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2021 Speakers


  • Marques Colston - Strategist | Entrepreneur | Champion​ | Former Saints Great 




  • Dr. Anthony C. Hood - Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for First Horizon Bank


  • Kyndra Joi - Radio Personality and Program Director of Power 504 Radio/PowerVision TV Online, Executive Director at I am My Sister

Thursday Night Immersive Networking Program


Marques Colston - Strategist | Entrepreneur | Champion​ | Former Saints Great 

Session: Keynote Address - Intentional Leadership: Unlocking Performance Through Diversity and Innovation

Marques Colston is the founder of Marques Colston Enterprises (MCE), a professional development services company, which empowers organizations and growth-minded individuals to unlock creativity and possibility to experience sustainable business success.

Creating Separation is a Mindset© inspired by his illustrious NFL career, spanning a decade. Marques’ game-changing methodology of ‘Creating Separation’ is the paradigm shift that has propelled him to overcome adversity and experience seemingly unattainable accomplishments both personally and professionally, over his lifetime.

“The reality is most business professionals have dealt with limitations external forces place on their ability to succeed. The good news is they don’t have to accept them.” Marques is convinced you can build professional success and transcend perceived limitations with the right mindset and strategies.

Marques’ sustained durable competitive advantage is Irrational Confidence™ -- A mindset shift rooted in the belief that an individual can perform at seemingly unattainable levels due to having the right mentality, well developed strategies, and grit.

Irrational Confidence™ was the contributing factor to the creation of employment opportunities, community development outreach programs, and opportunities for athletes as a franchise owner in professional football. Marques’ ventures have since expanded to business ownership, partnership, investment and advisory roles for dozens of businesses and organizations.

The rigors and challenges experienced through his success and failure have uniquely positioned Marques to empower entrepreneurs and business owners to open their minds to possibilities and create meaningful value to fuel their business trajectory.

Currently, Marques serves on the advisory committee for NFL Players Inc., the licensing arm of the NFL Players Association. He launched Venture Investing and Entrepreneurship for Professional Athletes, an executive education program for current and former professional athletes at the prestigious Columbia Business School. He has partnered with his alma mater, Hofstra University to create the Marques Colston Fellowship, which provides experiential learning opportunities for student-athletes in health majors. And is currently teaching entrepreneurship and life skills to undergraduate students as an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans.

Marques is a Super Bowl champion, inductee in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame and the Sports Hall of Fame in both Pennsylvania and Louisiana. While an active player for the New Orleans Saints, he was the all-time franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards, and total touchdowns.

Colston is a proud husband and father. He resides in the Greater Philadelphia area with his wife, Emily, a real estate professional and health and fitness expert, and their two children, Austin and Mia. Shift your thinking, develop strategies, achieve sustainable success.


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Theresa Agovino - Workplace Editor for SHRM 

Session: Creating a Workplace that Embraces Working Mothers​

As the workplace editor for SHRM, Agovino covers a wide array of topics that affect organizations and their employees, including diversity, ageism, the environment and the economy.  Agovino joined SHRM in 2018 after spending four years as a freelance journalist. She was a reporter for Crain’s New York Business and The Associated Press, and also spent six years as a Budapest-based foreign correspondent for a variety of publications.

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Kelly Charles-Collins, ESQ., MBA - CEO of HR Legally Speaking, Attorney, Speaker, Author and Consultant

Session: Disrupt Unconscious Bias: Act on Facts, Not Fiction

Kelly Charles-Collins, CEO of HR Legally Speaking, LLC, has the unique ability to make difficult and sensitive topics more approachable.

She’s a powerhouse attorney and expert on disrupting unconscious bias, bystander intervention, and workplace investigations. Kelly leverages her 20+ years of employment law experience, intuitive perspective, and engaging personality to empower leaders to stay on the right side of the next #hashtag movement.

Leaders love Kelly’s practical tools that instantly improve company culture, promote diversity, equity and inclusion, and boost productivity while protecting their people and profit. She is the author of ACE Your Workplace InvestigationsSpeak: Silence is Not an Option!, and Conversations Change Things: The “PER”fect Framework for Courageous Conversations.

Kelly is also the Founder of Ladies Who Leverage, a global women’s community, whose mission is to empower women to leverage their expertise, resources, and relationships to build their business, brand, and badassery. Under her brand Coach Kelz, she’s also the Chief Visioneer who empowers women to reverse engineer their visions into reality.

Kelly and her award-winning TEDx Talk - The Bystander Effect: Why Some People Act and Others Don’t have been featured on television and podcasts and she’s been quoted in several publications, including ABC, NBC, Forbes and Fast Company.

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John Coffee IV, MBA - Director of Talent Acquisition & Technology for the Hanna Resource Group

Session: Taking Action! 5 Steps to Improving Your Diversity Hiring Strategy

As HRG’s Director of Talent Acquisition & Technology, John brings over 14 years of experience in the talent industry with specialties ranging from: In-House Talent Acquisition, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), staffing, recruitment technology deployment, and vendor management (MSP) in the recruiting space. He is responsible for managing the recruiting needs of HRG’s existing client portfolio, developing new recruiting relationships, and overseeing recruitment technology evaluation, implementation and deployment initiatives. Prior to HRG, John achieved success as an Implementation Leader and as a Senior Talent Acquisition Business Partner for over 7 years with ManpowerGroup, driving talent acquisition initiatives across multiple lines of business from mid-level to C- suite throughout the US, Canada, Mexico and other global markets.

John’s previous experience includes onsite staffing, leading a team of direct reports in recruiting and sustaining a workforce of up to 1000+ contingent employees in a staffing environment as well as oversight of targeted, niche searches servicing a variety of Fortune 50-500 companies across the US.

John takes pride in his ability to optimize technology and provide insight into market and competitive intelligence in the recruiting space. He has deep exposure working across a wide range of HRIS, ATS and VMS tools within the recruitment space. He is relentless in his pursuit to enhance ROI on talent investment and has dedicated his career to finding the right people, for the right job!

John holds an AACSB accredited MBA from Ohio University. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Kent State University with a dual focus in Marketing and International Relations.

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Jada Monica Drew - CEO of Social Designs

Session: Fostering a Culture of Bravery in the Midst of Division​

When people think of Jada, they think, results, impact, innovation, and community. Jada takes intentional time with clients to ensure optimum results and an engaged experience. Jada is passionate about working with leaders and serving as a catalyst for growth as a trainer, coach, and consultant.

She is the CEO of Social Designs , a leadership and diversity firm, and the visionary of the Bloom: Innovative Solutions for Inclusion annual conference. She is also a True Colors International and Intercultural Development Inventory certified trainer.

Jada knows what truly drives systemic change; building relationships, historic truth-telling, and creative action. She has been recognized as a United Nations DPINGO speaker and featured in Made in Greensboro . She is also active in the community as a board member of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce and the United Way Impact Team.

When she’s taking a break from speaking and training, Jada enjoys cooking, spending time with family, working out, and traveling.

Connect with Jada @jadamonicadrew
YouTube | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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Dr. Helen Holton, IDI, CPED, CPCC, ICF, CPA, SHRM-CP, PHR - Chief Thought Leader at Dr. Helen Holton and Assocaites

Session: What’s the IDI?  Why We Need It Now More Than Ever

Helen Holton, Chief Thought Leader, Dr. Helen Holton and Associates is a recovering elected official after 20+ years public service.  Today, a powerful coach, trainer, consultant, author, and speaker who brings an intercultural perspective to local issues with global impact from the intersection of race, gender, political power and privilege.  She lives an authentic life, unapologetically. Dr. Helen speaks truth to power and brings light into the darkness.  A bridge-builder for inclusion, diversity, equity, and resilience.

A Gallup Certified Strengths Coach & Trainer; Qualified Administrator, Intercultural Development Inventory® (IDI)®; Professional in Human Resources (PHR & SHRM-CP); Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and Certified Mentor Coach (CMC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF).

Follow her on social media at, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

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Bryan Martin -  Program Manager for Inclusion Programs at the SHRM Foundation

Session: Getting Talent Back To Work

Bryan Martin is the Program Manager for Inclusion Programming at the SHRM Foundation. Bryan has over eight years of experience managing strategic, mission-driven non-profit programs. Prior to coming to the SHRM Foundation, Bryan served as the Program Manager for Wounded Warrior Project’s Mental Health and Wellness Programs where he developed clinical and non-clinical programming for veterans and their families. Additionally, Bryan spent eight years in the United States Air Force serving a myriad of roles including Program Manager of Employee Performance and Evaluation and Military Outreach Programming. Bryan holds his graduate degree in Non-Profit Management from Johns Hopkins University and is a candidate for his Masters in Human Resource Management from Georgetown University where he anticipates to graduate December 2020.

At the SHRM Foundation, Bryan oversees the development of inclusion initiatives for veterans, individuals with criminal records, and those with disabilities. In his free time, he seeks opportunities to serve the LGBTQ+ and Autism Communities through volunteering at various non-profit organizations.

You can contact Bryan Martin at via phone or email at 703.535.6078 or

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Tamara M. Rasberry, SHRM-CP, PHR - Owner, Rasberry Consulting, LLC

Session: Let’s Talk About It! Mental Health Awareness and Creating a Mental Health Friendly Workplace​

Tamara M. Rasberry, SHRM-CP, PHR, currently serves as the Director, HR & Operations for a national nonprofit   organization and is the owner of Rasberry Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in developing strategies for inclusion, diversity, equity and belonging with a focus on addressing mental health in the workplace. Her over 20 years of HR and nonprofit experience have included in-house and consultant roles with nonprofit organizations of all sizes in the DC Metropolitan area. 

Tamara is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and holds the
SHRM Inclusive Workplace Culture Specialty Credential. She is also a member of the National Diversity Council and is passionate about going beyond representational diversity to creating inclusive and psychologically safe workplaces that put people first while still reaching strategic goals. Tamara’s thought leadership on mental health and diversity & inclusion have been sought and shared by multiple mainstream media outlets including, Forbes, SHRM HR Magazine, WorkHuman, Ultimate Software and the New York Times. 

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Chris Tyson - President & Chief Executive Officer for Build Baton Rouge

Session: Equitable Development and Its Impact on Racial Equity in Louisiana

Chris serves as the President and CEO and is responsible for directing day-to-day operations as well as developing and implementing the Authority’s short and long term strategy and plans. Also serves as a direct liaison to the Build Baton Rouge’s Board of Directors and communicates on behalf of the Authority to other key stakeholders, including the City of Baton Rouge/East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President. He is a Baton Rouge native and holds a Bachelor of Architecture, with honors, from Howard University; a Masters of Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School; and a Juris Doctor degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. Chris has also practiced as a real estate and land use attorney, a management consultant, and a member of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu’s Washington, DC legislative staff.

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Steven Walesch - Vice President HR Talent Acquisition for Ochsner Health

Session: Taking Action! 5 Steps to Improving Your Diversity Hiring Strategy

Steve leads the Talent Acquisition teams, responsible for strategies, analytics, employment branding, talent attraction, sourcing, recruitment, pre-boarding, and non-employed labor.  He has worked at Ochsner Health for almost 2 years, coming from another large healthcare organization, and prior was working for a leading recruitment marketing agency.

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Deborah Grimes, RN, JD, MSHQS - VP Chief of Diversity and Inclusion for Ochsner Health

Deborah Grimes received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UAB worked as Registered Nurse for 10 years. She graduated from the Birmingham School of Law with a Juris Doctor Degree. 

Deborah worked at UAB Risk Management as a Healthcare Attorney.  In 2004, she returned to Hospital Administration as the Director of Joint Commission/ Quality Resources. She was promoted to VP of Quality/Regulatory Affairs named Chief Compliance Officer for UAB Hospital. During this tenure she received a certification as a Healthcare Quality Professional, Certified Healthcare Compliance, completed leadership fellowship training with Momentum Inc. and graduated with Master’s in Science Degree in Quality and Patient Safety. Effective April 1, 2017 she was appointed as UAB Health System first Chief Diversity Officer. Named by Savoy magazine 2019 one of the Most Influential Women in Corporate America. In March of 2020 was hired as Ochsner Health’s first VP Chief of Diversity and Inclusion. 

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Normanique Preston - Chief Human Resources & Diversity Officer, Cleco Corporate Holdings LLC

Normanique Preston oversees all facets of Cleco human capital which includes workforce planning, business partners, employee relations, learning and organizational development, talent acquisition, compensation, benefit systems and data analytics, labor relations and payroll. She also is responsible for Cleco’s diversity and inclusion strategy and communications.

She joined Cleco in August 2018 when she was named vice president of human resources. In September 2019, Preston transitioned to chief human resources and diversity officer. Preston has worked in the energy industry since 1998 in both the electric power generation and retail market and in natural gas processing and transportation. During her twenty plus years in the industry, Preston has overseen human resources vision and strategy, executive coaching and development, culture shaping and diversity and inclusion.

Prior to joining Cleco, Preston was vice president of human resources for Dynegy, a Houston-based electric power generation company that was subsequently acquired by Vistra Energy in 2018. Prior to Dynegy, Preston worked at Williams Companies Gas Pipeline Transco division as a strategic human resources business partner until 2003. Before starting her career in the energy industry, Preston worked in human resources at Williams Companies Communication Solutions division, Chase, Blockbuster and Xerox.

Preston holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. She also completed the executive management program at Rice University in Houston.

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Tamara J. Wyre, CIMA - Senior Vice President, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Hancock Whitney

Tamara Wyre leads corporate diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Hancock Whitney. She is dedicated to energizing a corporate culture respecting and reflecting the diversity of the communities served. Tamara is focused on strategies to attract, develop, and retain a talented and diverse workforce; and to enrich the company's culture, business growth, and community engagement. She also oversees the Hancock Whitney Diversity and Inclusion Council comprising associates from across the company's footprint. Wyre joined Hancock Whitney in 2018 as part of the Capital One Asset Management LLC acquisition as the vice president and senior portfolio manager spearheading the Diversity Leaders Investment Strategy, a socially responsible U.S. investment model invested in companies that demonstrate inclusive practices around gender and equality. Tamara has over 20 years in wealth and asset management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Hampton University College, MBA from Tulane University and a Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA ®) Certification from University of California, Berkeley.

Tamara actively serves on several boards and committees with education and economic empowerment at the forefront including Young Audiences of Louisiana, Dress For Success New Orleans, Café Reconcile and more. She actively promotes and facilitates financial literacy sessions for youth and adults including Rock the Street Wall Street. She was selected as a “Top Women in Asset Management“ by Money Management Executives”; as a “Money Makers” – Leading Financial Professional by New Orleans City Business; and named as an Executive Leadership Council Fellow during her career. Tamara is a subject matter expert on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in the workplace and often speaks to community and professional groups.

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Dr. Anthony C. Hood - Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for First Horizon Bank

Dr. Anthony C. Hood serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for First Horizon Bank. In this role, he leads the development and execution of firm-wide strategy for embedding DEI into the DNA of the organization.

He previously served as the Director of Civic Innovation in the Office of the President at UAB as well as an Associate Professor of Management in the Collat School of Business at UAB.

An electrical engineer by training, Dr. Hood enjoyed a 10 year career with BellSouth and AT&T supporting startup telecom companies in the firm’s wholesale division. He was honored with the Pinnacle Award, the company’s highest honor for productivity and leadership.

He left AT&T to pursue his PhD full time at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!). Since completing his PhD in only 3 years, he has completed studies at the Harvard Business School, Stanford and the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Dr. Hood received his undergrad and MBA from UAB (Go Blazers!). In 2019, Dr. Hood was honored by the UAB Alumni Association with the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award.

Dr. Hood is a board member of a number of organizations including the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, Birmingham Education Foundation, Urban Impact, the Woodlawn Foundation and the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District.

A social entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Hood has received a number of awards for his community-based efforts including the Power of Leadership Award from Alabama Power Company, the Community Game Changer award from the Vulcans Community Awards, and the Dr. A.G. Gaston Award from the A.G. Gaston Business Institute.

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Master of Ceremonies

Kyndra Joi - Radio Personality and Program Director of Power 504 Radio/PowerVision TV Online, Executive Director at I am My Sister

Kendra “Kyndra Joi” Parson has become one of the most sought after Emcee’s that have hit the scene. Charleston Raised and New Orleans grown, Kyndra is a radio personality and Program Director of Power 504 Radio/PowerVision TV Online, serves the executive director of the non-profit, I Am My Sister, Creative and Director of Gracefully Mindful Wellness Institute, LLC; is a Licensed Master Social Worker, Certified Meditation and Mindfulness Teacher, Certified Herbalist, Recording Artist, Emcee and newly a Published Children’s Author. Kyndra has earned a Master of Social Work degree from Illinois State University and has over 17 years of experience in the community servicing children and families as well as entertaining the masses.

Born and Raised in Charleston, SC, Kyndra is affectionately known as “Gullah Girl” in the community and actively educates and creates awareness of the Gullah culture through her new Gullah children book series and interactive workshops of language, dance and song.

Kyndra now blends culture, mindfulness/meditation and the creative process to assist individuals, families and groups to have a fuller experience in living!

Click here to learn more about Kyndra.

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Thursday Night Immersive Networking Program

Mitch Landireu - Founder & President of E Pluribus Unum

Session: Panel Discussion: From Confederate Symbols to EQUITY in Louisiana!

Mitch Landrieu is an American politician, lawyer, author, speaker, nonprofit leader, and CNN political commentator. He served as the 61st Mayor of New Orleans (2010-2018). When he took office, the city was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and in the midst of the BP Oil Spill.

Under Landrieu’s leadership, New Orleans was widely recognized as one of the nation’s great comeback stories. In 2015, Landrieu was named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing, and in 2016 was voted “America’s top turnaround mayor” in a Politico survey of mayors. He also served as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Landrieu gained national prominence for his powerful decision to take down four Confederate monuments in New Orleans, which also earned him the prestigious John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In his best-selling book, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, Landrieu recounts his personal journey confronting the issue of race and institutional racism that still plagues America.

In 2018, he launched E Pluribus Unum, an initiative in the South created to fulfill America’s promise of justice and opportunity for all by breaking down the barriers that divide us by race and class. E Pluribus Unum is building a series of programs and initiatives to cultivate courageous leaders who are committed to realizing an inclusive vision for a new South, champion transformative policies to reverse the enduring harms of America’s Jim Crow era past for those who continue to experience them today and change narratives that perpetuate systemic and interpersonal racism in order to shift people’s attitudes and behaviors.

Prior to serving as Mayor, Landrieu served two terms as lieutenant governor and 16 years in the state legislature. He and his wife Cheryl live in New Orleans, where they raised their five children.

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Jhacova Williams ​- Associate Economist at RAND Corporation

Session: Panel Discussion: From Confederate Symbols to EQUITY in Louisiana!

Jhacova Williams is an associate economist at RAND Corporation. She is an applied microeconomist focusing primarily on economic history and cultural economics. Her previous work has examined Southern culture and the extent to which historical events have impacted the political behavior and economic outcomes of Southern Blacks. Recent examples include historical lynchings and the political participation of Blacks; and Confederate symbols and labor market differentials. She has also done a series of projects investigating the role of structural racism in shaping racial economic disparities in labor markets. She received a B.S. in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana, a M.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland at College Park and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

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