Meet Melinda

social change architect - master facilitator - entrepreneur - coach - producer

Melinda Weekes-Laidlow is the President of Weekes In Advance Enterprises, an organizational development firm offering consulting, facilitation, coaching and professional development services in arts and culture, social innovation, racial equity and collaborative leadership spaces. Melinda is also a graduate Professor of Management at Marlboro College in Brattleboro, VT. 


After heading up her own transactional law firm for several years, Melinda served as Interim General Counsel of Carver National Bank and worked as a Senior Associate for the Interaction Institute for Social Change, where she built the capacity of individuals, communities and networks towards more effective, collaborative and inclusive social change. 


Deepening her focus on systemic and institutional change work, Melinda then spent several years as the Managing Director for Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, publisher of the news website Colorlines and presenter of Facing Race, the nation’s largest multi-racial, multi-disciplinary, inter-generational gathering on racial justice. There, she led organizational change initiatives, chaired its senior management team and supervised national projects in the areas of media, applied research and racial equity consulting.


Ignited by the transformative possibilities at the intersection of art, business and social change, Melinda is weaving these sensibilities into her entrepreneurial work as Founder of Beautiful Ventures, a social impact fund focused on early stage creative businesses. 


A native New Yorker who flows between the Big Apple and the Big Peach, Melinda is an alumna of the Sojourner Truth Leadership Circle Fellowship of Auburn Seminary, serves on the Advisory Board of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Wesleyan University, and is a Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Echoing Green.  As a member of the ordained clergy,  she is a member of the ministerial staff of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York and views all of her work as a function of her calling.  Weekes-Laidlow holds degrees from Wesleyan University, Harvard University and New York University School of Law.


Melinda's Work


creating conditions that ignite, challenge and empower individuals, groups and networks



STANFORD SOCIAL INNOVATION REVIEW: Distributing Leadership, Promoting Stewardship

Our staff quickly realized that we had to move the discussion of these hard issues—starting with racial inequality—out into the community, even if we had not become experts ourselves on the issue. We played an important role in creating safe spaces for open conversation about structural and systemic challenges. Specifically, Curtis and his colleague Melinda Weekes played a lead role in designing and facilitating dialogues where people could talk about and explore sensitive issues without feeling a need to know the answers. As Curtis and Melinda often reminded us, “Sometimes the rush to a solution is a privileged move that avoids discussion of the real issues.”

PHILANTHROPY NEW YORK: Advancing Racial Equity in Arts and Culture, Part 2

In addition to learning how to distinguish between key terms—diversity, equity, equality, inclusion—advocates considered how they might make better choices at their organizations to advance racial justice in the cultural sector at large. 

ECHOING GREEN: Announcing First-Ever Social Entrepreneur in Residence

We’re especially proud to have Melinda Weekes-Laidlow join us as our inaugural Social Entrepreneur in Residence with a focus on racial equity. Melinda runs a consultancy that offers organizational development, facilitation and capacity building to the social innovation, racial equity, and arts and culture spaces. She sat down with Echoing Green president Cheryl Dorsey to chat about the significance of the role for Echoing Green, the unique mindset she brings to the organization and to her own work, and what infusing an organization with new ideas and perspectives can do to accelerate social progress.

RACE FORWARD: Melinda Weekes to Join Applied Research Center as Inaugural Managing Director

Celebrating 30 years in the racial justice movement, the Applied Research Center (ARC) announces its first managing director, Melinda Weekes, who is renowned in the social justice movement for her experience as leadership strategist, facilitator, and collaborative capacity builder.

NPR: A Difficult Promise to Keep in Southern Sudan

Melinda Weekes, a young lawyer attending Harvard Divinity School, traveled with White-Hammond on the earlier mission. It was that visit that spawned the idea for My Sister's Keeper. Once the Sudanese women had been returned to their homes, they needed help rebuilding and establishing communities again, Weekes says.

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VIDEO: Art & Artists in the Work of Social Justice

Melinda Weekes-Laidlow delivered a powerful speech titled, "The Bread of Hope: Taking Cues from MLK: Art & Artists in the Work of Social Justice" at the Walnut School of the Arts in Natick, MA for their Martin Luther King Day celebration in January 2017.

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PHOTO: Intergenerational Healing Conversation

 In December 2016, Melinda served as the lead process designer and facilitator for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement's Rumble Young Man Rumble intergenerational session at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY.  Since 2010, Rumble Young Man Rumble is an annual convening of leaders nationwide to share promising practices, lessons learned, and create collaborations among those working to better outcomes for Black men and boys across the United States.


Speaking up about our differences need not be seen as compromising truth-telling. There are myriad ways in which we as black folks in particular, and people of color in general, indeed share common experiences of racial oppression in the U.S.

In a recent conversation with professors and students at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Design Management program, I was asked to share what we at IISC mean when we use the phrase  “design thinking” in social change initiatives. Talking with vocational designers  about designing for  social change was a very different conversation from conversations with change agents and activists on the same topic. 

What do you think? Is social entrepreneurship a viable way to go on this journey towards systemic, structural change? What role can and ought government play – really — in all this?

This piece, by Melinda Weekes, tells the remarkable story of African-American women in the development of Gospel music. 

Readings in African American Church Music and Worship features important articles and essays on music and worship written by some of the most influential voices of the past century, including W. E. B. DuBois, Wendell P. Whalum, V. Michael McKay, Wyatt Tee Walker, J. Wendell Mapson Jr., and others.

This volume of essays, interlacing worship pieces with reflections from prominent leaders and emerging thinkers in Africana life, is designed to help churches, professors and students reflect more deeply on worship and practice. Building a bridge of understanding through collective experiences, the Companion to the Africana Worship Book shows the roots and fruits of rich worship. Essays and contributors in the Companion include: "Music in Africana Worship" by Melinda Weekes.

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Engage. I want to hear from you.


I look forward to hearing from you soon. For inquiries regarding keynote speaking requests, moderating, facilitation or preaching engagements, please fill out the form below.

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