Builders of the Movement

The Black Women's Health Imperative (BWHI) recognizes our "Builders of the Movement," those who were foundational to creating the National Black Woman's Health Project (now-renamed BWHI) mission of fostering a society in which all Black women and girls can achieve their full potential in all spheres of life.

Beige & Grey Minimalist Aesthetic Simple Grid Photo Collage (2000 × 2000 px) (2000 × 1250 px)



Beverly Guy-Sheftall

Beverly Guy-Sheftall is a distinguished American Black feminist scholar, writer, and editor. She holds the esteemed Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women's Studies and English position at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the founding Director of the Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center, making it the first research center at a historically Black college or university.

Eleanor Hinton-Hoytt (former Board Chair)

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt has been a champion and advocate for Black women’s health since 1983, when she coordinated the first National Conference on Black Women’s Health at Spelman College. As one of the founding members, she became the first board chair for the groundbreaking Black Women’s Health Project in 1984. And In 2007, she was appointed president & CEO of the Imperative and became a leading voice in the national dialogue on health reform for women of color, testifying before Congress and calling for available, accessible, affordable, and quality health care. Hinton Hoytt co-authored the Imperative’s publication & quote Health First: The Black Woman’s Wellness Guide,” for which she won the NAACP Image Award. She retired from the Imperative in 2014.

Ama Saran

Ama Saran has worked as a self-employed thought partner, community organizer, policy advocate and analyst, social science researcher, teacher, and non-profit organizational development trainer for over 45 years.Her outstanding work has been acknowledged with prestigious fellowships and awards from esteemed institutions such as Cornell University, the Union Institute, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Spelman College. Saran's relentless commitment to her work has made a lasting impact on the lives of many.
Ama Saran

Diane Rowley

Dr. Diane Rowley is board certified in pediatrics and preventive medicine andhas spent 30 years examining infant and pregnancy health disparities. She conceptualizes health inequity and creates tools to evaluate institutional equity.

Lillie Allen

Lillie P. Allen is Be Present, Inc.’s Founder, its Creatrix of Play, and the creator of the Be Present Empowerment Model® leadership framework, which supports individuals, families, organizations, and communities to transform and thrive. In 1983, her groundbreaking workshop, Black & Female: What is the Reality?™ brought together Black women to discuss the realities of our lives, envision together, and organize for justice. “Be Presen”t as the institution that houses a global movement that today includes people from all backgrounds is a result of Lillie’s vision, Black women’s leadership, and our collective work as a diverse network of people with a shared vision of justice for all.
Lillie Allen
natalia kanem

Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney, a renowned poet, and professor, spent her career illuminating the Southern cultural and political heritage of Black people. Finney’s work has attracted awards from organizations across the country. She is presently a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets and recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Washington D.C/Philadelphia

Brenda Shelton-dunston

Brenda Shelton-Dunston (PBWHA)

Brenda Shelton-Dunston, MPH, is the Executive Director of the Black Women’s Health Alliance and architect of the flagship initiative Creating a Legacy of Wellness: Mind, Body, and Spirit in Philadelphia, PA. She is known as a “boundary spanner” for facilitating effective partnerships between community, faith-based, health, and corporate entities.

Dorothy Roberts (former Board Chair)

Dorothy Roberts is an American sociologist, law professor, and social justice advocate. She writes and lectures on gender, race, and class in legal issues. Her concerns include changing thinking and policy on reproductive health, child welfare, and bioethics.


Judy Bigby (former Commissioner of Health)

Judy Bigby is an American doctor and the former Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2013. She is the Director of the Harvard Medical School of Excellence in Women’s Health.

Nashira Baril

Nashira Baril is the founder of Neighborhood Birth Center, Boston’s first community birth center startup. With a master’s degree in Maternal and Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health, and nearly 20 years of experience promoting racial equity in public health strategies, Baril is a visionary leader driving positive change.

Los Angeles


Angela Davis

Angela Davis is a prominent figure in American history, recognized as an influential political activist, philosopher, academic, and author. She is best known for her work in the civil rights movement and her advocacy for the abolition of the prison system. Davis is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Lenin Peace Prize and the National Medal of Arts. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Davis is a tireless advocate for social justice. She is a powerful voice for the oppressed and marginalized.

Fran Jemmott (Founder, CBWHP)

Fran Jemmott is a leader and change agent for social justice. Her work has focused on reducing health disparities and social determinants of health as a donor, grantmaker, board member, executive director, policy advisor, and volunteer.
Fran Jemmott

Sonya Young Aadam (CBWHP)

Sonya Young Aadam is the CEO of the California Black Women’s Health Project, an organization that raises awareness about medical racism and supports Black women in receiving equal health care.

Holly Mitchell

Holly Mitchell serves on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Mitchell leads with a deep understanding of the vital safety net LA County provides to millions of families and is committed to ensuring that all residents can thrive.