In Remembrance of the Legacy of Ms. Andrea Harris

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#LegacyOfMsAndreaHarris has been established to share your memories of and
condolences for Ms. Harris.

See shared tributes on Twitter and Facebook.

A message from Kevin J. Price, President & CEO

Family, Friends, Colleagues and Partners,

The North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development stands in mourning at the passing of our founder and leader, Ms. Andrea Lynette Harris, on the morning of May 20, 2020.

Ms. Harris was an extraordinarily gifted, visionary leader. It was her vision and fortitude that birthed The NC Institute of Minority Economic Development in 1986. And for over two decades, she was at the helm of our organization, being a fierce leader and advocate for the marginalized and disenfranchised. She has left all of us a precious gift – the spirit and responsibility of continuing her work. Fortunately, The Institute remains an anchor in our community, dedicated to our mission – to strengthen the asset base of diverse populations through policy, education and opportunities.

Ms. Harris was a counselor, friend, mother, sister and leader to many, well-beyond her birth family. We stand on her shoulders and will honor her legacy by tirelessly continuing her work, serving those who are marginalized and/or face unnecessary challenges and barriers limiting the ability of living their best life. She will truly be missed.

If you would like to pay tribute and leave a message, a special place has been set up to do so. Use the hashtag #LegacyOfMsAndreaHarris on all Institute social media channels to share your message. Those messages will be shared with her family, at a later date.

Be well.

Kevin J. Price

A message from Lewis H. Myers, Chairman of the Board

I was blessed to have known Andrea for 49 years. We met in 1971 in Soul City, and became friends and later colleagues. We were mission driven young Turks, I 25 and she 23. I was impressed with Andrea the first time I met her. She was bright, high energy, funny and fun to be around. But, even then, you could sense that she was going to make a difference. I was a day late in getting her to come work for me at Soul City. In 1980 I went into the NC Department of Commerce to revive their Minority Business Development agency program. In 1981 I had my first opening and hired Andrea. The rest is history.

Andrea was passionate about equal justice and fair treatment in all aspects of life. She started in 1971 with community development with the Franklin Vance Warren Opportunity Inc., the OEO sponsored social services programs. Following that​, in 1978, she created the NC Senior Citizens Federation to advocate for the needs of that overlooked segment of our population. As soon as Andrea joined MBDA, she made an immediate impact in the minority business space when she became engaged with the Community Reinvestment Act initiative. Through her knowledge of the legislation and her ability to establish relationships with those leaders in banking, finance and business, she led the effort in NC to insure that banks engage with their communities when they were merging institutions. This contributed millions of dollars​; those dollars being made available to diverse communities. She was involved in creating the NC Association of Minority Businesses. And she was co-founder of the Institute.

Andrea led this organization and transitioned it from being a think tank/policy center focused on data gathering, research and policy matters into a dynamic economic development entity that operated programs delivering services to the diverse population​s which were the constituents of the Institute. She led it with integrity, never comprising the mission regardless of the consequences. She was fearless. And selfless, a true servant leader. She modeled excellence. Andrea was a warrior. She spoke her mind, never minced words. And while many folk may not have agreed with her, they all respected her. Finally, we need to understand that Andrea was a humanitarian. She was compassionate and wanted equal justice for all.

Governor Cooper Honors Ms. Andrea Harris

Governor Cooper has ordered the lowering of all North Carolina flags to half-staff in honor of NC Civil Right Activist, Andrea Harris. Flags were lowered on Thursday, May 21, and will remain at lowered until sunset on Saturday, May 23. 2020.

On Thursday, June 4, 2020, Governor Cooper announced Executive Order 143, establishing the creation of the Andrea Harris Social, Economic, Environmental and Health Equity Task Force.

Community Tributes to Ms. Andrea Harris

WUNC 91.5 The State of Things:  In Memoriam:  Andrea Harris Opened Doors For Minority-Owned Businesses in North Carolina

United Minority Contractors of North Carolina:  Tribute to a Trailblazer: Andrea Harris


The Institute Remembers Ms. Andrea Harris

"We worked together for almost 20 years, and it is difficult to mention her in a brief statement.

Hebrews 11:1 - 'Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.'

Andrea taught have the strength and courage to do anything, and to be wise as I did it.

Everything she did was on faith. She was a combination of Harriet Tubman, Pauli Murray, Mother Theresa and Big Mama. When there was no apparent way forward; she made the path. She recognized that she didn't know what the outcome would be, but she persisted with strength, courage and wisdom. She was a true trailblazer and her trailblazing was reflective of the authentic sheros of our past. She demonstrated this in all she did, and I was blessed to share many experiences of her commitment to servant leadership. She was truly a phenomenal woman."

     - Farad Ali, past President & CEO of The Institute

"Ms. Harris is one of those individuals you meet once in a life time (if you’re lucky) that has the vision, heart and passion for something bigger than oneself.  I’m just happy I was along for the ride.  As Ms. Harris would say “let’s be clear” this is a journey, not a destination; our work is far from over.  My mentor and friend – she will be missed."

     - Kaye Gantt, Chief Operations Officer of The Institute

"I’ve had the pleasure and honor of knowing Ms. Andrea Harris since my mid-20s.  I had just begun my career in community development in Greensboro when I met this small in stature, but giant of a lady.  Fortunately, she took a liking to me and often told me that she 'enjoyed hanging out with the young people who had new ideas, energy and are exciting'.  Those words kept me on my toes over the years, particularly as people called me young less often.  As many can attest, with her interest and liking came an expectation to not just do good, but do it well.

Her passing has been particularly difficult to process because she personified strength and always being on the move, influencing and/or impacting all she touched.  I was so looking forward to my mentor and friend standing over my shoulder as a proud mama, correcting and cheering at the same time.  I’m saddened to never have that experience, but I’m encouraged by our many conversations and her words of wisdom that often come to mind.  We are all fortunate to have experienced this extraordinary lady.  She left us precious gifts – examples of courage, sacrifice, leadership, strength, confidence and an unwavering determination to use our gifts and talents to stand in the gap for others.  I will treasure these gifts and consider it an honor to share them with others.  Thank you, Andrea."

     - Kevin J. Price, President & CEO of The Institute

"I immediately thought of a quote Ms. Harris shared with many: 'It is not enough to just be in the room, you must be at the table'. And when she truly agreed with what you were saying, she would say: 'That is exactly right'."

     - Roberta McCullough, Executive Director of the Women's Business Center of North Carolina

“How do you pay tribute to a person you've known for only a short period of time, that has had such an astounding impact on your life?  That was the question I asked Ms. Harris only a few months after meeting her some years ago.  After a hearty chuckle with that raspy laugh of hers, she said, "oh is that right?...well, you go out there (pointing her finger out of her office window) and pave a way for young people to follow."  Those words have settled in my spirit ever since that day, and has been translated into my work.  Ms. Harris was so much to so many people.  There are far too many words to choose from that would describe her in totality.  However, generous is what comes to my mind immediately.  She was generous with her time.  Generous with her resources.  Generous with her connections.  Generous with her wisdom and knowledge.  Generous with her "give-back".  Ms. Harris was always reaching back to give whatever she could, to anyone she could.  Most importantly, she was generous to me; all too often and in far too many ways name.  I have not lost her.  I know just where she is, resting with our heavenly Father, and remaining in the hearts of all men and women who knew and loved her, just like me.  Her generosity will live in me forever.”  

     - Cheri Selby Pearson, ED of Public Allies North Carolina 

"I started working for Ms. Harris’s NCIMED after relocating to NC in 2006. I was uncertain about the job to start with, and pretty sure it would be a short-term engagement. Now 14 years later I’m certain I am right where I am supposed to be. I have learned from each of my colleagues and coworkers, and most of all I learned to listen and pay close attention when Ms. Harris was part of the conversation. She had so many stories to share! I always appreciated the opportunities I had to chat with her and learn from her experiences.

A few of the things I learned from Ms. Harris:

  • Encourage people around me.
  • History is important.
  • Understanding the context of other cultures is important.
  • Challenge myself to do better each day.
  • Invest time in building relationships. People do business with people they know, like and trust.
  • You can be small in stature but big in heart and influence

If I could have one more conversation with her, I’d say Thank You for all you’ve done to teach me, and show all of us how to lead by example."

     - Alyssa Mako, Project Director for Small Business Transportation Resource Center

"Ms. Harris was a true leader in the highest form... her love for her people and what she did to help small businesses was a light for our entire community.  She gave of herself so freely and never stranded from teaching others.  Her words were powerful and her impact was even more.  The Women's Business Center of Charlotte is a result of her commitment to women and the leveling the playing field for small businesses.  We will forever be grateful for the vision, tenacity, and dedication.  

Thank you for believing in me and sowing into my life  -- we will continue this race with the good fight of faith!!!!"

     - Natalie Williams, Executive Director of the Women's Business Center of Charlotte

"Ms. Harris leaves behind a community who will grieve together, and celebrate her numerous achievements, and her dedication to racial, social, and economic justice, for many years to come."

     - Janet Elbetri, Self-Help

"I was heartbroken to learn of Ms. Harris passing this week.  

She was an immortal in my mind, and so it is very hard for me to imagine a world without her fierce voice, but she left us all with a job to do, and we'll keep doing it together. 

We're thinking of all of you at IMED."

     - Allison Moy, Self-Help

"I can’t imagine my warrior friend is gone."

     - Diane Sumpter, MBDA, SC

"The Life, the Legacy, the Love- Andrea L. Harris. 

You are in my prayers! 

May God give each of us the strength for this journey!"

     - Alicia Lyons, NC DOA