As a winner of the SheaMoisture Social Justice Coalition grant, Ryan Wilson wants to make sure there is communal safe space for Black people to work together towards a better future.

As CEO and co-founder of The Gathering Spot, a hub for culture, civic engagement and entrepreneurship in Atlanta, Ryan Wilson understands the importance of having safe space for Black folks. Inspired by the legacy of his grandfather, Rev. Fred Hughey and his work in the civil rights movement, Wilson carries the torch by committing his life to community empowerment. Because of his efforts in the Greater Atlanta area and beyond, Wilson was selected as one of the inaugural recipients of the SheaMoisture Social Justice Coalition grant

“Our work at The Gathering Spot centers on making our community stronger at every opportunity,” Wilson told ESSENCE.

“With this grant, we will continue our efforts to make sure that Black-owned small businesses have access to the resources they need to survive this crisis. Our approach has been direct capital injection as well as providing resources that support Black entrepreneurs.”

Wilson’s work ramped up in a whole new way in 2020 as our communities grappled with unprecedented social unrest, voter suppression and economic turmoil caused by the pandemic. Given that his company is centered on “gathering,” social distancing rules underlined the importance for Black business owners to have the support they need in a crisis. 

“Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the virus across the board,” Wilson said.

“The pandemic has caused communities that were already in crisis to be in further distress and the organizations that serve them to have less resources despite growing challenges. The pandemic has also further exposed how having access to technology is a social justice issue. When we were no longer able to gather in person due to concerns about the virus it became much harder to reach our target audiences when many communities didn’t have proper access to fundamental resources.”

Like many other business owners, Wilson had to master the art of the pivot during these times to make sure social justice work continues even when physical togetherness is prohibited. The Georgetown Law grad says that while there are many ways to be involved, most people can start from their very own homes.

“Activism to me begins at home,” Wilson explained.

“If you can’t get your immediate circle on board then we really are going to have an issue when we start talking about entire communities. As Dr. King said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Throughout his career, Wilson has aligned his work with doing the great things. He’s actively involved in the campaign to elect Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.  He also serves as a chair for the Partnership for Southern Equity’s Just Business Roundtable, The Racial Equity Group of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, the board of Peace Preparatory Academy and Usher’s New Look.

Founder of Until Freedom and Movement Strategist  Tamika D. Mallory, who serves on the advisory council for the SheaMoisture Social Justice Coalition , said of Wilson’s work and the work of all the honorees,  “I am so encouraged by the inaugural class of Social Justice Coalition participants. The Social Justice Coalition is made up of five business and community leaders  — leaders who are transforming their local communities not only through inspiring and mobilizing their community members, but investing in people and in change. This is the sort of leadership that is so needed in this moment. I have had the opportunity to previously work with the Gathering Spot and I’m excited to mentor, support and empower this amazing next generation of Black leadership.”

Even though the path forward as a leader can be heavy at times, Wilson sees it as an honor to be able to serve and support his people.

“I don’t accept the idea that the “work” is a burden,” he said. “There is nothing more honorable and uplifting than doing work that helps your people. “