Lester L. Barclay
A native of Chicago, Lester Barclay obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree, with honors, from Oberlin College in 1981. He then received his Juris Doctor Degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1986, Mr. Barclay was named a Henry Luce Scholar, having been identified by the Luce Foundation as one of the future leaders of America. As a result of being awarded a Luce Scholarship, Attorney Barclay was assigned to the Ministry of Industry of the Royal Thai Government in Bangkok, Thailand, where he worked to establish trade relations between companies in the United States and Southeast Asia. As an Attorney, Mr. Barclay has distinguished himself as a powerful advocate and champion for many families and businesses in Chicago and throughout the nation.
Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes
Rev. Dr. L. Bernard Jakes serves as Senior Pastor of the faith family of West Point Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois. He received his elementary education at Nicholas Copernicus and secondary education at Marie Curie Metropolitan of the Performing and Creative Arts High School. Furthering his education, he received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois; the Master of Arts degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
As Senior Pastor of the faith family of West Point Missionary Baptist Church, Dr. Jakes has witnessed numerous spiritual, financial, and administrative successes in the last 17 years. Dr. Jakes is highly involved with local, state and federal policymakers—utilizing his voice as a local pastor to speak truth to power as it relates to social justice, social action and social accountability. His passion, commitment and unwavering voice for social justice have led to policymakers seeking his voice and support on statewide issues such as sensible gun laws, support for same-gender marriage, increasing the minimum wage, education funding reform, etc. Locally, Dr. Jakes proudly served as a working member of The Mayor’s Commission for a Safer Chicago under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and on the transition team for Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Currently, he is a working member of the Faith-Based Leaders Advisory Board of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office and was appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to serve as a board member for Chicago Transit Authority. Dr. Jakes is a member of the Board of Trustees for Elmhurst College, as well as serves as an inaugural member of the President’s Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Elmhurst College. Additionally, he serves as spiritual advisor to several local and state politicians.
Neema Jha is an accomplished digital transformation leader with an excellent track record of value creation through customer centric technology modernization, innovations, and high-end cloud computing. She has nearly two decades of experience in every facet of leadership including strategic planning and execution, building, scaling, and collaborating with cross functional teams and leaders. Neema has delivered real world business results through transformation at organizations like Amazon, Tribune Media, and Deloitte. She currently works as Principal Customer Practice Leader at Amazon Web Services where she uses an optimal blend of business & technology expertise to apply innovation for customers across industries. Neema has an undergrad in Business and Finance from Truman State University, and executive MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Neema is a passionate advocate of gender equity and is involved in multiple initiatives within and outside work in this area. Outside work, she enjoys long distance running and traveling to different parts of the world. Neema was born in Kathmandu, Nepal and immigrated to the USA in 2001. Neema is fluent in Nepali, Hindi, and English. She lives in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood with her husband and 11-year-old daughter.
Michele Lee is a proud long time Chicagoland resident. After suffering a spinal cord injury in an auto accident almost 20 years ago, she now uses a power wheelchair. Michele lives in downtown Chicago and relies heavily on the CTA for transportation.
Currently, Michele Lee is a Senior Public Affairs Manager focused on Accessibility at Cruise, a self-driving car service. In this role she cultivates relationships with key advocates, community organizations, and experts representing the full diversity of the disability community to build a more accessible AV service.
Michele holds a bachelor’s degree from University of Arizona and is a DisabilityLead fellow. Additionally, she has been appointed to various committees by the City of Chicago and served on multiple nonprofit boards to champion the rights of people with disabilities. Combining a professional background in corporate and nonprofit organizations with a long passion for disability rights advocacy she is working towards an equitable, accessible transportation future.
Rev. Johnny L. Miller
Rev. Johnny L. Miller serves as Pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church for over forty years. Over this period, outreach has been one of his primary focuses. With the opening of the JLM Center—a Center that bears his name, and where the Mt. Vernon Baptist Church engages in its weekly worship services—numerous Community Outreach services are provided. He was reared in Tutwiler, Mississippi by his grandparents until the late 1960s and moved to Chicago where he graduated in 1967 from John Marshall High School. Rev. Miller was later drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970 and was honorably discharged in 1972. He served in Germany in the 209th General Dispatch as an SP5. He also furthered his education by attending Wilson Jr. College. Following that, he attended Bishop College in Texas where he received his DOD Degree. From 1973-1976 he attended the Chicago Baptist Institute to further his studies in the Gospel Ministry. Rev. Miller has always been an ambitious and out-going person and still wears many hats. He continues to serve on multiple boards, including being appointed to the Chicago Transit Authority Board.
Rosa Y. Ortiz, AICP, LEED AP
Ms. Ortiz is a certified planner and LEED accredited professional. She provides over two decades of government, corporate, and not‐for-profit experience. As principal and founder of 3e.Studio, she leads initiatives in equitable community development, sustainability, and strategic planning. Her approach to projects focuses on being inclusive, building on unique local assets, and creating meaningful impact. Rosa brings the ability to understand complex issues at different scales and implement practical solutions. These skills are rooted in her work on local and national projects and from practicums in Denmark, Mexico, China, France, and in the United States. She earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Born in Mexico City, she is bilingual and bicultural and is proud to bring this to her work. She leads with integrity to create long-term partnerships and strongly believes in carving space for everyone to succeed.
Alejandro Silva is a Mexican national. He is the son of Mrs. Alejandro Silva Hurtado (Margarita Platt de Silva) and the late Dr. Alejandro Silva Hurtado. He became a United States citizen in 1997. He resides in Chicago, is married and has three children.
Alejandro Silva is former chairman of the Board and CEO of Evans Food Group Ltd., Chicago, Illinois, having acquired Evans in 1985.
Evans Food has plants in Ohio, California, Texas, St. Louis, Missouri and Mexico.
He received his BS in food technology from Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. He received his MS in food engineering from the National College of Food Technology in Weybridge Surrey, England. He has, also, received diplomas from the London School of Foreign Trade and from the College of Distribution Trades in Advanced Meat Technology. He attended Alta Direccion de Empress (IPADE) Advanced Management Program, Monterrey, Mexico; Harvard Business School (Owner/President Management Course); Northwestern University and The Kellogg Graduate School of Business. He has attended Directors College at Harvard, University of Chicago, Wharton School, Stanford focused in the new act of Congress of Sarbanes-Oxley and implication in the Board of Publicly Traded Companies. He has, also, taken several courses in commodity trading at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade. He has also been a guest lecturer at Dartmouth College.