Denise Dennis, President & CEO
In 2001, M. Denise Dennis, a seventh-generation Pennsylvanian, and her late aunt Hope Dennis founded The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust (DFCLT) to preserve and open to the public the 153-acre farm that their ancestors–documented, free African Americans who came to Pennsylvania from Connecticut in 1793–purchased and settled. Today she serves as DFCLT President & CEO.
Under her leadership, the Dennis Farm has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, honored by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and Department of Agriculture, and listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s map of rare African American historical sites in the Northeast United States.
An author, her books include Black History for Beginners and A Century of Greatness. Denise is also a journalist whose articles have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, and the Unesco Courier, the publication of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization in Paris, and PHMC’s online publication. She has interviewed and written about such luminaries as the late Nobel Prize winning author, Toni Morrison, Ed Bradley of CBS News, and the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Gwendolyn Brooks.
Denise began her career as an editor for Macmillan Publishing Company in New York City at a time when there were very few African American editors in major publishing companies. After working in publishing, Denise worked in public relations at Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Bryn Mawr College. She returned to New York as Senior Media Relations Manager for the National Urban League. In her PR work, she produced press conferences at the National Press Club in Washington, and events featuring such public figures as Muhammad Ali, President Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On behalf of DFCLT, Denise has been a guest speaker at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, the Museum of the American Revolution, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, 232nd Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Wyoming (PA), and the Annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. She has been honored by Misericordia University, the National Women in Agriculture Association (NWAA), and in Women’s History Month 2022, by the Urban League Guild of Philadelphia.
She serves on the Boards of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (W3R), the Irem Temple Restoration Project (ITRP), Wilkes-Barre, PA and the Advisory Board of Robbins House, an African American historical site in Concord, MA where her ancestors lived during the colonial era. Her professional memberships include the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce of PA, NJ and DE, and the Association of African American Museums.
Denise Dennis is an alumna of Swarthmore College.
Wade P. Catts, MA, RPA
Wade P. Catts, MA, RPA is the President and Principal for South River Heritage Consulting, LLC. He is an historical archaeologist specializing in history, archaeology, and historic preservation. He holds a graduate degree in American History from the University of Delaware (1988).
A Registered Professional Archaeologist (RPA), he has more than 40 years of experience in the field of cultural resource management. His research interests include the history of farmsteads and agricultural landscapes, military history and archaeology, environmental history, African American studies, and Middle Atlantic regional history and historic preservation.
Mr. Catts is a past president and former vice president for Membership of the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA), the national trade association representing the cultural resources management industry. He is a past president of the Delaware Academy of Science, and serves on the boards of the Old Swedes Foundation in Wilmington, Delaware; the Advisory Board for Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Masters in Applied Archaeology Program; The Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation; and as a Trustee for Preservation Delaware. In 2016 Mr. Catts was the recipient of the Archibald Crozier Award for Distinguished Achievement in and Contributions to Archeology from the Archeological Society of Delaware and in 2021 he received the History Award Medal from the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.
His higher education teaching experience includes guest lecturer and adjunct professor for the anthropology departments of the Princeton University, the University of Delaware, Temple University, Washington College, The State University of New York, Binghamton, and West Chester University of Pennsylvania. where in 2021 he received a Visiting Fellow award by the Consortium of Practicing & Applied Anthropology Programs. He has also lectured to preservation programs including Rutgers/Camden MARCH Historic Preservation Continuing Education Program, and the Center for Historic Architecture and Design, University of Delaware.
Curtis Johnson is a strategist and media executive with nearly 15 years of experience spanning media and entertainment, non-profit, sports and consumer packaged goods. He is currently the Director, Creative Council Integration for Disney’s Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion team. In his role, he works directly with Disney Chairman and former CEO Bob Iger, collaborating with creative stakeholders to help execute large-scale initiatives that transform creative processes, increase cultural competency and facilitate the sharing and adoption of best practices across Disney’s ecosystem.
Previously, Curtis worked on Disney’s Corporate Brand Development team where he developed insights on consumer behavior, entertainment spend and media consumption to guide global strategies across Disney’s businesses, including movies, products and theme parks. Among other things, he created brand growth strategies in key global markets like Japan, where he led a cross-functional team presenting to executives in Tokyo, and drove analyses supporting new business initiatives, including Disney’s acquisition of digital streaming company BAMTECH. Curtis also served as co-President of The Bond, Disney’s Black Employee Resource Group, which generates insights to help Disney better serve Black consumers, provides professional development opportunities to its members and fosters an inclusive culture for Black employees.
Passionate about serving others, Curtis brings extensive non-profit experience to the Board of The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust. He previously worked at the NAACP’s national office, where he served as the first social media strategist in the organization’s 100-year history and helped lead the organization’s transition into the digital age. He developed integrated communications strategies to amplify human rights campaigns aimed at criminal justice reform, including the successful campaign to free the Scott Sisters and the international campaign to save Troy Davis from Death Row, which reached more than 73 million Twitter users. The NAACP’s digital footprint on the Davis case helped make the case the second-most talked about Twitter topic in 2011, and led to the abolition of the death penalty in Connecticut and Maryland.
A second-generation alum of Hampton University, Curtis graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and was inducted into their 40 Under 40 Society in 2018. He earned a Master of Arts in Strategic Communications from Penn State University and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business. He is a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., initiated in the Gamma Iota (Hampton University) Chapter.
A Philadelphia native, Curtis currently lives in historic Leimert Park in Los Angeles, CA. He enjoys playing basketball, traveling and exploring the LA area with his wife and two daughters.