Cathy Adams thinks big. It is a trait that has served her well for decades as the founder of CDA Consulting Group, an events management company in Oakland. Her creative showcasing of celebrity talent has made her the sought after planner of concerts, fundraising galas, and conferences in the Bay Area and beyond. No defining detail is ever too small for Cathy to overlook: the opening of a bank branch in wine country was anything but typical outfitted with bales of hay and live horses.
Cathy Adams also thinks strategically. Perhaps she always has... One of my favorite Cathy stories encapsulates the clarity of her vision, and her drive to see that objective realized, even as a young girl. Growing up in Mississippi, Cathy’s backyard was the gathering spot for the neighborhood kids. One day, six of her friends came over, as Cathy tells it, “looking like a firing squad”. The issue? They wanted to go to someone else’s backyard because Cathy always got to play the coveted role of Mom in their games. After pleading with them to stay a little longer, she raced inside to ask her mother for a loan, her second of the day. With this short term loan in hand, she dashed down the hill to the local candy store where she bought 7 lollipops. Returning, she distributed the candy to her friends, and after they had unwrapped their treats, and happily begun munching, she asked them, “Who’s the Mom?” Their response was immediate, enthusiastic and unanimous: Cathy.
Today, as the pandemic continues to ravage, Cathy works through her sadness for the lives it has claimed and impacted in her own way: by thinking even bigger, and more strategically. As President of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, she is particularly attuned to the current challenges of African American entrepreneurs. She is not only a willing listener to business owners’ deepest fears, but also their staunchest ally as she encourages them with her stories, shares ideas for new business development, suggests potential strategic partnerships, and if the situation requires it, offers a centering voice of reason. When I ask her what is behind her ceaseless energy to help people see beyond the boundaries that they believe constrains them, she mentions her childhood and the way she was raised. “I was always told that you aren’t better than anybody, but you are equal to them. You are enough. Some people weren’t told that.”
Now, this visionary has set her sights on a truly ambitious goal: helping Oakland African American business owners not only survive but thrive during this crisis. Not used to waiting idly by on the sidelines for others to help her community, Cathy Adams has once again taken matters into her own hands by launching the Oakland African American Covid -19 Resiliency Relief Program, a $1 million grant program dedicated to addressing the needs of African American business owners. Expect to see engaging, over-the-top fundraising efforts that unite the African American community, Cathy Adams style: with virtual dance parties, online concerts, and once in a lifetime events. Intended to underscore community self-sufficiency, and to ensure that African American businesses receive due process in the distribution of crisis funding, Cathy also sees the Resiliency Relief program as one that leverages its impact not only through its partnership with larger local entities, but also in creating a financial wellness program helmed by African Americans, to ensure that these financial windfalls continue to grow and benefit future generations. Envisioning an Oakland with financially fortified minority business owners is just a part of Cathy’s view; she also sees those businesses locating in the multitude of empty storefronts that fill the ground floor spaces of Oakland’s newly built skyscrapers, creating a wide and vibrant ecosystem of locally owned retail shops, restaurants and galleries.
As I said, Cathy Adams thinks BIG.