Rev. Dr. Torin Sanders, a local pastor, licensed social worker and former member of the Orleans Parish School Board, is expected to be named AALP’s new project manager

Organizers of a community group founded two decades ago are coming together Aug. 25 – 26 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the African American Leadership Project (AALP) and honor community leaders, while also discussing its path toward revitalizing the group.

A reception takes place tonight (Aug. 25) at the New Orleans African American Museum, honoring four locals, including Dr. Calvin Mackie, founder of STEM NOLA; Lloyd Dennis, founder of The Silverback Society, an organization that works to improve the lives of young Black boys through mentorship and programming; and businessmen Jimmie Woods and Alvin Richards, who will be recognized as socially responsible entrepreneurs.

The AALP will also acknowledge the 45th anniversary of Ernest “Dutch” Morial’s election as the first Black Mayor of New Orleans.

Panel discussions are scheduled for the second day of the event, Saturday, Aug. 26, inside the lecture hall at the Millie Charles School of Social Work on the campus of Southern University at New Orleans.

Topics for Saturday’s discussions include:

  • Roles in Agenda Building
  • Lessons Learned for Katrina
  • State of the City and Community,
  • Building a Community Agenda
  • Developing a Consensus

Another discussion will center on the history of the organization. AALP’s co-founders Mtangulizi Sanyika and Gail Glapion recently shared some highlights of that history as well as their hope for the organization’s future. Sanyiki says AALP was originally founded to help build and implement agendas to improve conditions for Black New Orleanians across several areas — from economic, social and political empowerment to healthcare, housing, education and so on.

“The African American Leadership Project was organized in 2002 to 2003. We came together, asking ‘Where are we?” and ‘What is in our best interest?’ And that led us to believe that we needed to be engaged with conversations with the community — agenda building.,” says Sanyiki.

But before the organization could truly begin its work, the landscape in New Orleans changed. And instead of building agendas around larger, holistic community needs, AALP’s organizers found themselves in a very specific battle.

“Then Katrina happened, and we right into activism mode, advocating for the right of all citizens to return and for an equitable recovery for all. We held policy summits and created a citizens bill of rights,” Sanyika says.

While AALP remained active through 2015, Sanyika says much of its work centered on post-Katrina recovery issues along with other specific events that grew from the aftermath of the storm, such as the fight for justice in the Danzinger Bridge killings.

While the work was worthy, some of AALP’s leaders and members needed to step away from it.

“Some people were tired; energy levels were dwindling; and we recognized that. So we took a break,” Sanyika says, adding that he and other organizers view now as a good time to revitalize the African American Leadership Project with new people, energy and ideas.

“We still think there is a need for agenda building. Across the country, we have had challenges to democracy and attacks on Black people,” he says. “It’s time to identify new leaders with fresher minds. Some of us are are in our 70s and 80s. We say that the time is now to the capture the best of the old and the new and to engage everybody so that we can determine our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to our communities, and address them.”

Rev. Dr. Torin Sanders is expected to be named AALP’s new project manager as the organization works to revitalize itself.

And with that, Glapion, AALP’s chairperson emeritus, says the organization looks forward to passing the baton to younger leaders, with at least one of those individuals already picked out. Glapion says Rev. Dr. Torin Sanders, a local pastor, licensed social worker and former member of the Orleans Parish School Board, is expected to be named AALP’s new project manager, a role that had been filled by Sanyika since the organization’s founding.

“And we are open to others to join us who believe in our mission and share the same hopes and dreams of a community of likeminded individuals coming together to agree on a vision and focus on how we create and use our resources to work callaboratively to achieve it,” says Glapion.

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