Suzanne Shank (32801)
Sean Sasser (32800)

District of Columbia

A new endowment fund created by AIDS United and honoring the memory of AIDS educator and activist Sean Sasser will be used to mobilize philanthropic and community support for programs improving health outcomes for gay men of color. Sasser passed away Aug. 7 after a brief but intense battle with mesothelioma, a rare lung cancer. He had lived with HIV for 25 years. The Sean Sasser Endowment Fund will be announced at the public memorial for Sasser in Washington, D.C. The spouse of AIDS United President and CEO Michael Kaplan at the time of his passing, Sasser became an AIDS advocate at the age of 19, when the Navy rejected him after an HIV-positive test result. The public memorial, at which AIDS United will make the official announcement of the fund, will take place Sept. 21 at National City Christian Church in Washington, D.C.

B. Smith’s, a leading African American lifestyle brand and southern cuisine innovator, has announced that it will close down its 20-year-old Union Station location and open new restaurants in Washington, D.C., and in other markets across the country. These new locations will feature the same delicious southern cuisine that the restaurant has served for more than 25 years in a more contemporary, high-energy ‘bistro” setting. The restaurants will also feature more options for the health-conscious consumer. B. Smith’s has also partnered with Southern Culture, a lifestyle brand based in Atlanta to create an all-natural line of pancake and waffle mixes that will be available in stores within 60 days.


The American Shea Butter Institute announced its 11th annual International Shea Butter Convention (ISBC) to be held at the Atlanta Airport Westin Hotel in Atlanta, Oct. 24-26. The event is the largest conference and exposition of its kind, solely dedicated to shea butter and its related products. The theme of this year’s event is: “Creating International Business and Educational Opportunities for Grassroots Women in the Sub Sahara African Shea Belt.” The ISBC provides opportunities for participants to network directly with shea consumers, product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers, research scientists, as well as other leaders of the shea butter industry. Attendees will have the opportunity to train under seasoned experts to acquire a number of Shea professional credentials.


The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced a $3.6 million investment in BMe, a new network of inspired Black men building caring and prosperous communities. Over the last two years, working in close partnership with Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement and with support from the Heinz Endowment, Knight tested its approach by recognizing Black male leaders, from all walks of life, in Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Building on that success, BMe will now increase the presence and impact of engaged Black men in the pilot communities, and later nationally, by connecting them with each other, supporting their events and projects, telling their stories and inviting people of all races and gender to join in this movement. Unlike approaches that identify problems to be addressed, BMe focuses on men and boys doing good—and amplifies their impact by encouraging others to do the same.


Three African Americans will be among the nine women honored by the YWCA Metro St. Louis as Leaders of Distinction at the annual Leader Lunch in December. The award is to honor local women who adhere to the YWCA mission to empower women and eliminate racism. Sharon Davis, Gwendolyn Packnett and Gail Taylor will be among the women added to the YWCA Academy of Leaders. Davis is the first vice president and chief diversity officer for Ameren. Packnett is the assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and Taylor is the shopper marketing manager for Energizer Holdings Inc. The YWCA Leader Lunch will be held Dec. 5 at the Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis. For more information about Leader Lunch, go to

New York

Siebert Financial Corporation recently appointed Suzanne Shank as acting CEO of the company and its wholly owned subsidiary, the discount broker/dealer and institutional investment bank, Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc., effective immediately. The company was founded by Muriel F. “Mickie” Siebert, who died on Aug. 24. A 25-year veteran of the industry, Shank will also continue in her role as president and CEO of the municipal finance firm Siebert Brandford Shank & Co., L.L.C., which she co-founded with Muriel F. Siebert and Napoleon Brandford in 1996. The firm is the top-ranked minority- and women-owned municipal bond underwriting firm in the country and is the only minority and women-owned firm ever nationally ranked in the top 10 among all such firms in the country.

A public-school powerhouse in junior high chess competitions has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. Its 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. I.S. 318 is a Brooklyn school that serves mostly minority students from families living below the poverty line. “Brooklyn Castle”—which has its national broadcast premiere on Monday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on the PBS documentary series POV (Point of View)—is the story of five of the school’s aspiring young players and how chess became the school’s unlikely inspiration for academic success. The film will stream on POV’s website,, from Oct. 8- Nov. 6. The film is part of the new PBS Indies Showcase, a four-week series of independent documentaries airing on Monday nights from Sept. 30-Oct. 21.


Talented MBA candidates from more than 30 of the nation’s leading business schools competed for $50,000 in scholarships at the 2013 National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) Case Competition, sponsored by Chrysler Group LLC. The annual event is designed to give high-powered student teams an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and problem-solving skills in a formal competition. Teams are given a hypothetical business case for which they develop business solutions. This year, the students from Clark Atlanta University took home the first place trophy as national champions and $25,000 in scholarships. The winning team members were Shermika Dunnerm, Amber Dyess and Keith Edmonds, all current MBA students.


The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has announced $7.3 million in funding to winners of a grant competition designed to boost job creation and the global competitiveness of minority-owned businesses nationwide. Grant recipients will establish MBDA business centers in Baltimore, Bridgeport, Conn., Houston, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C., joining a network of 40 MBDA Business Centers across the United States and Puerto Rico. MBDA will make additional announcements regarding site selections and when the new centers will open once details are available.

President Barack Obama has named two new leaders to head the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). George Cooper, formerly 10th president of South Carolina State University, will begin this week as the initiative’s executive director, and Howard University Professor Ivory Toldson will serve as deputy director. The task at hand for Cooper and Toldson is to lead a team of people from across 32 federal agencies, corporate entities, and philanthropic organizations, to work together in strengthening the capacity of more than 100 HBCUs, as they strive to shape this country’s next generation of leaders. The president has called on the pair to fortify his administration’s commitment to HBCUs, and to lead the national effort to champion both the rich traditions of these esteemed institutions and their promise for the future.

Compiled By Juliana Norwood.