365Black Awards Luncheon

Monique Vann Brown

Not only is Monique Vann-Brown the owner of seven McDonald’s franchises in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, but she’s also managing partner of her parents two restaurants in the Detroit area.

Her first job came as a crew member at the very restaurant that her parents owned. With “ketchup in her veins,” she climbed up from dining room cleaner, was promoted to “fry girl,” and beyond. She later transitioned into the automotive industry, interning as a management engineer at Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, and eventually, Intel Corporation. And she did it all while maintaining her ever-growing role at her family’s McDonald’s restaurant.

After several successful years in corporate American in engineering and supply chain management, Monique decided to follow her dreams of entrepreneurship within the McDonald’s Corporation Registered Applicant & Next Generation Programs. Almost immediately after becoming an owner-operator, she engaged with the National Black McDonald’s Operator’s Association. She co-chaired the Committee that produced the second through fourth educational Next-Gen Summits, which served as a forum for future leaders within the entire McDonald’s Owner-Operator community.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Monique attended Purdue University where she earned an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering, and a master’s degree in management (MBA).  She is currently active with the Ann Arbor Public Schools Culinary Arts Advisory Committee and the Washtenaw Community College Culinary Arts Advisory Committee. She also sponsors several programs at the Ypsilanti (Michigan) Community Schools and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Ann Arbor Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant is the Founder and CEO of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit that introduces young girls of color to the world of technology and computer science. She helped the organization grow from a local grassroots initiative in the Bay Area, to an international success, with 14 chapters across the U.S. and in Johannesburg, South Africa. To date, Black Girls CODE has reached 10,000 students, and counting.

Before that, Kimberly enjoyed success as an engineering manager in a series of pharmaceutical and biotech leadership roles for various Fortune 50 companies, including Genentech, Merck, and Pfizer.

Kimberly has been nationally recognized as a thought leader for her work to increase opportunities for women and girls in technology. She was also named as a Champion of Change by the White House for her work in tech inclusion. Her numerous other accolades include the prestigious Jefferson Award for Community Service for her work to support communities in the Bay Area, recognition as one of Business Insider’s “25 Most Influential African-Americans in Technology,” and The Root 100 and Ebony Power 100 lists in 2013. She also received an Ingenuity Award in Social Progress from the Smithsonian Institute. Beyond that, she has spoken at many national and international conferences, including the Personal Democracy Forum, TEDx Kansas City, Platform Summit, Big Ideas Festival, and South by Southwest.

Sheryl Lee Ralph

Sheryl Lee Ralph is a triple threat. Her award-winning work includes creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical, Dreamgirls and earning Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards. She recently returned to Broadway as Madame Morrible in the award-winning musical Wicked.

Sheryl’s TV credits include It's a Living, Designing Women, The District, and Moesha. For the last three years, she held a lead on the hit Nickelodeon series Instant Mom, while also starring as Claudette opposite Jon Voight in Showtime’s Ray Donovan. She somehow snuck in episodes of 2 Broke Girls, Smash, MacGyver and Criminal Minds in between it all.

Her extensive film credits include The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington, Mistress with Robert De Niro, To Sleep with Anger with Danny Glover, The Distinguished Gentleman with Eddie Murphy and Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg. Sheryl picked up a Best Supporting Actress win at the Independent Spirit Awards for her performance in To Sleep with Anger. That success also extends to writing and directing. Sheryl’s award-winning short film, Secrets, co-starring award-winning actress Alfre Woodard and Robin Givens, was a finalist in the HBO Short Film Competition, Showtime's Filmmaker Award Series, and BET’s Filmmaker Award Competition. The film was also selected as audience favorite at the Outfest Film Festival. Secrets was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Hollywood Film Festival, the Acapulco Film Festival and the Urban World Film Festival. Sheryl also created the Jamerican Film and Music Festival.

Symone Sanders

A champion for women, communities of color and those in need, Symone D. Sanders is a CNN Political Commentator, a Spring 2018 Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics and the Strategist for Communications and Political Outreach at Priorities USA. Symone rose to prominence during her tenure as the National Press Secretary for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. At 25, Symone demonstrated an uncanny command of the issues, earning her a place in history as the youngest presidential press secretary on record and a spot on Rolling Stone magazine's list of “16 Young Americans Shaping the 2016 Election.”

But, Symone was no amateur to presidential politics. At 16, she introduced former President Bill Clinton at a luncheon in Omaha, Nebraska. Following her remarks, President Clinton said, “Symone spoke so well I really hate to follow her.” President Clinton went on to write about Symone in his book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World.

Now, Symone draws from her experience on the national stage to provide perceptive analysis on political and social issues. Her lively presentations challenge the conventional wisdom that strong communities are only defined by what they have in common. Instead, she outlines the way our differences contribute to effective social movements.

Tishauna Wilson

Tishauna Wilson is a rising junior and computer science major at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. She was born in Tampa, Florida, on April 28, 1998. She was first introduced to computers by her older-sister, LaRisha, and late-mother, Jonie.

Tishauna attended Tampa Bay Technical High School, where she learned to code in HTML and repair computers. As she progressed through high school, she remained a high-honor roll student and graduated in the top 4% of her class. Tishauna began her undergraduate studies in programming in C++ in 2016.

In 2017, Tishauna interned at the University of California, Irvine as an Internet of Things (IOT) Researcher. In early 2018, she revived Florida A&M University’s computer science research program. Tishauna is currently working on four Artificial Intelligence research projects with Dr. Clement Allen that consist of detecting fraud through conversations, detecting credit-card fraud, developing a voice-activated, self-driving drone, and a basketball referee system.

Tishauna has hopes of pursuing a PhD in Computer Science with a concentration in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning, and becoming a founder of an autonomous automobile manufacturing company. Along with earning accolades as a distinguished engineer/researcher, she also plans to become CEO of a Fortune 500 tech company.