Like systemic health inequities, inadequate end-of-life options in the African American community have dramatically impacted our social and economic viability. The African American Leadership Council is taking an active leadership role in changing this by partnering with national organizations, noted scholars, and community activists to help find culturally relevant solutions. Our goal is to empower and educate our communities about the value of preparation and to better advocate for ourselves and our loved ones. Planning equals peace!  To learn more about and to get involved in the Council’s work, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

The Compassion & Choices community mourns the loss of Dr. Omega Silva, African American Leadership Council member, who died on April 2, 2020. Read more about her life here and our tribute to her here.

Joél Simone Maldonado

Joél Simone Maldonado is a licensed funeral director, insurance agent and sacred grief practitioner. She specializes in

helping guide individuals families, businesses and governmental agencies navigate uncomfortable and dificult conversations about death, dying, end of life, funeral and burial planning. She was born in Europe and raised in Beaufort, South Carolina, the heart of Gullah and Geechee culture. Spirituality, the sacredness of death, caring for those in transition, the deceased and supporting my community through grief have always been a huge part of my life. My professional approach is deeply rooted in ancient and ancestral wisdom passed down generation to generation.

During my decade of service in the funeral service industry, I've fashioned my unique background and professional experiences into a caliber and style of care and comfort that guides those that I serve toward healing through journeys with grief. It is my life's work to educate everyone – regardless of faith, race, age, or status – that death, dying and grief are sacred and transformative to our journeys as human beings.


Khadine Bennett, Director, Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs, ACLU of Illinois

Khadine is a highly respected human and civil rights advocate in the State of Illinois. As a Director of Advocacy and Intergovernmental Affairs for the ACLU, she is responsible for advancing federal and state constitutional liberties on a wide range of issues relating to privacy and technology, policing, criminal and juvenile justice, LGBT+, and reproductive rights. Khadine began her social justice career in the California Bay Area, where she worked as an organizer, program director, and consultant for organizations such as WILD for Human Rights, Youth Force Coalition, and the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Khadine’s past and present board responsibilities include the Juvenile Justice Initiative, Restore Justice Illinois, Third Wave Foundation, WILD for Human Rights, Exhale, and the Chicago Abortion Fund.

Jason Gaulden, Chief Executive Officer Untapped Potential Project, Colorado

Jason is leading the launch of the Untapped Potential Project—a network of career and technical high schools under development, with its first school opening in Chicago. The mission is to bridge the gap between student skills and employer needs—creating excellent career opportunities for students while solving talent and workforce shortages for businesses. Jason is also the Founder and Principal of The Gaulden Group, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in strategy, communications, and fundraising, with an emphasis on modernizing education and workforce training pathways. This is the key to providing robust, reliable, and diverse talent streams into high quality, in-demand jobs. Prior to this role, he served as Vice President of Partnerships for America Succeeds, a national network of business leaders focused on improving the nation’s education system. Jason is co-author of The Age of Agility: Education Pathways for the Future of Work, which examines the rapidly changing nature of education-to-workforce pathways. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs where he majored in Sociology.

Christy Davis Jackson, Lawyer and Public Policy Expert, New Jersey

Christy is the Chief Executive Officer and partner at the City Strategy Group. For more than 25 years, she has been recognized as the preeminent public affairs and public policy strategist in New Jersey. Her clients have included corporate, non-profit, and government entities, which all have sought her legislative and political expertise. Christy was chief counsel for the first African American woman in the New Jersey state legislature, state director for the late US Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, and campaign manager for former US Senator Jon S. Corzine. Christy has also served in a number of corporate sector roles throughout her career.

Channte’ Keith, Director of Operations, Center for Black Health & Equity, North Carolina

Channté is a public health activist, trainer, racial equity champion, and a breast cancer survivor. For 15 years, she has worked on issues that impact African American health. Keith has traveled across the country to provide training and technical assistance to federal and state agencies, faith-based institutions, appointed and elected officials, and HBCUs. She serves as a board member for Breast Cancer Action, Compassion and Choices, and Boards of the Community Advocacy Committee (CAC) for Wake County, North Carolina, and Hands of Protection.

Reverend Charles W. McNeill, Jr., Senior Pastor, Unity Baptist Church, Maryland

Pastor McNeill is a Past President of the National Capital Baptist Convention, Washington, DC & Vicinity. Pastor McNeill is also Chair of the 2022 National Baptist Convention, USA Annual Session at the National Harbor, and President of the Washington Baptist Ministers Conference of Washington, DC & Vicinity. He serves on the Executive Board of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the First Vice Moderator of the Mt. Bethel Baptist Association, the Faith-Based Liaison to Prince George’s, Maryland – County Executive, Angela Alsobrooks’, Chairman of the Board of the United Community Against Poverty (UCAP), and MSNBC as a commentator.

Ottamissiah “Missy” Moore, Nurse, Consultant & Community Activist, Washington, DC

Missy is a resident of Washington DC. Her nursing experience and knowledge in nursing spans over 30 years. She currently is Director of Staff Development at Bridgepoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Capitol Hill. Ms. Moore has extensive experience in Care at the end of life. Moore is a past president of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses and a Lifetime member of the National Black Nurses Association. She served on the board for the District of Columbia State Board of Nursing and other appointed committee positions including, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, PN NCLEX Item Selection Committee, Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, LPN Standards Committee, and National League for Nursing Licensed Practical Nurse Ad Hoc Committee.

Beverly Morgan, Nurse, Entrepreneur & Community Activist, Washington, DC

Beverly is a passionate community activist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She is the owner of two private duty home care agencies that provide comprehensive home care services to seniors and has given generously to students pursuing careers in nursing. Beverly also works tirelessly as faculty for Vitas Innovative Hospice, traveling the country providing education on End-of-Life Care and Palliative Services. She also provides community outreach and education to churches and senior centers in Washington, DC on Medicare vs. Medicaid and Advanced Senior Planning. In addition to her work with Compassion and Choices, Beverly serves as a board member for several healthcare organizations such as, the National Association of Licensed Practical Nurses, NALPN Education Foundation, Maryland Licensed Practical Nurses Association, Black Nurses of Southern Maryland, Black Nurses Rock, Foundation and is a member of National Association Health Service Executives, Washington, D.C., chapter.

Shawn Perry, Executive Producer & Host, The Senior Zone, Washington, D.C.

Shawn Perry is the executive producer and host of The Senior Zone, a weekly radio program dedicated to serving the needs of the older adult community. Shawn has worked tirelessly to promote older adults’ well-being and created a forum to provide relevant information, encouragement, and guidance. Uniting seniors, age 50+, with tips and directions to senior programs and services, tools and resources, events, advice and cultural forums. The Senior Zone serves as an invaluable and versatile resource each Monday at 10:00am EST on WYCB, 1340AM. Shawn is a retired military officer, serving nearly 22 years in the US Air Force and holds a BS from the University of Maryland. He has lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 32 years.

Dr. Lucille Ridgill, Site Medical Director at AltaMed, California

Dr. Ridgill is a Site Medical Director at AltaMed, the nation’s largest network of community-based primary care clinics and senior care programs, overseeing clinical patient care. AltaMed is headquartered in Commerce, California. Dr. Ridgill is a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and is board certified in hospice and palliative medicine. She is also a visiting physician at VITAS Healthcare in Coastal Cities, California. Dr. Ridgill completed her residency at UCLA-Charles Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, BA from Creighton University and a medical degree from Creighton University Medical School, in Omaha, Nebraska.

Avery Leora Ross, Gerontological Society of America, Hospice, Palliative and End-of- Life Care division

Avery Leora Ross is a dedicated and resourceful community and family advocate with ten years of positive impact working within agency settings serving countless families in the New York area. Skilled at needs assessment for bereavement programs and group facilitation coupled with versatile leadership and project management skills. As a volunteer with the Hospice of New York and the Services Program for Older People, Avery’s calling as a grief counselor and bereavement facilitator, has compelled her to support and reframe the tasks associated with the loss of a loved one giving the group/ individuals an opportunity to acknowledge and accept the natural stages of loss and guiding them through the process of creating a new normal.

As a budding gerontologist, and a member of the Gerontological Society of America, Hospice, Palliative and End-of- Life Care division, Avery’s desire and compassion for all New Yorkers to have the right to choose their end-of- life care has ignited her to advocate for the Medical-Aid in Dying Act that has passed in several states. She is an active volunteer with End-of- Life Choices New York and Compassion & Choices.

Reverend Madison Shockley, Pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, California

Rev. Shockley is the pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA. He brings to Pilgrim Church a wealth of experience from his work in the political, non-profit and media environments. Originally ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1979, he served churches in St. Louis, Denver and Seattle. In 1990, he joined the United Church of Christ when he accepted the call to the Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, UCC, in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, he became a leader in the aftermath of the 1992 riots by organizing and hosting an interracial dialogue to heal the broken community. Along with performing his pastoral duties with Pilgrim, Madison serves on the board of directors of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the board of directors of Compassion & Choices. He also writes commentary for various online and print outlets.

Shirley Tabb, Social Worker & Host Radio Host

Shirley Tabb is a licensed social worker and advocate, who has assessed and helped over 1000 people in the District of Columbia access community resources and home health services under the Home and Community Based Medicaid Waiver for the Elderly and Disabled. Shirley hosts a talk show on DC Cable Television where she discusses pertinent issues facing poor, elderly, and disabled people receiving or in need of Medicaid or private-pay home health care. Social Work Today is an international radio show whose focus includes topics from end-of-life care and ageism.

Al Thomas, Newspaper Publisher & Entrepreneur, Pennsylvania

Thomas co-founded the South Jersey Journal, a monthly publication that serves a culturally diverse Southern New Jersey footprint. He currently operates as President & CEO of the South Jersey Journal. Thomas began his distinguished career as the Associate Publisher of Grio' Magazine. He then joined the Philadelphia Tribune Newspaper as Director of Marketing & Advertising, where he was instrumental in creating local, regional, and national business partnerships. Thomas continues to extend his successes beyond publishing. He was a selected member of the Wilt Chamberlain Stamp Committee, founder of the Alice Coachman and Paul Roberson Field Day, member of the Mid-Atlantic Community Publishers Association, National Newspapers Publishers Association, and Gloucester County NAACP. Thomas is currently a board member of the Philadelphia Tribune Trust.


Ricardo D. Thomas, Registered Financial Consultant and Public Speaker, Louisiana

Ricardo Thomas is a practicing financial consultant and is the president of Thomas-Waddell & Associates, Inc., a financial consulting and asset management firm with clients across the country. He is a Registered Financial Consultant and Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant who has been a practicing financial consultant for over 35 years. He is a former instructor at Delgado Community College, where he taught for 10 years several financial-related courses he developed. He also taught at the University of New Orleans as a part of their Project Pass program. He is also a former contributing financial writer for both Perspectives Magazine and Women of Excellence Magazine. His work in the area of personal finance has been featured in the Times-Picayune, New Orleans CityBusiness, New Orleans Tribune, Barnes & Noble bookstore, and other publications across the country.