How Jessica Brown-Mason put her neighborhood on the map

Jessica Brown-Mason

Coming home to Lafayette after 40 years, Jessica Brown-Mason saw change happening in Lafayette’s historically Black neighborhoods through their coteries. She started the Resilience Rise Community Collaborative to bring that change to her neighborhood.

Lafayette has five neighborhood associations designated as “coteries”: Freetown-Port Rico, La Place, McComb-Veazey, Oasis and Quiet Town.

Planners at Lafayette Consolidated Government developed coteries as a response to the  I-49 Connector project. The Connector, as proposed, would result in major changes along the Evangeline Thruway, primarily impacting Lafayette’s historically Black neighborhoods. Coteries help those neighborhoods prepare and adapt to that change in infrastructure.

A formal “coterie” designation generally is accompanied by a neighborhood plan through Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) and a small operating budget. 

Washington Heights, where Brown-Mason lives, falls into a gap between the neighborhoods represented by the La Place and Oasis Community coteries. Brown-Mason took note of this and connected with LCG to discuss how to create a coterie.

There she ran into a roadblock: LCG’s capacity. After shifts in staffing in the neighborhood planning department, the city simply doesn’t have the manpower to add another official coterie to the roster. But there was another opportunity to get funding and support: applying for a Community Initiated Project grant.

Brown-Mason got the grant funding and hit the ground running. She gathered neighbors to act as representatives from the surrounding areas who also fell in the same gap between La Place and Oasis. Now only about two months old, Resilience Rise Community Collaborative has already organized its first successful community event, a Love the Boot cleanup event, attracting 20 volunteers.

Find more Hub Citizens

Paul Breaux alum Drake LeBlanc

Lafayette filmmaker and multimedia artist Drake LeBlanc is a product and advocate of Louisiana French education. The French multi-media organization he co-founded, Télé-Louisiane, is facing drastic cuts in state funding.

“We had neighbors, we had volunteers, we had the city cutting grass, neighbors mowing grass for other people, and it was really an introduction to the Resilience Rise Community Collaborative,” she says.  

Brown-Mason plans to continue organizing neighbors and collecting their input. She’s currently working on a survey to get more insight. 

While those within a coterie’s boundaries are encouraged to work with the existing coterie, anyone can organize their neighborhood by pitching an official neighborhood plan

If you happen to be a neighbor in the Resilience Rise Community Collaborative, Brown-Mason invites you to be a part of the process: 

“Come out, get involved. We hear you and we’re looking for solutions. The problems are out there,” she says. “They’re just really loud, so we want to make sure that you have an input in how we address your community needs.”

For more information, contact the Resilience Rise Community Collaborative at [email protected]