Racial Equity

24/7 BLAC

Economic Empowerment for Systemic Change

When Sharina Sallis, 24/7 BLAC board president, and Joy Briscoe, the organization’s first executive director, start talking about ideas, they often turn into action. The conversations that led to the creation of 24/7 Black Leadership Advancement Consortium (BLAC) were not new to Black community leaders in Waterloo. But, a combination of a 2018 report naming Waterloo and Cedar Falls as the worst place to live for African Americans, and the racial reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd, created the right timing for the rest of the community to hear the message. 

Black people are not thriving at the same rate as whites in America, and 24/7 BLAC was created to eliminate economic disparities for Blacks in the Cedar Valley. The organization does this by helping individuals build wealth and become financially empowered, learning from other successful Black leaders who have navigated inequitable systems and know the pitfalls and challenges.  

In 2021, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa granted $50,000 to 24/7 BLAC to assist the organization in building capacity. This capacity, Sharina says, will create the kind of equity that supports individuals so they can generate wealth and be active participants in a vibrant economy and community. 

“If you pull up any report where it talks about finances, when it talks about wealth, when it talks about home ownership, when it talks about employment, Black people are not thriving at the rates of their white counterparts. So how can we continuously see those data sets, where it shows that African Americans are on the bottom of the list, and not do something to challenge that?”

– Sharina Sallis, 24/7 BLAC board president

Our actions to remove barriers to racial equity:

Learn more about our racial equity efforts at cfneia.org/racialequity

Frederick W. Mast Family Fund

Fred Mast had a knack for building things that last. For a span of nearly five decades, the respected architectural engineer built schools, churches, malls, and more, many of which still dot the landscape of Waterloo. Community building was also something he valued. The Frederick W. Mast Family Fund was part of his plan to give back to his community. Today, Terri Connell directs grants from her father’s fund. She says he’d be pleased his generosity is still making a difference. In 2021, Terri added to that legacy through a grant recommendation to CFNEIA’s Racial Equity Fund. 

“I think we’re seeing in the news today how much work there is to be done to broaden people’s attitudes and be more inclusive as a society. I think racial equity is an important focus for the community.”

– Terri Connell, Frederick W. Mast Family Fund advisor