Tiana Tukes, Speman, Morehouse, trangender, trans, HBCU,

Tiana Tukes Is Disrupting In Business And Education

Tiana Tukes is a disrupting force in business and education.

Tiana Tukes is a disrupting force in business. As the first transgender Black woman in venture capital, Tukes created funding opportunities for minority-owned businesses in the LGBTQ+ community. Her path to success is not necessarily linear but it is filled with excellent accomplishments, confidence, history-making, and deep faith.

Tukes journey to history-making began as an Oprah Leadership Scholar. She continued to rise, post-grad, working with Accenture and Spotify and creating programs with the New York City Mayor’s office. Currently a lecturer at Spelman College, Tukes shares wisdom and practical guidance about entrepreneurship with tomorrow’s leaders.

As a Morehouse College alumni, Tukes has a profound connection to the Atlanta University Center which includes Morehouse College, Spelman, Clark Atlanta University, and Morehouse School of Medicine. Tukes spoke with BLACK ENTERPRISE about her journey to teaching, business, and entrepreneurship at Spelman College and how it is a full-circle moment for her.

You co-founded LGBT+ VC because you recognized a gap in the space, but what made you advocate for this in particular

When I thought about founding “LGBT+ VC” two years ago, it was on the crux of knowing that there wasn’t really infrastructure in place for me when I started my career. Institutions were not available for me to get the help that I needed to advance my career.

We have developed a program which catapulted a number of queer and trans college students into careers in the venture. It was exciting for us to partner with the New York Mayor‘s Office and other foundations, nonprofits, and corporates to expose LGBTQ high school youth teenagers to careers that they would have otherwise been introduced to. It’s always been a personal pursuit because of my own lived experience.

How did attending Morehouse College, an HBCU, shape your knowledge, love, or business acumen? 

For this particular field, attending Morehouse and then graduating meant everything to me. My family has a long tradition of attending and graduating from HBCUs and serving in academia.

Attending is part of my familiar legacy but also a collective legacy. Morehouse was attended by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Samuel Jackson. There were queer and trans-upper-class men and graduates: Tre’vell Anderson, Fatima Lewis, and Marcus Lee. I knew that there was a duality there.

Is that what led you to education at Spelman, which can be considered Morehouses’ sister HBCU? 

I didn’t think I would have the opportunity to be in the Spelman community in this way. Only in my imagination could I have been a Spelman student, but now I’m part of the faculty.

Originally, the economics department hired me as a consultant to advise them on the development of curriculum within the entrepreneurship program, which is about two years old. Now, I co-teach the Black Entrepreneurship Mindset with Professor Campbell.

It’s important for me to continue to drop impact on my community and all communities because I just know if it weren’t for the generosity and kindest of other people in my life, I wouldn’t be here today.


Does your identity as a transgender woman with VC experience change or enhance the way you look at teaching entrepreneurship? 

I’m a whole woman, first and foremost. There are so many facets of identity. I’m a Christian. I’m a woman of trans experience, African American, southern upbringing, and I lived in New York. Transness is just a facet of it. It certainly holds a lens in which I view the world.

As a lecturer, I talk about the value that queer and trans people offer to the broader world. Trans people are sacred. We are divine. Trans people are fundamentally part of all indigenous cultures.

So my work in the classroom is about helping students to know that there’s  a liminal space in between. They don’t have to be both/and or either/or.

What is your goal when educating the young women of Spelman?

I go back to the ancestors, the teachers that I’ve had. I’ve had phenomenal educators throughout my life. My first teacher was Ms. Mona-Lisa Ward. My grandmother and mother were educators. Bell Hooks, in Teaching to Transgress, talks about teaching being a medium for liberation. I fundamentally believe that. I want my students to know . . .The college campus can be a forum for liberation.

What do you want people to learn from following your journey?

Dream bigger. I think that my dreams have kept me alive at times. I want people to know first and foremost, is that they have within them a strength that can be used to go through any fire.


Tukes continues to live her dreams, taking up space in places that society sometimes least suspects. Her journey from scholar, to venture capitalist, to educator is ongoing; who knows what’s next.

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