Catalyzing Black-centric entrepreneurial ecosystems through Black Wall Street Forward

June 9, 2022 | By

Michelle Benham

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Truist Foundation Logo

On May 19, 2022, Durham-based nonprofit Forward Cities announced a $400,000 grant by Truist Foundation to support the launch of the Black Wall Street Forward program, a narrative change initiative to catalyze Black-centric entrepreneurial ecosystems. Provident1898, a Black-centric coworking community located in historic Mutual Tower in downtown Durham, will serve as the program’s headquarters. In addition to Durham, the program will be piloted in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem.  

Fay announcing the Black Wall Street Forward initiative“Through the generous support of the Truist Foundation we at Forward Cities are thrilled to launch the Black Wall Street Forward initiative across North Carolina,” said Forward Cities’ President & CEO Fay Horwitt. “In partnership with Provident 1898, we aim to honor past and existing efforts of Black Wall Street legacy stewardship in our communities while striving to change the narrative for today's Black businesses. We hope to collaboratively shape a sustainable model for the future of thriving, equitably invested, and self-determined Black-centric entrepreneurial communities that support high quality, competitive businesses. We are eager to get started."

“At Truist, we live out our purpose to build better lives and communities by partnering with organizations to create initiatives that drive lasting change,” said Dontá Wilson, Chief Retail and Small Business Banking Officer at Truist. “Black entrepreneurs continue to face deeply layered systemic, structural, cultural, and racial inequities that prevent them from accessing equitable opportunities. Through this program, we will create a learning network of local Black-owned small businesses with the goal of building more equitable and financially sustainable ecosystems.” 

Carl, Donta, and Fay being photographed

Black Wall St. Forward is a nine-month, action-based learning network for five North Carolina communities that explores and seeks to change the narrative of disenfranchisement for American Black businesses. The program will provide capacity building and shared learning experiences for entrepreneurial champions, community leaders and allies, guiding them in the cultivation of a more aligned, connected, and financially sustainable Black-centric entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The initiative is modeled on the pillars that made Durham’s original Black Wall St. successful and builds on the continuing legacy of that work that continues to be stewarded by the many local leaders and initiatives – past and present.

BWSF and Truist logo posters

“Provident1898 is excited to partner with Forward Cities and the Truist Foundation in amplifying our collective work towards solving economic disparities within the Black business community,” said Provident1898 Co-Founder Carl Webb. “I believe the Black Wall Street Forward initiative will serve as the ground upon which the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators will continue to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable community, inspired by the great legacy created by NC Mutual founders John Merrick, Dr. Aaron Moore and C.C. Spaulding.”

By pulling forward the foundational pillars of Durham’s historical Black Wall Street as a model, Black leaders and allies can collaboratively shape a sustainable model for the future of thriving, equitably invested, and self-determined Black-centric entrepreneurial communities that support high quality, competitive businesses.

Goals of the Black Wall Street Forward program include:

  • Articulating the historical and systemic realities that have led to the disenfranchisement and underinvestment of Black-owned businesses/districts
  • Framing and widely sharing a new public narrative centered on the resilience of Black entrepreneurs and the communities in which they are embedded
  • Equipping community leaders with tools and best practices that change the dominant narrative by shifting power within local entrepreneurial ecosystems
  • Observing, mapping, and capturing the process to inform continuous improvement and emerge best practices. 

Read the Winston-Salem Journal article:

Winston-Salem listed in Forward Cities initiative for Black entrepreneurs

Read the Black Wall Street Times article:

Black Wall Street Forward Reshapes Narratives of NC Black Businesses