Introducing "Vivian", Our Purpose, and the Path to V3
I am “Vivian” of Vivian & Virginia. I am a Black woman from and currently residing in metro-Atlanta, the daughter of parents raised in the deep South, the third generation in my family that not only received higher education but obtained a graduate degree. Despite that privilege, I grew up relatively impoverished, with little access to the social and economic capital that guarantees opportunity. What I did have in spades, though, was a love of learning and family, education, and angels known and unknown that protected, cherished, and pushed me to realize my dreams.
When I was 12 or 13 years old, I was called a “nigger” for the first time by an elderly white woman. My crime? Daring to be present with my best friend at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Perhaps little black girls enjoying chamber music was too much for this woman to bear. I realized for the first time my presence or participation in joy or sorrow that pushed the limitations of a racist imagination could be dangerous. That my life, all our lives and light, was an untenable reality that many would try to dim, consciously and subconsciously. At 14, I attended a “Magnet” high-achieving school roughly 15 miles from my home, but an entire world apart, the first school I attended where more than 1% of the student body was White. My school bus sat in 1 hour of traffic every morning for me to receive the resources and educational quality that more affluent White people got by virtue of being born into families that fled the City of Atlanta once it became desegregated. I, having been “gifted” my whole life did not struggle with the instruction or assignments; I struggled with the unbearable unfairness of Whiteness – the White neighborhood that looked and felt different with “more” and “better” food, stores, greenery, flowers, air, and promise; the microaggressions from peers and adults that should have known better; the violence of having to defend the beauty and worthiness of my black life constantly while not threatening the power structure that determined whether I “succeeded” or even lived, or died.
These experiences and curiosity about the nature of inequality, of economic inequity, fueled me to attend a Historically Black University to obtain an undergraduate degree in Economics. Realizing I had only brushed the surface (and needing to maximize my job prospects in a weak job market at the time), I attended a top graduate school to obtain an MBA and M.S. in Public Policy, concentrating in Urban and Regional Economic Development. All the while, I was fascinated with a few key questions: Why – despite the beauty, talent, education, and inherent worthiness of black and brown people – were our communities, and outcomes, so different and disinvested? How can institutions – corporations, government, civil sectors – best design solutions that tangibly improve these outcomes? Although individualism and personal responsibility are limited in their effectiveness for addressing structural inequality, how can we empower and equip ourselves to succeed in an ever-evolving world?
My path since then has not been linear. Somehow, though, each experience has been instructive and reinforced my commitment to those foundational questions. I have consulted Fortune 100 companies on procurement transformation, managed client accounts to increase sales of government “solutions” and developed a Supplier Diversity program from inception. It wasn’t always apparent, but there is a common thread in everything I have done thus far: I excel at taking a problem (or challenge or ambiguity), dissecting and studying it, and practicing radical empathy with all stakeholders to develop creative, yet data-derived solutions.
I co-founded Vivian & Virginia Ventures (V3) because I believe the tough, almost intractable problems I have always been obsessed with must be resolved at the intersection of business strategy, public policy, and communications. It is our purpose to help mission-driven organizations that are diverse-led, serve diverse consumers, and/or deliver resources to diverse communities develop solutions with this multifaceted lens. I am most passionate about serving and catalyzing transformation for these groups to effect real change.
In a world where Black people’s lives are unceremoniously ended or cut short by racist violence, where Black people suffer immeasurably by systemic (and deliberate) inequity in education, healthcare, labor protection, and on and on … I am not so naïve to believe that change can occur without a radical, and revolutionary, paradigm shift. I know that capitalism, and by virtue, all of us that navigate within it, does not function to truly disrupt the status quo of inequality, but facilitate it via surface-level “solutions” and ineffective stopgaps. However, I believe in using my gifts and the tools I have accumulated to help all those that want to go beyond that. I believe it is my responsibility, and honor, to dream of better futures, and do everything in my power to make them a reality. My work is the work.