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State Senator, President Of AT&T North Carolina To Headline Black Issues Summit In Winston-Salem

AT&T North Carolina

Winston-Salem, NC — North Carolina Senator Milton F. “Toby” Fitch Jr. and Venessa Harrison, the president of AT&T North Carolina – the nation’s tenth-largest corporation and world’s largest telecommunications conglomerate – headline an impressive list of nearly three dozen speakers who will arrive here next month for the 2018 State of Black North Carolina Conference. 

Fitch will deliver the keynote address at the Trailblazers Luncheon on May 10 at the Benton Convention Center. Fitch retired as state superior court judge earlier this year and was selected last month to fill the District 4 seat vacated by Angela Bryant. Fitch is no stranger to the General Assembly. Prior to his judgeship which began in 2001, Fitch served nine terms in the state House representing Wilson and Edgecombe counties. He was also the first African American in the state to preside over the House, the first majority whip and the first African American to be elected House majority leader. He was a founding member of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus, and has several for several years as the grand master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge F&AM of North Carolina, P.H.A.

Harrison will deliver the keynote address at the Women’s Empowerment Awards Luncheon on May 11, the second day of the two-day conference, at the convention center. Harrison rose through the corporate ranks at AT&T to become president of the communication giant’s operations in North Carolina. She is responsible for the company’s regulatory, legislative and community affairs activities in the state, while overseeing AT&T’s operations of 6,900 employees. 

Richard L. Williams, publisher of Black Business Ink and the convener of the conference, said he is extremely pleased the conference was able attract two of the senior-most leaders in the state and region in the areas of business, politics and civic engagement. “Their presence is amplified by the outstanding speakers and presenters who will appear on panels to economics, politics, education and health,” Williams said.

Award recipients at the Trailblazers Luncheon will be: Bishop Shelton McCarter, pastor of The Greater Church in Winston-Salem; N.C. Representative Henry M. “Mickey” Michaux Jr., (D-31); Dr. Dwight Mullen, a political science professor at UNC Asheville; and Elaine Riddick, executive director of The Rebecca Project for Justice.

Award recipients at the Women’s Empowerment Luncheon are: Eunice Dudley, executive director of the Dudley Beauty School System and co-founder of Dudley Products; former N.C. Representative Angela Bryant; Andrea Harris, the longtime executive director of the N.C. Institute for Minority Economic Development; and 100-year-old Dr. Virginia Newell, a retired educator and longtime member of the Winston-Salem City Council.

“If there were a hall of fame for citizens in North Carolina who dedicated their lives to uplift humanity – our honorees would enter on the first ballot,” Williams said. “Their collective work takes a backseat to no one, irrespective of race or gender, and we’re extremely pleased to be honoring them on the fifteenth anniversary of Black Business Ink and the State of Black North Carolina Conference. “Our honorees are the tip of the iceberg of African Americans across North Carolina who are shining examples of trailblazers and women’s empowerment. Their efforts should be showcased and held up as examples for others.”

Some of the panelists and presenters: Lilicia Bailey, a senior vice president of Wake Forest Baptist Health; Tanya S. Blackmon, an executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Novant Health; Ivan Canada, executive director of National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad; Dr. Kareem Crayton, interim executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Dr. Karrie G. Dixon, interim chancellor of Elizabeth City State University; and Dr. Catherine Edmonds, superintendent of Bertie County Schools.

Also, Derrick Ellington, the Triad market president of Bank of America; Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party; Michelle Gethers-Clark, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Greensboro; Rev. Nelson Johnson, executive director of The Beloved Community Center of Greensboro; Troy Lawson, chairman of the Guilford County Republican Party; Chancellor Elwood L. Robinson of Winston-Salem State University; and James Sills, CEO of M&F Bank.

The bipartisan conference was first held in 2003 in Winston-Salem and brought together African American leadership from across the state to discuss social, political and economic issues, among others. 

For a complete list of conference activities or to register, visit or call 1-800-405-8533.


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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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