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25 Black Leaders to Watch Announced

Black Leaders to watch announcement

Ed Bledsoe, Operations Manager at Gunite Corporation, accepts the award for Leading Black Men

Soul News Network announced the 2015 Black Leaders to Watch during an awards ceremony on Friday, August 28, 2015.  Twenty-five of the area’s inspiring African American leaders were recognized in the following categories:

  • Young Leaders on the Rise
  • Women to Watch
  • Leading Black Men
  • Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs
  • Civic/Community Movers & Shakers

Five leaders within each category were awarded as follows:


  • Rick Daniels: Manager of Student Life, Rock Valley College
  • Martesha Brown: Operations Manager, Magic Waters and Carlson Ice Arena
  • Ashley Burks: Community Impact Manager, United Way of Rock River Valley
  • Joshua Patterson: Business Attraction Coordinator, Rockford Area Economic Development Council
  • The Wabongo Leadership Council



  • Matthew Simpson: Community Impact Manager, United Way of Rock River Valley
  • Tommy Meeks: Founder, Rockford Juneteenth Celebration
  • Danielle Potter: Sr. Manager of Community Recreation, Rockford Park District
  • Rep. Litesa Wallace: State Representative, Illinois 67th District
  • Nichole Grayned: Human Resources Client Manager, UTC Aerospace Systems


  • James Purifoy: Owner, 15th & Chris Restaurant
  • Angie Upton: Owner, The Loc Shop
  • Antwon George: Owner, Rated AG Entertainment
  • Pamela Murphy: Broker and Independent Consultant
  • Excell Lewis: Owner, XL Academics, Inc.


  • Jedediah Cantrell: VP of Operations, SwedishAmerican Health System
  • Tamika Walker: Attorney, Sreenan & Cain, P.C.
  • Brenda Reddic: Shelter Supervisor, Women’s Crisis Center
  • Dr. Martina Smith: Principal, Ellis Elementary School
  • Angela Hite-Carter: Executive Director of Student Services and Alternative Learning, District 205


  • Dr. William Cunningham: Physician and Chairman of SwedishAmerican Health System OB/GYN Dept.
  • Edward Bledsoe II: Director of Operations, Gunite Corporation
  • Harlan Jefferson: Jazz Musician
  • David Ruffin: Chairman of the Board, Crusader Community Health
  • Steven Foster: Engineering Manager, United Technologies Corporation


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