We are thrilled to be honoring Yara Allen, Wanda Bryant Hope, Melissa Harris-Perry, James Perry, Mamie Kanfer Stewart, Dr. Sarah Kureshi, and Lekha Singh at our 20th annual Lives of Commitment Benefit Breakfast. Read about these inspiring leaders below.

Yara Allen

Yara_allen_webYara Allen is a movement theo-musicologist, spoken word artist, songwriter, organizer and activist. Yara currently serves as the Director of Cultural Arts for MPOLIS (Moral Political Organizing Leadership Institute), attends University of Mount Olive and volunteers as a leadership trainer with the local Alpha Omicron Chapter of Omega Psi. Yara travels the country teaching the cultural liturgy of the movement and rallying people to take action through song. She served as “Artist-in-Residence” for Auburn’s Mountain Top 2015 gathering and co-founded Circle of Real People, a drama, mime and dance troupe whose mission was to offer hope and inspiration through the arts. She is currently working on her first book, “Open Up Your Mouth,” a book of movement and inspirational poetry, songs, and stories.

Melissa Harris-Perry

MHP_webMelissa Harris-Perry is Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center. She is the former host of MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry. She is the author of the award-winning books Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. She previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.


James Perry

James_Perry_webJames Perry is president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League. Perry manages a 230 person staff across the state of North Carolina advocating for employment opportunities, affordable housing, voting rights and food security. Before coming to the Urban League, Perry served for 10 years as the the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center. Perry led the Center through hurricane Katrina, the most disastrous hurricane to make landfall in America. Under his leadership, the Center won more than half a billion dollars for victims of discrimination across Louisiana. Perry founded the Mississippi Gulf Coast Fair Housing Center, was a candidate in the 2010 New Orleans mayor’s race and has testified before Congress eight times. He serves on the National Fair Housing Alliance Board of Directors. Perry is a political science graduate of the University of New Orleans and a graduate of the Loyola University School of Law. Perry, his wife Melissa, and their two daughters split their time between New Orleans, New York City and Winston-Salem.

Wanda Bryant Hope

Wanda-Hope_webWanda Bryant Hope is Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Diversity Officer. She is responsible for advancing J&J’s diversity and inclusion strategy, strengthening the company’s global capabilities and global employer reputation, and driving innovation and growth for future success. Wanda has been recognized for her ability to exceed business results, deliver cutting edge solutions to complex challenges, lead global change, develop people for optimal results, and drive diversity. She has been actively involved with the company’s Women’s Leadership Initiative and the African American Leadership Council, and served as executive sponsor of the Janssen North American Pharmaceutical D&I council. Wanda has also received several awards including the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s Rising Star Award and the YWCA’s Tribute to Women in Industry Award. Wanda received her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from The Pennsylvania State University. She and her husband Bobby are the proud parents of a 9 year-old son, Tyler.

Sarah Kureshi, MD, MPH

SarahKureshi_webSarah Kureshi is a family medicine physician and an assistant professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has a special interest in health disparities, gender-based violence, health and human rights, and empowerment of underserved populations. Being a former NCAA college athlete and the first U.S. female athlete to compete in Iran since the 1979 revolution, she strongly believes in using sports as a tool for violence prevention and health education. Sarah has been a Physicians for Human Rights Asylum Network Provider and now trains medical students and physicians to provide medical evaluations for asylum seekers. She has worked with Project REACH, a grassroots, Muslim-led youth development organization in inner-city DC, and she is also a Shalom Hartman Fellow. Sarah has given many presentations, from Human Rights Watch to World Youth Peace Summit to American Muslim Health Professionals to empowering female students and healthcare providers in Pakistan through the State Department. Sarah currently serves as Co-Director of the Patients, Populations & Policy module, teaches on health and human rights, instructs students at HOYA Clinic, the student-driven free clinic and precepts family medicine residents. She and her husband, Wajahat Ali, are the proud parents of an 18 month old boy.

Lekha Singh

Lehka_webLekha Singh is a filmmaker and fine-art photographer whose work highlights the familiar within otherworldly settings. Her major photography exhibitions – Created Equal, Nomadic Camera, African Journeys, and The Other Half: Women in Focus, and The Weed Series – have been featured in numerous museum collections, magazines, and books, including National Geographic’s The Other Side of War: Women’s Stories of Survival and Hope. As a filmmaker, her documentary Beyond Right and Wrong showcases stories from people who have suffered from the genocide in Rwanda, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Troubles in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Through this film, Lekha illustrates the difficult path towards recovery and explores the role of forgiveness in the search for justice. Lekha also executive produced The Square, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Emmys.

Mamie Kanfer Stewart

mamie_kanfer_stewart_webMamie Kanfer Stewart is passionate about helping others achieve their missions through smart practices and great technology. Mamie is the Founder and CEO of Meeteor, an early stage venture developing software that enables teams to have more effective meetings. Previously, she served as Director of WOWV during which she consulted with non-profit organizations on staffing and strategic planning. Mamie is a Board Member and immediate Past Chair of InterfaithFamily, Vice-Chair of Bend the Arc and a Board Member of Luria Academy. Mamie formerly served on the boards of Moishe House and Slingshot. Mamie serves as a Director of two family foundations of the Kanfer family, Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation and Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, Justin, and two young daughters.