Our 2020 Women of Excellence Honorees

Toni Braxton - 2020 WDAS Women of Excellence Icon Award Winner

With over 67 Million Albums Sold worldwide, 7 Grammy & American Music Awards, 9 Billboard Music Awards, and 5 Soul Train Music Awards... Star of Broadway, Television, Film, and Fashion, we salute the phenomenal living legend… Toni Braxton!

Legend. Icon. Songstress. Diva.

Very few artists ever ascend to the rarefied heights that those four words symbolize. Toni Braxton is one of those few.

The multimillion-selling R&B/pop pioneer and seven-time Grammy Award-winner behind timeless hits such as “Love Shoulda Brought You Home,” “Another Sad Love Song,” “Breathe Again,” “Seven Whole Days,” “Un-Break My Heart” and “He Wasn’t Man Enough.” If that wasn’t enough, the multi-talented singer/songwriter has also expanded her skillset along the way: music producer, Broadway musical star, television actress/producer and best-selling author.

Braxton’s own mesmerizing voice remains constant with each project—the same sultry and smoky vocals that immediately turned heads in 1992. That’s when listeners first became aware of the newcomer who appeared on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy box office smash Boomerang. Helmed by songwriter/producers and LaFace Records founders Babyface and Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the soundtrack featured Braxton on two songs: “Give You My Heart,” a duet with Babyface, and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.”

That set the stage for Braxton’s 1993 breakthrough with her self-titled debut LaFace album that’s now 8x platinum. The project also garnered the singer the first three of her seven Grammy Awards, including best new artist. Braxton, who began singing professionally in the ‘80s with her three sisters as The Braxtons, has since banked an enviable number of career-defining moments. Between 1996 and 2010, she released six more solo albums (Secrets, The Heat, Snowflakes, More Than a Woman, Libra and Pulse) and charted a string of hits (including “You Mean the World to Me,” “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “I Love Me Some Him”/ “I Don’t Want To”) before teaming with Babyface 2014 for the critically acclaimed duets album that won her a seventh Grammy for Best R&B Album.

Along the way, Braxton reinvented her game as she effortlessly segued into a theatrical acting career in 1998 as Belle in Beauty and the Beast. That barrier-breaking portrayal—the first black woman to play a leading role in a Disney Broadway production—led to a stint in a second Disney Broadway musical, Aida, and later a special guest star engagement with another Broadway musical, AfterMidnight.

Since then, Braxton has starred in three TV films for Lifetime including Twist of Faith, Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart (adapted from her same-titled best-selling memoir) and, most recently, Faith Under Fire: the Antoinette Tuff Story. In between, she and her three sisters have become popular reality stars via WE tv’s flagship series Braxton Family Values. Diagnosed with lupus several years ago, Braxton hasn’t allowed that to slow her career momentum nor her role as the proud mom of sons Denim and Diezel. She devotes time as spokesperson for Lupus L.A. and Austism Speaks, the latter on behalf of Diezel who is living with autism.

Reflecting on her silver anniversary of her career, Braxton says she’s still in love with music and the possibilities it affords. “There have been moments when I felt defeated; felt I let myself down,” she says. “Even if I fail, music gives me enough strength to try something different. I’ve come full circle—yet there are still so many things to do.”

Bumi Fernandez West, Chief Executive Officer of The Odunde Festival

Oshunbumi Fernandez-West is the CEO of ODUNDE, the largest African American festival in the USA. The festival’s economic impact on the State of Pennsylvania is $30 million dollars and on the City of Philadelphia $28 million dollars. ODUNDE is a world-renowned cultural organization whose mission is to educate the public on the African and African-American culture. The festival attracts up to 500,000 attendees, covers 15-city blocks, has over 100 arts & craft/ food vendors and has two stages of live entertainment. The festival is known throughout the world as one of the original models for African American festivals, hosting many internationally known African and Caribbean performers, dignitaries, folk artists and cultural leaders.

Ms. Fernandez-West was recently named one of Philadelphia's most influential African American leaders from 2012 to the current year. Her education includes a BA in Human Biology-Anthropology from Temple University and an MBA from LaSalle University. Her dedication to cultural awareness and expression has dominated her professional life. She has been invited to lecture on her personal achievements and the accomplishments of ODUNDE internationally.

In October 2011, she created ODUNDE365 to provide year-round African and African-American cultural programming in schools, community centers and public venues. Currently these programs have culturally impacted the lives of thousands of people. She is the owner of BUMI PRODUCTIONS an event planning company whose clients’ list includes: PECO JAZZ, SUNOCO WELCOME AMERICA, LFGA & associates, UNIVERSAL companies and many more.

In April 2013, she was a member of Governor Tom Corbett's Trade Mission delegation to Brazil and Chile. In October 2013, she created KWANZAABRATION with Music Icon Kenny Gamble a festival whose mission is to educate and increase awareness of the Kwanzaa Holiday to the public.

In 2013, she received the Most Influential Black Woman Award from the NAACP-Philadelphia Chapter. In 2014, she received the Community Impact Award from the Developing in Excellence Organization. In 2017, she received the Community Service Award from Philadelphia Association of Black Journalist. In May 2018, she received the highest honor from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority- Philadelphia Alumnae Charter- the Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander Award. In September 2018, she received the African Woman of Excellence Award from the African Union in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tracy Davidson, Anchor, NBC 10 News Today, NBC 10 Philadelphia

Tracy Davidson is a morning anchor for NBC10 News Today, weekdays from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tracy joined NBC10 in March 1996 and has served as both an anchor and consumer reporter. Over the last 20 years, she has represented the station at hundreds of community and charity events throughout the Greater Philadelphia area. She loves presenting the day’s top stories with her co-anchor and friend, Vai Sikahema.

Tracy has received 12 Emmy Awards, including the Best News Anchor Emmy for the Mid-Atlantic Region in 2008 and 2013. She has received numerous awards for commitment to the community.The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey recognized her with the 2019 Women United Award. Women Organized Against Rape honored her with their Carol Johnson Humanitarian Award. In 2018, she was honored to accept the March of Dimes Roosevelt Award for Service to Humanity. Tracy was awarded with the “Hero Award” from Montgomery Child Advocacy Project in 2017.She currently sits on the Board of Visitors for the Lew Klein College of Media & Communications at Temple University and received the Lew Klein Alumni in Media Award in 2013.

Passionate about many causes, Tracy devotes much of her personal time to community service. As an advocate for victims of domestic violence, she has been honored by both the Laurel House in Norristown, Pennsylvania and Vera House in Syracuse, New York. She has served on the the Board of Directors for Philabundance and as the Honorary Chair for the March of Dimes’ Walk America/March for Babies. Currently, Tracy co-chairs the Communication Committee for Vision 2020. She also serves as an Executive in Residence at Alvernia University.

Tracy is a motivational speaking and is currently presenting a series of retreats for women: “Lifting Your Voice.”She also freely shares her breast cancer survival story with her message: “Don’t Wait.”

Little known fact: She has earned a Religious Studies Certificate from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary and a Masters in Holistic Spirituality from Chestnut Hill College.

Twitter: @tracydavidson

Instagram: @tracydavidsonnbc10

Anita T. Conner, Managing Partner, Anita T. Conner & Associates

With a background in accounting, taxation, financial planning, insurance and investments, Anita brings a wide variety of experiences in providing strategies to help her clients work towards their personal and business goals. Having worked in the industry for over 35 years, financial advisory services has become a passion for Anita and she has been tapped by many organizations and the media to share her insight, experiences and expertise in the field.Every Sunday you can hear Anita’s financial tips on 105.3 FM (WDAS).

Before opening her own certified public accounting & financial services firm over 30 years ago, Anita was a Controller for a Subsidiary of Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, Tax Manager for Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company and a Tax Accountant for Price Waterhouse, one of the top certified public accounting firms in the country. Anita has received over 70 citations and awards for her business and professional achievements, including the Best Tax Preparation Service in Philadelphia, by US Commerce Association and “Top Wealth Manager” as seen in Philadelphia Magazine.

Anita is deeply involved in the community having formed G.E.T. Financial Education Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate the wealth disparities in the Black community by providing workshops and coaching. She also co-founded Praise Is The Cure® (with her daughter Kerri Conner Matchett), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate breast cancer disparities among Black women by providing education, access to screening and treatment and other support services for breast cancer patients, survivors and their families.

Anita graduated from Drexel University with a degree in accounting and Philadelphia University with a master’s degree in Taxation. Anita is a certified public accountant, certified financial planner™, and holds FINRA Series 7 and 66 securities registrations, as well as her life and health producer license.

A proud parent of two, Anita’s children, Kerri Conner Matchett, CPA and John K. Conner, Jr., RR are partners in the firm.

Tiffany Tavarez, Vice President of Community Relations, Wells Fargo

Tiffany Tavarez serves as Vice President of Community Relations at Wells Fargo where she implements the company’s corporate responsibility priorities through strategic philanthropy, stakeholder engagement and team member volunteerism across the Northeast (PA, NY, NJ, DE, CT). Her career in community relations has included reputable organizations such as PECO/Exelon, Comcast, Temple University, First Person Arts & the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Numerous organizations throughout the region have recognized her work and commitment to civic engagement & impact. Highlights include Philadelphia City Council, LEADERSHIP Philadelphia, IMPACTO, Femme & Fortune, Hispanic Media LLC, Friends of the Urban Affairs Coalition & the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey. In 2018, the Forum of Executive Women presented her with the Emerging Leader Award and most recently, she was named in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2019 Top Forty Under 40.

She currently serves as a member of Governor Tom Wolf’s Pennsylvania Commission for Women; Vice Chair, Board of Directors Mural Arts Philadelphia; Member and Development Committee Chair, Board of Directors, Esperanza; Chair, Monument Lab Advisory Board Member and Member, Temple Contemporary Advisory Council. She is a first-generation college graduate who has earned degrees from both Temple University and University of the Arts. Her mentees – the talented & audacious future leaders in the region – serve as her primary source of community leadership and personal inspiration.

Catherine Hicks, Publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper

Catherine Hicks was raised in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia and received her education through the public school system. During her high school years, Catherine often worked in the office where she was introduced to the communications field, often making the school announcements on their broadcast system. After high school, Catherine worked for a marketing and promotion company specializing in movie and concert promotions, where she was introduced to radio broadcast and creating commercials for movie theaters and concerts in and around the Philadelphia area. Catherine attended LaSalle University and majored in communications.

Catherine married and joined her then-husband as co- founder of HDA (Hicks Drycleaning Association) and Impress Dry Cleaners. While married, she would go on to co-own and operate four successful dry cleaning establishments in the Philadelphia area. Catherine also worked at some of the region’s largest Healthcare providers (HMA and Keystone Mercy) where she was able to fine-tune her communications skills. In 2000 Catherine took the position as Director of Project Management and Communications in the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office where she oversaw all press-related material, and established relationships with television, radio and news publications.

In 2012 Catherine joined the Philadelphia Sunday Sun as their Public Relations Consultant. Catherine also co- produced the weekly broadcast radio news show, Freedom Quest hosted by the late J. Whyatt Mondesire, who was also founder and publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday SUN. In 2015 Catherine took over as Publisher and Co-owner of the Philadelphia Sunday SUN after the untimely death of its founder. Along with her partner Joseph Mondesire, Catherine oversees the publication, material and content for the weekly newspaper. She is committed to continuing the legacy of her predecessor by producing a quality news source benefitting the community at large and expanding its resources through digital and social media sites.

Catherine’s lifetime achievement is not measured by her entrepreneurial spirit or her successful business ventures, but by her undying love and devotion for her family and extended family. Raised in a loving environment with five siblings that are supportive of all her endeavors, enabled her to raise two bright and beautiful daughters… who in turn have blessed her with four beautiful and talented grandchildren.

Catherine devotes her spare time to the organizations and civic groups she belongs to: The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalist, The Philadelphia Chapter of NAACP, African American Chamber of Commerce, PA Democratic State Party, Pen and Pencil Club, National Press Club, PhillyCam, Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society, Philadelphia Community of Leaders, Black Women’s Leadership Council, Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels and The National Federation of Black Veterans Network

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