"What makes me most successful is standing out and bringing my full authenticity."
With a Bush Fellowship, Tawanna Black (BF’14) took part in the executive certificate in transformational leadership program at Georgetown University and deepened her understanding of the social, political and economic factors that affect racial equity in the Twin Cities. Her studies informed her roles as president of the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of The Links Inc., which supports young African American women; the owner and chief consultant of Innovations by Design LLC, which works with small businesses and nonprofits; and CEO for the Center for Economic Inclusion, a continuation of her work at the Northside Funders Group that strengthens civic systems and culture for a symbiotic economy.
What aspect of the Fellowship did you find most valuable?
There were a few things. I used resources like Georgetown’s transformational leadership program, and that was truly transformational to me. Both the education and learning I experienced through that program really challenged me and equipped me with frameworks and tools. It did exactly what I needed it to in order to take work from being place-based to being more regional and to a broader framework.
The other aspect was really the opportunity to think about myself. Not many Fellowships provide the opportunity to pause, to reflect and invest in radical self-care. The Bush Fellowship allowed me to do so, and in fact required the prioritization through monthly calls with the Bush Foundation staff. It gave me not only the opportunity to do it for myself, but to elevate the necessity of that with funders throughout the region and nation. It reshaped the way I think about my work.
How has the Fellowship changed you?
How I lead, how I show up in the work, being able to bring more authenticity to the work. Being in a region that faces so many racial and economic disparities as a woman of color, you’re convinced to show less of yourself and to blend in more with white leaders. What makes me most successful is standing out and bringing my full authenticity. It’s my experiences with my family and as a mom, as a person of color and someone in the north side of Minneapolis.
What advice do you have for current and future Bush Fellows?
Maximize it and get out of your box. Find someone who knows you well and someone who doesn’t know you at all, and ask them what you could take on. What could take you on your wildest dreams but would affirm your greatest hopes?