Tawanna Black is the Executive Director for the Northside Funders Group, and is known for inspiring and equipping cross-sector leaders to affect meaningful change in communities.

Tawanna Black, Executive Director for the Northside Funders Group, is a nationally recognized thought leader, well-known for influencing, inspiring and equipping cross-sector leaders to transform personal convictions into actions that produce equitable and thriving communities. The Northside Funders Group is a place-based, collective impact organization of 20 corporate, community and private foundations and public sector investors committed to aligning investments and strategies to advance equity, build social capital and extend the prosperity of the Twin Cities to one of its most impoverished neighborhoods.

Northside Funders Group is one of less than five placed-based funder collaboratives in the country. The group is committed to catalyzing lasting change in North Minneapolis, going “beyond the grant” by ensuring that investments have real impact on the biggest challenges in the area. For example, NFG recognized that the existing workforce system was not working for African-American men—and in fact, often working against them. In response, the group launched their North@Work strategy, focused on connecting 2,000 African-American men to sustainable and meaningful employment over five years by leveraging strategic interventions at the systemic level.

As a disruptive leader, have you ever been met with push-back from the community, and how do you work through it?

How do you work through resistance to change?

“To build communities and a country without racial inequities we must challenge our good intentions with a conscious attention to the pervasiveness of racism, intentional and unintentional, and ensure that our actions to achieve racial equity are bold enough to translate our narratives about racial equality. To ensure that the prosperity of our cities cannot be measured along racial lines, we must be willing to take actions that fully leverage our social, political and financial capital and that of the organizations we lead to relentlessly pursue transformational changes in systems, and programs, and hearts and minds, simultaneously.”

Tawanna has lent her leadership to over 35 non-profit and philanthropic boards over the last two decades. Today she serves as a Trustee at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Board Member at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and President of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. In 2014, she was awarded a Bush Fellowship.

Tawanna with her husband and children

“What gets me out of bed in the morning is the reminder that my children will very likely experience the same kind of racism that the families I fight for experience, simply because of their race, and the reality that they will also be told that they’re different because of their education, income bracket, neighborhood, etc. My children give me a fierce sense of urgency to create change now, in ways that are sustainable. My husband and my children remind me of the need to take care of myself while I do this meaningful work.”

Tawanna Black was recognized in September 2016 as one of Living Cities' 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial opportunity gaps.