Tiwa Aganga Williams, also called Tiwa Works by many of his peers and social media followers, proudly wears the titles of a world-class entrepreneur, a decisive leader, and motivator amongst his peers.
As a British-born Nigerian, Williams stepped onto the campus of Georgia Southwestern State University in 1997 with absolutely no knowledge of Black Greek Letter organizations.
Now, more than 20 years later, Williams’ company —Tiwaworks — annually hosts the largest annual event for black Greek letter organizations in the country. The “Atlanta Greek Picnic Weekend,” which now runs from Tuesday through Sunday, draws over 25,000 fraternity and sorority members to the city who contribute an estimated $7.5-million impact during the weekend.
According to Williams, the success of the event can be attributed to networking. This, for the young-ish mogul, has been the biggest benefit of Greek life.
“It’s the biggest core piece that you have for this Greek picnic weekend and anything in life. This is what we do,” he explained. “This is how we all prosper and grow together. We built it brick by brick, handshake by handshake.”
Tiwaworks, founded by Williams while he was still in college, has grown to become an international event planning and marketing company that spans across three continents.
It also hosts the international All Black Everything event in Lagos, an annual elite Nigerian event attracting young professionals, celebrities, world-renowned stars, actors, actresses, philanthropists, activists and more to take part in networking opportunities in Nigeria.
Williams and his team are preparing for this year’s ABE, which will be celebrating 10 years.
The annual December event brings thousands of international executives of color to the African continent and a host of international brands, including Pepsi and Hennesey, who sponsored last year’s Christmas Day event.
Williams also founded the AGP Foundation Inc. — a 501c3 Non-Profit organization that supports the community with funds raised from the AGP each year; in addition, he founded Wealthy Greeks, he founded the TiwaWorks Wealth Alliance and he is a very successful international businessman, also recognized by Forbes magazine and a host of other media outlets.
In 2004, Williams approached Morris Brown College with a proposition for a Greek gathering. Most of the approximately 300 attendees in the first year heard about the event through e-vites or simply word of mouth.
Williams, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., drew inspiration from a number of events that he observed and participated in as a neophyte during his undergraduate years. Every year, his chapter members took a road trip to different cities and visited other chapters.
He distinctly remembered going to the Kappa Luau in Tallahassee, Florida, and seeing a crowd of about 20,000 people. In fact, Williams attributed his inspiration for the Atlanta Greek Picnic to his experience fellowshipping at the Kappa Luau that year and the next year.
“It was such a huge event,” he said. “(There were) NFL players, and (the event) had sponsors like Budweiser. Trick Daddy and Trina were performing, and there was literally a sea of Kappas and Greeks.”
Williams believes that although parties of Black Greek Letter organizations are often highlighted, they are not the organizations’ only redeeming aspects. He recalled how he began to notice on his own campus, the activities of members of the Divine Nine — a nickname of the nine members that are a part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council.
The organizations with membership in the National Pan-Hellenic Council include Williams’ organization, Kappa Alpha Psi, and also Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., and Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc.
“On campus, you see a bunch of young men coming together, especially from my fraternity,” Williams said. “I used to see them every Wednesday dressed up, handing out things, being encouraging and hosting basketball tournaments.”
He said he was also drawn to his fraternity by its camaraderie, which resembled that of his African family. “(Black Greek Letter organizations) attract a lot of international citizens and immigrant families, (because) that you’re able to build on that bond. We are all about that bond in life,” Williams said.
This bond is historical and runs longer than the four years that people typically spend in college. In fact, most of the Divine Nine organizations are nearing or have existed for more than a century.
Though founded on different campuses throughout the country in New York, Indiana and Washington D.C., Black Greek-letter organizations were created out of the adversity Black people faced when most still were not allowed to obtain a college education.
Many were formed to foster unity between those who were afforded the privilege of an education, and to uplift the entirety of the race through community service and civic action.
The first Black Greek-letter organization, Alpha Kappa Nu, was founded in 1903 on the campus of Indiana University. Three years later, in December 1906, Alpha Phi Alpha became the first of what is now known as the Divine Nine.
The influence of the Divine Nine can be seen in multiple industries. Its reach is intergenerational, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, to Sheryl Underwood and the current Miss USA Deshauna Barber.
Williams stressed the importance of carrying out that intergenerational influence.
“At some point, they pass the torch,” he said. “So we have to be the ones that prepare ourselves and when we get to that point, we have to get ready to pass the torch to the next generation.”
Williams believes in the power of the black Greek-lettered organization (BGLO) network.
“If you look at politics right now, a lot of people who are pushing on the forefront have a Greek background. They’re taking what they already know, and continuing to build a community. I’m going to use this influence.”