Emerging Leader Highlight: Mark Fisher of Black Lives Matter Militia

Mark Fisher is the Director of Community Outreach at Black Lives Matter – Militia and a participant in the inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program provided by RIBBA.

Can you share more about what you do at Black Lives Matter – Milii

BLM Militia’s purpose on a local scale within the state of Rhode Island is to spearhead and be a catalyst for making swift, sweeping, and major change from the highest to the lowest level of government in the way that this state engages and deals with its Black citizens and communities. We will hold all Rhode Island state and government leaders and officials accountable and responsible, from the state capital down to every city and town municipality within the state. From the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, to Civil Rights and so forth, Black people are U.S. Citizens and are thereby a party to and granted the rights on both federal and state levels that protect and serve all.  

Our Mission is to create a position of power and level the playing fieldwithin and throughout Rhode Island for Black people and communities via economic development for financial and economic empowerment.Our goal is to create and build a self-sustaining ecosystem of financial and economic empowerment, education and innovation.  

A peoples and communities self-sustainability and progression has always been based in their economic power via a flourishing and thriving business sector. For Black people and communities, Black Wall Street (Little Africa) in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, OK in the early 1900s is a prime example of this by what was created and built there by Blacks through entrepreneurship and cooperative economics, though ultimately and unfortunately, literally burned down to the ground by white people. In cities throughout the U.S., like New York and Boston, you will find a Chinatown and/or Little Italy where these people and communities have created self-sustaining ecosystems and leveraged them for their best interests. Even for Italians in Rhode Island, Federal Hill was an example of this.  

Fundamentally, Black people and communities need financial literacy and entrepreneurship education at scale to successfully create, build and operate Black owned businesses for financial and economic empowerment and to create generational wealth for ourselves, like other people and communities do, build a thriving Black business cooperative, and then leverage this as a tool and mechanism to adequately finance the ongoing fight for justice and equality as well as to engage effectively in politics to bring about governmental and systemic change on all levels. No longer will we allow the foot (or knee) of anti-Black and systemic racism and white supremacy to remain on our necks. Our time is now. 


What has being a part of the Emerging Leaders Program meant to you? 

Being a part of the Emerging Leaders program has meant a great deal to me and will be one of my most memorable experiences. To be a part of a limited and select group of 25 respective industry leaders is special. Not everyone was accepted to be a part of this cohort and it’s been a pleasure to hear and share our unique and professional perspectives on a range of topics all pertaining to leadership development. Also I’ve learned quite a lot about myself as well as mindsets of proven and effective leaders. We have been given the space to be our authentic selves and voice our authentic opinions. Likewise, it’s a pleasure to be working with Lisa again, someone whom I hold in very high regard and have the utmost respect for and whom I also call a friend. She is an example of the curriculum being delivered via her distinguished accomplishments and credentials as well as the foresight and ability to roll out such a program as this one where all who are connected feel empowered.  


Whats the most significant think youve learned so far? 

The most significant thing I’ve learned so far is my CliftonStrengths. Absolutely amazing discovery. I learned that I am 1 in 33 million. These are the odds that someone has the same Top 5 strengths as I do in the exact same order. My distinct CliftonStrengths profile sets me apart from everyone else. I am uniquely powerful. My strengths are as follows. 

  1. Achiever Because you have high Achiever, you work hard and possess a great deal of stamina. You take immense satisfaction in being busy and productive.
  1. Relator – Because you have high Relator, you enjoy close relationships with others. You find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
  1. Context – Because you have high Context, you enjoy thinking about the past. You understand the present by researching its history.
  1. Connectedness – Because you have high Connectedness, you have faith in the links among all things. You believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has meaning.
  1. Learner – Because you have high Learner, you have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites you.


What kind of impact do you want to have in your work and how do you plan on utilizing what you’ve learned to achieve that? 

Our Vision is to see a world where Black people are no longer subjugated to and oppressed by a white supremacist ideology in any form or facet and at any level, and wherever it may rear its ugly head that it be swiftly eradicated. The days of simply praying, marching, singing and hoping are long gone. Those tactics no longer serve us as Black people if we truly want to be liberated on a local, national, and global scale. Todays Black activists and community organizers must fully and fearlessly take the reins of leadership and be innovative in their approach toward the fight for justice, equality and empowerment for Black people. We will no longer look to our governments to save us”, but rather serve us by holding them accountable and responsible accordingly. 

We exist to assist in dismantling the anti-Black racist system that was deliberately designed to keep us enslaved and at a disadvantage for hundreds of years after physical slavery was abolished in a country that was literally built on the backs of our ancestors through blood, sweat and tears. This was calculated by white people with precision and done with the full intention and purpose of stifling the Black intellect and creative mind and stop us from taking our place on the world stage, and instead leave us underprivileged, undereducated, impoverished, crime cultured and incarcerated, and left to become an enemy to ourselves. BLM Militia is continuing the legacy of so many Black freedom fighters before us by taking our peoples and our communitiesdestiny into our own hands. 

Using strategic thinking, planning and leadership which was part of the Emerging Leaders training, my organization will continue to live up to its creed which is “Black Lives Matter Militia is a new revolutionary, progressive, and all-inclusive Black Lives Matter Movement iteration organized for arming and empowering the minds of the people”.  













How to: Prepare for Upcoming COVID-19 Business Relief Grants


Previous COVID-19 relief funds drastically missed RI’s own Black and minority businesses. We know that new business relief funds are on their way, and want to help you prepare as best as possible. Here are some tips on how you can prepare:


How to look up your D-U-N-S Number if you can’t find?

  1. Click Here: D&B D-U-N-S Number Lookup (dnb.com)
  2. Select “My company” in the Search for Line
  3. Click on Business Name or Business Phone
    1. Try them both if one does not work
  4. Your business should pop up if you already have a D-U-N-S Number
  5. Choose to modify Business Information or have your D-U-N-S Number emailed.
  6. Your Business Information on Duns & Bradstreet should match your current address and phone number for your business.


How to sign up for a D-U-N-S Number

  1. Click Here: Get a D-U-N-S Number – Establish Your Business – D&B (dnb.com)
  2. Pick your reason: Choose US Government Contractor or Grantee
  3. Click Continue
  4. Select Your Country: United States of America
  5. Click Continue
  6. Enter your Business information
  7. Type in the correct captcha and click submit.
  8. Locate your business on the list
    1. Look for your exact name and address
    2. Click request or modify information to update
  9. Request the number or make the necessary changes.
  10. A Duns and Bradstreet Agent will be in contact in a couple days to verify your identity ad the business and provide an update.


*Please Note: You can use the contact information on the bottom of the links to get assistance from a Duns & Bradstreet Agent. The screenshot below shows the available options.  




How to look Up your NAICS Code:

Click Here: NAICS & SIC Identification Tools | NAICS Association

The NAICS code is a requirement on your Business Tax Return even if you file as Self-Employed on a Schedule C. NAICS is the North American Industry Industry Classification System. This code will identify the industry your business operates in. Using the correct industry code on your tax return will make it easier to apply for industry specific programs. Registration with the Secretary of State also suggests to identify all the Industries your Business operates in using the NAICS code.*Please Note: A Business can use multiple NAICS codes



How to register your business with Sam.gov to obtain a unique entity ID 

Step 1: Create an account at: Welcome – Login.gov this will provide you the log in credentials to submit documents and log into your account in the future. 

Step 2: Gather Documents: Representations and certifications questionnaire 

  • Points of contact (mandatory and optional points of contact) 
  • Gathering documents can be different for each business. It depends on the complexity of your interest in obtaining a Sam.gov ID. Some documents will require the services of a notary. *This process could take 2 to 3 days.*

Step 3: Submit your documents via the portal with your log in credentials.



Need more assistance, contact RIBBA to meet with a Business Development Specialist: info@ri-bba.org.

Drine Paul, RIBBA Emerging Leader Highlight

LEAP Mentor Program – 3rd Cohort Launched!

On December 2nd, RIBBA welcomed 15 new mentees into the newly expanded LEAP Mentor Program. These 15 young adults will work with mentors over the next 5 months to refine their goals and navigate barriers to achieving them.
In addition, the newly expanded program will provide not just mentorship, but also help each participant identify and utilize their strengths, provide education on financial literacy and work readiness, as well 1:1 sessions with career and financial coaches.
Since the program’s start, we’ve been able to support over 40 mentees. We’re grateful to our sponsor Bay Coast and funding partner Real Jobs Rhode Island for making this expanded program a reality.
For more information on upcoming cohorts, please contact Amanda Roman | Director of Program Development & Operations | amanda@ri-bba.org.

Emerging Leader Highlight: Edinalia Lopes

Edinalia Lopes is a Financial Analyst at IGT and a participant in the inaugural Emerging Leaders Development Program provided by RIBBA. 

1. What has being a part of the Emerging Leaders Program meant to you?

Being part of the Leadership program means many different things for me.  It gives me a chance to network with other professionals from RI, from different industries/cultures.  Though I am not currently in a leadership position, this program caught my eye because I would like to grow in my career and this program is a way for me to learn more about what I personally need to get there. I wish this type of program was part of college/grad school curriculum because so many of the things we are learning can help everyone not only in their careers but also understand what leadership qualities they have and what they need to work on to strengthen.  The program has given me a chance to step back from the day to day things I do for my career and evaluate myself; learn more about myself and learn about what qualities I have to become a great leader.

2. What’s the most significant think you’ve learned so far?

The program is teaching me more on how to be a genuine/unique leader and I feel like I couldn’t learn that elsewhere.  Before this I felt like I had to fit a mold and follow what past leaders have done to be successful but now I am starting to understand how my unique abilities and characteristics can help me get to where I want to go.   I think that is the most significant thing I have learned; that I can become a leader using my own strengths and not have to change everything about myself to be the type of a leader that others might expect me to be.

3. How has understanding your strengths changed the way you see yourself?

First of all,  there were some things about myself that I didn’t know were strengths for great leaders! For example, when we took the assessment test and one of my qualities came out to be Empathy.  I now realize how big of a strength empathy is for a leader, whereas before I thought of it as more of a weakness.  I thought it would be seen as “caring too much” or “feeling too much”;  now I see that it is one of the best qualities, especially now that I understand more about emotional intelligence and using it to lead. We are only half way through the program and I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself so far.

 I think this program would be beneficial for anyone, In any area of work or career levels.  Learning about our strengths, how to use our unique abilities, emotional intelligence and understanding the difference between managing and leading, is greatly needed!  It can be an asset to someone just coming out of college or someone who’s been in their career for years; you can learn new things about yourself at any stage of life.  Someone starting their careers can use this program to get a leg up, learn and hone on their strengths; and someone further in their career can learn new ways to lead and strengthen some of the characteristics they might not have given importance to, in the past. The world is changing and we can ‘t assume that the old ways of leading will keep working, so I would highly recommend this program to everyone!


The Emerging Leaders Development Program prepares high-performing BIPOC professionals for advancement into senior leadership and executive roles while raising their visibility as a force within their organization and community. This 6-month leadership program is designed to provide participants with the additional knowledge, skills and tools that they will need to take their career to the next level. Learn more.

RIBBA announces the creation of a forgivable Micro-Loan Program totaling $450,000 for distribution to minority-owned businesses in the Ocean State

Seeing a higher-than-normal need for services due to the pandemic, and their existing clients struggling to keep their doors open, this is a much-needed financial relief for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) businesses community. The RIBBA Forgivable Micro-Loan program is made possible with funding from the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) Foundation.

Arnell Milhouse, a POC Foundation Advisory Board Member reached out to Lisa Ranglin to forge the partnership between RIBBA and the POC Foundation. Through this partnership, POC Foundation has committed to supporting the RIBBA Forgivable Micro-Loan with $450,000 in funding.

“Community-based organizations, like RIBBA, need to be fully funded with adequate resources and an infrastructure to support the growing demands of businesses owned by people of color, and now thank to the POC Foundation, we have it “, says RIBBA Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Ranglin.

“The POC Foundation is committed to helping organizations like RIBBA and incredible leaders in the African American community like Lisa Ranglin, create programs that will help African American business owners grow their businesses and develop sustainable ventures that will contribute to the overall economic strength of Rhode Island”, says POC Foundation Advisory Board member, Arnell Milhouse, “This funding opportunity will also assist by helping important African American narratives be told directly by people from within the community. We are extremely grateful to the generosity, vision, and vanguard leadership of Barbara Papitto and her late husband, Ralph Papitto.”

Applicants may apply for the loan with a low 1% percent interest rate in increments between $500 - $3,000.  The loan, which can be used to pay operating costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, marketing costs, and supplies, can be forgiven if the expense is Covid -19 related and for an individual’s business.

For information on how to access the online application go to the Rhode Island Black Business Association’s (RIBBA) website (www.ri-bba.org ) or call (401) 383-1179.

About RIBBA 

Established in 2010, the Rhode Island Black Business Association RIBBA is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the business opportunities and vitality of minority-owned businesses in Rhode Island through access to capital, contracting, business development resources, entrepreneur training, business advocacy, meaningful investor services, and workforce development.  A One-On-One Business Development Assistance, an Emerging Leaders Class and Mentorship program, and Microloan Access Leadership are among the services and programs RIBBA provides to the business and entrepreneur community.

About the POC Foundation 

The Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC) is a non-profit private foundation dedicated to listening to and helping Rhode Island’s communities of color empower themselves and create stories of success. The POC Foundation does this by investing in programs and organizations and ventures that boost education, job skills training, and entrepreneurship.

POC Foundation Website: www.POCFoundation.com

Passion on Purpose: A Perspective on the Kickoff to the RIBBA Emerging Leaders Development Program

Achiever. Responsibility. Relator. Futuristic. Learner. 

These are not randomly selected descriptors—there is purpose, power, and possibility in each of them. There is also purpose, power, and possibility in each of the people that represent these strengths. These 5 descriptors are the most highly represented strengths according to the Gallup Clifton Strengths assessment for the inaugural RIBBA Emerging Leaders Development Program cohort.  Thanks to the team at Leadership Rhode Island, we were able to learn just what each of our top strengths mean for us specifically, how we can use them effectively, and how they show up in the spaces and circumstances we find ourselves in. Additionally, thanks to Anne Lipsitz, we were able to consider and articulate how understanding, embracing, and aligning our strengths can help us build a strong personal brand as well as facilitate organizational and overall success. It was a fantastic and inspirational day, and we are humbled and excited to share some initial perspectives on the experience of the start of the program. 

On Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 25 dynamic, talented, and passionate people came together to launch a journey with different expressions of a common goal: to continue to develop their professional and personal trajectories and increase and enhance opportunities for success. This looks different and shows up in varying ways for each of these unique people, but one thing we can all agree on is that this program will be lifechanging and undoubtedly impactful—it already has been.  

To begin with, none of us are part of this incredible effort by chance. Lisa Ranglin, the RIBBA team, and countless other collaborators have been on a journey for some time to make this opportunity a reality, and just at the right time, it came to fruition. It is no secret and nothing new that leaders of color tend to have fewer opportunities for promotion, fewer chances for leadership roles, fewer opportunities for board representation, fewer pay increases, and the list goes on, however, the story does not end there. What is remarkable about the Emerging Leaders Development Program is that it provides a unique opportunity for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) professionals to experience an intentional and customized program that equally builds on their experiences and addresses the areas individually that they need assistance with. All of this is in a valiant and paramount effort to challenge the narrative that there are not enough leaders of color to succeed in critical, elevated, and powerful roles. As was discussed on Day 1, the members of this cohort came to be leaders, but the reality is that we are already leaders, and in some cases, without us realizing it—we just need appropriate, affirming, and inclusive space to amplify and leverage our talents. In other words, we have the skills to succeed and simply need to maximize them.  

Each of the 25 participants come from different vantage points and experiences, varying companies, work and educational backgrounds, with varying skills, talents and interests. Despite our differences, we are all committed to maximizing our individual and collective experiences and in turn, shifting the tide of leadership in Rhode Island and beyond, and increasing the chances of success for ourselves, our families, and our communities forever. This is excellence personified and we hope to help make this experience possible for future leaders to come.  

By Stephanie Mireku and Tyler Joseph, Emerging Leaders Development Program Participants

Orange Live Entertainment, Forgivable Micro-Loan Recipient

Orange Live Entertainment is a Multi-media Platform that offers videography, animation, writing, advisement, hosting and more. The owner of Orange Live Entertainment is Damont Combs, who started out in Jamaica Queens, New York where he began being involved with poetry and other artistic activities. When moving to Rhode Island, he had to adjust to living in a new environment while attending Johnson & Wales University. Some of the accomplishments he made along the way included starting out an Open Mic Night at Blue State Café located in Rhode Island, publishing his first poetry book My Poem My Riddle. Damont published other poetry books in 2016, 2017 and 2018 that are in bookstores in Rhode Island such as Stillwater Books and JW Brown.

Eventually in 2018, Damont became a full-time poet, competed in a national competition and earned a National Poet of the Year award. He took the show on the road and performed poetry at places such as laundry mats, barbershops and churches. In 2019, he was recognized as a Rhode Island Mentor of the year. From 2020 throughout 2021, Damont has continued to see more success, such as: working with the Pawtucket Art Council, hosting events with the PVD Outspoken Festival, helping local poets obtain fair financial compensation as a poetry agent, and is looking forward to working with Providence Latino Film Festival.

Damont’s journey and accomplishments are what make him so appreciative of the Rhode Island Black Business Association (RIBBA) and the support given to him. Damont received a forgivable micro-loan from RIBBA to help him get a more advanced computer and to pay for a part-time assistant. These essential business needs will help his full vision for the business come to fruition.

It is widely known that art helps communities get through hard times and Damont hopes to continue growing Orange Live Entertainment to do just that.

To learn more about Damont Combs and Orange Live Entertainment, click here.

Written by Angelika Walker, RIBBA Intern