Tonia McMillian was a licensed Early Care and Education provider for over 29 years who retired December 8th, 2023. She primarily served low-income children and their working families. She helped educate and “raise up” hundreds of children, ages 6 weeks through 13 years old, ensuring that every child has a fair shot at achieving the “California Dream.” Following her retirement from the practice of family childcare, she accepted the position of “Woman Who Shakes Things Up” in the Black Californians for Early Childhood Education organization. Ms. McMillian is responsible for directing the Lift Every Voice Campaign which is comprised of black early educators from across the state of California. She now takes pride in uplifting, educating, and celebrating the roles that black early educators play as key figures in the lives of the children they serve in their learning environments.
She was a proud member of the CA State Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission and in 2019 was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to the CA Early Childhood Workforce Policy Advisory Subcommittee. She was later appointed the Chair of the Subcommittee and, most recently, she was voted in to the Governor’s full Early Childhood Policy Council. Ms. McMillian is serving her second term appointment as the Public Member and was recently voted President of the Physical Therapy Board of California. She is an appointed Delegate for the CA Democratic Party under Betty Yee, former California State Controller, and current CADEM Vice Chair. She is serving her 2 nd term as the elected National Secretary to the SEIU National African American Caucus (AFRAM) and is a retired member of Child Care Providers United. Ms. McMillian is a member of the Advisory Council with Parent Voices CA and the Child Care Next Advisory National Board.
Ms. McMillian is a staunch advocate promoting pay equity, exposing institutional and systemic racism, sexism, caste references, and fighting biases within the ECE field. Since 2007, she worked tirelessly for family childcare professionals, mostly women of color, to win the right to collective bargaining. She, along with thousands of family child providers, was honored to celebrate her unwavering dedication to the childcare campaign on September 30 th , 2019, when Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 378 granting these workers the right to bargain and negotiate with the State of California.
Ms. McMillian has a repertoire of skills that she boasts about, including proudly wearing the title of Chef Tonia. Her catering company, Pink Skillet Catering has voluntarily created delectable dishes every year at the Soul Train Alumni Christmas Party and Toy Drive. She published her first children’s book, “Ducky Duck Wears Boots” on Amazon in December 2023 and is currently working on her book of poetry to be released later this year. Tonia has been an authorized instructor with the American Red Cross for over 15 years. She teaches BLS and Adult and Pediatric CPR, First Aid, and AED.
Last, but certainly not least, Ms. McMillian danced on Soul Train from 1979-1983. But her proudest moments are the time spent with her grandson, Amari Washington and
granddaughter, Alina Noelle McKnight. Her grands are her pride and joy.
Sheilah Brooks has recently joined BlackECE as our Woman of Innovation and Connection! She brings with her a great passion for education and a strong commitment to nurturing the holistic development of young minds. Sheilah is a graduate of an HBCU (Grambling State University) and has 18 years of experience working in the education sector.
She has worked tirelessly to build community partnerships and raise awareness about the positive impact of understanding black culture and black families in school initiatives. As a dedicated professional with 18 years of experience in the Afterschool/Expanded Learning field, Sheilah recognizes the importance of collaboration and actively engages educators, parents, and community partners to create a cohesive support system for students.
Sheilah is committed to BlackECE and strives to bring innovative and effective approaches to our black communities. She aims to ensure that we remain a relevant and strong support system for the families and providers that we serve.
A proud son of Compton, CA, Justin Blakely is co-founder and Policy Advisor for BlackECE. A life-long community activist, he has a keen interest in advancing equity while increasing civic engagement amongst communities of color, especially Black communities, in the effort to achieve systemic change.
Asha Mixon is a seasoned marketing specialist from Oakland, CA. While growing up in Oakland, she was always surrounded and influenced by other creatives in the arts. Her journey to tapping into her artistry started when she attended Oakland School for the Arts, fostering her growth as an artist. As she got older, she continued to practice her art skills through different mediums, including digital. During her senior year of high school at Skyline High School in Oakland, CA, she was elected by the school body as the Associate Body Publicist. In her role, she was tasked with spearheading all of the school’s social media and contributing to the school’s marketing strategies. This ultimately jump-started her career as a digital marketing specialist and graphic designer.
After graduating, she jumped straight into her career as a full-time intern with African American Female Excellence, a program initiative by the Oakland Unified School District. She then moved from Oakland to New Orleans, LA where she began freelancing as a marketer, helping entrepreneurs and small-owned businesses improve their marketing strategies. She then became the lead instructor for a Generation USA digital marketing certification program at Delgado Community College. After teaching for almost 2 years, she decided to move into corporate America and worked for a broadcasting company, leading partner marketing for their streaming app. Ultimately, her time with corporate America was cut short and she began her freelancing journey once again.
While freelancing and in search of another full-time role, she was presented the opportunity to work with BlackECE as a contractor on a part-time basis to help jumpstart and improve BlackECE’s marketing and branding strategies. After six months, Asha was asked to convert to full-time and the rest was history. Asha currently lives in Detroit, MI with plans to relocate back home with her long-term partner and dog. She is excited to continue contributing to the betterment of the ECE experience for Black children in California.