Tawanna is a nationally recognized thought leader who is well known for influencing, inspiring and equipping cross-sector leaders to transform a personal conviction for equality into actions that produce equitable and thriving communities.
Tawanna is the Founder and CEO of the Center for Economic Inclusion, the first organization in the country dedicated exclusively to creating regional economic inclusion. The Center is a cross-sector organization created to disrupt market forces and strengthen civic infrastructure in order to catalyze an inclusive, prosperous Minneapolis-St. Paul regional economy. The Center supports private and public sector organizations with the tools, knowledge and resources needed to identify and dismantle racially and economically exclusive policies and practices, and institutionalize new, innovative and inclusive policies, practices and behaviors that accelerate economic growth for everyone.
Prior to creating the Center, she served as the first Executive Director of the Northside Funders Group, a place-based, collaborative of 20 corporate, community and private foundations and public sector investors committed to aligning investments and strategies to change the way philanthropy works in North Minneapolis for five years. In this role she facilitated a groundbreaking four-lever approach to helping funders Learn, Leverage, Influence and Invest in new ways that advance racial equity and economic opportunity for residents in a neighborhood facing decades of disinvestment and disenfranchisement.
Before moving to Minnesota, Tawanna was selected as the first Director of Diversity for Cox Communications, where she served as an advisor to the senior management team, assisting in setting the highest standards for business growth, innovation and stakeholder return by ensuring that the company understood and acted upon the needs of diverse communities. Prior to joining Cox, she served as the first Executive Director for Destination Midtown, leading an unprecedented community economic development public-private partnership. Her visionary leadership led to more than $500 million of re-investment and revitalization in the historic heart of Omaha in just three years.
Tawanna’s civic leadership has been recognized with many awards and commendations. A few notables include: Washburn University Alumni Fellow (2018), Twin Cities Business Magazine 100 People to Know (2019 & 2017), Top 25 Disruptive Leaders Working to Close Racial Gaps- Living Cities (2016), Minneapolis- St. Paul Women in Business Award (2017), Bush Fellowship 2014, Midlands Business Journal’s (Omaha) 40 Under 40 in 2004.
Tawanna is a graduate of Washburn University in Topeka, KS and holds a Bachelor Degree of Public Administration. In 2015, she was selected as a part of the Twin-Cities cohort for the inaugural Harvard Business School Young American Leaders Program (YALP) on U.S. Economic Competitiveness. She was also recently appointed as a Brookings Institution Non-Resident Fellow.
Tawanna’s accomplishments and civic leadership have been recognized with many awards and commendations. A few notables include: Midlands Business Journal’s (Omaha) 40 Under 40 in 2004; prestigious Bush Fellowship by the Bush Foundation in 2014; One of the nations Top 25 Disruptive Leaders working to close racial gaps by Living Cities in 2016; Twin Cities Business Magazine’s 2017 100 People to Know; 2017 Minneapolis- St. Paul Business Journals Women in Business Award Winner, and Minnesota Business Magazines’ 2017 Real Power 50.
Tawanna has lent her leadership to over 35 non-profit and philanthropic boards over the last decade. Today she serves as a board member of Forward Cities, the Northside Achievement Zone, Community Advisory Board Member of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank’s Opportunity & Inclusive Growth Institute, Co-Chair of the Itasca Project North Minneapolis Partnership, and a member and Past President of the Minneapolis- St. Paul (MN) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.
Tawanna answered the call into ministry in 2000 while living in Des Moines, and continues heeding the call and her gifts are deployed with her truest vocation. Today, Tawanna serves as a minister at Grace Apostolic Church. There she also serves as Board Treasurer & Finance Committee Chair, altar worker, and overseeing leadership training for ministry and auxiliary leaders.
Her greatest title and roles are those of wife and mother. Tawanna has been married to Eric Black for 18 years and he and their two children, Traviata (8) and Christian (6) are her greatest earthly blessings and motivation!