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L.I.F.T. 2017 MIDWEST African American Professionals and Allies Conference

By Zahra Aprili

The Truth Reporter

How can I be a better leader? Who are my allies? How do I recognize other leaders and develop my allies? Those are just a few of the questions that attendees of the L.I.F.T. 2017 – MIDWEST African American Professionals and Allies Conference, began to explore and answer during the inaugural three-day conference.

Jason Daniels, Micheal Daniels,
Rodney Eason, Gary Boehm and
Chris McBrayer


The conference, hosted by JAYRAMON LLC, a business strategy and leadership development company, took place Wednesday, October 25 through Friday October 27, 2017 at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg, Ohio. Its purpose – to bring together African-American professionals and allies from Ohio and bordering states, including Illinois, “for a unique learning experience centered in the areas of L.I.F.T. - Leadership, Influence, Focus and Talent.”


This well-attended symposium brought together professionals from different industries and disciplines into an interactive learning environment that allowed attendees to be enriched through short presentations, panel discussions, intimate Q & A sessions and social networking with vetted professionals.


The conference kicked off Wednesday evening with an opening reception and short talk from Adam Levine, Ph.D. associate director of the Toledo Museum of Art who spoke about talent.

The evening’s highlight was the keynote address from speaker Lawrence James Jr., PhD, of RHR International (Chicago, IL). James shared with the audience his work and research pertaining to the career advancement of African-American individuals.


Thursday attendees experienced a full day of conference sessions including an exhibitor hall and evening mixer. Toledo native Philip Cunningham of McGraw Hill opened the conference day with a short talk on transformation. Sharing some of his own experiences of growth, he bridged his transformative experience into leadership with a call to action. “There are allies in this room that have act as our [Leaders] updraft to help us get into the air to soar.”

Local entrepreneur, Deborah Rayford, noted that an impactful moment was hearing conference host, Jason Daniels, president and chief operating officer of JAYRAMON LLC, say to the audience during the keynote address on Thursday that “Leaders show up!” 

“It made the role of leadership that much clearer. No matter what, as a leader you understand how important it is for you to pull though. We [Leaders] show up regardless,” said Rayford.

Thursday morning concluded a focus on allies which included a talk from Jason Kucsma of Toledo Lucas County Public Library. Kucsma spoke on inclusion using TLCPL’s community example. The morning ended with a panel discussion featuring V Jane Rosser- BGSU, PhD; Terry Awls- La-Z-Boy Inc; Darlene Slaughter- United Way Worldwide; Jason Kucsma-TLCPL.

Following lunch, attendees heard from Carlos Jackson of the Cleveland Clinic and Toledo’s own Prakash Karamchandani of Balance Pan-Asian Grille, who told the room that “failure is an opportunity to pivot.” The afternoon’s Power and Excellence panel discussion moderated by Alesha Washington of the greater Cleveland Partnership featured Ira Murry – K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, Prakash Karamchandani – Balance Pan-Asian Grille, Carlos Jackson – Cleveland Clinic, along with Kelli Daniels – JAYRAMON and conference host. The afternoon concluded with an address from Terry Awls of La-Z-Y Boy Inc. and closing discussion. Conference attendees were then able to network with each other and the speakers at an evening mixer. 

The Champions of Leadership Community Breakfast with speakers, Kelli Daniels- JAYRAMON; Rodney Eason- Principle Business Enterprises, INC in Bowling Green, Ohio and Darlene R. Slaughter- United Way Worldwide, Alexandria, Virginia, was the culminating event of the three-day symposium. Eason shared his three keys to success Build, Basic and Balance while Slaughter let us know that we have to be purposeful about our leadership, telling a captive audience that Purposeful Leaders 1. Inspire 2. Achieve and 3. Become. She shared with the audience that “Being a leader is about sustained commitment,” that on each individual leader’s journey “Where you are, is where you are supposed to be, don’t rush it.” and that as you grow in leadership “Having different strategies doesn’t equate to selling out.” 

Attendees and community members gathered on the last day to hear from closing speakers who did not come to put an end the conversation, but actually left attendees ready to jump in and converse more. Which is exactly what happened after the official conference closing. For almost two hours following there were small conversations happening in the room and even a round table discussion with Darlene R. Slaughter. 

When asked about her conference experience, Ashley Bunn, senior manager of Curriculum Development at Marco’s had this to say “Attending the L.I.F.T. Conference was an invaluable experience. I truly value the lessons and the concepts provided by the various panelists and speakers. The connections made and the relationships I’ve built as a result of the conference will help me to advance my professional career.”


Geared toward African-American professionals and allies, the conference had a message that resonated seamlessly from each speaker through all of the attendees. Jason Daniels, described it best: “All of our speakers, who joined us, had a different message but a similar one. I think those messages were to keep investing in yourself professionally. Also making sure, for the people that were there, they [the speakers] were very real in sharing not only research and data, but they were also real in sharing their experiences about what it takes to be a solid standout professional at work and in the community.”


L.I.F.T 2017- Midwest organizers Jason and Kelli Daniels of JAYRAMON LLC. enlisted a plethora of corporate and institutional sponsors and supporters. These organizations include the Toledo City Paper, First Federal Bank, Block Communications, Inc., Marco’s Pizza, ProMedica, Owens-Illinois, McGraw-Hill (Columbus, OH), Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, OH), The Sojourner’s Truth, United Way Worldwide (Alexandria, VA), Huntington Bank, Maumee Valley Country Day School, Area Office On Aging of Northwest Ohio, Inc., Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Lucas County Offices, Principle Business Enterprises, Inc. (Bowling Green, OH), NAACP (Toledo Branch), Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority, Ellis Island Tea (Detroit, MI), The University of Toledo Minority Business Development Center, JLJ Vision Outreach, Cleveland Clinic, La-Z-Boy Furniture (Monroe, MI), Overtime Apparel, Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bowling Green State University Center for Community and Civic Engagement (Bowling Green, OH), and conference host JAYRAMON LLC.





Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:33 -0700.

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