The Russell neighborhood is full of inspiring, compassionate and diligent residents. Below are the residents we have spotlighted so far. Contact us here if you would like to suggest the next resident for us to interview.
Russell Mother Works Towards Change in Her Community
Ebonique Burns, a mother of three and a long-time resident of the Russell and Shawnee neighborhoods, is always looking for ways to be involved in the community and to improve the Russell neighborhood. So it comes as no surprise that when there was an opportunity to participate in the Russell Neighborhood Institute, she jumped at the chance.
“I loved learning more about the resources that exist within the city and neighborhood that can help to bring about the type of changes we want to make this a better place for all of us,” said Burns who completed the program in January. “Change won’t happen if we just turn the other way. We all have to be actively involved and committed to working together.”
The Russell Neighborhood Institute, a seven- week program designed to connect neighborhood leaders with other members of the community was offered by the Centers for Neighborhoods last fall. The institute also connected participants with resources and partners who could assist in moving participants’ ideas into action. Class members met once a week and work on a number of short and long-term projects to help improve their community.
Burns says that she was motivated to participate in the training after she returned to Louisville and saw the decline that was taking place throughout the area. Because she comes from a close-knit family and many of her relatives live within walking distance, she decided to become involved in activities that are improving Russell and helping children succeed, rather than moving to another neighborhood.
From serving on the Site Based Decision Making Council and Parent Teacher Association at Roosevelt Perry Elementary, to volunteering for the Louisville Urban League’s Chess program, Burns says her passion is working on initiatives that are focused on the performing arts and that help youth within the neighborhood. “There really are a lot of programs that are available to children in this community and can make a difference and have a positive impact. Getting more kids involved and connected to these activities is the challenge.”
Burns hopes that she’ll learn new ways to tackle these challenges through another program she is now participating in at the Center for Neighborhoods. Called the Neighborhood Institute, this 13-week leadership program is allowing Burns and other participants to deepen their understanding of the needs within the area and develop projects that are providing needed resources to Russell residents.
“The projects we are working on range from improving the health and wellness of neighborhood residents to developing visual and performing arts programs for youth,” said Burns. “It’s these types of changes that will help more people connect and become vested in what happens within our neighborhood.”
“Change won’t happen if we just turn the other way. We all have to be actively involved and committed to working together.”-Ebonique Burns
Meet Nannie Bibbs – the mother of four children and two grandchildren, and a resident of the Russell neighborhood for 50 years. She grew up in Louisville attending Booker T. Washington Elementary, Jackson Junior High and Russell’s own Central High School. After earning an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Jefferson Community College, she took a position in Russell as a teaching assistant at Byck Elementary School.
Nannie enjoys serving her community in a variety of ways. She is an Associate Minister of the Baptized Pentecostal Church, and recently became a board member of the Kentucky Alliance for Racism and Repression and One Voice Prayer Movement – a group that prays for our community, city, nation and world leaders.
It would bring Nannie great joy to see her neighbors come together and form committees to serve the Russell community. Improving safety and security is part of her vision
for the neighborhood, and she sees zoning changes on the horizon. “We need city planners to listen,” says Nannie of the wonderful ideas coming from friends and neighbors during Russell’s planning process “We can’t just leave change up to our political officials, as residents we have to do our part.”
Nannie loves living in Russell, as well as her home and the accessibility of having everything she needs within her community. “My church, Kroger, the park, post office, Laundromat, bank, the Nia Center, the Plaza that contains City Trends, Family Dollar, and the Lyles Mall are all are located close by – everything is in walking distance if a person doesn’t have transportation.”
“We can’t just leave change up to our political officials, as residents we have to do our part.”-Nannie Bibbs
Russell Restaurant Owner Takes Social Change into Her Own Hands
In the very heart of Russell, at the corner 18th and Muhammad Ali, is unique comfort foods restaurant where family and friends come together to share special moments, talk politics or just enjoy each other’s company while eating a down home meal or a mouth-watering dessert. Sweet Peaches is a deli-type restaurant owned by Pamela Haines and has become known throughout Louisville for one-of-a-kind hearty sandwiches, decadent cakes and refreshing iced teas (she even has vegan options).
One day, Haines, or “Peaches” as she is sometimes called by her customers, was curious about several young men who came to her restaurant on a regular basis. She asked them if they had children and all replied they did but don’t get to see them much because of “drama” with their children’s mothers.
Knowing how important it is for fathers to have an active presence in their daughters’ lives, and how that relationship affects how their daughters perceive and interact with men, Haines told the young men she was going to throw a Father/Daughter Valentine’s Day Dance.
So on Valentine’s Day, fathers escorted their daughters to the dance that Haines had arranged across the street from her restaurant at the Kentucky African American Heritage Center. “Everyone was dressed up and looking good – I’ve never been in a room with so many beautiful and happy princesses, ” beamed Haines, who could see the happiness on the faces of the 120 fathers and daughters on that snowy Valentine’s Day as they danced and celebrated their love.
Thank you Peaches for going the extra mile for the families in the community. We appreciate you.
“I’ve never been in a room with so many beautiful and happy princesses”- Pamela Haines
Diligent and Dedicated Beecher Terrace Teen Transforms Life with Boxing and Gardening
There are few people who possess the maturity needed to go from the gentle and patience required to grow a garden to the hard hitting and athletic prowess needed to pursue a professional boxing career. But for Troy McLemore, an 18-year-old senior at Liberty High School who has lived in Beecher Terrace for the past nine years, the transition between the two worlds comes naturally. In fact, going between the two worlds allows him to enjoy his two favorite past times that have helped to change his life.
“I’ve always been interested in growing my own food and learning more about gardening,” said McLemore who has interned with the Food Literacy Project at Oxmoor Farms for the past several summers. “I’ve learned a lot and it has helped me to make healthier food choices.”
McLemore’s improved health has led him to take up boxing at one of the area’s premier boxing gyms—Louisville TKO Boxing/Top Notch Boxing. The non-profit sports facility has two noble missions: to help kids train and compete nationally against some of the country’s top boxers and to keep them off the streets by providing structure and academic support that will allow them to succeed in the classroom. Boxing, coupled with a greater focus on fresh, whole food options, has produced significant changes in Lemore’s life.
“When I first started at TKO, I weighed 270 lbs. Since that time, I’ve lost about 85 lbs. and I am more focused on what I want to do after I graduate,” said McLemore “Boxing keeps me grounded.” The high school senior is considering going to technical school to become an auto technician after graduation.
McLemore’s transformation began several years ago when he joined Right Turn—an organization that is focused on getting young men who have been involved with the criminal justice system for minor offenses on a different path. Administered through Kentuckiana Works, the program pairs participants with a mentor, provides classes and training and helps them to develop a plan for moving forward. McLemore credits his mentor, Kentuckiana Works executive director Michael Gritton, with much of the progress he has made.
“Mr. Gritton has become family for me and I feel like I’m a part of his family,” said McLemore. “He has exposed me to new opportunities and helped me to develop a plan for my life and to be a better role model for my sisters and family “
As McLemore prepares to graduate from high school and take the next steps towards his goals, he says that he has been following many of the changes that are being proposed to the Beecher Terrace community and the Russell Neighborhood. He believes that the focus on changing the area is long overdue and hopes that it will help to improve the community.
“When I was growing up, I remember wondering why change and improvements weren’t being made in my neighborhood,” he said. “But lately it does seem like things are getting better. Hopefully, one day, this neighborhood can become a safe place that people want to move to and are proud to call home.”
“…this neighborhood can become a safe place that people want to move to and are proud to call home.”- Troy McLemore
Beecher Resident Believes There is Much to Be Proud of in Her Home at Beecher Terrace
Mechele Turner loves living in Beecher Terrace. She realizes this might sound strange to many in the community whose opinion of this 76-year old housing complex is shaped solely by media reports. But for Turner, there’s no better place to call home.
Yet, despite her love for this historic area, she readily admits there are many things that “must change” to help transform this development into the neighborhood residents want and deserve. That is why she has taken great interest in the Russell Choice Neighborhood Initiative and hopes that action on some of the key issues the group is tackling can move forward quickly.
“The violence that’s in this area and the conditions of some of the existing apartments are things that need to be addressed immediately,” said Turner. “Those items need to be worked on now.”
Turner, who has lived in Beecher Terrace for almost 15 years, says she is pleased to see the Louisville Metro Housing Authority and members of the task forces working to receive feedback from the Beecher Terrace and Russell communities, and hopes the groups will continue to work to keep residents engaged in the planning process. This includes door to door canvassing, having more community events and meetings and providing written communication that helps answer questions and dispel many of the “untruths” that are beginning to circulate.
“Anytime you are proposing change, there’s certain amounts of fear people have,” said Turner. “A lot of people in this community don’t have access to email or the internet to get information and they are afraid of being pushed out of their home and moved to an area that is unfamiliar. Helping people understand what is being planned is the responsibility of the task forces.”
As work continues on developing a transformation plan, Turner hopes the many good qualities that currently exist within Beecher Terrace and Russell won’t be over-looked. Whether it is the beautiful trees or the way residents rally to help a neighbor or child in need, Turner believes there is much to be proud of in her home.
“Beecher Terrace is about families working together and supporting each other. I hope that whatever the group comes up with will enhance what is working and fix what is broken,” she added. “I love Beecher Terrace and this is where I want to live. I just want the violence and other things that make this an unsafe place to stop.”
“Beecher Terrace is about families working together and supporting each other.”- Mechele Turner
Russell Community Leader Nationally Recognized
If you made a list of individuals who have served as a champion for Louisville’s African American community, you would have to include the name Manfred Reid Sr. A longtime resident of Beecher Terrace and board member for the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, Reid has spent several decades working to revitalize and bring increased economic opportunities to west Louisville and its residents and to be a voice for those whose needs and ideas are often overlooked. Now, as LMHA, Metro Louisville and various community partners prepare to implement the transformation plan that recently helped Louisville land a $29.5 million Choice Neighborhood Initiative grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Reid hopes the changes will go beyond the physical improvements the funding will help to bring about.
“True transformation of a community comes from activating the moral authority and improving the character of people so that they are willing and able to serve as a positive role model” said Reid. “This includes making sure that we value and insist on a quality education for our children that goes beyond books and helps to instill a strong work ethic and a sense of self- respect. This is what true change is all about and this is what is needed to bring about the turnaround we all want in Russell.”
Born in Hazard Kentucky, Reid relocated with his family to Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood in 1944. Reid says that during these early years many of the values that have shaped his life and his commitment to working to bring about economic equality and social justice for African Americans was instilled by his mother.
“My mother taught me to be self- reliant and unafraid to stand up and fight for what I believe in. I also learned how to distance myself from other kids and groups that were headed in a different direction than I was or not committed to doing what’s right,” Reid continued. “She made sure that I was a leader and not a follower who would quit when things got a bit tough.”
These qualities helped him survive when he became an orphan at the age of 10 after both parents passed away. To support himself and his siblings, Reid began working at a local laundry and other places that would hire him to perform odd jobs. Throughout his school-aged years and despite the challenges that come from assuming the role of head of the household as a child, he remained committed to education and went on to graduate from Central High School and attend Kentucky State University.
“I never stopped learning and I was an avid reader,” Reid recalls. “I made sure that I had the knowledge I needed to move my life in the direction I wanted to go.”
Reid also drew on these qualities during other periods in his life including when he and several friends were roughed up and mistreated by a police officer. When it was announced that the police officer would not face any disciplinary action, violence erupted throughout several neighborhoods. While Reid and his friends did not participate in the protest, they were charged with criminal conspiracy. The group was later acquitted and became known as the “Black 6” but not before Reid lost many things that he cared about including his home and marriage, a successful career as a real estate broker and a relationship with his children.
“I know firsthand was it is like to hit rock bottom and lose everything you’ve worked for and value,” said Reid. “But I also know what it is to get back up and keep pushing forward even when you don’t feel like you can.”
Despite these experiences, Reid says he remained committed to serving and improving the community and helping others be successful. This commitment is reflected in much of the civic work he continues to do today—73 years after he first arrived to Louisville. Whether it is the Meals on Wheels program that he volunteers with twice a week or the leadership role he has and continues to play in helping to engage Russell residents in the Choice Neighborhood Initiative or Vision Russell work, the measure of Reid’s success has and will continue to be what he has done for others.
“For me, success has never been about the wealth I’ve accumulated or the positions I’ve held. I measure my success by the changes I’m able to help bring about for residents and other African Americans, “said Reid with a smile. “At the end of the day, I want my success to have a long-lasting impact that will uplift and bring about changes that will last for generations to come.”
“Louisville thrives based on the selfless contributions of many compassionate citizens — citizens like Manfred Reid. Manfred is a Louisville icon…” –Mayor Greg Fischer
Beecher Terrace Resident Encourages Students to be Successful
Beecher Terrace resident Laisha Allen understands that for things to grow, they must be fed – sometimes literally but also figuratively. Whether it’s preparing a meal for once strangers to foster her passion for cooking and dream of becoming a caterer, or helping her kids reach their academic goals in schools by engaging in extracurricular programs, Allen understands how impactful her support, encouragement and a home cooked meal can be to others.
“Unfortunately, I live in a community where there is a lot of poverty and a lack of role models and opportunities for families who want to help their children improve academically,” said Allen who has three step-children and four children between the ages of 4-11. “Poverty breeds crime and in order to improve a community, education has to be at the forefront.”
That is why Allen was thrilled to discover “The Beech” – a tutoring program located in two former Beecher Terrace apartments. It wasn’t long after her middle school daughter began the program that Allen began volunteering at The Beech. Now her other children, including her 4-year old, are participating as well.
“The facilitators do an excellent job of establishing relationships with the parents and students and focusing on those academic areas that are key to succeeding in school,” said Allen. “My kids are at the point that they are eager to learn and can’t get enough of the homework and extra assignments they provide. It has made a huge difference and has accelerated their learning.”
As Allen considers the changes planned during the revitalization of Beecher Terrace, she hopes that educational programs and other family-oriented activities will become more prevalent at the Baxter Community Center. “Right now, it’s not safe for kids to play outside and there isn’t a lot of activities in this neighborhood that families can enjoy or afford,” said Allen who keeps her kids busy in a variety of extracurricular activities including cheerleading, gymnastics, softball and t-ball.
And while she’s eager to see more amenities brought to the Russell community, she believes that addressing crime is a necessary first step. “People need to feel like it’s safe for their kids to go outside and play. Right now, I don’t let my kids play outside because I’m fearful of what could happen.” Despite these concerns, Allen says she is cautiously optimistic. “I’m excited about the changes being discussed and the opportunities it may bring. But when it is done, I hope that the Russell neighborhood will still have that community feel and is a place that we still want to be.”
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about programs offered at The Beech, please contact Rose Livingston at (502) 314-4173
“I’m excited about the changes being discussed and the opportunities it may bring. But when it is done, I hope that the Russell neighborhood will still have that community feel and is a place that we still want to be.”-Laisha Allen