Every year, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument recognizes distinguished individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service and committment to our community, leadership, and youth. Here, we proudly post their individual biographies so that visitors can get to know these incredible community leaders.
The 2020 Trailblazer Award Recipients:
Click on a Trailblazer's name to read their biography
Dr. Andrew A. Ray was born in Centreville, Mississippi. He began his formal education in a two-room school and completed his elementary and secondary education in the New Orleans, Louisiana Public School System.
Dr. Ray achieved academic distinction by winning bronze and silver medals in statewide competitions while graduating in the top 20 in a class of 395. His post-secondary education includes a Bachelors Degree in Economics, three Masters Degrees and a PhD. He has demonstrated a life-long commitment to learning through his study and internship at 13 colleges and Universities that include Yale, American University, Loyola, Wisconsin, University of Ghana (West Africa) and the University of California.
Dr. Ray had the privilege of being selected as a Foreign Affairs Scholar in the Department of State and a Presidential Fellow in the United States Congress - Washington, DC. His professional experiences include work in Industry, Education, Community and Government Service.
His extensive honors include:
39th Grand Basileus of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
New York State Senate Proclamation for Distinguish Community Service
The John W. Thompson Masonic Community Leadership Award
A Charles Drew Fellow
The Martin Luther King Award
Omega Man of the Year (Rochester and Northeastern Region)
United Church Ministries Man of the Year
Charles T. Lunsford Distinguished Community Service Award (Urban League)
Rochester City Schools Parent Advisory Council Service Award
Outstanding Teacher of the Year (Rochester, NY)
Outstanding Administrator of the Year (Rochester, NY)
Educator of the Year for 6 Organizations (PRIS2M, IN Roads Business Development, New State Administrators Association, Prince Hall and King Solomon Masonic Orders, RCSD Parent Council)
Metropolitan Women’s Network Community Service Award and over two-dozen additional honors.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Charles Banks Humanitarian Award
City of Rochester Board of Education Gate Opener Award for service to humanity
Grant Reynolds Award of Courage (21st Grand Basileus, convinced President Harry Truman to end segregation in the military)
2013 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award from Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church
Alpha Kappa Alpha 20 Pearls Foundation, Inc. EVERYDAY HERO AWARD for Outstanding Community Service 2014
2014 The Community Champion Award Eta Pi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. - New Jersey
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., BRIDGE BUILDER AWARD
Initiator of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., becoming the first Divine Nine Organization to be a Founding Sponsor ($1 Million Dollars) of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC (2016)
Black Heritage Pioneer Award, City of Rochester, NY Black Heritage Committee (2019)
Driven by his desire to teach and inspire, Mount Olive, North Carolina native, Jim C. Harper, II, has spent over two decades sharing the knowledge needed to grow and succeed through lessons of the past. Dr. Harper is married to Rosalind and they have two children, Antonio and Kamaria. After his service in the United States Marine Corps, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Arts degree from North Carolina Central University. He completed his requirements for a doctoral degree in African history, with a minor in United States and Public History at Howard University in May 2004. Upon the completion of his doctoral degree he received a tenure track position as an Assistant Professor with North Carolina Central University in the fall of 2004. He was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2007. Prior to his current role as Department Chair with North Carolina Central University’s Department of History, Dr. Harper at one time served as the University’s Interim Associate Dean for the College of Liberal Arts.
Dr. Harper is a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and Pi Gamma Mu Social Science Honor Society as well as the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He is an active member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) where he served as the National Vice President for Programs (2016-2018). He has presented papers and taken part on panels at ASALH, the Helen G. Edmonds Lyceum, Duke University, and the Phoenix Society for African American Research.
Dr. Harper’s research interests include connections between Africans and African Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries and African students in the United States. He received an internship awarded by the Department of State to serve in the Political section of the United States Embassy in Kenya where he conducted research on Western-Educated Kenyan Elites. In 2006 he published his book titled Western Educated Elites in Kenya, 1900-1963: The African American Factor with Routledge. He also served as the lead editor of Topics in the African Diaspora (2016). He has published three book chapters and three peer-reviewed articles. In addition, he has created several Public History projects and produced three mini documentaries. He is currently working on two manuscripts regarding the life of John Harding Lucas, former distinguished Principal of Hillside High School, former President of Shaw University, and Emeritus member of the National Teachers Association as well as the History of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
With the understanding that the most essential product of North Carolina Central University are its graduates and that their impact on the local, state, and global communities, Dr. Harper advises students within the department of History. He also serves as an advisor to the C.A. Jones History Club, NAACP, North Carolina Central University Student Think Tank, and the Council of Legal Educational Opportunity (CLEO). In addition, Dr. Harper also serves on several university committees including the Faculty Senate, College of Liberal Arts Newsletter Committee, and the Mentoring Committee. His community service includes, but is not limited to, making History presentations at local schools and historical societies.
In 2014, Dr. Harper received the highest teaching award the University of North Carolina Board of Governors recognizes, the UNC Board of Governors Excellence in Teaching Award. Dr. Harper also received the North Carolina Central University Excellence in Teaching Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Faculty Research Award in the Department of History. He was also listed as one of the Outstanding Faculty members under 40 at North Carolina Central University and recognized as one of NCCU’s Best Teachers in the campus newspaper, the Campus Echo). In 2010 was named as the Spectacular Man of the Year in Education. He received 2012 Chairman’s Choice Letitia Woods Brown Article Award from the Association of Black Women Historians and he was appointed as the Chair of the Wesley-Logan Prize Committee for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
As an active member of the Beta Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. located in Durham, NC where he was elected as Chapter Baslieus. Prior to being elected as Basileus he served as Vice Basileus and chair of the Achievement Week Committee. He served as the District Marshal, District Keeper of Records and Seal and Assistant Keeper of Records and Seal for the Sixth District (North and South Carolina). He also served as Chair of the Undergraduate Advisors Committee in the Sixth District and at the International level of the fraternity he serves as co-chair International History Book Committee and the Undergraduate Advisors Committee. He served as chapter adviser for the Tau Psi Chapter at North Carolina Central University (2001-2015). He has received several awards for his service to Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. including Superior Service Award (2007), Omega Man of the Year for Beta Phi chapter (2008) and Omega Man of the Year for the Sixth District (2009). In addition, he was the 2010 was recognized as the Spectacular Man of the Year in Education.
Dr. Harper is committed to mentoring young men both at the university and in the greater Durham community. No matter the outlet he uses, his hope is that every student can find confidence in their abilities. At the same time and while finding inspiration from an Aristotle quote, he helps students to realize that “excellence is not an act, but rather a lifelong habit” that should be used in accomplishing all of their goals.
George McDonald was born and raised in the Harlem community of New York City. He holds a BA degree with honors in Political Science from Hampton University and has done graduate work at Georgetown University and Bowie State University. Before joining the National Park Service (NPS), George worked as the Business Development Manager and Chief Conference Coordinator for Encore Management Corporation in Silver Spring MD. After considerable encouragement from his late brother Moriba McDonald who was a historian with the National Park Service and first the Program Coordinator for the NPS Cultural Diversity Internship Program, George join the Service first working as an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and then as Special Assistant to the Deputy Director. In his capacity as Special Assistant he held leadership roles in advancing the development of the Tuskegee Airmen Historic Site in Alabama and the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City. He is most proud of his work serving as the Program Manager for the Presidential Commission for the National Museum for African American History and Culture. The successful completion of a Report to Congress and the President allowed for the development of a national museum dedicated to the achievements and contributions of African Americans to the United States after a 75-year long effort.
Beginning in 2006, George worked in a dual capacity as the Management Analyst for the Associate Director, Partnerships and Visitor Experience and as the Acting National Youth Programs Manager. He was responsible for planning and executing the successful reorganization of the entire Directorate, managing several special projects and coordinating NPS programs nationally. In July 2008 George became the National Youth Programs Manager for the National Park Service. George also successfully launched the new Youth Partnerships Program in 2008. This new funding program was designed to enhance and increase the number of underserved minority and disadvantaged population groups that participate in park activities and to provide employment and educational opportunities to minority and disadvantaged youth in our national parks. George successfully launched the Youth Intern Program to provide intellectually challenging internships to young people in the areas of natural and cultural resource stewardship. He was also responsible for writing the implementation guidance for the Public Lands Corp Non-Competitive Hiring Authority. Under George’s leadership many new dynamic and innovative youth development programs including the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Intern Program, the Mosaics in Science Intern Program and Latino Heritage Intern Program have been developed across the country that provide education, employment and recreational opportunities to tens of thousands of young people.
George has been nationally recognized for his efforts to develop robust partnership opportunities for a wide range of diverse organizations interested in natural and cultural resource stewardship. He is firmly committed to advancing programs for youth across the country that enhances their understanding of our nation’s precious natural and cultural resources and expands employment and educational opportunities to all economic, cultural and racial groups.
Mr. Sloan Toussaint Baptiste was born in Newark, New Jersey to immigrant parents from Haiti. He graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey and then went on to attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey where he studied Economics and Africana Studies. While at Rutgers University he walked-on the Men's Basketball Team. As a scholar-athlete Sloan created a tutoring program which helped improve the overall team G.P.A. and raised the graduation rate. Graduating with honors Sloan was also a Ronald E. McNair scholar as well as a Elie Weisel Scholarship Reciepient and member of Omega Psi Phi, Fraternity, Inc. Immediately after graduating Sloan Baptiste went to Germany to play overseas basketball after one season he returned back to New Jersey and started his career as a coach and trainer.
In 2009 he moved to Hollywood, California where he now trains entertainers and professional athletes at Floyd Mayweathers Boxing Gym as a lead instructor. Aside from training Sloan works as a stunt actor and has numerous film credits, he is also involved in theater and is presently working on the Haitian Revolution where he will be portraying the iconic role of General Toussaint L'Ouverture. His passion for history has allowed him to develop innovative ways to celebrate many forgotten world figures. His family and friends know him as Sloan but he wants to be remembered as 'Show Biz The Edu-Tainer/Actor-Vist & Math-Lete.'
A descendant of his Great Grand-Father Penfield Chaplin Jr., Army World War One Veteran, and driven by a penchant for excellence, Brother Coleman is a 1987 Distinguished Military Graduate from South Carolina State University. He was initiated through Xi Psi Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. on April 25th, 1985. Brother Coleman received a commission in the United States Army as an Infantry Officer, where he has served in multiple leadership, command, and staff positions at various levels. He is a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a proud recipient of the Bronze Star Medal while serving with the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 8th Infantry Regiment (Fighting Eagles), 4th Infantry Division. Brother Coleman is a US Army Colonel (Retired) with 30 years of faithful and dedicated service to his country. He is a graduate of the prestigious United States Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. Brother Coleman earned numerous awards and decorations to include the Legion of Merit and Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal during his distinguished military career.
Brother Coleman has unconditionally served the Fraternity as a financial member in 16 different chapters in 8 Districts. He has faithfully served in numerous leadership positions in both undergraduate and graduate chapters. Brother Coleman is a former member of the Supreme Council and the Eighth 13th International District Representative overseeing chapters on four different continents. He also chaired and served as a member of multiple Chapter, District, and International committees to include: International Achievement Week Committee, International Membership Committee, International Scholarship Committee, and International Talent Hunt Committee. Brother Coleman currently serves as Vice Chairman, International Membership Committee and Chairman, International Military Affairs Sub-committee.
Brother Coleman’s impeccable reputation and contributions resulted in multiple Chapter, District and International level awards to include: Omega Man of the Year, Colonel Charles Young Military Leadership Award, The Founders Award, Supreme Council Distinguished Service Award, and he is the first recipient of the 13th District Charlie Banks III Exemplar Award. These accolades exemplify his unwavering commitment to simultaneously balancing his passion and dedication for military and community service.
Brother Coleman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science - Public Administration and Masters of Sciences in both Human Resources Management and Strategic Studies. He is married to Colonel (Retired) Cheryl A. Harris and he has three wonderful daughters, with one currently serving in uniform as a First Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division.