In March 2020, Louisville business leader, multi-preneur, marketing strategist, and social justice activist Tawana Bain was enjoying the continued success of her businesses Encore on 4th and AFM Threads and her work as Founder and CEO of the project management and consulting firm NAC - a diverse group of companies under a multifaceted brand - TBAIN & Co. Even as the specter of coronavirus began shuttering businesses all over the city, Tawana did not turn inward and circle her wagons to protect her own interests. As daunting as the pandemic’s impact was, Humana (a ten-year client of Tawana’s) afforded her company NAC an opportunity to turn her attention outward and forward. “Their trust in me to lead a multimillion-dollar project allowed me to make an investment where it was needed most: GEDDI.”
“As a Black female entrepreneur, I’ve always been acutely aware of the disparities that existed for me, yet when COVID-19 hit, America showed us it was bigger than a disparity. When George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery’s names joined the long list of Black Americans murdered, some Americans’ responses made clear racism was still a very real cancer in our society. Many within the Black community were left perplexed about where to turn.” And so, Tawana created the Global Economic Diversity Development Initiative.
According to Tawana, “GEDDI is not a want for the Black community. It’s a necessity. It is our responsibility as Americans to ensure we all have a source to turn to when society’s systems are not designed equally for everyone. The pandemic has exposed the harsh reality that Black Americans are at the bottom of the economic ladder. To change the trajectory, it’s a necessity that we begin to trust the black leaders tied directly to the community to be stewards over major community investments. As the saying goes, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.’ As I watch it play out in 2020, it’s clear some Americans would rather plead insanity than admit they’re resistant to contributing to black Americans’ progress unless they are in control of how the progress is made. Not being able to steer the ship does not diminish their contribution.”
The mission of the GEDDI (pronounced JED-EYE) is “to establish a fund that serves as a worldwide giving choice for Racial Equity and Economic Justice initiatives to create generational wealth that meets present and future needs.” The 501(c)3 nonprofit aims to launch a public foundation to make grants available “to nonprofit and for-profit recipients focused on building economic wealth for the Black community” in the areas of “workforce opportunities, economic empowerment, supply chain opportunities, leadership and development, and business acceleration.” In addition to fundraising, GEDDI conducts many educational programs and events to support, coalesce, and maximize efforts to level the playing field for Black-owned businesses and Black-led organizations.
In educating potential donors and members about systemic racism and lack of investment into Black-led initiatives, particularly those of Black women, GEDDI “helps individuals learn through a very candid learning style that is more authentic and tangible,” Tawana explains. The experience is cross-racial and intent on “uncovering what’s in a person’s heart.” For example, how do they react when confronted with the fact that corporations often filter contributions intended to benefit Black-led organizations through larger established white-led organizations rather than allow Black people to be stewards of their own funding? Tawana shares the statistic that for every $1 million in funding given to white male-led organizations, Black female-led organizations receive $28,000.
Tawana tells us there is a significant crossover of those applying for funding and seeking membership with GEDDI. For donors and potential members, the membership portal leads them through the candid learning module with up to seven months’ worth of content focused on the “Black lived experience through the purview of a Black person.” Members form community circles for continued collaboration and support. GEDDI also provides business welcome decals that let clients, customers, and prospective employees know that anyone is welcome in their establishment.
GEDDI promotes Community Engagement through programs such as the Derby Diversity and Business Summit, PIVOTChamps, and Women of Color and White Women Against Racism (WOC and WWAR). The DDBS Virtual PIVOTChamp Summit recognizes and rewards select businesses that successfully created new selling strategies to maintain or exceed their sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. “WOC and WWAR seek out every white woman with the desire to combat the structural powers that continue to take the lives of black people and prevent equitable advancement for black people. They are paired up with Women of Color to create true sisterhood by working on community projects together,” says Tawana.
In Economic Empowerment and Supply Chain Development, some GEDDI programming examples include Just Boss Up Academy, an 8-week educational program to help take a business “from a hustle to legitimate,” The Collective business accelerator for Black-led event organizers and creatives, and The Black Fashion Exchange, a 16-week accelerator for aspiring black retailers. GEDDI has initiated state-specific campaigns working toward national and global expansion, starting in the “ground-zero” locations of Georgia, Minnesota, and Kentucky. My Old Kentucky Home Reimagined kicked off the Kentucky campaign with a rewrite of the original Stephen Foster lyrics. The full version will debut at the 2021 DDBS conference.
TOPS readers are encouraged to become involved through donations, membership, mentoring, and making available office supplies and commercial spaces for Black upward mobility. For more information, reach out through geddi.org and follow @GEDDI.ORG on Facebook.