about C’Ardiss Gardner Gleser
What up! I’m C’Ardiss (pronounced See-Ardis) Gardner Gleser, but please call me CC (Whenever I hear someone call me C’Ardiss (pronounced See-Ardis), I feel like I’m in trouble!)
I’m the daughter of Carla Anne Gardner and Percy Roscoe Gardner Jr. I grew up in the beautiful Salish lands of Seattle, between 24th + Madison and Rainier Ave + Henderson, so you know I am full of CD energy, with some Soufend attitude.
About five years ago, my family and I moved to the Detroit area. See, I visited Detroit back in 2012 and there was something about the energy of the city that said, “CC, you need to move here!” So, we did just that, and we love it.
While I travel a lot for work, I can say I always look forward to going home. The city of Detroit is beautiful, strong, and it holds a lot of history for this country! The mountains, lakes, and hills of Seattle may have their beauty — especially when Mt. Rainier decides to bless us with her loveliness — but Detroit’s beauty is all its own: its people, its art, its buildings, its lakes, and rivers — and have I said its people? There’s a collective energy in Detroit that can’t be described, only felt.
I have always been a risk-taker, curious, and unafraid. My professional background demonstrates this. My journey is definitely not linear.
I started out building trucks at Kenworth Trucking Company in 1994, where I was a certified forklift operator. I loved every minute of working on the assembly line, being a part of something bigger than me and using my hands to build something. There is something so fulfilling about that. I must also say that I felt like a boss taking my forklift certification driving test! I was killin’ it!
I worked there for about two years before being laid off — you know, that whole seniority thing — they come for the new folks first.
After Kenworth, I worked a few retail jobs — and then I did something totally unexpected. I accepted an internship at IDX Systems Corp (now GE Healthcare). While I knew nothing about software or the tech world prior to starting, I learned a lot. I mean, y’all when I say I knew nothing — like, when my computer would shut down — I was all like, “How do I get this thing up again?” and my supervisor was like, “Type Win.”
It was like, oh, my bad, how was I supposed to know that? See, it was 1997, and I hadn’t really used a computer since my dad brought home a Commodore 64.
While I came into GE not knowing a whole lot — again, I felt like a boss! Again, I killed it!
I ended up staying there for nearly a decade.
I left GE to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine: to earn a college degree. And it took a bit. I went back to school at the age of 27, first at community college to earn my Associate’s and then I moved my family across the country to Connecticut while I completed my Bachelor’s. We moved with two kids and came back with three! My kids were 15, 6, and 1 years old when I finished my Bachelor’s. Oh, and I was 32 at this point.
I did not go to school with the intention of getting a fancy new job with a higher salary, but because education is so precious and meaningful. I am a first generation college graduate and this was a powerful moment, not just for me, but also for my family. I wanted to make my Big Mama proud, and I wanted to make myself proud. I had grown in ways I never imagined, and I took risks that paid off and after that, I knew I had to continue to be bold and continue to do the unexpected.
So after graduating from college, I went right into education and found my way at nonprofits focused on youth and access to education: Technology Access Foundation (TAF) and Rainier Scholars, both based in Seattle. The nonprofit space is where I first started writing grants (and you know where this is going) — it was also where I first started noticing that the system around grantmaking was inequitable as hell. It was like, you do all this working trying to get a grant, and then you don’t get the grant, but this other white-led organization does — and then they go to the BIPOC org and say, “We were just awarded this grant, but we aren’t sure how to do this work — would you like to partner on this?” and then the BIPOC org responds with, “Are you serious right now?” And it was like, what the f*ck is this? You know?
I wanted to change the system! So I made the decision to only look for jobs in philanthropy to change this mess.
I started in philanthropy because I wanted to move money to community. At the time, I truly felt that that was the answer — that if we moved more money to community, then things would progress, things would shift, communities would then thrive.
But unfortunately, that wasn’t enough.
the Black Ivy Collective origin story
I figured out we had to change the hearts and the minds of people who were the leaders of these foundations. I needed to do more. I needed to change the sector as a whole on a systems level. So I decided to leave philanthropy and start my own thing to do systems change work. And that’s where I’m at right now, with Black Ivy Collective!
Today, I push for trust-based philanthropy by collaborating and partnering with leaders and organizations in the space who are also doing the work. My clients and I work together to bring more voices from community to decision-making tables and create paths to return resources back to community.
I do this work because of the work my ancestors did. Every space that I occupy is for not only me, but those that came before me. I bring my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, all of my ancestors into every space I occupy and truly believe in Ubuntu (“I am because we are.”) I believe in constantly learning new ways to honor and center the generations of culture-holders that came before us, the wisdom-holders currently alongside us, and the future-holders who are guiding us.
Currently excited about …
- Being a Fellow of the National Center for Family Philanthropy
- Becoming a Hudson Certified Coach
- Building my consulting practice!
Earned degrees from …
- Yale University
- Seattle University
- South Seattle College
Words to live by …
- “You want to be comfortable or you want to grow? ‘Cause you can’t do both.” — My mother (not sure where she got this from, but it’s legit)
- “Be a good person and walk in your light, the blessings will come.” — Me
- “Value experiences over money.” — Me
- “We make a living with what we get, but we make a life with what we give.” — Winston Churchill
- “A closed mouth don’t get fed,” aka ASK for what you need ALWAYS.” — a Black Auntie some place
- “You always have a choice.” — Me, and other people
- “Your circumstances do not define you — you do. You get to choose who you want to be.” — Me