Social Entrepreneur Spotlight: Gabrielle Wyatt of The Highland ProjectMay 19, 2022
The Highland Project, one of eight organizations in New Profit’s first Economic Mobility Cohort, is cultivating a pipeline of talented, skilled, and brilliant Black women who are leading the way in addressing the racial wealth gap and creating multi-generational change.
To help us get closer to The Highland Project’s work, Founder and CEO Gabrielle Wyatt took time to share words that inspire her vision for an America that abundantly invests in Black women in order to achieve multi-generational wealth and opportunity for all.
Q: What is the one thing you wish more people knew about the issue your organization is working to solve?
A: There’s an urgent need to redefine what multi-generational wealth means in America. At The Highland Project, we know it is more than dollars in pockets. And our research from 2021 proves just that. Over 700 Black women across America shared that wealth is about being able to live fulfilling lives – which includes resources, but also the basic right to breathe. That means changing policy on the systems that continue to fail us including criminal justice, health care, and public education. As we redefine what multi-generational wealth means, we must also redefine the solution set. Strategies by policymakers, elected officials, and funders have too often focused on individual behavior instead of systems change in and outside of economic mobility. This approach reinforces inequitable economic structures and is an underlying cause of why our country has failed to move the needle on racial wealth inequality. This is why I founded The Highland Project — a coalition of Black women working to address the racial wealth gap — to serve as a tool to bolster and leverage our efforts to change the trajectory of our lives when it comes to creating multi-generational wealth. We are the solution we need with our innovations, our creativity, our brilliance, and our power. By investing in cohorts of phenomenal Black women every year from all sectors with capital and community support, we are closing the racial wealth gap one Black woman at a time and creating a coalition that is working to protect and invest in our future.
Q: What has been the most fulfilling part of the work that you do?
A: Every day I meet brilliant and worthy Black women leaders. We are abundant. You don’t have to look hard to find us. That’s why we published our first e-magazine at the start of 2022, “Abundance.” It’s our statement to the world that Black women worthiness is our norm and it is past time resources, policies, and practices reflect that.
Invest in Black women. Invest in Black women. Invest in Black women. When we invest in Black women and girls, we change the course of our lives and make our society and our future better for generations to come.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that helps you in a challenging time or that you look to as a guidepost when doing this work? How is it reflected in your work or habits?
A: “I am living a life I don’t regret
A life that will resonate with my ancestors
And with as many generations forward as I can imagine
I am attending to the crises of my time with my best self
I am of communities that are doing our collective best
To honor our ancestors and all humans to come.”
– adrienne maree brown
Q: In your opinion, what is the most important step toward making the world a better place?
A: Invest in Black women. Invest in Black women. Invest in Black women. When we invest in Black women and girls, we change the course of our lives and make our society and our future better for generations to come.
Right now we have a resource and values alignment problem in honoring our worthiness: Organizations that center women and girls of color received less than 1% of the $67 billion that foundations contributed in 2017. Less than $15 million actually went to helping Black women and girls. And despite calls for action in 2020, while donations to organizations involved with women and girls are increasing, they still represent less than 2% of charitable giving.
Our daydreams must become reality. We wake up every day imagining another world—a world where our humanity is seen; where we are treated with dignity. And we move mountains to get there, caring and sacrificing for our families and communities along the way. We built our tables from the dreams our ancestors couldn’t possibly imagine and we continue to manifest their legacies in our work.
Black women and girls disrupt systems of injustice, protect democracy and our basic rights to live. Simply put, we are worthy of leadership, even when the world counts us out. We have no Black women governors or U.S. Senators. Only 3.6% of Black women are K-12 school superintendents. Just 0.2% of Black women are Fortune 500 CEOs. We are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. We are shot and killed by police violence — and our lives are often deemed less than property. We were pushed out of the workforce at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately impacted Black communities and frankly, never really recovered economically. Black girls are unfairly expelled, suspended and arrested in school at rates significantly higher than their white peers.
But despite all this, Black women and girls’ visions can solve these challenges. We are asking supporters and investors to work with us and not just for us. There is no future prosperity for this country unless we respect the humanity, brilliance and innovation of Black women.
To get closer to The Highland Project, visit their website. and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @LeadHighland. Learn more about why Economic Mobility is a key investment area for New Profit here.