On Nov. 14, 1960, three young girls — Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost — walked through the doors at McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward under the protection of U.S. Marshals. It was one of two schools integrated that day (the other, across town, was integrated by Ruby Bridges). Sixty years later — after white flight, neighborhood disinvestment, sitting vacant 15 years and Hurricane Katrina flooding — Leona Tate has breathed new life into this 1929 historic building, continuing her legacy of reconciliation and healing.
Sponsored by the Leona Tate Foundation for Change (LTFC) and Alembic Community Development, the 37,049 sq. ft. Tate, Etienne, Provost (TEP) Center includes an education center dedicated to telling the story of civil rights and desegregation in New Orleans (operated by the LTFC) and space for anti-racism training and education (operated by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB)). The upper floors have been transformed into 25 units of affordable senior housing.
This substantial rehabilitation project would not have been possible without NMTC allocations totaling $11.7 million from USBCDE, LLC, Enhanced Community Development, LLC, and Central States Development Partners, Inc., and the location would likely have become a prime target for gentrification.
The Lower 9th Ward benefits greatly from the TEP Center, which serves as a hub and meeting place for community activities and organizations, and a center for empowering programs focused on reducing inequality.
Completed in fall 2020, the project created 20 construction jobs and 22-full-time jobs paying a living wage. Of the jobs created, 90 percent offer benefits including paid vacation and growth opportunities. Both the LTFC and PISAB prioritize hiring people of color and low-income persons and provide training to ensure employment is accessible to diverse populations and backgrounds. Jobs available range from trainers, exhibit curators, archivists and docents to janitorial staff, administrative and accounting positions.