Lowe’s is proud to help highlight Black Charlotteans making a difference in the Queen City. Learn more about how Lowe’s is helping to shape Charlotte.
Charlotte is becoming.
No matter how you read those words, they say something true about the place we call home.
Yes, Charlotte is fetching, attractive, lovely and even stylish. But it can also be said that our city is in the process of becoming.
Unlike some other cities whose reputations are fixed, Charlotte is not yet fully formed — and that’s a good thing. It means we can become whatever we make of ourselves.
Each year in celebration of Black History Month, QCity Metro salutes 28 Black Charlotteans – one for each day in February – who are helping in a positive way to shape our emerging city.
Today we offer you that list.
Trimming our nominees to 28 is always daunting, and we considered many deserving candidates who didn’t survive the final cut…this year. (Note: we voted to exclude last year’s honorees, although many continue to make noteworthy contributions.)
I am proud of the list we’ve compiled. More so, I am proud of the women and men now inducted into our Class of 2022. Their commitments span the depth and breadth of our city – nonprofits, corporate, community, government, faith, education and more.
Thank you to one and all; the work you do makes Charlotte a better place.
Glenn H. Burkins, publisher
Congresswoman Alma Adams keeps busy representing the district she was elected to serve — a district that includes much of Charlotte. Most notably, she has led a successful push on Capitol Hill to get more federal funding for historically Black colleges and universities. Our own Johnson C. Smith University has been a beneficiary of her determination. Adams also has been at the forefront of a national campaign to reduce the disproportionately high number of Black mothers who died while giving birth. As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she has been bold in advocating on behalf of Black and other historically disadvantaged constituents.
Bishop Claude Alexander
The Park Church
At a time when Charlotte is facing a shortage of affordable homes, The Park Church under the leadership of Bishop Alexander, broke ground in late December on a housing project for seniors. When completed, the development at 6019 Beatties Ford Road will include 80 units with monthly rents ranging from $400 to $1,200. Church leaders say Alexander was the project’s visionary.
president, Johnson C. Smith University
Clarence Armbrister, the university’s 14th president, has led JCSU through financial turmoil and the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, he joined HBCU leaders across the nation in erasing large chunks of student debt. He recently accepted a challenge to work with local corporate and government leaders to transform the campus into one of the nation’s top-10 HBCUs.
founder & CEO, Step Up To Leadership
Step Up To Leadership is a Charlotte nonprofit founded to mentor young, Black boys — a mission close to the heart of Arkevious Armstrong. According to the organization’s vision statement, mentees are nurtured to “become better leaders and excel in the classrooms as well as in the communities.”
executive director, LISC Charlotte
In her work at LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), Ralphine Caldwell has played a leading role in some of Charlotte’s biggest community initiatives, including a multi-pronged effort to build more affordable housing. Lesser known is the work she has done to strengthen Charlotte’s Black-owned businesses. During the pandemic, LISC awarded more than $3 million to local businesses, primarily in Charlotte’s West End communities. Along with the financing, the businesses also got technical support.
president, Bank of America Charlotte
For the better part of two decades, Kieth Cockrell has served on the boards of some of the Charlotte region’s leading organizations. Now as head of Bank of America’s Charlotte region, he leads efforts to deploy bank resources to address community issues, including social and economic concerns. Bank of America last fall committed $25 million to the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, which included $10 million to JCSU.
founder, Camping with Cradle
In his day job, Keith Cradle is director of youth/juvenile services for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, where he works with young offenders. But what he does in his spare time is what caught our attention. As founder of the nonprofit Camping with Cradle, he uses the outdoors and camping to mentor young, male minds. In the organization’s first year (2021) Cradle led a total of 20 boys on six camping excursions to state parks.
Floyd Davis Jr.
president and CEO, Community Link
At an age when many of his contemporaries are enjoying retirement, Floyd Davis simply won’t quit. This year he will celebrate two decades leading Community Link, which has helped thousands of individuals and families in 21 North Carolina counties, including Mecklenburg, obtain and sustain safe, decent and affordable housing. Lately, as the economic impacts of Covid-19 have threatened those families, Davis has turned the organization’s attention to providing more online services and helping families avoid eviction.
president and CEO, Lowe’s
As one of a few Black leaders of a Fortune 500 company, Marvin Ellison knows that his influence must extend beyond stock prices and boardrooms. “There’s an obligation to have a voice on the concerns and the issues that are impacting our society and our country,” he said at a business roundtable in 2021. After the murder of George Floyd in 2000, Lowe’s pledged $55 million to assist minority-owned businesses. In Charlotte, Lowe’s has donated resources and materials to build and improve public spaces in communities including the Historic West End.
As a founding member of NGAAP-Charlotte (New Generation of African American Philanthropists), Valaida Fullwood says philanthropy is embedded in the DNA of Black Americans, though we don’t always recognize it as such. At NGAAP, she and other Black philanthropists pool their dollars and direct those resources toward Black-led nonprofits that are working to address some of Charlotte’s critical needs. Each August, as part of Black Philanthropy Month, you can find Fullwood hosting activities, events and fundraisers to spotlight the needs of Black-led nonprofits.
Charlotte City Council
Malcolm Graham represents District 2 on Charlotte City Council — a district that includes the Beatties Ford Road corridor, one of Charlotte’s newest frontiers for public and private investment. Last month, Graham was tapped by Mayor Vi Lyles to lead the council’s economic development committee. Graham has said he wants to move the committee back to a place of prominence among the various City Council committees. If he succeeds, Graham and his fellow committee members may be charged with laying the groundwork for some major city business, including corporate incentives and negotiations to build a new or renovated NFL stadium.
founder, Beatties Ford Road Vocational Trade Center
Inside the lobby of the Beatties Ford Road Vocational Trade Center, a visitor can find many motivational sayings. Motivation, after all, is Frances Hall’s stock in trade. She opened the center in 2016 to help men and women move from poverty to employment. On any given day, young Black males (some with criminal records) enter the building to study electronics or other trades. The center recently bought a building in downtown Chester, South Carolina, for a second location, and plans are underway in Charlotte for an all-boys charter school that will focus on robotics, engineering, architecture and masonry.
Monty Faulkner & Lamont Heath
0wners, Romeo’s Vegan Burgers
Charlotte’s food scene is rapidly diversifying, led by young Black visionaries such as Monty Faulkner and Lamont Heath. Together in 2020 they launched Romeo’s food truck. After much success amid the pandemic, they opened a brick-and-mortar fast food restaurant in 2021, serving vegan burgers, fries, milkshakes and more. It is said to be among the first fast-food vegan restaurants on the East Coast.
Damian and Jermaine Johnson
owners, No Grease
Buffalo, New York, natives Damian and Jermaine Johnson created and launched No Grease Inc. in June 1997, and Charlotte’s Black barbershop scene has never been the same. What’s their impact? Together they have grown No Grease into a leading brand in men’s, women’s and children’s hair grooming services in Charlotte and beyond, including South Carolina and Georgia. Perhaps equally important, they have equipped and nurtured No Grease barbers to become franchise owners, creating wealth-building opportunities for some of their former employees.
founder NXT|CLT and owner of Orbital Socket
As a marketing and advertising executive, Greg Johnson has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands, from Proctor & Gamble to Johnson & Johnson to Nike’s Jordan brand. He is also founder of Orbital Socket and the visionary behind NXT|CLT, a business accelerator designed to help entrepreneurs of color secure new business opportunities and scale their companies. NEXT|CLT got its initial funding from the city of Charlotte. In addition to developing an innovative platform that is empowering the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charlotte, Johnson is known for paying it forward. He serves as a mentor to Black males who are navigating the college experience.
mayor, city of Charlotte
Some of America’s largest cities are now run by Black women, and we can count Charlotte among that group. The New York Times has called this “the age of Black women in politics.” Mayor Vi Lyles is now in her second term and will seek a third this year. Under her tenure, Charlotte city government has put new focus on Black neighborhoods long neglected, as evidenced by the city’s “corridors of opportunity” initiatives. Determined to address the root causes of poverty and crime, she worked with the leaders of some of Charlotte’s biggest corporations to help create the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative, which seeks to direct $250 million toward the effects of systemic discrimination.
president, Historic Washington Heights Neighborhood Association
A thriving city must have thriving neighborhoods. In Historic Washington Heights, Mattie Marshall leads the good fight as president of her neighborhood association. It is a passion she has carried for decades. Marshall is fiercely protective of her community and the people who live there. She was a leading force behind the creation of a new outdoor space on Beatties Ford Road that has been named The Ritz at Washington Heights. The 0.17-acre property once housed the segregation-era Ritz Theater and will now be used as an education and entertainment hub, or more simply a place for community members to gather.
president & CEO, INLIVIAN
Fulton Meachem leads one of the most progressive housing authorities in America, one that bears the imprint of his entrepreneurial approach. Under his leadership, INLIVIAN (formerly the Charlotte Housing Authority) started two nonprofit organizations to receive private dollars for public causes, such as funds for post-secondary education and the construction of high-quality affordable housing. With a passion for helping others, Meachem says INLIVIAN is “more than bricks & sticks” and that regardless of income, every resident deserves to live with dignity.
Jada Grandy Mock
chief corporate community economic development officer, Fifth Third Bank
Jada Mock is a founding board member of the Renaissance West community, which dedicates itself to quality housing, education, health, wellness and opportunity. Inspired by her childhood experience growing up in a public housing community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mock uses her banking career to provide economic opportunities to people who can then pay it forward. She was instrumental in establishing the bank’s $32 billion community commitment to help increase homeownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income families and ensuring that capital was available for small businesses to thrive.
Claudette and Roger Parham
founders, The Parham Family Charitable Fund
Of the billions of dollars distributed each year by the nation’s top foundations, less than 2% goes to organizations that are black-led and organized to uplift black people, according to one industry expert. That’s why the work of Roger and Claudette Parham is so important. Through a family foundation they started in 2019, the couple have given more than $260,000 to local nonprofits. Last December they committed $100,000 to help local organizations working to address affordable housing, food insecurity, literacy and higher education. Several of these beneficiaries serve communities along the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
professor, UNC Charlotte
Media have the power to shape public perceptions for good or for ill. That’s why Debra Smith’s “Black Images in Media” class at UNC Charlotte is so important. Smith, a professor in the school’s Department of Africana Studies, brings passion to her work as she exposes racial tropes and stereotypes common in America media. Her teachings delve deep into the history of racist imagery, and that means helping her students — especially young, Black students — think more critically about the media they consume.
Jamil Steele is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher who uses his art as a form of social activism. In 2020, as city officials prepared for protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Steel painted a Black Lives Matter mural on plywood that had been installed to protect an uptown business — a work later purchased by the Mint Museum. His portraits, murals and illustrations are rooted in Black culture and can be seen throughout the city, including in Levine Children’s Hospital. He said he hoped his Black Lives Matters mural “allows people to sit down and air their grievances and be heard, and also to listen to different points of view.”
co-founder, Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum
At age 96, Sarah Stevenson has received a plethora of accolades. In 2016, the Harvey B. Gantt Center recognized her community service with its Spirit of the Center Award. In 2020, U.S. Rep. Alma Adams took to the floor of the House to praise Stevenson’s work as a civil rights pioneer. She was the first Black woman elected to serve on the local school board, was a leading figure in the fight against school segregation and created scholarships for students in South Africa. Last month, the breakfast forum she co-founded — a weekly event that has become a staple for discussing issues that impact Black Charlotte — was renamed the Sarah Stevenson Tuesday Forum.
president, Arts & Science Council
After nearly two decades with the Arts and Science Council, Krista Terrell was tapped in 2021 to be the second Black woman to lead the organization. She had been instrumental in compiling a report that documented ASC’s historic inequitable funding practices and its evolution to become a more equitable organization since 2015. While Terrell is continuing to redefine the role of the arts organization – championing more equitable funding support for individual artists and organizations of all sizes – City Council voted to redirect its funding away from ASC. The ASC’s Culture Blocks program, funded by Mecklenburg County, sponsors cultural events and activities in neighborhoods far from the city’s uptown arts district.
Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt
founders, Hope Vibes
Adrienne and Emmanuel Threatt are trying to impact Charlotte’s homeless population one shower at a time. In 2020, the husband-wife team launched Hope Vibes, a mobile hygiene service — the Hope Tank — to provide shower and laundry services to those experiencing homeless. Now hundreds of showers and wash cycles later, the Charlotte-based nonprofit is looking to expand to Winston-Salem. The Threatts say their mission is to bring joy and self-dignity to a population in need. “It really does change their day, and it changes how they even see themselves when they come out,” Emmanuel Threatt told QCity Metro.
CEO, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
As Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s chief librarian, Marcellus Turner will help oversee the biggest project in the history of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library — construction of the new $115 million main library in uptown Charlotte. And that’s just a start. As libraries worldwide seek to reinvent themselves in the digital age, Turner and his team must execute a plan to make Charlotte’s new library a popular gathering space when it opens, presumably in 2025. Already under Turner’s tenure, the library has ended late-book fines and launched a mobile unit that will go into underserved communities.
CEO, C.W. Williams Community Health Center
In a city blessed with two world-class health care companies, the C.W. Williams Community Health Center is often overlooked. Its mission, however, is no less important. When Debra Weeks arrived as CEO in 2015, she inherited an organization facing financial and leadership challenges. She has worked to address both. Today, C.W. Williams is about to embark on a $3 million construction project to demolish and rebuild its main location on Wilkinson Boulevard. (Much of the 14,000-square-foot building had become unusable.) Meanwhile, many of the center’s medical services have been moved to a new location on Old Pineville Road. C.W. Williams serves about 13,000 patients annually, and it has been a front-line fighter in the battle to contain Covid-19 in Black and brown communities.
president and vice-chairman, Hornets Sports and Entertainment
For the first time in a very long time, the Charlotte Hornets are winning. That’s good news for the city, for team owner Michael Jordan and for Fred Whitfield, who oversees the Hornets’ business operations. Whitfield’s impact can be seen through increased ticket sales and more games broadcast on national television this season. Along with overseeing the team’s name change and rebranding in 2014, Whitfield led efforts that resulted in securing $40 million in renovations for Spectrum Center. With the addition of Lamelo Ball and other star players, this is undeniably an exciting time for Buzz City’s basketball franchise.