We are ecstatic to announce that Forward Cities has received a grant from the Truist Foundation to expand the Black Wall Street Forward program! Black Wall Street Forward has already demonstrated a remarkable impact and with this exciting news, we're thrilled to continue this initiative, enabling ecosystem builders and council members across the pilot communities to sustain and expand our efforts even further!
We’re thrilled to celebrate the culmination of our first Black Wall Street Forward cohort. Our teams in each of the five cities: Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Winston-Salem worked tirelessly to imagine, build, and launch initiatives to reframe the narrative of Black businesses. We are proud to share with you our narrative change video that highlights our successes with this project.
Celebrate the Pilot Cohort
We are excited to highlight each of the local communities and their Strategic Vision for the future of Black Wall Street during Black Business Month in August. We’ll spotlight one of the five communities each week, diving into the work we’ve accomplished during the six month initiative. We encourage you to like, comment, and share our posts.
Looking to the Past
We began our narrative change work by focusing on the legacy on Black Wall Street. Like the Twi word Sankofa calls us to understand our past in order to understand our future, we looked at the history of the Black business narrative and infused these lessons into our storytelling plan and strategy.
Leveraging the Present
As part of our narrative change efforts, we leveraged a 3-part storytelling process: telling the story of the legacy of Black Wall Street, sharing positive local, regional and national news, and sharing information about our work in each community.
Building the Future
The collaborative and innovative work done by the passionate community leaders that engaged in this pilot is only the beginning. EBIRs worked with the Forward Cities staff and engaged council members to create a detailed strategic vision that they - as well as others in their local entrepreneurial ecosystem - can operationalize over the decades to come. Read each city’s Strategic Vision.
Our Black Wall Street Forward Pillars
The fifth pillar of the Black Wall Street Forward initiative is “A talent pipeline seeded by education.” In this video, we explore the founding of Durham’s North Carolina Central University, originally the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua for the Colored Race, by Dr. James E. Shepard.
The sixth pillar of the Black Wall Street Forward initiative is “Engagement with the broader Black community.” Durham’s Black Wall Street also prospered due to its proximity to the Black neighborhood of Hayti, where a number of other Black-owned businesses thrived. In addition to diners, theaters, hotels, churches and a vibrant music scene, Hayti was home to Hillside Park High School, the first Black school to offer 12th grade—which was previously exclusive to white schools. There was a communal sense through faith as well as through economics which made Hayti stand out.
SPECIAL THANK YOU
We're grateful for being able to partner with the following organizations to catalyze Black-centric Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Each of these organizations contributed to this project in a remarkable way.
We worked deeply in 5 communities in NC to change the narrative of Black businesses. Read some of the reflections from our Ecosystem Builders-In-Residence below and watch the videos from each city.
“I learned about so many different types of Black business owners through my council and from the city council convening meeting. I learned that these Black business owners are the backbone of the communities at which they serve. I learned that they are disruptors, not by choice, but because they saw a gap in resources for the people who looked like them. They are individuals that are shaping culture and show how magical black people are.” - Harrison Williams
Watch our Charlotte video
“It was an incredible experiment and a true pilot testing a concept of - what does it look like to bring together leaders in a city, people who are out doing the work and have somebody in charge of catalyzing that group of people and trying to resource that person to do so… We have a lot of my council continuing to work together on various projects doing other things. People that would have never met each other otherwise.” - Justin Minott
Watch our Durham video
“The legacy of Black Wall Street in America is one of pride, generational wealth, surviving, no, thriving in the face of adversity, and community. This initiative gave me the gift of pouring into the rebuilding of that legacy here in Fayetteville. The sense of hope that I recognized on the faces of the stewardship council and the hope that I saw from the community entrepreneurs during our pilot events reminded me that we all need connectivity to thrive.” - Lee Gray
Watch our Fayetteville video
“It was an amazing opportunity, an amazing learning experience and I worked with some amazing people... My council members are my family. I hold them near and true to my heart. The other EBIRs from Charlotte, Fayetteville, Winston-Salem, and Durham. An awesome group of people. Love what they're doing. Love what they've been doing in their community and definitely a group of people that I want to stay connected with.”
- Mel Wright
Watch our Raleigh video
“I have learned that ecosystem building is extremely hard, it is strategic, it is humbling. However, when you are working with people who understand the mission and vision, the load becomes lighter for the individual because everyone is putting in the effort. I want to express my gratitude to all the dedicated individuals who assisted in executing Black Wall Street Forward in North Carolina.” - Toni Barnes
Watch our Winston-Salem video
We can’t continue this work without the support of our communities. Know any aspiring entrepreneurs, existing business owners, or professionals working to support Black businesses thrive in North Carolina? If so, please consider forwarding this email to them.
Are you interested in learning more about a particular Black Wall Street Forward community or finding ways to join the movement? Please take 1-2 minutes to complete this form to share how you might like to engage with us.