#DaytonStrong: Dave Chappelle, 9 others named Dayton’s top African-American men for work for Dayton

Honorees went above and beyond for Dayton during last year’s tragedies or otherwise, organizers say

The internationally known comedian behind last summer’s Gem City Shine, a museum director, an oil company CEO, a doctor who opened his practice as a hub following the Memorial Day tornadoes and six others will be honored for their good works later this month.

>> PHOTOS: Did we spot you at Gem City Shine?

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Yellow Springs-based comedian Dave Chappelle, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center developer John Fleming, Hightower's Petroleum Co. CEO Stephen L. Hightower and Dr. Andre T. Harris are among those to be honored at the 27th annual Parity Inc. Top 10 African-American Male Luncheon.

It is planned for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at Sinclair Community College’s David Ponitz Center, 444 W. Third St. in downtown Dayton.

Single tickets are $75 and can be obtained by calling 937-231-5059.

>> Meet Dayton’s 2019 ‘Top 10 African-American Men’ of the year

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“These are individuals who stand out in our community,” said Carolyn Wright, Parity’s CEO. “We had such a difficult and traumatic year in Dayton. These are some of the people who went above and beyond.”

Chappelle and his team organized Gem City Shine, a star-studded event, following the Oregon District mass shooting. He and all other honorees will be invited to attend the luncheon, Wright said.

>> Six months since mass shooting: 10 stories that touched our hearts and showed Dayton’s strength 

This year's other honorees are community health advocate James A. Bolden, student enrichment coordinator Marc DeWitt, civil rights leader Rev. David I. Fox, community volunteer and financial planner Joshua Johnson, Army veteran Kevin M. Simmons and Ricky Robinson.

Friends call Robinson “The Mayor” due to his “hard work, dedication, commitment and enthusiasm for his community,” Parity Inc. says.

The biographical information below is based on fact provided by Parity Inc.


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Cleveland native James A. Bolden was born to James and Blanche Bolden. The Cleveland East High School graduate earned a bachelor of arts in education from North Carolina Central University and a  master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

He managed various public health prevention programs for 25 years before retiring as coordinator for Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County.

Bolden was the assistant auditor in the Office of Auditor of State for six years. Before that, he served four years as deputy director in the  Department of Administration Services.

Bolden strives to teach the community that violence is a health issue and stressed “alternatives to violence” to youth.

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He collaborated with school systems, law enforcement agencies, news media and social service organizations to bring about neighborhood involvement in National Night Out Against Crime. In 1993, he recognized that although the adults had many programs honoring the memory of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr.’s legacy, our youth had one major event in place to celebrate the accomplishments of this historical figure.

Bolton established the MLK Violence Prevention Teen Celebration to fill that void, which has become Dayton’s second oldest continuous teen commemorative.

Bolden and his wife were married for over 58 years and have three children, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

They lost their daughter Pamela at an early age.


Credit: Mathieu Bitton

Credit: Mathieu Bitton

Known professionally as Dave Chappelle, the Washington D.C. native was 6 years old when his parents divorced.

He spent the school year in Silver Springs, Md., with his mom, Yvonne Seon and summers in Yellow Springs with his father William Chappelle.

At age 14, he began pursuing a career in stand-up comedy while a student at the prestigious Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington.

His mother had to accompany him to shows until he became an adult.

Chappelle decided to forgo college to start a stand-up career in New York City after graduation.

By the early 1990s, he had begun earning accolades for his work in comedy.

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His film debut was in Mel Brooks' “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” (1993). He was the  youngest comedian to be featured on the HBO special “Comic Relief VI.”

He earned roles in “The Nutty Professor” (1996) starring Eddie Murphy as well as “You've Got Mail,” “Half Baked” and “Woo.”

Chappelle’s acclaimed satirical sketch comedy series “Chappelle’s Show” aired from 2003 to 2006 on Comedy Central.

>> READ MORE: Gem City Shine: Stevie Wonder headlines massive party in the Oregon District

Chappelle is a three-time Grammy winner in the best comedy album category and a two time Emmy winner.

He won the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2019.

Last summer, he hosted and produced Gem City Shine, an event decided to reclaim Dayton’s Oregon District following the Aug. 4 mass shooting that left 10 dead and more than 40 injured.

The star-studded event raised, more than nearly $70,000 for the Dayton Foundation administered Oregon District Tragedy Fund.

Earlier that year, Chappelle gave a benefit show in support of WYSO 91.3 FM.

Chappelle and his wife, Elaine Chappelle, are the parents of two sons, Sulayman and Ibrahim, and a daughter, Sanaa.


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The Dayton native and Meadowdale High School graduate attended Sinclair Community College before earning a bachelor’s degree from Central State University.

DeWitt has worked to promote higher education to African American students at Central State, Wright State University and now Sinclair.

He served as Central State’s coordinator of student life and development where he aimed to help undergraduate students to become active and productive contributors to their families and their communities.

>> Dave Chappelle comedy special celebrating his Mark Twain Prize

He currently is Sinclair’s coordinator in the Student Enrichment Programs for the African American Male Initiative. He is tasked with helping young black men stay in college and graduate, by fostering a community of care, allowing young men to establish a sense of connection and belonging in college that ultimately improves life outcomes.

DeWitt regularly shares his experiences with Dayton Public Schools students about college choice, college access and mentoring. Marc has served as a keynote speaker for several community graduation ceremonies that include the Omega Community Development Corporation’s Restorative Passages Mentoring Programs.

DeWitt represents Sinclair in 2017 in Parity Inc. Dayton Black Leadership Development Program.

In October 2018, Marc was appointed to serve on Dayton’s community police council and participate as a member of its Education and Outreach Committee. DeWitt is currently on the  board of directors for the House of Bread, a Dayton nonprofit that serves hot meals to the needy daily.

DeWitt was recently appointed to Sinclair’s Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee.

DeWitt, a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, is a father to four sons — SaVon, Ethan, Caden and Landon DeWitt.


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The Morganton, N.C. native, earned a college degree from Berea College in Berea, Ky. He joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to the Ministry of Agriculture in Blantyre, Malawi.

Upon returning to the United States, he worked with Pride Inc., an organization founded by Marion Barry before he became Washington, D.C.’s mayor.

He was a program analyst for the United States Civil Rights Commission before earning master’s and doctorate degrees in American History at Howard University.

Fleming published “The Lengthening Shadow of Slavery” and “The Case for Affirmative Action for Blacks in Higher Education” while a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of Educational Policy at Howard.

He joined the Ohio Historical Society in 1980 and became founding director of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce.

Fleming was later named the director and chief operating officer for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

In total, Dr. Fleming has developed six museums, including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Fleming is currently director of the  National Museum of African American Music, which is scheduled to open this year in Nashville, president of JE Fleming Associates and chairs the board of the American Association for State and Local History.

He is director emeritus of the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The award-winning member of the Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Boule fraternities has served as president of the Ohio Museums Association as well as other professional associations.

Fleming and his wife Barbara, a psychologist and a mystery writer,  have been married for 50 years. The Yellow Springs residents have two children, Diara Spelmon an Atlanta-based lawyer and Tuliza Fleming, chief curator of Visual Arts at the National African American Museum in Washington.


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The Dayton native attended Roosevelt High School and received a bachelor of science in education from Central State University. He later earned a master of Arts in Religious Education from United Theological Seminary and his doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary in December of 2007 with a concentration in Social Justice and Political Activism studies.

The minister, educator, social justice activist and retired police chief is also a graduate of the Dayton Police Academy, the Montgomery County Joint Vocational Police Academy, the Sinclair Community Police Academy, the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, the Cultural Leadership Institute and the Community Reinvestment Institute.

He has chaired  a list of community events that includes the Peace Bridge Celebration and the community-wide Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration.

Among other things, Fox has taught in public schools and higher education settings and organized the Salem Mall Ministers Patrol Project.

The civil rights worker has helped organize Unity in the Valley, Interracial Ministers for Reconciliation and prayer vigils at homicide sites.

Fox has chaired the Dayton Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Fair Practice Committee, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Criminal Justice Committee.

The ordained Baptist minister received two of Ohio’s highest civil rights awards: the Living the Dream Award presented by former Ohio Gov. George W. Voinovich in 1998, and the Governor’s Humanitarian Award presented by Gov. Bob Taft in 2000.

Fox is  the father of four daughters and son and serves as Minister of Education at Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.


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The  South Bend, Ind. native is the son of pastors Charles and Betty Harris. He earned a bachelor of science in Biology from Indiana University in Bloomington.

Over a five-year period, Harris developed a drinking water microbiology department at Environmental Health Labs and published two papers.

During the same time period, he and wife Charlotte grew their family from one to four children: Raven, Andre Jr., Wesley and Caleb.

They later adopted a fifth child, T’Aundre Perkins.

Harris earned a Doctorate of Medicine from Wright State University School of Medicine and completed his OB/GYN residency at Miami Valley Hospital.

He was named one of two administrative chiefs, awarded the Jack Gruber award for clinical excellence, the John Halki exemplary resident award, and the SNMA outstanding resident award.

After residency, he and his wife started Horizons Women’s Healthcare and has been providing care for the last 14 years.

Harris is the African-American male OB/GYN with an office in the city of Dayton and has volunteered his medical services to at-risk teenage boys in Dayton Public Schools.

He is a board certified and a Wright State University clinical assistant professor with postdoctoral certificates in hospital administration and hormone therapy. Harris has worked with aspiring African-American high school students through the Horizons in Medicine program and has trained dozens of medical students and nurse practitioner students. He is also a leader with Gem City MDP Inc., a local organization for African-American physicians, dentists and pharmacists.

Harris recently accepted the position of Chief Medical Officer at Atrium Medical Center while continuing to run his practice.

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Among other things, he has served as a member of the Miami Valley Board and chair of the OB/GYN department of the hospital.

Following the Memorial Day tornadoes, Harris and his partners opened their practice to serve as a hub and donated more than $5,000 for those impacted.

Harris and his wife have been married 27 years.


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Born and raised in Middletown, Hightower graduated from Middletown Public Schools before attending Wright State University.

He is president and CEO of Hightower’s Petroleum Co. and leads a $400 million business enterprise consisting of five national and international businesses.

Since 1979, Mr. Hightower grew his Ohio-based wholesale fuel supply company into an International energy solutions enterprise covering the entire energy value chain, from petroleum supply to power production.

A few of his blue-chip customer base includes: Duke Energy, General Motors Corporation, The Kroger Company, Fed Ex, Ford Motor Company, Waste Management, Honda, Con-Edison, Nissan, AT&T, AK Steel, and the State of Ohio.

Hightower started as a janitor in his dad’s business, took over in 1982 and diversified into subcontracting and construction businesses, before developing a niche in the Petroleum business in 1984.

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He also serves as president and chairman of HP Energy, an energy development company. The company uses engineering and technology to reduce energy consumption and to create alternative power. In addition, Hightower is active in the development of clean power generation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He was appointed to the Department of Interior’s National Park Foundation and the Department of Energy’s National Petroleum Council. Those appointments started under President Obama and continued under President Trump.

Hightower’s honors include a 2013 Black Enterprise Magazine’s Industrial/Service Company of the Year; a 2019 Black Enterprise 100’s List #10; a 2019 General Motors Diversity Platinum Supplier of the Year; a 2018 Duke Energy Supplier Excellence Award for Diverse Supplier of the Year; and a 2018 Rainbow PUSH Citizenship Education Fund “Living Legend Award.”

Hightower has worked with the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Minority Supplier Development Council. He supported mentoring services for youth, which has grown into a special program with the National Parks called the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative, which introduces millions of young Americans to discover nature. The Hightower Family Foundation supports the “1 Million African American Youth in a Park” program, founded by Steve Hightower.

Hightower, a father, is married to Mrs. Bernita McCann.


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The Philadelphia native earned a Computer Engineering degree from Ohio State University and a Certified Financial Planning certification from The American College.

Johnson has worked in the financial planning industry for more than  30 years and has personally advised hundreds of families across the country.

He founded Grace Financial Group in 1989. LifePlan acquired Grace Financial Group in 2008, where Joshua now contributes his financial talent.

Johnson has been featured as a retirement expert in numerous newspapers, magazines and on television both locally and nationally. Joshua contributed to the anthology, “Blended Families,” focusing on the unique financial situations of blended families.

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From 2013 to 2018, he served on the Advisory Board of The African American Community Fund, serving a three-year stint as president.

AACF doubled the annual grant amount that was provided to nonprofit organizations serving the Greater Dayton African American community during Johnson time on the board.

In November 2019, Johnson received emeritus status from the board, a status only earned by six  previous board members.

From 2019 to 2011, he served on The Linda Vista Project board of directors. He provided guidance to the organization which focuses on providing housing to homeless women and children in order to regain a sense of stability and economic security.

He also served on the board of Christian Marketplace Network and on the executive committees of Jubilee Magazine, Rainmakers and Kingdom Heights Development.

Johnson and his wife, Catrena, are members of Zion Global Ministries. They have six children and seven grandchildren.


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The Colonel White High School graduate began his civil service career in 1977 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Early on, he excelled in a career in acquisition logistics and program management.

Robinson attended the United States Army Logistics Management College, and School of Military Packaging Technology, receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in 1991.

The 38-year United States Air Force as a civilian employee obtained Level III Certification in Acquisition Logistics, Level III Certification in Department of Defense International Affairs, and Level II in Program Management.

He is a graduate of the Neighborhood Leadership Institute, Parity 2000 Future Black Leadership Program and the Dayton Urban League Black Leadership Program.

After retiring in 2015, he began working for Odyssey Systems Consulting as the senior task lead and general manager supporting the Special Operations Forces & Personnel Recovery Division at Wright-Patt.

Mr. Robinson was the first Black American to serve as president of the City of Clayton Planning Commission.

He received the City of Clayton and the City of Trotwood’s Martin Luther King Legacy awards in 2019.

In 2018, he received from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Employee Support of the National Guard and Reserve recognized him for the Patriotic Employer Award. He is founder and chief executive officer for Independent Living Opportunities of the Miami Valley.

He provided 600 square feet of space for the Clubhouse Program which served the youth in the Five Oaks Neighborhood.

The program consists of reading and math assistance, and after-school programs for elementary children.

He received the President's Voluntary Service Award in 2015, signed by then-President Barack Obama.

Robinson is a spiritual leader at Phillips Temple Church and serves on the intercessory prayer team.

He and his wife, Icia Marie, married 31 years ago and have two children, Raquel Simone and Brandon Richard.


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The Sandusky native earned his master’s in public administration from the University of Dayton and is currently pursuing a PhD in Strategic Leadership.

Simmons, an adjunct professor in the past, retired from the United States Air Force after 20 years.

During his service, Simmons received medals for Operation Just Cause and Desert Storm.

After retirement, Mr. Simmons worked for Project Impact Dayton before accepting a federal position at Wright-Patt, where he now serves as the Affirmative Employment Program manger.

He provides counsel to commanders and directors for affirmative employment, and diversity and inclusion for the largest employer in Ohio.

For the second time in five years, Simmons received the Air Force Award for Civilian Achievement in recognition of his distinguished performance last year.

He managed and implemented Air Force initiatives, designed to eliminate obstacles to promotion retention, and overall advancement opportunities for minorities and people with disabilities.

Most recently, Simmons introduced and implemented two program initiatives of note: Wright-Patt “Career Day,” where AEP partners annually partner with local universities in the area to bring students on tours of the base; and he was a pivotal player in launching the Air Force Material Command’s “Autism at Work” initiative, which provides direct access to talent and highly qualified candidates with severe disabilities.

Mr. Simmons has volunteered hundreds of hours to the Dayton Ohio community by feeding the homeless; providing necessities to the less fortunate; facilitating Book Bag drives/Health Fairs and golf memorials; and volunteering for city wide cleanups.

Mr. Simmons has been married to his childhood sweetheart Lori Simmons for 30 years. He has a daughter, Leah, and a son Kevin Jr.

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