Community Foundation Announces Three New Black Equity & Excellence Fund Advisory Council Members

The Black Equity & Excellence Advisory Council is charged with reviewing grant proposals and making funding recommendations as well as identifying gaps and opportunities to create a more equitable and economically inclusive Central New York for the Black community.

The Central New York Community Foundation is welcoming three new Black Equity & Excellence Advisory Council members: Latoya Allen, Rickey T. Brown and Cjala Surratt. The advisory council is charged with reviewing grant proposals and making funding recommendations as well as identifying gaps and opportunities to create a more equitable and economically inclusive Central New York for the Black community. Members represent a cross-section of industries and backgrounds reflecting varying viewpoints.

The Community Foundation launched the Black Equity & Excellence Fund in June of 2020 to support projects that encourage self-sufficiency and improve the physical and economic conditions that affect Black community members’ quality of life. It also seeks to encourage dialogue that will strengthen collaborative engagement on race-related matters and support social and educational growth in the community.

Current members of the Black Equity & Excellence Fund Advisory Council include Me’Shae Broooks-Rolling, CEPF®, M.P.A., Jalyn Clifford, Cal Corriders, Bishop Ronald Dewberry, Shawni Davis, Lekia K. Hill, Dr. Tanisha M. Jackson, Minister Mark Muhammad and Christopher Montgomery.

New council member bios:

Latoya Allen is the deputy executive director for Home HeadQuarters (HHQ), charged with community, special programs and homeownership outreach. She is a HUD-certified housing counselor and educator for first-time homebuyers helping to guide rental, public housing and other high needs populations through HHQ’s homeownership pipeline. Ms. Allen also helps direct, with an equity lens, the organization’s property development and programmatic efforts by providing guidance, operational planning and neighborhood convening’s for stakeholder feedback. A proud, lifetime resident of Syracuse, New York, and a product of the City School District, Latoya also serves as the elected 4th District Councilor for Syracuse constituents living on the city’s Southside. When initially elected in 2017, Latoya was the youngest African American woman elected to Syracuse’s Common Council. Latoya is the founder of Precious Lily, a mentoring program for young girls, and is the founder of Rose2Rose, a support group that encourages, motivates, and supports women in their careers and personal lives. She currently serves as a board member for Blueprint 15, the Syracuse Regional Airport Authority, Syracuse Strong, and the SCSD Educational Foundation. Latoya is mom to two boys and one very large dog and lives on Syracuse’s Southside.

Rickey T. Brown is founder and principal of Diversify-NY, LLC, a New York State certified minority business enterprise and technical assistance provider. The firm’s primary function is to identify, create and promote opportunities that advance minority and minority women-owned businesses, with a specialization in state contracting. It provides business and professional development training to minority women-owned business enterprises. He serves prominent roles as a business development strategist and advocate for minority business affairs throughout the region. Rickey has spearheaded a number of diversity initiatives focused on capital investments and the development of capital projects for minority-owned businesses such as Salina 1st, Access Dental Laboratories, and the NJ Jones Plumbing and Training Center. He currently serves on several boards, including the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency, Housing Visions, Christopher Community and The SCSD Foundation. A graduate of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, Rickey holds a bachelor of science in finance. Today, he leverages his background to advocate for policies that benefit the economically disenfranchised.

Cjala Surratt’s work in the arts focuses on equity and restorative justice, emphasizing socially engaged practices, site-specific projects, and public interventions. An alumna of Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (’22), she has worked in public relations, marketing, and community outreach for various arts, culture, and social justice organizations for the past 20 years. As public relations director of The Redhouse Arts Center, she promoted theater productions, film screenings, live concerts, and art exhibitions. As marketing director at the Community Folk Art Center, she focused her skills on representing and promoting visual artists from the African American Diaspora. Cjala is the owner of Black Citizens Brigade, a curated vintage clothing retail shop in downtown Syracuse. She currently serves as Communication Coordinator for Urban Video Project, a community-access digital service lab and art gallery for emerging and underrepresented artists working in photography and moving images. She also serves on the Community Folk Art Center Advisory Board, Everson Museum of Art’s Equity & Engagement Committee, and NYS Arts Commission. Surratt is a co-founding member of the Black Artist Collective and Black Leadership Coalition, both of which seek to center Black and Brown communities’ concerns in politics, arts, and cultural spaces. In 2021 she received the Interfaith Works: Racial Justice Catalyst Award. Other current appointments include: Central New York Arts Decentralization Grants (juror), Creatives Rebuild New York: Central New York and Finger Lakes Region (outreach coordinator/ juror), HueArts New York State (advisory committee), and Onondaga County Poet Laureate Selection Panel (juror).

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The Central New York Community Foundation is a public charity that turns community dollars into community change. Established in 1927, it receives contributions from donors, manages them to grow over time and then distributes funding to address the region’s greatest needs. The foundation has invested more than $270 million in community projects that benefit Central New York. It also serves as a civic leader, convener and sponsor of strategic initiatives that foster a thriving and equitable region and address the most critical issues of our time.

Black Equity & Excellence Fund

The Community Foundation’s Black Equity & Excellence fund was launched in June 2020 in response to the tragedies and ensuing national conversation on race that has brought to light a common truth – that anti-Black racism is still woven into the fabric of the country. The Fund supports community-based projects for the Black community of Central New York that promote and encourage self-sufficiency and improve the physical and economic conditions that affect quality of life. It also encourages dialogue that will strengthen collaborative engagement on race-related matters and support social and educational growth in the community.

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