Board

Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams Jr

Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams, Jr.

Chair
Founder of Crossing Capital Group and The Oikos Institute

Rev. Dr. Sidney S. Williams, Jr. is an impact investor and theologian with more than 30+ years of experience in corporate and community development and serving his 14th year as senior pastor. Taking advantage of his early experience working on Wall Street, where he learned how to develop sustainable business models, Williams is known for making a continuous effort to identify where theological and marketplace frameworks should interact. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Crossing Capital Group, Inc. and currently serving in his 10th year as the senior pastor of Bethel Church of Morristown (NJ). He previously pastored churches in Cape Town, South Africa while serving as a missionary with his family.

He is the author of two books – Morning Meditations: 100 Days to Believing You’re Successful and Fishing Differently: Ministry Formation in the Marketplace. He is committed to the study of theology and economics and has lectured in graduate business programs and seminaries, as well as consulted with corporate executives from Asia, Europe and the United States.

Read more about Dr.Williams here.

Rev Jon Robinson
Rev. Jon Robinson

Vice-Chair

Rev. Dr. Jon Robinson is an ordained minister with over twenty years of church and nonprofit leadership experience. Dr. Robinson founded and currently serves as the President and C.E.O. of The Building Up Our Youth Foundation, (B.U.O.Y. – www.buoyfoundation.org) a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 youth services organization that offers educational and leadership development programming for middle and high school youth.

In addition to his work at the BUOY Foundation Dr. Robinson also serves as the Smart Surfaces Program Director with Metropolitan AME Church (Smart Surfaces Coalition) where he works with faith institutions and other community-based organizations to change city and metro-area ecological policy and provide funding for the innovation of place-based climate mitigation strategies.

Dr. Robinson also serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board of the Oikos Institute for Social Impact which addresses the cultural and organizational challenges churches and community organizations face in bridging faith with the financial capital necessary to engage in meaningful social impact programs and services.

Andrea Wright
Rev. Dr. Andrea Wright, CPA
Treasurer
Partner, Johnson Lambert LLP
Andrea is a graduate of Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary earning both the Doctorate (2023) and Masters (2016) of Divinity. She is also a graduate of Morgan State University (2022) and Howard University (1997).

Andrea is a certified public accountant and audit partner with Johnson Lambert LLP where she serves as the firm’s lead partner for the not-for-profit and governmental industry practice and as the office managing partner for the firm’s Chicagoland area office.

Andrea is a passionate advocate for under-represented people. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her financial and gender justice advocacy work and has served on several boards, including the African American Legacy Fund of the Chicago Community Trust, Association Forum, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, and the Illinois CPA Society. Andrea holds active memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Illinois CPA Society, and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Andrea is ordained for Word and Sacrament in the Progressive Baptist Church.

Richard Babcock
Richard Babcock
Secretary
Co-founder of Crossing Capital Group and The Oikos Institute
Richard has a 30+ year professional career which includes senior management roles in operations, sales & marketing, project management, and corporate consulting. A certified Church Consultant and Coach, Richard is a ceaseless student of Christian leadership, practical ministry, and the Bible. Having had the opportunity to work with organizations of various sizes and types, he has developed expertise in addressing diverse developmental needs and leading successful change management initiatives that achieve desired outcomes.
Rev. Jamar Boyd, II
Rev. Jamar Boyd, II
Board Member
Senior Pastor of Kenwood United Church of Christ Chicago
Rev. Jamar A. Boyd, II is the Senior Pastor of Kenwood United Church of Christ – Chicago. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management and Business from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Divinity from The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. Rev. Boyd serves on the Board of Directors for The Oikos Institute for Social Change and Hyde Park & Kenwood Interfaith Council. Additionally, he is a member of the Social Justice Ministry of The Church Of God In Christ, Inc. and the Racial Justice & Religion Collective of the Aspen Institute.

Acknowledging the call, into the gospel ministry in 2014, he was licensed at Agape Worship Center in Statesboro, GA where he served as Pastoral Assistant. While in seminary Rev. Boyd served as Pastoral Assistant – Student Intern to Rev. Dr. Anthony M. Chandler, Sr. at Cedar Street Baptist Church in Richmond, VA. In addition, he also served at Dominion Church Of God In Christ in Portsmouth, VA under the pastoral leadership of Bishop Clarence L. Sellers, Jr. Additionally, he served Saint Smyrna Baptist Church in Newnan, GA as Director of Youth Ministry under the pastoral leadership of Rev. Tamarkus T. Cook, Sr.

As an undergraduate and seminarian Rev. Boyd engaged “the call to the public square” participating in the 2018 Progressive National Baptist Convention Annual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and as an officer and later President of the Georgia State Conference NAACP Youth & College Division from 2014–2019.

His tenure as President placed an intense focus on financial independence and stability, membership growth, and unit revitalization visible through an increased participation of youth and college members within the local framework of Georgia and the national work of the NAACP Youth & College Division. As president Rev. Boyd was a panel and program participant at the 2018 Environmental and Climate Justice symposium, program participant at the 2018 National Convention (San Antonio, TX) and 2019 National Convention (Detroit, MI), and certified as an NAACP National Electoral Trainer. He was the recipient of the inaugural “Charles & Adrienne White Student Activism Award” in 2019. He also served as Youth Works Chairman for the Georgia State Conference NAACP from October 2019-February 2022. Rev. Boyd is a featured contributor in Preaching During a Pandemic: The Rhetoric of the Black Preaching Tradition, Volume I (Studies in Communication, Culture, Race, and Religion). Further compositions are available online with Abernathy Magazine, Baptist News Global, Faithfully Magazine, Medium, and Sojourners Magazine.

William W. Towns, Ph.D., MBA

William W. Towns, Ph.D., MBA

Board Member Adjunct Professor of Social Impact, Kellogg School of Management

Dr. William Towns is a scholar, activist, and practitioner, dedicated to helping solve civic and urban issues at the structural level. He believes in the power of increasing access to capital, data, and academic resources to create pathways of opportunity for organizations and individuals to impact communities often overlooked. Using his lived experience, Dr. Towns takes a broad, system-wide approach to problem solving with respect to equitable community development.

Over the course of his career, he has managed more than $800 million in capital directed at reversing economic disparities and racial discrimination across the Chicago region. He has developed multiple corporate strategic plans, directing resources to local organizations to help solve complex civic issues.

He is the Managing Director of 4S Bay Partners, LLC’s Chi-Town Impact, a private equity fund that invests in women and minority operating businesses utilizing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017’s Opportunity Zones.

Dr. Towns received his Bachelor’s in marketing from Loyola University Chicago – Quinlan School of Business, an MBA from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business, and a Ph.D. in Organization Development from Benedictine University.

His goal is to use his research to help cities, anchor institutions, corporations, and non-profits to develop policies and initiatives that welcome in those who stand just outside the door of opportunity to the table of prosperity.

Alan Ferguson

Alan Ferguson, Sr., MBA, MS, BA

Board Member
President and CEO, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity

Alan Ferguson brings extensive experience and expertise in affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization and community development. He was named President and CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity in July 2022. As Atlanta Habitat creates future-forward solutions to address Atlanta’s affordable housing availability, Alan’s vision to help educate Atlanta’s communities around economic mobility and income equality will help all Atlantans realize their ability to create economic stability and growth within their own households.

Alan formerly worked at Invest Atlanta, and during his 8-year commitment to the organization, led teams focused on building vibrant communities and increasing economic prosperity for all Atlantans. Throughout his career, his dedication and focus to completing transactions in the areas of housing, commercial real estate, business finance, public finance, and equity investments furthered his broad experience in community and economic development leadership.

Alan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Banking & Finance from Morehouse College, an MBA from The Goizueta Business School at Emory University, and a Master of Science in Real Estate from the J. Mack Robinson School of Business at Georgia State University. Alan pursued doctoral studies (ABD) in Real Estate Finance at Georgia State University and is currently completing his dissertation requirements for a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of the Cumberlands.

Alan is married to Janelle and they have two beautiful children.

Joyce Moy
Joyce Moy, JD, BA
Board Member
Founder and CEO of Fintelligent Strategies, Inc.
Joyce Moy is the founder and CEO of Fintelligent Strategies, Inc., a start-up committed to the financial and economic empowerment of low-income individuals, families, and communities. She is the former Executive Director of the Asian American/Asian Research Institute at the City University of New York (CUNY) where her area of focus was economic development, entrepreneurship, and financial empowerment in Asian American and diverse communities. Prior to that, she served as the Director of Economic Development at CUNY, where she had oversight over a Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), a Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and a corporate training center at LaGuardia Community College, as well as community development.

Joyce was the first Asian American and founding regional director of a Small Business Development Center in New York State. This was funded by the US Small Business Administration and New York State in response to 9/11. She built a team that spoke English, Spanish, Korean and 3 dialects of Chinese, to serve immigrant businesses and MWBEs who were underserved by the then existing small business technical assistance providers. Under her leadership after 9/11, over $20 million in loans, grants and other financial assistance were awarded to small business owners.

In her work with small businesses, Joyce recognized that immigrants, women, and entrepreneurs of color lacked basic financial literacy skills needed to succeed in their personal lives and in business. As a result, Joyce developed a multi-day financial literacy and empowerment training which has become a national model for financial counselors embedded in community-based organizations and government agencies serving the poor and working poor across the country. As a former practicing attorney, Joyce finds immense reward in being able to use her training and experience to advocate for communities excluded from full economic participation.

Joyce holds a BA from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a JD from Hofstra University School of Law.

Staff

Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount

Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount

Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Oikos Institute

Rev. Dr. Reginald Blount serves on the faculty of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary as Associate Professor of Formation, Leadership and Culture and teaches in the area of Christian Education, Congregational Leadership and Youth and Young Adult Ministry. He further serves the seminary as Program Director of the Garrett Young Adult Initiative (funded by the Lilly Endowment) and serves as advisor for the Doctor of Ministry in Strategic Leadership in Black Congregations.

Dr. Blount is also the former Pastor of Arnett Chapel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Chicago, IL and serves the A.M.E. Church Fourth Episcopal District as Program Director of its Thriving in Ministry Initiative funded by the Lilly Endowment. Dr. Blount, across his many roles—which he considers all one ministry—serves as a catalyst for hope, transformation, and vocation. He speaks and teaches nationally and internationally helping faith communities envision new and creative ways to minister to, with and on behalf of young people, engage in transformative Christian Education and foster congregational and community renewal and social impact. He is a contributor in “Making God Real for a Next Generation: Ministry with Millennials Born from 1982 to 1999” (Discipleship Resources, 2003), “Educating For Redemptive Community” (Wipf & Stock, 2015) and Co-Editor of “Let Your Light Shine: Mobilizing for Justice with Children and Youth” (Friendship Press, 2019)

Read more about Dr.Blount here.

Rev. Regena Thornton
Rev. Regena Thornton
Assistant Director
Regena joined Oikos in 2021 as the Regional Coordinator for the DC Cohort and, prior to her current position, she was the Operations and Training Manager. She was employed by the Department of Justice for 37 years where she led training, supervised for 25 years, and developed projects for personnel security and human resource matters. Regena was ordained an Itinerant Deacon in 2005 and an Itinerant Elder in 2013 in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She currently serves on the ministerial staff at New Hope A.M.E. Church in Waldorf, MD, where she assists with weekly Church School instruction.

Regena holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grambling State University and two Master of Arts degrees (Practical Theology and Education) from Regent University. She is the mother of two adult daughters and currently resides in Waldorf, MD.

Rev. Dr. Susan Hillary Buckson

Rev. Dr. Susan Hillary Buckson

National Training Director

Susan is a gifted educator who enjoyed a productive 29-year career in public education that started in Baltimore City Public Schools and concluded in the Atlanta Public Schools after serving as a classroom teacher, cooperative teacher mentor, Magnet School Coordinator, Instruction Coach, and Assistant Principal.

Susan answered God’s call to the preaching ministry in 1999 at Waters A. M. E. Church in the Baltimore Annual Conference under then pastor, Rev. Ronald E. Braxton. In 2019, Bishop Reginald T. Jackson appointed Susan as pastor of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Atlanta, GA. Susan serves as the first woman to serve in the church’s history. She is the author of The Lenten Experience: A 40-Day Revival and My Praise is My S.W.A.G: A Bible-based curriculum for youth and young adults. In addition, Susan has served as a workshop presenter for the A.M.E. Church on both the district and conference levels with a critical focus on empowering components toward innovative, practical ministry.

Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and her advanced degrees include a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Coppin State College, Master of Divinity with a concentration in Theology from The Interdenominational Theological Center, and a Doctor of Ministry from Payne Theological Seminary with a concentration in Adaptive Leadership.

Challis Bradford
Rev. Dr. Challis Bradford
Director of Grants
Rev. Dr. Bradford is a Student, Prayer Warrior, Preacher, Psalmist, Teacher, and the servant Pastor to the wonderful people of Greater Garth A.M.E. Church, Dallas, TX. She earned a Business Administration (BA) degree with a focus in Accounting and a Master of Business Arts (MBA) degree with a focus in Finance from Letourneau University. She earned a Master of Arts in Ministry degree (MAM) with a focus in Social Justice and Theology from Perkins School of Theology on the campus of Southern Methodist University. She earned a Doctor of Ministry degree (DMin) from Payne Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Bradford serves as the AME North Texas Board of Examiners Assistant Dean, Greater Dallas District Treasurer, Tenth Future Inc. board member, North Texas conference Board of Trustees Treasurer, Tenth District Finance Team, Tenth District Board of Trustees, and a member of the AME Church General Board. She along with other partners combat the food insecurities in “Our” neighborhood by launching the Seeds Of Faith Community Garden in South Dallas.

Rev. Dr. Bradford serves as Chaplain for the Dallas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.. She also serves on the National Chaplains Council, Regional Chaplains Council, and she serves as the Texas/New Mexico State Chaplain. She is on the Board of Directors as the Parliamentarian for the Dallas Fort Worth Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Professionally, she is a Control and Reporting Analyst.

She is married to Terry and they have three beautiful children and two grandchildren.

Hanna Broome
Rev. Dr. Hanna R. Broome

Regional Coordinator – North Carolina

Rev. Dr. Hanna R. Broome, is a native of Spartanburg, SC, and an ordained Elder in the Central North Carolina Conference in Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District of the A.M.E. Zion Church. Rev. Dr. Broome is a graduate of the University of South Carolina-Upstate with a BA Degree in Information Systems Management. She received her Master of Divinity Degree in Biblical Leadership from Columbia International Seminary. Rev. Dr. Broome completed her Doctor of Ministry degree, Courageous Leadership in a Changing Culture, from Drew Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Broome’s previous pastorate includes Smalls Chapel AME Zion Church, Winnsboro, SC and Catawba Chapel AME Zion Church, Catawba, SC. Rev. Dr. Broome was elevated to Presiding Elder in November of 2016-2021 in the Eastern North Carolina Episcopal District under the leadership of Bishop Kenneth Monroe.

She holds current offices and positions in numerous organizations which include Director of Religious Affairs for Repairers of the Breach, President- Elect of the NC Council of Churches, Church Growth and Development of the AME Zion Church, Faith Communities for the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign Moral Movement, NAACP, National Council of Negro Women, and Faith Leaders of Color against the Death Penalty. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Rev. Dr. Broome is the proud mother of three sons and six grandchildren.

Mashod Evans

Rev. Mashod A. Evans, Sr.

Regional Coordinator – Detroit

Rev. Evans is a native of Hillside, New Jersey. After graduating from Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey he matriculated to Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey as a James D. Carr Scholar, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History. He also holds a Master of Divinity from Turner Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. During his undergraduate and graduate career, Rev. Evans was extremely active in extracurricular activities and held leadership roles in numerous student organizations.

A life-long and fifth generation member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Rev. Evans answered a call to the ministry at the age of eighteen. He began his ministerial career at St. James AME Church in Newark, New Jersey as a youth minister, and has served on the ministerial staff of Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and Charles Street AME Church in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2005, he was assigned to pastor union Chapel AME Church in Newark, New Jersey, where under his administration, the congregation was blessed to undergo a renovation of their worship facility and experience tremendous growth.

In November of 2008, the Rt. Rev. James L. Davis, appointed Rev. Evans as the senior pastor of Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where he led the congregation in a capital campaign. In June of 2017, Rev. John F. White appointed Rev. Evans as the senior pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

With a passion for community organizing and engagement, Rev. Evans has served on community boards and non-profit organizations including, the Multi-Cultural Aids Coalition of Boston, Demock Community Health Center in Boston, New Jersey Human Development Corporation, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Alabama Faith In Action, and he has served as chairman of the Union Chapel Community Development Corporation of Newark, New Jersey. He is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Fraternity.

He is married to Leslie Michelle Evans and they are the proud parents of two sons.

Rev. Lisa Hammond
Rev. Dr. Lisa Hammonds
Regional Coordinator – Middle Tennessee
Rev. Hammonds is a Nashville, Tennessee-native. She earned a BBA from Middle Tennessee State University and a MDiv. from Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is a graduate of John A. Gupton College with a Funeral Director Certificate and earned a certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. She is pursuing a DMin in the Strategic Leadership in Black Congregations cohort at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Following a successful and multi-faceted career in consumer lending, Rev. Hammonds answered her call to the preaching ministry in 1996. She was ordained an itinerant deacon and itinerant elder, both in the Tennessee Annual Conference of the 13th Episcopal District in the AME Church. She has served in numerous leadership roles including chairing both the conference and district Board of Examiners, Conference Trustees, Ministerial Efficiency Committee, Conference Finance Committee, Conference Budget Committee, and Women in Ministry.

Rev. Hammonds serves as the treasurer of the Nashville’s Fellowship for Women of Color in Ministry, assistant treasurer for the Nashville Branch of the NAACP, and treasurer for the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship (IMF), and is the board secretary for Congregational Health and Education Network (CHEN) at Nashville General Hospital. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Nu Kappa Omega Chapter, where she serves as the parliamentarian. She enjoys traveling and self-identifies as a “foodie.”

Over 22 years, she has served in numerous leadership positions and as pastor throughout Middle Tennessee. In March 2018, she was appointed as the senior pastor of her home church, St. John AME Church in Nashville (SJN), the “Mother” Church (oldest) of African Methodism in the state of Tennessee. As a community member, clergy person, leader, and activist, Rev. Hammonds is an ambassador for the Kin-dom of God.

Rev. Carolyn C. Cavaness
Rev. Carolyn C. Cavaness
Regional Coordinator – Philadelphia

Rev. Carolyn C. Cavaness is a fourth-generation preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was licensed to preach at the age of 15 and was admitted to the New Jersey Annual Conference at the age of 16.
Rev. Cavaness is a graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City, with a major in Urban Studies with a concentration in Economics. During her time at Barnard, she served as President of the Student Government Association and was awarded for her contributions to the Barnard Community Carolyn received the Frank Gilbert Bryson Prize the highest leadership award of the College. She was also the recipient of the Barnard Bear Pin for her dedication and commitment to campus life.
Rev. Cavaness graduated in May 2011 from Union Theological Seminary in New York City with a Master of Divinity degree. In her second year, she was awarded the Hudnut Preaching Award. The award is conferred annually by the faculty at the end of the middle year to a student who, in their judgment, has made the best preparation for the preaching ministry.
Prior to enrolling in seminary, Rev. Cavaness was deputy finance director for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s historic campaign for President. She was employed by Barnard College as an Officer to the Barnard College Annual Fund. She was also Finance Director for New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Carolyn was also Director of Development for George Jackson Academy in New York City.
Rev. Cavaness is fluent in Spanish after spending her junior year in high school abroad in Zaragoza, Spain.
Rev. Cavaness’ serves as the first female pastor of Bethel AME Church of Ardmore, PA. Blessed to serve this historic congregation, Rev. Carolyn’s innovative style and initiative has assisted her in leading the congregation to embark on various capital improvements including: upgrade and overhaul of the HVAC system, roofing, and renovations of the lower level of the church. In Spring, 2018, the congregation launched the Bethel Community Garden, which in its first year harvested over 1,000 lbs of produce, which impacted local pantries, members, and friends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethel has been on the front line in service to the community providing food and household supplies support, tutoring, mental health support and resources for children and families and COVID-19 testing and vaccine/booster clinics. In response to the church’s critical presence during the pandemic, the congregation received a $1.5 million dollar grant from the Montgomery County Recovery Office to undergird its vaccine, farm/garden and mental health programs. Additionally, due to this support a capital improvement and upgrade plan has been launched which will include a complete renovation and upgrade of the church’s current fellowship hall/community life spaces, kitchen as well as ensuring that Bethel is accessible to persons who experience mobility challenges. In addition, Rev. Cavaness led the congregation in the purchase of a multi-family unit and commercial business unit located directly on the church’s property line. Literally saving three (3) families from being displaced due to gentrification and development.
Paramount to the work has been increasing Bethel’s outreach, evangelism, and community engagement – inclusive of expanding Bethel’s opportunities for worship and Christian education. Strategic partnerships have been advanced with the business community and various non-profit agencies and boards across the Main Line, as well.
Rev. Cavaness has been featured in the CRAINS Business magazine, New York Post’s Page Six magazine. In addition, she has been named a Millennial Superstar by Montco.Today and a Main Line Hero by Main Line Today. Recently, Rev. Cavaness was recognized by Radnor Township for her work in the dedication of a historical panel in honor of Bishop Richard Allen’s walk to Radnor in 1784.
She desires to use all her God-given talents and gifts to reach and help all that she can. She lives by the statement, “Only what you do for Christ shall last.”

Rev. Brian Smith
Rev. Dr. Brian Smith
Regional Coordinator – Greater Chicago Area
Rev. Brian E. Smith is Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Chicago Theological Seminary where he was the administrator of a Henry LUCE Foundation Covid-19 Emergency Response Grant providing leadership and resources to over 40 Chicago-Westside & Southside faith leaders. He is the visionary behind the Black Faith Leader Collective; a consortium of interfaith leaders that convene for continuing education, activism and grass roots efforts to develop and heal black communities. At CTS, he also had the honor of leading the Jesse Jackson Oral History Archive Project and convening the Rev. Jesse Jackson Symposium around the life of CTS alumnus Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. Rev. Smith pastors the North Shore Faith Community Church, a non-denominational congregation in Lake County, Illinois. Rev. Smith served previously as Director of Development at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary where he was the first African American to serve in a full time post. Rev. Smith has led fundraising efforts for multiple endowed scholarships including six designated for black students at Garrett-Evangelical and the first endowed AME Scholarship at Chicago Theological Seminary. Prior to his service in seminary education, Rev. Smith worked for many years in affordable housing in the non-profit and private sector as a community development professional. He has served on key public housing redevelopment teams in the city of Chicago including the redevelopment of both the Robert Taylor and Henry Horner Homes. Rev. Smith is an artist who enjoys singing, writing plays and Djing music. As an accomplished playwright and director, he has written and produced four theatrical works based upon African American hermeneutics including: The Star of Glory; a depiction of the Birth of Jesus Christ, The Prince of Peace, an Easter story, The Trail of Freedom, a historical fictional story about Harriet Tubman and American Defender based upon the life of Frederick Douglas.

Rev. Smith currently holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from Grinnell College, a Masters of Science in Human Services Administration from Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership and a Master of Divinity from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (Theta Alpha Kappa) where he is completing a Doctor of Ministry in Black Congregational Leadership. His doctoral project research is focused on Reforming Faith Congregations and the Academy for Stakeholder Stewardship. Rev. Smith was ordained under the pastorate of his home congregation, the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist church, which is part of the National Baptist Convention.

He has been happily married to Mrs. Stephanie E. Smith for 24 years and he is the proud father of two lovely children: Chloe Ann Smith and Brian E. Smith II. He remains committed to building global relationships with diverse people to celebrate the goodness of God and the flourishing of all life.

Kara Gilliard Clark
Kara Gilliard Clark
Chief Financial Officer
With over 25 years of accounting and nonprofit administration experience and a Master of Accountancy, Kara has strategically focused her professional career in higher education, church, and nonprofit administration and leadership. With her ability to develop situation-specific strategies, she has been able to assist organizations with overcoming fiscal challenges.

Kara presently serves as the CFO for The Oikos Institute for Social Impact. Kara has developed shared business office resources models to serve nonprofit organizations that have budgets of less than $2.0 million annually. Although she spent most of her professional career in nonprofit organizations, specifically higher education, her services also lend to some small businesses and religious organizations. Her expertise with churches ranges from the mega-sized church to churches with less than 50 members. Her specialized areas of expertise include, accounting, budgeting, process development and improvement, ERP system setup and management, grants management and administration, as well as operational audits.

Kara also serves as the Founder/President of the Board of Directors of Young World Entrepreneurs, a 501c3 organization passionate about developing business leadership skills in under-resourced youth. Driven by her commitment to making a positive impact, Kara actively engages with community organizations, participating in forums and events that promote financial literacy and education.

Kara coaches aspiring young professionals, sharing her experiences, and inspiring them to pursue their dreams. Her passion for education, combined with her financial expertise, makes her a powerful force for positive change, embodying the principles of leadership, social responsibility, and empowerment.

Athena Pirylis
Athena Pirylis – Johnson
Director of Marketing and Client Relations

Athena Pirylis-Johnnson is a dedicated professional with a passion for community empowerment and social impact. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Farleigh Dickenson University and has furthered her education by earning an MBA, solidifying her expertise in business and management.

With a commitment to advocacy and community engagement, Athena has served as the Public and Strategic Relations Chair of the Morris County NAACP. In this role, she has been instrumental in disseminating crucial information to BIPOC residents of Morris County, fostering inclusivity, and nurturing strong relationships within the community to enhance empowerment.

Athena’s professional journey encompasses diverse experiences, including marketing activities from small start-up businesses to prominent law firms and pharmaceutical companies. Currently, she serves as the Marketing Director at The Oikos Institute for Social Impact, where her focus is on connecting place-based investors and BIPOC Anchor Institutions, such as faith communities, to leverage their assets for the revitalization of distressed communities. In this capacity, she plays a pivotal role in driving positive social change and promoting equitable development.

Athena’s multifaceted background, coupled with her unwavering dedication to social justice and community advancement, underscores her effectiveness as a leader and change-maker. Through her endeavors, she continues to make significant contributions towards building a more inclusive and empowered society.

Jeri Wright
Rev. Jeri Wright
National Conference Director
Jeri L. Wright, a prophetic problem solver, humanitarian, and high‐performing, strategic‐thinking professional, is a native of Bethesda, Maryland. Rev. Jeri is committed to achieving excellence, wellness, and wholeness through the intersection of faith and the development of creative programming and initiatives for enhanced cultural competencies and community building in entrepreneurial, non-profit, and for-profit environments.
With such skills and competencies as new business development, relationship building, public relations, branding, copyrighting, communication, media consulting, project management, strategic planning, non-profit consulting, staff management, policy development, budget planning and preparation, community organizing, fundraising, event management, editing, journalism, public speaking, creative writing, creative video production, training and development, program development, and personal development coaching, Jeri is whom everyone wants on their team!

Putting those skill sets into action, Rev. Jeri is a change agent and consultant for countless businesses and industries including religious and social justice organizations, health care, restaurant and service, fashion and design, and education. She created and built a multi-million dollar media services department for the largest church in the United Church of Christ denomination, growing the department from a staff of one to a paid staff of 30 and 300 unpaid ministry partners/volunteers. Not only was Jeri department director, she was also editor-in-chief of a newsmagazine she transformed, at the pastor’s request, from a church magazine into an internationally distributed worldwide newsmagazine for the socially conscious. Simultaneously, for a five-year stint, Jeri was also the Chief Operations Officer of an OB/GYN medical practice.

Rev. Jeri is the Oikos Institute for Social Impact National Conference Director, connecting faith- inspired leaders and place-based investors/funders to help faith communities and anchor institutions – including historically Black educational institutions (HBEI) – harness the power of their assets for communal transformation and economic mobility.

Founder, executive director, and visionary of The Butterfly Effect (TBE) ministering to the soul of justice-impacted women, their children, and families, Rev. Jeri further engages and trains the Black Church in transforming “prison ministries” to do the restorative justice work of soul care with justice-impacted individuals and families, emphasizing returning citizens to significantly impact their lives and reduce the rate of recidivism. In May 2014, Rev. Jeri began an early morning prayer call that continues to gather weekly. At the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, she developed the infrastructure and protocol for, and became the executive producer of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference International Daily Service of Prayer and Song, engaging all in need of a “prayerdemic for the COVID-19 pandemic, ” which was streamed live across all social media platforms for 18 months. Additionally, Rev. Jeri planned, orchestrated, and produced the annual Proctor Conference in the virtual setting. She was also challenged to create, plan, orchestrate, and produce the new HBCU- Style Proctor Conference for Generation Z and millennials.

Rev. Jeri L. Wright is founder and CEO of wRighting MemoriesSM A Publishing Company, encouraging potential authors to disallow others’ interpretations by telling their own stories. wRighting MemoriesSM encompasses writing, editing, producing, and publishing all genres of works including obituaries, audio/visual products, video tributes, magazines, greeting cards, and books, including Jeri’s own Preacher’s Daughter: A Journey Through the Pit … In the Presence of God.

Rev. Jeri founded the Chicago Chapter of the National Action Network. She is the recipient of a Trumpet Award, presented by Xernona Clayton, for Religious Commitment and her work as editor-in-chief and publisher of the Trumpet Newsmagazine: A lifestyle magazine for the socially conscious. Additionally, Rev. Jeri received the Payne Research Scholarship, awarded for the best overall thesis, exceeding the target number of primary and secondary resources for each perspective, “The Cost of Black Liberation Theology: An African-Centered Lens, ” and Master of Divinity at Payne Theological Seminary, in 2020, and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry degree at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

An April 2023 inductee into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College, Rev. Jeri Wright is also a member of the Board of Directors for Culture Solutions In Action. In June 2023, she was recently blessed with a surprise honor by Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook and Women On the Worldstage (WOW), with the Unsung She-roe Award. She is the proud mother of Jeremiah A. “JA” Wright-Haynes, and currently resides in San Diego, CA.