50 MIW honoree: Jessica Ann Tyson

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Jessica Ann Tyson. Courtesy 616 Media

Jessica Ann Tyson

Owner

The Candied Yam/Delightful Southern Cuisine/JA PR Group

 

Jessica Ann Tyson took a chance during COVID-19 and that risk is paying off handsomely for not just her restaurant, but for the community as a whole.

“Our most significant achievement is that we are able to have the most diverse group of returning citizens. We stayed open during the pandemic so that we could keep our ‘family’ together,” said Tyson. “They are comprised of ex-felons, people who have had a past drug abuse (history) and mostly are individuals that are looked down upon and would not be considered hirable or worth investing in. We stayed open to keep them employed with a positive environment since there was no government programs to help them. We took a chance on them when no one else would.”

Much of what Tyson does is very intentional. As a member of the executive committee for the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan, she helped implement best practices around diversity and inclusion. As board president of National Heritage Academies/River City Scholars, she facilitated laptops for all students during the COVID-19 shutdown. As executive board member for Kentwood Community Foundation, she helped engineer a 109-acre donation that eventually became Covenant Park.

“My influence spans not only where I live but around the city, across the state and around the globe. I have been recognized in Africa by supporting 150 students going to school for years by purchasing books and uniforms,” she said. “As the president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of Michigan, I am able to work with elected officials around the country, especially in D.C., to influence policies that create better outcomes for people that are marginalized.”

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