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2023 Vanguard Honorees

Isiah “Zeek” Williams founded New Era Detroit in 2014 in response to violent crimes against women and children happening in his hometown. Truth is often stranger than fiction: And the truth is New Era Founder Isiah "Zeek" Williams is an everyday brother from the west side of Detroit with a realistic vision for change in our communities.

Comerica Bank’s Executive Vice President and General Auditor Christine M. Moore was recognized as one of the nation’s most influential African American female executives by Black Enterprise during the publication’s Women of Power Summit.

Moore, a veteran of more than 20 years with Comerica Bank, was one of 136 influential leaders from across the country named to the Most Powerful Women in Corporate America list. The list honors executives who continue to empower their organizations and promote diversity in the corporate sector.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the appointment of Nicole N. Goodson to the 3rd Circuit Court of Wayne County.

Goodson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Detroit, and she earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She is the secretary of the board for the SASHA Center and a former trustee for the Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan. Goodson is also a founding member of the Michigan Racial Justice Committee and treasurer of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Ann Arbor Alumnae Chapter.

Derrick D. Coleman is an American retired basketball player. Coleman was grew up and attended high school in Detroit, and attended college at Syracuse University. He was selected first overall in the 1990 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets.

Career Highlights and Awards:

NBA All-Star (1994)

2× All-NBA Third Team (1993, 1994)

NBA Rookie of the Year (1991)

NBA All-Rookie First Team (1991)

Consensus first-team All-American (1990)

Second-team All-American – UPI(1989)

Third-team All-American – NABC(1989)

Big East Player of the Year (1990)

3× First-team All-Big East (1988–1990)

Third-team All-Big East (1987)

No. 44 retired by Syracuse Orange

Dej Loaf is an American singer, rapper and songwriter. She received global recognition with her song, ‘Try Me’ which featured on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold by Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). She began her career in 2011, and has launched three mixtapes, an extended play and an album. Most of her singles have peaked on the US music charts, especially in the R&B and rap music genres. She has featured in the songs of popular music artists, such as ‘Kid Ink’, ‘Lil Durk’ and ‘The Game’. Some of her songs are a reflection of her tragic past. Ever since she stormed into the music industry, her most highly rated song has been ‘Back Up’ featuring Big Sean, and is certified platinum by RIAA. It Ranked 47 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and 10 on the US Rap charts.

Maria Franklin, MBA, RDN

Director of Youth Enrichment at Detroit PAL

Empowering Detroit youth through personal and leadership development, as well as career exposures in STEM, Finance, Sport Broadcast Journalism, etc. Developing community partnerships. Increasing capacity to do more for Detroit Youth.

Named to Forbes '30 under 30' 2018 list for her profound work in education, Danielle D. Hughes has become one of Detroit's most recognizable millennials for youth advocacy, entrepreneurship and empowerment.

She pledges daily to be the person she says she needed when she was younger. As a leading serial entrepreneur, author and philanthropist; Danielle makes it her mission to make an impact in the lives of her hometown youth.

In 2019, Danielle released her debut book; Always Make Your Bed: 7 Principles to Dream It, Do It & Get What You Want Out of Life. The proceeds from sales go towards the David Jackson Scholarship for Emerging Leaders - - a scholarship fund for students in honor of her late Grandfather who was a pioneer in the Detroit community and staunch champion of education. To date, the fund has awarded $3,500 in scholarships to deserving Detroit scholars.

Toson Knight runs Caught Up Mentoring, an organization that connects at-risk boys with mentors to help with building character in every facet of their lives. The organization started with the Project Re-Entry program, where they work with boys in juvenile centers to prepare them for life after being released. Knight brings in officials from GED and trade schools to teach them about their options, helps them prepare resumes, teaches financial literacy, dressing for success, health and fitness, and eventually connects them with mentors to keep up with them and their progress when they’re released.

Melissa Talbot, director and producer, believed in allowing her work to speak for her and numerous times, her esteemed projects did just that. Her dual role as director and producer of Switchplay TV yielded the highest ratings for any independent show on the WB (now known as The CW Network). From that, she successfully birthed a gut-wrenching live comedy television show, Switchplay Live. Those projects were fuel to her fire. Working with world-renowned playwrights Angela Dunlap and Vanessa Lynn not only gained her local and regional recognition, but national exposure as well. Be it clientele, cast members or friends, all knew that Melissa Talbot was a true force in anything she was involved in. Beyond committed, she would not give simply a 100 %—she would give 110%. That much you could count on.

After her start with Okane Media Group, Talbot blossomed into an over 20 year partnership with Nate Talbot and Miles Dixon— also two well-known icons in the industry. Working with celebrities from across the nation in various stage productions soon opened many doors of opportunity for Talbot to hone her skills. Her work with actors Royce Reed, Kym Whitley, Reginald “Bruh Man” Ballard, Hope Flood and Christian Keyes led to even greater opportunities.

Alison Vaughn, is an international speaker and award- winning author who focuses on professionalism, leadership, workforce development and fashion. This Goldman Sachs Scholar has always been about women’s empowerment. Vaughn’s energy and positive spirit led her to grace the cover of three online magazines (Her Vision Magazine - Feb. 2021; Purpose Driven Magazine - May 2021; and Women Own Excellence - June 2021). Vaughn has also been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur & Fortune magazine.

Vaughn, a Michigan State University graduate was named 2021 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Michigan Association of Female Entrepreneurs (MAFE), and was a contestant on Jay Leno's ‘You Bet Your Life’ national game show. Alison is the current winner of the Miss Fashion Global Pageant for Michigan. While all of these accomplishments are “exciting,” they also are important because they help “expand the brand” and put the focus on her true passion, Jackets for Jobs. 

Sharron Fincher 

2023 “Motor City Pride LGBTQ”Vanguard Honoree.

Sharron is a native Detroiter and graduate of Detroit Public Schools. She attended Wayne State University’s school of social work and has been involved in the community for over 20 years. She has gained a theoretical care, as well as practical competency in case management. Sharron has worked with marginalized populations including LGBTQ, children with special needs and people of color in her professional life as well as through community service work and activism.

Sharron is currently involved in many projects within the community. She is the Access Equity &Inclusion Coordinator at Avalon Healing Center where she works closely with marginalized populations who have experienced sexual assault and trauma. She is the immediate past Supreme President of Alpha Psi Kappa Fraternity, Incorporated and sits on the Board of Directors for the Ruth Ellis where she is the Board Chairperson. 

Sharron is also a member of the Detroit Police Department Chief’s LGBT Community Council. In addition to these projects, she occasionally writes for blogs and newspapers throughout metro Detroit, hosts two Podcast called The Cat’s Meow and Voices Thru Avalon. Sharron is also the creator and director for the documentary WoMan: Gender Expression Race, which has been shown by conferences and universities all over the country.