East Lansing community leader named economic adviser on Michigan’s new Black Leadership Advisory Council

Published: Nov. 25, 2020 at 6:29 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Michigan’s first Black Leadership Advisory Council is beginning its work and a woman from East Lansing is helping lead the way.

Kelli Ellsworth Etchison is one of 16 members from across the state; each with different specialties to address racism and inequality.

You’ve probably seen her plenty of times in the community, from panels on diversity and racism, to representing LAFCU, to helping coordinate the annual MLK Jr. Celebration in Lansing.

Ellsworth Etchison is the LAFCU’s first Chief Diversity Officer and always on the move.

Her desire to right many years of wrong keeps her going.

“There’s hundreds of years of systemic and structural racism, not just in Michigan, but just in our nation,” said Ellsworth Etchison. “I am involved a lot in the community. This is a great place to be involved, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Her drive pushed her right into her latest mission where she’ll use 35 years of finance expertise serving as an advisor to the Governor on the Black Leadership Advisory Council.

“Just being able to identify barriers in laws that are prohibiting blacks to expand their wealth. There’s certainly a wealth gap here at play. Right, and so what obstacles are in the way and how can we address breaking those down and eradicating them? So that blacks in our communities across the state of Michigan can have access to wealth and opportunities,” said Ellsworth Etchison.

When she got the call, she says she was overwhelmed with emotions.

“Like, wow. When I learned that there were more than 650 talented, you know, applicants that applied for this, and I’m one of the 16 that had been selected, I’m really humbled by that,” said Ellsworth Etchison.

Eradicating racism is a daunting task, but she won’t be alone. Each of the members are from various professions.

“I mean, from arts, culture, finance, technology, community, safety, preparedness. I mean there’s a wealth of different perspectives that are going to come to the table, which I think is really powerful,” said Ellsworth Etchison.

It’s a full circle moment that her many years of service have prepared her for.

Read a little about her background:

“I was the first African American female Chair of the YMCA Board of Directors... the first African American to receive the Athena award from the Grand Ledge Chamber of Commerce way back in 2009. But, you know, I would think that this is kind of coming full circle for me when I think about when I started in this industry. I was 19 years old, and I started with another credit union. And that particular credit union had actually partnered with the local Urban League to diversify to get help and diversify they were saying, we recognize that we need help in this. And so, let’s connect with an organization that may be able to help us, or provide us a talent pool by which we can select from. I feel like this is full circle that, you know, here I am now all these years later, and I’ve been able to break some barriers, rise up through the ranks within our organization and hopefully I’ve helped people along the way.”

She is excited to get to work all while understanding that lasting change will take time.

“It will be a step by step. We’re going to be rolling our sleeves up and working for a minute on this. But I’m thankful that this council has been formed because even after our term limits are up and new people come on board...the exciting thing is that it’s here and people will be able to work at this, you know, for as long as it takes to make change,” said Ellsworth Etchison.

Her term is from Nov. 12, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2023.

Ellsworth Etchison is the only member from Mid-Michigan. The group of 16 will be advising, developing, and reviewing policies. They’ll finalize their meeting schedule before the end of the year.

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