Founder & CEO, The Collier Connection
Senior Economic Opportunity Advisor, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Sheena Collier is a super-connector, strategist, facilitator, and program developer. As Founder & CEO of The Collier Connection (TCC), she is creating an ecosystem in Boston that better connects black transplants to resources, information, experiences, and each other. TCC also specializes in helping companies to engage new audiences through strategic events and inclusive business practices. She has 15 years of experience in education, communications, economic development, and community organizing – and uses her ability to navigate different environments to broker partnerships within and across sectors.
Sheena also serves in the role of Senior Economic Opportunity Advisor at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, where she leads and supports initiatives to engage the private sector in advancing economic inclusion. She is the primary architect and producer of the Pacesetters program, the Chamber’s partnership of large and mid-sized companies and anchor institutions using their collective purchasing power to create opportunities at scale for local, ethnic minority-owned businesses. In addition, Sheena curates Fierce Urgency of Now (F.U.N.), a City Awake festival designed to highlight the experiences, challenges, and possibilities for millennials of color in Greater Boston.
Sheena is a 2018 recipient of the GK25: Who is Who Millennial Leaders Awards, 2018 nominee of the Ad Club’s Rosoff Awards, and a 2016 recipient of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Award. She received her BA from Spelman College and her Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Sheena is a proud board member of Jeremiah Program Boston.
Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers
Michael Curry serves as the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, which represents 52 health centers, serving over a million patients. Community health centers were born out of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, as a vehicle to provide quality, accessible and affordable health care to medically underserved and racially diverse communities, as well as to stimulate economic opportunity. He has worked on both state and federal health reform, substance use funding, Medicaid Waivers, as well as reauthorizations for health center and public health programs. His role has taken him from Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury to Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill. He serves on numerous boards in Massachusetts, including the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the Kids Count Advisory Committee, the Massachusetts Non-profit Network, among others. At the request of Governor Deval Patrick, he served for six-years on Roxbury Community College’s Board of Directors to assist in the community college’s turnaround. Nationally, he serves on the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Chairs the board’s Advocacy & Policy Committee, as well as Vice-Chairs the Political Action and Legislation Committee.
Prior to joining the Mass League, Michael had a 16-year career at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), where he worked in customer service, claims, IT, audit & controls, and spent the last 10 years working in Corporate Affairs. In BCBSMA’s Corporate Affairs Division, his work included community relations, internal communications, public relations and government affairs. He was the company’s lead on tracking and monitoring the 2006 landmark health reform law, and in 2006 served as staff support on Governor Deval Patrick’s Health Care Transition Committee, as well as a member of Mayor Walsh’s Health Care Transition Committee (2014). Attorney Michael Curry is also the Immediate Past President of the Boston Branch of the NAACP (2010 – 2016), and a graduate of the Executive Leadership Council’s (ELC’s) national Pipeline to Leadership Program.
He has received numerous local and national leadership awards including: a National Association for Community Health Centers (NACHC) Advocacy Award; Whittier Street Community Health Center’s Men’s Health Champion Award; and recognition by Mayor Martin Walsh and the City of Boston for his civil rights advocacy. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he returned in June 2017 to receive the school’s Catherine Lealtad Service to Society Award. He has a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from New England School of Law. Michael also teaches a health policy course at Suffolk University’s Moakley Center and Sawyer School of Management.
Most recently Attorney Curry had the opportunity to pursue his passion for acting. He portrays the role of newspaper editor and activist William Monroe Trotter in the film Birth of a Movement: The Battle Against America’s First Blockbuster. This film aired on PBS on February 6, 2017 and has been seen by close to two million viewers. In 1915, Trotter waged a battle against D.W. Griffith’s groundbreaking blockbuster, The Birth of a Nation, an infamous reinventing of history that was friendly to the Ku Klux Klan.
Michael was raised in Lenox Street Housing Projects and later on Quincy Street in Roxbury, and is often quoted saying, “Where I’m from keeps where I am in perspective.” Michael is a father raising three sons: Marcus Curry (23), recent graduate of St. John’s University in May; Michael Jr. (16); and Malcolm (10). The Curry family have lived in Brockton since 2006.
Executive Director & Campaign Manager, Voter Choice Massachusetts
Mac D’Alessandro is a political operative who got his start in politics at the age of 12 when he went door-to-door on Harold Washington’s first campaign for mayor of Chicago. Since then, Mac has developed and executed innovative and successful community and voter engagement programs. His field programs, ranging in size from 5 to over 1,000, have been utilized by many campaigns around the country, from municipal races to presidential campaigns and everything in between. In MA, Mac has worked on the campaigns of late-Mayor Thomas Menino, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and the Coalition to Protect Mass Jobs/ Vote No on 3.
Mac has over 20 years of experience in a wide range of issue and electoral campaigns at Greater Boston Legal Services, SEIU, NARAL and, since 2012, at Democracy Partners, a national political consultancy in which Mac is a principal.
In 2010, Mac took a break from helping others get elected to run for office himself when he ran for United States Congress in the Democratic primary. In a mere 5 months, Mac’s congressional campaign went from zero name recognition and no funds to one that raised $350,000 and garnered the endorsement of the Boston Globe.
Mac has an undergraduate degree from Rutgers University and a law degree from Boston College Law School. He lives in Canton with his two children, Sophie and Atticus. In his free time, Mac tries to keep up with younger, fitter folks at his CrossFit class without being seriously injured.
General Counsel, Compass Working Capital
Co-Founder, Latina Circle and Amplify Latinx
Betty Francisco is an entrepreneur, angel investor, business executive, attorney and community leader. Currently, Betty is the General Counsel at Compass Working Capital where she serves as the organization’s chief legal advisor and director of the national network. She has over 20 years of experience advising health and fitness businesses, life sciences, and technology companies in the areas of legal, compliance, risk management, operations, and human resources. Most recently, Betty served as the CEO and Founder of FitNation Ventures, a business and legal consulting practice focused on advising health and fitness companies, and which launched Reimagine Play, a startup that offers fitness programming for children and families in Greater Boston. Previously, she served as EVP, General Counsel for Sports Club/LA and Reebok Sports Club/NY, a fitness brand acquired by Equinox Fitness. Betty began her legal career as a Senior Business Law Associate at Edwards Wildman, one of Boston’s largest law firms representing start-ups, corporations and investors. Betty is also an investor with Pipeline Angels, a network of new and seasoned women investors focused on creating capital for women social entrepreneurs.
Betty is also a dedicated community leader who has been involved with a number of non-profit and civic leadership organizations. She is the co-founder of Latina Circle/Amplify Latinx, a Boston-based social venture focused on increasing Latinx civic engagement and leadership representation. She serves on the boards of directors of Beth Israel Lahey Health, Roxbury Community College, YMCA of Greater Boston, and the Board of Corporators of Eastern Bank. She is also a member of the Investment Committee of Boston Impact Initiative Fund and the Advisory Council of The Capital Network. Betty obtained her J.D. and M.B.A. from Northeastern University, and her B.A. in History from Bard College. You can learn more about Betty at http://bettyfrancisco.com
Executive Director, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Inc.
A lifelong resident of Boston, Segun Idowu is a proud product of the Boston Public Schools. Following his graduation from Boston Latin Academy, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in History at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and honors from the Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key Societies.
In August 2014, Segun organized the Boston Police Camera Action Team (BPCAT) with his colleague, Shekia Scott. BPACT’s mission was to further accountability and safety in Boston through the mandatory use of police body-worn cameras. As a result of their efforts, Boston began a yearlong mandatory body-worn camera pilot program and policy in September 2016. In 2018, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced a $2 million investment in a permanent citywide body-worn camera program.
In 2018, Segun was elected to serve as the 1st Vice President for the Boston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the first chapter of the oldest civil rights advocacy organization in the nation. In this role, he managed the much heralded and research intensive report card project that assessed the city’s efforts and results in addressing systemic racial disparities.
In addition to the NAACP Boston, Segun also sits on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Massachusetts, Southwest Boston CDC, New Leaders Council (NLC), Voter Choice Massachusetts, and the Roxbury YMCA. He also advises initiatives at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
Segun was recently recognized as an “Influential Millennial of Color” in the city of Boston and currently serves as the Executive Director for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Inc. (BECMA).
Meghan E. Irons
Reporter, Boston Globe
Meghan E. Irons is a veteran journalist at the Boston Globe, covering a range of topics that touch on how culture, politics, and social issues intersect with every day life. She was a member of the award-winning project 68 Blocks, has explored the diverse communities in Boston, and currently serves as the City Hall Bureau chief, where she has been focusing on administration of Mayor J. Walsh.
Prior to the Globe, Meghan worked at The Providence Journal, The Baltimore Sun and the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in Indiana. She was raised in Dorchester and Mattapan, and currently lives in Hyde Park.
Robert Lewis, Jr.
Founder & President, The BASE
Robert Lewis, Jr. is a nationally recognized thought leader, public speaker and passionate advocate for urban youth. He has held roles such as Executive Director of the Boston Centers for Youth and Families, President and Executive Director of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Senior Vice President of City Year’s national operations and Executive Director of City Year Boston, and Vice President for Program at the Boston Foundation, where he directed the distribution of $16 million+ in discretionary grants. Robert was the chief architect of two important initiatives during his tenure at the Boston Foundation: StreetSafe Boston – the country’s only privately-funded ($15m) gang program with a mission to dramatically reduce gun violence in the city; and CHAMPS Boston – which promotes positive youth development through sports by training over 5,000 youth sports coaches in Greater Boston. In 2013, he launched The BASE, a model and methodology that changes the paradigm for urban youth by providing student athletes with the opportunity, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to develop a winning game plan for success both on and off the field.
President, University of Massachusetts
Marty Meehan is the first undergraduate alumnus to lead the five-campus University of Massachusetts system. On July 1, 2015, he became the university’s 27th president after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and as chancellor of UMass Lowell.
Meehan has an abiding belief in public higher education’s power to transform lives. At his presidential inauguration on Nov. 12, 2015, Meehan pledged to fight for UMass, which he called “the most important institution in Massachusetts in the critical areas of social mobility and economic growth.”
Under Meehan’s leadership and with his support and advocacy, UMass has reached new heights and achieved historic milestones. As of the 2018-19 academic year:
- Enrollment has reached a record 75,000 students
- Research expenditures have risen to more than $650 million
- Institutional aid funding has increased by more than $100 million to a record $347 million
- The university’s statewide annual economic impact is measured at a record $6.2 billion
- For the third consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has ranked all four UMass undergraduate campuses in the top tier of national universities – making it one of the few university systems in the nation with that distinction
- UMass Law achieved full ABA accreditation and its bar pass rates rose to the fifth-highest in New England, with a 92.6 percent pass rate for first-time test takers.
Born in Lowell, Meehan was one of seven children in a family where the importance of education was stressed. After attending Lowell public schools, Meehan, a first-generation college student, graduated cum laude from UMass Lowell in 1978 with a degree in education and political science. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University in 1981 and a juris doctor from Suffolk University Law School in 1986.
Meehan embraced a career in public service early in his life. He served as the deputy secretary of state for securities and corporations from 1986 to 1990. In 1991, he became first assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, managing a staff of more than 150, including 80 prosecutors, and establishing an innovative “priority prosecution” policy that targeted hardened criminals.
Seeing an opportunity to expand his public service commitment and to serve his nation, Meehan ran for U.S. Congress and was elected to represent the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992. He served on the House Armed Services and Judiciary committees and established a national reputation for his legislative leadership, winning praise for his efforts to protect the public from the health risks of tobacco. Meehan was a central figure in campaign finance reform and a major sponsor of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold Bill in the Senate and the Shays-Meehan Bill in the House.
Rep. Jim O’Day
State Representative, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Jim O’Day was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts and attended Worcester Academy and Worcester State College. Jim graduated with a Bachelor of Science, with a specialization in Urban Studies and Management. After college, Jim served as a social worker for the Department of Social Services (now Department of Children and Families), serving families in central Massachusetts for over twenty-four years. In 2007, Jim ran in a special election for an open seat in the 14th Worcester District (composed of the town of West Boylston and parts of Worcester) in a hotly contested race. He went on to win the election in April 2007 and was sworn into the House of Representatives in May of 2007.
Representative O’Day has served as the chairman of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs and is currently the chairman of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government. He is a member of the Board of Directors with the United Way of Central Massachusetts and a member of the Central Massachusetts Labor Council. Representative O’Day recognizes the important role that government plays in every community and the many different services that are provided to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. In addition, Representative O’Day is a Licensed Social Worker and has extensive experience in education and group counseling at a treatment facility in central Massachusetts. Jim currently serves on the Advisory Board for Rockdale Recovery High School and is an active and vocal advocate for the recovery community.