Gov. Ricketts Appoints Members of New Commission on African American Affairs

Media Contacts:  

Taylor Gage, 402-471-1970

Justin Pinkerman, 402-471-1967

Media Release:

Gov. Ricketts Appoints Members of New Commission on African American Affairs


LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts appointed fourteen Nebraskans to the state’s Commission on African American Affairs.  The commissioners will serve four-year terms.  

“Throughout Nebraska’s history, African American leaders have helped grow Nebraska and have richly contributed to our heritage in many ways,” said Gov. Ricketts.  “Thank you to the dedicated men and women who have stepped up to serve on the new African American Commission.  I look forward to working alongside commissioners to grow our state for the benefit of all Nebraskans.”

The Commission on African American Affairs was created through the enactment of legislative bill (LB) 918, introduced by Senator Justin Wayne.  The Nebraska Legislature passed the bill on August 11, 2020, and Governor Ricketts signed it into law on August 15, 2020.

Among its responsibilities, the Commission is tasked to “coordinate programs relating to the African American community in Nebraska regarding housing, education, welfare, medical and dental care, employment, economic development, law and order, and related problems.” 

Members of the Nebraska Commission on African American Affairs

DeMoine Adams, Lincoln

Since January 2020, DeMoine has served as a Development Director for the University of Nebraska Foundation.  Previously, he spent over seven years as the Program Director for TeamMates Mentoring started by Tom and Nancy Osborne.  DeMoine currently sits on the University of Nebraska Foundation Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and he’s also serving on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Nebraska state board. 

William Femi Awodele, Bennington

Since 2000, William Femi Awodele has been the Executive Director of Christian Couples Fellowship International.  He’s a speaker and author who has traveled to more than 50 countries and published 14 books, primarily on the topics of strengthening marriages and developing a healthy home life.

John Carter, Benkelman

John has extensive experience in law enforcement, having worked at police departments in David City and Lincoln as an officer, and in Tekamah as interim Chief of Police.  He currently serves as Chief Deputy Sheriff for Dundy County.  He holds a Juris Doctor from Creighton Law School.

Toni Clarke, Papillion

Toni is Executive Director of Assure Women’s Center, which offers pregnancy services in Omaha.  She’s an Air Force veteran with 14 years of military service and has previously worked as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative for two Fortune 500 companies.

Vernon Joseph, Lincoln

Vernon is a General Manager & Operating Partner at Dunkin Donuts.  He currently serves on the Nebraska Children’s Commission as well as the Nebraska Library Commission. 

Gwen Easter, Omaha

Gwen Easter is the owner of Safe Haven Early Childhood Preschool Education Academy, and serves on the State’s Early Childhood Interagency Coordination Council.  Gwen is the Founder and Executive Director of Safe Haven Community Center, which provides housing and education, early childhood, dyslexia and advocacy training and services. 

Connie S. Edmond, Lincoln

Connie is a Managing Partner of WRL CPA with over 34 years of experience in the accounting, tax, finance, and business fields.  She has served on numerous boards and currently serves on the Lincoln Community Foundation and Nelnet Bank Boards.  She has also served as an Ambassador for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

Glenn Freeman, Omaha

Glenn joined the Air Force in 1955 and retired as a Chief Master Sergeant (the highest enlisted grade) in 1985.  He was awarded the Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, and four Air Force Commendation Medals for his service.  For 12 years, Glenn served as a senior aide to U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel as Special Assistant for Military and Veterans Affairs.  He is currently Chairman of the National Council of Censors—a civic, nonpartisan organization that monitors the government’s compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

Rendell “Dell” Gines, Sr., Omaha

For the past decade Dell has worked as a community development advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (Omaha branch).  He’s a certified economic developer (CEcD) and two-time winner of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s President’s Award for performance excellence and innovation.  He holds a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha.

Clarice Jackson, Omaha

Clarice has over 20 years of experience enhancing operations through her skills in education and mediation.  Presently, she provides dyslexia screening and teaching as Executive Director of Voice Advocacy Center in Omaha and serves in a part-time capacity as Restorative Justice Coordinator at Concord Mediation Center.  In public service, Clarice serves as Councilwoman for The Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy County-Subcouncil 1 and sits on the City of Omaha’s Mayoral Human Rights and Relations Board.

Laban Njuguna, Aurora

Laban is Co-Founder and CEO of Zabuni Specialty Coffee Auction, which facilitates the direct trade of wholesale green specialty coffees to roasters in North America through integrated in-person and online auctions, and of Connections Roasting Development, a coffee roastery.  Laban is passionate about entrepreneurship, trade, and pioneering market-based solutions to economically empower others.  He and his wife, Cora, are patrons of Neemani Foundation, a nonprofit that provides orphans with tuition assistance in Kenya as well as income opportunities for women.

Mark Jared Smith, Omaha 

Mark has lived in north Omaha for 60 years.  He has been a pastor of Royal Assembly of God since 2007, during which time he has also worked at Lozier Corporation and Oriental Trading Company as an equipment operator.

Karine Sokpoh, Omaha

Karine has practiced law at Sokpoh Law Group since 2011 and has extensive litigation experience in juvenile, immigration, and family law.  She’s a board member of the Women’s Fund of Omaha, the Women’s Center for Advancement, and the president of the Midlands African Chamber.  She holds a Juris Doctor from Creighton University School of Law.

LaShawn Young, Omaha

LaShawn is a partner at Young and Young Attorneys at Law, where her practice focuses on family, juvenile, and probate law.  Young and Young was awarded the NAACP Freedom Fighter Award in 2015.  LaShawn serves on the University of Nebraska College of Law Dean’s Advisory Board and the board of directors of the Omaha Children’s Museum.  She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

An album with photos of the commissioners is available by clicking here.




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