Our #MakingBlackHistory celebration, now in its fifth year, recognizes seven Black leaders living and working in our region creating legacies today. These are leaders who go the extra mile for their community, excel in their respective fields, and open doors for the future leaders coming up behind them.
For your Cincinnati Regional Chamber, we’re humbled by the passion and talent of each honoree and are honored to help elevate, empower and support these leaders as well as all of our region’s Black leaders today, tomorrow, and all year long. We hope you join us in uplifting their accomplishments and in our shared commitment to creating more opportunities for Black leadership in every corner of our city.
A special thank you to the 2023 selection panel, Frost Brown Todd for their sponsorship, all of our honorees to date, and most of all, to our 2023 #MakingBlackHistory honorees. Our region is better because of your outstanding talent, vision and commitment to leadership.
Please take the time to get to know these leaders and raise your bold voice to celebrate and elevate them today, tomorrow, and all year long. Photography and videography by Rooted Creative.
Meet the 2023 #MakingBlackHistory Honorees:
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.