Gwendolyn D. Reese is the president and chief executive officer of Peaten Reese Peaten Consulting and president of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg in Florida. Ms. Reese has dedicated more than 30 years of her career to working with organizations focused on social justice, equity, and anti-racism, and is known for her nonprofit leadership work within the region. Impacted deeply as a child by racist policy and Jim Crow laws, Ms. Reese remembers questioning and rebelling against racist structures from a young age. She recognized early that she was called to work toward equity for all and completed an associate of arts in liberal arts at St. Petersburg College before pursuing additional graduate-level coursework through Leadership St. Pete in the early 1990s.
Ms. Reese began her career with the YWCA of Tampa Bay, where she spent more than 19 years. Before accepting her current position, she served as a consultant for Healthy Start, a federal program dedicated to improving health and social outcomes for pregnant enrollees and their children. As the president of the African American Heritage Association of St. Petersburg, Ms. Reese has led various projects, including the African American Heritage Trail, a local history project focusing on commemorating and highlighting locations, landmarks and businesses that played a key role in the area’s African American cultural heritage.
In addition to her work with the heritage association, Ms. Reese is the commissioner of the city of St. Petersburg’s Community Planning & Preservation Commission and holds numerous municipal leadership roles, including chair of the City Hall Mural Committee and social justice coordinator for the Alabama Institute for Social Justice. She is a regular columnist for I Am and has produced a documentary feature on the Gas Plant neighborhood. Looking toward the future, she hopes to continue to increase awareness of Black history in the region. In recognition of her work, Ms. Reese has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2021 key to the city presented by St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman, a congressional commendation, and the National Council of Negro Women’s 2015 MLK Leadership Award.