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After a 2017 article by 24/7 Wall Street named Erie, Pa., the worst city in the U.S. for Black Americans, Edinboro graduates Kyra Taylor ’11, Angel Spraggins ’11, ’15G, and Davona Pacley ’12 knew it was time for action.
The trio teamed up to establish Erie’s Black Wall Street (EBWS), a nonprofit organization focused on empowering Erie’s African American community through networking opportunities, education and promotion of Black entrepreneurship.
“It started off as a Facebook group aimed at connecting with other Black people in Erie,” said Taylor, who serves as executive director of EBWS. “It blossomed fairly quickly because we were having really good conversations about different issues and solutions. We knew that we needed to do something.”
They enlisted the help of Dr. Rhonda Matthews, associate professor of political science and women’s studies at PennWest University, and Erie native Brian Atterbury, and EBWS obtained nonprofit status in July 2020.
Based on input from the community, the organization offers programming and resources on financial literacy, pathways to home ownership, entrepreneurial support, social gatherings and a community calendar.
“Black people don’t all fit one stereotype. We have all different shapes, sizes, colors, likes, dislikes and interests,” Taylor said. “We wanted to make sure that the community understands that we are listening to them and that our actions and our intentions are strictly based upon what the community needs – not what we feel that they need.”
Taylor, a New Castle, Pa., native whose parents provided foster care to children in need throughout her childhood, was taught the value of helping others from a young age.
A self-described introvert, Taylor said her experiences at Edinboro strengthened her leadership abilities, nurtured her creativity and reinforced her desire to serve the community.
“I’m not a fan of networking or meet and greets. But Edinboro pulled that out of me a little bit, and I was able to make some really impactful connections,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Edinboro, there would be no Erie’s Black Wall Street.”
After graduation, Taylor moved to Erie and worked as a member advocate for Highmark, Inc. Wanting to broaden her impact, she became a behavior counselor at Sarah A. Reed Children's Center, which specializes in trauma-informed mental and behavioral health care. She chartered Edinboro's Tau Eta chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc and joined the Theta Omega Sigma chapter.
The mother of two joined the Erie County Office of Children and Youth as a caseworker in 2017 before transitioning to her current role as a corrections counselor at Erie County Prison. She recently completed a Foundations of Coaching Certificate from Case Western Reserve University.
“My overall mission in life is just to meet people where they are and help them,” she said. “I have an amazing support system – everyone from my husband, brothers, sister, mother, nieces and nephews. I’m just so grateful to have that kind of family behind me.”
Taylor and her cofounders see Erie’s Black Wall Street as a hub for information and a catalyst of change in Erie County.
“It has been said to us that Erie’s Black Wall Street could be used as a model around the country,” Taylor said. “I'm grateful to have a team of visionaries that think outside the box, and I think that will continue to drive us forward.”
Hearing stories about EBWS’s impact on the community fuels her passion for the work.
“Seeing people flourish in business or just in life in general, and to know that I’m helping to create a better environment for my daughters to grow up in – those are the things that make it all worth it.”