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Event Series Event Series: Martin Luther King, Jr. Week

MLK Economic Plenary

MLK Economic Plenary

January 18 @ 4:30 pm 6:00 pm MST

1731 E Campus Center Dr
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

Event Audience:

This event is open to everyone

Event Organizer:

Celebrating 40 Years of MLK Week, Where do we go from here? January 13 -19, 2024

The MLK Economic Plenary will feature a keynote address by Ashley Bell, former White House advisor and co-founder and CEO of Redemption Holdings, an organization supported in partnership with Bernice King and Coretta Scott King that aims to expand access to capital for people of color. Its first project is Redemption Bank in Holladay, Utah–the first Black-owned bank in the Rockies.

The keynote address will be followed by a panel of leading experts from across the state which will delve into critical issues surrounding economic disparities and strategies for fostering greater equity in our society through access to financial infrastructure and resources, including MDIs.

ASL interpretation will be provided. All requests for event access support and other questions or concerns may be directed to


Ashley Bell in a button-up shirt and blazer

Ashley Bell

Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Ready Life

Ashley D. Bell is an accomplished attorney, banking professional and serial entrepreneur.

Ashley is a Georgia-based attorney and political adviser who founded and currently serves as CEO of Ready Life, a fintech startup revolutionizing the home-buying experience for Black Americans by removing the use of credit scores. He also helms the Black-led investor group preparing to acquire the Utah-based, nonminority-owned Holladay Bank & Trust, a first-of-its-kind transaction that will create Redemption Bank, pending regulatory approval. Ashley’s legal expertise spans public policy, business, and banking, and he is the former White House Policy Advisor for Entrepreneurship & Innovation in the office of American Innovation. In 2018, Ashley was tapped to lead the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Southeast Region. He also co-founded the National Black Bank Foundation alongside frequent collaborator Bernice King, daughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Thomas Maloney in a button-up shirt and short haircut

Thomas Maloney

Professor and Chair, Department of Economics
The University of Utah

Thomas Maloney (he/him) is a professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Utah with expertise in the areas of US economic history, demography, and labor. His research examining African American economic history and racial inequality in the US has appeared in the Journal of Economic History, Social Science History, Explorations in Economic History, Economic Inquiry, and in several edited volumes. Maloney regularly teaches US economic history and microeconomic theory and also teaches an interdisciplinary course on inequality with faculty from Political Science. Maloney currently serves as department chair and previously served as chair from 2011 to 2017. From 2010 to 2018 he was the director of the college’s Barbara L. and Norman C. Tanner Center for Human Rights. Maloney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Dayton and master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from the University of Michigan, and from 1992 to 1994 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the Center for the Study of Urban Inequality at the University of Chicago.

portrait of Sui Lang L. Panoke

Sui Lang L. Panoke

Senior Vice President, Culture
Zions Bank

Sui Lang L. Panoke is a visionary leader and social entrepreneur with a passion for empowering today’s leaders to rethink. create. and innovate. As Senior Vice President of Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. at Zions Bank, she is responsible for directing the bank’s strategic vision to champion diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization and build economic inclusion locally, nationally, and across the banking industry.

Panoke is the founder of Rethink International, Hardware Creative Collective, Rethink Tank, and Women Politics Media. She has trained thousands of leaders around the world leading in politics, business, government, nonprofits, and the media on a wide range of global leadership, culture, and strategic communications topics. She holds a BS in political science from the University of Utah and MPA from American University’s Women & Politics Institute. She serves on numerous community and nonprofit boards and was awarded the 2022 Pathfinder Leadership Award by the Salt Lake Chamber.

Sidni Shorter smiles in a blazer and hair pulled back in a low bun

Sidni L. Shorter, PsyD

President & CEO, Utah Black Chamber of Commerce
Director, Utah Minority Business Development Center

Sidni L. Shorter, PsyD, is President and CEO of the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce, Director of the Utah Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).

Sidni is the former owner and CEO of ExecuteNow!, a finance and accounting firm that prioritizes client satisfaction by providing affordable services to non-profits and small to mid-sized organizations. Sidni acquired the company and played a significant role in creating and implementing programs for national clients aimed at addressing the disparity in access to affordable capital and investments for minority and women-led businesses.

As a servant leader, Sidni values relationship-building and genuine engagement with clients. She is a social entrepreneur and a strong advocate for change. She dedicates her career to helping entrepreneurs and business leaders access affordable capital with growth, progress, diversity, equity, and inclusion as the ultimate goal. Sidni holds a Doctorate in Biblical Psychology, a Master’s in Theology, two Bachelor’s degrees in General Studies (concentration in Behavioral Science) and Theology, and is a Licensed Christian Therapist. Sidni believes great leaders are serial learners and exceptional listeners.