Tiffany Kelly-Gray

Byrd Barr Place is excited to introduce you to our new Impact Director Tiffany Kelly-Gray! Joining the team at an exciting period of transition, her work is focused on imagining the future of Byrd Barr Place and the steps required to take us to new heights.

Tiffany and her daughter Mattie Simone.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I grew up surrounded by strong, capable and incredibly heart-focused women. 

I always knew I wanted to be like them, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them, and do my part to contribute to our community. I was born an only child and raised in Chicago when it boasted the largest middle class neighborhoods in America. My neighbors were doctors, mechanics and dentists. Then, the crack epidemic hit, and things became very different. There was this incredible need for support, and somehow no resources accessible. I wanted to be a bridge between the two.

As a kid, folks were always surprised at how easily math came to me. This aptitude pushed me towards a career in finance, wealth management and home lending. I’ve always been a person who was fascinated by economics because I grew up without very much money, and money is the answer to a lot of questions around power and who has it. However, as I rose in my career, I was less and less able to help the communities that mattered to me. Most of the time I was working with very wealthy clientele, often with minimums of $200,000 in cash to invest.

When the market crashed in 2008, I decided to take my ball and head home. I started my own business and lived as a stay-home mom for many years, which was one of the greatest blessings of my life. My life now consists of my incredible daughter, my lovely, loving partner, and our two puppies — an 11-month-old Burmese Mountain dog and a 13-month-old Golden Retriever. 

Tiffany’s two puppies.

What drew you to work with Byrd Barr Place?

I serve on the board of the Central Area Collaborative, and we had a grant for home repairs for seniors. I discovered that Byrd Barr Place has similar services, and was immediately amazed not only by the work itself, but by the scale and impact of the work. I loved that it was all these Black folks, in a Black space, serving the Black community.

I read the website and saw they had a position open that involved so many of the things I know how to do and enjoy doing. I drafted an email the next day and before I knew it, I was meeting with Andrea and the team. In many ways this is my ideal job. I get to do the work I want to do – anti-racist and anti-poverty work — and I get to help design the strategy of how we do this work. Not to mention that my commute is only 15 minutes. It’s a dream.

What are your responsibilities as the impact director? What’s a typical day for you?

Tiffany and her partner Ciara.

This early in the game, there is no such thing as a typical day, at least not yet!

My primary duties rest in four major buckets. Firstly, I am responsible for our fund development strategy — managing our fundraising, donor relationships and grants. Secondly, I manage all community engagement. That means directing all public relations, external communications and marketing. Thirdly, I am in charge of our advocacy and policy work, which is where the bulk of our anti-racist work lies. Finally, I collaborate in our strategic development and planning. 

For the next few years, I will be collaborating with the leadership team to figure out the next steps for Byrd Barr Place. We will be going through a strategic planning process where we will be looking at all the things we have and do as an organization and imagining and planning the next steps to get us where we want to go. Our work is to decide what Byrd Barr Place will look like in 2027.

What is your vision for an equitable Black future?

For me, an equitable future looks like one where all people have opportunities for growth and the resources needed to make their visions realistic possibilities. It’s about removing barriers and creating pathways. I envision a world where if a little Black girl in Yakima dreams of opening a bank, she has the resources available to make that a reality.

Tiffany, Ciara and Mattie Simone.

What gives you hope?

I am encouraged by the rising awareness of the structural disparities that Black and brown people face in this country. While this awareness has brought backlash among people who don’t want to see it, or don’t care, it has more importantly led to an understanding among people of color that we are not the problem.

For so long, oppression and poverty have been a source of shame, the belief that it’s your fault and an internalization of harm. We are seeing an understanding dawn for the masses that these are systems operating as intended to maintain and perpetuate marginalization. When Black and brown children are growing up in hostile environments they are able to recognize that it’s not them, it is not their shame.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?

Hope is a discipline” –Mariame Kaba

When you do this work, you have to call yourself back to hope, because it’s not always easy to see it or to feel it. There’s this belief that optimism is an innate trait from birth, but it’s not, it’s a choice. You have to wake up in the morning and say, “Today is going to be a good day, because I said so.”