Afrikana Independent Film Festival

11AM | Afrikana x Tom Tom Roundtable: Listening to Learn

Expired September 19, 2020 5:00 PM
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Adele Johnson, Executive Director

The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia

Adele Johnson has worked in the nonprofit world most of her career and loves being part of transformation teams that heighten an organization’s impact in the community. In 2017 when she accepted the position as executive director of the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, Adele immediately felt at home . The museum’s mission is to “preserve stories that inspire” through historic exhibitions, community conversations, children’s programming, and cultural activities. Prior to joining the Black History Museum, she also held leadership positions with Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation, Capital One, and the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.

Adele earned a Bachelor of Science degree in urban planning from Virginia Commonwealth University and has received executive education certificates from Dartmouth College, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Richmond.

In addition to creating new adventures with her five grandchildren, Adele’s favorite pastime activities include kayaking, outdoor music concerts, choral singing, and tropical travel with her husband, Bill Cooper. She is a passionate proponent of equity and inclusion and has promoted racial reconciliation in both her professional career and community activities.

Dwandalyn R. Reece

Curator of Music and Performing Arts

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture

Dr. Dwandalyn R. Reece is Interim Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History Culture, where she has the dual responsibility of supervising the Office of Curatorial Affairs and leading the acquisition, research and interpretation of the museum’s music and performing arts collection. In 2017 she received the Secretary’s Research Prize for the museum’s Musical Crossroads exhibition. She is chair of the pan-institutional group, Smithsonian Music and was co-curator of the 2019 initiative, A Smithsonian Year of Music. Current projects include the forthcoming Smithsonian Folkways Records release, The Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap, and a book on the material culture of African American music. Before joining the Smithsonian, worked at several museums and grant-making organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Louis Armstrong House and Archives, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Motown Historical Museum. She received her BA in American Studies and Music from Scripps College, an MA in American Culture and a Certificate in Museum Practice from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University.

Gayle Jessup-White

Public Relations & Community Engagement Officer


Gayle Jessup White is Monticello’s first Community Engagement Officer, and the first descendant of Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved community employed by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the non-profit organization that owns and operates Monticello. She began at the Foundation in 2014 as an International Center for Jefferson Studies fellow, combing through old letters, documents, and records for clues to her family’s past. Two years later, she joined the staff as Community Engagement Officer, becoming a principal spokesperson. She currently serves as Monticello’s Public Relations & Community Engagement Officer.

A former award-winning TV reporter and anchor, Gayle began her journalism career at The New York Times, where she interned in the Washington Bureau. She left the Times for Northwestern University, earning a Master of Science in Journalism. Gayle spent several years as a TV news reporter and anchor before becoming a public television producer and show host at her undergraduate alma mater, Howard University.

Gayle has written about her genealogical and historical research for the and spoken at prestigious institutions, including the Smithsonian’s African American Museum of History & Culture, Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum, Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, Randolph College, the University of Virginia, the University of Richmond, and the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute. She has traveled around the country with Monticello’s traveling exhibition, “Paradox of Liberty: Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello,” lecturing and participating on panels at schools, churches, businesses, and museums.

A proud native Washingtonian, Gayle currently lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, writer Jack E. White, Jr. The two have a blended family of five children and seven granddaughters. She is currently writing a book about her lifelong search for her family’s roots, scheduled for publication in 2021 by HarperCollins.


Melani N. Douglass

Family Arts Museum

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Melani N. Douglass, NMWA’s Director of Public Programs, heads the groundbreaking Women, Arts and Social Change (WASC) initiative. At NMWA, Melani is cultivating a network of artists, curators, collectors, journalists, change agents and entrepreneurs who understand the power of art to shape and transform society. Through long-range planning and strategic community engagement rooted in strong community partnerships, she is expanding the impact and reach of NMWA’s public program initiatives. Melani is an avid researcher of women and the arts as catalyst of social change. Prior to her position at NMWA, Melani founded the Family Arts Museum, a nomadic institution that celebrates and documents family as fine art, home as curated space and community as gallery. She holds a Master in Fine Art in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art.