Dr. Janelle Williams is the co-founder and CEO of Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, a catalytic nonprofit that seeks to build Black wealth through community wealth-building strategies. Committed to advancing investments and policies that increase opportunities for disinvested communities, Janelle has led several strategies for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to advance inclusive and thriving communities. She has also served as a congressional fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives. Janelle holds a doctorate in International Family and Community Studies from Clemson University, a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Georgia, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Florida Memorial University.

Janelle joins us today to discuss the wealth divide and how to close it. She explains why the wealth divide is not a simple gap, but a deep-seated divide perpetuated by historical injustices. She presents data that highlight the wealth disparities between Black and White households in Atlanta and across the nation. She shares AWBI’s efforts to close the wealth divide and shares their projects, such as the 1,000 Black Businesses Campaign and the Black Community Wealth Network. Janelle also emphasizes the need to disaggregate data by race and ethnicity, especially for Minority Business Enterprises, and underscores the importance of solidarity and collective action in addressing economic inequality.

“A divide is something intentionally created. We have to constantly acknowledge the root causes that not only created this divide, but perpetuate it.” – Dr. Janelle Williams

This week on Breaking Barriers:

  • Janelle’s background and AWBI’s mission
  • Her path to working in economic justice
  • Love and justice and the value of active engagement in building an equitable society
  • The social awareness of today’s generation
  • Understanding the wealth divide
  • The Black/White wealth gap in Atlanta
  • How enslaved people were used as collateral
  • How slave labor has been a constant driver of economic growth in the United States
  • Making intentional investments in Black businesses in high-growth industries
  • Distinguishing income-generating models and wealth-building vehicles
  • Thinking of wealth beyond the frames of assets minus liabilities
  • The structural barriers around Black community wealth
  • The role of partnerships and collaboration in addressing economic justice
  • Data in addressing wealth disparities and the value of community-based participatory research in the process
  • Disinvestment in supplier diversity
  • How corporate America can leverage resources to ensure supplier diversity and distribute wealth equitably
  • Why corporations need to incentivize joint ventures for Black and other minority businesses
  • Education and workforce development in the local economy
  • AWBI’s rebranding strategy and plans for scaling its impact beyond Atlanta


Connect with Dr. Janelle Williams:


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