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PHL Diversity Podcasts

Welcome listeners,

PHL Diversity Podcasts are brief insights, views and opinions from tourism and hospitality leaders, meeting/convention professionals and academics regarding specific hospitality, tourism and diversity topics.

Join us to learn more about strategies and initiatives to raise Philadelphia’s image as a premier diverse/multicultural destination for meetings and convention.

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Episode 15

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Gregg Caren, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and Mike Gamble, President and CEO of SearchWide Global and Founder and President of Tourism Diversity Matters.

Mike co-founded SearchWide Global, one of the hospitality industry’s leading executive search firms. He is also the founder of Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), an exciting and important initiative launched in February 2021. Prior to SearchWide Global, Mike was SVP of Sales and Marketing for PHLCVB and held various leadership roles with Marriott International. Gregg is approaching one year as President and CEO of PHLCVB. He joined the destination marketing organization with more than three decades in the tourism industry, most recently as EVP, Sales and Strategic Business Development with ASM Global (formerly SMG). PHLCVB is a founding partner for this collective impact model dedicated to eliminating disparities in the tourism and meetings industries through advocacy and education. TDM’s mission is to be a resource to foster diversity, equity and inclusion practices in collaboration and cooperation with all industry initiatives.

Mike and Gregg join Greg DeShields (TDM’s Executive Director) for an inspirational and thought-provoking conversation highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion within the tourism and events industry operations.

Episode 14

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with David L. Cohen, Senior Advisor for Comcast and Chair of The Philadelphia Award. Created in 1921, The Philadelphia Award is among the most meaningful, and prestigious awards conferred by, and for the Philadelphia community. The award is given each year to a Philadelphia citizen who has acted and served on behalf of the best interest of the community.

David shares his thoughts on the 2019 Philadelphia award recipients include Reverend Luis Cortes Jr., Dr. Amy J. Goldberg, M.D., and Nicole Klingerman. They were presented the award for their dedication and service to improving the lives of underserved people and communities in Philadelphia through community development, anti-gun violence, and domestic workers protections. Additionally, David discusses the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to the Philadelphia Award.

Episode 13

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Pranam Lipinski, Co-Founder of Work With GEN Z. Work with GEN Z is an organization devoted to educating employers on practices for creating effective work environments for the next generation of workers. Based on real-world experience, Work With GEN Z built a Gen Z-focused college recruiting online platform that connects employers to diverse college student organizations.

Pranam is passionate about bridging the understanding gap between GEN Z and other generations to create more empathy and effectiveness in the workplace. Join us for an in-depth discussion about the core characteristics of Gen Z (1995 – 2012), what they want and how Inclusion, Stability and Authenticity (ISA) is key to the chain collaboration. Pranam further discusses their role in the hospitality industry and common mistakes employees make when recruiting them.

Episode 12

In this episode, join us for an in depth conversation with Marlinda Henry, CEP, Chairwoman of the Board for the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and Richard Lee Snow, Regional Development Director of the United Negro College Fund.

Marlinda Henry is the current Chairwoman and Richard Lee Snow is Chair Emeritus of The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), founded in 1983, is a. non-profit organization dedicated primarily to the training needs of African American meeting planners. NCBMP is the preeminent organization educating African American association executives and meeting planners in all aspects of the meeting planning profession.

Richard Lee Snow is the Chair of PHL Diversity leading the charge in diversity and inclusion efforts and connects meeting and convention planners with the region’s diverse business community to ensure successful events.

They join Greg DeShields to discuss the impact of the pandemic on black meeting professionals, the current state of black meetings and conventions, and the future of those meetings after COVID-19.

Episode 11

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Melissa Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of Destinations International. As the world’s largest resource for official destination organizations, Destinations International represents over 6,000 professionals from nearly 600 destination organizations globally.

Melissa has 20 plus years of experience in the industry and is responsible for the development and execution of strategies to promote and elevate the association’s mission and brand to drive awareness of its impact to advance the success of the destination marketing and management industry worldwide. Before joining Destinations International, Melissa was the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.

Join us as we discuss the future of tourism, Destination International’s recently released 2020 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion study, and much more.

Episode 10

Diversifying Travel: A Conversation with Roni Weiss

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Roni Weiss, Executive Director of Travel Unity, a nonprofit focused on diversity in travel. Travel Unity connects community groups and individuals with travel, cultural, and educational experiences to promote personal and professional growth. A key focus of Travel Unity is collaborating with organizations in the world of travel to broaden their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, including aligning with best practices for DEI.

Through years of world travels, Roni has visited over 70 countries, including every country in Europe, six of seven continents, and taught English in Italy, France, Taiwan, and Chile, both to youth and professionals. From 2011 to 2016, Roni worked with Africa Tourism Association, assisting with, and speaking at a ATA’s events in NYC, DC, and multiple African countries.

In 2013, RW Social launched the New York Travel Festival, an event focused on innovation and sustainability in the world of travel, which served as the genesis for Travel Unity, where Roni Weiss now serves as Executive Director.

Special Announcement:

Comcast RISE program, Comcast’s initiative to help business owners of color struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be awarding grants of $10,000 each to minority-owned small businesses in Philadelphia and Chester. Eligible businesses in Philadelphia and the City of Chester can apply from March 1 to 14 for a $10,000 grant; 100 recipients will be selected. More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at

Episode 9

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Chris Mullins, Sr. from McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for City Hall, McGillin’s threw open its doors. Its beer taps have been flowing since 1860 (the year Lincoln was elected) — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. McGillin’s has outlasted Strawbridge’s, the Civil War and even Prohibition. McGillin’s celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010.

Family ownership is definitely one of the reasons for McGillin’s longevity and success over the years. Join us as Chris shares his insights about operating a restaurant during the Covid-19 pandemic (the tavern’s second pandemic), his favorite three memories and McGillin’s iconic sign collection.

Episode 8

The Future of Philadelphia

Join PHL Diversity for our first podcast of 2021 as we speak with George R. Burrell, Partner with Kleinbard LLC, Attorneys at Law. George talks about the future of Philadelphia, its tourism and hospitality industry, current cultural events, his experience as a panelist on 6abc Action News Inside Story, and the always popular “Burrell – Smyler – Pratt – Smalley Multi-Cultural Networking Breakfast” (a must attend).

George Burrell has been a leader in the business, civic, and political affairs of Philadelphia for more than 30 years. He served as a ranking official in the administrations of two mayors; a member of Philadelphia City Council; president of a minority-owned investment management business; general counsel to one of America’s premier African American-owned businesses; and a partner in two prominent Philadelphia law firms. George brings the knowledge and experience he has developed as a lawyer, businessman, and public official to clients as Of Counsel member of Kleinbard’s Business and Finance Department and a member of the Firm’s Government Relations Group.

George advises clients on building effective relationships with state, local, and federal officials; advocating on public policy and legislative initiatives; and competing for public and private sector procurement opportunities. He also serves as a strategic adviser to for-profit and nonprofit executives and board members on issues with public implications related to long-range planning and crisis management, and the development of coordinated corporate messaging for public affairs and government relations departments.

Episode 7

A Conversation about Health Care Post COVID-19

In this episode, we are excited to speak with Neil Goldfarb, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health.

The Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health seeks to increase the value of health benefit spending for its employer members by improving workforce and community health, increasing healthcare quality and safety, and reducing health care costs. The coalition represents employer interests in working with health plans, health care providers, benefits consultants, suppliers and other system stakeholders to address population health priorities and to ensure that when health care is needed it is accessible, affordable, high-quality, and safe.

Mr. Goldfarb spent over 30 years in healthcare research, quality improvement, and management positions. As Associate Dean for research in the Jefferson College of Population Health, he was responsible for leading the school’s research agenda, while concurrently serving as director of ambulatory care performance improvement for Thomas Jefferson University’s faculty practice plan.

Join us for a timely conversation about the consistent concern by employers regarding healthcare quality and reducing health care costs and the future of healthcare plans and healthcare providers post COVID-19.

Episode 6

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO and Elliott Francis, Director, Diversity, and Inclusion with Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). BIO is the world’s largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,200 members worldwide.

BIO produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. The BIO International Convention is a repeat customer having been hosting in Philadelphia four times. Most recently held in 2019, the Convention welcomed more than 17,300 attendees. BIO will return in 2027 and 2031.

Michelle McMurry-Heath assumed the leadership of BIO as President and CEO in June 2020. A medical doctor and molecular immunologist by training, Dr. McMurry-Heath is the third chief executive to steward the world’s largest biotechnology advocacy group since BIO’s founding in 1993.

Elliott Francis is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of progressive and successful experience in both the private and federal sectors. Elliott joined BIO in April, as the Director, Diversity, and Inclusion, providing leadership and driving change through the development and implementation of strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives in the biotechnology and life sciences industry and within BIO.

Join us as they share their insights regarding changes to the association industry during this challenging time as well as advancements biotechnology have made to produce a Covid-19 vaccine.

Episode 5

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Erin Morton, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships and Felicia Rinier, Administrative Director, both of the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity (P-CHE) with Thomas Jefferson University/Jefferson Health.

The Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity is a broad-based community collaboration, and action network that addresses health inequity challenges in Philadelphia. By taking a grassroots approach to build trust, the Collaborative is committed to empower communities by investing in the right resources, infrastructure, and partnerships to reduce health disparities in and around Philadelphia.

Erin Morton is the Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships. In her role, she is a contributing strategist on all aspects of development and implementation, working directly with Jefferson senior executive leadership to design and launch discreet community-driven projects at Jefferson and secure the financial resources necessary to implement and operate them.

Felicia Rinier serves as the Administrative Director. She facilitates the daily operations and works across the Jefferson enterprise to implement the collaborative’s strategic vision.

Together, they share their thoughts on their work and how it impacts Philadelphia.

Episode 4

In this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, we are excited to speak with Kyrus Keenan Westcott, Motivational Influencer & Producer of the “Vibe with Ky.”

Born and raised a Jersey guy, Kyrus loves telling stories and sharing his life experiences with the world. An actor, model, writer, producer, visual artist, and motivational influencer, Ky works day-in and day-out to encourage positivity, offer reassurance, and put a smile on your face.

Episode 3

Shani Saunders serves on Brandywine Realty Trust’s Property Management team for FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, and leads the company’s diversity and inclusion affinity team, voices. Bjorn Henriques is a veteran media advertising executive and host of the “Philly ADCAST”, the official podcast of the Philly Ad club.

The African American Chamber of Commerce is the leading advocate for minority owned businesses in the Delaware Valley and Southeastern Pennsylvania. For the first time in 27 years, the Chamber will host its Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony virtually! Last year, over 800 leaders from across the City of Philadelphia joined the Chamber for its annual event. On Thursday, October 29 at 8:00PM guests will experience the Chamber’s Annual Awards Ceremony, virtual art exhibition, live music performance by Suzann Christine, and special remarks from regional leaders.

Episode 2

In our second episode, we feature PHL Diversity Brain Box and Lead Generation Committee members Tami Sortman, Vice President of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, Janice Sykes-Ross, Director of The Belmont Mansion and Carol Watson, General Manager Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia.

The Brain Box Committee guides PHL Diversity’s journey of innovation by creating new ideas, concepts, and practices. The Lead Generation Committee cultivates and filter leads to increase Philadelphia’s share of the diverse/multicultural meetings and conventions. Together, they are producing our upcoming webinar “Welcoming Multicultural Meetings and Conventions Back: How Philadelphia’s Transportation Hubs are Preparing for Visitors” scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th. Register Here.

Episode 1

We are thrilled to launch our sixth season of PHL Diversity Podcast with Alissa Carpenter, a multi-generational workforce expert, author, speaker and training facilitator. Alissa is the owner of Everything’s Not Ok and That’s Ok, where she provides training, consulting, and speaking services to organizations all over the world. Alissa is also the author of “How to Listen and How to Be Heard: Inclusive Conversations at Work”.

She works to help bridge communication gaps across generations, job functions, and geographies, and she has worked with organizations ranging from non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. She has been featured in multiple media outlets including Forbes, ABC, FOX, NPR and CBS.

Alissa joined Greg DeShields for a in depth conversation about working from home, being heard and the importance of an inclusive workforce.


On the series finale of the PHL Diversity podcast, Gregg Caren, the new President & CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB), joins to discuss the future of tourism in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.

Gregg joined the PHLCVB this past June during an incredibly tumultuous time for the tourism industry and our country as a whole. In this episode, he discusses the challenges ahead – sharing his perspective on COVID-19’s impact on Philadelphia, the state of meetings and conventions, and what recovery looks like for the Philadelphia region. Gregg also shares his point of view on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion and the critical role of PHL Diversity within the meetings industry.

Laurie Wu Ph.D., Assistant Professor a consumer behavior and service marketing researcher and Dr. Debra Blair, Ed.D. specializing in Sports and Recreation Management Temple University School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, joins PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss further dimensions of COVID-19’s impact upon Philadelphia’s Restaurant and Parks and Recreation Industries.

Andy Toy, Development and Communications Director, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC), joins PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss SEAMAAC and how it has pivoted programs and services during COVID-19 highlighting the “Fight for our Future” initiative. Also, during these challenging times, Andy shares his top (3) recommendations for immigrant communities over the next 6 months.

Judge Renée Caldwell Hughes, President and CEO, Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss the progress she has made since taking over the organization in January. The esteemed organization, founded by Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan in 1964, has helped tens of thousands achieve self-sustainability through workforce opportunities. Judge Hughes is an accomplished executive, formerly of The Hughes Group and American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, who served for 15 years on the City of Philadelphia’s court system.

Dave Ryan, CTC President, Skål USA, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to talk about his work leading one of the country’s oldest global travel networking organizations. Since 1950, Skål USA has provided networking and leadership opportunities, guidance, and friendship to more than 1,700 members and 45 clubs across the country. Ryan has experienced turbulent times during his career, and he offers positive news and recommendations for businesses trying to weather the current storm.

Iola Harper, Deputy Director of Commerce, City of Philadelphia, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to talk about her 30 years’ experience advocating on behalf of diverse and community-focused businesses in the city. The West Philadelphia native shares some of the initiatives the city is taking to connect with and support these critical businesses during uncertain times. The proud public servant has been recognized nationally by the NAACP and U.S. Small Business Administration for her accomplishments in local government.

Bill Gehrman, Founder & CEO, En Route Marketing, discusses his personal and professional accomplishments and what it means to represent Philadelphia as a destination for travel and tourism. As an entrepreneur and advocate, he has built his career around important causes, like creating opportunities for small businesses to grow and founding the Independence Business Alliance (IBA). The former PHLCVB director of marketing opens up about how the industry is changing amid this unprecedented global health crisis.

Richard Lee Snow, Regional Development Director for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Yasmine Mustafa CEO & Co-Founder ROAR for Good, join the PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss their work to promote diversity, inclusion and equity in the business community. Richard and Yasmine, who serve as chair and vice chair, respectively, of the 2020 Philadelphia Diversity and Inclusion Conference (October 5th-6th), share their strategic approach to business with anecdotes and personal experiences.

Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO, Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), discusses the path that led her to become the organization’s first female president and CEO. The Temple University graduate has deep ties to Philadelphia, and she shares her passion for eliminating poverty in some of the city’s most vulnerable communities. Recently, she was appointed to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission, and she serves on the Census 2020 Complete Count Commission and Philadelphia City Council’s Special Commission on Poverty Reduction and Prevention.

Sybil Davis, National Accounts Manager, Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, discusses final preparations for the highly anticipated Business Opportunity Luncheon on February 24th, 2020. The 14th annual event brings together diverse and multi-cultural business leaders from the area, with meeting planners and convention organizers who will be seeking partners to engage with during events held in Philadelphia. Davis, who is a results-driven sales leader in the hospitality industry, talks about some of the luncheon highlights and how the city positions itself nationally for diversity-related events.

Kevin Chemidlin, founder of Cue9 Podcasts and host of the “Philly Who?” podcast, joins “PHL Diversity Podcast” to discuss the development of entertaining and authentic content that tells stories through podcasting. “Philly Who?” features some of Philadelphia’s most interesting doers, thinkers, and performers. Chemidlin also shares how he’s gained the attention of listeners and the most interesting person he’s interviewed. Since launching in May 2018, the hour-long show has released 67 episodes, had over 75,000 listens, and was named one of the most popular podcasts in Philadelphia by Billy Penn.

The legendary, Joan Myers Brown, founder of The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) and The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts joins PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss the 50-year celebration of PHILADANCO, the International Blacks in Dance Conference coming to Philadelphia from January 14-19, and her legacy being documented in the book “Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina” by written by Brenda Dixon Gottschild. Throughout her lifetime, Myers Brown has received a host of accolades from local awards to the National Medal of Arts presented by President Barack Obama.

Women represent 67 percent of all students enrolled in university hospitality programs (Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 2015). Philadelphia Mona Lisa’s, a membership organization rooted in sisterhood, was designed to positively impact the growth and success of Black women in management and leadership roles in the hospitality industry. The next PHL Diversity Podcast guests are seasoned executive and founder of Mona Lisa’s, Darnell Belford; an aspiring industry administrator and member of ML’s, Kelly Acy; and future hospitality graduate, Shyanne Gaston. They discuss the importance of establishing Mona Lisa’s in 2016 and its impact on the industry, how they are preparing the next generation of industry leaders, and much more.

Stephanie Reid, executive director of Philly Counts 2020—the city’s effort to support the next U.S. Census—joins PHL Diversity Podcast to share key insights on how the 2020 Census works and her team’s efforts to ensure every Philadelphia resident is counted. She also talks about the paid opportunities available for those interested in assisting with the census and the launch of the Philly Counts 2020 Action Fund, which supports local organizations raising awareness about the importance of the census.

Tony Lopes, creator and host of the “Self Made Strategies” podcast and private attorney, joins “PHL Diversity Podcast” to share key insights on how small businesses can access and manage government contracts, the state of business, and top challenges for entrepreneurs and small businesses. He also discusses his podcast journey and how its 39 episodes inspire listeners to add maximum value to their organization.

Richard Lewis, a leader in media and marketing for more than 40 years and recent retiree as region president of iHeartMedia in Philadelphia, returns to the PHL Diversity Podcast to talk all things media. He shares insights on the continued fast-growing podcast industry and reflects on his career in broadcast radio and digital audio. Lewis also talks about his transition from the busyness of corporate life to a slower, more enjoyable pace of retirement and launching his business blog,, which is inspired by various aspects Philadelphia.

Donna Frisby-Greenwood, president and CEO of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, shares a detailed overview of the inaugural Class of Philadelphia Homecoming Weekend that’s happening November 7-9 and is generating excitement across the city. PHLCVB is a proud sponsor of this series of events that will celebrate all alumni of Philadelphia Public Schools and honor five individual alumni at an awards gala including Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and actress, Jill Scott. She also talks about her extensive career in education where she secured and managed more than $40 million in grant funding.

Steven Bradley, president and CEO of Bradley & Bradley, as well as chair of the African-American Chamber of Commerce Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware discusses strategies for improving economic conditions within the regional African American Community, the challenge of Black businesses accessing capital and ways to secure financing, and the importance of succession planning. Bradley also talks about his 35-year journey in the insurance industry and his own entrepreneurial, civic leadership, and philanthropic experiences.

Rebecca Hirsh, M.D. and Judd D. Flesch, M.D. at Penn Medicine Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Health discuss the State of LGBT Health and Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health’s multidisciplinary approach to providing quality care that’s free from discrimination to the LGBT community. They also share their passion and commitment to medicine, as well as Penn Medicine’s plans to launch an LGBTQ Clinical Practice that will serve all patients.

The Honorable Nelson A. Diaz, Partner, Dilworth Paxson LLP, shares his passion for Philadelphia and the hospitality industry on the season five premiere of the PHL Diversity Podcast. With a career in politics and law, he’s become a man of many ‘firsts’, including Philadelphia’s first and youngest Latino judge. On the episode, Diaz tells stories from his recent autobiography, “Not From Here, Not From There: No Soy De Aqui Ni De Alla”.


Usher Ruth I. Jones, President, National United Church Ushers Association of America, Inc., is joined by two colleagues: Board of Director Chairwoman Patricia Holmes and Jordan Nichols, from the marketing team on the PHL Diversity Podcast’s Season 4 finale. The group, discusses the mission of the organization and why it was founded in 1919. This summer they return to Philadelphia, their original host city, to celebrate the Centennial Convention.

Rebecca Fisher, Co-Founder, Beyond the Bell Tours, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast for an enlightening conversation about inclusive tourism and the experiences she looks to curate for her groups. A Philadelphia native and Haverford College graduate, Fisher is a passionate advocate for cultural engagement and social justice. She, along with co-founder Joey Leroux, have developed custom tours that incorporate the history of marginalized communities into the narrative of Philadelphia. On the podcast, she discusses the early success of her business and what’s next for the company.

Shalimar Thomas, Executive Director, North Broad Renaissance, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss her role in reshaping North Philadelphia’s future. With a bold ‘2020 Vision’ for the business and residential corridor, Thomas’ mission is to rally support for revitalization of the historic neighborhood and to put the wheels in motion with development and job opportunities. She highlights her leadership of the North Broad Renaissance, and talks about how some of her previous roles gave her the experience to lead such a bold and ambitious project.

Jennifer Ragan-Fore, Chief Events and Marketing Officer, International Society for Technology Education (ISTE), joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss the organization’s upcoming convention in Philadelphia. Leading the development of a large-scale convention for academic professionals and technology advocates can be a clash of cultures. However, being able to draw on past experiences and the strength of her relationships has helped to market and raise the reputation of the convention. With approximately 17,000 expected to attend, Ragan-Fore talks about the program and the direction of the organization.

Tanya Marant, Director of Finance, Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square, shares her inspiring journey of perseverance and success in the hospitality industry. Marant progressed from a housekeeper to the director of finance position through a commitment to hard work and determination. The Philadelphia native offers sage advice for the next generation of hospitality professionals, highlighting the top qualities needed to advance in their careers. She also discusses some of the Sonesta’s new features, including a rotating lobby Art Gallery, curated by Philadelphia’s Center for Emerging Visual Artists.

Ben Shank, General Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center, shares his vision for the city’s newest high-end luxury hotel brand. The Philadelphia native will help to open the 219-room property this summer, during peak travel season. The highly-anticipated hotel will be located on the 48th to 60th floors of the city’s tallest building, providing guests and visitors with breathtaking 360 degree views. Shank goes behind-the-scenes and discusses the collaborative effort it will take to get everything ready for a rapidly approaching launch date.

Matt Cabrey, Executive Director, Select Greater Philadelphia, is a business leader and communicator with creative ideas for fueling the Greater Philadelphia region’s economy. On this episode of the PHL Diversity Podcast, he discusses his latest project – “Growing Greater Philadelphia” – which is a syndicated podcast, radio, and television program. In it, he highlights stories from emerging entrepreneurs and businesses who leveraged regional resources to make this early success possible. As the Executive Director at Select Greater Philadelphia, his job is to attract and retain businesses in the region, creating jobs and a sustained economic impact.

Chanell and Roy Burton, hosts of the Jawn Appetit Podcast, a popular weekly food podcast. With insightfulness and levity, the duo examines Philadelphia’s voracious appetite for food. To the outsider, it’s a cultural immersion show about where city inhabitants go to break bread. For the local, the Jawn Appetit appeals to the foodie connoisseur on a mission to find a new favorite spot. Tune in to the conversation, as we learn more about what inspired Chanell and Roy to develop this entertaining podcast.

Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, is a prominent voice in the LGBT business community, advocating for progressive diversity initiatives and corporate social responsibility. He joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to discuss his relationship with the City of Philadelphia and the upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Conference. As one of Business Equality Magazine’s ’40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40’, Lovitz is a highly-regarded thought leader who frequently appears as a commentator on MSNBC, CNBC, and NPR.

Dr. Donald Guy Generals, President of the Community College of Philadelphia, is a highly credentialed academic who advocates on behalf of students seeking educational and vocational opportunities post-grad. On this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Dr. Generals does not shy away from the key issues of the day, like student debt. The Community College of Philadelphia serves 35,000 credit and non-credit students, enrolled to further their careers. Dr. Generals is committed to building bridges with the business community, helping students land rewarding, well-paying jobs.

Francisco Cortes, Interim Executive Director and Youth Program Manager at Galaei, embodies the common history of resistance and resilience of Latinx and queer people. A grassroots political and social movement organizer, Cortes is a Mexican immigrant and gay Philadelphian, who serves as the youngest appointed commissioner to the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs Commission. He has been tasked with the responsibility of identifying the needs of marginalized LGBTQ Philadelphians and advocating for effective ways to re-allocate city resources to those who have been historically underrepresented. On this episode of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Cortes talks about his passion and discusses his vision for the future of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community.

Angela Quiles Nevarez, Counsel at Jackson Lewis P.C., is an accomplished legal professional with a pulse on local and national workforce-related issues for minority populations. At Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm with more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide, Nevarez advocates on behalf of clients in a variety of industries, from retail, healthcare, non-profit organizations, collections, security, manufacturing, transportation, and more. In this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, she discusses the Hispanic National Bar Association’s recent annual meeting in Philadelphia and opens up about a changing industry.

A leadership transition is never easy, except when you have two respected individuals like Synterra, Ltd. Principal-in-Charge Bill Wilson and Senior Advisor of Multicultural Marketing and Business Development at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Richard Snow involved. During the first PHL Diversity Podcast of 2019, the two leaders sit down with Executive Director Greg DeShields to talk about the past, present and future of PHL Diversity. Wilson offers insights about what worked for him during a 17-year tenure that spanned three Philadelphia mayoral administrations. Snow shares he is guided by service to others, and discusses how his work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is relative to his new role as PHL Diversity board chair. Both discuss what makes PHL Diversity an indispensable business tool for the region’s hospitality industry.

iHeartMedia’s Director of News and Community Affairs Loraine Ballard “flips the script” on Greg DeShields, Executive Director, PHL Diversity, a business development division of PHLCVB, in an interview about the upcoming Business Opportunity Luncheon, taking place on February 28, 2019.

Founded in 2007, this annual event has become the region’s signature event for networking and creating organic conversations for minority-owned businesses. Produced by PHL Diversity, it has helped to fuse countless connections, and served as an educational workshop for vendors looking to earn business from the meetings and conventions industry. This year, several local and national figures will be honored for their commitment to diversity and multiculturalism, giving the event a star-studded lineup.

Ryan Eppley, Director of Partnerships, REC Philly, Ryan Eppley, Director of Partnerships, REC Philly, is a creative entrepreneur with big ideas for the future of Philadelphia’s active community of artists. He joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to talk about his work at REC Philly, and a new project beginning to take shape in Philadelphia’s Fashion District. With a goal of giving back to the community, Ryan also discusses REC Philly’s social responsibility to the artists and creative entrepreneurs it serves.

Larry Needle, Executive Director, PHL Sports, a business development division of PHLCVB, is a relationship builder, facilitator and passionate sports fan who is responsible for bringing major events to Philadelphia. During his 27-year career, he’s had many successes, including the NFL Draft 2017 and continuing the storied history of the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia. This year’s 119th rendition takes place on Dec. 8, and Larry gives insight into how Philadelphia has shaped this annual tradition.

Marc Coleman, President, Founder and CEO of The Tactile Group, is a leading business executive, who still operates like a hungry, first-time entrepreneur. His company’s rapid growth has earned national recognition, most notably from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Coleman believes in the value of diverse perspectives and opens up about how some of his early career experiences shaped his outlook.

David Gutstadt, Founder & CEO of The Fitler Club, knows what it takes to stand out in the hospitality industry. For 20 years, he has built a brand for himself and earned the respect of high profile business leaders in Philadelphia. Today, he prepares to launch his latest venture: The Fitler Club. In this episode, you’ll find out what makes Gutstadt an entrepreneurial “disruptor” with a vision for the future of the industry. At The Fitler Club, he takes a customer-first approach to creating an environment for creative collaboration.

Marlinda Henry, board president of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, is an accomplished leader with success building dynamic programs for diverse groups. Through the years, she has embraced the evolution of meetings and conventions, bringing members of her organization memorable experiences. On this episode of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Marlinda discusses some of her current projects, including the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners Annual Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, from November 28 – December 1.

James Cuorato, president and CEO of the Independence Visitors Center Corporation (IVCC), has held some of Philadelphia’s most coveted public positions. The former Director of Commerce and City Representative discusses how he arrived in the world of tourism and hospitality. During a historical period of renovation, Cuorato shares exclusive details about the IVCC’s $15 million visitor experience improvement project. You’ll also learn about his musical skills, something critical to maintaining his work-life balance.

Kelvin Moore, SMG regional general manager of the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC), is a hospitality industry veteran devoted to customer service and creating memorable experiences for customers. He joins the podcast to discuss a chance encounter that shaped a new way of thinking, and outlines PCC’s vision moving forward. With career stops in Phoenix, San Antonio, and most recently Chicago, Moore reveals the most important lessons he has learned and the variables that set Philadelphia apart from these other destinations.

Irene Levy Baker, a Philadelphia restaurant expert, opens up about her new book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia”. She discusses how the restaurant scene has evolved, identifying memorable experiences for every palette. The only way to learn about the city’s dynamic food culture is to get out and try it, as Irene urges listeners to take a look beyond traditional staples and explore the unexpected corners of the city – from Fishtown to South Philadelphia’s Passyunk Square.

Monique Greenwood, president and CEO of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, reveals her unconventional path from magazine editor to hotel proprietor. Throughout her career, she’s taken financial risks and challenged the status quo to develop a thriving hospitality business. Greenwood owns and operates several properties in various U.S. cities, with West Philadelphia being the latest addition to the roster. She divulges some of her secrets to succeeding in business and the ways the hospitality industry is changing.

Fernand Fernandez, Interim President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), joins the PHL Diversity Podcast providing an inside look into the organization’s September convention, revealing why Philadelphia was the right meeting destination. The USHCC actively promotes economic growth and the interests of Hispanic-led businesses. Special guest Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also contributes to the discussion.


Greg DeShields, executive director of PHL Diversity has the script flipped as our Season 3 finale has us interviewing the interviewer. PHL Diversity Advisory Board members — Kelly Meerbott, leadership coach, speaker and owner of YOU: Loud and Clear; and Jodie Riccelli, director of client strategy at WebDevStudios — ask the questions in this special episode.

Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), joins the PHL Diversity podcast series to discuss his role with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — an organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — and its upcoming conference in Philadelphia. He discusses the economic impact of LGBT businesses and the importance of intersectionality between LGBT and other minority communities. He also shares details about the 2018 NGLCC International Business and Leadership Conference, which is the largest LGBT business event in the world. He highlights what drove NGLCC to choose Philadelphia, along with confirmed conference special guests and goals for the NGLCC conference overall.

Amber Hikes, Director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, joins us to discuss Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs. A vocal supporter of, and champion for, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, Amber covers the recent programs her office has created and implemented — including last month’s first-ever LGBTQ State of the Union — the groundbreaking “More Color, More Pride” campaign and Philadelphia Pride Month celebrations taking place in June. With the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Convention coming to Philadelphia later this summer, Amber also touches on the planning for the convention.

Gregory Branch, former Supervisory Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), joins the PHL Diversity podcast to give us an inside look at life with the FBI, the path he took to secure this dream job and how his position allowed him to have a hand in the Bureau’s diverse makeup. A Camden native formerly based out of the Bureau’s Philadelphia office, Gregory helped coordinate the FBI’s Special Agent recruitment and assisted in processing 10,000 agent applications annually. During the podcast, he highlights the importance of having a diverse employee base that accurately represents the country that it serves. Gregory tells us stories about the 20+ years he spent leading a broad range of cases.

Dr. Jeremy Jordan, Associate Dean and Associate Professor with Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), drops by the PHL Diversity podcast to chat about his position at the helm of STHM, as well as his extensive background in sport industry research. He discusses his day-to-day responsibilities in leading the largest provider of sport, recreation, tourism and hospitality management education in the Philadelphia region and his on-going research on the positive impact of large events, such as the 2017 NFL Draft and Wawa Welcome America, on local communities.

Tiffany Chang Lawson, Executive Director for Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, joins us to discuss her position as a liaison between Gov. Wolf and Pennsylvania’s diverse Asian Pacific American communities. In her passion-driven role, Tiffany is able to provide a voice to previously unheard communities and ensure that they are heard by the state government. In addition to sharing her unique experiences, Tiffany also discusses Philadelphia’s appeal to international overseas visitors from China, and provides insight into what makes the city so welcoming.

Rob Buscher, Festival Director for Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF) and Area Chapter President for Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), sits in on the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his work with both JACL, which is hosting its annual convention in Philadelphia this July, and PAAFF. In addition to discussing his instrumental role in bringing JACL to Philadelphia, Rob also gives us a look at the history of Japanese American Culture in Philadelphia, as well as the city’s growing Asian American populations and the cultural differences and experiences that are developing because of this growth.

Dr. Brandi Baldwin, Founder and CEO of Millennial Ventures, discusses her background, shares insights and research about diverse millennial communities and provides a look at her pathway to success. Within Philadelphia and any growing city, the millennial market is continuing to expand and its members are becoming business leaders and decision makers. An expert on millennials who works to ensure young and diverse professionals have equal opportunities for success, Brandi is able to share valuable insights on their habits, relationships and keys to engaging the segment.

Chellie Cameron, Chief Executive Officer of Philadelphia International Airport, chats with the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss her role and impact at the helm of Philadelphia’s Division of Aviation. After highlighting some of the airport’s newest updates, she goes on to discuss the omnipresence of diversity in all facets of life and share her views and tactics on inclusion for all of her employees.

Anuj Gupta, General Manager of Reading Terminal Market, joins this edition of the PHL Diversity podcast. During his time with us, Anuj focuses on how Reading Terminal Market truly personifies the concept of diversity. Featuring over 80 merchants from all backgrounds, and attracting an even more diverse customer base, Reading Terminal Market is able to transcend cultural, economic and socioeconomic differences.

Jerry Rice, General Manager of CAMBRiA Hotel & Suites, Philadelphia Downtown Center City is featured on this episode of the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his role leading Philadelphia’s newest hotel and his career path in hospitality management. From a part-time front desk agent to General Manager of Philadelphia’s brand new 15-story, 223-room CAMBRiA hotel, Jerry’s story spotlights the opportunities for professional growth and development within the tourism industry. Jerry also discusses the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace through team development and mentorship and provides an inside look at the development process behind the CAMBRiA Hotel.

Gary Bell, Executive Director of Bebashi – Transition to Hope sits down with the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his experience taking the helm of the first African American HIV AIDS advocacy organization in the U.S., established with a special focus on serving low-income people of color. Through Gary’s efforts, Bebashi has transformed into a full-service health management agency for economically disadvantaged Philadelphians. Gary also touches on the nonprofit sector of business, from its evolution to the importance of relationships and resiliency.

Rev. Luis Cortez, Founder and President of Esperanza joins the PHL Diversity podcast and provides insight into his experience founding Esperanza and developing it into a national network of more than 13,000 organizations. Luis shares his model for success, his insights on the importance of quality mentorship and his thoughts on development in Philadelphia and what it means for our city.

Grammy-nominated music icon Kathy Sledge sits down for the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss how growing up and being immersed in Philadelphia’s one-of-a-kind artistic culture has influenced her career. From the importance of arts and entertainment to delving into the necessity of diversity and inclusion, this Philadelphia native strongly believes that our city has a unique and authentic culture that is truly unmatched. Tune in to learn more.

Robin Morris, Executive Director of the Garces Foundation, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to share how her organization works to meet the needs of immigrant communities working in Philadelphia’s restaurant industry.

Dan Templar, Scout Executive/Chief Executive Officer for the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council, highlights the importance of diversity within his organization, and the positive impact it has on the Boy Scouts of America.

Ernest L. Strother Jr., Chairman and CEO of Strother Enterprises, Inc. and Natasha Strother Lassiter, Executive Vice President of Strother Enterprises, Inc. join the PHL Diversity Podcast to share the evolution of leading, minority-owned food service and contracting company Strother Enterprises, Inc. Following Natasha and Ernest, we are joined by Shahid Rana, Vice President of Business Development at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, who highlights the exciting projects and programs he has been involved with during his time with the organization. Both conversations focus on the importance of diversity and inclusion and the positive effect it has on our communities.

Carol Watson, General Manager at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar joins the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss her unconventional path to the top and highlight the importance of diversity within positions of influence, providing advice to young professionals on how to accomplish their goals and achieve success.

Evan Evans, General Manager of Aloft Philadelphia Downtown continues the conversation by discussing the growth and impact of Philadelphia’s hospitality industry. He notes the importance of the city’s identity, as well as the consistently in-demand meeting and convention market Philadelphia has created, and the impact that it has had, and will continue to have, moving forward.

Harold T. Epps, Director of Commerce for the City of Philadelphia, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to shed light on global business development within Philadelphia. Mr. Epps discusses his position in Philadelphia’s current mayoral administration, the prospect of bringing Amazon’s new headquarters to the city and the importance of minority businesses in the continued economic development and success of Philadelphia.

Selisse Berry, Founder and CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast from the 2017 Out & Equal Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. She discusses the future of LGBT equality both in and out of the workplace, the passion that drives her to advocate for workplace equality and the advantages of hosting an event in a diverse and welcoming destination such as Philadelphia.

Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, discusses the impact of Hispanic businesses in Philadelphia. She provides a look at the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s goal to provide programming, education, opportunities and awareness to bridge the gap between minority businesses and the local corporate environment.

Zachary Wilcha, Executive Director of Independence Business Alliance, highlights how his organization works to provide opportunity, access, education and networking opportunities for the LGBT community in Greater Philadelphia, as well as the spending power and impact of the LGBT community as a whole.

LaVette Henderson, Deputy Executive Director of the National Dental Association, highlights how her organization continues to grow and evolve, the importance of creating authentic relationships, and the need for creating and fostering a pipeline of diverse suppliers.

Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), discusses the importance of Philadelphia being the first World Heritage City in the U.S., and the assets that the city, its residents and the hospitality industry have at their disposal to best leverage this designation.

A. Bruce Crawley, President and Principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc. and a co-founder of PHL Diversity, discusses the circumstances that led to the division’s creation, the importance of minority business access and give his thoughts on what Philadelphia must do to continue being a leader in attracting diverse meetings and conventions.

U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans, a co-founder of PHL Diversity, reflects on the entity’s evolution and outlook for the future while touching on economic development opportunities within the hospitality industry and the role of diversity and inclusion in workforce development, among other topics.


Don’t miss all our earlier PHL Diveristy podcasts. Click here for dozens of additional episodes from Season 1 and Season 2 highlighting diversity throughout Philadelphia and in the hospitality, meetings and conventions industries.

PHL Diversity Podcasts — brought to you with support from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and post-production by A Step Higher — are digital audio files available for download.


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