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Two are Better than One

Though I may not be here with you,

I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart

and stand up for what you truly believe.

John Lewis

Dear Friend:

I’ve always believed in following your heart. It’s that commitment that led me to the Lower 9th Ward, though my mother bemoaned that I was “running away from home at fifty.” When I got here, Linda Jackson helped me find the place where I could live out my beliefs—the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association.

The L9WHA is still that place for me, even as I’m called to devote myself solely to the preservation and creation of homeownership, solely to bringing people home and keeping them there. In addition to this work for all these years, I’ve had the honor of working with Linda to build a lasting organization that will continue to serve this community into the future. With the loss of Linda, and with the L9WHA on firm footing, it’s time for someone with generations of roots here, someone with an understanding of the L9 in her very blood, to take over that role.

Gaynell Brady is that person, and she is truly someone who stands up for what she believes.

Last week she took me back to the block where she grew up. This is how she described her childhood:

Growing up in the Lower 9th Ward, the community was my playground. I lived across the street from the only empty lot around. Unfortunately, it was next to Adelle and Curly Larks’s home. All the kids knew Ms. Adelle. She was always fussing at us about kicking the ball into her yard and knocking down her roses. Every time a ball went over the fence, she’d keep it and I’d have to convince my grandma to get it for us. I never quite understood why that yard and those roses meant so much to Ms. Adelle.

Working at the L9WHA has reinvigorated my memories and love for the community. As I sat in the office thinking about my ancestors’ dedication to education and purchasing a home, I decided to do some genealogy research on Ms. Adelle. I wanted to understand why those roses meant so much to her.

Ms. Adelle was born in Patoutville, Louisiana in 1926. She and Curley Larks were married in Acadia, Louisiana in 1953 and moved to the Lower 9th Ward. My research revealed that all the elders in the community loved Ms. Adelle and she loved them. She kept her front yard immaculate, just like they did, and she fed the needy and helped young couples rear their children. Ms. Adelle planted seeds of pride all over her lawn and into the hearts of those around her. Her home and her roses were a symbol of self-sufficiency and accomplishment.

I feel that it’s not a coincidence that I’m now working at the L9WHA. I believe my ancestors and all the elders called me back home to assist with the rebuilding and revitalization of my community. My number one goal is to make my ancestors proud. My second goal is to honor Ms. Adelle by planting seeds of pride and love of others in the hearts of every resident of the L9.

Together with M.A., I feel blessed by our shared calling to serve the Lower 9th Ward and by the opportunity to work together to strengthen the community we love.

More than that, we are both grateful to you who, by standing up for what you believe, have brought us to this place of strength and will carry us into the future.

With joy in our hearts,

Gaynell and M.A.

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