25 people making Black history in Charlotte today

25 people making Black history in Charlotte today

Davita Galloway at “Graphic GarMINT”, an exhibit she recently co-created at the Mint Museum Uptown highlighting Black designers. Photo: Alex Cason/courtesy of the Mint Museum

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Black History Month often makes us think about influential figures from the past.

State of play: Some of Charlotte’s are still with us, like Dorothy “Dot” Counts-Scoggins, who integrated Charlotte’s schools on Sept. 4, 1957, Harvey Gantt, who became Charlotte’s first Black mayor in 1983, Sarah Stevenson, the first Black woman to serve on Charlotte’s school board and a longtime education advocate and James Ferguson, a civil rights attorney and a founding partner with Julius Chambers of Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter. 

  • Counts-Scoggins, who lives near her childhood home in west Charlotte, remains an active community advocate.  
Dorothy Counts Harding photo

Dorothy Counts was 15 years old when she integrated Harding High School in 1957. Photo: Courtesy of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

The big picture: Black history isn’t just something to be celebrated for a month once a year. Charlotteans are making Black history every day.

Here are 25 people shaping Black history in Charlotte today.


1. Kass Ottley, founded Seeking Justice Charlotte, a grassroots organization fighting against police brutality and for police reform. She has been protesting for change since she was a child in New York City.

Kass Ottley going above and beyond

Kass Ottley. Photo: Axios archives

Business owners

2. Cheryse Terry, a west Charlotte native, opened what she calls a “culture shop” on Beatties Ford Road in August. Her goal with Archive, which has coffee, books, Merck and events, is to preserve Black culture in Charlotte.


Archive owner Cheryse Terry. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios

3. Davita Galloway co-founded Dupp&Swat, a space for Black innovators with her brother Dion Galloway in 2010, and it also includes a nonprofit arm called Crown Keepers. She recently co-created an exhibit at the Mint Museum Uptown called “Graphic GarMINT,” highlighting Black designers. 

Davita Galloway. Photo: Jessica Macks/courtesy of Davita Galloway

4. Jermaine and Damian Johnson created a Charlotte institution: No Grease! Barbershop, which turned 25 last June. And their barber school has trained a new generation of barbers to not only cut hair, but how to become entrepreneurs like them.

Damien and Jermaine Johnson of No Grease barbershop

No Grease owners Jermaine (left) and Damian Johnson. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Community leaders

J’Tanya Adams. Photo: Courtesy of J’Tanya Adams

6. Keith Cradle founded a nonprofit called Camping with Cradle to teach youth life skills through outdoor activities like camping and hiking.

Photo: Courtesy of Keith Cradle

7. Mattie Marshall, known by many as Ms. Mattie, is a longtime advocate Historic Washington Heights in west Charlotte, where she has served as neighborhood Association president for decades. She helped raise $275,000 to re-purpose the site of the former Ritz Theatre, a segregation-era theater, on Beatties Ford Road. 

Mattie Marshall speaks at the ribbon cutting for The Ritz at Washington Heights.

Mattie Marshall speaks at the ribbon cutting for The Ritz at Washington Heights. Photo: Alvin C. Jacobs Jr./courtesy of the Knight Foundation


8. Every artist who was involved in painting “BLACK LIVES MATTER” on Tryon Street in Uptown in June 2020. 

Photo: Axios archives

9. Every artist preserving Black history through murals that tell stories on Beatties Ford Road. 

“Intergalactic Soul” by Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry at 1600 West Trade St. Photo: Ashley Mahoney/Axios


10. Christopher Dennis is behind the redevelopment at Beatties Ford Road and LaSalle Street.

Christopher Dennis (left) and Charlotte City Council District 2 Rep. Malcolm Graham representing their fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi at the JP Morgan Chase grand opening. Photo: Kevin Douglas / Captured by Kevin

Christopher Dennis (left) and Charlotte City Council District 2 Rep. Malcolm Graham representing their fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi at the JP Morgan Chase grand opening. Photo: Kevin Douglas / Captured by Kevin


11. Greg and Subrina Collier are the power couple behind Leah & Louise, which ranks No. 1 on our list of best restaurants in Charlotte. Greg recently received his fourth consecutive James Beard Award nomination after becoming the first Charlotte chef to make it past the semifinal round last year.

Chef Greg Collier (left) and his wife and business partner, Subrina Collier. Photo courtesy of Amex Centurion Lounge


12. Gerald Johnson is the publisher of The Charlotte Post, a Black newspaper dating back to 1878. Johnson’s father, Bill Johnson was publisher before him, purchasing the paper in 1974.

Gerald Johnson. Photo: Courtesy of Patrice Johnson

13. Glenn Burkins founded and is the publisher of of QCity Metro, a digital Black news outlet covering Charlotte since 2008.

Glenn Burkins. Photo: Courtesy of Glenn Burkins/QCity Metro


14. Dr. Raynard Washington became Mecklenburg County’s public health director at the start of 2022. He’s been responsible for shaping the county’s response to COVID-19 and mpox.

Dr. Raynard Washington headshot.

Dr. Raynard Washington. Photo: Courtesy of Mecklenburg County

15. Gene Woods is the CEO of Atrium Health, which doubled its size and is developing an innovation district and med school campus under his leadership.

Gene Woods. Photo: Courtesy of Atrium Health


16. Fred Whitfield is the president, vice chairman, alternate governor and minority owner of the Charlotte Hornets. He’s a key player in the evolution of the franchise, including Spectrum Center’s latest substantial renovation project.

Fred Whitfield ahead of the 2019 All-Star Game in Charlotte. Photo: Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Positions of power

17. Charles Thomas, a Charlotte native, is the Knight Foundation director in Charlotte, providing grant funding to different projects throughout the city, specifically focusing on the Historic West End.

Charles Thomas. Photo: Alvin C. Jacobs Jr./courtesy of Knight Foundation

18. Kieth Cockrell is the president of Bank of America Charlotte, making him essentially the top local banker focused on Charlotte.

Anna, Kieth and Serena Cockrell at Anna's USC graduation

Anna, Kieth and Serena Cockrell at Anna’s USC graduation. She competed in the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. Photo: Courtesy Kieth Cockrell

19. Malcomb Coley, Charlotte managing partner at accounting firm EY, is the co-chair of the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative

20. Marcellus “MT” Turner is the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO/chief librarian. He’s at the helm as the library prepares to build a new main branch.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO/Chief Librarian Marcellus "MT" Turner. Photo: courtesy Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library CEO/Chief Librarian Marcellus “MT” Turner. Photo: courtesy Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

21. Marcus Jones is Charlotte’s city manager, meaning he’s responsible for running the city. He’s also the first Black person to hold the position.

Charlotte city manager Marcus Jones. Photo: Courtesy of the City of Charlotte

22. Marvin Ellison is CEO of Mooresville-based Lowe’s, which recently opened a massive new tower in South End to house its tech hub.

Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison. Photo: Courtesy of Lowe’s

23. Mayor Vi Lyles is Charlotte’s first Black female mayor.

Vi Lyles 704 Shop smiling in 704 shop hoodie

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles smiling in the 704 Shop hoodie. Photo courtesy 704 Shop via city of Charlotte

24. Sheriff Garry McFadden, a former homicide detective, has been sheriff since 2018, making national headlines after less than a year on the job as “The Sheriff Who’s Defying ICE.”

Garry McFadden Child-friendly visitation room at Mecklenburg County Jail

Sheriff Garry McFadden. Photo: Axios archives

25. Spencer Merriweather became the county’s first Black district attorney in November 2017.

District Attorney Spencer Merriweather

District attorney Spencer Merriweather. Photo: Michael Graff/Axios

Editor’s note: This is a snapshot of the Black Charlotteans shaping the future of the city and not intended to be a comprehensive list. But if you have someone you think we should’ve included, by all means let us know at [email protected].

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