chronic pain, anxiety and insomnia — without any side effects. Her experience led her to starting her own hemp-focused lifestyle and wellness company with friend Jaimeson Wright. The name Rooted Scales was chosen to reflect Titus and Wright's desire for the company to be rooted in health and bring balance to the community.
Before becoming a business owner, Titus held managerial positions in several local restaurants including Milktooth, Garden Table and Nourish.
Sean Washington, entrepreneur and motivational speaker
Local entrepreneur Sean Washington began Excelevate Development Group, a real estate development group, in December 2018.
Before starting his own business, Washington held various positions at Indiana State University. In addition, he is a mentor with the Bloom Project, participates in homeless outreach, speaks at local schools and teaches about entrepreneurship.
A former athlete and graduate of Indiana State University, Washington served as a graduate assistant for the football team and a mentor for freshmen student-athletes in the Academic Enrichment Center.
Instead of simply talking about violent crime in the city, AT&T employees decided to be part of the solution by bringing the Believe initiative to Indianapolis.
The creation of Believe Indy was announced during a press conference May 14.
Believe Indy identifies organizations effective in combating crime and provides money, technology and volunteers. The program has an initial budget of $275,000.
"We may be new to this challenge, but we will proudly join the dozens and dozens of neighborhood, civic and government organizations that have been making a positive difference in our city for decades," AT&T Indiana President Bill Soards said. Believe Indy's initial project is helping establish an Indianapolis chapter of One Congregation One Precinct (OneCOP), a nonprofit that connects local law enforcement with religious organizations to build better relationships between the police and community as a way to combat violent crime.
"The men and women of [Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department] work every day to strengthen relationships with neighborhood and community residents, and the OneCOP and Believe Indy Initiatives provide IMPD with yet another opportunity of deepening those relationships," IMPD Deputy Chief Josh Barker said.
The financial donations from Believe Indy allowed OneCOP to create an office in Indianapolis and hire an
executive director. OneCOP Indianapolis officially launched three weeks ago, and since then over 200 local religious organizations signed up to partner with the organization. OneCOP will introduce these religious organizations to their local beat cops, creating the groundwork for relationships to form.
"Thanks to AT&T, Indianapolis is the first stop in the national implementation of this unprecedented effort to connect beat-level law enforcement professionals directly with the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect," Rev. Markel Hutchins, founder of OneCOP, said.
OneCOP began in an immigrant neighborhood in Atlanta where the disconnected and distrustful relationship between residents and the police made it easier for crime to flourish. OneCOP held events such as basketball games between the local children and law enforcement officers, which built a trusting relationship and led to people reporting more crimes.
"More and more individuals from that community kept coming forward to their local law enforcement," Ryan Yarrell, executive director of OneCOP Indianapolis, said. "They were now at ease knowing that these people are here to help. Slowly but steadily, they were actually able to reduce that targeted victimized crime they were experiencing."
Believe Indy plans to partner with other organizations and sponsor events, although Soards was tightlipped about which ones. However, Believe Indy will help fund Operation Hydration, a drive to collect water bottles for the homeless, on May 23, and AT&T will participate in the Indy Civil Hack hackathon, in which participants will create digital educational tools, on June 14.
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.
Ta-Nehisi Coates was just getting to the good stuff May 8 at Butler University when the moderator cut off a Q&A session with the audience. It was a powerful place to end, Tamara Winfrey-Harris told the crowd, which moaned collectively for a second and then turned to clapping out of appreciation for a man who spent most of his hour on stage sparking inspiration and intrigue.
Coates was talking about gentrification, and anyone who closed their eyes would've said he was preaching about gentrification. Winfrey-Harris, vice president of community leadership and effective philanthropy at Central Indiana Community Foundation, was right about that being a powerful place to end their conversation, but it felt like Coates — a best-selling author and MacArthur Fellow — was just getting warmed up.
"Gentrification is a cute word for theft," he said. "The solution is pretty easy: Stop stealing. That's one. And return what you stole. That's two."
The question came from a young woman who said gentrification isn't happening at the same pace in Indianapolis as in larger cities such as Boston and New York City — the audience groaned in disagreement — and asked what people being displaced should do.
Coates said it goes back to his famous 2014 essay in The Atlantic, "The Case for Reparations," and that gentrification is not happening randomly or by accident. It's part of a system that produced two centuries of slavery, followed by Jim Crow, followed by mass incarceration. It's easy to keep stealing from people who have already been stolen from, he said.
Coates said something on this scale will take "radical" change to address, though he didn't get into what exactly that would look like, and that wishful thinking just won't be enough.
"We want to feel like we can will our way to things, you know what I mean?" he said. "And we have. We can. But not that. ... It's not just that Black people have an infinitesimal amount of wealth compared to white people. It's that because of segregation, Black people only live around other people who have an infinitesimal amount of wealth. Their entire network is other people who've been stolen from."
For much of his writing career, which became national in 2008 when he started writing for The Atlantic, Coates has been widely branded as a political and social pessimist. It's something almost completely out of his control now, Coates said, since he's become more popular and less in control of his own image. (He said he's got "champagne problems" now.)
One of the difficult parts of being a public figure, Coates said, is evolving. People hang on his every word, and the longer he goes, the more articles and columns and tweets — he quit Twitter in 2017 after a feud with Cornell West — there are to dig up in contradiction to something he may be taking a new stance on.
The first thing Winfrey-Harris asked Coates in Clowes Hall was about what he's learned about race since writing his first book, "The Beautiful Struggle," in 2009.
"That's an easy one," said Coates, whose new novel, "The Water Dancer," comes out in September. "I didn't understand how fundamental the Black experience was to the American experience."
He understood the basics, that African Americans contributed a great deal to America and "slavery was bad," but he didn't understand how deeply rooted racism has been in America's history and what slavery meant to America. He compared not knowing the full history of African Americans in this country to taking the eggs out of a cake recipe, and it's "not a cake anymore."
"I didn't understand that you couldn't have an America without Black people," Coates said.
When Winfrey-Harris asked how Americans can get past this "not knowing" phase Coates described, he said, to the surprise of those who may have wanted more of a gut-punch response about ignorance and racism, the country is doing a "reasonably decent job" getting past "the system" that doesn't want people to know about slavery, sharecropping, discrimination, segregation and so on. He cited the removal of Confederate statues as an example.
Doing "reasonably decent" at something is rarely taken as an endorsement, and it wasn't necessarily that when Coates said it, but it's different from him telling Stephen Colbert in 2017 that he's "not the person you should go to" for hope.
But in front of a capacity crowd, including high school students who got free copies of Coates' 2015 National Book Award winner, "Between the World and Me," Winfrey-Harris couldn't help but notice:
"You sound like an optimist," she said.
"I never understood the pessimist thing," Coates responded. "I thought I was a pretty fun guy."
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.
Shanna Reed, a nurse at the Innovative Unit at St. Vincent Indianapolis, remembered a cancer patient she befriended. Near the end of the patient's life, she had two requests. The first was a cheeseburger, which Reed happily supplied. The second was that Reed be the one to deliver the patient's last wishes to her family. That day reminded Reed about the importance of her job.
"Being a bedside nurse, you are going to take on the many different characteristics, but the main thing is being an advocate for your patient," Reed said. "... Even though we encompass many different roles, it's so rewarding."
Reed's story highlights the important role the country's 4 million nurses play in the health care industry, said Mary Myers, the chief nursing officer at St. Vincent. According to the article, The State of Nursing, from Purdue University there are 59,000 nurses in Indiana. Despite that number, both the state and the nation are facing a nursing shortage, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a nationwide shortage of more than 200,000 nurses by 2026. Tanya Hahn, vice president of talent acquisition at IU Health, said nurses currently make up a third of IU Health's workforce, yet the hospital network still has over 300 nursing positions available.
The nursing shortage is expected to grow as baby boomers continue entering an age requiring more medical attention at a rate that outpaces enrollment in nursing schools. In addition, 24% of nurses in Indiana are over 55 and nearing retirement, according to a
study by Indiana University's Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy.
To combat the shortage local hospitals use teamwork and nursing pools to help provide quality care while colleges offer multiple paths to a nursing degree.
Although Charlee Hunt, a nurse at St. Vincent Women's Hospital, knows there's a shortage, she never feels like she's doing the work of two or three people because fellow nurses pitch in when needed and care for patients who are not their own.
"It really does take a village to take care of our patients," Hunt said.
Nursing pools also are a creative way hospitals tackle the shortage. To become part of a nursing pool, nurses can apply to work at any hospital where there's a need. Much like a substitute teacher a nurse could have a different assignment daily or work at one hospital long term. This option provides assistance to the hospitals that are short staffed and offers nurses flexible hours and better pay. Most hospitals have resource pool nurses — St. Vincent employs over 200, Myers said.
Colleges also address the nursing shortage through accelerated programs. For example, those with a general bachelor's degree can earn a Bachelor of Nursing from Marian University in 16 months. Ivy Tech Community College created a similar program in 2009 where paramedics can transition to become nurses.
However, as colleges work to enroll more students in nursing programs, school officials must be cautious to keep standards in place.
"It would be really easy to say, 'expand, expand, expand,' but you do have to expand responsibly and be able to maintain the quality of education," Angela Koller, dean of nursing and professor at Ivy Tech, said. "That is very important. As we have expanded our numbers slightly over the last few years, we are trying to do that in a very smart fashion, so our quality of nurse does not change."
Contact staff writer Ben Lashar at 317-762-7848. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminLashar.