Nationally acclaimed speakers to appear at Leadership Conference

Film, television and stage actor and author Hill Harper interacts with TROY student Jared Henderson during the 2015 Leadership Conference.

Film, television and stage actor and author Hill Harper interacts with TROY student Jared Henderson during the 2015 Leadership Conference.

Two nationally acclaimed speakers will highlight the Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month at Troy University on February 3-4.

Providing the keynote address for the opening session is Birmingham native Rickey Smiley, a comedian, actor, radio personality and television host.

With a 25-plus year career in comedy, the host of The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, a morning radio show based in Atlanta and airing in more than 55 markets nationwide, Smiley has opened for such entertainers as Steve Harvey, George Wallace and Carl Strong. The show is in partnership with Radio One and is featured on Dish Nation, which also airs on FOX affiliates. He continues to perform sold-out shows that features his regular characters of “Mrs. Bernice Jenkins,” “Lil’Daryl,” “Joe Willie,” and “Beauford.”

Flyer for the 2017 Leadership Conference at Troy University.
Flyer for the 2017 Leadership Conference at Troy University.

He has joined forces with Radio One, through its television network TV One, to star in and executive produce “The Rickey Smiley Show.” Through his work, he has developed eight best-selling CDs including iTunes #1 Best Selling Comedy Album, “Rickey Smiley – Prank Calls Number 6.” In addition, he hosts BET’s comedy concert DVD “Open Casket Sharp.” On the silver screen, his credits include “All About The Benjamin’s” and “Friday After Next,” along with his most recent starring turn in the romantic comedy “Baggage Claim.”

He served as host of the Trumpet Awards in 2012, the 29th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards in 2014, and the 2014 NAACP Image Awards Dinner & Pre-Party, as well as being a presenter at the Image Awards.

At home, he is the father of three and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

Providing the keynote speech at the conference’s closing luncheon on Saturday, Feb. 4, is Bishop James Levert Davis. The session takes place in the Trojan Center Ballrooms.

Davis is the 123rd elected and consecrated bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was elected to the office of bishop at the 47th General Conference of the AME Church in 2004 and served as presiding prelate of the 19th Episcopal district that comprises KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State in the Republic of South Africa. In 2008, he was appointed presiding prelate of the 9th Episcopal District, which comprises the state of Alabama. He currently serves as presiding prelate of AME’s second district, serving Baltimore, Washington, Virginia, North Carolina and western North Carolina. Prior to his election, he served for 12 years as the pastor of historic Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta.

A fifth generation AME minister, Davis attended both public and private schools in Alabama, and was called to the ministry at age 12. He is a graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and earned a Master of Divinity degree at Turner Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from the Interdenominational Theological Seminary in Atlanta.

Under his leadership, the 9th Episcopal District was able to purchase and renovate its District Headquarters in downtown Birmingham, and retired its mortgage in just 25 months while donating more than $60,000 to local churches in need. He has served as chair of the Board of Directors of Daniel Payne College, which generates funds for the church, and The Daniel Payne College Foundation, Inc. was able to purchase Daniel Payne Middle School, making this the largest property owned by an African American institution in the state of Alabama.

The Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month was launched in 2002 by the University and the City of Troy to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration and equip diverse leaders with tools to better serve their organizations and communities.

“I am very elated to serve as the leadership conference chair and I look forward to a rewarding and exciting conference,” said Derrick Brewster, Assistant Dean of Student Services at TROY. “The advisory board has assembled two great speakers with Mr. Smiley and Bishop Davis, and both speakers have a lot of wisdom and knowledge to offer our participants.”

The conference begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3 in Sartain Hall, immediately following check-in at 6 p.m Registration for the conference is under way, and may be completed online. The cost of registration is $30 for adults and $15 for students until Jan. 30, when a $10 late registration fee applies.

Additional information about the conference is available by contacting Barbara Patterson at 334-670-3204 or by email at or Sheila Jackson at 334-670-2283 or by email to Registrants who wish to pay by check should contact Patterson by phone.