Marcella Tillett of the Brooklyn Community Foundation Named Among 50 Women in City & State's 2022 Above & Beyond List
In August, Kathy Hochul was sworn in as New York’s 57th governor, making history as the first woman to hold the state’s highest office. In November, 31 women were elected to serve in the 51-seat New York City Council – marking the first time women have made up a majority of the council. And by the end of last year, New York City Council Member Adrienne Adams had secured enough support to become council speaker, making her the first Black woman to hold the post.
These headline-grabbing breakthroughs are no anomaly. Women in New York are making gains at all levels of politics, business and the nonprofit sphere – and in sectors that were once dominated by men. City & State’s annual Above & Beyond highlights 50 remarkable women, including advocates, entrepreneurs and other outstanding individuals whose accomplishments deserve recognition on this exclusive list.
Vice President of Programs and Partnerships, Brooklyn Community Foundation
Marcella Tillett set out to study business at Clark Atlanta University. But she shifted gears when a professor explained how social work would offer her a wide range of roles to choose from.
Tillett’s undergraduate courses at Clark Atlanta, one of a number of historically Black colleges or universities, or HBCUs, used an Afrocentric lens. That foundation was strengthened while in New York attending Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in social work.
Tillett’s early career focused on sexual health, drawing upon her international experiences as a Peace Corps volunteer working in HIV prevention. Her early professional work taught her the importance of listening directly to community members. She has brought this approach to all parts of her career, including as an adjunct professor of social work at Columbia and as vice president of programs and partnerships at Brooklyn Community Foundation. She has felt inspired by the foundation’s goal of giving communities agency over how resources are used to tackle issues close to them.
Tillett plans on continuing to work with institutions that honor the dignity and agency of others and use an anti-racist lens in their work. Tillett credits these values as having given her the ability to grow professionally.
“It’s always been important to be rooted in my personal values,” Tillett says. “Those are my North Star that move me through my profession. And I am excited that it leads me to unexpected partnerships because that’s the driving force.”