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Amplifying Black Voices for a Sustainable Economic Future

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Amplifying Black Voices for a Sustainable Economic Future
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This moderated panel of local Black business-owners and sustainability professionals discussed (1) the linkages (or lack thereof) between racial justice and sustainability strategy in business settings; (2) what it means to identify as a sustainability professional, why some people choose not to, and how that affects access to professional networks and opportunities; (3) why the “social” element of the equity dimensions of corporate sustainability and CSR frameworks must be grounded in community; (4) the importance of the language used to talk about sustainability and economic development; and (5) how policymaking (within companies and within communities) can move us towards a more equitable and sustainable economic future.

Watch the panel discussion »


Nisha Blackwell
Founder & CEO, Knotzland

Nisha Blackwell, Homewood native and Westinghouse High School graduate is the Founder and CEO of Knotzland Bowties, a social enterprise that sources, rescues and repurposes discarded textiles into stylish bow ties intentionally made through providing flexible work to local and underrepresented populations.

Raynise Kelly
Founder, Soil Sisters

Raynise is an Oliver High School and Bidwell Training Center alumni. Completing the Horticulture and Technology program she began her agriculture career as a staff at Brenckle’s Greenhouse. Upon landing a position with Grow Pittsburgh as the School Garden's assistant she stuck with the organization for two years and is now a full time Learning Garden Educator. During that time she continued to build on her passion, and completed an herbal course certified by the Herbalist of Stonefruit Community. Raynise is also a board member of the Hilltop Urban Farm. A member of the Black Urban Gardeners, PA Farmers Union, Western PA Young Farmers Coalition, and recently taken a seat on the working committee of Pittsburgh Food Policy Council.

Khamil Scantling
Founder & CEO, Cocoapreneur
Co-founder, Greenwood Week Pittsburgh

Khamil Scantling is the founder and CEO of Cocoapreneur Pgh, LLC, a Black business consultancy firm based and focused on the Greater Pittsburgh area and co-founder of Greenwood Week Pittsburgh Black business conference. Khamil created the Cocoapreneur Directory to compile and organize Pittsburgh’s Black businesses and provide consumers with businesses in their neighborhoods that they could support and provide Black entrepreneurs with the traffic they need to flourish. Most recently, she raised over $100,000 to aid Black businesses affected by COVID-19.

Diamonte Walker
Deputy Executive Director, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh

Diamonte Walker is the Deputy Executive Director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (URA), where she provides strategy, vision, operations management, team development, and leadership.

Diamonte joined the agency in 2017, quickly becoming the driving force behind URA’s MWBE strategy. Her commitment to the advancement of equitable development is demonstrated through the administration of the URA’s MWBE Program, compliance monitoring, reporting functions, and other economic inclusion focused initiatives. 

With a career span of more than 15 years in the for-profit sector and having recently served as a business development program manager in the non-profit sector, Diamonte understands the complex challenges we face as a region when trying to effectuate meaningful change in neighborhoods. Diamonte offers a serious look at what can happen when we expand the work of economic development beyond metrics, goals and buzzwords to create impactful experiences that empower people while transforming place.

Diamonte holds an MBA and Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Western Governors University. She is a Mayoral appointee to Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Board, serves as Chair to Councilman Corey O’Connor’s Advisory Board on Entrepreneurship and Start-ups, and currently sits on the Housing Opportunity Fund’s Advisory Board.

Her notable achievements include being named one of the Pittsburgh Business Times 2019 Women of Influence, a 2019 Lead Now Pittsburgh Fellow, a 2018 Onyx Woman in Leadership, 2017 Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40 honoree, and 2016 New Pittsburgh Courier Fab 40 Under 40 awardee. She was recently named one of Talk Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Pennsylvanian African-American Women.

She is strongly committed to helping entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds take full advantage of today’s marketplace innovations to cost-effectively operationalize their ideas and better position themselves to experience an equitable stake in Pittsburgh’s economic resurgence.

Moderated by Amber Thompson
Founder, Leaders of Change

Amber Thompson (she, her) has advocated for disenfranchised and underserved populations since she was a young girl. Working on behalf of underrepresented populations within the nonprofit and private sector, Amber saw an opportunity to increase equity throughout businesses and communities using radical methods. She founded a change management consulting company that provides Organizational development, marginalized community engagement, and equitable service design.


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