Celebrating Black Leaders in Community Development

In celebration of Black History Month, we wanted to highlight two influential Black leaders who have played an important role in Avenue’s history and inspire the work we continue to do in the housing and community development space.

Dorothy Richardson is a name that is familiar to a lot of community development professionals across this country. In Pittsburgh in the 1960’s, Richardson and her neighbors banded together to save their declining Pittsburgh neighborhood from demolition. They recruited partners in local government and the business community. Together, they not only helped revitalize their community, but also set a precedent that changed the nation's approach to urban redevelopment and spawned the new field of community-based development. It was this national model that eventually became NeighborWorks America, of which Avenue is a network member. She is still celebrated each year with a NeighborWorks award in her name that honors outstanding community leaders. You can learn more about Ms. Richardson here.

Cleola Williams has a long history of community advocacy in Houston. Williams grew up in First Ward, where she still resides in the home that her great-grandmother once lived in. Over the years, she has served as president of the First Ward Civic Association and board president of Avenue, devoting decades to preserving the history and culture of the neighborhood. Williams received the Dorothy Richardson award for her resident leadership from NeighborWorks in 2004 and also led efforts for the renaming of Brock Park in Houston, previously named Randall P. Jones Park, in 2007. Just last year, an artist was inspired to create a mural in her honor (pictured above) in First Ward. You can read more about Cleola Williams in this piece from the Houston Chronicle.

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