As I step into the role of Chief Executive Officer at Purpose Built Communities, I want to thank the Purpose Built Communities board of directors for their trust and confidence in my leadership. Having worked at this organization since its founding in 2009, I am humbled by the opportunity and grateful to be part of this incredible team.
When I first arrived at East Lake Meadows, I was an attorney with the Atlanta Housing Authority. That was more than 25 years ago and I could not have predicted the journey that was to follow. What inspired me then is still what inspires me today – the courage of leaders to boldly break out of their comfort zones, be proximate, and do the hard, necessary work to improve neighborhoods so that they are worthy of the people who live in them.
One of the main lessons I have learned over time is that racial equity and excellence are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other. Recognizing my privilege as a white woman who benefits from a racially inequitable system, I have made and continue to make it my life’s mission to make sure that Black and Brown communities have equal and equitable access to the American Dream. The mal-intended, racist policies and private actions that created the cities and neighborhoods we have today must be unpacked and addressed if we are to make real progress. To achieve our aspirations of dramatically improved economic mobility, racial equity, and health outcomes, we must be unafraid and unapologetic in acknowledging how we got here. We must bring our very best selves to this work every day in our pursuit of excellence and equity so that everyone can live in a healthy, safe neighborhood that supports each person in developing their talents and gifts.
In 2020, as we have confronted a global pandemic and witnessed a reinvigorated fight for racial justice, I see hope and resilience ascendant. I see neighborhoods across the Purpose Built network creating the kinds of collaborations necessary for transformative change. These collaborations exist among people across sectors, races, ages, and socio-economic statuses. Together, they are advancing economic mobility, racial equity, and improving health outcomes for residents. They do this by earning each other’s trust and working towards a common goal for a neighborhood.
This collaborative work is what makes the American Dream an actual possibility for everyone, not just the few who defy the odds. It is an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with the inspiring and brave leaders across the country who are doing this work every day with their communities.
Our growth as a network – from a demonstration project in the East Lake community in Atlanta to 28 members in 24 cities – validates the holistic approach we are taking to neighborhood revitalization. With that growth comes more collaboration, excellent leadership across the Network, greater insights and innovations, and most importantly, greater opportunities for all children and families to live safely, in good health, and with the opportunity to experience the freedom and joy inherent in the promise of the American Dream.
We are committed to a continued focus on racial equity and excellence, lifting up solutions that work from within and outside our network, and to further this movement to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. We take our work very seriously, balancing patience for outcomes to emerge with a sense of urgency for every neighborhood and person with whom we engage. Within that tension is where we will continue to work every day to better align the ideals of our nation with possibilities that are accessible to all.
Thank you to the Purpose Built Communities staff, network members, partners, friends, and allies for your tireless commitment to creating neighborhoods that will help all people thrive. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the years ahead.
Carol R. Naughton
Purpose Built Communities