Hi, I'm Ezekiel Harris a social impact strategist, real estate developer, polymath trained in human-centered design with a high tolerance for risk.
Growing up in Flint, Michigan I didn’t know my childhood to be different from others until what I thought to be normal was shown through my peers as not - and not for the reasons one might assume. My mother worked, while also getting her Master's Degree and supporting two little ones with help from family members. My grandparent's owned multiple businesses and homes in spite of segregation and Jim Crow laws and multiple family members who continue to be great mentors and examples to me to this day. Poverty and racism were acknowledged and experienced at different times but also viewed as something to be challenged and overcome.
I was blessed to be born into a family who understood the bigger picture. "Make it out" which is what many African Americans hear growing up but there was more that was always expected of me, especially from my grandfather, mother and uncle. My version of making it out was "get a good job, a good education and take care of mommy and daddy." Over time I realize that this commission from my family also meant to take care of the community wherever I may be and in whatever field I might pursue.
THE FIRST VENTURE
After working at one of the largest nonprofit charities in Detroit and experiencing first-hand the active resistance to change, I took my learnings from the R&D studio and was presented with the opportunity to become Executive Director of an innovative nonprofit, at 23 years of age. Using simple, people-first practice, I was able to lead the development of a $1.5 million dollar renovation project and launch of a one-of-a-kind business. Because I incorporated some of the human-centered design influences into the multi-faceted organization, MACC Development, and the business it started The Commons were both huge successes that garnered much attention and community support.
During my tenure at MACC Development, I befriended other community development, governmental and philanthropic institutions. I realized that like myself they were all trying to address inequalty and poverty but for one reason or another were limited in their reach. Launching new businesses, developing housing strategies, and operating much-needed programs for the marginalized were pieces to the puzzle but more needed to be done.
I researched what the “best practices” were but soon found that we needed “next practices”. I've spent many sleepless nights wrestling how to tackle the problem of poverty more directly but it became clear that to take such a huge leap of faith - moving from the known to the unknown - was something that would need to happen. I've invested more time researching poverty and its proposed solutions dating back to the 1700s and it is my goal to explore those solutions more deeply and thoughtfully for the rest of my life. If I had a personal mission statement it'd probably be "to see poverty's end in the 21st century." From my perspective, it is not an "if" but "how" this will happen, that is my calling.