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Honoring Black Women in Excellence 2022

Amidst the effervescent decor of Astra’s skyline rooftop, 10 phenomenal Black women of South Florida were celebrated for their contributions and accolades. In the spirit of women’s month, Black professionals united to bask in the accomplishments of the honored, developing connections and conversations along the way. Delving from a wide range of backgrounds, each woman honored shares the commonality of giving back, radiating true virtue and leadership throughout their actions.

Dynamic force and honoree Monique Hayes defines Black excellence and leadership in exquisite form. As partner of Goldstein & McClintock, LLLP and Founder and CEO of Estates Made Easy, Monique’s expertise impacts business litigation, estate planning and the fiduciary realm. Her passion for elevating community with affordable and accessible legacy planning resources as well as her multi-board involvement reflects not only her drive, but her genuine care for others.

“It’s indeed an honor to be recognized for my professional achievements and contributions to the community. But it’s a blessing to stand with so many inspiring women knowing that together we reflect excellence.”

Fellow business litigation attorney and honoree Yolanda Strader, Esq.’s bustling practice includes a variety of commercial litigation matters ranging from class actions, real property disputes, business torts, and breaches of business contracts. Yolanda utilizes her platform to amplify diversity within the legal community, spearheading many campaigns as past president of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Bar Association.

Innovative honoree and CEO of Breakthrough Miami Lori-Ann Cox develops a multitude of educational opportunities for deserving and driven scholars, teaching fellows and volunteers. With Lori-Ann at helm, Breakthrough Miami was recognized as the the best summer learning program earning her awards like GMCC Non-Profit Leader of the Year and 2020 Miami Herald Influencers.

When it comes to diverse talent, honoree Anita Francois boasts a sophisticated background consisting of museum curation, archaeology, and as CEO of Black Travel Summit. With over 30 countries under her belt, Anita’s extensive cultural savvy serves as a platform to educate fellow Black travel professionals, amplifying their voices and experiences throughout the globe.

Tech and VC phenom and honoree Jeanine Suah influences audiences across sectors as a super-connector, eco-system-builder, and Miami tech advocate. Featured in Nasdaq, Business Insider, Cheddar TV, NBC, the Miami Herald, and the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine, Jeanine’s passion for impacting entrepreneurship has amplified access to capital for over 4,000 underestimated founders. Jeanine’s mantra “Always give more in value than you receive in payment” founded on genuine relationship-building and resilience are the keys to success.

A master in the skills of negotiation, logistics, and supply chain, power broker and honoree Roshell Rinkins holds a proven business acumen honed at major corporations such as Apple, Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft, and other Fortune 100 companies. As Senior Director of Grants & Administration for the John and James L. Knight Foundation, Roshell advances the foundation’s grant making capacity. Her community impact does not stop there as she serves on Salesforce’s Grants Management Customer Advisory Board, PEAK’s Grantmaking Development Advisory Council, and as an ambassador/donor for the Perez Art Museum Miami Fund for Black art.

Esteemed leader, strategy maven, and honoree Merdochey LaFrance is a presence in the community as the Director of Local Engagement for Verizon. With Merdochey’s savvy, corporate investment for Verizon reaches communities extending across Southeast and Southwest Florida. As managing principal of iTaylor Solutions, she equips entrepreneurs and corporations with strategic tools for success through curated ideation, project management, and reputation management services. Merdochey’s admirable commitment to service reflects in her affiliations in a plethora of board roles, ranging from Leadership Florida, Junior League of Miami, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

Honoree Claudienne Hibbert-Smith broke barriers in a number of accomplishments. Her illustrious career as a high producing real estate professional lead her to develop the Hibbert Group Real Estate Consultants, partnering with EXP realty which has expanded in 16 states. Rooted in altruism, Claudienne reciprocates her success in giving back through her 501 C 3 non-profit organization Claudy Cares Foundation.

When it comes to Claudienne’s motivation, she states, “Keep going. Don’t stop even when you get a little weary. I had a child at 14 years old and I could have given up and listened to people tell me I wasn’t going to amount to anything, but I didn’t. I showed up in excellence, I showed up beyond measure. If I had to tell you one thing today, it’s simple. Keep going.”

Trailblazing honoree Makeba Gassant’s ambition was the catalyst that lead her to develop a food manufactured brand distributed throughout Miami. Makeba uses her wealth of knowledge and experience ranging from retail and manufacturing to small business and procurement within her roles in the community. Serving on the Goods and Service Advisory Board of Miami Dade County and representing the Office of the first Madame Mayor, Danielle Levine Cava, Makeba is able to support small business enterprises to provide economic opportunities.

Accomplished healthcare management and public health professional and honoree Ludmilla Paul MPH serves as a Health Informatics Consultant on National Accounts at Meritain Health, an Aetna and CVS Health Company. Ludmilla’s expertise in analyzing and coordinating health policy initiatives at the state government level, and leveraging EHRs/health IT to implement clinical research and health programs in community based settings solidifies her presence as a major influence in the health sector.

United in success, altruism, and leadership, the 2022 Black Women in Excellence honorees are true definitions of what it means to be a queen.

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