The Philadelphia African American Leadership Development Forum (PAALDF), powered by United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey’s Impact Fund was created in 2017 in partnership with the Urban League of Philadelphia as an innovative program, sensitively designed exclusively for African American nonprofit leaders. It includes classic leadership training content and exposure to regional and national thought leaders in the nonprofit field.
This year, two HopePHL managers were selected to attend the program: Omari Baye, BELL Program Manager and Jennifer K. Smith, Communications Manager. This highly interactive program is completely facilitated by African American presenters, panelists, and subject matter experts. At the heart and soul of PAALDF is a commitment to provide a safe platform for honest and hard-hitting discourse about “Leading While Black.” Braided into each session is a strong focus on the unique needs, perspectives, issues, opportunities, and challenges of African American leaders. Throughout the program, are dedicated times for program participants to reflect, connect, goal set and network, to reinforce the development of a community of peers.
The program is facilitated by Tomeka Lee, Co-Founder/Partner of TriZen, and Sherry Wherry, a Training Consultant with TriZen. Tomeka and Sherry ensure that each session offers participants direct access to influential people of color in leadership via lectures and encourage thought-provoking resource sharing and networking to strengthen bonds.
When asked about the vision of the program, Lee noted, "Great leaders don't just lead - they learn. The Urban League of Philadelphia's signature leadership development program for non-profit leaders, Philadelphia African American Leadership Development Forum takes inspiration from the legacies of African American leaders who have come before us, and builds on their lessons to create a new generation of transformative leaders. Through workshops, exposure to thought leaders, and honest discourse, we empower African American nonprofit executives to lead with courage, compassion, and purpose."
Program participant, Jennifer K. Smith was stunned to hear of the significant ways that women of color, need to learn boundaries and advancement in the office. "When Tomeka and Sherry highlighted how women of color tend to go above and beyond in the workplace, without ever reaping the benefits of promotion or raises, I saw a pattern of my younger self and wished I had heard this information sooner. They really have a pulse on the experiences we face in both corporate and non-profit worlds."
Omari Baye recognized that PAALDF offers a unique opportunity to share a safe space with other people of color. He said, "The words that come to mind are Gratitude and Acceptance. I'm grateful to be in the room with other leaders who look like me and who I don't have to perform for. Acceptance is the word that means most to me and that shared experience allows all of us to come in and acknowledge each other's presence in a space that isn't typically comprised of us (people of color)."
The program concludes on June 9th with a special graduation and luncheon. Graduates will receive certificates and alumni status in the Urban League's Leadership programs. For more information on this program, contact ULF@urbanleaguephila.org.
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