Office on African American Affairs

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Our Team

Sumaiyah Clark

Chief Equity Officer 

Sumaiyah Clark is a dedicated public servant with over 20 years of progressive advancement, community development, social justice, and equity advocacy experience. Most recently, she has worked in the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for the last five years, creating and executing multi-year strategies that encompass all facets of planning, budgeting, program development, community engagement, outreach, and advocacy initiatives. Sumaiyah also co-authored Milwaukee County DHHS’ first Workplace Equity & Inclusion Statement, as well as developed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Readiness Assessment and DEI Audit Tool to assess current workplace policies and procedures. 

Rick Banks
Senior Program Manager – African American Affairs

Rick Banks is a Milwaukee native who’s been active as an organizer and activist for over 10 years. A proud graduate of Riverside University High School, he received degrees in political science and economics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and previously worked as a community organizer in the Harambee Neighborhood, where he continues to be active as a resident. Rick has also served as political director for Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC), a nonprofit dedicated to politically and civically engaging Black residents, and was an economic development specialist for the City of Milwaukee. Rick co-founded MKE Black, Incorporated, a non-profit dedicated to promoting black culture and black owned-businesses in Milwaukee through social media and an app-based business database. Rick serves on the board of directors for Outpost Natural Foods, a healthy foods cooperative grocery store, and Inner City Redevelopment Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing organization.

Ciara Hartzog
Research and Advocacy Manager

Ciara Hartzog is a dedicated servant leader with over a decade of experience in nonprofits and civil service. Beginning her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA, Ciara began to identify and address issues in a broad range of community groups. Ciara's passion for equity and advocacy led her to serve, most recently, as an Opportunity Advancement Manager where she advocated for equity in workforce hiring policies and practices and increasing access to post-secondary education. Other roles have included duties such as, research and analysis, survey design, community engagement, relationship building, strategic planning, technical writing, community-based learning, project management, program development and capacity building. Ciara is a skilled relationship builder and encourages the groups she works with to share their experiences by building trust and using community-based participatory research. She believes there is value in sharing information with community members and involving them in processes that will have a direct effect and inviting them to the table to tell their own stories. Ciara is a graduate of UW – Parkside with a bachelor's degree in communication, minor in Spanish language and literature and a certificate of non-profit development. 

 

Vilma Fermin

Trinity Fellow/Human Rights and Advocacy Fellow

Vilma is dedicated to creating more equitable spaces through a people-centered lens and is committed to expanding access to information, so everyone is reflected in decision-making. Vilma is a proud alumna of Saint Joseph’s University, where she received a degree in Communication Studies. Upon graduating, she began a yearlong service fellowship with Amate House, serving at LINK Unlimited Scholars, an education nonprofit supporting Black high school students across Chicago on their path to and through college. Most recently she worked as the Manager of Educational Programs and Volunteer Support where she coordinated all the educational experiences, including leadership academies, college panels and career exposure opportunities. She is currently pursuing her master's in educational policy and foundations at Marquette University. She believes that for youth to thrive, communities must be allowed to thrive alongside them. She is committed to creating equitable systems where students of color have access to all the resources and tools they need to thrive. As the Human Rights and Advocacy fellow, Vilma is looking forward to expanding access to information and ensuring community members have a pathway to use their voices and be heard. She also serves as an Amate House Associate Board member and as a Trustee Member for St. Ignatius School in the Bronx where she attended middle school.  

Symone Leonard

Public Ally/Community Engagement Coordinator & Facilitator

Symone is a Milwaukee native who has been involved in community organizing work since age 16. The West Allis Central Alumna who fell in love with creative writing after being introduced to Stillwaters Collective, Symone fell into a world of poetry, storytelling, and the overall art of expression. From this work, she became one of the co-founders of Sacred Garden Open Mic and gained experience with slam poetry. Symone is a first-year Public Ally serving as OOE’s community engagement coordinator and facilitator. Symone is an inspiring novelist who is passionate about advocating and accommodating black women and transmuting power within motherhood. Her work experience includes positions held in the fields of social work, education, and administrative settings. The nonprofit world supported Symone in her high school career, and she's inspired to continue the work that helped her discover her passion for writing and serving her community.  

Zari Miller

Information and Outreach Coordinator

As a creative, empathetic and collaborative leader, Zari is committed to developing and supporting initiatives that propel the county’s vision of achieving racial and gender equity forward. With integrity and sincerity in mind, Zari seeks to build lasting relationships that are authentic in nature. As an alum of the UM–Milwaukee, Zari holds a bachelor's degree in english literature and cultural theory; and believes in the intrinsic need for storytelling to fortify communities and build bridges across social circles. Most recently, Zari served as the lead legislative assistant and intern coordinator for the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. During her time with the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, she supported the development of presentations and citations to uplift and honor the diverse body of residents throughout the County. As the information and outreach coordinator, Zari is elated to continue the heart-based work of fostering strong connections between grassroots organizations and Milwaukee County government, which will further build capacity to execute strategies that support the historically marginalized groups and vulnerable populations throughout Milwaukee County.

Tony Panciera

Senior Equity Policy Manager

Tony is a connector and problem-solver with a wide variety of experience in nonprofits, startups and advocacy at both a local and national scale. With a healthy imagination for a better future, Tony specializes in systems thinking and critical analysis, while emphasizing relationships and prioritizing dignity. Tony believes Milwaukee County can be the best community in the country for all of its residents and is working to make this a reality through policy. Before joining the team at the County, Tony led MKE United, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, working with a wide variety of partners to implement an inclusive vision for Milwaukee’s downtown and adjacent neighborhoods. Tony lives in the city of Milwaukee with his partner and daughters and loves gardening, running and tinkering with computers.

Paula Phillips

Director of Equity Operations

Paula's mission is to actively build a society where all of us are seen, heard and cared for. She first came to Milwaukee to serve as an AmeriCorps member with Public Allies Milwaukee. Much of her career focused on promoting diverse leadership, empowering women and strategic planning for systemic change at organizations like the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, Medical College of Wisconsin, and City Year Milwaukee. Paula served a four-year term as an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors from 2017-2021, representing over 74,000 constituents and overseeing a $1.2B budget. She continues to serve as local advisory board chair for Public Allies Wisconsin, co-chair for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s Racial Equity Fund, City Year Milwaukee Board Member, City of Milwaukee Arts Board member and Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation board member. Paula is a proud first-generation Filipina American and college graduate who received her bachelor's degree in agricultural and applied economics with a global health certificate from the UW-Madison. She lives on Milwaukee’s southwest side with her spouse and two young children.

Kristin Vogel
FUSE Fellow

Kristin Vogel has dedicated her career to advancing social justice and equity through human-centered design, inclusive and adaptive leadership, continuous improvement, and information and its use in decision-making. Most recently, she worked as a special assistant to the provost in higher education, enhancing organizational development and strategy. Before that, Kristin led and championed organization-wide innovation initiatives, applying techniques from her Stanford University Graduate School of Business LEAD certification, and simultaneously coordinated teams delivering dynamic modern library services. She has been an invited facilitator nationally and internationally, including in Bahrain, Ghana and Uganda. Kristin earned a master's degree in library and information technology from Indiana University – Bloomington and a bachelor's degree in peace and global studies from Earlham College.

Ricardo Wynn

Community Engagement Manager

Ricardo Wynn is an experienced leader in community engagement. He demonstrated passion and commitment engaging and mobilizing marginalized communities around creative and strategic community-based solutions. He has provided leadership in program and event creation, planning and execution, capacity building and strategy for teams, and mentoring within government administration and nonprofit roles. Recently, Ricardo served as the HIV Capacity Building Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, HIV Program in partnership with the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health Group at the UW–Madison Population Health Institute. In the Office of Equity, Ricardo builds capacity for community outreach and engagement by developing standard practices and frameworks for Milwaukee County and leads strategy and development of cross-sector partnerships with external partners to advance the county's vision. He is a proud alumnus of the UW–Parkside, where he earned a bachelor's degree in organizational communication and a certificate in leadership. He received his master’s degree in public administration from Capella University.

Jacqueline Zeledon

Strategic Communications Manager

Jacqueline Zeledon is the Strategic Communications Manager for the Milwaukee County Office of Equity. She most recently served as the Community Outreach & Internal Communications Coordinator for Milwaukee County Transit System. A lifelong Milwaukee County resident, Jacqueline’s public relations and marketing communications career covers working with organizations in the private, nonprofit and government sectors. Her community involvement includes serving on the executive and planning committees for Milwaukee’s Annual Juneteenth Day Celebration, as chair of the Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church’s scholarship committee, and as the chapter journalist for the Milwaukee Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. An alumna of Nicolet High School, Jacqueline holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Purdue University and a master's degree in integrated marketing communications from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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