2021 Entrepreneur of the Year Natalie Collier
Logophile, brilliant mind and transformative writer, Natalie A. Collier moves rooms and inspires change. As a speaker, she captures audiences with carefully constructed words. As founder and president of The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, an organization she created from her dreams and desires for seeing Black girls recognized, sees that these girls and young women are supported and uplifted so they, too, can dream their own dreams and realize them on their terms. Carrying her message that “power is space and time” it is Collier’s intention to disrupt and destroy anything threatening the possibility of passage to open spaces for Black girls to freely ponder and explore.
Most recently working as the director of youth initiatives for the Children’s Defense Fund – Southern Regional Office, where she managed programs, communications, million-dollar grants and other responsibilities, Collier was offered a fellowship opportunity from the NoVo Foundation. It offered full funding to create an organization with approaches to leadership development unique to the field. This opportunity was the first of its kind. Through The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, Collier and her team implement programs and support structures that ingress and create deep, abiding change for the people whose hopes and heartaches reverberate with her deepest: Black girls.
“In as much as I have a platform, it is primarily about others. Ella Baker said strong people don't need strong leaders, and I believe that strongly. It is not my responsibility to empower others; my calling is to help them identify their own wonders that they may empower themselves.”
In her work with The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects, Collier has combined the experience from her years in undergraduate and graduate school studying political science/philosophy and marriage and family therapy at Millsaps College and Reformed Theological Seminary, respectively; a myriad of fellowships at Northwestern and Poynter universities, among them; and work in the field, as an activist, change agent and storyteller, fighting the injustices pervasively affecting girls and women’s chances at socio political advancement.
Collier is a force. The power of her resilient spirit is clear. She compels audiences to think deeply about girls and women in disparaged communities, particularly those in the rural southeastern part of the United States. “Black girls who have access to space and time have power. Powerful Black girls are autonomous, self-actualized, liberated Black girls.” Collier knows. She’s lived as one for a long time.