Sheena Wright, United Way NYC President & CEO, named in City & State NY Power of Diversity: Black 100 List of 2021
Black New Yorkers started serving in elected office at least a century ago. The first Black member of the state Legislature, Edward A. Johnson, was a former slave who became a successful attorney before his election to the Assembly in 1917. In 1944, the legendary Adam Clayton Powell Jr. took office as New York’s first Black member of Congress. The following decade, Bessie Allison Buchanan became the first Black woman in the state Legislature. In 1989, New York City elected its first Black mayor, David Dinkins.
Today, a new generation of Black leaders is breaking through. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is poised to likely be the city’s second Black mayor. Alvin Bragg is on track to become the first Black district attorney in Manhattan. Damian Williams is now the first Black U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. At least two Black politicians – state Attorney General Letitia James and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams – are eyeing gubernatorial bids next year. What’s more, Black representation in the state congressional delegation – headlined by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a potential successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – is growing. The state Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker are both Black, as are the Bronx district attorney, the Queens borough president and the likely next Bronx borough president. And in the New York City Council, Black candidates are set to fill 17 seats, up from 14 currently, in the 51-member body next year.
City & State’s Power of Diversity: Black 100 – researched and written in partnership with Stephon Johnson of the New York Amsterdam News – recognizes all of these leaders, as well as the many Black business executives, nonprofit leaders, union officials, advisers, advocates and activists who are blazing new trails in New York.
Sheena Wright has had to confront all types of crises since she took over as president and CEO of United Way of New York City in 2012. First she had to deal with the impact of Superstorm Sandy, and now she’s contending with COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on Black and Latino New Yorkers. Wright has taken numerous steps to improve the situation, like promoting vaccine awareness in the community, organizing food drives and providing relief of all kinds to low-income families as well as assisting small businesses.