The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society

The Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society


"The connection to yesterday"

Board Members


Donna Odom, Executive Director
Donna Odom Executive Director Donna is a native of Chicago, Illinois. She received her B.A. at Kalamazoo College and her M.A. at Loyola University of Chicago. She is retired from the Kalamazoo Valley Museum in 2010, where she coordinated history programs and special projects. Donna was a member of the steering committee for the Southwest Michigan RACE Exhibit Initiative, is a board member of the Kalamazoo County Historical Society, the Historical Society of Michigan, and the Michigan Oral History Association. She writes and lectures on regional African American history and the Underground Railroad.


Cheree Thomas, Board Chair
Photo of Cheree_Thomas Cheree holds a B.A from the University of Toledo. She is currently Senior Program Director at the YWCA of Kalamazoo. She has been a consultant/facilitator for diversity and cultural competence and domestic and sexual violence since 2008. Cheree is a former Program Manager at the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She is a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Women of Color Network, and the Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society since 2012.


Dr. Romeo Phillips, Immediate Past Chair
Photo of Romeo-Phillips Dr. Phillips has been a member of the Kalamazoo/Portage community since 1968 when he accepted the position that led to his becoming the first tenured African American professor at Kalamazoo College. He has played an active role in community arts and political organizations, having served as the president of the Kalamazoo Chapter of the NAACP, as a member of the Portage City Council, and as a performer in the Kalamazoo Bach Festival, the Kalamazoo Singers, and other music ensembles.


Christine Berro, Board Vice Chair
Chris-Berro Christine is retired director of the Portage District Library, president of the Michigan Library Association, a member of the Kalamazoo Rotary (Chair of scholarship and Community Service Award Committees), a member of the Portage Public Schools Curriculum Instruction Council and past chair of the Portage Community Center Board.


Sharon Carlson, Board Secretary
Sharon_Carlson Sharon is Director of the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Center. She serves as Secretary of the Kalamazoo County Historical Society, is a member of the Board of the Michigan Historical Society and the Stuart Avenue Neighborhood Association, and is a member of the Kalamazoo County Genealogical Society.


Janene Breneman, Board Treasurer
Janene Breneman Janene is former Executive Director of the Glen Oaks Community College Foundation in Centreville, Michigan. She serves as 2nd Vice President of the Three River's Women's Club and is a board member of the Black History Foundation of Three Rivers.


Curtis Bell II, Member Emeritus
Honorable-Curtis-Bell,-Jr. Appointed to Kalamazoo County Probate Court, 2005 the Honorable Curtis Bell serves in the Family Division of the Circuit Court. He was managing partner in private practice at a law firm located in Kalamazoo, 1994-2005, an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University, Haworth College of Business, and a former Oshtemo Township Deputy Supervisor. Judge Bell served as president of the Kalamazoo County Bar Association, from 2008-2009, president of the Southwest Michigan Probate Judges Association, from 2007-2008, and secretary from 2006-2007.


Steve Rossio
Steve received his BA in Public History from Western Michigan University. He is a member of the Michigan Historical Society, the Kalamazoo County Historical Society, the Michigan One Room Schoolhouse Assoc., and the Sons of Union Veterans. His areas of specialization include oral history and the history of Southwest Michigan.


Edward Parham
Ed_Parham Ed is a graduate of Western Michigan University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Health Care Administration in 1977.
Ed began his career in Kalamazoo, Michigan at Borgess Medical Center in 1968 as the first Technical Director of Cardiac Laboratory Studies. In 1975 he was promoted to the position of Administrator of Borgess Medical Center. This promotion made him the first African American to achieve a high level executive position at Borgess with oversight responsibilities of thirteen specialty departments.
Upon retirement in 1983 Ed established Physicians Planners Consulting where he served as medical consultant to numerous medical practices throughout Southwest Michigan.
Ed is a United States Navy veteran who served in the Korean War, retiring from service in 1955. Ed has served on the board of directors of community organizations, such as the State Hospital, the Youth Advancement Academy, a charter school, the Douglas Community Association, and Allen Chapel AME Church. In 1981 Ed co-founded the 100 Men of Kalamazoo, an organization devoted to serving as examples and mentors for young African American men.


James Roland (J.R.) Reynolds
Photo of James_Roland J.R. holds a B.S. from Lyman Briggs College and was a Guy Alexander Hank Screenwriting Fellow at the University of Southern California. He currently serves as Director of the Calhoun Race Impact Alliance of Battle Creek and Coordinator of Good Food Battle Creek where he established racial equity as a food access priority. He also writes a weekly human interest column for the Battle Creek Enquirer, as well as a personal blog. As a freelance consultant, J.R. aids clients in developing strategic communications approaches. He has served on the boards of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance in Washington, D.C., the California State Senate Select Committee on the Entertainment and the Recording Academy in California, and Guardian Finance and Advocacy Services and the Women's Co-op in Battle Creek.


Beth Timmerman
Beth_Timmerman (6K) Beth Timmerman began working at KPL in 1998 as an aide in local history and eventually moved into the reference area of adult services. In 2006, she returned to local history as a librarian.

Beth received a Bachelor of Arts in public history from Western Michigan University and a Master of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University. She enjoys travel, reading, historic architecture, and exploring old cemeteries.