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Indy’s Black History Makers

Indianapolis Black History Makers

Source: Indianapolis Black History Makers / Indianapolis Black History Makers

JOIN PRAISE as we honor Indy’s Black History Makers all month long! Tune in to check out who’s featured!

1. Alice Watson – President and CEO of Indiana Black Expo, Inc.

Alice Watson Source:Alice Watson

Alice Watson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Indiana Black Expo, Inc. an organization with 12 chapters in Indiana. As IBE’s President, Alice oversees day-to-day operations and supervises various programs and initiatives as well as Summer Celebration and Circle City Classic®,  fundraising events that generate more than $28 million in annual local spending and attract more than 400,000 attendees annually.

Immediately preceding her presidency, Alice served as the Sr. Vice President of Operations of IBE where she oversaw all departments of the organization, including finance, operations, human resources, marketing, chapter development, volunteer administration and youth and family programs for more than 11 years. Prior to joining IBE, Alice served as the former Deputy Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration, Minority and Women-owned Businesses Enterprise Division where she was responsible for overseeing the state’s certification of minority and woman-owned businesses and the utilization of those businesses on state contracts. Under Alice’s direction, the division achieved significant increases in MBE/WBE participation goals, improved reporting processes, conducted the largest disparity study in the history of the state, and for the first time secured a pay-audit system to formally track prime vendor’s payments to MBE/WBE businesses.  

Alice has also held several managerial and sales positions, including positions at Prima Technology, a major Chinese global manufacturer located in Seattle, Washington, and Thomson Consumer Electronics at the National Account level. While at both companies, she was responsible for developing strategies to maintain business in a competitive market by leveraging expertise in advertising and marketing, and financial planning.

Alice received her degree in Criminal Justice from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

Alice currently serves as a board member on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, City of Indianapolis Equal Employment Opportunity and Contract Compliance, 2024 NBA All-Star, Equity 1821 and GEO Academies.  Alice is also a steering committee member of the African American Coalition of Indianapolis. She is a former member of the Indianapolis Advisory Council and Global Business Development Coalition.

2. Robert and Nicole Gates – Owners, House of Beauty Miss Cutie Beauty Supply

Robert & Nicole Gates Source:Robert & Nicole Gates

House Of Beauty Miss Cutie Beauty Supply is a family business in Indianapolis owned by Robert and Nicole Gates.  Established in September 2017 and opened on February 1, 2018.  They specialize in varieties of wigs, extensions, hair care products, and more with your everyday beauty supply needs for all nationalities.

They are blessed to be celebrating 5 years of business on February 1, 2023.

3. Ashley Brown – Chief Meteorologist WISH-TV

Ashley Brown Source:Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown was born and raised in Indianapolis Indiana. She previously worked as a meteorologist in palm springs California and Cincinnati Ohio before returning to Indianapolis last year. Her love for forecasting started at a very young age. She remembers taking Polaroids of clouds so she could research cloud types.

After high school, she attended Ball State University she studied meteorology and broadcasting. Her first job came during her junior year of college. She was hired as a radio DJ at Radio One in Indianapolis.

Her first TV job came years later. She packed her bags and moved from Indianapolis to southern California. In California, she had a chance to forecast mountain snow, extreme heat and haboobs. She stayed in California for 7 years before moving back to Indy in 2012.

After spending five years forecasting at WRTV-6 in Indianapolis Ashley to packed her bags again. In 2017 Ashley took a job at the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati Ohio.  Ashley has worked for ABC, NBC and has even worked as the fill-in meteorologist on Good Morning America.

Ashley has been chief meteorologist at WISH-TV for over 4 years. She’s the first black woman to become chief in the market.

4. Dr Katasha Butler – Member, Eskenazi Health Pharmacy Leadership Team

Katasha S. Butler Source:Katasha S. Butler

Katasha S. Butler, PharmD, MBA, studied Chemistry at Spelman College in Atlanta and went on to obtain her Master of Business Administration in Leadership and Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Butler University. 

Dr. Butler is a part of the Pharmacy Leadership team at Eskenazi Health specializing in medication use process and regulatory compliance. She joined the Eskenazi Health team in July 2019, with over 16 years of leadership experience. Dr. Butler has served as an Associate Adjunct Professor at Butler University, precepting PharmD students since 2004; she also currently teaches Advanced Pharmacology and Psychopharmacology for the MSN program at Walden University, a private online university headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As a licensed Doctor of Pharmacy with 18 years of leadership experience, Dr. Butler has extensive experience in direct and indirect patient care with proven team-building skills. Prior to her current role at Eskenazi Health, Dr. Butler spent six years as an inpatient pharmacy supervisor and section chief at the Danville, Illinois, Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. She also has experience working in pharmacy leadership roles at Cigna, Ascension St. Vincent Health, and Managed Health Services (MHS). She has devoted her career to advocating for diversity and inclusion in health care.

Dr. Butler has shown a lasting commitment to serving underserved populations and believes strongly in diversity and inclusion. Early in her career in retail pharmacy in urban and blighted areas with a large minority population, she witnessed how in many cases the pharmacist was the only healthcare professional and resource many could turn to in their time of need. It was here she felt her calling to make a difference.

To address the lack of diversity among its pharmacists and provide quality care to patients, Dr. Butler and the pharmacy team developed a recruitment program with five historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) to recruit pharmacy students for the Eskenazi Health Pharmacy Residency Program. Eskenazi Health partnered with Howard University located in Washington, D.C.; Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia; Florida A&M University located in Tallahassee, Florida; Xavier University of Louisiana located in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

5. Corey Wilson – Vice President for Community Engagement with Pacers Sports & Entertainment

Corey Wilson Source:Corey Wilson

Corey Wilson is the Vice President for Community Engagement with Pacers Sports & Entertainment

(PS&E) and Executive Director of the Pacers Foundation where he is responsible for positively

impacting the quality of life of Hoosiers by building authentic relationships, particularly in

communities that have been underserved.


Prior to joining PS&E in 2020, he served in a number of leadership roles at the University of

Indianapolis, including the Vice President of the Sease Institute and Special Advisor to the President

for External Affairs. He also held progressive roles at the Indianapolis Airport Authority from

2005 to 2013. Prior to this, his professional career has afforded him the opportunity to gain

experience in a variety of industries including Sports Marketing; with NIKE, Health Care; 

the Marion County Health Department; Government; serving on the staff of Lieutenant

Governor of Indiana.


He has a long-standing commitment to civic leadership, more specifically, at the age of 11 he

served as a volunteer for the “Shoes for Children Program” which annually provided over 3,000

pairs of shoes for children during the Christmas season. Wilson became chairman of the

program at the age of 17. He has also served in a leadership capacity at the Indiana Black Expo

Elected & Appointed Officials Reception and the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis Beautillion

Militaire Scholarship Program; a 16-week educational and scholarship program aimed at

providing high school junior and senior males with the skills necessary to succeed in life.


He has served as chair of the Eskenazi Health Center Federally Qualified Health Center board of

directors and has been on the boards of the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis and Boy Scouts. He

has also served as a Distinguished Advisor with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Martin

University National Center for Race and Equity Institute, the Business Equity for Indy and

the Diversity in Leadership Program.

6. Antonio Maxie – Owner, NapOrNothing

Antonio Maxie Source:Antonio Maxie

Antonio Maxie born September 25, 1987, is an Indiana native. Living on the east & north side of Indianapolis w/mom & brother, Maxie graduated from North Central High School class of 06’. Maxie’s been a musician on a mission since that point. Linking with w/fellow local hip hop artists, Maxie’s made an impact with records like “On My Momma” & “Maxie!” Using phrasing & slogans from the music, Maxie eventually stepped into the merchandising world. Almost a decade later, Maxie has a clothing shop in the heart of downtown Indianapolis on Mass Ave. & a possible 2nd location on west 38th st. Maxie’s been a contributor to the culture! In his words, it’s “NapOrNothing!” 


7. Kristian Little Stricklen – President, Madam Walker Legacy Center

Kristian Little Striklen Source:Kristian Little Striklen

Kristian Little Stricklen is the president of the historic Madam Walker Legacy Center located in Indianapolis, Ind. A high-performing non-profit executive, Kristian is responsible for developing the strategy and vision for the 95-year-old national historic landmark.  Kristian brings more than 25 years of experience in global marketing strategy and communications to this role and previously served as Chief Communications and Engagement Officer for Indianapolis Public Schools. While at IPS she successfully led external communications, and community engagement, and served as a member of the Superintendent’s executive leadership cabinet.

Known as a leader and relationship builder she has a proven track record of providing visionary leadership. Examples of her many notable achievements include:

  • developing and executing a six-county Indiana public policy campaign
  • creating an international celebrity ambassador program
  • rebranding multimillion-dollar organizations
  • and developing turnaround strategies to increase online giving

She has distinguished herself across multiple industries, earning the respect of her colleagues and peers.

Throughout her career, Kristian has also maintained a deep-seated commitment to serving the Indianapolis community and the State of Indiana. Her board service is extensive, including the Madam Walker Legacy Center, Indiana Black Expo, Autism Speaks, National Association of Black Journalists, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis.

Additionally, Kristian is the founder of Jacob’s Ladder, an autism initiative in honor of her son. Kristian has been named to Who’s Who in Black Indianapolis three times and was honored with the Center for Leadership Development Achievement in Communications Award in 2020. She was also recognized in Ragan’s Bridge Builder category as an inaugural Top Woman in Communications honoree.

Kristian is a member of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series Class 42 and the Circle City Chapter of the Links, Inc.

8. Malina and Alan Bacon – Founders of GANGGANG

Malina & Alan Bacon Source:Malina & Alan Bacon

Malina Bacon is the founder and executive director of GANGGANG where she works to make the art industry an equitable and reparational space. Mali has raised more than $4 million toward efforts for the first-of-its-kind cultural startup, serving as the Creative Director of BUTTER: A Fine Art Fair and co-curator of We. The Culture. – both featured just last week on the cover of The New York Times Arts section. Before GANGGANG, Mali immersed herself in Indianapolis arts and culture during her 5 years at the Arts Council of Indianapolis, followed by a position at Madame Walker Theatre, where she fell in love with Indiana Avenue and everything that is race + art. Her time spent as the #loveindy campaign project manager and as the marketing lead for Waterside, a $1.3B real estate development, has also shaped her experience until now. Mali is a Ball State grad, an activist, an artist, and a proud wife and mother to two wonderful girls.

Alan Bacon is the founder and president of GANGGANG, in addition to serving as co-curator for BUTTER and We. The Culture at Newfields in Indianapolis. Bacon is a passionate thought leader who works to innovate and introduce culture as a means to create more equitable opportunities for artists and creatives. Alan began his career at Harrison College, eventually serving as president of their northwest campus, where he built a 12-year network of relationships in business and education. After Harrison College, Alan worked for a Johannesburg-based technology company, where he was exposed to global poverty, an experience that made way for an opportunity at the United Way of Indianapolis. Here he served as the senior director of social innovation, leading a million-dollar fund to figure out poverty in central Indiana. Alan is an Indiana University grad, a musician, a style icon, and a proud father and husband.


GANGGANG is a cultural development firm on a mission to produce, promote and preserve culture in cities as a means of building equity. Born out of the crosshairs of a global pandemic and a civil rights movement, GANGGANG seeks out opportunities to spark activity in the creative economy.

“Barely two years old, GANGGANG’s art fair BUTTER is already finding its way into the national art scene, elevating artists of color, maximizing their earnings by giving them all the profit for their work, and proving that Indianapolis is more than a sports city.” The New York Times

Headquartered in Indianapolis, GANGGANG uses culture as the engine to power incredible people, projects, and cities.

9. Dee Ross – Founder and CEO of The Ross Foundation

Dee Ross Source:Dee Ross

Dee Ross, 32 years of age, the Founder and CEO of The Ross Foundation, is an Indianapolis native born and raised on the city’s Far Eastside. Growing up as a kid, Dee was able to see how the community lacked youth programs, resources, opportunities, and community involvement. Due to this, the rise in crime, drug usage, and poverty has taken a toll on the community. Now older and a respectful leader of the community, he decided to start his own foundation in 2014. The mission of The Ross Foundation is to address racial inequities through advocacy and by removing barriers to resources, services, and wellness programs. Their vision is to end poverty! He is a respected leader in the diversity of experience of a nonprofit organization. In 2018, Dee was selected nationally to the Community Justice Reform Coalition Speakers Bureau, which is a unique intergenerational leadership development for millennial thought leaders and formerly incarcerated organizers working at the intersection of gun violence prevention and criminal justice reform. In the year 2019, a local park was named after him the Dee Ross Community Park. In 2020, Dee Ross co-founded the Ross Legacy Fund, a family philanthropy that funds Black-led social change organizations and social justice projects. He currently serves on the Hoosier Housing Needs Coalition, which supports advocacy and education related to housing and homelessness prevention in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year he was elected to the Indiana Housing Task Force to work with Governor Holcomb to address the Housing Crisis. Ross has made appearances on MTV’s “True Life“ and Facebook Show “Returning the Favor” as an actionist making a true difference in the Midwest. Dee has been recognized locally and nationally for his accomplishments in his community, receiving prestigious leadership awards from BET, Faith in Action, the Indiana Governor, Indianapolis Mayor, and local stakeholders.

Currently, Dee Ross and his team, are creating an innovative app that will create better access to resources and programs, and simultaneously increase the number of resources offered.

Dee and his team are set to host their first annual racial equity summit this year.