Dr. Johnetta B. Cole
Educator and Humanitarian
Renowned educator and humanitarian Johnnetta B. Cole made history when she became the first African American woman to be named president of Spelman College. Later, Cole served as president of Bennett College for Women. She is the only individual to have served as the president of the two historically black colleges for women in the United States. Much of her time is now centered in her role as the chair of the board of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute founded at Bennett College for Women. Cole is also committed to community service. She serves on numerous prominent boards, including the National Visionary Leadership Project, TransAfrica Forum and Africa University in Zimbabwe. From 2004-2006, she was the chair of the board of United Way of America— the first person of color to hold that position— and she continues to serve on that board. She is on the advisory board of The Atlanta Falcons and The Smithsonian’s Scholarly Advisory Board for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Executive VP Diversity, NBC Universal & Company Officer, General Electric
Paula Madison is the Executive Vice President of Diversity for NBC Universal and a Company Officer for GE. Madison, an 18-year GE veteran, was named an officer in June 2007. In May 2007, NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker appointed her as the company’s chief diversity officer. When the announcement was made, it was the first time in the history of NBC Universal that a senior executive has had diversity as his or her sole responsibility. As the liaison between the company and key national and local leaders, Madison also serves as the diversity spokesperson for NBC Universal. Madison is responsible for working with the company’s business executives to ensure the organization is an industry leader in developing the programs and culture that will enable the company to better reflect the makeup of its increasingly diverse, globally-based customers, clients and audiences.
From November 2000 to May 2007, Madison was the President and General Manager of KNBC, NBC’s owned and operated station in Los Angeles. She was the first African American woman to become general manager at a network-owned station in a top five market. In April 2002, when NBC purchased the Telemundo Network, Madison added a new title and responsibilities to her repertoire when she was named Regional General Manager of the Spanish language network’s Los Angeles stations, KVEA and KWHY. In July 2006, she added yet another role to her existing responsibilities – that of Executive Vice President, Diversity, NBC Universal. She was no stranger to this role, however. Madison held the position of Vice President, Diversity, and then Senior Vice President, Diversity, for the NBC network from February 2000 to May 2002.
During her tenure at KNBC, Madison’s commitment to rigorous journalism and her avid dedication to the community helped the station earn numerous prestigious industry awards, including local area Emmy, Golden Mike and Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for “Best Newscast” and “Best Investigative Reporting.” Madison has also received a significant number of honors for corporate leadership and community outreach. In 2006, Madison received the Walter Bremond Pioneer of African American Achievement Award, a prestigious honor given by the Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade. She was named one of the 75 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America by Black Enterprise Magazine in 2005 and has been included in the Hollywood Reporter’s “Power 100.” Among her many other awards, Madison received the “Citizen of the Year Award” from the City of Los Angeles Marathon in 2004 and the Anti-Defamation League’s “2003 Deborah Award.”
Madison joined KNBC from WNBC, NBC’s station in New York, where she was the station’s Vice President and News Director since March 1996. She joined WNBC in 1989 as Assistant News Director. From 1982 to 1989, Madison worked at KHOU-TV in Houston, Texas, KOTV-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma and WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas. After graduating from Vassar College, Madison began her career as reporter and editor at newspapers in New York and Dallas/Fort Worth. A native of Harlem, New York, Madison and her husband reside in Los Angeles.
The Godmother of Rap & Hip Hop
Entrepreneur Sylvia Robinson didn’t create hip-hop music, but she may have done more than any single individual to carve out a space for it in the musical marketplace. It was Robinson’s Sugar Hill label that first put hip-hop music on records, and in 1979 she brought together the musicians who created the piece that gave hip-hop music its name, the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Robinson actually played bass on that recording, and years earlier she had made a name as a performer herself: “Love Is Strange,” which Robinson and guitarist Mickey Baker recorded as Mickey & Sylvia, was a familiar pop hit of the late 1950s, and Robinson’s own “Pillow Talk” helped kick off the disco era in 1973.
Robinson was born Sylvia Vanderpool on March 6, 1936, in New York City. By the time she enrolled at Washington Irving High School she was already singing music in the new rhythm-and-blues genre, and she attracted the attention of a Columbia Records staffer. She made her first record when she was 14, backed by the veteran jazz trumpeter “Hot Lips” Page, and through the early 1950s she recorded, sometimes as Little Sylvia, for a variety of small labels including Savoy and Cat. Robinson then met session guitarist Mickey (McHouston) Baker, one of the key instrumentalists of early rhythm-and-blues, and the two began working together musically as Mickey & Sylvia.