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Our Executive Board

Leverage Wisdom, Resilience,
Ingenuity, and Collaboration

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.

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Walla Elsheikh

Co-Founder and CEO of Birthright AFRICA

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-&-Walla

Diallo Shabazz

Co-Founder of Birthright AFRICA

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.

Mercedes Bent is a Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners investing in early stage companies focused primarily on consumer, fintech, and edtech / future of work investments.

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Mercedes Bent

Mercedes Bent is a Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners investing in early stage companies focused primarily on consumer, fintech, and edtech / future of work investments. Additional focus areas in Mercedes’ investing portfolio include multicultural and women founders. Previously, Mercedes served as an executive at a VR startup and a General Manager at General Assembly where she oversaw a multi-million dollar business line 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, walking 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.

Jidenna Theodore Mobisson better known as Jidenna proudly encompasses a wide range of musical vibes that represents the African diaspora, ranging from afrobeat, funk, and R&B to dancehall and hip-hop.

Jidenna Bio Pic

Jidenna Mobisson

Jidenna Theodore Mobisson better known as Jidenna proudly encompasses a wide range of musical vibes that represents the African diaspora, ranging from afrobeat, funk, and R&B to dancehall and hip-hop. This kaleidoscope of cultures, eras, and sounds cemented the GRAMMY® Award-nominated multiplatinum rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor as an international sonic pioneer. Since 2015, he has distinguished himself as a rare talent equally at home on a playlist by President Barack Obama, on the court at the 2020 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, on-screen in Marvel’s Luke Cage and HBO’s Insecure, or on his YouTube show The Lit Review: A Black Men’s Book Club. Jidenna formally introduced himself with the double-platinum “Classic Man” [feat. Roman GianArthur] which garnered a GRAMMY® Award nomination for “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration”, while Kendrick Lamar featured on the remix and his iconic suit on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2018, he traded Atlanta for Africa and lived throughout the continent as he consciously crafted his sophomore full-length album, 85 To Africa. Jidenna became the first American artist to promote in Africa first, giving the continent the new music from 85 to Africa before anyone as he continued to lay the bricks for the bridge that connects the diaspora to the motherland. Clocking just shy of one billion total streams and views and receiving worldwide acclaim, he continues to elevate the playing field with a series of singles and his forthcoming third album. Prior to his musical career, Jidenna graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and worked as a teacher, moving between Los Angeles, Oakland, Brooklyn and Atlanta. Born to a Nigerian Igbo father and White American mother in Wisconsin, he spent the first six years of his life in Nigeria before his family returned to the U.S.

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.

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Darren Harris

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.

Derrick H. Lewis is an energetic and passionate advisor and entrepreneur.

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Derrick H. Lewis

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, and management consulting roles working with diverse organizations in the public and private sectors. 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 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.

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.

Kevin Bedeau smiling in front of a book shelf in a white collar shirt

Kevin Bedeau

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.

Vivian Afia Taylor

Walla Elsheikh

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 spent 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 prior to leading Birthright AFRICA.

Walla has served as an interim executive director, 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.

Walla currently lives between the United States and Ghana. She was born in Sudan and raised there along with Sweden, Uganda, and New York City.

Diallo Shabazz

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.

Cheraé Robinson

Cheraé Robinson is an entrepreneur, speaker, traveler, DJ, and seeker. In 2015, she founded Tastemakers Africa, a venture-backed travel startup that disrupted mainstream notions about Africa while building one of the largest global communities of Black creatives and experience creators in Africa and the Diaspora.

Her creative approach to building a dynamic marketplace for authentic trips and tours led to collaborations with AFROPUNK, Uber, Radisson Blu, South African Airways, Soho House, and Facebook. Named one of "50 People Changing The Way We Travel" by Conde Naste Traveler, she has been featured in Forbes, Paper Magazine, Essence, Entrepreneur, Black Enterprise, Vogue, Fast Company and others. Prior to taking the leap into entrepreneurship Cheraé built a career in international development.

Fusing her background in science with her knack for storytelling, convening, and connecting she spent time at the CDC, CARE, CIMMYT, and Keep A Child. Cheraé is deeply committed to creating optionality, especially for Black People. Her vision is global connectivity as a pathway to living our best lives. Currently Cheraé is finding new ways to use her knack for brand, community-building, and connecting the dots. She is co-host of "It Just Got Real", a podcast for unconventional, creative, women entrepreneurs. Cheraé is deeply committed to creating optionality, especially for Black People. Her vision is global connectivity as a pathway to living our best lives. Cheraé was born and raised in New York with proud roots in the American South.

Jidenna Theodore Mobisson

Jidenna Theodore Mobisson better known as Jidenna proudly encompasses a wide range of musical vibes that represents the African diaspora, ranging from afrobeat, funk, and R&B to dancehall and hip-hop. This kaleidoscope of cultures, eras, and sounds cemented the GRAMMY® Award-nominated multi-platinum rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, and actor as an international sonic pioneer.

Since 2015, he has distinguished himself as a rare talent equally at home on a playlist by President Barack Obama, on the court at the 2020 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, on-screen in Marvel’s Luke Cage and HBO’s Insecure, or on his YouTube show The Lit Review: A Black Men’s Book Club. Jidenna formally introduced himself with the double-platinum “Classic Man” [feat. Roman Gian Arthur] which garnered a GRAMMY® Award nomination for “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration”, while Kendrick Lamar featured on the remix and his iconic suit on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2018, he traded Atlanta for Africa and lived throughout the continent as he consciously crafted his sophomore full-length album, 85 To Africa. Jidenna became the first American artist to promote in Africa first, giving the continent the new music from 85 to Africa before anyone as he continued to lay the bricks for the bridge that connects the diaspora to the motherland. Clocking just shy of one billion total streams and views and receiving worldwide acclaim, he continues to elevate the playing field with a series of singles and his forthcoming third album.

Prior to his musical career, Jidenna graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University and worked as a teacher, moving between Los Angeles, Oakland, Brooklyn and Atlanta. Born to a Nigerian Igbo father and White American mother in Wisconsin, he spent the first six years of his life in Nigeria before his family returned to the U.S.

Erica-Lee Benedetto

In 2021, Erica was named the first CEO of Marquis Who’s Who of Asian and African American descent. Marquis has been documenting the lives of influential and distinguished individuals for over 123 years. At Marquis, Erica is responsible for driving the overall strategy of the business while improving operational efficiency of the company through software development, product updates, new process initiatives and effective personnel management.

Under Erica’s direction a Selection Committee was assembled, and she launched an acclaimed Marquis Makers Series in January 2021 highlighting the depth and diversity of industry leaders, thought provokers, game changers and unsung heroes. The Makers Lists have been featured in the New York Times, The Hill, Nasdaq Spotlight, Business Insider, Yahoo!finance, OutFront Magazine and many other media publications. In September 2021, Erica was featured in Forbes magazine after receiving the Transformative CEO Award in Professional Branding from The CEO Forum.

She has remained committed to fostering a spirit of volunteerism and been a fervent supporter of arts and education centric organizations and programs. Erica was formerly the NYC Regional Board Chairperson of Birthright AFRICA prior to joining the Executive Board. She is currently a Board Member of Harbor Childcare and Early Learning Center and a member of the Collective of Concerned Black Professionals. Erica is a graduate of Yale University and has served as an Alumni Delegate-At-Large. She is an ardent music lover, classically trained violinist, vocalist, and poet. Erica is a proud Jamaican American of African and Chinese descent and has traced her roots to Nigeria.

Patrick Kodjoe

Patrick Kodjoe is a serial entrepreneur, consultant and business strategist. Among a number of other ventures, he co-founded and produced the wildly successful inaugural Full Circle Festival in December 2018, serving as Head of Operations.

The group of co-founders - Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John, Patrick’s brother Boris, his sister-in-law Nicole Ari Parker and Patrick - hosted a large group of high-profile friends in Accra, Ghana, at the request of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, to ring in the Year of Return 2019. The mission was and is to start changing the narrative about Africa in the West, by showing its many facets of beauty and excellence, and to rebuild the bridge between the African diaspora and the continent.

The impact of the event was immediate and profound, resulting in billions of social media impressions, a 900% increase in tourism in the year following the inaugural event and substantial economic impact. It led to a successful joint venture with ESSENCE Communications and an endorsement from the African Union. The second, Essence-funded Full Circle Festival (EFCF) in December 2019, headed up by Patrick as Head of Operations, was roughly twice in size and scope to the first one.

FCF is currently in the process of planning additional events throughout the African continent post COVID. Patrick continues to serve on its Board of Directors. Patrick earned a B.A. in international business with a minor in psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. He was born in Vienna Austria to a German mother and Ghanaian father and raised alongside his siblings in Germany.

Darren Harris

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.

Kevin Bedeau

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, nonprofits 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.

Mercedes Bent

Mercedes Bent is a Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners investing in early stage companies focused primarily on consumer, fintech, and edtech/future of work investments. Additional focus areas in Mercedes' investing portfolio include multicultural and women founders. Previously, Mercedes served as an executive at a VR startup and a General Manager at General Assembly where she oversaw a multi-million dollar business line 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, walking 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.

Derrick H. Lewis

Derrick H. Lewis is an energetic and passionate advisor and entrepreneur. He is a Senior Vice President at Liberty Mutual and brings over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurial, C-level, operational, human capital, technology, and management consulting roles working with diverse organizations in the public and private sectors.

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 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.