By Imani Wj Wright
Special to the AFRO
With Washington, D.C. being one of the most prominent hubs of Black excellence and symbolism, it’s only fitting that the first “modern private membership club for Black” changemakers” has opened just blocks away from The White House.
The Gathering Spot, founded by Georgetown University graduates Ryan Wilson and TK Petersen, is a private membership club, “rooted in culture, with a robust virtual community and beautifully designed clubs across the country,” according to the club’s founders.
Wilson and Petersen developed the concept of the Gathering Spot following the 2013 Trayvon Martin Case ruling.
“The summer between 1L and 2L, while I was in law school was the same summer as the Trayvon Martin case,” Wilson told the AFRO. “When George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder, I got an email from some friends that I’ve worked with previously and the subject of the email was: ‘What are We Going to Do?’ And I responded back to them with the idea to build a club in D.C. where we can get together and discuss next steps as it related to that matter, but also to talk about and build with one another on other things. From the minute after I wrote that paragraph, honest to God, the club needed to happen. I started working day in and day out, eventually sending that concept to [TK Petersen], and he joined me in the effort,” Wilson explained.
The first iteration of the Gathering Spot opened in Atlanta five years ago.
“It has been successful because the people of Atlanta have really come together to make it so. A little bit of everybody is there. There are creatives there, entrepreneurs there and people who work for some of the largest companies in town,” said Wilson.
The exclusive location in the nation’s capital opened its doors on March 1.
“We knew though, after that first email that D.C. was going to be a city that we wanted to build a physical space, but more importantly a community,” Wilson added. “It’s been a couple years now since we’ve started the effort to D.C., but we’re excited to be there now.”
As an Atlanta-native, who made his way to D.C. for college and law school at Georgetown, Wilson explained the significance of having The Gathering Spot located in two important cities to Black culture.
“To connect what we’re doing to a broader content- Black people and the notion of gathering- if you look throughout our history, has not always been possible to do. In certain moments of our history, it was flat-out not allowed,” Wilson told the AFRO. “We’re not taking up small amounts of space when we build these clubs. So, to build spaces that are intentional about who we are trying to serve, and why we’re trying to serve them, that’s what The Gathering Spot means to me, and I think that’s what it symbolically suggests.”
The entrepreneur and location’s co-founder also emphasized that The Gathering Spot is intentional about who the hub hopes to empower and celebrate.
“I think as Black people in particular, we’re used to being in spaces where we’re tolerated but not celebrated,” Wilson said. “There’s a perspective that we’re bringing to everything that we do. The distinction that our team is constantly making sure we uplift in our experience is the celebration of two groups- Black folks and women. Women make up 60 percent of the club’s membership on purpose as well.”
The Gathering Spot expands further than its buildings and members. To help Black businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, The Gathering Spot created the, “We All We Got,” fund. “We All We Got,” provided $100,000 of funding to entrepreneurs in need. They also launched the #PowerOf30Challenge, which asked the community to spend at least $30 with a Black-owned business, leading to $450,000 worth of spending in one week.
“Small businesses and Black-owned businesses, in particular, were already facing systemic challenges that made it very difficult to be successful. So, when you add those systemic challenges, which are historic, and add a global pandemic- as you see with a lot of issues- it’s bad for everybody, but it’s worse for Black folks,” Wilson said. “The fund was an immediate response to try and make sure that we were going to get everyone through this storm.”
“Black folks are over mentored and under resourced,” Wilson added with emphasis.
To learn more about The Gathering Spot visit https://thegatheringspot.club.