A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. James Stewart is a Professor Emeritus at Penn State University where he also held the positions of Vice Provost for Educational Equity and Director of the Black Studies Program. A past President of the National Economic Association, the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS), and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, he remains active in these organizations. Jim advises the Pittsburgh public schools regarding educational equity initiatives, and serves as President of Indaba Planning Consultants, which provides specialized strategic planning services for African American organizations. Jim and his wife, Dr. Caryl Sheffield, moved from Pittsburgh to Sarasota in 2015. They are the proud parents of four adult daughters, Talibah, Chavonna, Lorin, and Jaliya. Four grandsons and one grand daughter are the great delight of their lives, and Jim and Caryl relish the regular visits from members of the Sheffield-Stewart clan. In his spare time Jim enjoys playing Racquetball several days a week. He is also an avid card player and takes advantage of every opportunity to revel in his favorite games, Bid Whist and Bridge.
Margie N. Lee, a resident of Sarasota, Florida for over 12 years, formerly lived in Reston, Virginia and Chicago, Illinois. She has an ardent drive to help others through volunteerism on national and local levels. A few of her favorite organizations are: Co-founder of the Chicago Chapter of The Society, Inc., a national organization promoting the arts for youth; The Links, Inc.; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Philanthropic Educational Organization, a national organization promoting educational opportunities for women; Advisory Board Member, Any Given Child, promoting education through the arts; former Board Member, Van Wezel Foundation for the Arts; Board Member, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. She is a dedicated member of Manasota ASALH having served for two years as Chair of the Scholarship Committee. She retired as Area Director from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration where she was responsible for office operations in all the mid-Western states. After retiring, she founded and operated a social service agency which still operates as a residential facility for disadvantaged youngsters in Chicago. She is widowed with two sons, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Ms. Mezile has been a resident of Lakewood Ranch, Florida since moving to the area in the Fall of 2016 from Edina, Minnesota. She is a native of Kansas City, Missouri where she attended Central High School. She is a proud alumnus of the University of Missouri, Columbia (Mizzou) where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and the University of Kansas, where she was awarded a Master’s degree in Social Work. Peggye has lived in several states, and maintained her status as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker. Her career has included service to various communities such as the Clinical Director of a social service agency, private consulting, manager of adult mental health services, as well as leadership positions with foster care and adoption programs. Over the years, Ms. Mezile has served on a number of non-profit boards that complemented her service background.
She enjoys spending time with family, travel and reading mystery novels. She is an active member of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Bradenton-Sarasota Chapter of the Links, Inc. She is a Life member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and is a charter member of the undergraduate chapter at Mizzou. She and her husband Harold have two daughters and three grandchildren including a boy and girl twins.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Deborah Ross Reaves, Ph.D. and her husband of 46 years, Donald Julian Reaves, Ph.D., have lived in Boston, Chicago, Winston Salem, North Carolina and Vero Beach, Florida. After 15 years as seasonal residents of Vero Beach, they relocated in 2015 to Lakewood Ranch, and divide their time between Florida and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Deborah Reaves is a retired Clinical Psychologist and educator. As a clinician Deborah provided a full range of psychological services at the preschool and K-12 levels in the Newton, Massachusetts School System and the Tufts New England Medical Center Hospital; and, through a private practice to select private clients. As an educator Deborah taught at Tufts University for more than 20 years, where her course offerings included Children and the Law, Clinical Methods and Black Psychology. In addition to her professional career Deborah maintained an active community service commitment, serving on a wide array of not-for-profit boards including, among others, the Council on Aging and the Center for Multi-Cultural Training in Psychology, both in Massachusetts, and in North Carolina, the boards of the Salvation Army, the YWCA, the Senior Services, Inc., the Arts Council, the Forsyth Medical Center Foundation and the Winston Salem Symphony. Deborah is an Alumna Member of The Links, Inc., having served in numerous leadership positions within the Boston, Massachusetts Chapter, including President.
The Reaves’ have two Children and one grandchild, Marc of Marco Island, Florida and Katherine (Katie), and her daughter Audrey, of Brooklyn, New York.
Rosia Davis was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in a very large African American community second only to Harlem, New York in size and population. Rosia enjoyed her childhood as she grew up under the Christian leadership of her parents along with the daily competitive activities with her seven siblings.
Rosia began her professional career as a teacher of Heath and Physical Education. After a short teaching career Rosia completed all requirements to be a counselor — a position she has held at the high school and college levels. After a very successful career as a counselor, Rosia partnered with her husband J.D. to operate their family farm of 1,300 acres on which they grew soybeans, wheat and small grain sorghum. Later Rosia started her own residential contracting company and built over 50 homes in East Central Arkansas. Finally, Rosia retired to pursue her first love in life — playing tennis.
Rosia graduated from Grambling State University with a Bachelor of Science degree, and Prairie View AM & N with a Masters in Counseling. She also attended Los Angeles Dominguez Hills College to expand her education.
Rosia enjoys tennis, golf, fishing, traveling, hiking, biking and the beach.
Mary ‘Jackie’ Davis is a retired Registered Professional Nurse, Educator, Administrator and Consultant who has lived in Sarasota for 25 years. She is a widow, mother of two adult children and one adult grandchild.
Educational background: Graduate of K.B. Reynolds School of Nursing in Winston Salem, N.C. ; Baccalaureate and Masters Degrees from Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, N.Y.; and Educational Administration from Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
Mary has lived and practiced nursing in North Carolina and New York. After retiring from the New York City Board of Education where she was a teacher, assistant principal, and nursing program director, she became a consultant.
Since arriving in Sarasota she has been the secretary to the Executive Board of the Former UNIFEM, which is now UNWOMEN; ASALH Historian and Trip Organizer; Sarasota Duplicate Bridge Club Social Committee co- Chair, Treasurer and Vice President; Treasurer of the local chapter of The Holidays, Inc., a National Bridge Organization; Active in her church, St. Wilfred Episcopal, and treasurer for the Daughters of The King, an Episcopal Religious Order. Her hobbies include golf, bridge, traveling and reading.
Dr. Allen D. Morton, a retired educator, worked for many years at Western Connecticut State University where he was a finance professor, finance department chair and dean of the business school. He helped develop business plans and professional development programs for several organizations including AARP, the American Red Cross, Staples, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bellimo Corporation, and the Yutong Bus Company (China). Allen and his wife, Roberta, moved to Venice from Patterson, New York in 2014 and they enjoy the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, spring training baseball games, and the large numbers of speakers and entertainers that visit Sarasota-Manatee. A fan of lifelong learning, Allen stays mentally active by making presentations to the Sarasota Economics Club, taking on-line courses, and by challenging himself to learn new skills such as photography.
Dr. Lonnetta M. Gaines, a retired New York City educator, taught and advised graduate students at the Bank Street College of Education, consulted with principals and their teams nationally and internationally under the leadership of Dr. Lorraine Monroe, and counseled and taught freshmen at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She cofounded The Learning House, a community pre-school in Atlanta, Georgia and Education Arts, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky. In NYC, she performed in the professional dance companies of Eleo Pomare, Dianne McIntyre, and George Faison. In Sarasota, she worked as Artist-in-Residence at the North Sarasota Library, and has performed as actor at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and the Florida Studio Theatre. A member of the Unity Church of Sarasota and the Lambda Omicron Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Lonnetta is the author of Fia and the Butterfly: 7 Stories for Character Education, a book for children of all ages.
Henry Blyden hails from the US and British Virgin Islands. He retired from the US Army after 21 years of service. He is the father of three and grandfather of six. Henry has been a pillar of influence to youth of this community for almost 40 years through his work, volunteerism, leadership and affiliation through organizations such as ASALH, Kappa Alpha Psi, Gamma Psi Boule, Humanity Working to End Genocide, NAACP and many others. He is one of the veterans featured in Manasota ASALH’s documentary film, “Veterans of Color.”
David G. Wilkins, Esq. retired from The Dow Chemical Company in March, 2014, after twenty-five years as a lawyer and human resource leader. In his last role for Dow, Wilkins served as an Associate General Counsel and as the company’s Director of Ethics and Compliance. Previous roles included Vice President and General Counsel of the Union Carbide Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, Director of Diversity for Dow, Division Counsel for Dow’s North American Operations, Assistant General Counsel and Assistant Secretary for Dow Agrosciences, and a variety of other legal and human resource roles across Dow’s U.S. Operations.
Wilkins also served as Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for the American Red Cross from 2003 to 2005. Following his retirement from Dow, he served as Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc., in Montreal Canada, from April, 2014 until November, 2015.
Wilkins joined Dow in 1987 after ten years of private law practice in Chicago with the firm of Strauss, Sulzer, Shopiro and Wilkins. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, Magna Cum Laude, from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois School of Law. He attended the Babson College Executive Education program in 1991. He served on the Board of Trustees of Illinois Wesleyan University until January, 2018, and is a member of the Bar of the United States Supreme Court and an Emeritus member of the Michigan State Bar Association.
Wilkins and his wife, Lois Bright Wilkins, have four adult children and one granddaughter. David and Lois reside in Sarasota, Florida, where they both are active members of ASALH (Association for the Study of African-American Life and History) and Wilkins volunteers at the African-American Cultural Resource Center, located at the North Sarasota Library.