• Tue. May 30th, 2023

By Marla Fuller

City of Cincinnati

and Tiffaney Hardy

Fifth Third Bank

All Photos provided

Black is Excellence (BIE) is celebrating its fourth annual citywide marketing campaign in February honoring 15 African American community leaders whose contributions have greatly impacted the Cincinnati region. Inspired by community advocate Kai Stoudemire-Williams, the BIE campaign was in collaboration with the City of Cincinnati’s Office of Human Relations (OHR) and Fifth Third Bank as a sponsor.

This year’s theme was “Our Work is Our Legacy.”  The honorees were again featured on banners displayed downtown and in surrounding areas. The BIE campaign aims to acknowledge and promote diversity, inclusion and representation, and to celebrate the achievements of local African Americans. It’s also a way to ensure that African Americans see themselves represented truthfully and accurately in print and digital media.

The 2023 BIE honorees are:

      •     Tracey Artis – Chief Executive Officer, I Hear Music

      •     Lawerance Cain, Jr. – Financial Coach, Abundance Academy 

      •     Carla Cobb, VP – Director of Supplier Diversity, Fifth Third Bank

      •     Victor Garcia, MD – Pediatric Surgeon and Founder of the Trauma Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

      •     Russ Hairston – Executive Director, Avondale Development Corporation

      •     Pastor Jackie Jackson – Program Manager, Everytown for Gun Safety

      •     Christie Kuhns – President and CEO, Urban League of Southwestern Ohio

      •     Kevin Lavender – Head of Commercial Banking, Fifth Third Bank

      •     Glenn Meadows – Head of Mortgage Servicing, Fifth Third Bank

      •     Latisha Owens – Founder & President, Guiding Light Mentoring

      •     Karen Rumsey – Health Programs Manager Witness Advocacy, Cincinnati Police Department

      •     Gloria Samuel – Director, Program and Project Management, Fifth Third Bank

      •     Isaac “Drift” Wright – Artist, Drifter Shoots

      •     Sole Bros:

      •     Spencer Boyd II –Founder

      •     Curtis Harrison IV –Founder

      •     Kellen Newman –Founder

      •     Breiland Anderson –Board Member

      •     Jonah Karschnik — Board Member

The campaign ran during Black History Month, a time set aside to recognize the incredible contributions the Black community has made throughout history – from civil leaders to artists, politicians and inventors.

“During Black History Month, and every other month, we must take the time to honor the role and achievements of African American heroes in our City’s history. These icons, many of which were overlooked at the time and continue to be sidelined today, transformed our country and our cities,” stated Kai Stoudemire-Williams, Community Advocate. “While some groundbreaking heroes are well-known, there are many unsung heroes worth celebrating—particularly those who are leaving behind a great legacy.”

Throughout the month of February, BIE recognizes Black leaders living and working in the Cincinnati region who are making Black history and creating new legacies today. BIE is equally invested in celebrating individuals who have immeasurably contributed to their fields over a lifetime of work as practitioners, mentors, and advocates. 

“It’s important that we acknowledge those who continue to blaze trails to heal and advance their communities despite the history of disparity, inequity and inequality. Their achievements are a testament to victories born from struggle. We are proud to recognize achievements and sacrifices with great expectations for the future. We acknowledge the important work that lies ahead and work to promote a better quality of life for all,” explained Paul M. Booth, Division Manager, OHR.

BIE is a dedication to community leaders who are creating innovative solutions to the City’s most pressing issues and for their work in inspiring the next generation of leaders. 

“It is important that we recognize those who are living legacies as well as leaving legacies for future generations,” said Kala Gibson, Executive Vice President and Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer for Fifth Third Bank and a 2022 BIE honoree. “This campaign recognizes the contributions of African Americans who are positively impacting the communities we serve as a way to show others that they too can make a difference.”

Additional visual locations for the BIE project can be found at:

      •     Fountain Square’s LED screen.

      •     The Fountain Square ice rink.

      •     Orange Barrell Media LED screen outside Kroger on Vine Street.

      •     Findlay Market.

      •     The “Cincinnati” sign at the Cincinnati Convention Center and interior LED screen colors will be changed to red, black and green.

      •     Washington Park LED screens in the parking garage entrances. 

“Our Work is Our Legacy” was  inspired by local photographer Ninamdot, the BIE campaign’s artistic creator who designed the artwork on the banners.

The Office of Human Relations serves as a catalyst to promote the building of positive relationships between and among the various groups and cultures that make up Cincinnati. The Office works to mobilize institutions and individuals to resolve diversity issues while developing mechanisms to ensure equitable treatment of all persons.

The Office of Human Relations also functions as an integral part of furthering relationships between various community groups and the City of Cincinnati Government.