Celebrating those who plant the seeds of possibility

February 01, 2019 | GET MORE : Community

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U.S. Bank is honoring community leaders who are changing the lives of the people they serve.

“When you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher your whole life,” said Jackie Taylor (pictuured above on right), founder and CEO of Black Ensemble Theater, the premier African American theater group in Chicago. Through the nonprofit’s educational outreach programs, she and her teams are on a mission to eradicate racism.

Taylor is one of four African American leaders across the nation who U.S. Bank is celebrating this Black History Month. Through economic empowerment, education, affordable housing, and the arts, these women harness their organizations’ resources and talent to, in no small way, change the lives of the people they serve. 

Helping West Angeles residents achieve their possible

“I believe in giving back to the community where you live and where you work,” said Dr. Belinda Allen (pictured above on left), executive director of the West Angeles Community Development Corporation. West Angeles CDC’s mission to increase social and economic justice, demonstrate compassion and alleviate poverty reaches more than 20,000 clients each year. 

“From youth financial education, wealth building and leadership programs, to employment, small business assistance, homeownership and senior housing,” said Bonnie Tseng, vice president and community development manager at U.S. Bank, “West Angeles Community Development Corporation is committed to revitalizing the community so people of all ages can thrive.” 

West Angeles CDC’s multimillion dollar, transit-oriented affordable housing development, was also recently financed by U.S. Bank. “U.S. Bank has been a partner with us for over a decade,” said Dr. Allen. “The partnership allows us to offer our services more efficiently and effectively, and on a broader scale.” 

Empowering communities, changing lives in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Urban League, supported by U.S. Bank since 1994, works for economic, educational and social progress for African Americans and promotes strong, sustainable communities through advocacy, collaboration and innovation. 

“U.S. Bank has always been a strong partner,” said Dr. Eve Hall (pictured above second from left), President and CEO of the Milwaukee Urban League, “especially in the areas of economic empowerment through workforce development and financial literacy. U.S. Bank believes in who we are and they support our mission of empowering communities and changing lives.”

Dr. Hall began her involvement with the Urban League teaching after-school programs in Tampa, Florida. In taking the helm of the Milwaukee Urban League, Dr. Hall continues her work as a change agent, helping communities of color secure their future through a myriad of local programs and services. 

Inspiring women to live their best possible lives 

Linda Harris (pictured above second from right), senior vice president of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, manages the Save Our Sisters program. The program is designed to assist women in their effort to reach, expand, increase, build and explore the essence of their being, which is accomplished holistically through health, wellness, life skills education, finance and career/entrepreneurship inspiration. 

Through the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc., Linda and her team change the lives of more than 100,000 residents annually with 45 social service programs in the areas of economic opportunity, community empowerment, educational excellence, civil rights and advocacy. U.S. Bank has been a proud partner in this work since 2001. “When we come together to plant the seeds of possibility,” said Neal Richardson, head of financial education for U.S. Bank in St. Louis, “our communities reap the benefits to make real change happen for residents.”

Using the power of the arts to eradicate racism in Chicago

Jackie Taylor founded the Black Ensemble Theater with a mission to eradicate racism and its damaging effects on society through theater arts, including programs that perpetuate African American history, reach a cross-cultural audience and serve disenfranchised communities.

“Our young people have to learn that they are worthy,” said Taylor, “In order to be effective you have to create positive change, you have to impact, you have to motivate – and that’s what we’re doing in the schools through our educational outreach programs. We’re transforming the environment through the arts.” 

Taylor’s programs instill positivity, productivity and positive conflict resolution skills, helping young people get out of the “circle of self-destruction” perpetuated by racism. 

“I hope my legacy lies in the fact that I built a company with the mission to eradicate racism, accomplishing our mission through education, through the performing arts, through theater, through music, through utilizing the total cultural environment,” said Taylor. “And that many, many years from now the company that I built is still surviving, is still going, way past my lifetime. And that's maybe when my great-great-great-grandson or -granddaughter will look around and say, well, now there's no need for this company. We don't have racism. We don't even understand what it's about – it doesn't exist.”

Written by Arielle Goldberg of U.S. Bank. U.S. Bank proudly celebrates Black History Month, and those who are planting the seeds of possibility, alongside the community. Learn more at usbank.com/blackhistorymonth.