A.R. Bernard, Sr.
Founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center
A.R. Bernard, Sr. is the Founder and CEO of the Christian Cultural Center, as well as the President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York, which represents 1.5 million Protestants, Anglicans, and Orthodox Christians. He is also the founder of the Cultural Arts Academy Charter School, which was established in February 2010 and is a comprehensive educational alternative designed to meet the needs of children for the 21stcentury. In addition to guiding the Christian Cultural Center’s many outreach programs, Rev. Bernard established a rapidly growing male mentoring program with more than 1,000 male mentors. He has a Master of Urban Studies and a Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Wagner College, May, 2010, and an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary, May 2009. Along with his civic and clergy responsibilities, Rev. Bernard is an Adjunct Professor at Alliance Theological Seminary.
Kalpana Bhandarkar, Co-Chair
Vice President, Research and Health Services Initiatives, Maimonides Medical Center
Kalpana Bhandarkar has been a GEMS Board member since June 2007. She is currently Vice President of Research and Health Services Initiatives at Maimonides Medical Center, a 700-bed teaching hospital in Borough Park, Brooklyn. In this capacity, she oversees research administration supporting clinical and health services studies and supports the President and CEO on special projects. She was formerly a Manager at Manatt Health Solutions, an interdisciplinary consulting unit of the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, where she provided analysis, project implementation support, and advocacy services to clients in the areas of healthcare access and health information technology. Prior to joining Manatt, she worked for the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City and the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. Ms. Bhandarkar holds a Masters in Public Health and Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelors Degree from Tufts University.
Executive Director, Tech International Charter School
Oslene Carrington possesses more than 20 years of experience that includes brand-based and strategic marketing, business development and fundraising, strategic planning, organizational and operations management, and consulting, as well as nonprofit board service. She currently serves as Executive Director of Tech International Charter School, has served as a special projects consultant with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Campaign for High School Equity. In the past, she has held leadership positions at Harlem Commonwealth Council, Inc., the Institute for Nonprofit Excellence, the American Arbitration Association ( as the head of marketing), Providian Financial, MasterCard, and JPMorgan Chase, among other organizations. In the nonprofit sector, she has served on the board of the NYU Stern Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS) Alumni and as a development committee chairperson for the board of directors of San Francisco Educational Services. Ms. Carrington also has volunteered with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Hudson Valley and is founder of the SAT Test Prep Scholarship (STEPS) Program, which provides college entrance support for New York City public high school juniors of color. She holds an MBA in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business, a BA in economics from Fordham University and has received post-graduate training in strategy and innovation from MIT, as well as in corporate finance from the New York Institute of Finance.
Director of Development, Council of Urban Professionals
Samantha Erskine joined the GEMS Board in 2012. She is the Director of Development at the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP), where she is responsible for creating and implementing fundraising strategies to both maximize and diversify CUP’s revenues. Prior to joining CUP, she was the Manager of Development at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, where she helped build the Development Department’s infrastructure, grew and diversified the organization’s revenues, and expanded its visibility. Ms. Erskine has also worked at the Applied Research Center and at Legal Momentum, where she used various technologies, media sources, and fundraising tools to solicit donations, cultivate supporters, and engage communities and stakeholders. In addition, Ms. Erskine has had a lifelong commitment to, and passion for, the performing arts. She has taught and performed in Russia, England, Spain, France, Australia, Canada, Puerto Rico, Guadeloupe, across the United States, and on a salsa cruise to the Bahamas with a Bronx-based dance company opening for El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College. She also holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, in Psychology and Women’s Studies, from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Sales Director, SAY Media
Melissa Finney is the NY Sales Director for SAY Media, a digital publishing company specializing in premium online media experiences. In this position, she manages annual advertising revenues in excess of $10 million and oversees a team of senior sales executives. Previously, she served as a Senior Account Executive at Zillow.com, where she developed revenue-generating partnerships with key consumer brands. Ms. Finney has also held senior sales positions at The Economist, ESPN, and CourtTV. She received a BA degree cum laude in Journalism and French from the University of Southern California, where she later established a scholarship fund for African Americans engaged in overseas study.
Ellen Fried, Co-Chair
Ellen R. Fried joined the GEMS board in 2006, bringing a lifelong passion and commitment to fighting for the rights and protections of children. She is a seasoned attorney, teacher, mentor and administrator with extensive background in legal education, clinical instruction, and development of courses and programs in the field of juvenile rights. Presently she is an adjunct professor at CUNY School of Law and teaches in both the first year lawyering program and the third year family law concentration. She recently taught a course in “Children and the Law” as part of the innovative interdisciplinary Children’s Studies Program at Brooklyn College. From 1993-2007, she taught as an adjunct professor at CUNY Law School where she created and taught in its first Juvenile Defender Clinic. Prior to CUNY Law, Ms. Fried served as the Director of Training for the Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society of NY for several years, where she developed training programs for all incoming attorneys, supervised new attorneys in all five boroughs, developed and implemented continuing education programs and produced the state-wide JRD Newsletter. During Ms. Fried’s 30-year career as a public interest attorney, she also taught at Hofstra School of Law, was Assistant Director of the Fund for Modern Courts, an administrative law judge for the E.C.B., a consultant for the Fifth Avenue Committee, and a trial attorney with the Criminal Defence Division of The NY Legal Aid Society. She is a graduate of Northwestern University (B.A., Phi Beta Kappa) and Columbia University School of Law (J.D., Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar)
Instructor of Legal Writing, Brooklyn Law School
Cynthia Godsoe teaches courses in legal writing, children and the law, professional responsibility, and public interest lawyering. Her scholarship centers on family law, ethics, juvenile justice, and education issues. Ms. Godsoe joined the faculty of Brooklyn Law School in 2007 from the Children’s Law Center in New York City, where she was an appellate attorney. She also taught legal writing at Fordham University School of Law. Previously, she worked on impact litigation and direct representation of youth at several nonprofits dedicated to children’s rights including Advocates for Children of New York, the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division, and the Child Care Law Center in San Francisco. After law school, she was a Skadden Public Interest Fellow, and she clerked for Judge Edward Korman in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She is chair of the Juvenile Justice Committee of the New York City Bar and participates in pro bono work on a variety of children’s rights issues.
Michael D. Grohman
Partner, Duane Morris Law Firm
Michael D. Grohman is chair of the Wealth Planning Practice Group and head of the firm’s New York office. Mr. Grohman practices in the areas of tax and estate planning and administration, with particular emphasis on estate planning for owners of closely held businesses, professional athletes and entertainers. He is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey. Mr. Grohman is a graduate of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Brooklyn Law School and the New York University School of Law. He also serves as the co-chairman of the Advisory Council of the Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York.
United Nations Development Programme
Sarah Poole has worked for more than 20 years in the field of international humanitarian response, crisis recovery, and development with the United Nations Development Programme, the US Department of State, and the US Agency for International Development. Her overseas assignments have included Rwanda and Kenya, Burundi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey, with additional work in several African countries and the Middle East. Throughout these experiences she has been directly involved in developing, implementing, and/or managing programmes and policies related to important challenges, including: persons displaced from their homes through conflict, social and economic recovery in war-affected communities, local development, and reconciliation. A consistent thread throughout her work has been the empowerment of potentially disadvantaged populations, including youth, women, and minorities. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan; an MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science; and has served as an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs on the linkages between conflict, peacebuilding, and development. Ms. Poole is honored to have the opportunity in her personal capacity to share her experience to support the mission and goals of GEMS as a Board Member.
David Schisgall has been producing and directing long-form nonfiction for the past eighteen years. He has worked for ABC News, PBS, and Oscar-winner Errol Morris. In 2004 he won the Edward R. Murrow Award for the Best News Documentary of the year for his work in Iraq. He premiered Very Young Girls, the full-length documentary about GEMS, at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, and the documentary screened in festivals across the country, on television, on Showtime, and in four international markets. The documentary is now available on DVD from Netflix and is for sale through the GEMS Shop.
Managing Director, Wolfensohn Fund Management L.P.
Diana Taylor joined Wolfensohn Fund Management L.P., a strategic consulting and investment firm, in 2007, prior to which she served as New York State superintendent of banks and chairwoman of the New York State Banking Board. Before her government service, she worked in the private sector as vice president for KeySpan Energy and as an investment banker with Smith Barney, Lehman Brothers, and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette. Ms. Taylor serves on the boards of Citigroup, Brookfield Properties, and Sotheby’s. She also serves on several charitable boards. She chairs the boards of ACCION International, Hudson River Park Trust, New York Women’s Foundation, and the YMCA of Greater New York. Other memberships include Dartmouth College, the Mailman School of Public Health, and the International Women’s Health Coalition. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Economic Club of New York. She earned her AB from Dartmouth College, her MBA from the Columbia School of Business, and her MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia.
Entertainment Lawyer, Free Integrated Media
Keith White began his career as an educator at Boys & Girls HS (while attending Law School) and then as a Prosecutor in The Kings County District Attorney’s Office. After leaving the DA’s Office, Keith began working as Independent Counsel for A.R. Bernard, a city leader and started his own firm where he practiced Entertainment Law. The firm represented clients like Ron Artest, Shaquille O’Neal, F.E.D.S. Magazine, DJ Envy, Rockwilder, and others. In addition, Keith White has personally represented the New York Billy Graham Organization and Christian Cultural Center as well as worked with NYCHA, HPD, and HUD to develop and build affordable housing for thousands of disadvantaged members of the New York City community. After leaving the firm in 2006, Keith started a management/consulting business, Free Integrated Media. Free Integrated Media is the global brand manager for several artists, labels, and writers and is responsible for the writing or production on platinum and gold records from Jennifer Lopez, Mary J Blige, Beyonce, Ciara, Wynter Gordon, and others.
Arden Wohl is a style icon, philanthropist, pastry chef, and experimental filmmaker. As a recent graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Arden had first graduated with a degree from New York University’s Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Since then, some of her filmography has included The Goatsucker, Coven, which screened at Art Basel Miami Beach, as well as Two Other Dreams, starring Leelee Sobrieski. Most recently, Arden Co-Produced In God We Trust, a documentary feature film about Bernie Madoff that premiered at teh 2013 TriBeCa Film Festival. Today, Arden serves as a voice for a variety of non-profit organizations such as the Nest Foundation and the Endangered Species Coalition.
Motisola Zulu, Secretary
Partner, The Davis Firm
Motisola Zulu, an entertainment law partner at The Davis Firm, is responsible for structuring, negotiating, and drafting agreements for her clients. She takes pride in being able to educate her clients while representing them. With a stellar list of industry heavyweights that include Polow Da Don, Swizz Beatz, and Lil Jon, she has used her expertise to strengthen and protect their careers. Prior to her working with the Davis Firm, Ms. Zulu was a sole practitioner and founder of the entertainment law firm of M. Zulu, P.C. which catered primarily to the music industry. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, however, she was born and raised in Washington, DC. She attended Spelman College where she earned her BA in Political Science then acquired her J.D. from Howard Law School. Ms. Zulu is a member of National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), a founding member of Black Women in Entertainment Industry, a mentor for Year-Up NYC and speaks on several panels discussing the entertainment industry. Giving back, especially to the youth, is extremely important to Ms. Zulu whose family encouraged supporting the community.