As a former teacher, September has always marked fresh beginnings for me, and this year it is no different at the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association. The recent passing of our Founder and Executive Director, Linda Jackson, left a void in our organization that was hard to imagine being filled. Yet, as we enter this new season we are excited to build upon her legacy as we envision expanding our Resident-Driven Revitalization, Homeownership Preservation and Creation programs.
It is with great joy that M.A. Sheehan (pictured above - middle), who has been our senior staff member since 2013, has transitioned into her new position as Policy Director. In this new role, she is now able to devote her time exclusively to substantive work while continuing to work for the preservation and creation of homeownership in the Lower 9th Ward, supporting residents in their determination to carry on the legacy left to them by their parents and grandparents.
In August, we also had the privilege of hiring Gaynell Brady as our new Executive Director. Gaynell has long family roots in the L9, going back to the early 1900s, when her third great uncle, Oscar Francois, purchased his first home here. Her grandmother raised 16 kids in the Lower 9 and her parents and many aunts and uncles still live in the community. Born and raised here herself, she is now raising her own children here. She is truly from and for the community.
She has a particular passion for taking care of elderly homeowners and is committed to efforts to clean up and beautify our neighborhood and to bring all members of the community together in fighting for their own rights.
For a little background, Gaynell spent the past 15 years managing museum education programs at the Louisiana State Museum, River Road African American Museum, and the National World War II Museum. She also worked as a park ranger at the National Park Service, where she managed volunteers at six park sites across southern Louisiana. While working a full-time job, she has also established a small business in New Orleans that is dedicated to honoring her ancestors' contributions to Louisiana's culture and history. She holds a Masters of Museum Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Southern University at New Orleans and she's currently a doctoral candidate at Capella University.
We are thrilled that Gaynell has joined the L9WHA team, and are inspired by her passion and drive to serve and lead in the L9.
And in June, Tonya Boyd-Cannon was also elected from the L9WHA board to be the new President. She is a mother, wife, educator, musician, and philanthropist. She not only serves as our Board President, but is the Executive Director for the Rise My Child Foundation.
Tonya is Mississippi born; Louisiana raised, L9 resident. She is a 'witty and dope soul artist" having gotten her professional start as a background vocalist for Jean Knight, best known for her 1970's hit single, "Mr. Big Stuff". Tonya took her career to the next level by competing in talent competitions. Her hard work paid off; making her a "Top 20" finalist on NBC's Emmy-Award winning show, "The Voice; where she was on Adam Levine's team.
Tonya incessantly states, "I love performing and connecting with people! I hope my fans enjoy my music and the journey we are embarking on together."
She brings this same passion and drive to the work she is doing here the L9. Tonya is focused on changing the narrative about this historic, family-rich community. We are grateful for her, and her leadership as we enter this new season.
Thanks again for your continued partnership!
It is because of you, and your partnership with us that we are able to enter into this new phase of our work here at the L9WHA. To partner with MA, Gaynell and Tonya as they work to revitalize our historic community, donate today at: www.L9WHA.org.