Executive Board

Walla Elsheikh is the Co-Founder and CEO of Birthright AFRICA which is committed to providing a free educational trip to Africa for all youth and young adults of African descent in the US. She has over 16 years of management and leadership experience in both the private and public sectors and has spent the last 10 years supporting various college and career readiness initiatives in both the K-12 and Postsecondary education spaces that prepare students with skills required in the 21st century global economy. Walla is the former Interim Executive Director of Schools That Can, NYC and has served as a program director, internship coordinator, and strategic consultant to small and large educational non-profits in NYC and Washington, D.C. She received her MBA in strategic management and social entrepreneurship from Indiana University after working as a Financial Associate at Goldman Sachs & Co. Walla participated in both the Education Pioneers and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) Fellowships and was selected as one of the Most Influential People of African descent (MIPAD) in 2018. She was born in Sudan and raised there as well as Sweden and Uganda before immigrating to New York City.

Diallo Shabazz is the Co-Founder of Birthright AFRICA leveraging his background as a global education advisor and sustainability expert who has worked with government agencies and NGOs in North America, Asia, and Africa. Diallo previously served as Chief Administrator for the DC 37 Education Fund, managing workforce strategy and training for the nation’s largest municipal public sector labor union in NYC. He also previously served as Senior Director of Sustainability Education at the NYC Department of Education to support the nation’s largest school system on structuring public/private partnerships with Fortune 500 corporations to improve career and technical education. From 2011 – 2013, Diallo was appointed as a North American Civil Society Representative for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which he represented at ministerial-level meetings on the Post-2015 Agenda and sustainable development goals in Europe and Africa. Diallo previously worked for the NAACP where he specialized in youth development, civil rights, and community empowerment. An avid speaker and moderator, Diallo has hosted numerous forums and appeared on various media outlets including UN Web TV, New York Public Radio, and ABC’s 20/20. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where his family migrated from the American South and raised him in the Yoruba traditions of Nigerian culture.

Darren Harris is a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, where he has spent 13 successful years in the Investment Banking and Sales & Trading Divisions specializing in corporate credit and interest rates.A serial entrepreneur, Darren Harris is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pan African New Network (PANN), an emerging digital video network made for crowdsourcing, sharing, and spotlighting news and events that take place within the global Black community.  Prior to his entrepreneurial ventures, Darren graduated from Howard University with a BBA in International Business and a minor in Finance. Passionate about fostering diversity in Corporate America, at Goldman Sachs he has served as the Co-Head and Co-founder of the Black Hispanic/Latino Council, Captain of the Goldman Sachs HBCU recruiting initiative, Junior Diversity Council board member, and Firmwide Black Network board member. Darren was born in Teaneck, NJ and raised there and in Harlem, NY. His parents settled in the Northeast after being raised in Florida and are descendants of enslaved Africans brought to Georgia and the Carolinas. 

Mercedes Bent is an investor and operator who specializes in identifying and scaling mission-driven startups into global institutions. She currently works in venture capital and previously served as an executive at a VR startup and a General Manager at General Assembly where she oversaw a multi-million dollar business lines during periods of explosive growth. She has a MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University and an AB from Harvard University. In her free time she enjoys writing up new business ideas, walks longer than 20 NYC blocks, chocolate soufflés, hiking, camping, off-roading in her Jeep, and dealing playing cards very fast. She was born in Durham, North Carolina and raised in California. She is a descendant of enslaved Africans in America with Bermudian/Grenadian ancestry, and Benin/Togo/Ghanaian ancestry.

Kevin Bedeau is a product leader and change agent with extensive experience delivering digital solutions and optimizing product operations on behalf of fortune 500 companies, non-profits and startups in the education sector.  He is passionate about educational equity and youth development and is currently serving as product consultant to Classroom Inc., a national non-profit offering games and curricula designed to build literacy and P21 skills among middle-school aged youth.  Recently, as Product Director for Zinc Learning Labs, an Edtech startup, Kevin led efforts to scale the company’s MVP offering and presided over a seventy percent increase in active usage over two years. Kevin holds a BA in Sociology from Cornell University and is a proud Brooklyn native and resident. He was born and raised in Brooklyn to parents from Trinidad and Barbados and is a proud child of the Caribbean.

Kalam Dennis graduated from Clark Atlanta University where he received a degree in Business Administration – Marketing. Post college Kalam he was recruited L’Oreal USA for their management training program. He spent a total of 13 years at L’Oreal – working in analytics, Account management, Brand marketing and ultimately departing as a vice president in Business Development. After L’Oreal Kalam started AptDeco in 2014 with Co-founder Reham Fagiri. AptDeco makes it easy for you to buy and sell your furniture in NY, NJ and CT with plans to expand to California, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston in the near future. Kalam was born in Oakland, California and raised in Los Angeles.

Derrick H. Lewis is an energetic and passionate advisor and entrepreneur. He is a Senior Manager at Ernst & Young and brings over 13 years of experience in entrepreneurial, c-level, operational, human capital, technology, management consulting roles working with diverse organizations in the Public and Private sector. Having grown up in the South Bronx and experiencing firsthand the lack of resources being provided to the poorest part of the United States, Derrick created The Bronx Community Foundation, the first and only public foundation solely dedicated to The Bronx, New York. Continuing his passion for philanthropy, Derrick also sits on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, including a school he co-founded. He was born and raised in The Bronx, NY to parents from Trinidad and South United States.