CULTIVATING STRATEGIES, CREATING WEALTH AND CHANGING LIVES
SERVING HISTORICAL BLACK WOMEN SINCE 2014 IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE
We started as a work group of 20 Black women organized by Kenya McKnight. The 20 foundational members of BWWA met at McDonald’s on West Broadway in North Minneapolis discussing our financial lives, our business goals, road blocks we faced and the needs we still had after being a part of many programs, workshops and training’s aimed at helping people of color succeed. Still we felt a deep gap and a lack of meaningful progress among ourselves despite our strides. We found serious financial skill and knowledge gaps, education gaps, an asset gaps among ourselves.
We continued to meet weekly for 6 months brainstorming ideas of how to break through the other side of the wall. Finally we discovered that what we truly needed was a space of our own where we could come together as Black women to share, build, learn and support one another through our economic aspirations and general growth through our own cultural language stories and realities. We decide that culture was central to our learning and growth and that it was important for us to identify ourselves and what we represented. It was important for us to be in a space where we could speak our own language, We are a collective group of Black women working to advance the economic status of the Black community through strategic and impactful wealth building with Historical Black women since 2014 as a group and now as Minnesota’s first Black Woman Owned Specific Public Benefit Corporation since 2017.
We brainstormed 10 names and voted to become the Black Women’s Business Alliance (BWBA). After countless sessions, vision board sessions and strategic planning sessions we later voted to become a Public Benefit Corporation in 2015 but did not incorporate until 2017. It was important for us to model self sufficiency and break the mold of nonprofit business models by owning our own collective business. We struggled through our focus from public policy, advocacy, social services, and more. Additionally, there was not enough collective will, knowledge, skills and resources among us to properly move BWBA forward into an actually institution that would serve Black women outside of our original group members. The economic and resource needs of the original group exceeded BWBA’s capacity to serve. Our group slowly faded as each of us went back into our separate corners working to improve ourselves after learning so much about our economic realities as Black Women.
In 2015, BWBA was revisited by Kenya McKnight as she sought to gain a deeper understanding of Black women’s economics and explore some of the founding ideas of BWBA. BWBA began hosting luncheons and workshops across the region around Women’s Economics, Angel Investments, Black Women’s Equal Pay and more. In the summer of 2015 BWBA partnered with MainStax Wealth Creation Company to learn more about Asset building and strategies, after being exposed to the idea, concept and tools of wealth building- BWBA spent the remainder of 2015 studying Black economics & wealth building and received a small planning grant from the University of Minnesota’s Center on Urban & Regional Affairs (CURA) to conduct deeper research on the Economic Status of Historical Black Women in Minnesota. We continued to invite our original group members to participate in our planning and venues which several participated in.
Our research was finalized in 2016 and became the first of it’s kind in the State of Minnesota focused on the economic status of Black Women, our research further shaped the future direction of BWBA and led us to changing our name to the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance. We now understood that the broader focus of our work centered on wealth building which included entrepreneurship. We held our very first conference in 2016 “Goal Diggers” to unveil our report, new identity and to gain insights on our next steps. The Goal Diggers conference attracted more than 160 Black women, 13 Black women leaders as presenters, performers and panelist with over $5,000 of sponsorship’s from various of agencies.
Post our Gal Diggers we set out to create Minnesota’s first Black women & girls legislative package that would provide financial resources to over 20 Black women and agencies serving Black women and girls in Minnesota in addition to $300,000 to establish “The Black Print”. The Black Print aimed to create a statewide council of Black women and girls who would establish a 30 year plan to improve the economic status of Black women & girls throughout Minnesota.
Our quest to elevate the voices and economic issues and needs of Historical Black women was not well received, we were encouraged to focus on women of color, we were called divisive for elevating Black women opposed to focusing on Black people in general and we were not politically successful in our efforts despite attending legislative hearings and more. We went back to the drawing board and in the Summer of 2016 established our advisory board to help us with our direction forward.
In late 2016 we partnered with Micro Grant organization to begin providing Black women with some levels of financial support towards their goals as entrepreneurs, students and employee’s. In early 2017, we received our first general operating grant of $40,000 from Nexus Community Partners and a $8,000 national grant from the Leadership Learning Circle to restart our work. We incorporated as a Specific Public Benefit Corporation, established our first headquarters at the Minneapolis Impact HUB and began planning our work. In the Summer of 2017 we relocated our headquarters to North Minneapolis and launched a series of Wealth building Activities and continued to evolve our work to date.
SUMMARY OF OUR WORK AND IMPACT
OUR STAFF- LEFT TO RIGHT
Kenya McKnight- President/CEO | Hazaelee Sellers- Service Coordinator | Darsherria Hatcher- Project Coordinator
OUR ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS- LEFT TO RIGHT
Clara Akbar-Bey- CEO of Ahavah Birthworks | Dr. Rose Brewer- Global Economic Scholar and University of Minnesota | Marsha Howze- El- CEO of R’Sol & Events | Lisa Dunlap- Executive Director of Adults & Children’s Alliance… Additional Advisory Board Members:| Cassandra Silveria of the University of MN | Portia Jackson of Powderhorn Resource Group | Tonia Brinston of Twin Cities RISE | Emma Kasiga of African Development Center