More than 20 years after graduating from Arkansas City High School, Ark City native Tawanna Black serves as executive director to Northside Funders Group.

Northside Funders Group is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based collaborative of 19 corporate, community, and private foundations and public sector investors committed to aligning investments to catalyze comprehensive, sustainable change in north Minneapolis.

This collaboration attempts to give back to the community in positive ways, but Black leads them in a four-tiered approach to doing so.

Childhood and faith



Black was born and raised in Arkansas City, in a multi-generational family.

Her mother, Jean Morris, was a nurse at the Ark City Clinic and her father, Travis Morris, was a civil rights leader and activist.

Both of her parents since have passed away. However, Black said they inspired her to dream big and that lesson still drives her.

Black also said her aunt, Doris Ponds, inspired her to be very civically active.

She credits this aspect of her rearing to the board service and awards she has received through the years.

The way in which she lives her life is grounded in her faith, Black said. “The grounding in my faith that I received at the Church of God in Christ in Arkansas City provided the foundation that guides every decision in my life and to which I owe every ounce of success I’ve gained,” she said.

College and early career

Black’s journey to Minnesota began in Topeka, where she attended Washburn University and earned a bachelor’s degree of public administration.

After graduating, she worked as the first executive director for Destination Midtown, where she led community economic development through public-private partnerships. That led to $500 million of re-investment in the historic heart of Omaha, Nebraska, in just three years.

Following that position, Black worked as the director of diversity for Cox Communications.

Black’s family life

Black’s husband’s career moved the couple from Iowa to Nebraska and since has landed them in Minnesota.

“I’ve evolved my career in each of those states,” Black said.

She and Eric Black have two children — Traviata, 5, and Christian, 3.

In 2015, Tawanna Black was selected as a part of the Twin Cities cohort for the inaugural Harvard Business School Young American Leaders Program on U.S. Economic Competitiveness.

She also completed an executive certificate in transformational leadership from Georgetown University in that same year.

Advice for youth

To future generations, Black encourages reaching for goals and taking risks to get there.

“Set your sights on a goal that is bigger than yourself and don’t take your eyes off of it,” she said.

“Read about it, talk to people about it, study it and try to get as close to it as you can, until you can become it. Take risks, and surround yourself with people whose goals are bigger and bolder than your own so they’ll inspire you to dream bigger and go farther than you would on your own.”