By Tim Ryan

Blair Durham, Virginia Tech alumna and president and co-founder of Black BRAND, a Hampton Roads nonprofit dedicated to increasing Black wealth in the region, was recently honored with the Virginia Tech Influential Black Alumni Social Justice Award. This prestigious recognition highlights her work in promoting fairness and equity for disenfranchised communities. A graduate of the College of Science, Durham also serves on the Center for Economic and Community Engagement (CECE) advisory board.

In collaboration with CECE and computational modeling and data analytics students, Durham developed a data dashboard in 2021-2022 that illustrates the economic and social state of the Black community in Hampton Roads. This crucial tool allows Black BRAND to better understand the factors influencing the progress of Black residents in the area.

Founded in 2016 by Durham, her husband Bashiri, and other community leaders, Black BRAND operates as the third iteration of a Black Chamber of Commerce for Hampton Roads, Virginia. As its president, Durham has been instrumental in developing programs to narrow the wealth gap, improve capital access for Black-owned businesses, and provide technical assistance resources for capacity building. Since 2021, she has raised $2 million in grant funding to support and scale Black BRAND’s programs.

Durham’s commitment to fulfilling her destiny and passion for social change can be traced back to her time at Virginia Tech, where she helped create an alliance of students, teachers, and community members to resist oppression and advocate for policy change. Now, despite economic uncertainty, her work with Black BRAND has generated lucrative consulting opportunities for Black professionals in the region and awarded over $100,000 in grants to Black-owned small businesses.

StartWheel is proud to have Blair as one of our newest board members! Congratulations, Blair!