18th Annual Women's Forum - Celebrating Women: Past, Present and Future

2021 Women's Forum Flyer

The Human Relations Division of the City's Neighborhood Improvement Services Department is proud to present the 18th annual Women's Forum to celebrate National Women's History Month. Due to COVID-19, this year's event will be virtual on Zoom every Tuesday in March from 6-7pm. Each Tuesday, panelists will present and discuss a variety of themes including physical health, mental health, education, and personal finances.  

  1. March 2
  2. March 9
  3. MARCH 16
  4. MARCH 23
  5. MARCH 30

March 2, 2021 at 6:00 PM: Kickoff Session 

with Motivational Speaker

Kick off event featuring original song by Nnenna Freelon and inspiring words from Angel Islet Dozier.

Link to session recording.

Special Guest and Moderators

  1. Photograph of Nnenna Freelon

    Nnenna Freelon

    American jazz singer, composer, producer, and arranger.

    Durham, NC based Nnenna Freelon is a six time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist, music educator, arts advocate, producer, and arranger who has achieved international acclaim in both recording and live performance.  

    Nnenna the human being is also a mother, sister and friend who has experienced life's amazing gifts, and its heartbreak.  The loss of her soul mate and husband Phil Freelon in 2019 to ALS, followed by the loss of her sister Debbie in 2020 to cancer, have reshaped her way of being in the world and literally changed her name.

    Nnenna now feels the need to find her "voice" once more. Her new recording Time Traveler is scheduled for release in the spring of 2021 It’s an intimate expression of her love for Phil and their 40-year journey and a sonic love letter to all who’ve lost someone dear. 

    Her new Podcast, Greatgrief, is her effort to create a safe space to share others' stories of loss and grief. Her unique concept of musically supported storytelling is a way to invite curiosity and compassion around change. 

    In both new projects Nnenna is sharing her voice in ways that are authentic, personal and universal.

  1. Photo of Beverly B. Thompson

    Beverly Thompson
    Public Affairs Director, City of Durham 

    As Public Affairs Director for the City of Durham, Beverly B. Thompson reports to the City Manager and is responsible for working directly with City leadership to help them achieve their day-to-day, as well as strategic communications goals on behalf of the organization. She oversees and provides guidance for overall communications planning and activities, including media relations, social media, government television and the website.

    Beverly joined the public sector after 15 years in health care public relations, working for leading providers including Kaiser Permanente, Healthsource North Carolina, (later acquired by Cigna Healthcare), and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

    Beverly is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in journalism and Spanish. She currently sits on the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation Board of Directors and the Historic Hillsborough Commission. She is also on the convening committee planning the celebration of Durham’s 150th anniversary. Beverly and her husband, Aaron, are the proud parents of Kellye, an attorney working in Washington D.C.

  1. Photo of Amy Blalock

    Amy Blalock
    Public Information and Communications Manager
    Office of Public Affairs, a division of the City Manager’s Office
    City of Durham

    Amy is an experienced communications manager with a demonstrated history of working in the City of Durham’s local government administration for nearly 17 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Amy is skilled in strategic government communications, news media relations, crisis communications, issues management, social media, public relations, brand and identity management, video production, advertising, event management, and more. Prior to joining the City of Durham in 2004, she worked for six years in marketing communications for a variety of non-profit organizations and for-profit companies throughout the Triangle. Born in Durham, Amy is married and currently raising 14-year old twins and a 4-year old fur baby named Mabel. 


  1. Photo of Donna Alston

     Donna Alston, CPA, MBA 
    Associate Director at Biogen

    Donna’s passion for financial literacy began when she worked as a credit analyst at American Express over 25 years ago.  She is currently employed as an Associate Director of Global Procurement at Biogen, a biotechnology company, where she has worked the last 16 years in various finance and data management roles.   She has degrees in electronic engineering technology, accounting and business administration and is also a Certified Public Accountant.

  1. Photo of Emily Desiderio

    Emily Desiderio 
    Deputy Finance Director
    City of Durham

    Emily Desiderio is the deputy finance director of the City of Durham's Finance Department.  Emily served as acting deputy finance director and also served as treasury manager, handling all of the City's debt, investments, banking, billing, and collections before obtaining the permanent position of Deputy Finance Director. 

Daily Spotlight

Every day of Women's Month we will spotlight ordinary people who do extraordinary things.