BIPOC Leadership Institute

We Invite You to Apply

Applications are open from February 1, 2024, to March 15, 2024.

The Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Leadership Institute (BLI) is a 10-month intensive and targeted program intended to cultivate an expanded generation of BIPOC housing and community development leaders in Virginia.

In the housing and community development sector, practitioners of color face enduring underrepresentation, a historical pattern persisting to this day. This disparity extends to leadership roles, reflecting systemic challenges such as discrimination, limited connections, capacity constraints, and a dearth of available opportunities.

BLI cohorts will include 15 participants who are mid-career professionals in the housing and community development space across the Commonwealth. Participants will engage in a 10-month experience, managed by the Virginia Housing Alliance, that leverages training, coaching, and peer support to help them foster and grow leadership skills and create a career development plan to catalyze their leadership trajectory. 

BLI sessions will include both in-person sessions that will last for two days and virtual sessions that last from two to four hours. Sessions will occur throughout the Commonwealth. BLI participants also will complete five one-on-one coaching sessions as part of the program. A key component of the BLI experience will be each participant’s completion of a three-to-five-year career development plan that outlines training, opportunities, and networking efforts to support their move towards executive leadership.

VHA will manage the BLI program and utilize the organization’s extensive expertise in professional development, education, and capacity building. The program will be led by Ebony Walden Consulting, a Richmond-based equity focused consulting firm and supplemented with support from presenters and individual coaching for each of the program participants.

BLI participants also will receive coaching and mentoring support from established housing and community development practitioners of color.

2024 BLI Sponsor

2024 Cohort

craig butler

Through the culmination of his experience and servant leadership, Mr. Butler has emerged as an innovative sustainability leader with a focus on the affordable housing space, particularly in supportive housing. He is driven by a passion to house and support the most vulnerable in our communities.   As a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Mr. Butler brings a wealth of green building industry experience that provides tremendous benefit to stakeholders in real estate development and construction projects. In his role as Director of Sustainability at BHI Construction & Real Estate Development, Inc., he advises organizations on implementing and financing energy efficiency and energy generation strategies to reduce operating costs, carbon pollution, and create healthy, efficient buildings. Mr. Butler has led partnerships that have retrofitted residential and commercial buildings in the greater Washington, DC area.   Mr. Butler plays a pivotal role in BHI’s development of affordable and supportive housing projects. He has a broad network of government, financial, and green building industry relationships that are utilized in the development and execution of these projects. Additionally, Mr. Butler has extensive experience representing developers, owners, contractors, subcontractors, community organizations, and other stakeholders in real estate transactions and disputes. He owned a title company for 7 years and has significant experience in resolving title and escrow issues.  

Shymora Cooper

A proud lifelong resident of Charlottesville, VA, Shymora Cooper is a force for positive change in the lives of low-income families. Her rich life experiences and career journey have ignited a deep passion for educating, advocating, and supporting others. She has a deep understanding of the importance of investing in the well-being and future success of every individual. For over two decades, Shymora has dedicated herself to advocating for housing and education, tirelessly striving to uplift her community. As the current manager of the Financial Opportunity Center at Piedmont Housing Alliance, she has led with unwavering determination and compassion, spearheading programs aimed at empowering individuals to attain financial stability. Simultaneously, Shymora brings her expertise to the Charlottesville City Schools’ board, actively contributing to the advancement of educational opportunities for all students. With a deep-rooted passion for housing and education, she has accumulated extensive experience working in public housing, social services, resident services, and the nonprofit sector. Drawing from her firsthand experiences of navigating public housing as an African American single mother, Shymora intimately understands the challenges confronting her community. Through her resilience and tenacity, she has transformed obstacles into stepping stones, emerging as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Her mantra of increasing income, decreasing debt, and mastering financial literacy resonates deeply, offering invaluable life lessons to all who seek to thrive. In Shymora, you’ll find not just a leader, but a true champion of community empowerment, dedicated to reshaping lives and fostering a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.

sharonita Cousin

Ms. Cousin brings over seventeen years of experience in the human services field, with a strong focus on serving individuals who have experienced homelessness. She provides leadership and oversight to multiple Permanent Supportive Housing programs (PSH), street outreach programs, and data management. Leveraging her extensive experience at VSH, she primarily focuses on developing and implementing programmatic and internal policy enhancements to promote equitable access to housing solutions and facilitate positive outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Justin Ferguson

Justin Ferguson bridges the worlds of real estate investments and wine culture. As a Multifamily Specialist at Marcus & Millichap’s Southern Virginia Office, he collaborates with diverse clients to tailor strategies for optimal returns in the Virginia market. By deeply understanding clients’ investment cycles and goals, Justin delivers actionable plans, doubling unit counts and cash flows for many. Outside work, he serves as Wine Director at The Underground Kitchen in Richmond, curating events and pairings while educating on wine’s cultural significance. Justin’s mission, in both roles, is to empower others through expertise and passion, bridging investments and cultural experiences.

jae Lange

Jae Lange, they/them pronouns, is an advocate and hands-on service provider, who has devoted their life to effecting positive transformation in Richmond. Their journey from housing instability to becoming an influential leader is a testament to their passion and tenacity. Jae, is a multifaceted individual with an unwavering commitment to community growth. As a person with lived experience, Jae’s empathy and understanding makes them a compassionate advocate for those facing challenges. In 2015, Jae became part of Advocates for Richmond Youth, an organization committed to improving the lives of young people. Their personal hardships fueled their desire for the work done with ARY (Advocates for Richmond Youth) and they have continued to create change ever sense. Today Jae works as a Direct Service Specialist with Marsha and Marians Neighbors and works on the National Alliance to End Homelessness Community Strategic Team. Jae’s passions include ending youth homelessness, empowering young individuals, promoting mental health and education, and advocating for affirming spaces where all identities are celebrated and safe. Jae Lange’s story is a powerful example of resilience, compassion, and the belief in the possibility of change. They are not just a believer in change, but are determined to be the catalyst for it. In addition to their advocacy work, Jae is a dedicated mother, a BSW student maintaining a 3.5 GPA, small business owner and self-published author to a mental wellness and self-care activity book. Jae balances these responsibilities with an unyielding determination to learn and grow which ignites their purpose for creating a better world.

robin liles

Robin Liles is the Maintenance Training and Technology Program Manager for Community Housing Partners. In her current role, she is responsible for assisting the Director of Housing Administration and Maintenance in developing and implementing maintenance practices, policies, and procedures throughout the CHP organization. Ms. Liles started as a Leasing Agent and worked her way up to her current position. Her love for helping people and providing stable housing has kept her in this industry. She attended Winston Salem State University. In her free time Robin enjoys traveling and being with her family and friends.

mica morgan

Mica Morgan is the Director of Operations for YWCA Richmond, a non-profit organization that empowers women, children and families who have experienced, or currently experiencing domestic or sexual violence in the Richmond region. Mica’ has over 20 years of experience in non-profit work which has incorporated creating and implementing programs, supervising staff, managing budget and projects, overseeing grant reports, invoicing government grants, staff engagement, leadership development and strategic problem- solving and planning. As the Director of Crisis Response, she oversaw a team of 20 staff members who assist clients with navigating through their traumatic experience and getting them the appropriate supportive services needed for 6 agencies as well overseeing the emergency shelter program for the YWCA. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Master’s in Nonprofit Studies from University of Richmond and is currently pursuing her DBA in Organizational Leadership from Capella University. Her education along with her upbringing is where she found her love to give back to her community and the desire to be part of the solution for community needs. She approaches every task and problem presented to her with a fresh perspective and a smile. Most commonly known for her humor, Mica’ takes a realistic and practical approach to overcoming each barrier and helping clients, peers, staff and her community to create a plan to achieve their goals, whatever they may be, personally and professionally.

carolyn loftin

Carolyn’s main areas of focus are serving as a community liaison for individuals seeking affordable housing, creating pathways to economic stability, and strengthening community partnerships. One of Carolyn’s most rewarding responsibilities has been educating participants on making sound financial decisions that are feasible and practical in relation to their financial journey. Carolyn believes that good financial management is key to navigating out of poverty, but if the information is not applicable to real life, it can be a very frustrating experience. Throughout her career, Carolyn hopes to continue encouraging others to maximize their potential to stabilize their finances and cultivate a community of individuals who will serve each other to the best of their abilities. She truly believes in the fruitfulness of learning to serve each other well and to learn from one another’s experiences. Carolyn currently serves on the board of Partnership For Housing Affordability, a nonprofit organization that, through coordination, education, and leadership, champions affordable housing policies and developments that meet the needs of all citizens and strengthen the region’s economic vitality, attractiveness, and competitiveness. Outside of Urban Hope, Carolyn is an active board member of Rise Richmond, a nonprofit organization serving the youth of Richmond’s East End and equipping them to make life-transforming decisions.

catrina paige

Catrina Paige is a seasoned leader with 18 years of experience in affordable housing, specializing in grant program management. Recently promoted as Virginia Housing’s Grant Programs Manager, Catrina is committed to driving positive change through effective oversight, communication, and community outreach. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now resides in Toano, VA, with her husband of 22 years and has three exceptional children. Beyond her professional life, Catrina finds joy in exploring new destinations through travel and immerses herself in the transformative power of literature. Catrina’s educational background is a testament to her commitment to professional development. She holds a Master of Science in Human Services with a concentration in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Her expertise in affordable housing and grant program management is further enhanced by certifications such as Rental Housing Counseling and HUD Certified Housing Counselor. As Grant Programs Manager at Virginia Housing, Catrina’s leadership is a testament to her skills. She manages a diverse portfolio of grant programs, ensuring compliance and fostering collaboration. Her excellence in program management, project development, and comprehensive training significantly contributes to the success of grant initiatives and community outreach efforts. Catrina’s dedication to meeting community needs and driving impactful change in the affordable housing sector continues to drive her professional endeavors. Her proactive approach and ability to drive change are not just words but are evident in her impressive achievements. With a proven track record of excellence and a passion for creating positive social impact, Catrina remains a valuable asset in affordable housing.

angela taylor

Angela Taylor is the Director of Asset Management at VCDC. Angela’s start began with VCDC in March 2015. In her current role, Angela supervises a team of four Asset Managers. Under her leadership, VCDC’s Asset Management team tracks initial leasing and ongoing compliance, balances portfolio assignments, responds to management or compliance concerns, prepares the Watch List, reviews quarterly financial reports, and manages all other key asset tasks. Angela possesses extensive experience in the affordable housing compliance field, having previously worked in various affordable housing compliance for state and local housing authorities. She holds certifications in the Housing Choice Voucher program, Assistant Housing Management, Fair Housing Coordinator as well as Housing Credit Certified Professional. Angela has a Master’s in Education from Strayer University and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is the proud mother of two young adult children and married to her high school sweetheart for 29 years.

candice turner

Candice is the Director of Homeownership for Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. She is also a social worker and therapist having extensive experience with families experiencing low income and housing instability. Her work has primarily focused on identifying and illuminating the ways in which systemic issues often serve as barriers in community members meeting their personal goals surrounding wellness and socio-and economic security. In addition to the civilian population, Candice has assisted and housed veterans experiencing homelessness, PTSD, and other co-morbidities. In her current role, Candice works with prospective homeowners in attaining their dream of homeownership. Understanding the financial roadblocks, trauma, and unseen fear that often surrounds homeownership in Black and Brown communities, Candice’s passion is to help communities and community members remember, revisit, rebuild, and remix the legacy and history of what was and what is to come. Acknowledging the weight of standing at the intersection of passion and housing social justice, Candice practices self-care by being a truth-teller, traveler, and the world’s best unknown “in home” back up singer and dancer.

Charnitta Waters

Devoted to the work of systemic change that creates transparency into policies and process yielding better access to services and supports for those most in need, Charnitta Waters is a dedicated human services professional, leader, and change agent. With a background in community action and nonprofit work, she holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Walden University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with dual concentrations in Sociology and English, from the Norfolk State University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). With a career that spans over 15 years in direct service, grant writing, and program development, early on Charnitta found a deep appreciation for helping others. She has been at the forefront of programs birthed and led day to day operations that focused on promoting housing stability and addressing the unique needs of marginalized communities and populations such as veterans and older adults. She currently serves as the Senior Director of Operations at Senior Services of Southeastern Virginia, the largest Area Agency on Aging in the state of Va., where she is responsible for input into strategic planning and strategic programs’ implementation that positions the Agency for growth and responsiveness to stakeholder and seniors’ needs as well as industry trends. Charnitta believes that through harnessing the power of strategic collaboration and coordination and remaining solution focused, together, we can all cultivate change and break down structural barriers one system at a time!

tasia white

Tasia is a dedicated professional with expertise in financial management and program development. Skilled in fostering community impact through leadership roles, she advocates for homeownership and works to promote financial literacy in her positions at Piedmont Housing Alliance and as a Keller Williams real estate agent. Tasia enhances program participation and client readiness through her commitment to these initiatives. Her work is underpinned by certifications in financial capability programs and a Virginia Real Estate License.

samantha wood

Samantha Wood is the Senior Field Organizer at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Her primary role is to engage with homeless and housing organizations throughout the country to strengthen and build relationships concerning matters of policy. Her passion is to bring people together to fight for housing equity and justice. Prior to working at the Alliance, Samantha was employed at The Haven in Charlottesville, Virginia.

hana yun

Hana Yun is the Chief Operating Officer at Area Congregations Together in Service (ACTS). She is a second-generation Korean American born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia. She attended Virginia Commonwealth University for her Bachelors in Social Work with a minor in Psychology, and her Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Social Work Administration, Planning and Policy Practice. Hana has been working in the field of homelessness prevention for the past 10 years, in both secular and non-secular environments. She is currently on the board of the Great Richmond Continuum of Care and is a graduate of Leadership Metro Richmond, Class of 2023. She is a problem solver and is passionate about the field of prevention. Hana works to continue to engage in conversations around prevention. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, knitting and crocheting as well as chasing after her energetic 2 year old with her husband and German Shepherd.

What To Expect

  • An engaging and intensive experience designed to improve the support, skills, network, and executive leadership readiness of mid-career housing and community development professionals of color.
  • 10 sessions, including three in-person sessions (two-day) and seven virtual sessions (2 – 4 hours)
  • 5 one-on-one coaching sessions
  • Creation of a three-to-five-year career development plan
  • Networking opportunities with peers and established housing leaders
  • Lots of learning as well as professional and personal growth
  • Fun and engaging experiences
  • 2 hours of pre-work, reflection, or preparation between sessions
  • Completion of a 360 leadership assessment

Program Dates and Times

In-person sessions will be 12-6pm Thursday and 9-5 on Friday. Virtual sessions will occur on Thursdays monthly from 9-1pm.

Program dates are below:

  • June 13-14 (In person/Richmond)
  • July 18
  • August 15
  • September 19
  • October 24-25 (In person/Charlottesville)
  • November 21
  • December 19
  • January 16
  • February 20
  • March 27-28 (In person/Lynchburg)

Reasons to Apply

  1. Supercharge your career trajectory for executive leadership
  2. Develop leadership skills and competency
  3. One-on-one coaching and mentoring opportunities
  4. Expand your network with housing and community development leaders
  5. Create connections and support systems with peers

Applications will open in early 2025. Subscribe to enews to stay up-to-date.

Program Cost

The program cost to participate is $2,500 per participant.


Please feel free to email Arley Bell for more information.