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Meet the 2019 Empower Me Summit Speakers – Last Chance to Purchase Tickets

The Empower Me Summit brings together some of the greatest minds in the Pittsburgh Region on a platform of collaboration, education, and inspiration for community support and black empowerment. At the Summit, attendees will have the opportunity to gain valuable insight and knowledge from these amazing speakers.


Learn more about our speakers:


Ricardo “Rick” Williams- Manager of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Pittsburgh


Rick holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a baster’s degree in Non-Profit Management from Robert Morris University. He is also a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh – Class XXXI, a community-focused program that selects emerging leaders across Allegheny County. Rick was awarded the 2012 Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence for his work in Human Services and Community Development.


Since 2015, Rick has been the Manager of Equity and Inclusion for the City of Pittsburgh, overseeing the Equal Opportunity Review Commission (E.O.R.C.).  Rick and his staff work collaboratively with external vendors and city departments to create entry points of opportunity for minority and women vendors to secure constructions and professional service contracts.


Mr. Mark S. Lewis- President and Chief Executive Officer of POISE Foundation


Mark, a Pittsburgh native, graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.  His career began in public accounting where he spent over 13 years working for Price Waterhouse and Ernst & Young LLP providing auditing and consulting services and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1991. He joined POISE in 2002 as President and COO and was later appointed to CEO. He is active in the community serving on and having leadership roles on several boards including Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh, Scout Reach, Kappa Scholarship Endowment Fund, Support America’s Teachers, and Carlow University President’s Advisory Council.


Mr. Lewis is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh XXII and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Mr. Lewis is also the co-founder of the African American Funders Group, a local group of African Americans working for Foundations or other grantmaking organizations in Pittsburgh.  Mr. Lewis was also instrumental in the founding of the Sankofa Fund of Southwest PA, a giving circle comprised of African Americans who are pooling their resources of time, treasure, and talent to invest in causes that will positively impact Pittsburgh’s Black community. Mr. Lewis currently resides in Wilkins Township, PA with his wife, Michelle.


Derrick Tillman- Founder & President Bridging The Gap Development, LLC


Founded in 2006, Bridging the Gap Development, LLC (“BTG”) is a socially responsible diversified real estate development firm based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Derrick L. Tillman leads the company’s mission to rebuild sustainable communities through residential and commercial development by “bridging the [real estate and opportunity] gaps” in a community. In order to achieve this goal, BTG develops a variety of projects including multi-family affordable housing, homeownership properties, and market-rate rental, as well as mixed-use and commercial development projects.


The firm recently completed the Miller Street Apartments, a 36-unit new construction Affordable Housing project that has “raised the bar” and is the new face of Affordable housing. The firm has also used their business acumen to innovatively train many unemployed and underemployed individuals with construction and/or weatherization skills. BTG, a Minority Business Enterprise itself, is committed to providing opportunities to other M/WBEs.


Darryl Wiley- CEO of FAME


Darryl T. Wiley, born in Newark, N.J. is the proud CEO of the Fund for Advancement of Minorities through Education (FAME), answering the communities’ call to action around education, enrichment, and philanthropy. FAME provides Pittsburgh, PA area African-American 3rd-12th graders access to quality education by providing need-based scholarships to attend independent schools as well as year-round academic and social enrichment programming.


After graduating from Newark Public Schools, in Newark, N.J. Mr. Wiley followed by earning a bachelor’s degree in Black Studies from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. Mr. Wiley has dedicated his life to improving the educational conditions and outcomes of African-American children, always asking, “Is it in the best interest of our children?”


The lack of guidance he received in high school to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer fueled his passion for twenty-eight years in various roles. As an in-home worker, coordinator, and CEO, Mr. Wiley has partnered with hundreds of families in their pursuit of higher education, particularly STEM careers. Mr. Wiley is excited to work on answering our communities’ call to action through FAME to address the dismal number of Black teachers as well as the need for Black Philanthropy through the Wiley Family Fund, which was established in 2018.


Valarie J. Cofield – President and Chief Executive Officer of the Eastern Minority Supplier Development Council (EMSDC)


Since 2014, Cofield has been using her numerous years working in business development and supplier diversity to spark and facilitate business partnerships between EMSDC’s corporate members and its certified Minority Business Enterprises. Cofield is an alumnus of Franklin & Marshall College, where she earned a Bachelor of the Arts (B.A.).


As a creative thinker with invaluable experience in strategy development, contract negotiations, and opportunity identification, Cofield embodies EMSDC’s role as a connector and facilitator for business opportunities and is the consummate champion for diversity and inclusion, motivated by the desire to position EMSDC as a leader in the industry continuing to prepare MBEs to successfully engage with the supply chains of its corporate and institutional members, while making the case for supplier diversity. She is also focused on ensuring that certified MBEs/diverse suppliers meet the current and future needs of the supply chain and are positioned to bring value and solutions to the procurement process.


Over the last 30 years, Cofield has worked proactively on all sides of the issues surrounding supplier diversity and inclusion, including advocacy at the highest levels of government and industry. In her current and previous positions, she has assisted public entities in implementing economic development initiatives and private companies in developing their supplier diversity business strategies.


Currently, Cofield serves on Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Inclusion, and Small Business Opportunities. She is also a member of the City of Philadelphia’s Rebuild Oversight Board and the Office of Economic Opportunity’s Advisory Council. While Cofield serves on numerous Boards and committees, but she is most proud of the ten years that she served as a Girl Scout Leader. Her many achievements include DiversityPlus Magazine 2015 Top 30 Supplier Diversity Professionals, 2016 SmartCEO Philadelphia Brava Award, and MBN USA 2015 Champions of Supplier Diversity.


Limited Tickets Available- Last Chance to Purchase!


Don’t miss your chance to spend an evening learning from these brilliant minds! Tickets are selling fast and with the event, only days away, now is the time to get your tickets to the Empower Me Summit. Click here to purchase your tickets today.

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