Congratulations on the 10th Anniversary of the Gateway Center

This blog is a SHOUT OUT to some fearless Atlanta leaders – Jack Hardin, Debi Starnes, Bonni Ware, Protip Biswas and Horace Sibley and I am sure there are others I have missed. You made a believer out of me!GC

Atlanta’s most needy are better served because of your courageous and innovative leadership. When I was skeptical, they believed they could do the improbable, the impossible – turn an old jail into a vibrant live saving Gateway to a better life for thousands of Atlanta’s homeless people.

This small group of true blue, deeply committed Atlanta residents and seasoned professionals exemplify the best of humankind. They exemplify Margaret Mead’s quote about how and who changes the world – ” never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”.

The Gateway has served thousands of men, women and children in some of their most needy hours as a shelter, as a place of refuge, as a service provider. Though the Gateway can’t and doesn’t do their work alone, Gateway serves as part of a larger network of organizations whose boards and staff tackle one of the toughest urban issues city leaders face. Every day dozens of families and search unsuccessfully for affordable housing in our city. They rely on the social service sector to provide a safety net, when they can’t do so for themselves. On the 10th anniversary of the Gateway, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to those who launched the organization, to the dozens of partners, donors and supporters who build on yesterday’s accomplishment to enhance the opportunities for some of Atlanta’s most vulnerable residents and most of all the brave clients who fight for a good life for themselves and their families.


Mizzou is a Reminder to Reset our Moral Compass


Missouri football players who are refusing to play until president Wolfe resigns.

While the national media attention has shifted from protests about police shootings and the racial identity of the victims in those shootings to the 2016 presidential candidates squabble of the day, the students at the University of Missouri are struggling with increased racial, sexist and hateful behavior on their campus in Columbia. National coverage and social media are telling the story of a climate on campus that is the impetus of the current protest that now includes the Mizzou football players of color who are supporting the protest by refusing to play until the president resigns.

It has been reported that the incidents that lead to the latest activism on campus started a few months ago when the president of the Missouri Student Association shared a racist experience on Facebook. Members of the Black student organization (Legion of Black Collegians) were targets of racial slurs on campus; Black students created a group called Concerned Student 1950 (the year that the first Black student attended the school); protesting students were bumped by the car of the University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe during a homecoming parade when they blocked his vehicle; and a swastika was smeared with feces in a dorm bathroom. Graduate student Jonathan Butler is currently on a hunger strike that he said he will continue until Wolfe resigns.

The students and athletes on that campus have decided not to look the other way. Their collective resistance to derogatory comments and treatment is both courageous and reminiscent of a time when students refused to just go along and ignore an uncomfortable situation because it didn’t affect them. The problem of race and hatred of all kinds is everywhere and we see it, whether we want to or not because technology puts us in the heat of the battle in real time.

A few years ago I asked a retail telephone salesman if I could buy a cell phone without the camera because I didn’t need it. That was a pretty naïve request. The phone images are a window to what can happen when our worse selves are in charge. It allows us to see and hear for ourselves what has been known in some communities and unknown or ignored in others. America needs to reset its moral compass to respect human life and the students at Mizzou are yet another reminder of that charge.

Will a Speaker Ryan fare any better with the Freedom Caucus? The “Crackpot Caucus” now has a formal name!

By: Gary S. CoxCrackpotCaucus

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan (November 2014) was the first to coin the term “Crackpot Caucus”. Of the Georgia Congressional Delegation, Egan listed Jody Hice (R – 10th), Barry Loudermilk (R – 11th) and Rick Allen (R – 12th) among his esteemed “new crazies” taking on the Republican establishment as “political outsiders.” Hice and Loudermilk joined the radical right Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives, otherwise known as Egan’s “Crackpot Caucus.”

Blogging While Blue highlighted the “Congressional Crazies” in a December 2014 blog and asked the question “Has the Speaker gone from herding cats to stopping stampeding elephants in the new Congress?” We know the answer to this question, Speaker John Boehner (R – OH) was stampeded out of office by the likes of Georgia’s own Congressmen Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk – as members of the Freedom Caucus. This caucus fiercely argued that Boehner was neither conservative enough nor confrontational enough in challenging President Obama on a variety of policies from defense spending to funding the Affordable Care Act. The Freedom Caucus wanted to invoke Article I, Section 2, and Clause 5 of the Rules of the House of Representatives. This rule allows the Speaker to “live or die” on his/her record each legislative session. It also allows the House membership to call for a vote on the Speaker’s leadership at any time during the legislative session. Rather than have this rule invoked against him, Boehner chose to resign. This rule is the center point of the current brouhaha that surrounds vacuum of leadership in the Republican Caucus.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R – WI), the former Mitt Romney vice presidential running mate is now reluctantly seeking the Speaker’s gavel. Ryan, who is being hailed in the press as the “Reluctant Leader” set ground rules by which he would ascend to the speakership. Ryan insisted on winning by a super majority of 80%, being endorsed by all factions of the Republican Party, “family time” to spend time with his wife and children, less fundraising responsibilities and most notably a repeal of the House rules that allow the Speaker to be challenged at any time during the legislative. Though the Freedom Caucus endorsed a Ryan candidacy for Speaker, they balked at changing the House rules. The Freedom Caucus did not want to rescind the rule that could lead to Ryan’s ouster. The caucus wants to reserve the right to review Ryan’s conservative credentials. Should Ryan not oppose Obama Administration policies to their liking, then, they want to be able to challenge his leadership. Remember, the Freedom Caucus believes “compromise”, the way a legislative body is supposed to operate, is a dirty word and an unforgivable sin against conservative principals.

This week will tell us if Ryan gets his way. This will be “the week that was” in Washington when it comes to the Republican leadership. Is Ryan going to be able to herd his elephants and keep them in line? Or, will they stampede him the same way they did with Boehner …. I have my popcorn and I’m sitting on the sidelines watching these circus elephants either get in line or stampede the new leadership into the political dust!



To achieve equity in our cities, start at the neighborhood level

Originally posted in Saporta Report

By Guest Columnist SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, executive board chair of Purpose Built Communities and Atlanta’s mayor from 2002 to 2010

eastlakeSRLast week, Lesley Grady of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta wrote an insightful piece called “Equity, Inequality and Myth Busting” that highlighted the extreme income inequality between white households and African-American households in Atlanta.

“Addressing income inequality will require our collective courage to acknowledge historic, pervasive biases and structures, bounded by race and class, which anchor whole families and communities in perpetual poverty,” she argued.

We agree.

I just returned from the sixth annual Purpose Built Communities Conference in Fort Worth, TX, which brought together leaders from fields including business, real estate, medicine, public health, housing, education, social entrepreneurship, social justice, criminal justice, and the faith community.

More than 350 people from 49 communities across the country came together to learn about neighborhood transformation and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

There are those who think a neighborhood focus is too narrow. According to the latest data and research, neighborhoods are exactly where we should be focusing if we want to reverse decades of concentrated poverty and create equity and prosperity.

Several sessions at the conference focused on the ways neighborhoods determine health outcomes. Dr. Lisa Chamberlain from the Stanford Medical School and Dr. Douglas Jutte from the Build Healthy Places Network shared striking data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthy America  about life expectancies in different neighborhoods within cities.

In Minneapolis, a distance of three miles could equal a 13-year difference in lifespan. In New Orleans, life expectancy can vary as much as 25 years from one neighborhood to another.

New York University professor Patrick Sharkey’s research about place and poverty shows that having a mother who was raised in a distressed neighborhood puts a child at a two-to-four year cognitive development deficit at birth.

The question is, why is this the case?

According to Jutte and Chamberlain, the science shows that environment has a greater impact on health outcomes than genetics.

Our neighborhood environment, including physical conditions (e.g. presence or lack of sidewalks and lead paint), service conditions (e.g. transportation, stores, schools) and social conditions (e.g. crime, sense of community or lack thereof), largely determine how long a person will live and what kind of quality of life they will have.

Factors like toxic stress, which is prevalent in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, impact both neurological and physical development.

Dr. David Erickson, director of the Center for Community Development Investments for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and Carol Naughton, president of Purpose Built Communities, shared the latest research impacting community development, including the work of economist Raj Chetty, whose research found a strong correlation between place and upward economic mobility.

There are two ways we know of to address this: one is to move people out of neighborhoods of concentrated poverty to ones where the physical, service and social conditions are qualitatively better.

Another is to improve those conditions in distressed neighborhoods.

Purpose Built Communities exists to help with the latter, assisting local leaders implement a comprehensive model consisting of mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs and services guided by a dedicated “community quarterback” nonprofit organization whose sole focus is the health of the neighborhood.

In the span of just six years, we now have 13 Purpose Built Communities Network Members from coast to coast, including East Lake here in Atlanta which provided the blueprint for this model of neighborhood transformation. All of these neighborhoods have community quarterbacks and partners implementing this model to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our Annual Conference is a chance for those working in these neighborhoods, and those who are thinking about doing this work, to learn from one another to achieve the results we so desperately need.

As Lesley Grady said, “we have to go further and deeper and fix the fault line that prevents all families and communities from sharing in the region’s growth and prosperity.”

By focusing on the neighborhood level in a holistic manner, Atlanta and other cities can change the trajectory for hundreds of families, especially children, so that a zip code will no longer determine a person’s health, income or lifespan.



Letting Go vs. Giving up: This water lives in Mombasa

This exchange between a mother and her son brings thoughts about my relationship with Cabral, my son. Shirley

andromeda“You get it. It’s a higher place, less crowded with idiots, acceptance of yourself, acceptance of others realizing finally that you don’t have to understand just accept. ” Susan

Above is one of my favorite paintings by Polish artist Tamara Lempicka. The painting is titled Andromeda. As part of a Greek myth, Andromeda was chained near the ocean to be devoured by a sea creature, but then saved by her future husband Perseus. In Lempicka’s Art Deco style Andromeda, she is also chained but her background is that of a modern city. One can only imagine what was flowing through Lempicka’s mind at the time of its creation.

The other night I was having a conversation with a friend. I told him that I had held a certain expectation of myself for many years. As these thoughts grew, they somehow dominated the very essence of my daily life and encompassed a way of maneuvering myself in the world. Finally, I came to the realization that I needed to change my way of thinking because these false expectations were indeed blocking other opportunities to surface. And so, I said to him, “I am letting go of it all…” He replied, “So, you have decided to give up?” “No, just decided to let it go.”

When we lock ourselves into expectation, we begin to live in an illusion, chained to a lie about who we think we should be- the ego indeed has taken control and we are simply blind to it. “Letting go” of the expectation/illusion creates an emotional freedom…a peace within…an empty space so that we may listen to inspiration. Our focus becomes what inspires us, not the compulsive thoughts of how we think we should live…simple, no?

When we decide to look at a continuing challenging situation in our lives and impose the words, “I give up”, we automatically look at the experience with the drama of defeat, the illusion of failure. We potentially create another drama for ourselves, which can carry us down a stream of bitterness, shame, blame, etc. We have only traded one emotional chain for another.

I am reminded of a scene in Sidney Pollock’s film, Out of Africa, when the rains arrived and flooded the damming of a nearby river for Karen Blixen’s coffee farm. She recognized the fruitless effort to control the damming and told the workers, “Let it go, let it go, this water lives in Mombasa anyway.”

So when we house and dam up negative thoughts or emotions, compulsive desires, fruitless goals, outworn expectations/ memories, etc. that don’t serve us, let them go…they don’t live there anyway.

Jeff Haskins

Tribute to Cabral: March 26, 1974 – September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

Cabral Franklin
March 26, 1974-September 15, 2015

When we launched this blog in 2011, we collectively shared a politically progressive ideology and found a voice in sharing our views. Our editorial meetings were filled with robust debate and laughter. On far too many occasions Cabral pulled his mom and I off the proverbial political cliff. He was a sound and critical thinker who always knew more than he shared, but was careful to share exactly what he needed to.

There wasn’t a poll or interpretation of a poll that we did not rely on his expertise and insight. Many have called him a numbers man and he was; but he also translated what those numbers meant for everyday people. He will be greatly missed for his intellect, his judgment and his vision. Thank you for being you and I know that your soul is at rest and at peace.

We are sharing a few of his favorite blogs in his honor.  It’s the Message Stupid and No Alternative-Joe Paterno Should Be Fired. Rest well my brother.




Dorn: Donald Trump’s dog whistles

EDornBy Edwin Dorn – Special to the Austin American-Statesman

Donald Trump’s bombast boils down to this: “If you hate minority groups, you’ll love me, ’cause I’m gonna Make America White Again.”

Trump doesn’t use those specific words. Instead, he uses what University of California-Berkeley Professor Ian Haney Lopez calls “dog whistles,” phrases that perk up the ears of bigots. I am not saying that all of Trump’s supporters are racists; but a quarter of Republicans have responded enthusiastically to his dog whistles, so we need to be clear about what is going on.

Three years ago, Trump revived the dying “birther” movement. He probably didn’t really believe that nonsense, but he knew that many white Americans were angry and anxious about the election of a black man to the presidency. They needed a story to explain how such a thing could have happened — thus the fantastic tale about Barack Obama’s birth in Kenya. In some surveys, more than 40 percent of Republicans said they believed that story. This does not mean that 40 percent of Republicans are stupid. What it means is that many of them would say outrageous things to delegitimize Obama’s historic achievement.

Similarly, most of Trump’s supporters are not dumb enough to take his immigration proposals literally. They don’t believe that most undocumented immigrants are rapists and criminals, or that a President Trump would expel 11 million people from the country, or that he could make Mexico build a 2,000-mile wall, or that he could unilaterally reinterpret the 14th Amendment to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. However, they love to hear his dog whistle tweeting “We don’t want Mexicans here.”

“Chinese” is another of Trump’s code words. Few Americans are bothered by imports from China, which include everything from toys to iPhones to Trump’s own signature-label shirts. But for Trumpists, “Chinese” is another way to say “yellow peril,”reminiscent of the 1870s. What worries them is not China’s manufacturing capacity; it is Chinese immigrants. And for many Trump supporters, “Chinese” is an umbrella category for the millions of Asians – Vietnamese, Cambodians, Japanese, Koreans, even Indians and Pakistanis — who have immigrated into the United States during the past 50 years.

What solutions does Trump offer for the decline that he claims the United States has been suffering? How does he plan to “Make America Great Again”? By putting white men back in charge! Trump knows that he cannot reduce the number of blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans; but as president he could enhance the GOP’s voter suppression efforts. Reducing the voting power of minority citizens would help to restore what many Trump supporters believe to be the proper racial order.

A series of laws passed a half-century ago — the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1965 Immigration Reform Act — ended centuries of lawful white privilege. Then came the women’s movement. Men who thought they should be running things started to feel emasculated.

Trump is rich. He boasts that foreign leaders will do whatever he tells them to do — and one of his former wives has vouched for his sexual prowess. His phallic symbol is a long, sleek jet airplane. A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz posted a video of his own phallic symbol: a gun barrel wrapped in a strip of bacon.

Ridiculous as he is, Trump has helped to expose the breadth and intensity of prejudice in the GOP. The question is, do any of the other candidates have the decency and courage to stand up to their party’s bigots?

Dorn is a professor of public policy at the University of Texas. He is a former undersecretary in the Department of Defense and former dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Unlikely Alliances?

bondmuhKnown for his insight into the Civil Rights Movement and his understanding of seemingly strange alliances in the Movement, Julian Bond captured that in a 1996 column in the Chicago Tribune called, Now Let the Democrats Praise Elijah Muhammad. He tells a barely known complex story that even Julian couldn’t fully explain yet he reminds us of how unlikely alliances can change the course of history and influence movements.

The troubling violent images on the nightly news about police violence, domestic violence and the uptick in murders in over 30 US cities that was recently highlighted in the New York Times offers us a chance to try to understand the complex issues that contribute to changing policy as well as hearts and minds. Maybe a look at the past can serve as a backdrop to craft new solutions. Some say, these problems are new, while others say they are as old as the country itself. Whichever, is the case, we have to tackle these difficult issues by understanding the complexity of the people, leaders and challenges without fear of castigation, isolation or attack.

There is a saying that rings true, “If it were easy, someone else would have already done it.”  It is not a question of who is best to lead. But rather, that each of us does our part, personally and organizationally to address the challenges of our time. It is distracting from the formidable struggles we face in 21st Century to worry about who gets the credit or who gets the funding. We must do what each of us can do to expand the justice and equity to every person living in America. In my lifetime justice was expanded to include people like me and I benefitted.  It is time to pay it forward.


Now Let The Democrats Praise Elijah Muhammad

By Julian Bond.
August 23, 1996
Chicago Tribune  
(At the time Julian Bond was distinguished professor in residence at American University and a professor of history at the University of Virginia.}

Taylor Branch and I were walking despondently down a hot street in Chicago’s Loop in August of 1968, a week before the Democratic Convention began. With three others, we were the advance guard of the 60-plus member Georgia Loyal National Democratic Delegation to the 1968 Democratic convention. The Loyalists were a rump group set up to challenge the handpicked, overwhelmingly white, segregationist and overwhelmingly pro-George Wallace official Georgia delegation.

There had been no election of delegates in our state–Georgia’s party chair had simply handpicked them. Georgia’s rank-and-file Democrats–even then heavily black–had no say in who would represent them at the convention to write a platform and choose their party’s presidential and vice-presidential nominees.

Our group was integrated and loyally Democratic. While delegations from other states could look forward to open arms, hotel rooms, Chicago hospitality and transportation from hotel to convention hall, we had none of these things. And we had no money. We could not even afford to bring our delegation to Chicago.

A large black man, Walter Turner, recognizing me, stopped us and asked if he could help. We explained our dilemma, and Turner said he could get us rooms at a nearby hotel. When we answered that we had already been turned away from that place, he insisted on trying, and after a moment of secret conversation with the manager, told us we had the required rooms.

But how could we pay for them? How could we pay to bring the delegates who were to occupy those rooms to Chicago?

Turner suggested we ask his employer, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam, popularly known as the Black Muslims. Taylor and I were incredulous. Why would the leader of America’s most prominent black separatist group, a man who forbade his followers to register and vote and who regularly castigated whites as “blue-eyed devils,” pay to bring a group made up of a majority of those devils to a meeting whose whole point was voting and political participation?

Nevertheless, Turner arranged for me to meet Mr. Muhammad in his Hyde Park mansion. I told my sad tale to him and an audience of Muslim men and women. He listened politely and asked me to return for a meal the following day.

At the next evening’s dinner, men and women sat at separate tables. He surveyed them before giving me an answer, asking the women first if he should give me a donation. Each one emphatically said no. “We don’t know this young man,” one said. “He’ll give all the money to the devils,” said another.

The men were less negative, but many said no as well.

Mr. Muhammad heard them out, and then said to me “Mr. Bond, in the Nation of Islam, we listen to the women, but we do what the men say to do.” He gave me $3,000 in crisp $100 bills.  That money brought our delegation to Chicago and helped pay our bills.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad helped the Georgia Loyal National Democrats force the Democratic Party to make good on promises it made in 1964–that delegate selection would be democratic, fair and open.

He literally changed the face of the Democratic Party, and I have wondered, from that day to this, why he did it.

Did he envision the eventual entry of the Black Muslims into politics? Could he have imagined that his successor, Louis Farrakhan, would register to vote in 1983 and place the nation in the service of a black candidate for the presidency of the United States?

Was this gift the small opening wedge signaling a transition within the Nation?

Or did he simply harbor fond memories of the Georgia he had left in the 1920s, the Georgia where he’d been born Elijah Poole? Or did he long for a Georgia–and an America–that might have been?

Only 3 percent of the delegates to this year’s Republican Convention in San Diego were black, a figure which says much about that party’s politics and their programs. Twenty percent were millionaires.
The Democrats who gather in Chicago in 1996 look much more like America, and in part, they have the Honorable Elijah Muhammad to thank for it.

Remembering Julian Bond

JBond987As many of you may know, I am a visiting professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin. I have had the pleasure of hosting Julian Bond twice at the University. Once this February as the keynote speaker for the annual Barbara Jordan Forum at the LBJ School and last year at the Civil Rights Summit lecture in April.

Shirley Franklin, “His life’s work and writings serve as a blueprint for all who seek social justice and equality for all Americans and peace in the world. His sharp intellect and unflinching courage in the face of obstacles and ridicule inspire each of us to stand up, speak up and act up for the principles of democracy and justice.

Julian was an inspired teacher, committed human rights activist and a courageous spokesperson for peace, equality and justice for people of color, for women, for LGBT community, for immigrants and for all Americans and people around the world.”

One of the students, Virginia Cumberbatch introduced Julian Bond at the Barbara Jordan Forum this year and her remarks are included here as well as an interview that I conducted this week honoring Bond on the Boston NPR program, Here and Now.

Julian Bond Introduction by Virginia Cumberbatch

2015 Barbara Jordan Forum

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

The University of Texas at Austin


Julian Bond and LBJ student Virginia Cumberbatch

Good afternoon, today I have the honor of introducing a life-long advocate, activist and an architect of civic engagement in America. As the country engages in important conversations on civil rights and human rights, the voice and virtue of Julian Bond represents a model of advocacy and activism that stands to forge connection between

legacy and momentum. The life-long work of Julian Bond should not only impress us, it should also inspire us to sustained and meaningful action, as his leadership stands as a blueprint for social advocacy. As a student he challenged the status-quo through the work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, as a politician he advocated for the voiceless, as a teacher at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions he models the principles of conviction, as a thought leader he’s created new paradigms of engagement through his governance of the NAACP and today Bond stands to deliver a message of equality, freedom, and justice with a renewed sense of relevance.

In the past year The University of Texas and the LBJ School have reengaged the civil rights legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Civil Rights movement at large – reminding us that we cannot forget the past, as it plays a vital role in informing our future. Representative John Lewis reminded us at last year’s monumental LBJ Civil Rights Summit, that “we can’t re-remember things incorrectly, or past hurts and misguidances will continue to lead us.” Such words ring true in the wake of the national headlines that continue to shake the American conscience. Likewise, these words evoke a pivotal sentiment for the millennial generation. Although decades removed from the impetus of Civil Rights moments like the Selma to Montgomery march or the March on Washington we cannot continue to live in naivety, failing to recognize that such historical travesties are indeed a part of our current realities.

As students, community members and leaders in the 21st century, we find ourselves in the crux of past and present, but Julian Bond demonstrates for us all a pivotal balance between mere historical reflection and celebration AND vigilant observation and engagement in facing current challenges of equality, access, and social justice.

Whatever the human rights issue Julian Bond has advocated for fairness and inclusion. He has been steadfast in his fight to make real the American Dream and the principles of equity and equality promised in the U.S. Constitution. Such responsibility should still rest on the shoulders of us who call ourselves policy students, community leaders, and human beings.

On behalf of my generation, thank you, Mr. Bond, for demonstrating time and time again that we cannot and must not be silent in the face of prejudice, inequality and discrimination. May today’s conversation reengage us, reinvigorate us and redirect us.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me welcome the 2015 Barbara

Jordan Speaker, the Honorable Julian Bond.

Boston NPR’s Here and Now 


Post Katrina Leadership Emerging in New Orleans

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, three New Orleans businessmen and civic leaders, Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon, teamed up to play an inspirational role in the rebirth of their beloved city. Their effort to rebuild New Orleans through the creation of the Bayou District Foundation led to demonstrable results in the standard of living and people’s lives. They are part of a new, emerging brand of leadership that we should applaud and support nationally.

Two months after the storm, many people doubted whether certain parts of their city would ever recover. Gerry, Mike and Gary believed otherwise. They decided to focus their attention in the former St. Bernard public housing development, which was largely destroyed by the floods. They created the Bayou District Foundation, a nonprofit that served, to use a football metaphor, as a “community quarterback” for one of the greatest rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. Working with Columbia Residential as its development partner and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, they contacted displaced residents in New Orleans and across the country, engaging those who wanted to shape the new development with their input.

The three men were inspired to take on this enormous challenge after visiting the East Lake neighborhood in Atlanta, where businessman and philanthropist Tom Cousins championed the revitalization of one of the most dangerous and under-invested parts of the city. What the three men saw at East Lake provided a vision for what was possible: a revitalization that could have impact far beyond neighborhood boundaries.

Gerry Barousse, Mike Rodrigue and Gary Solomon understood the potential for a better future for New Orleans that could be accomplished through civic and business leadership. Over the past nine years, the Bayou District Foundation, with Columbia Residential, has led the development of 685 new, high-quality mixed-income apartments at Columbia Parc. Now it’s a fully leased development that is a safe and welcoming environment full of families and individuals spanning a wide range of ages.

Before the storm in 2005, the St. Bernard public housing development was only 72% occupied, according to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, due to the deteriorating condition of the buildings. In addition, it was an unsafe environment for families and children. From 2001 to 2005, there were 684 felonies and 42 murders within the 52-acre site.

Today, crime is virtually nonexistent. All residents of Columbia Parc are either employed, in school, in a vocational training program, or retired, and incomes of residents represent a healthy mix, from low income to those earning six-figure salaries. It is a community where people want to live that offers paths out of poverty for the lowest income residents.

The Bayou District Foundation also partnered with Educare to create an early childhood education center on the campus serving 167 children ages 0-5; created a health clinic with St. Thomas Community Health Center which serves more than 300 patients per month; and will break ground on a new K-8 charter school in 2016.

The leaders of the Bayou District Foundation are taking risks and making long term commitments, tackling issues that have bedeviled American society for generations. They are investing their reputations, connections, political capital and even their philanthropy in neighborhoods that have long suffered from the effects of concentrated poverty. Neighborhoods like this exist in just about every city across the country. The question is, why would leaders like this want to invest in them, and to what end?

The answer is that these leaders care about people and results. They believe that if given the opportunity to grow up and live in a healthy community, every child can succeed in school and achieve their full potential. It sounds idealistic, and it is, but there is now a track record of work in several fields that demonstrates this is no pipe dream.

At Purpose Built Communities, we are looking for more leaders who are not afraid to embark on a difficult path working with the community to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, change lives, and ultimately, create a better country. We should all recognize and support this brand of leadership that can make a real difference in urban areas across the country.