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Melannie Denise Cunningham





Tacoma, Washington

Melannie Denise Cunningham has been with the City of Tacoma Sister City Committee since it's inception in 1997 and is the USA delegation leader for this visit.  Over the 20 year relationship, Melannie has traveled to George several times and has been involved with diverse projects. Most notably, she participated in the efforts to establish Phambili - a shelter in George for battered women and their children which nearing 20 years in existence, still serves the George community.  She produced a television documentary titled Shattering Images focused on South African youth and American youth's sterotypes of each other and bringing understanding to what is similar to their teenage experience than different.  Shattering images is award winning and continues to be used in Tacoma classrooms that teach social studies and global awareness.

Melannie is a strategic thinker and a person that is known for bringing a fresh perspective and a positive attitude to any situation or environment. She has been inspiring audiences with her "keepin' it real" presentations about personal and professional development, self-esteem, and life's purpose for more than 30 years. Through the years, she has delivered speeches to hundreds of George youth motivating them to define success and go for it!

She is President and CEO of the Cunningham Network, Inc., a public relations and marketing agency that provides business development and media production services to community focused enterprises. Melannie is extremely passionate about social justice and equality for all people (especially women and girls), and brings that lens to every endeavor she contributes.

Melannie currently serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Green Dot Public Schools Washington, Women of Vision, NGO. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., and is chair of the City of Tacoma - George South Africa Sister City committee.

She holds a B.A. from Washington State University, Certificate of Training in Broadcast Production Technology from Bates Technical College and an M.B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University.  Melannie is a Daughter, Sister, Mother and "Granna" to Jalean who is 10 years. old.

Her TEDx Talk

Jewel Diamond Taylor

Founder, Women on the Grow LeadHERship & Empowerment Conference

Author - Life Coach - Resiliency Educator - Faith Builder

Rancho Cucamonga, California

Jewel Diamond Taylor is the founder and chief visionary behind the Women on the Grow concept.  She is a seasoned voice of empowerment including topics as: coping with adversity; following your passion and purpose; building self-esteem; how to stop sitting your assets; life lessons to endure, enjoy and excel in life; women's issues of race, resiliency and recovery;  leadership training.

Jewel, aka "The Self-esteem Dr.", is the author of several personal development books on emotional wellness, faith building and moving forward beyond procrastination, fears, and setbacks.

Taylor is a native of Washington D. C. and resides in southern California with her husband.  She has traveled to speak internationally and in most of the United States. Jewel is in demand as a keynote speaker, workshop leader, life coach and spiritual teacher for corporations, universities, churches, conferences, government agencies and women's retreats.

Her popular website is

Debrena Jackson Gandy

Nationally published author of three books';

International speaker - Entrepreneur, Success coach;

Transformational facilitator, Relationships coach;

TV Show Host - Mother of 3 and Wife!

Des Moines, Washington

Debrena has been seen on national and regional TV shows, is a popular radio show guest, a popular relationships guest blogger, and has been featured in magazines such as Oprah’s O, Ebony, Essence and Woman’s Day.

She has been a specialist in women’s empowerment and transformation since 1990, with students, mentees, participants and clients numbering in the thousands, across the United States and beyond. She is a Spiritual Midwife and Master Coach with over 5,000 clocked hours of coaching, and has designed over 150 tele-courses, retreats and events. 

She has been in leadership positions of teams from 25 up to 2,850 and won numerous awards.

Her websites:



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Shirley Coleman Aikin, RN, MSN

Lieutenant Colonel, Retired, Army Nurse Corps

Katy, Texas

Lieutenant Colonel, Retired, Army Nurse Corps

Shirley entered the Army Nurse Corps after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University. She worked in Labor & Delivery, Newborn Intensive Care Nursery (NICU), on GYN Surgery & Oncology, and as a Nurse Practitioner. After serving four years active duty she began teaching nursing and also entered the Army Nurse Reserves. In 1990, her Army Reserve unit was activated to serve in Operation Desert Storm, where she was the Nurse Manager on Acute Orthopedic Trauma in the war zone. She developed an innovative program for Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) to transition to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. She has taught several other courses including a course in Perioperative Nursing called "Join the Surgical Team", an RN Refresher Review Course and Transcultural Healthcare in Jamaica.

In 1999, Shirely retired from the Army Reserves with 27 years of military service. From 1998 to 2004, she served on the Washington State Nursing Quality Assurance Commission (The Washington State Board of Nursing). She frequently volunteered with community nursing organizations and churches providing free health screenings. She tutors and teaches classes to candidates in preparation for taking the NCLEX RN national nursing exam. She has two adult children, three grandchildren and enjoys craft activities.


Lynda Ash

United States Air Force Flight Nurse, Major, Retired

Community Health Worker - Veterans Administration Health Care System - Retired

American Red Cross Tacoma - Mount Rainer Chapter - Client Services Volunteer

Ebony Nurses of Tacoma - Community Outreach

University Place, Washington

Lynda is a member of the Leaders in Women’s Health initiative led by Women of Color who are helping to set and drive the health agenda for the City of Tacoma and Pierce County, Washington. The Leaders’ in Women’s Health seeks to provide education, create innovations and pilot demonstration projects that lead to better health outcomes in communities of color so that it empowers communities to take an active role in their health and their community.

Cathy Jones​​

Analyst, Community Servant

Missouri City, Texas

Cathy Jones is a Lease and Title Analyst with a mid-sized oil and gas company. She has over 40 years’ experience in the industry. In addition to being active in her church, she enjoys the opportunity to teach children in her local Bible Study Fellowship group.

Cathy has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Management from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. She has also earned certifications from the National Association of Lease and Title Analysts and the National Association of Division Order Analysts.

Currently living in Missouri City, a suburb of Houston, Texas, Cathy enjoys travelling, reading and meeting new friends.

Chilufiya Safaa​​

Master Teacher, Entrepreneur, Novelist, Speaker, Certified Coach

San Antonio, Texas

Chilufiya is Creator of Women’s Wisdom Circles – places where Goddesses gather to heal and to transform. Her mission is to bring healing, clarity and harmony to the world using a systematic process designed to assist women around the globe in their search for meaning and purpose.

Jada Berteaux ​​

Mediator, Conflict Resolution Trainer, Real Estate Managing Broker, Author

Seattle, Washington  

Jada has been a real estate managing broker for over 17 years winning numerous awards for excellence in customer satisfaction. Jada joined the mediator roster of the King County Dispute Resolution Center in 2013 where she practices family and community mediation and serves as a trainer to attorneys, teachers and other community members seeking to enter the field of mediation.

Jada has an extensive communication background including public relations, journalism and directing the district, state and national communications for numerous political campaigns including United States Senator Patty Murray. She has served as Executive Director for community based organizations such as Seattle Human Services Coalition and has served on many community boards and associations.

Jada has appeared as a guest on local television and radio broadcasts speaking on the subjects of politics and real estate. She is the owner of Soul Country Home, an emerging company that blends spirituality and healing in home design and staging.

Jada is an author and will be publishing her first book of poetry in 2017, Soul Country Home: Wind Down Words.

Kiana Gandy​​

2017 Graduated Student

Des Moines, Washington

Kiana Gandy is a 22 year-old, soon-to-be college graduate with a B.S. in Psychology. She attends Western Washington University (WWU) and will graduate in June 2017. During her 5 years at WWU, she played collegiate basketball and served as team co-captain her last 2 years. She was recently recognized as only the 27th woman in WWU history to break the 1,000-point scoring mark.

Kiana is disciplined, has a strong work ethic and is dedicated to excellence. She recently completed internships with Infinitely Well Consulting where she received first-hand experience on owning a private practice and also with Group Health’s Behavioral Health Administration where she gained experience working in a corporate environment.

Kiana is a middle daughter of three and has grown up in Des Moines, WA her entire life with both parents Joe and Debrena. She is very close with her sisters and credits them for much of her personality and character development. Kiana is extremely passionate about psychology and helping others live with less strain and more joy through clinical and holistic healing. Areas of focus that interest her most are racial trauma, developmental trauma and abnormal psychology. After graduation, she will take time off for one year and then pursue her Masters and PhD in psychology.

Malena Crawford​​

Author, Speaker, Transformation Coach

Rockville, Maryland

Malena Crawford is the author of the new acclaimed novel A Fistful of Honey branded a "Must Read" and a "healing balm of a book" by notables including Iyanla Vanzant and Debrena Jackson Gandy! It is redemption and healing wrapped in a page turning tale. 

Find it here:

Malena is also a speaker, and transformation coach. Her passion and purpose is bringing women from spiritual and emotional brokeness into wholeness. She has been featured in Blavity, Rolling Out Uptown and Cocoa Fab magazines. She holds degrees from the George Washington University in Psychology and Neuropsychology. Malena founded the Black Divine Feminine Reawakened movement; one dedicated to revolutionizing the way black women see and experience themselves. Malena facilitates workshops on personal development, empowerment, and anti-oppression across the globe. Her passion for writing and teaching come from a life story of healing and overcoming. A Fistful of Honey is her first novel and she is currently completing its sequel.

Connect with her on Instagram @malenacrawford or Facebook:

Millie Sims ​​

Entrepreneur, Travel Planner, Speaker, Philanthropist

Sterling Heights, Michigan

As a lighted vessel of GOD, Millie makes an impact through sharing her testimony and blessing others with gifts at local and national events across the United States. She has received many accolades for her work. She currently is Co-Founder of her non-profit organization "Divine Intervention Ministries" where they educate empower impact and transform women's lives via many annual events. Millie is also the visionary of the "Good Wife" ministry meeting monthly LOVING on widows to full healing so they can refresh restore and recharge their lives after their lost, back to GOD's order again!!

Millie serves as a chief steward and departmental technician for the State of Michigan, Local 6000. She received her B.S. in Criminal Justice many years ago but never ceased educating herself by also becoming a licensed real estate agent, travel planner and notary public. She also serves in leadership as a Minister (in training) with Kingdom Alliance Covenant at Second Ebenezer church while leading the prison ministry team.

She is the proud mother of three adult women & three grandchildren and loves “family night” every other week with them. She was married to her soul mate Tony Sims for more than 20 years until the LORD gave him his wings in December 2014!

Millie loves her covering and serves joyfully at Second Ebenezer under the leadership of Bishop Edgar & First Lady Vann! She often says she is “Living Life Like its GOLDEN!”; Giving back so freely what has been given to her and trusting GOD’s WORD: Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!” She's already in motion to Aim HIGHER & Expect GREATER FOR 2017!!

Nadia C. Pearce​​

Member of the Les Treize Business and Professional Women's Organization

Milford, Connecticut

I was born on the beautiful island of Jamaica. At age fourteen I migrated to the United States. I completed my high school studies at Warren Harding High School, Connecticut. After high school, I spent the next 4 years of my college studies at Oakwood College, in Huntsville Alabama where I earned a bachelor degree in Business Administration.

Uncertain of what career pathway I wanted to pursue when I came back to the east coast, I returned to school to become a school counselor. I earned a MS. Ed in school counseling and a 6th year degree. For the past eleven years I have enjoyed my career as an educator. I also enjoy giving back to my community. In 2014 I served as a democratic town committee member for the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut and I also served as the Youth Leader for my church.

In 2012, I participated in the Women's Mentoring and Manifestation Circle--which I must say through a divine connection with some wonderful women, led me to this Africa Bound journey. With a desire to do more, I was also inspired to join a mission trip. In 2016, I traveled to Fiji and was a volunteer team member serving in the efforts to reconstruct a church in a missionary project. In late summer '16 I was installed as a member of the Les Treize Business and Professional Women's Organization. I come from a very supportive family. When not spending time with them, I can be found checking out exciting places to travel for continued growth, inspiration and self-development.

Sahsha Campbell-Garbutt​​

Author, Metaspeaker, and Intrinsic Wellness Guide

Murrieta, California

Sahsha is Founder of Life and Light Wellness LLC, a firm that offers lifestyle coaching, plant-based education and herbal detoxification guidance. She is a CPR/AED certified Personal Trainer, mother and wife. In addition to her devotion to wellness, she’s a long-standing member of the Screen Actors Guild. Sahsha’s writing has been published in Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Creative Loafing and Lennox and Parker Magazine. She’s Co-Author of two Amazon best selling compilation books, “20 Beautiful Women Vol, 3” and “I Am Beautiful: The Evolution Of Beauty, where she also served as editor.

Sahsha is the recipient of the “Health is Wealth” award presented by Black Girlz Rock San Diego Chapter, for her exemplary passion and work in holistic wellness. She has shared her message of intrinsic fitness from coast to coast, recently filming a segment on TBN’s “Joy In Our Town” about the mind-body-soul connection to fitness.

Sahsha’s first full-length book, The Well: Where Fitness Begins From Within is available now on Amazon and You can learn more about her products and services on her sites, and

Serena D. Hale​​

Operations Analyst at DTE Energy Trading

Ypsilanti, Michigan

Enjoys: Crafts, traveling, laughter, spending time with family and friends, animals, music, the performing arts and warm hugs.

Favorite Movie: Harlem Nights, Fireproof

Favorite Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 10:13

Serena D. Hale is an Operations Analyst with a Utility in Michigan. She is a divorced mother of 4 children, 2 grandchildren and 1 great grandson. She is currently enrolled with Christian Research Development, studying Biblical Counseling, and will graduate July 2017 as a certified Biblical Counselor. She is passionate about strengthening young people and families with the Word of God.

Ms. Hale is an active church leader and member. She worships at Canton Christian Fellowship where David Washington Jr. is Pastor in Canton, Michigan (MI). Ms. Hale also serves on the Board of Directors for Stepping Stones to Freedom, a non-profit organization committed to alleviating homelessness in the state of Michigan. She also is an active member of the National Biblical Counseling Association.

Ms. Hale was born in Detroit, MI, raised in Detroit and also College Park, Georgia. She currently resides in Ypsilanti, MI.