Symposium Guest

Symposium Guest


Onie Johns left her suburban Germantown life to engage in a “ministry of presence.” Through Caritas Village, which she founded, Onie strives to “break down walls of hostility between races, rich and poor, and provide a positive street-corner alternative for neighborhood children.” Caritas Village now includes a restaurant and offers a wide range of cultural and arts activities to the additionally, the Village offers a theater, art studio, free health clinic, after-school programs, tutoring and ESL programs. All this hospitality and all the services are available in Binghamton, one of Memphis’ most under served neighborhoods.

“Onie Johns is passionate about community and the arts and believes that creativity is more valuable than knowledge and feels that we are all sojourners on earth and that there is “enough” for everyone.”

In her efforts to build strong families in Binghamton and to create racial harmony throughout the city, Onie has joined forces with Service Over Self, Bridges, Jacob’s Ladder and numerous churches, among others. Onie’s life and work personify the values of the Women’s Foundation.

 The Legends Award pays tribute to women whose work embodies the mission of the Women’s Foundation.

earle-fisherRev. Earle J. Fisher is a native of Benton Harbor, Michigan.  This preacher, professor, writer and social activist graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1996, earned an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts in 1999 from Lake Michigan College, a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Computer Science in 2003 from LeMoyne-Owen College and a Masters of Divinity Degree in May 2008 from Memphis Theological Seminary. Rev. Fisher is a dually ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Missionary Baptist Church denominations as well as a full-time PhD student of Rhetoric and Communications at the University of Memphis. Professor Fisher serves as Adjunct Instructor of Religious Studies and Humanities at several local colleges and universities.  Pastor Earle is also the Senior Pastor of Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, TN.  Most of his research focuses on the intersections of rhetoric, race, and religion with an emphasis on prophet rhetoric and political/public address.




Joann Massey currently serves as the City of Memphis’ Director of Business Diversity & Compliance and Title VI Coordinator. Joann is a Founder & Principal Consultant for Lewis Massey Associates, LLC. In this role she was responsible for counseling clients on business expansions, acquisitions, procurement opportunities and navigating community and government ecosystems. She is a graduate of Benedictine University, where she graduated summa cum laude with a Master degree in Business Administration and Finance. Joann also has served as the Lead Business Development Consultant for Governor Bill Haslam’s TN Dept. of Economic & Community Development. During her time with the State of TN, Joann successfully managed to secure over 300 million dollars in investment for West TN counties through new business and expansions. She also was recognized as an emerging leader in state government by the TN Chief of Staff for the Governor’s Office.

Joann has experience in both public and private sector organizations including financial services, banking, real estate and local government. She is a recognized community leader with accolades such as Memphis Business Journal Top 40 Under 40, Leadership Memphis Executive Class 2014 and Top Performer Shelby County Government. Joann is a board member of Orion Federal Credit Union and former Chairperson for Frayser Community Schools charter school management organization. Joann has also served as a guest speaker, volunteer and mentor for many non-profit organizations in Memphis such as Women’s Foundation, Community Lift, New Memphis and StartCo. Joann enjoys yoga and reading history. Her passion is assisting underprivileged girls by helping to improve their self-esteem through mentorship and exposure to cultural activities.


James Owens Located in Moreno Valley, CA. Pastor Owens and family have launched their ministry.  It is Pastor and Sister Lynette Owens desire to reach out to families within the community and establish the Kingdom of God and to inspire families to fulfill their full potential.






William Owens, Founder of Poets For America  A prolific author of eight books in the Christian literature genre which include Divine Protocol, Warriors Arise, His most recent work; Naked Before God – Words that Express My Heart is a compilation of 44 poems written during a season of personal suffering that took him to a deeper discovery of God.  It was poetry that enabled him to express his heart to God.

Owens is currently launching a national tour called, Poets For America to bring words of hope, love and unity between cultures and to directly challenge the false narrative that divides our nation. The tour will take this message through the art expression of poetry to churches, schools, events and wherever there is a need for God’s light and love. It is evangelism through the expression of  the Spoken Word which represents a respected platform of accepting ideas.

He also conducts seminars on the Authentic Pen design to encouraging and equip writers, artist and performers to obtain their authentic voice and use it for God’s Kingdom with complete abandonment to His will for their lives. It is based on Psalms 45:1.


earnestinerobinson2014Earnestine Rodgers Robinson is a renowned composer whose illustrious song-writing career began with volunteering to assist with a simple church Easter program. “When I agreed to help, I was completely unaware of the hidden treasure that God had in store for me through my participation in this endeavor,” Robinson said.

But over a course of three decades, it blossomed into a prolific music career. Ms. Robinson has lectured extensively on how she became a composer of sacred classical music, though she has no formal training in music. She gave the convocation address to students at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota telling students to “…never give up on your dream if it is an honorable one, no matter how challenging the journey.”



jb-srJB Smiley, Sr., Simplified abbreviated biography (no picture available)
Retired department of defense armed services vocational aptitude battery manager for 29 years retired in 2012, a program manger and counseling director for youth service in Memphis-USA for 6 years. Councilor and Counseling Coordinator for the comprehensive employment and training administration (ceta) for 5 years. Employment interviewer and job developer Mississippi state employment office, counselor for the Singer corporation, Vietnam veteran combat sergeant. His entrepreneurship include founder; Smiley’s professional moving service; love charm incorporated and Smiley’s Real Estate investment and rental property, owner and CEO.

Chef for the Food and Fellowship

eli-hands-folddChef Eli Townsend is a native Memphian and graduate of Frayser High School. He just returned to Memphis from Little Rock working  at the Community Bakery as Kitchen/ Front of the House manager. He has several years of experience in the Food,Beverage and Hospitality Industry As Chef De’ Cuisine for Wade and Company Catering/ Tower Center, Miss Cordelia’s in HarborTown and currently as Chef/ Restaurant Manager of Caritas Village.