Black History Month Honorees 2024
During this Black History Month, we are privileged to honor 10 outstanding individuals.
These remarkable honorees have made a significant impact in various fields, embodying the spirit of resilience, leadership, and innovation.
From trailblazing activists and influential cultural icons to groundbreaking entrepreneurs and pioneering scholars, each honoree has left an indelible mark on history and continues to inspire future generations.
Join us in celebrating their achievements and recognizing the profound influence of black excellence.
Take a look at our honorees below!
1. Jerry Wade
Jerry Wade, affectionately recognized on-air as “The Loverman,” stands as an enduring figure in the realm of Indianapolis radio, boasting a media career that spans five decades. As the esteemed host of the Quiet Storm on the renowned 106.7 WTLC, Jerry held the distinction of being the longest-running on-air talent, consistently garnering top ratings across all core demographics.
Jerry exuded a pervasive positivity that became his hallmark. Whether engaging with a coffee barista, a homeless individual on the street, or a global celebrity, he embraced each encounter as an opportunity to forge meaningful connections. Beyond the airwaves, Jerry’s impact on the Indianapolis community reverberates, leaving an indelible mark that will endure for years to come.
An avid lover of downtown Indianapolis, Jerry could often be found relishing the ambiance of the circle or strolling through the city streets with pride. His love for the city was unmistakable.
Jerry’s influence extended beyond the airwaves of love songs during the Quiet Storm. He was a multifaceted personality and DJ who hosted high energy events, he provided the soundtracks for prominent Indianapolis organizations and businesses. Notable among these were The Mozel Sanders Foundation, Downtown Indy, IMPD, Indiana Black Expo and The Indianapolis Urban League.
“The Loverman” was the personality, but if there he had an alter-ego it was just “Jerry.” Egoless and dedicated to spreading joy, he championed the causes of the homeless and elderly.
In response to the challenges posed by COVID-19, Jerry curated Dance Parties for the elderly at Quality Life Adult Day Services on the East Side of Indianapolis to motivate them to move and have fun. These events attracted influential figures in media and business from across Indianapolis, adding a touch of joy to the lives of those at the center. Recently appointed as the Executive Director of Quality Life Adult Day Services; Jerry’s ascension speaks volumes about his unwavering dedication and passion for advocating on behalf of the elderly.
Beyond his radio career, Jerry Wade embraced entrepreneurship as the owner of several salons and barbershops including, Jerry’s Hot Cuts, and his mobile DJ service, Jerry Wade Live. Serving as a real-life “Hitch,” he utilized his date-coach services to connect and reconnect countless relationships.
Jerry Wade’s devotion to his family, listeners, and the city of Indianapolis is a testament to his enduring legacy. His absence is keenly felt, leaving behind a void that resonates with all who knew him, but his impact lives on as a shining example of positivity and connection.
2. Dr. Sean L. Huddleston
Dr. Sean L. Huddleston – President of Martin University
Dr. Sean L. Huddleston became the fifth president of Martin University on March 19, 2019. He brings over 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors to his role as President and Chief Executive Officer of Indiana’s only Predominantly Black Institution (PBI).
Dr. Huddleston is widely recognized as a servant-leader. His focus on the student as a whole-individual, dedication to the well-being and career development of the university’s faculty and staff, commitment to building and sustaining relationships with local, regional, and national employers, and a clear definition of community beyond geographical boundaries, guide his vision for Martin University as a purveyor, overseer, and accelerator of collective impact.
As a testament to his belief that “Education is the most fundamental of all civil rights,” under his guidance, the university has experienced an increase in new student enrollment, improved retention, and graduation rates, expanded its academic programs, and achieved continued accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The university has also increasingly developed partnerships with many of Indiana’s largest employers.
Dr. Huddleston led the development of Martin University’s five-year strategic plan – “Mission Driven, Future Focused” – a planning and implementation process culminating in 2027 when the university will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. Later in 2022, the university will unveil its first master plan in a decade.
Through Dr. Huddleston’s leadership, Martin University founded the National Center for Racial Equity and Inclusion, targeted at businesses and nonprofits in Indiana to assist their leaders and the surrounding communities in strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, the Martin WORKS apprenticeship program, Indiana’s only urban work college program, was created to allow university students working with local employers to have the opportunity to earn compensation while solidifying a permanent position with that employer before graduation.
Before being named President and Chief Executive Office of Martin University, Dr. Huddleston served as Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Indianapolis. Before that, he was Chief Officer of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts. He also served as an Assistant Vice President at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Michigan.
While at the University of Indianapolis, Dr. Huddleston was instrumental in creating The Paul Washington-Lacey Emerging Leader Program, designed to inspire student growth in four key areas – academic excellence, career readiness, leadership development, and personal growth. At Framingham State University, he was responsible for creating the Center for Inclusive Excellence (CIE), a center focused on student groups historically underrepresented in higher education, and the CIE’s Brother to Brother program, a program developed to support and inspire the educational, professional, and social success of men and women of color.
Along with other distinguished recipients, Dr. Huddleston was honored to receive the 2022 Achievement in Education Award from Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb at the Governor’s Awards Reception. The reception acknowledged the outstanding achievements of African Americans throughout the state.
He has served on the boards of First Financial Bank, Greater Indiana Progress Committee, Indiana Economic Development Club, Indiana Symphony Orchestra, Kennedy-King Memorial Initiative, Newfields, and the Red Cross of Indiana.
Dr. Huddleston earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) from Siena Heights University. He later earned a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree in Adult and Higher Education and an Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in Leadership from Grand Valley University. Dr. Huddleston completed his doctorate in Community College Leadership at Ferris State University (Ed.D.) and has received professional certifications from Cornell University and Dartmouth College.
Dr. Huddleston is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the Alpha Eta Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.
His proudest and most notable accomplishments are being a loving husband and the father of three sons, whom he adores.
3. Kimberly McElroy-Jones, Ph.D.
Kimberly McElroy-Jones, Ph.D., DMin, – Director of Community Partnerships for Community Health, Eskenazi Hospital.
Dr. McElroy-Jones comes to Eskenazi Health with more than 10 years of experience in project management, operations management, strategic development, and training and facilitation. She most recently served as the Director of Ministries at Eastern Star Church and as Executive Director and Principal Investigator for the Metropolitan Indianapolis – Central Indiana Area Health Education Center. She is a Fellow of the American College of Health Care Executives, a member of the board of the Indiana Healthy Marriage and Family Coalition, a former board member of Children’s Bureau, Inc. and Outreach, Inc., and a former board chair of the Avondale Meadows YMCA. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Dr. McElroy-Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision from Indiana University – Purdue University at Indianapolis in 2001. She earned a Master of Science degree in Adult Education from IU Indianapolis in 2004 and a Master of Health Administration degree from the University of Southern Indiana in 2013. Dr. McElroy-Jones also earned a Ph.D. in Organization and Management at Capella University in Minneapolis, Minn. In 2015, she graduated with her Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
4. Fred Payne
As commissioner of the state’s Department of Workforce Development, Payne oversaw the agency responsible for Indiana’s employment and re-employment services, with more than 1,000 employees. The department administered more than $9.6 billion in unemployment insurance benefits to over 908,000 people during the coronavirus pandemic. He also served on the governor’s Workforce Cabinet and chaired the governor’s Health Workforce Council.
Before joining the department, Payne spent over a decade at Honda Manufacturing of Indiana in various roles, including chief administrator, general counsel, and compliance officer. He’s credited with starting several key initiatives, including the Office of Inclusion and Diversity, Corporate Governance, and Risk Management.
Payne serves on the board of directors for the Indy Eleven Foundation, Indianapolis Urban League, and Honda Federal Credit Union.
Payne is an Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Grambling State University graduate. He has experience in private law practice.
5. Deputy Chief Kendale Adams
Deputy Chief Kendale Adams oversees the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. CID is responsible for major investigations and investigative support services for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. CID’s mission is to address crimes against persons by employing various crime reduction/prevention strategies including initiating long and short-term investigations, collaborating with local and federal criminal justice partners, engaging with community partners, investing in technological resources, and advocating for and assisting victims of crime.
CID is divided into six branches: Homicide and Victim Assistance, Aggravated Assault and Robbery, Covert Investigations, Commercial Crimes, Special Victims Crimes, Cyber Crimes, and Special Investigations. There are 215 merit police officers and 41 professional staff employees in the Criminal Investigations Division.
Deputy Chief Kendale Adams was formally Deputy Chief of Oversight, Audit and Performance Division, policy development, general crime analysis, body-worn cameras, discipline, and internal governance of the department. Deputy Chief Adams oversaw the strategic direction of the department, working closely with external, community, and practitioners within the profession of law enforcement. Deputy Chief Adams has overseen the introduction of several high-profile policies such as the use of force and pursuit policies, the deployment of over 1300 body-worn cameras, and the body-camera policy.
Deputy Chief Adams’s 24-year law enforcement journey started in 1997 with the Indianapolis Police Department. Deputy Chief Adams has experience in operations, investigations, and administrative functions of the police department. Deputy Chief Adams has served as district car, narcotics detective, and injury shooting detective. Deputy Chief Adams has also served as a Public Information Officer and Executive Officer to two chiefs of police. Deputy Chief Adams also has a unique and extensive experience with strategic engagement with disenfranchised communities, strategic partnerships, and communication.
Deputy Chief Adams attended and successfully completed the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Leadership Academy, the Southern Police Institute Administrative Officer Course at the University of Louisville, the FBI National Academy, and PERF’s Senior Management Institute for Policing. Deputy Chief Adams is a proud graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, IN. Deputy Chief Adams has amassed several profession-specific trainings and certificates over his 24-year law enforcement career.
Deputy Chief Adams is actively involved in his local community serving in his church and local non-profits mentoring young adults. Deputy Chief Adams is married to Kimberly Adams and has three children, ages 10, 13, and 24. Deputy Chief Adams is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity INC, and 100 Black Men, INC.
6. Dr. Cameual Wright
Cameual Wright, M.D., MBA is the vice president and market chief medical officer for CareSource Indiana where she facilitates the education, training, and evaluation of all medical and pharmacy policies. She also leads clinical initiatives that are implemented to ensure that the vulnerable populations within Indiana receive high-quality and high-value health care most efficiently and economically. As one of the leaders of a national health care plan, she has assumed the responsibility of initiating, growing, and maintaining partnerships and other working relationships with local and state agencies that are also focused on improving the health and well-being of Hoosiers. Her job also includes the development, implementation, and revision of the market-level clinical care standards and practices guidelines, ensuring compliance with nationally accepted quality standards.
Prior to joining CareSource, Dr. Wright practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Indiana for 15 years and has held multiple leadership positions, including chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and president of the medical staff.
Dr. Wright passionately advocates for improvements that impact CareSource members’ social determinants of health, particularly maternal and infant care both in the state of Indiana and across the nation. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 20,000 babies died before their first birthday in the U.S. in 2020. The root cause of these deaths is linked to a range of reasons including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), prenatal risks, and preterm birth, among others. The CDC also reported a maternal mortality rate of 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. in 2020. These statistics continue to motivate Dr. Wright to further pursue opportunities to get involved within the community as both a member of the CareSource team and as a thought leader in Indiana.
Dr. Wright is a board member for About Special Kids (ASK), a committee member for Indiana Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative, and participated as a Maternal and Infant Health Expert for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Maternal and Infant Health Workgroup. Dr. Wright was also selected to participate in the Disparities in Leadership Program.
She currently serves on a number of boards including American Red Cross, The Milk Bank, The American Diabetes Association, Indiana Health Fund and the Indiana Health Information Exchange. Along with sitting on the American Red Cross board, Dr. Wright was also appointed as their chair of the Diversity and Equity Committee. Dr. Wright is affiliated with the Indiana Prenatal Quality Improvement Committee, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Indiana State Medical Association, and the Indiana University Business of Medicine Alumni Board.
Dr. Wright received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan and earned her Master of Business Administration from Indiana University.
7. Vop Osili
Vop Osili is President of the Indianapolis City-County Council
Osili was elected President of City-County Council by a unanimous vote in 2018. He is currently Chairman of the Council’s Rules & Public Policy Committee and also serves on the Parks and Recreation Committee. Working with his fellow public servants on both sides of the aisle, President Osili is committed to addressing the important issues – equity, fair and affordable housing, homelessness, reentry, police/community engagement, inclusive urban development – impacting the daily lives of Indianapolis citizens.
First elected to the Council in 2011, Osili has collaborated extensively with community groups, civic organizations and the business community on the expansion of work opportunities, skills-training and disadvantaged small business financing. He helped establish Indianapolis’ first city-funded microloan program targeting residents and businesses operating in neighborhoods with households well below area median income, and he continues to implement new initiatives to incentivize fair wages.
Osili was a member of the Indiana Fire and Building Services Commission from 2001 to 2005 and Chairman of one of the Indianapolis Boards of Zoning Appeals from 2005 to 2008. He serves on a number of civic boards in the community, working at various times with organizations like the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, the United Way of Central Indiana and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In 2010, he was the Democratic candidate for Indiana Secretary of State.
With a background in architecture, Osili has led urban design and architecture projects throughout the United States, Africa and the Middle East. He was a founding partner of A2SO4, an Indianapolis-based architectural design company that was one of the first LEED-certified firms in the nation. He also served as a missionary to Haiti and other developing countries.
Osili graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and earned a master’s degree in architecture and urban design from Columbia University. He and his wife Una are the proud parents of two amazing children, Arinze and Tasia.
8. Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas
Deputy Mayor Judith Thomas was appointed by Mayor Hogsett as the Deputy Mayor of Neighborhood Engagement in January 2021.
Before coming to work for the city, DM Judith Thomas ran Judith & Co., a consulting firm focused on celebrating the rich diversity of Arts, Culture & Tourism.
DM Thomas is a community scholar of Africana studies at IUPUI. She previously served as president of the Madam Walker Legacy Center. DM Thomas has over 30 years of work experience in Indianapolis, including roles with Visit Indy, the National Federation of State High School Associations, Emmis Communications, and the Indiana Convention Center.
DM Thomas currently sits on the board of directors for the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana Destination Development Corporation Foundation, Indy Jazz Foundation The Cabaret the Board of Trustees for Butler University
Born in Gary, Indiana, she attended North Central High School in Indianapolis and graduated from Butler University in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public and Corporate Communications. She is a resident of the Millersville Fall Creek neighborhood and a member of Covenant Community Church.
9. James Webb
James Webb was born the youngest of 5 children to James Sr and Valerie Webb in Gary, IN. James is a proud graduate of the Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts, a graduate from Indiana State University, and is a current MBA student at the Lacy School of Business at Butler University. With a father as an educator, James Webb surrounded himself with books and cultural education since a youth. It was in 1996 that he credits falling completely in love with black culture when his mother gave him a book called 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About African American History by Jeffrey Stewart. From there his library grew and he became a fountain of African American information.
He credits his wife Twjonia (Tawana) Webb and his children Priest, Jaeda, and Lyric Webb with motivating him to continue to make change and educate on black culture. James Webb is currently the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Indy Juneteenth Inc. An organization dedicated to educating on black culture, celebrating Juneteenth and changing the narrative of our at-risk youth. He also proudly holds the title of the Indiana State Director of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, the country’s oldest organization dedicated to educating on Juneteenth and is credited for making Juneteenth a national holiday.
As the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Indy Juneteenth Inc., Webb works tirelessly to educate, celebrate Juneteenth, and empower at-risk youth. Additionally, he serves as the Indiana State Director of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, playing a pivotal role in establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday.
Join us in honoring James Webb during our Melanin Magic honoree celebration on February 29th at the Eiteljorg Museum. For more information, visit PRAISEINDY.com.
10. Carmen Davenport
Carmen Davenport (Punkin), the great-niece of the late Spurgeon Davenport, is a distinguished professional with 30 years of dedication to a local non-profit healthcare organization, is a mother, stepmom, and guiding figure.
Currently contributing her expertise, Carmen has been a driving force in implementing crucial software programs for Practice Management and EHR workflows.
Beyond her corporate achievements, Carmen is an accomplished author, the founder of Black Dolla Indy (designed with the consumer in mind), and a dynamic advocate for change.
Recognized for her desire to build community, she has been featured on news stations, radio, and the front page of the Indianapolis Recorder.
Carmen is the recipient of the Black Excellence Award and the Service
Impact Award, given for her dedication to improving the social and economic health of the neighborhoods she grew up in.
Carmen earns the trust of small business owners through her ability to offer valuable insights. She stays connected to local resources and generously shares them with the Black Dolla network. Her genuine advocacy for positive change, coupled with her commitment to plugging the community into itself, establishes her as a leader and a source of Her proficiency, evidenced by a 15-year PM training certification, positions her as a key architect in developing and overseeing the company’s PM training program. In addition to her contributions, Carmen manages the Revenue Cycle Department, making significant impacts to the organization and patient’s financial health.