Fab 40 to showcase Pittsburgh’s next generation of leaders, July 19


by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer

When BNY Mellon manager Aja Thompson got the call last year telling her she was a New Pittsburgh Courier 2018 Fab 40 honoree, she thought someone was playing a joke on her.

“I actually asked if it was a prank,” she said. “My mother was an award-winner a few years back. To be included in this group of people is unreal. I’m very excited to be part of this.”

In just over two weeks, the Class of 2019 will feel that same excitement as they are honored at the Fairmont Hotel on Market Street, Downtown.

Cameron Barnett, a social studies and language arts teacher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Falk Laboratory School, a 2018 recipient, said the honor touched him both personally and professionally, adding it was great to be among—and meet—a group of talented, creative, passionate, and hard-working people.

FAB 40 2018 HONOREE AKEMI HARRISON, second from left, with Fab 40 reception attendees during the June 7, 2018 event. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)

“I would encourage the 2019 honorees to view the moment and the honor as confirmation of the work you are doing and encouragement to lean in further into what you do that makes you so special. It is needed and valued in our community,” he said. “Furthermore, I’d encourage honorees to pay it forward and encourage those around them by example and leadership. It will only create a stronger community.”

The Class of 2019 should have no trouble with that, peopled as it is with attorneys like state Rep. Summer Lee and Duquesne University Law Review Editor Brazitte Poole; communications professionals like University of Pittsburgh’s Deborah Todd and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Joel Gray; educators like University of Pittsburgh’s Cassandra Brentley and Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Shandia Booker; and entrepreneurs like Natural Beauty Supply owner LaShesia Holliday and Commercial Cleaning and Maintenance owner Jullian Turner. There’s even one whose work bridges the fields of education and entrepreneurship with activism and healthcare—UPMC senior analyst and creator of T.H.A.W. (Transforming the Health of African American Women) Camille Clarke-Smith.


As the Fab 40 nominees are selected by their friends, acquaintances, coworkers, employers and neighbors, they are—unlike 2019 recipient, activist Leon Ford—largely unsung beyond their fields of endeavor. That will change on July 19 when about 400 people gather to applaud their success.
“It felt good to be acknowledged by the Courier and the community for the work I am pursuing. My colleagues and administration at work also were proud of the honor bestowed upon me,” Barnett said. “And it was a great event. I made many connections with people at the dinner and with fellow honorees after the ceremony was concluded.”

Even though his son is still a bit too young to be among the awardees, Black Political Empowerment Project chair Tim Stevens will be among those celebrating the 2019 Fab 40 honorees—he attends every year.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Stevens said. “This is the next generation. These are the young men and women who will be taking over. They should be celebrated and supported. That’s why I’m here.”

Thompson advised this year’s recipients to be proud and have fun with it.

“I would say to them; embrace it,” she said. “It’s a great thing to be a part of the fab 40 community. So just enjoy the moment.”

Tickets for this year’s event are available at www.newpittsburghcourier.com or by calling Allison Palm at 412-481-8302, ext. 136.

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