Meet Keisha Nzewi, our inspiring “Woman in Charge,” and our dedicated board, including our co-founders. Together, they guide BlackECE’s mission of empowering Black Californians through early care and education. Engage with our Wisdom Circle, comprised of community members and co-founders, who help shape our work. Discover our exceptional leaders driving change and join us in creating a brighter future for Black children and families.

Woman in Charge

Keisha (kay-isha) Nzewi (en-zay-we) is a co-founder and Woman in Charge of Black Californians United for Early Care and Education, and President of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board. With vivid memories of her family raising money for Jessie Jackson’s run for president, going to the voting booth every election as a child, and watching Eyes on the Prize every February from its debut for at least 3 years after, Keisha couldn’t help but to spend her career standing up for what is right and just. After spending a year as a VISTA volunteer organizing and training communities to use data to advocate for what they need in Sacramento, CA, she worked for several years as an alcohol policy advocate. At the American Heart Association, where she worked as Director of African American Programs and Advocacy Director, she worked on policies such as tobacco control, menu nutrition labeling, and the Affordable Care Act.

She then took her advocacy, policy and community organizing expertise to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, where she organized community members around anti-hunger and anti-poverty issues. After 7 years, she joined the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network as the Director of Public Policy. At the Network, she honed her child care policy expertise, in an environment and culture that prioritizes being anti-racist. Because of the support of the Network, and the courageous fellow co-founders, Keisha is the first leader of BlackECE.

Keisha earned her BA in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley, where she played piccolo in the Cal Band. She earned her Master of Public Health from San Francisco State University. Keisha is mom/dance mom/stage mom to a Sophomore musical theater artist, and wife to a geologist.

Woman That Makes Things Happen

Samantha C. Thompson, MBA is the Woman That Makes Things Happen at BlackECE. She holds an Associate of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies from Merced College, a Bachelors of Sciences degree in Human Services and Masters of Business Administration, both from University of Phoenix.

Samantha worked for many years as a Paralegal in Merced and Fresno counties and served as a Court Clerk for the Merced County Superior Court. Her transition to education began at a small Christian preschool/elementary school in 2002. Samantha joined the leadership team at the Merced County Office of Education/Early Education Department in 2006 and, for almost 15 years, she administered the Centralized Eligibility List (CEL), the Local Child Care and Development Planning Council, ECE Workforce Development and Retention initiatives, Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant, CA-QRIS Block Grants, and many other local initiatives. She was particularly honored to author and administer the “Caring for Our Black Children” grant, funded by Merced County First 5 from 2017-2020. Prior to joining BlackECE, she served as the Associate Director of Early Learning Policy at the Education Trust West.

While at Merced COE, Samantha began participating in many of California’s established early learning and care associations, also serving on their public policy committees . She was the Co-Chair of the California Child Care Coordinators Association from 2016-2018 and subsequently served in various capacities on their Executive Committee. She participated in California’s Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2018. Recently, she participated in Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Fellowship for Prenatal-To-Three Leaders and is currently participating in California’s Universal PreKindergarten Mixed Delivery Quality and Access Workgroup.

Samantha is a long time resident of Merced County. She is a Leadership Merced (Class 26) alumni having also served as the Chairperson for the program. She served on School Site Councils at the elementary, middle school and high school levels for Merced City and Merced Union High School districts from 2009-2020. And, Samantha served as adjunct faculty in the business division at Merced College from 2012-2021.

She and her husband, Herschel have been married for almost 26 years and have two adult children, Alexis who is a School Counselor and Desmond who is pursuing his degree in Sports Communication. Samantha is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan and you can guarantee if the Golden State Warriors are playing then she is watching! She enjoys gardening and reading a good biography about strong women leaders.

Policy Advisor

Justin Blakely

The Board

Supporting Keisha is our esteemed board and wisdom circle, comprised of the co-founders of BlackECE and supporters. These individuals played pivotal roles in establishing the foundation of our organization and continue to bring their wealth of experience, knowledge, and commitment to inform strategic decision-making. Together, they ensure that BlackECE remains true to its core values and mission.

Woman in Charge
Dr. Lea Austin
Angela Jenkins

The Wisdom Circle

Dr. Lawanda Wesley
Dr. Ashley Williams
Maeva Marc
LaTanya Brown
Dr. Carla Bryant
Aretha Hampton
Tonia McMillian
Patrick MacFarlane
Rissa Scott