by Tribune Staff

Tate believes the impact of the project throughout the Lower 9th Ward and the larger New Orleans community will be substantial, with the redevelopment of the historic building serving as an economic driver for the Lower 9th Ward and attracting additional investment in the St. Claude Avenue corridor. 

On Nov. 14, 1960, the McDonogh 3, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne, and Tessie Prevost, desegregated McDonogh No.19 Elementary School. On the same day, Ruby Bridges desegregated William Frantz Elementary. 

“We do something every year to mark this historic event,” says Leona Tate.

To mark the 59th anniversary of school desegregation in New Orleans, the Leona Tate Foundation for Change will celebrate with a fundraising event from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday Nov. 22 at the Global Green Building, 5400 Douglas St.

In addition to honoring the past, the Nov. 15 event is focused on building a better future. Proceeds raised from the evening will help support the Tate, Etienne, and Prevost (TEP) Interpretive Center—a project that centers around transforming McDonogh 19 Elementary School, a nearly 40,000 square foot building, into a museum and educational space operated by the Leona Tate Foundation for Change Inc., that will be dedicated to teaching New Orleans’ Civil Rights history.

McDonogh 19 closed in 2004 and was damaged by Hurricane Katrina a year later. In 2016, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places, but has remained vacant and in disrepair since then.

But Tate envisions more than a plaque marking an aging, neglected building when she looks at the school where she, Etienne and Prevost made history. She sees an opportunity to share that history.

The Foundation has partnered with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond to operate its programs at the facility, creating a place to learn from one another and teach the community the dynamics of racism and humanistic organizing through classes that range from early childhood to higher education at the TEP Center.

And through a partnership with Alembic Community Development, the TEP Center will also house 25 affordable apartments for senior citizens.

Tate believes the impact of the project throughout the Lower 9th Ward and the larger New Orleans community will be substantial, with the redevelopment of the historic building serving as an economic driver for the Lower 9th Ward and attracting additional investment in the St. Claude Avenue corridor. The TEP Interpretive Center is expected host more 20,000 K-12 student visitors and 15,000 general audience visitors annually, as well as serve 150 participants through after-school and adult programming. And it is projected to create six salaried positions and at least 10 hourly job opportunities.

“We plan on breaking ground around the first of the year,” says Tate. “And we hope to be open in March 2021. With 80 percent of the funding secured, we are hoping to get the additional revenue through fundraising and from philanthropic organizations. 

The Leona Tate Foundation for Change has undertaken the $15 million redevelopment of the historic site, utilizing a variety of federal and state tax credits as well as a range of public and private funding sources. The project has also been awarded a $500,000 grant for the National park Service’s African-American Civil Rights Program. A $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant from the city of New Orleans and a $2 million Housing Trust Fund Award from the Louisiana Housing Corporation have also been secured.

An impact investor has also pledged $600,000 for the project, according to organizers. Additionally the Regional Planning Commissions’ Brownfiield Remediation Program is supporting the project by providing funding for environmental assessments and remediation.

Despite the support and secured funding, the project is still at least $3 million short of the $15 million needed.

That’s why events like the Nov. 22 fundrasier are important, says Tate. The evening will feature a buffet, an open bar, vendors and entertainment.

Individual tickets and tables (seating for 8) are available. 

The Leona Tate Foundation for Change will continue fundraising efforts in the new year to kickoff the 60th anniversary of school desegregation in New Orleans and to raise capital funds for the TEP Interpretive Center with an art auction. And the Foundation is looking for local artists to donate works that represent McDonogh 19, school desegregation or the Lower 9th Ward.

For more information, to sponsor or purchase tickets, contact Leona Tate at ltate@ltfcinc.org or Tremaine Riley at tkriley@ltfcinc.org. Tickets are also available on eventbrite.com. 

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