Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County Picks Laura Ford-Harris as New Acting Chief Development Officer

Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County announced the addition of Laura Ford-Harris to its senior leadership team. She joins the Club as the acting chief development officer. Ford-Harris will replace Janine Stephens who will leave after eight years to serve as the chief operating officer for another local non-profit.

Ford-Harris has more than 25 years of non-profit experience with expertise in community and corporate relationship management and fundraising. For nearly two years, she helped the United Way of Greater Cincinnati reach their $50.5 million goal by managing the Business Services Portfolio of legal, design and construction firms as a relationship manager. In addition to achieving revenue goals, she was also highly successful in utilizing engagement strategies to connect corporations and their employees with United Way agencies and organizations to develop partnerships.

Prior to that, Ford-Harris enjoyed a 23-year career at Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, one of the top 10 Girl Scout councils in the country. She helped successfully guide teams to serve girls in urban, rural and suburban communities and implemented volunteer program management to provide effective service delivery models in the early years of her career.

“Hair Love” Wins Oscar for Best Animated Short

Black hair is beautiful. Black hair is versatile. But Black hair is prone to racial discrimination and criticism, and underrepresentation in media and the beauty industry makes it difficult for Black boys and girls to see themselves. That’s why the Oscar win for the charming animated short film Hair Love is not only a win for director and writer Matthew A. Cherry and producer Karen Rupert Toliver, but a win for Black hair, Black fathers, and Black creators.

Hair Love follows a young girl named Zuri and her father Stephen. On the day of a big event, Zuri tries to style her own hair by watching her mom’s tutorials (voiced by Issa Rae) online. When she fails miserably, Stephen steps in, but soon realizes the styling process isn’t as simple as he thought.

Inspired by viral videos of fathers styling their daughters’ natural hair, Cherry created Hair Love to depict positive images of Black fathers. “Black fathers get one of the worst raps in terms of stereotypes—we’re deadbeats, we’re not around,” he told The New York Times. “The people I know are extremely involved in their kids’ lives.” So he launched a Kickstarter campaign that surpassed its goal. The film ultimately landed in the hands of Sony Pictures Animation and turned into a book Cherry wrote with illustrator Vashti Harrison. Now, Cherry’s an Oscar-winning director, a feat he predicted back in 2012.

Wisconsin Women of Color Network to Host 2020 Women’s History Month Celebration

The Wisconsin Women of Color Network, Inc. (WWOCN) will celebrate Women’s History Month on April 4 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 525 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI.  The theme of the conference is: Celebrating Women of Achievement. The event is held from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and lunch will be served. 

 The event will include the recognition of women who will receive the 2020 WWOCN Woman of Achievement Award.  The honor is given each year to deserving racial ethnic minority women who have been nominated by groups or individuals from their respective communities.  The awardees have demonstrated commitment and service toward the improvement of the quality of life for all women, shown a high degree of professionalism in their own areas of expertise, and done well in their own personal growth and development. They are role models and are held in high esteem by their own peers. 

 The public is invited but a reservation to attend is required.  Registration Fee: $40 for adults and $12.50 for children 8-12 years old. The deadline for a reservation is March 23. To make a reservation, please contact: Nelia Olivencia, at (608) 516-1040,; Angelica Varona Camara at (414) 345-7543,; Carrie Braxton, (608) 843-6889,; or, the  WWOCN Office, (608) 335-5945,

Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Featured in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Dies at 101

Katherine Johnson, the trailblazing NASA mathematician whose work helped propel the United States into outer space, died on Feb. 24. She was 101. Her contributions included calculating rocket trajectories and earth orbits by hand during the space agency’s early years.

President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2015. Her story, and the stories of other African American women who contributed to NASA’s early success in the space race, became the subject of the movie “Hidden Figures” in 2016.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that Johnson “helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color.”

The pioneering mathematician who, along with a group of other brilliant Black women, made U.S. space travel possible. Johnson was part of NASA’s “Computer Pool,” a group of mathematicians whose data powered NASA’s first successful space missions. The group’s success largely hinged on the accomplishments of its Black women members.

Johnson considered her work on the Apollo moon missions to be her greatest contribution to space exploration. Her calculations helped the lunar lander rendezvous with the orbiting command service module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle program before retiring in 1986.

Stagecoach Mary Fields: The First African American Mail Carrier Who Also Fought Wolves and Bears

Would-be mail thieves didn’t stand a chance against Stagecoach Mary Fields. She sported men’s clothing, a bad attitude and two guns. 

Fields was the first African American woman, and the second woman in the U.S., to carry mail, and she was known for hard-drinking and quick-shooting. Born a slave, Fields was described in a book titled Bygone Badass Broads as a woman packing a double barreled pistol, “a heart of gold, and an iron resolve to raise hell.”

Fields first went to work for nuns. At six feet with a sturdy build, she ended up doing so-called “men’s work” for the Ursuline nuns of St. Peter’s Mission in Cascade. She hauled freight and supplies, chopped wood, did stonework, and basically did all of the supply runs that needed to be taken. Constantly putting herself into the dangerous lawlessness of the frontier.

When she wasn’t fighting wolves and bears, or running errands for nuns, she also helped build schools for Blackfoot tribe girls.  However, when Fields and the convent’s male janitor pointed guns at one another during an argument, she was kicked out.

In 1895, she got a contract from the postal service to become a star route carrier—an independent contractor who carried mail using a stagecoach. “Stagecoach Mary” or “Black Mary,” as she was nicknamed, became beloved by locals, who praised her generosity and her kindness to children.

Black News Channel Launches as an Option to MSNBC, CNN, Fox News

The first 24-hour cable news network by “Black people, for Black people” began broadcasting in February. The Black News Channel (BNC) was started by former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts Jr. and cable television vet Bob Brillante.

The network can currently be seen on Spectrum, Xfinity X-1 Platform, and Dish Network. It will also be available on Sling, Vizio Smart TVs, Xumo, and Roku Channel. BNC will have a cumulative total of 100+ million homes who will share in the BNC experience.

The channel’s leadership team and anchor lineup are almost exclusively African Americans. Programming will include a health series focused on medical issues that impact the Black community as well as traditional morning and primetime news programs.

The company already employs over 60 people at its headquarters in Tallahassee, Florida, and has goals to build bureaus in Washington, New York and Atlanta, too.

Oscar-Winner John Ridley, Alicia Keys to Produce Showtime Drama Series in Milwaukee

John Ridley, the Oscar-winning filmmaker and Milwaukee-area native, is teaming with Fox 21 Television Studios to film a musical drama series in Milwaukee for the Showtime television network.  Ridley will be executive producer, writer and director of the series, which centers on a Milwaukee family. The title of the series has yet to be made public.

Alicia Keys, a Grammy award-winning singer and songwriter, will serve as an executive producer. Also joining Ridley is songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who worked on the hit musical film “La La Land”; and, Tony winning producer Marc Platt, and Emmy-award winners R.J. Cutler and Adam Siegel. 

“I couldn’t be more excited to work not only again with (Showtime president of entertainment) Gary (Levine) and Showtime, but to also collaborate with the phenomenal talents of Alicia Keys, the team of Pasek and Paul, Marc Platt, and R.J. and Adam as well,” said Ridley in a statement. “I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to set the series in Milwaukee and examine the challenges and triumphs of my hometown – a city to which I remain deeply connected.”

Ridley is the founder and CEO of No Studios, a film and creative arts hub, which he opened in 2018 in Milwaukee’s newly redeveloped Pabst Brewery complex. The 40,000-square-foot hub is used for film screenings, live performances and art galleries. His sister, Lisa Caesar, is chief operating officer of No Studios and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is an investment partner.

State Assembly Names Rev. Dr. Carmen Porco Hometown Hero

State lawmakers recognized Rev. Dr. Carmen Porco as a “Hometown Hero” for decades of providing opportunities to Madison’s low-income community. He has dedicated more than 40 years running the Northport and Packer housing complexes in Madison’s north side.

Porco is the executive director of Housing Ministries of American Baptists in Wisconsin, a partner of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Community Outreach Ministries. The State Assembly honored him on Feb. 20 for combining the elements of the nonprofit, business and government sectors into a successful model for use in communities of poverty.

The Wisconsin Anti-Poverty Model has been implemented in 805 units of Section 8 housing in Milwaukee and Madison. The model offers unique resources, programs and services, and opportunities for low-income communities.

Rep. Melissa Sargent wrote, “Rev. Porco has selflessly dedicated his life and work to fighting for just and equal opportunities, and has changed the lives of many.”

Kurt Rose is One to Watch, Recognized as In Business Madison’s 40 Under 40

Kurt Rose is honored as one of In Business Madison’s 40 Under 40 class of 2020. The annual award recognizes 40 of the most successful and civic-minded young professionals under the age of 40 in the Greater Madison area.

Rose works as a human resources recruitment and retention specialist for the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to being vice polemarch for the local Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., he also serves as president of the Urban League of Greater Madison’s Young Professionals.

In February, he was also presented the Richard L. Garner Community Service Award at the Second Alarm Benefit Dance hosted by the Sable Flames. Garner was a beloved Madison Fire Department firefighter and paramedic who passed away at the young age of 29 after completing a 48-hour shift.