The Young American’s
Board of Directors
KENNY MORRIS, Founder & President, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives
Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. descends from two of the most influential names in American history: he is the great-great-great-grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great-grandson of Booker T. Washington. His mother, Nettie Washington Douglass, is the daughter of Nettie Hancock Washington (granddaughter of Booker T. Washington) and Dr. Frederick Douglass III (great-grandson of Frederick Douglass). Ken’s life until the year 2007 could be described as distinguished yet decisively disengaged from his lineage until Providence called.
Ken continues his family’s legacy of anti-slavery and educational work as co-founder and president of the Rochester, NY-based nonprofit Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI). His career and life path are driven by a clear focus on FDFI’s mission “To Build Strong Children and to end systems of exploitation and oppression.” He could not have predicted that one day he would so fully embrace and be defined by the characteristics that so closely defined his famous ancestors.
FDFI brings the guidance of history to the fight against modern forms of slavery. As part of the present-day abolitionist movement, FDFI educates young people about all forms of forced servitude and inspires them to action. Current FDFI projects include PROTECT, a partnership with two California-based nonprofit organizations, 3Strands Global and Love Never Fails, to provide grade-level appropriate human trafficking prevention education to students from grade school to high school, and the One Million Abolitionists project, which with a wide range of partners including the National Park Service, History Channel, educational institutions, community organizations, and individuals will print and distribute one million copies of a special Bicentennial edition of Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, to young people domestically and internationally.
An accomplished and prolific public speaker, Ken regularly appears before charitable organizations, local, state, and federal government agencies, and civic organizations, and presents to students across the country and internationally. He has lectured at universities including New Castle University in England, Columbia University, Morehouse College, UNLV, Tuskegee University, Loyola University Chicago, and Yale University. He has appeared on CNN, Democracy Now!, PBS, NPR, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, and the CBS Evening News. Ken is honored to have been a keynote speaker at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s annual conference in Vienna and Luxembourg.
Ken appeared in the 2022 documentaries Abraham Lincoln and The American Presidency with Bill Clinton on the History Channel, Frederick Douglass in Five Speeches on HBO and HBO Max, Becoming Frederick Douglass on PBS (October 2022), and 1000 Years of Slavery on the Smithsonian Channel. Previously, he appeared in the documentaries Civil Warriors and Rise Up: The Legacy of Nat Turner on National Geographic and Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color on the History Channel.
He contributed the preface to Isaac Julien’s Lessons of the Hour published in 2022, the afterword to Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American published in 2015, and the foreword to the bicentennial edition of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, published in January 2017.
Ken received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of La Verne in California in January 2012. In June 2012, he received the inaugural National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom’s Frederick Douglass Underground Railroad Legacy Award in recognition of his commitment to promoting social change through activism that addresses contemporary social issues. In January 2014, Ken was the first man to be awarded the Women’s E-News 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism. In April 2016, he received the Anne Frank Change the World Award from the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights. In November 2017, he received the National Association of African American Honors Programs Legacy Keeper Award. In 2018, Ken received awards, including the Award for Excellence from Washington College, Wind Beneath My Wings from the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Frederick Douglass Medal from the Douglass Institute for African & African American Studies at the University of Rochester.
Before co-founding FDFI in 2007, Ken was a partner at C&A Marketing, a marketing and entertainment firm recognized as a leader in corporate meetings, incentive travel, and customized marketing programs. He has been a member of the board of directors for Kaleidoscope Arts Factory, a nonprofit youth performing arts organization, and the Dean’s Advisory Committee at the University of La Verne. Ken currently sits on the board of directors for the Frederick Douglass Ireland Project, the nonprofit Globe Lane, and serves as board president at The Young Americans performing arts organization. He is a former ambassador for the nonprofit organization Human Rights First. In November 2017, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi named him to the federal Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission, serving as Commission Chair.
Ken received a Bachelor of Arts Religion degree from the Ecumenical Center for Black Church Studies at the University of La Verne. As did Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, he firmly believes that education is the pathway to freedom.
PHIL LISLE, Entrepreneur
Phil has been involved with both the travel and photography industries since 1975. He is currently President of Pacific Photo Studios and General Partner with Royalty World Cruises. In addition to The Young Americans, he serves on the Board of Directors for Music Theatre Academy of Orange County; Allard Artists, Inc; Lisle Corporation; EZ Way, Inc; Canyon Creek HOA; and Eagles Knoll HOA. Phil is married with three grown children and lives in Irvine, CA. He has been an ardent supporter of The Young Americans since 1981.
DAVID KLEIN, Business Owner
After one year of college studying business management, David took a leave of absence to help his father in his land development business which was going through huge growth in 1977. At the age of 20, David was the project superintendent on his first construction site.
In 1980, David stepped away from construction to join The Young Americans as primary bass player and multi-instrumentalist at Boyne Highlands, MI. During his time with The Young Americans David played bass at “Tibbies Music Hall” and for the first 3 tour performances of the Gershwin Tour. Prior to returning to the construction business David continued his Musca pursuits touring with MarkVII and forming a “Top 40” band.
After returning to the construction business, David moved from project superintendent, to projects manager and ultimately oversaw all design and development of properties. As a design and infrastructure engineer David developed “the Split Log,” “Carbon Monoxide Shut-off System” as well as dozens of processing systems that were revolutionary to the industry including “Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete”.
Today, David is married to his wife of over 35-years, Laurie Klein, and is co-owner of Dakota Works, with former Young American sound engineer, Trent Nelson. David and Laurie have four children, Natalie, Alissa, Gideon and Gabriel.
MICHELLE LUND, Philanthropist
Following in her beloved mother’s footsteps, Michelle Lund is devoted to making the world a brighter and kinder place for all. She is honored to participate on the boards of several great organizations, many of whom focus on the arts or wildlife rescue and preservation. For more than 15 years, Michelle has served as president of the Sharon D. Lund Foundation where she and her fellow directors enjoy partnering with organizations who care about empowering children, strengthening families, and building vital communities. Michelle and her friends have also been spotted dancing, laughing, and wildly applauding as the Young Americans share their message of inclusiveness, love, and fun around the world.
MARC CHERRY, Writer/ Producer
Marc Cherry majored in Theatre at Cal State Fullerton. After being a winner on Dick Clark’s game show, The $100,000 Pyramid, Marc took his winnings and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in writing. He started his career in the entertainment industry as a personal assistant to Dixie Carter on the set of Designing Women which led to a successful career as a writer.
Throughout the years, Marc has written and produced various hit tv series, such as The Golden Girls and the sequel The Golden Palace. In 2004, ABC picked up Desperate Housewives, a groundbreaking success that won 7 Emmys and 3 Golden Globe Awards as Favorite New Television Drama and many others. Marc was also the creator and showrunner for the drama Devious Maids and original series Why Women Kill.
Currently, Mark is writing the 2nd season of Why Women Kill while producing additional projects under the banner Cherry Productions.
Hilde Bonesteel, CEO of Senior Health Care Assisted Living Facility
DREW MCGARITY, Senior Engineering Manager
Drew joined The Young Americans in 1992 as a drummer, but was afforded subsequent opportunities as audio engineer, company manager, and associate producer. He left the YAs in 1996 to pursue an aerospace engineering career, but is always honored when asked to mix one of the group’s special event performances. He is most thankful to the group for introducing him to his incredible wife, Cynthia, a beautiful 1st soprano southern belle from Alabama. Drew has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from San Diego State University, and an MS in Systems Engineering from the University of Southern California (Fight On!). He is currently a senior engineering manager for The Boeing Company, a father of two, a golfer, and an avid runner.
VANESSA BROWN, Freelance Percussionist/Drummer/Music Librarian/Music Proofreader
Vanessa Brown is a freelance Percussionist/Drummer/Music Librarian/Music Proofreader. She joined The Young Americans in 1975 as a violinist and later toured as a set drummer. Vanessa served as percussionist for the ABC hit show, “Dancing With The Stars” from Season 1(2004) to Season 18 (2013). She performed with the DWTS house band for nine years. Her career has taken her all over the world performing and/or touring with such artists as Barry Manilow, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra Sr. and Jr., Shirley MacLaine, Sammy Davis Jr., Gladys Knight and The Pips, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, and Jennifer Holliday, to name a few. She has been involved with numerous award shows (Oscars, Grammys, Emmys), television specials, films, and recordings. She was the percussionist for the Los Angeles musical productions of “The Color Purple”, “Hairspray”, “Dreamgirls”, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “The Lion King”. Vanessa is a graduate of UCLA with a B.A. degree in Music Performance, specializing in Percussion.
CAROL P. SCHANER, Attorney
Carol is a partner with Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP and limits her practice to taxation, nonprofit tax-exempt organizations, estate planning, charitable giving, and business planning. Carol is a member of the State Bar of California, American Bar Association (sections of taxation and real property; probate and trust law), Orange County Bar Association (sections of taxation and real property; probate and trust law), and Fellow of the Esperti Peterson Institute.
Carol serves as adjunct faculty member at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, The Academy of Multidisciplinary Practice, Inc. at Michigan State University, and The Heritage Institute.