The Alliance Celebrates Black History Month

This Black History Month we are recognizing the contributions of Black Americans and reflecting on the ongoing struggle for racial equity, particularly in the wealth gap. Black communities continue to face discrimination and barriers to economic opportunity. Let’s use this time to educate ourselves, support Black-led organizations and businesses, and work towards closing the racial wealth gap and creating a more equitable society for all.

Stay tuned for how we’re celebrating the past, present and future of Black America this month.

We’ll be spotlighting Alliance members on social media, which can learn more about below.

Kenya McKnight-Ahad: Founder & CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance

Kenya McKnight-Ahad is the founder and CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance, a public benefit corporation that focuses on increasing the economic stability and prosperity of historically black women and girls.

Black Women’s Wealth Alliance is a culturally specific agency providing Black Women with wealth education, business support services, financial assistance and incubation space to operate their businesses. BWWA leads and innovates wealth creation work with Black Women in Minnesota since 2014 and has served more than 4,500 Black Women business owners, students and career professionals in Minnesota to start & maintain businesses, complete college, advance careers, purchase homes and to remove core barriers to building wealth. Additionally, BWWA has provided over $2 million in small capacity grants & facilitated lending and works in partnership across the business and wealth ecosystem. In 2021 BWWA purchased a commercial building that is now called ZaRah and is home to 20 businesses within the holistic wellness, retail and food industries- 16 businesses are owned and led by African American Women.  ZaRah targets mid-stage African American Women owned businesses & entrepreneurs, providing them with core services to further Black wealth through our wrap around support services that foster critical business skills, revenue, affordable operational space, and overall growth & strengthening within industry marketplaces.   

Under McKnight-Ahad’s leadership, BWWA has served more than 4,000 black women across Minnesota to date, investing over $2m in small-capacity grants. As a resident of North Minneapolis for 35 years, McKnight started her career as a public and charter school educator. Since 2007, she has served in key leadership roles across the economic development sector in metro Minnesota, including on community development boards, commissions, and related initiatives. Additionally, she has extensive experience as a direct business service provider, facilitating lending and technical support to more than 400 micro businesses, leading business legal & marketing clinics, and youth entrepreneurship programs. 

Kenya shares why she’s a member of the Alliance:

“I’m a member of the Alliance because it offers me the opportunity to grow, learn and share with other leaders across the country doing amazing work to build upper mobility in our communities which is very important to me. The Alliance is helping BWWA broader our strategies and grow capacity to be a CDFI, we’re grateful and Angela is amazing to work with.” – Kenya McKnight-Ahad

Visit the BWWA’s website here to learn more.

Kevin Daniels: President & Chairman of Array Community Development Corporation and Chief Operating Officer of Array Strategies

Kevin Daniels is the President and Chairman of Array Community Development Corporation and Chief Operating Officer of Array Strategies.  Kevin resumed this position after taking a leave of absence to serve as the Director of External Engagement with the North Carolina Community College System.  In his previous role, he served as Director of Community and Constituent Affairs for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.  He was tasked with the coordination of the outreach activities to support the Governor’s key initiatives, in conjunction with non-profit organizations, the business community, trade associations, Federal, State and local government agencies. Several initiatives include increasing contract opportunities for small and minority businesses, Anti-Human Trafficking, Historically Black Colleges and Universities summer internships, workforce development and public safety. Kevin also served as the Governor’s Liaison to the International Visitors Leadership Program, a US State Department sponsored initiative to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange. In his previous role, Kevin served as the State Director for the AmeriCorps, administering a $4.4 million grant and overseeing day to day operations for 16 non-profit organizations that spanned 70 counties with nearly one thousand members.

For generations, the Black Community living in coastal areas has had a proud heritage of commercial fisherman.  However, over the past few decades, there’s been a significant decline in the number of thriving black owned businesses in this industry.  Along with their strategic partners, Array launched a loan fund and technical assistance initiative to boost minority commercial fishing.  The state of North Carolina has a goal of creating a $100 million oyster industry supported by 1,000 jobs.  Their specialized program will work to ensure the Black community is included in this statewide goal.

Kevin shares why he’s a member of the Alliance:

“Array Community Development Corporation joined the Alliance for several reasons.  First, we support the mission and believe this is the premier organization to support African American-led CDFIs.  Secondly, Lenwood V. Long, Sr. has a stellar reputation in North Carolina as a champion for the Black-owned businesses and the communities in which they serve.  As a young organization, our board and executive team firmly believed we can benefit from the experience, relationships and leadership provided by the Alliance.” – Kevin Daniels

Visit Array CDC’s website to learn more.