Twin Cities Business has named Tawanna Black, founder and CEO of the St. Paul-based Center for Economic Inclusion, as its Person of the Year for 2021. Black founded the center in 2017 for “creating inclusive regional economies by equipping public and private sector employers to dismantle institutional racism and build shared accountability for inclusive economic growth.”
Black has become a nationally recognized leader for her work and expertise on diversity and economic equality. The organization offers consulting, research, and advocacy.
Corporate America has taken notice. In January the U.S. Bank Foundation awarded $1 million to the center to help boost BIPOC employment in the Twin Cities. In 2019 New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. backed the center with a $400,000 donation.
The center’s board includes representatives from U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, Xcel Energy and law firm Grant Thornton. Other board members include Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Adair Mosley, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based nonprofit Pillsbury United Communities.
Black previously served as the executive director of Northside Funders Group, a collaborative effort among donors focused on North Minneapolis. She also previously led diversity and inclusion efforts for Cox Communications in Omaha, Nebraska.
After receiving notice of her selection, Black had this to say:
“Five years ago, I began dreaming about the power and promise of moving from working with good intentions about racial equity, to building anti-racist systems, organizations, and regional economies. I whispered those dreams to God, and then to a few friends, and was blessed to have them affirmed and multiplied over a few months.
The Center for Economic Inclusion was launched to amplify the visions of Black people building racially and economically just systems and to equip public- and private-sector leaders with the knowledge and tools to build, scale, and institutionalize anti-racist organizations with Black and Brown people to close racial wealth gaps and build racially equitable and inclusive regional economies.
Today, four years after founding the Center for Economic Inclusion, the organization has grown to meet the urgency of the moment as thousands of people have put their own fingerprints on this audacious vision, working in shared accountability and shared power with Black and Brown people who must be at the center of our solutions for economic growth, resilience, and competitiveness. I am honored to work in solidarity with brilliant, loving, and committed leaders who work fiercely in relentless pursuit of an economy that truly works for everyone.”
Black is a Non-Resident Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. Locally she serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Technology Association, the community advisory board for the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank’s Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute and the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of The Links, Inc.
The Links is a national organization of more than “16,000 professional women of African descent” and focuses on “enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.” The Links was founded in 1946.
Past Person of the Year honorees include Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy; Brian Cornell, CEO of Target Corp; and U.S. Bank CEO Richard Davis. In 2020, an unprecedented year, TCB named three People of the Year to reflect the most pressing challenges in the economy, health care, and diversity, equity, and inclusion: Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’Lakes, Dr. Andrew Badley of the Mayo Clinic, and Greg Cunningham, U.S. Bank’s chief diversity officer.
Twin Cities Business will toast Black at a Person of the Year celebration on Monday, December 6 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Golden Valley. The much-watched TCB 100 list will be revealed at the event. Event registration is now open.
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