• Mary-Claire Johnson

Thrive 9th Ward's Executive Director Oscar Brown Supporting His Community through Meaningful Work

Updated: Jun 24, 2019

The 9th Ward of New Orleans carries the weight of a culture that runs as deep as the Mississippi River. From the Industrial Canal to St. Bernard Parish, and from the Mississippi River to Florida Avenue, the lower 9th Ward is rich in a history that goes beyond its captivating past, a past of tragedy and of revitalization, that cannot be compared to any other neighborhood in New Orleans.

Not everyone is familiar with the 9th Wards unique and devastating past, and it is often judged by outsiders who do not try to learn its unparalleled history, but the locals of 9th Ward are a proud, resilient, and determined people ready for their community to not only be understood, but to show New Orleans the vibrant excellence and commitment to community development that is currently underway in the hearts of the people at Thrive 9th Ward.

And at Thrive NOLA, we are committed to telling their story and supporting the people of the 9th Ward on their journey to a THRIVING community.

One of the leaders in this journey is Oscar Brown, a native to the Desire neighborhood and who grew up in the Desire projects. Oscar spent his summers working as an intern at the Desire Street Ministries (DSM) summer camp when he was growing up. Later on in his life, he was called to serve at Desire Street Academy (DSA), an all African American male school, in conjunction with DSM, dedicated to providing education to the families of the Desire neighborhood.

After Hurricane Katrina, the buildings for Desire Street Ministries and Desire Street Academy had been ruined. DSA moved to Florida and then to Baton Rouge over the next couple of years because the physical conditions of the 9th Ward was uncertain. Oscar served as the school’s disciplinarian, moving with the school and the boys wherever they went. Oscar, along with DSA, returned to New Orleans in 2009 because he wanted to be a part of the revitalization of his neighborhood. “I just really felt like I needed to be a part of that effort,” he proudly says. He adds, “we were groomed as young leaders to know that it is our job to pay this forward.” This gracious attitude was instilled during his upbringing in the Desire neighborhood and it is this same mentality that Oscar, and the rest of the 9th Ward staff, continue to teach.

The work that DSM started many years ago now continues and grows as the Thrive 9th Ward Community Center, with the purpose of dedicating this newly established facility to unite, support, and empower the 9th Ward community. Now, as Oscar Brown serves as the Executive Director of the Thrive 9th Ward's programs, he says, “my dreams are about relationships, this community, and making this community a rock solid neighborhood.”

And his dreams for the community are coming true, thanks to local partners, donors, volunteers, and 9th Ward community members that are committed to developing a thriving neighborhood. “We have the opportunity to do something major. Now with the partnerships, we have the opportunity to focus more on programs,” Oscar said.

The Thrive 9th Ward Community Center is equipped with newly furnished facilities, office spaces, event rooms, and programs for people of all ages in the community, including support groups, dance classes, summer camps, bingo, and much more. The programs at our community center are forming valuable relationships, workplace skills, and leaders to help the community flourish. Like Oscar says, “we are providing the space so that people are able to thrive.”

And it wouldn’t be possible without our amazing staff, complete with long-term Desire residents who have grown alongside the community and are dedicated to improving the 9th Ward. These leaders are committed to providing a valuable experience and a comfortable atmosphere at the community center, and improving the lives of their community members.

“We always say that we want this facility to be a focal point in making the Desire neighborhood a desirable place to live. And we want everyone in the community to be apart of it.”

- Oscar Brown, Executive Director of Thrive 9th Ward

At the community center, anyone is welcome to join in on the experience and the successes that coming together as a community can bring. And at Thrive, we are a witness to these successes everyday and we invite you to be apart of this development too. Like Oscar says, “[Being apart of Thrive 9th Ward] gives you the energy to be able to push forward and dream yourself.”

The community center is a welcoming place for all community members to come together and enjoy its facilities, programs, and classes, but most importantly it is a space dedicated to engaging a positive environment filled with supportive neighbors that are devoted to making the 9th Ward a safe, unique, and excellent place to live.

The 9th Ward has been commonly stereotyped by its grueling past, but the leaders of Thrive 9th Ward are pushing for a new reputation. And with strong leaders and positive environments to engage with other forward-thinking people, there is no excuse not to come see the amazing work being done at the Thrive 9th Ward Community Center.



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