Women You Should Know #11: Khalilah Burt Gaston - Championing Equity and Community Empowerment


In the realm of community development and urban planning, Khalilah Burt Gaston stands out as a beacon of leadership and advocacy for inclusive and equitable societies. With a wealth of experience spanning both the public and private sectors, Gaston has carved a distinguished path marked by strategic foresight and unwavering dedication to social justice.

A trained urban planner, Gaston's expertise has garnered attention from prestigious publications such as Next City, Dwell Magazine, and The New York Times, shining a spotlight on her innovative approaches to addressing complex urban challenges. Her contributions have not only been recognized locally but have also resonated on a national scale, underscoring the depth of her impact.

Gaston's journey towards becoming a catalyst for change began with her educational pursuits at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where she earned both a Bachelor of Sports Management and Communication degree and a Master of Urban Planning degree. Her academic achievements were complemented by her innate leadership qualities, earning her accolades from esteemed institutions such as the University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum and the Network of Commercial Real Estate Women.

Armed with her passion for community empowerment, Gaston embarked on a career trajectory marked by notable milestones. Her tenure as the Executive Director of Vanguard Community Development Corporation and her role as a Development Specialist at the State of Michigan Land Bank Authority provided her with invaluable insights into the intricacies of community revitalization and sustainable development.

However, it was her pivotal role as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that catapulted Gaston into the forefront of the social impact landscape. Leading the foundation's early childhood education efforts in Detroit, she spearheaded initiatives such as Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Early Childhood Partnership, leaving an indelible mark on the city's educational landscape. Her adept management of a grant portfolio totaling nearly $80 million underscored her ability to leverage resources effectively to drive meaningful change.

Gaston's commitment to fostering inclusive dialogue on racial inequality further exemplifies her dedication to advancing social justice. Named to the Metro Detroit Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Racial Inequality in 2011, she played a pivotal role in examining the historical roots of racial disparity in the region and crafting recommendations for building a more equitable future. Her involvement in Michigan's first such commission underscored her unwavering commitment to confronting systemic injustices head-on.

In 2019, Gaston embarked on a new chapter in her career, relaunching her consulting practice as GlidePath Strategies (GP). Armed with a wealth of experience and a steadfast commitment to driving positive change, GP continues to be at the forefront of transformative initiatives aimed at creating more inclusive and equitable communities.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Gaston's personal life reflects her deep-rooted commitment to community and family. Residing in Detroit's Arden Park-East Boston Historic District with her husband and two daughters, she embodies the values of resilience and compassion that underpin her work.

In a world fraught with challenges, Khalilah Burt Gaston serves as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that through strategic vision, unwavering determination, and a commitment to collective action, meaningful change is not only possible but achievable. As she continues to champion the cause of equity and community empowerment, her legacy will undoubtedly endure as a testament to the transformative power of advocacy and leadership.