As a part of his initiative to ensure more diversity, inclusion and equity in the City of San Diego, Mayor Todd Gloria announced the formation of his administration’s Black Advisory Group and the selection of nine outstanding San Diegans who will make up this group of Black advisers.
“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to assemble such an accomplished group of individuals who will strengthen our efforts to create a more inclusive San Diego,” Gloria said. “I recognize the disparities our Black communities face related to education, access to healthcare, mental health, housing, transportation, food insecurity, employment and entrepreneurship and I firmly believe their input will get us on the right track of equity.”
The focus of this advisory group will be to assist in guiding Gloria’s administration in tackling the unique challenges facing Black communities. The nine initial members of Gloria’s Black Advisory Group are:
Armand King is the COO of Paving Great Futures. King’s experience includes creating and implementing new programs serving former and current gang members, parolees, justice system involved individuals, and high-risk youth. King serves on boards and task forces on law enforcement relations, human trafficking, victim advocacy issues and conducts community outreach for at-risk individuals while functioning as a credible messenger and mentor to young adults and juveniles on probation or in custody.
Walter Lam is the president of Alliance for African Assistance. Born and raised in northern Uganda, Lam, fled political persecution to Kenya and went to Egerton University where he in graduated in agricultural engineering. He returned to Uganda in 1981 and worked with the government in various management positions. In 1986, he again fled political persecution to Kenya and by the end of the year he found himself in San Diego. Upon arrival to the United States, Lam recognized that there were no programs that addressed the needs of African refugees arriving in San Diego. In 1989, he founded the Alliance for African Assistance with the purpose of helping fellow refugees from Africa. Over the past 20 years the Alliance has greatly expanded to serving thousands of refugees from all over the world.
April Laster is the founder and CEO of Open Heart Leaders (OHL), San Diego’s only African-American, female-led mental health 501(c3) organization that offers wraparound services consisting of life coaching, counseling, resources and mediation. Born in Jackson, Miss. and raised in Southern California, Laster studied mass communications and business at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. Later she obtained certifications as a master-certified life coach and certified trauma-informed trainer. With the motto “Approaching every situation with an open heart,” Laster has forged ahead in meeting the continuous demands of her community by positioning Open Heart Leaders as San Diego’s first grassroots nonprofit organization to partner with a major university.
Francine Maxwell is the NAACP San Diego Branch president. For the past 20 years, Maxwell has been a distinguished community advocate pursuing social, educational and economic justice for the most vulnerable among us. As a single parent of two adult children who graduated from historical Black colleges and universities, she is inspired and informed by the struggles that families, children and seniors face each day.
Glenn McKinney is the assistant pastor of St. Stephens Church of God in Christ. He is the fifth and youngest son of a family with three generations of dedication to community service. Both sets of his grandparents fought Jim Crow laws and violent disenfranchisement with spiritual and material development support for African American communities in the Midwest and Southern states through their work with the Church of God in Christ. A husband and father of three, McKinney is committed to daily community service through is work with Job Corps in addition to providing essential social services to Black communities in San Diego and worldwide.
Robbie Robinson serves on the Broadway Heights Community Council. For the last 40 years, he has worked on organizations’ strategies and focus groups to provide promising best practices to address the deficiencies in systems that negatively impact housing development and social justice. Robinson has worked in social services, community development and community civic engagement at various levels for community groups and organizations. He has been trained by the Institute of Cultural Affairs to do strategic planning and goal setting.
Ramla Sahid is the executive director at Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans and a City Heights Community Advocate. Through PANA, Sahid has overseen the organization’s growth and prominence as it has skyrocketed in a few short years to become one of San Diego’s most important civic engagement and advocacy organizations.
Nate Stewart is the pastor of Greater Life Church. A native of Macon, Ga., Stewart holds a bachelor of theology and master of ministry degrees and has been privileged to travel both nationally and internationally conducting revivals, workshops, and seminars. Stewart is the third pastor in the Greater Life Church’s 45-year history in which they were recognized as one of the top 100 US Emerging Churches to Watch by Outreach Magazine.
Harvey L. Vaughn, III is the pastor of Bethel Memorial A.M.E. A third-generation preacher, Vaughn was born, raised and educated in St. Louis. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia College and has extensive background in the non-profit and mortgage/lending industries. Prior to his appointment at Bethel Memorial A.M.E., Vaughn was the pastor at Fountain of Hope A.M.E. Church in Las Vegas.
The advisory group will meet quarterly and hold its first meeting on Feb. 19.