2020 Black American National Security & Foreign Policy Next Generation Leaders

Article/Op-Ed
Feb. 20, 2020

During Black History Month, it is typical for national security institutions to celebrate the accomplishments of Black American national security and foreign policy leaders, like Ambassador Andrew Young, General Colin Powell, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Ambassador Patrick Gaspard, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, Ambassador Ruth Davis, and many others. In addition to celebrating these leaders’ important legacies, it is equally important to celebrate rising leaders in this space.

In 2018, the Diversity in National Security Network and New America highlighted our inaugural list of next generation Black American Foreign Policy and National Security experts. For 2020, our organizations are continuing this important work.

The Diversity in National Security Network and New America are pleased to honor the contributions of 20 Black American experts in U.S. national security and foreign policy. The list features experts currently serving in government, think tanks, academia, non-governmental organizations, and the media. Selection is based on excellence and leadership; their current work in national security or foreign policy; and their contributions to their issues of expertise through thought leadership.

Andrew Berkley

Lead Data Scientist, World Economic Forum

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Andrew Berkley is Lead Data Scientist at the World Economic Forum. His work bridges technology and evidence-based decision-making for leaders across different sectors. Using the power of visual storytelling for data-driven policy-making, he focuses on creating narratives that examine complex global topics through data visualization. Andrew also serves as project collaborator for Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s EarthTime project which examines major environmental, social, and political phenomena across time and space, and between each other. Before arriving at the World Economic Forum, Andrew completed his graduate work at the University of Oxford where he researched political ramifications of online social networks. He previously served as lecturer and Princeton-in-Asia Fellow at China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing. He also holds degrees in Philosophy, Politics, Economics, & Law and Chinese language studies from the University of Arizona Honors College. Learn more about him here, and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Expertise: Data-Driven Policy-Making, Data Governance, International Relations, Data Policy, China, Data Privacy, Data Visualization, U.S.-China Relations

Youshea Berry

Deputy Assistant General Counsel for Legislation & Policy, Office of the General Counsel, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

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Youshea Berry is a lawyer and seasoned public policy professional focused on international development, national security, and foreign policy. Prior to her current position, Yoshea served as the Senate Division Chief at USAID where she played a key role in guiding the overall strategy for USAID’s engagement with Senate leadership. Before joining USAID, Youshea served as a congressional staffer in both the House and Senate where she advised on critical foreign policy issues. Youshea was recognized in Foreign Policy Magazine’s list of “Hill Staffers to Watch” and in another publication as one of the “50 Most Influential Black Lawyers” on the Hill. Youshea was selected to serve as a U.S. delegate for the American Council of Young Political Leaders. Youshea is an alum of the Partnership for a Secure America, the Truman National Security Scholars Program, and the International Career Advancement Program. She is a member of the Thursday Luncheon Group and Women Advancing Peace and Security. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Linkedin.

Expertise: International Development Assistance, State & Foreign Operations, Appropriations, Legislative Strategy, Congressional Affairs

Yvette Bourcicot

Former Department of Defense Official

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Yvette Bourcicot is a Policy Manager at Airbnb where she interacts with state and local officials on regulatory issues. She previously served as a Policy Communications Manager at Facebook focusing on issues like civil rights and privacy. She has also held several positions at the Department of Defense, including as an Associate Deputy General Counsel in the Office of Legal Counsel, where she worked on international and foreign litigation. She also served as the Senior Advisor for International Humanitarian Policy in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, handling mass atrocity prevention and response as well as policy related to certain weapons systems. Yvette was also the Special Assistant to the Army General Counsel, working diverse issues such as cyber policy, transgender service members, and e-discovery procedures. She is a medically retired Air Force JAG. Yvette holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and an A.B. in English Literature from Princeton University. Learn more about Yvette here and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Expertise: International Humanitarian Law and Policy, Foreign and International Litigation, Weapons Policy, Personnel Policy

Charles Carithers

Principal, Cornerstone Government Affairs

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Charles Carithers is a Principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs where he advises a diverse set of clients with interests related to national security. Prior to joining Cornerstone, he served as a professional staff member with the House Committee on Homeland Security advising Chairman Bennie Thompson on various national security and intelligence matters. Charles previously spent 11 years in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), having served in various leadership capacities at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), including the associate deputy director of public affairs for Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and a senior policy officer developing national level policies governing the IC. Charles also served as a Brookings fellow with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where he advised then Ranking Member Sen. Thomas Carper on foreign policy and national security matters. Charles is a 2005 graduate of Morehouse College, and a 2007 graduate of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Learn more about Charles here and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Expertise: Intelligence, Homeland Security, Defense

Marcus T. Coleman, Jr.

Senior Associate, HWC Inc.

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Marcus Coleman is a Senior Associate at HWC Inc. where he supports emergency management and resilience projects that reduce risks caused by disasters. From 2013 to 2018, Marcus led the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships disaster activities, serving as Acting Director from 2017 to 2018. He developed the Center’s partnership strategy engaging more than 50,000 leaders from multiple sectors and developed partnerships between FEMA and organizations including the NAACP and AARP. He co-developed the guide, Engaging Faith-based and Community Organizations: Considerations for Emergency Managers, FEMA’s course on Religious and Cultural Literacy and Competency in Disasters, and led a nationwide effort to increase the security for houses of worship. Marcus is an alum of Howard University, American University, and the Harvard University National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. He is also a member of the Truman National Security Project. Learn more about Marcus here and engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Expertise: Emergency Management, Religious Affairs, Resilience, Security, Public-Private Partnerships

Clayton “CJ” Dixon

Senior Advisor, New York City Cyber Command

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Clayton “CJ” Dixon is the Senior Advisor for Security Sciences at New York City Cyber Command. As Senior Advisor, CJ manages the day-to-day operations and administration of the Security Sciences Division. This includes overseeing citywide cybersecurity initiatives as well as providing strategy and policy expertise to software engineering and data science projects. Additionally, CJ was a 2019 Google Public Policy Fellow and researched cyber law enforcement, cyber attribution, and national security at the think tank Third Way. Prior to his cybersecurity career, CJ served for eight years in the U.S. Army as a Medical Services and Psychological Operations Officer. He deployed twice to West Africa, where he spearheaded counter-propaganda programs to counter Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda influence in the Sahel. CJ also earned a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in International Security Policy. Learn more about CJ here, and engage with him on Linkedin and Twitter.

Expertise: Cybersecurity, Cyber Warfare, Information Warfare, Intelligence, and Counterterrorism

Lynn Parker Dupree

Privacy and Civil Liberties Attorney

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Lynn Parker Dupree is a privacy and civil liberties attorney with expertise in counterterrorism. She was named Executive Director of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in 2019 where her work focused on ensuring that efforts to prevent terrorism are balanced with privacy and civil liberties. Lynn previously served as the Board’s Deputy General Counsel. Lynn served in the Obama Administration in multiple roles including as a detailee to the White House as Deputy Associate Counsel for Presidential Personnel, as well as a Special Assistant to both the General Counsel and the Chief Privacy Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. Her wide-ranging portfolio included issues related to privacy, information sharing, civil rights, and civil liberties. Prior to joining the Administration, Lynn was in private practice at Burr Forman and served as a law clerk to Judge Michael P. Mills in the Northern District of Mississippi. Lynn is a Truman National Security Project Fellow. Learn more about Lynn’s work here and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Expertise: Counterterrorism, Privacy, Civil Liberties, Information Sharing

Naima Green-Riley

Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University

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Naima Green-Riley is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Government Department at Harvard University. Her research focuses on U.S. and Chinese public diplomacy, and uses empirical methods to measure the extent of American and Chinese influence on public opinion in other countries. Naima currently sits on the Board of Directors at Oxfam America. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Naima was a Foreign Service Officer at the Department of State. She was the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Alexandria, Egypt during the Arab Spring. She served as a Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, China during the Obama administration's “Pivot to Asia.” She also worked as an intern and an advance associate for the White House in 2010. Naima received a bachelor’s degree in International Relations with honors from Stanford University and a master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. She is proficient in Chinese, and has an intermediate-level knowledge of Arabic. Learn more about Naima on her website, and connect with her on Linkedin and Twitter.

Expertise: China, Indo-Pacific, Public Diplomacy, Diplomacy, Development and Infrastructure Assistance

Brandon Jackson

Foreign Service Officer, Department of State

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Brandon Jackson is a career Foreign Service Officer who has worked extensively on issues across Asia and Africa, in addition to the United Nations (UN) and the African Union. As the Department of State lead for UNICEF and UN-Habitat, Brandon is responsible for advancing U.S. strategic goals and policies related to children and urbanization at the UN; identifying opportunities for U.S. leadership and initiatives; and representing the U.S. Government in their governing bodies. In both his professional and volunteer capacities, Brandon remains a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion. Brandon has served in South Africa, China, the U.S. Mission to the African Union, and the UN. Brandon completed a master’s level certificate at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center and received a Fulbright fellowship to Korea. Engage with Brandon on Linkedin.

Expertise: Multilateral Negotiations, Diplomacy, Development, Diversity and Inclusion, China, South Korea, Sub-Saharan Africa, Youth

Phillip Jones

M.B.A/M.P.P. Candidate at Harvard University

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Phillip Jones is a graduate student focusing on U.S. national security policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. A native of Hampton Roads, Virginia, he graduated from the Naval Academy as a Burke Scholar and served for over 6 years on active duty as an Infantry Officer in the Marine Corps. Phillip deployed to the Pacific supporting peacekeeping missions in Mongolia and the Philippines. Subsequently, he deployed to Africa and Europe in support of various security cooperation missions. After command, he was selected by a Commanding General to serve as an instructor at the Basic School and guide the development of the future officer corps of the Marine Corps. Phillip is a member of Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District Service Academy Nomination Committee and a life member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Phillip serves as a Zuckerman Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership, a Timothy T. Day Entrepreneur Fellow, and a board member for Ironbound Boxing. Learn more about Philip here and connect with him on Linkedin.

Expertise: U.S. Grand Strategy, U.S. Military Strategy

Ticora Jones

Director, Center for Development Research, USAID

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Dr. Ticora V. Jones is the Director for the Center for Development Research in the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID, an organization designed to focus on generating and using research for development. In this role, she serves as architect, leader, and manager of multiple high-functioning project and program teams designed to bring together regional and global innovation ecosystems to advance global problem solving in health, agriculture, and energy with an emphasis on youth engagement and country self-reliance. Ticora is a creative problem solver that leverages physical science, management expertise, and diverse skills in strategy development, legislative affairs, budget formulation, and operations specific to the integration of science, technology, innovation, and partnership for enhanced social value. Prior to joining USAID, she served as the 2008-09 Materials Societies Congressional Fellow for Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-WI) where she worked on energy and environmental issues. Learn more about Ticora here, and connect with her on Linkedin and Twitter.

Expertise: Science Diplomacy, International Development, Higher Education, Research Ecosystems, Research Utilization, Grants Management, Monitoring and Evaluation

David Leapheart

Attorney and Marine Corps Veteran

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David Leapheart is a Virginia attorney and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. As a Marine Corps Captain, David prosecuted over 60 cases for various commands which included: Marine Forces Cyber, Marine Forces Reserve, and Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard. In 2017, he deployed as an operational law attorney supporting both U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. In this role, David advised U.S., Australian, and British generals (and their staff) on the rules of engagement and international humanitarian law. Over the course of the deployment, he provided legal advice on over 500 operations and 200 kinetic strikes. He also investigated sensitive allegations of civilian casualties and met with U.N. officials over related concerns. Before he was on active duty, David graduated from the NYU School of Law where he focused his studies on national security and was Editor-in-Chief of the Law Review. He is currently a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Stay connected with David on LinkedIn.

Expertise: Military Justice, Operational Law, Litigation

Taylor Redick

Policy Analyst, House Committee on Foreign Affairs

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Taylor Redick is a policy analyst at the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs where she works on matters related to sub-Saharan Africa and human rights. Through her work, she has traveled to Southern and West Africa to discuss democracy, labor, and trade, and she also regularly leads interagency and NGO meetings. Taylor completed her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy and Washington, D.C. while concentrating in Conflict Management and International Economics and minoring in African Studies. In addition to receiving a certification in French proficiency, she was awarded the Boren National Security Education Program Fellowship to study Portuguese in Maputo, Mozambique. Previously, Taylor interned at the Global Engagement Center at the Department of State, focusing on counterterrorism messaging. Taylor is currently an advisory board member of the Africa Policy Accelerator at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Connect with Taylor on LinkedIn.

Expertise: Sub-Saharan Africa, Human Rights

Charles Reynolds

Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State

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Charles Reynolds is a career diplomat at the U.S. Department of State. He is currently completing long-term training prior to his next assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin where he will coordinate U.S. sanctions policy with Germany. Previously, Charles led the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Unit at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai, China. In this role, he expanded the U.S. Government’s understanding of environmental and health policy challenges in East China as well as cooperation between American and Chinese business communities. Charles has over a decade of experience in international political economy, trade, and commercial diplomacy. He completed his master’s degree in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, specializing in Business and Government, and received a bachelor’s degree with honors from Howard University. Charles is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Connect with Charles on LinkedIn.

Expertise: Diplomacy, East Asia, Europe, Transatlantic, Sanctions

Desirée Cormier Smith

Senior Director, Albright Stonebridge Group

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Desirée Cormier Smith advises companies and foundations on growth strategies across sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, she was a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State and served in Ethiopia, Mexico, South Africa, and Washington, D.C. Desirée is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the recipient of four Department of State Meritorious Honor Awards. She is a member of the 2015 International Career Advancement Program and the 2019 class of Next Generation National Security Leaders at the Center for New American Security. Desirée serves on the Advisory Council of Global Kids, an education nonprofit aimed to inspire underserved youth to pursue careers in policy and global affairs, and on the Advisory Board of Shea Yeleen, a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women in West Africa. Desirée holds two undergraduate degrees from Stanford University and an M.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is proficient in Spanish and French. Learn more about Desirée here, and connect with her on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Expertise: Africa, Economic Development, Multilateral Diplomacy, Public-Private Partnerships

Lauren Sprott

Senior Program Officer, Millennium Challenge Corporation

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Lauren Sprott is currently a Senior Program Officer for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America programs at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign assistance agency, where she has supported the development and implementation of projects in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Kosovo, Georgia, and Indonesia. Lauren was an Obama Administration appointee at the Department of Defense (DoD) where she was most recently a Country Director for China in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. She initially served the administration as a DoD Defense Fellow operating in several roles, including as a Politico-Military Planner and Action Officer for the Southeast Asia Division of the Joint Staff, where she was awarded the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award. She also served as a Regional Desk Officer for U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters covering Europe, Israel, and NATO. Lauren graduated as salutatorian from Spelman College in 2010 and earned her master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University. Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn.

Expertise: East Asia, International Development, Security Cooperation, Southeast Asia

Kehinde Togun

Senior Director, The Arkin Group LLC

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Kehinde Togun is a senior director at the Arkin Group where he advises U.S. corporations on their overseas investments. He previously led development initiatives at the National Democratic Institute and Partners Global, supporting civic leaders in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa to demand greater government accountability. He played a key role in Nigeria and Sierra Leone's membership in the Open Government Partnership and advised the Department of State on President Obama’s Security Governance Initiative. He is also an adjunct lecturer in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University-Newark’s where he designed a Foreign Policy in Practice seminar to expose young people of color interested in international relations to leading foreign policy practitioners. Kehinde is on the board of Answer, Sex Ed Honestly, and the Center for Racial Justice in Education, an organization that trains and empowers educators to dismantle racism in the classroom. Learn more about Kehinde’s work here, and connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Expertise: Economics, Regional Expertise (Africa, Middle East, Eurasia), Development, Counterterrorism, Countering Violent Extremism

Wendell White Jr.

Senior Policy Advisor/ Counsel, Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31)

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Wendell Frank White Jr. is currently the Senior Policy Advisor/Counsel for Representative Pete Aguilar (CA-31) and is responsible for the office’s national security portfolio through its work on the Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittees. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Wendell has over seven years of Capitol Hill experience (six of which for Appropriations, focusing on defense and foreign affairs issues) and has been admitted to the State Bar of Georgia and the District of Columbia Bar. Mr. White holds a B.A. and J.D. from Mercer University, an LL.M from Yeshiva University, an M.S.S. from the United States Army War College, and is currently earning an M.B.A. from Johns Hopkins University. Connect with Wendell on LinkedIn.

Expertise: National Security, Foreign Policy, U.S. Defense Strategy, Congressional Affairs, Nuclear Security

Amber Whittington

Development Specialist

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Amber M. Whittington is an international development professional with a decade of public service experience working in the areas of international elections, governance, Africa policy, national security, and Congressional affairs. In 2015, Amber joined USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance as the Fund Manager of the USAID Elections Fund, a $35 million foreign assistance fund to support democracy programming. Amber is a noted speaker and moderator, and has delivered ceremonial remarks at the U.S. Senate, the Department of State, and she was invited by the USAID Administrator to moderate the 2019 USAID Town Hall. Prior to joining USAID, Amber was a senior staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and served in the offices of Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman Russ Carnahan. Amber obtained her master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and she is a 2019 Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s International Career Advancement Program (ICAP). Connect with Amber on LinkedIn.

Expertise: International Elections, Governance, Sub-Saharan Africa, Congressional Affairs

Michael Woldemariam

Associate Professor of International Relations, Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University

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Mike Woldemariam is an associate professor of international relations at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. His expertise is on issues of conflict and security in the Horn of Africa region, an area in which he has published widely, including a university press book, peer reviewed articles, and essays in popular outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and Current History. Woldemariam has served as a consultant with a variety of international organizations, and regularly briefs policy-making audiences around the world on matters of peace and security in the Horn. He has held fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Penn State’s Africana Research Center, and will be an International Affairs Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations in 2020-21. Mike is a graduate of Beloit College, and holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University in Politics. He is a member of the Truman National Security Project and the Pacific Council. Learn more about Mike’s work here and connect with him on Twitter.

Expertise: Conflict, Security, and Governance in Africa