Leaders of Color: Alumni Profile

March 22, 2021

The Leaders of Color program launched in 2018 to elevate the tremendous talent of community-based leaders of color. Since then, 81 leaders have emerged from the program ready to bring change to their communities. These are their stories.

Tuere Burns brings energy, experience, and knowledge to serve as a powerful voice for justice, equity and equality for people of Afrikan descent. In this interview, Tuere shares how the Leaders of Color program helped her in her work.

Q: When did you join Leaders of Color?

A: I joined Leaders of Color in 2019 in New Orleans.

Q: Why did you apply to be part of the Leaders of Color program? What inspires you to get involved in civic leadership?

A: If I remember correctly, I was referred by a colleague to the program and I inquired about what it was. The response intrigued me, coupled with the fact that someone who knew me thought that this would be a great opportunity for me to meet people who are interested in civic engagement on different levels.

Q: Did the program help you in your career or with leadership opportunities? How are you thinking about your future based on what you experience with Leaders of Color?

A: In the past, I did not have a strong interest in electoral politics other than the fact that our Ancestors and Elders fought and some died for our right to vote. As I got older and had kids, my interest deepened (my son has been excited about electoral politics since he could talk).

Leaders of Color has taught me how to be in involved and be strategic about [civic leadership] without just doing more of the same.

Out the gate I was asked to serve as a Campaign Manager for someone running for school board! We did well; she entered into a run-off. While working on her campaign, I organized a voting rally, voter education campaign, and vote-to-bike campaign in partnership with a few local organizations that was held at Ashé Cultural Arts Center, where I served as the Creative Programs Director at the time.

My organization, BAR NONE by DeSign, also registered 25 people who are formerly incarcerated to vote during the last election cycle in addition to going door-to-door in the Gert Town community to ensure residents were registered, aware, and educated on those running for office in their district.

Now, I am working with a candidate for city council and I am part of the New Orleans Color Of Change squad working to bring awareness to voting in this special election.

Q: What sticks out for you about your Leaders of Color experience?

A: The people. Amber’s (Amber Davis-Prince, Leaders of Color Program Director, New Orleans) organization was impeccable. She showed up, got started and ended us timely every single week. I truly appreciated her professionalism and availability, even outside of Leaders of Color. Nothing but respect and admiration for this sister.

Tyrone Walker (Leaders of Color, Training Director, New Orleans) — what do you say about a brother who carries himself with such integrity and feet planted on the ground while doing it? The humility, transparency, understanding, honesty, directness — he just put it all out there and received everything that we threw back with grace. He was always there, even outside of Leaders of Color and that you have to respect. I hold him in such high regard. But I don’t expect anything less, he is from the 9th ward like me!

Q: What advice do you have for people who are thinking about becoming leaders of their own communities?

A: Do it! You should. It is imperative that people serve their community in the neighborhoods they’re from. Put your ear to the ground. Survey the people about their needs and not your own personal agenda. Service is about those being served. We work on behalf of the people and it is their voices we are echoing and championing. We cannot do this without them, nor should we. I was raised in the movement/struggle. So as a child is was second nature. As an adult, I had to learn how to lead from that lens. Political education is essential. I strongly suggest it. But get involved!

Q: Please share your favorite inspiring quote!

A: “If prison was the answer to crime, there wouldn’t be so many of them.” Michael Africa — MOVE Organization

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