Congratulations to the 2016 VM Award winners.

Education Awards : Wilhelmina Holder
Community Advocacy : Pastor Harding Smith
Entertainment Award: Charles Dennis
Non-Profit Award: Rosemond Sarpong Owens
Entrepreneur Award: Edoh Akakpo


Pastor Harding Smith, 2016 Voices Community Advocacy Award Nominee

Pastor Harding Smith is the son of a former chief of police in the small West African nation of Liberia. He received his police training in the city of Philadelphia during the 1970s. As a victim of torture from the Liberian civil war, Pastor Smith came to the U.S. in 1988 to find a better way of life. Pastor Smith was haunted by nightmares of events that occurred during the war. This led to many challenges in finding ways to settle into day-to-day life. As a result, he became homeless and had to seek help through People Inc., an organization in St. Paul which assists the homeless. After seeking help through the system, Pastor Smith received his calling to minister the word of God and help the disadvantaged – especially the homeless – whom today he considers his family.


Minnesota Acts Now : Pastor Smith established Minnesota Acts Now, a non-profit organization focused on reclaiming our community from the ravages of crimes, drugs and gun violence. The organization advocates in the judicial system assisting the under-represented. Minnesota Acts Now strengthens communities through teaching and training youth and adults about bullying, peer pressure, and conflict resolution. Pastor Smith meets with victims of families, providing counseling services and support during periods of grief and loss. Pastor Smith provides resources to the homeless and helps meet their needs by assisting with transportation for medical attention and rides to the food shelf. Pastor Smith enjoys preaching the word of God and watching football games with the homeless. Pastor has two wonderful children.


Extracted from www.minesotaactsnow.org



Wilhelmina Holder, 2016 Voices Education Award Nominee

Dr. Wilhelmina Holder, an immigrant from Liberia, is a graduate of McGill Medical School, Canada, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, England. She emigrated to Minnesota, USA, in 1985 through Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, after suffering severe political prosecution secondary to the Liberian coup d’état in 1980 at which time President of Liberia, William R. Tolbert, her father, was assassinated. She had international and national experience in program and organizational management and evaluation in Liberia, for eight years, practicing preventive medicine or directing various disease prevention and control programs for women and children. As Liberia’s first National World Health Organization (WHO) Program Coordinator (1978-80), she successfully collaborated various government ministries, national international partners to complete the first National Country Health Program for Liberia. In 1980, she also served as WHO Temporary Advisor to Maternal & Child Health Projects in Africa.

In Minnesota, she obtained a Masters in Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota, working as teaching/research assistant. Since 1990, she worked in several Twin Cities’ community-based non-profit Organizations planning, directing and evaluating educational and health related services targeting the most vulnerable minority populations. For the last 11 years, she has been the Executive Director of the Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), Inc. that empowers immigrant and refugee women and girls to succeed in the Twin Cities and Metro Areas, through education, advocacy and cultural competent services. She directs, among others, the model program, Foreign Trained Professionals (FTPs) Recertification, in partnership with the New Americans Alliance for Development (NAAD) Inc., formerly known as AAFACD, that provides scholarship, mentorship, support and advocacy for FTPs to get their licensure, integrate and diversify MN healthcare workforce, to decrease health disparities. She received several awards including the inaugural 2012 Lou Fuller Award for Distinguished Services in eliminating health disparities in MN; the Money Magazine Hero 2013 Award for her support to immigrants; and she was one of the finalists for the 2012 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Policy Fellowship.

She is a Bush Medical Fellow and has or had membership with the following organizations: the Refugee/Immigrant Women for Change Coalition, the MN’s Office of Minority & Multicultural Advisory Committee; the Community Advisory Board of the Cancer and the Trustees of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. Dr. Holder also affiliates with the Global Health Ministries; the Liberian Medical Association (USA); the Black Caucus Health Workers of the America Public Health and the MN Public Health Associations; McGill and MN University Alumni Associations.

She owes her love and passion for education and social justice to the teachings of Jesus Christ’s; the example of her father, and the support from her husband of 41 years, her four qualified children (a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, and an artist); as well as her nine adorable and smart grandchildren.



Rosemond Sarpong Owens: 2016 Voices Non-Profit Award Nominee

Rosemond “Rosie ” Owens has been a great success as the President of Books For Africa. Having a Board President from Ghana is a great plus for us. It gives us credibility with our donors, and with our partners in Africa, and shows that we care about our recipients in Africa and that we as an organization understand their needs and their struggle. But not only does Rosie give us credibility. She has organized fundraising activities in Central Minnesota that has brought in funding for Books For Africa. Finally, Rosie has served as a dynamic speaker at our annual fundraising luncheons for several years now featuring African Ambassadors from Washington, DC as our guests of honor. These events have brought in about $100,000 annually in cash and pledges. So, her message to our donors has been well-received! We are pleased to have Rosie working with us at Books For Africa”

A quote from the Executive Director of Books For Africa, Patrick Plonski.



Charles C. Dennis: 2016 Voices Entertainment Award Nominee.

Charles C. Dennis is from Liberia, West Africa. Since 2004, Charles has been the host of “The African Roots Connection Talk Show’ On KMOJ FM 89.9 radio on Saturday mornings covering the Twin Cities and live streaming at www.kmojfm.com. The show regularly features local and national personalities/organizations discussing issues that affect the African and African-American community in the Minneapolis – St. Paul area. The radio Program content usually covers a variety of topics, ranging from Health, Science, Politics, Education, Social Justice, Economics, Cultural appreciation, Self-empowerment and Justice to foster unity and cooperation amongst the area’s diverse African immigrant communities.

Charles is a Certified Third Party Risk Professional. Charles is analytical and motivated individual with proven years of experience as a Manager with comprehensive knowledge and experience in technology, Governance Risk and Compliance, Audit, Vendor Security assessment and a passion for Information Assurance as a whole. Results-oriented, with exemplary track record of driving results by collaborating and communicating effectively with clients/customers and stakeholders to innovate and strategizes to meet business needs/objectives. Charles values being a part of a team and collaborating with internal and external resources.

Charles holds a B.S.A degree in Information Assurance from Metropolitan State University.


Author: adminvm

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