At the Family Independence Initiative (FII), we are revealing the work families and communities are already doing to improve their lives and neighborhoods. Last month, FII staff, Fellows, supporters, and partners from across the country convened in New Orleans, LA. This event marked the first time FII has brought together our diverse constituents to get to know each other and build new relationships.
Participants got a glimpse of the vibrant community of families FII is partnering with in New Orleans. They are running businesses, creating art and music, improving access to healthy food, sharing knowledge and wisdom, and working collectively to strengthen their community socially and economically.
New Orleans-based FII Fellows Baakir Tyehimba and Shaka Zulu provided a historical and cultural tour of their communities, including the history of the Black Mardi Gras Indian tradition and Congo Square. We also had a chance to visit their respective businesses, BlackStar Books & Caffe and the Golden Feather Mardi Gras Indian Restaurant Gallery. In addition, we heard from two other Fellows: Dominique Adansi-Bona, who owns vegan catering business True and Living, and Brother T, who runs Bissap Breeze, a beverage enterprise. Among other new relationships that were formed, FII-Boston Fellows offered to connect Brother T to local markets that could carry his product.
This is what some of the attendees had to say about the convening:
“It was an honor to have All of You here in New Orleans. … Thank You for your Eagle Vision!!! Most importantly we were grateful for the opportunity to spend time with so many families from other FII Demonstration Projects. All of this has encouraged us to continue forging ahead, focusing our energy on creatively devising strategies to strengthen the families in our communities.”
– Shaka Zulu, FII-New Orleans Fellow
“A few times in my life, I’ve been lucky enough to feel like I was on the ground floor of something very special — something that had the potential to change the way people think, or act, or engage, in an effort with the aim to improve our world in some way. But not until NOLA did I feel that I was on the ground floor of something that could change the dynamic of this country in such a powerful way.”
– Carrie Fox, C. Fox Communications
“FII NOLA 2014 was a life changing event. I always prided myself on being a good mom, but I was awakened by the importance of knowing where you come from in order to know where you are going. Instilling a sense of pride to help move families forward has sparked Sheila Knight and I to establish a genome project for FII families. We are hoping to get those families with little knowledge of their cultural background, free, or significantly reduced, genetic assessments to identify their ancestry. Sheila and I are super excited about the project!”
– LaShaunda Gayden, FII-Boston Fellow
For more pictures, please visit our Facebook photo album (you do not need an account to access it).