Meet The Investors
Meet Cherona, an educator of 30+ years. She loves reading, outdoor activities, and all things related to wine. She is excited to be amongst the great people associated with bringing Black South African women winemakers to the conversations about outstanding wines and the women behind them.
As a first generation college student, Akilah Runnels obtained a Bachelor's degree from UCLA and later a Master's degree in Social Work from CSU Long Beach. She has a sincere desire to help others and has been employed as a Case Manager, Foster Care Director, Social Worker , and Therapist. Akilah has also worked in higher education where she served as Director of the UCLA Academic Supports Program. She currently manages a program that provides resources and support to disabled community college students.
Akilah enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music, and doing genealogy research. She is interested in entrepreneurship opportunities that can help create generational wealth for her family. Akilah invested in Roots and Vines because she wanted to have a business with other women of color.
thuy H. Cooper
While Thuy H. Cooper enjoys her career in aviation transportation, her passion is service. She likes to say that her career affords her the opportunity to lend a helping hand (or hands) in the areas that are of interest to her. As a promise to her mentor many years ago, Thuy is committed to reaching back and mentoring others because it truly takes a village.
She is passionate about empowering others, creating spaces for others to excel, and service. In addition to her community service endeavors as a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Thuy volunteers with We Feed Our People and Project GiveBack in Washington, DC. Both organizations are committed to serving the underserved and those suffering from homelessness.
Thuy's visit to South Africa in 2016 with fellow Black Bruins inspired her to look at opportunities in South Africa. As one who enjoys fine wines, it was a wise decision to seize the opportunity to participate in the unique business venture to invest in quality wines made by Black South African women. There is nothing more empowering and uplifting than investing in a business venture that connects and provides economic opportunities for Black women in the United States and South Africa.
Please consider making a donation to the We Feed Our People Annual Day of Service. For more information, please visit www.wefeedourpeople.org or our Facebook page.
In high school, during a class discussion about future career goals, when asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, Armanda Pruitt, responded, "I just want to help people." This eventually led to a rewarding career in the Social Work after graduating from UCLA in 2000 and University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, in 2004.
In her career, first as a Family Case Manager and then as a Social Worker, Armanda has had a chance to help the homeless and low income community access community resources, such as housing assistance, transportation, etc., and she provided counseling services to children and adolescents.
In her current work as a Clinical Social Worker at Metropolitan State Hospital, Armanda has provides individual and group counseling and treatment planning to assist patients with either returning to court to address their alleged charge(s) or transitioning back to the community.
October as Breast Cancer Awareness month is particularly meaningful to Armanda as her life was changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and then again in 2018. This has provided another opportunity for Armanda to help people, as she freely shares the story of her cancer journey with other women who are facing their own cancer battle as a way to uplift them and let them know that they are not alone. In so doing, Armanda has spoken at a breast cancer awareness event at New Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, was a featured speaker at Kaiser's annual National Cancer Survivor's Day, has been interviewed by reporter, Brooke Thomas, for a feature on breast cancer for Edify TV, and has volunteered as a peer support counselor with Sharsheret - A Jewish Breast Cancer Organization.
In her free time, Armanda enjoys playing clarinet in a few community bands, performing in Oblinyanko African Dance Ensemble, participating in walk-a-thons, and traveling.
It was while traveling in Africa with UCLA Black Alumni that Armanda developed an interest in investing in Africa, so being approached about an investment opportunity, that would eventually become Roots & Vines Wine, excited her. As an investor, she has enjoys learning about the wine business, as she helps to empower Black South African women winemakers, bringing their wine to America for others to experience.
Denise Davidson, LMFT
Village Mindfulwellness Counseling (VMWC)
Ms. Davidson facilitates clinical workshops and support groups. In addition, she provides resources for cancer prevention/recovery and chronic disease prevention such as diabetes, weight management and functional nutrition.
She is passionate about working to empower communities, using yoga, meditation and holistic healing through the psycho-education approach emphasizing the importance of functional nutrition and mental health.
Holistic *Integrative Psychotherapy services for individuals, couples and families accepted through direct referrals and insurance.
*Yoga/Meditation, Sound Therapy and Functional Nutrition
Born and raised in sunny Southern California, Jennifer White is a true global citizen with a passion for Africa. She Founded SISTERcircle in 2016 to create safe spaces to connect Black women between the US and Africa around healing arts and entrepreneurship, and for over 15 years has organized annual healing and investment trips to East, West and Southern Africa.
Jennifer is a proud “Double Bruin”, earning both an undergraduate and graduate degree from UCLA. Her studies were punctuated by earning a masters degree from Howard University and studying abroad at the University of Ghana, Legon, where she initiated study groups that held thought-provoking discussions, and established strong bonds of friendship that are maintained to this day.
With a love for “Doing Business With Africa”, Jennifer created a model for collective investment, recruiting 10 Black women to invest $5,000 each to import award-winning wine made by Black South African women, effective entering the $70 billion US wine industry. In 2020 Roots & Vines Wine was born, economically empowering Black women along the wine value chain.
SISTERcircle’s goal is to create an economic pipeline between the US and Africa that connects and empowers Black women, and taps into the potential to generate $1.2 trillion annually for Black business, while amassing $120 billion annually for Black community funded projects.
Angela Jackson is a native Southern California, writer, singer and producer who has devoted her life to improving the lives of others by creating empowering experiences through education, counseling, and inspirational writings. In 1990 Ms. Jackson graduated from UCLA with a BS in Sociology, with a concentration in Psychology. Ms. Jackson later pursued and obtained her Masters in Counseling from California State University, Los Angeles.
Ms. Jackson has dedicated her life to creating programs, poems, music, movies, and television programs that meet the needs of the community. Ms. Jackson gained her foundational programming skills as an undergraduate at UCLA working in the UCLA Community Programs Office and serving as the Programming Coordinator for the African Student Union. While at UCLA she served as a writer and one of the editors for Nommo, the African Student Newsmagazine where she further developed her journalism skills.
One of Ms. Jackson’s gifts has been to assist with the creation and development of new programs. While at UCLA, she was a part of a team, which developed the Academic Support Program, a program created by two former UCLA students, Mandla Kayise and Eric White. Once funded, she served as the Assistant Director for the Academic Supports Program.
Ms. Jackson’s experience at UCLA led to the directing of many community programs including the LA Bridges program and assisting Walt Hazzard as the Assistant Director of the Los Angeles Sports Academy. Today Ms. Jackson is self-employed and is working to develop her brand, Author Angela Rena. In addition, Ms. Jackson serves as the UCLA Black Alumni Association’s VP of Social and Community Programming where she continues to bring relevant programming to UCLA alumni, students and the community at large.
Jackson recently published her first book with a publisher entitled, L.E.A.P Life’s Evolution, A Process a collection of short stories, poems, and prose. Jackson is geared up to publish 3 additional manuscripts in the waiting including two children’s books. In addition, she published her website authorangelarena.com where you can purchase her books, sign up for workshops, and read her latest blogs for inspiration for your journey to your best self.
Zenzi M. Hodge, SPHR
Zenzi M. Hodge is an operating partner and strategic advisor for companies and entrepreneurs helping them build foundations for growth and sustainability through the delivery of high-quality human resources solutions and cultivating environments where employee engagement and diversity is at the forefront. For more than 15 years she has a held a variety of leadership roles with private corporations and public and non-profit entities in the United States, the US Virgin Islands, the Caribbean, and internationally. In her previous roles she has led diversity recruiting programs to facilitate successful hires of over 300+ with a <90 day cycle time and developed talent acquisition partnerships with academic institutions, associations, and social groups to attract and engage an active and latent talent bench.
In addition to her role with her corporate clients, Zenzi provides pro-bono professional services in the areas of human resources, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and change management to non-profit organizations through Catch A Fire, and recently completed a DEI initiative for a 70-year old, private, independent school seeking to understand and address past inequities and develop a strategic path forward for the future generations of students, staff, and the external community.
Zenzi's professional credentialing includes the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), the SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP), Prosci® Certified Change Practitioner, and the Cornell University Diversity and Inclusion Certificate. She is an alumna of the African American Board Leadership Institute and holds a master's degree in human resources management from Clark Atlanta University and a bachelor's degree in political science and public administration from Florida A&M University.