PHL Diversity Podcasts

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Welcome, listeners.

PHL Diversity Podcasts — brought to you with support from the Pennsylvania Convention Center and post-production by A Step Higher — are digital audio files available for download.

PHL Diversity (formerly known as the Multicultural Affairs Congress) works to increase Philadelphia’s share of the multicultural meetings and tourism markets. We maximize opportunities for the region by promoting Philadelphia as an ethnically diverse visitor destination, encouraging multicultural business and social responsibility that contributes to and benefits from the varying multicultural communities that enhance our region’s hospitality and tourism industry.

PHL Diversity Podcasts are brief insights, views and opinions from tourism and hospitality leaders, meeting/convention professionals and academics regarding specific hospitality, tourism and diversity topics.

Join us to learn more about strategies and initiatives to raise Philadelphia’s image as a premier diverse/multicultural destination for meetings and convention.

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Dr. Donald Guy Generals, President of the Community College of Philadelphia, is a highly credentialed academic who advocates on behalf of students seeking educational and vocational opportunities post-grad. On this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Dr. Generals does not shy away from the key issues of the day, like student debt. The Community College of Philadelphia serves 35,000 credit and non-credit students, enrolled to further their careers. Dr. Generals is committed to building bridges with the business community, helping students land rewarding, well-paying jobs.

Francisco Cortes, Interim Executive Director and Youth Program Manager at Galaei, embodies the common history of resistance and resilience of Latinx and queer people. A grassroots political and social movement organizer, Cortes is a Mexican immigrant and gay Philadelphian, who serves as the youngest appointed commissioner to the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs Commission. He has been tasked with the responsibility of identifying the needs of marginalized LGBTQ Philadelphians and advocating for effective ways to re-allocate city resources to those who have been historically underrepresented. On this episode of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Cortes talks about his passion and discusses his vision for the future of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community.

Angela Quiles Nevarez, Counsel at Jackson Lewis P.C., is an accomplished legal professional with a pulse on local and national workforce-related issues for minority populations. At Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm with more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide, Nevarez advocates on behalf of clients in a variety of industries, from retail, healthcare, non-profit organizations, collections, security, manufacturing, transportation, and more. In this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, she discusses the Hispanic National Bar Association’s recent annual meeting in Philadelphia and opens up about a changing industry.

A leadership transition is never easy, except when you have two respected individuals like Synterra, Ltd. Principal-in-Charge Bill Wilson and Senior Advisor of Multicultural Marketing and Business Development at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Richard Snow involved. During the first PHL Diversity Podcast of 2019, the two leaders sit down with Executive Director Greg DeShields to talk about the past, present and future of PHL Diversity. Wilson offers insights about what worked for him during a 17-year tenure that spanned three Philadelphia mayoral administrations. Snow shares he is guided by service to others, and discusses how his work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is relative to his new role as PHL Diversity board chair. Both discuss what makes PHL Diversity an indispensable business tool for the region’s hospitality industry.

iHeartMedia’s Director of News and Community Affairs Loraine Ballard “flips the script” on Greg DeShields, Executive Director, PHL Diversity, a business development division of PHLCVB, in an interview about the upcoming Business Opportunity Luncheon, taking place on February 28, 2019.

Founded in 2007, this annual event has become the region’s signature event for networking and creating organic conversations for minority-owned businesses. Produced by PHL Diversity, it has helped to fuse countless connections, and served as an educational workshop for vendors looking to earn business from the meetings and conventions industry. This year, several local and national figures will be honored for their commitment to diversity and multiculturalism, giving the event a star-studded lineup.

Ryan Eppley, Director of Partnerships, REC Philly, Ryan Eppley, Director of Partnerships, REC Philly, is a creative entrepreneur with big ideas for the future of Philadelphia’s active community of artists. He joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to talk about his work at REC Philly, and a new project beginning to take shape in Philadelphia’s Fashion District. With a goal of giving back to the community, Ryan also discusses REC Philly’s social responsibility to the artists and creative entrepreneurs it serves.

Larry Needle, Executive Director, PHL Sports, a business development division of PHLCVB, is a relationship builder, facilitator and passionate sports fan who is responsible for bringing major events to Philadelphia. During his 27-year career, he’s had many successes, including the NFL Draft 2017 and continuing the storied history of the Army-Navy Game in Philadelphia. This year’s 119th rendition takes place on Dec. 8, and Larry gives insight into how Philadelphia has shaped this annual tradition.

Marc Coleman, President, Founder and CEO of The Tactile Group, is a leading business executive, who still operates like a hungry, first-time entrepreneur. His company’s rapid growth has earned national recognition, most notably from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Coleman believes in the value of diverse perspectives and opens up about how some of his early career experiences shaped his outlook.

David Gutstadt, Founder & CEO of The Fitler Club, knows what it takes to stand out in the hospitality industry. For 20 years, he has built a brand for himself and earned the respect of high profile business leaders in Philadelphia. Today, he prepares to launch his latest venture: The Fitler Club. In this episode, you’ll find out what makes Gutstadt an entrepreneurial “disruptor” with a vision for the future of the industry. At The Fitler Club, he takes a customer-first approach to creating an environment for creative collaboration.

Marlinda Henry, board president of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners, is an accomplished leader with success building dynamic programs for diverse groups. Through the years, she has embraced the evolution of meetings and conventions, bringing members of her organization memorable experiences. On this episode of the PHL Diversity Podcast, Marlinda discusses some of her current projects, including the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners Annual Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, from November 28 – December 1.

James Cuorato, president and CEO of the Independence Visitors Center Corporation (IVCC), has held some of Philadelphia’s most coveted public positions. The former Director of Commerce and City Representative discusses how he arrived in the world of tourism and hospitality. During a historical period of renovation, Cuorato shares exclusive details about the IVCC’s $15 million visitor experience improvement project. You’ll also learn about his musical skills, something critical to maintaining his work-life balance.

Kelvin Moore, SMG regional general manager of the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC), is a hospitality industry veteran devoted to customer service and creating memorable experiences for customers. He joins the podcast to discuss a chance encounter that shaped a new way of thinking, and outlines PCC’s vision moving forward. With career stops in Phoenix, San Antonio, and most recently Chicago, Moore reveals the most important lessons he has learned and the variables that set Philadelphia apart from these other destinations.

Irene Levy Baker, a Philadelphia restaurant expert, opens up about her new book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia”. She discusses how the restaurant scene has evolved, identifying memorable experiences for every palette. The only way to learn about the city’s dynamic food culture is to get out and try it, as Irene urges listeners to take a look beyond traditional staples and explore the unexpected corners of the city – from Fishtown to South Philadelphia’s Passyunk Square.

Monique Greenwood, president and CEO of Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns, reveals her unconventional path from magazine editor to hotel proprietor. Throughout her career, she’s taken financial risks and challenged the status quo to develop a thriving hospitality business. Greenwood owns and operates several properties in various U.S. cities, with West Philadelphia being the latest addition to the roster. She divulges some of her secrets to succeeding in business and the ways the hospitality industry is changing.

Fernand Fernandez, Interim President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), joins the PHL Diversity Podcast providing an inside look into the organization’s September convention, revealing why Philadelphia was the right meeting destination. The USHCC actively promotes economic growth and the interests of Hispanic-led businesses. Special guest Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce also contributes to the discussion.


Greg DeShields, executive director of PHL Diversity has the script flipped as our Season 3 finale has us interviewing the interviewer. PHL Diversity Advisory Board members — Kelly Meerbott, leadership coach, speaker and owner of YOU: Loud and Clear; and Jodie Riccelli, director of client strategy at WebDevStudios — ask the questions in this special episode.

Jonathan Lovitz, Senior Vice President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), joins the PHL Diversity podcast series to discuss his role with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce — an organization dedicated to expanding economic opportunities and advancements for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — and its upcoming conference in Philadelphia. He discusses the economic impact of LGBT businesses and the importance of intersectionality between LGBT and other minority communities. He also shares details about the 2018 NGLCC International Business and Leadership Conference, which is the largest LGBT business event in the world. He highlights what drove NGLCC to choose Philadelphia, along with confirmed conference special guests and goals for the NGLCC conference overall.

Amber Hikes, Director of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, joins us to discuss Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs. A vocal supporter of, and champion for, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, Amber covers the recent programs her office has created and implemented — including last month’s first-ever LGBTQ State of the Union — the groundbreaking “More Color, More Pride” campaign and Philadelphia Pride Month celebrations taking place in June. With the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Convention coming to Philadelphia later this summer, Amber also touches on the planning for the convention.

Gregory Branch, former Supervisory Special Agent, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), joins the PHL Diversity podcast to give us an inside look at life with the FBI, the path he took to secure this dream job and how his position allowed him to have a hand in the Bureau’s diverse makeup. A Camden native formerly based out of the Bureau’s Philadelphia office, Gregory helped coordinate the FBI’s Special Agent recruitment and assisted in processing 10,000 agent applications annually. During the podcast, he highlights the importance of having a diverse employee base that accurately represents the country that it serves. Gregory tells us stories about the 20+ years he spent leading a broad range of cases.

Dr. Jeremy Jordan, Associate Dean and Associate Professor with Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM), drops by the PHL Diversity podcast to chat about his position at the helm of STHM, as well as his extensive background in sport industry research. He discusses his day-to-day responsibilities in leading the largest provider of sport, recreation, tourism and hospitality management education in the Philadelphia region and his on-going research on the positive impact of large events, such as the 2017 NFL Draft and Wawa Welcome America, on local communities.

Tiffany Chang Lawson, Executive Director for Governor Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, joins us to discuss her position as a liaison between Gov. Wolf and Pennsylvania’s diverse Asian Pacific American communities. In her passion-driven role, Tiffany is able to provide a voice to previously unheard communities and ensure that they are heard by the state government. In addition to sharing her unique experiences, Tiffany also discusses Philadelphia’s appeal to international overseas visitors from China, and provides insight into what makes the city so welcoming.

Rob Buscher, Festival Director for Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF) and Area Chapter President for Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), sits in on the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his work with both JACL, which is hosting its annual convention in Philadelphia this July, and PAAFF. In addition to discussing his instrumental role in bringing JACL to Philadelphia, Rob also gives us a look at the history of Japanese American Culture in Philadelphia, as well as the city’s growing Asian American populations and the cultural differences and experiences that are developing because of this growth.

Dr. Brandi Baldwin-Rana, Founder and CEO of Millennial Ventures, discusses her background, shares insights and research about diverse millennial communities and provides a look at her pathway to success. Within Philadelphia and any growing city, the millennial market is continuing to expand and its members are becoming business leaders and decision makers. An expert on millennials who works to ensure young and diverse professionals have equal opportunities for success, Brandi is able to share valuable insights on their habits, relationships and keys to engaging the segment.

Chellie Cameron, Chief Executive Officer of Philadelphia International Airport, chats with the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss her role and impact at the helm of Philadelphia’s Division of Aviation. After highlighting some of the airport’s newest updates, she goes on to discuss the omnipresence of diversity in all facets of life and share her views and tactics on inclusion for all of her employees.

Anuj Gupta, General Manager of Reading Terminal Market, joins this edition of the PHL Diversity podcast. During his time with us, Anuj focuses on how Reading Terminal Market truly personifies the concept of diversity. Featuring over 80 merchants from all backgrounds, and attracting an even more diverse customer base, Reading Terminal Market is able to transcend cultural, economic and socioeconomic differences.

Jerry Rice, General Manager of CAMBRiA Hotel & Suites, Philadelphia Downtown Center City is featured on this episode of the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his role leading Philadelphia’s newest hotel and his career path in hospitality management. From a part-time front desk agent to General Manager of Philadelphia’s brand new 15-story, 223-room CAMBRiA hotel, Jerry’s story spotlights the opportunities for professional growth and development within the tourism industry. Jerry also discusses the importance of promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace through team development and mentorship and provides an inside look at the development process behind the CAMBRiA Hotel.

Gary Bell, Executive Director of Bebashi – Transition to Hope sits down with the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss his experience taking the helm of the first African American HIV AIDS advocacy organization in the U.S., established with a special focus on serving low-income people of color. Through Gary’s efforts, Bebashi has transformed into a full-service health management agency for economically disadvantaged Philadelphians. Gary also touches on the nonprofit sector of business, from its evolution to the importance of relationships and resiliency.

Rev. Luis Cortez, Founder and President of Esperanza joins the PHL Diversity podcast and provides insight into his experience founding Esperanza and developing it into a national network of more than 13,000 organizations. Luis shares his model for success, his insights on the importance of quality mentorship and his thoughts on development in Philadelphia and what it means for our city.

Grammy-nominated music icon Kathy Sledge sits down for the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss how growing up and being immersed in Philadelphia’s one-of-a-kind artistic culture has influenced her career. From the importance of arts and entertainment to delving into the necessity of diversity and inclusion, this Philadelphia native strongly believes that our city has a unique and authentic culture that is truly unmatched. Tune in to learn more.

Robin Morris, Executive Director of the Garces Foundation, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to share how her organization works to meet the needs of immigrant communities working in Philadelphia’s restaurant industry.

Dan Templar, Scout Executive/Chief Executive Officer for the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty Council, highlights the importance of diversity within his organization, and the positive impact it has on the Boy Scouts of America.

Ernest L. Strother Jr., Chairman and CEO of Strother Enterprises, Inc. and Natasha Strother Lassiter, Executive Vice President of Strother Enterprises, Inc. join the PHL Diversity Podcast to share the evolution of leading, minority-owned food service and contracting company Strother Enterprises, Inc. Following Natasha and Ernest, we are joined by Shahid Rana, Vice President of Business Development at Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, who highlights the exciting projects and programs he has been involved with during his time with the organization. Both conversations focus on the importance of diversity and inclusion and the positive effect it has on our communities.

Carol Watson, General Manager at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar joins the PHL Diversity podcast to discuss her unconventional path to the top and highlight the importance of diversity within positions of influence, providing advice to young professionals on how to accomplish their goals and achieve success.

Evan Evans, General Manager of Aloft Philadelphia Downtown continues the conversation by discussing the growth and impact of Philadelphia’s hospitality industry. He notes the importance of the city’s identity, as well as the consistently in-demand meeting and convention market Philadelphia has created, and the impact that it has had, and will continue to have, moving forward.

Harold T. Epps, Director of Commerce for the City of Philadelphia, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast to shed light on global business development within Philadelphia. Mr. Epps discusses his position in Philadelphia’s current mayoral administration, the prospect of bringing Amazon’s new headquarters to the city and the importance of minority businesses in the continued economic development and success of Philadelphia.

Selisse Berry, Founder and CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, joins the PHL Diversity Podcast from the 2017 Out & Equal Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. She discusses the future of LGBT equality both in and out of the workplace, the passion that drives her to advocate for workplace equality and the advantages of hosting an event in a diverse and welcoming destination such as Philadelphia.

Jennifer Rodriguez, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, discusses the impact of Hispanic businesses in Philadelphia. She provides a look at the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s goal to provide programming, education, opportunities and awareness to bridge the gap between minority businesses and the local corporate environment.

Zachary Wilcha, Executive Director of Independence Business Alliance, highlights how his organization works to provide opportunity, access, education and networking opportunities for the LGBT community in Greater Philadelphia, as well as the spending power and impact of the LGBT community as a whole.

LaVette Henderson, Deputy Executive Director of the National Dental Association, highlights how her organization continues to grow and evolve, the importance of creating authentic relationships, and the need for creating and fostering a pipeline of diverse suppliers.

Zabeth Teelucksingh, Executive Director of Global Philadelphia Association (GPA), discusses the importance of Philadelphia being the first World Heritage City in the U.S., and the assets that the city, its residents and the hospitality industry have at their disposal to best leverage this designation.

A. Bruce Crawley, President and Principal owner of Millennium 3 Management, Inc. and a co-founder of PHL Diversity, discusses the circumstances that led to the division’s creation, the importance of minority business access and give his thoughts on what Philadelphia must do to continue being a leader in attracting diverse meetings and conventions.

U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans, a co-founder of PHL Diversity, reflects on the entity’s evolution and outlook for the future while touching on economic development opportunities within the hospitality industry and the role of diversity and inclusion in workforce development, among other topics.


Don’t miss all our earlier PHL Diveristy podcasts. Click here for dozens of additional episodes from Season 1 and Season 2 highlighting diversity throughout Philadelphia and in the hospitality, meetings and conventions industries.

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