Tamecca Tillard, the recently-named managing director of the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant (CIBS), sat behind her desk in the community-based organization’s small two-person office in Restoration Plaza and thought for a few seconds of what it means to improve Bed-Stuy – a complex community with deep middleclass African-American roots, residents on fixed incomes, pockets of poverty and facing an influx of so-called gentrifiers. .
“The acronym predates me. It’s not an end all,” she said, and referred to the CIBS mission statement which reads, ‘Our primary goals focus on maintaining and enhancing an equitable, healthy and sustainable community that produces economic and social betterment for the indigenous people of our community.’
The history of CIBS goes back to the summer of 2002, when Councilman Al Vann convened a diverse group of community and nonprofit leaders serving the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant to unite around the immediate economic, physical, social and human development needs of the community. This led to the formation of CIBS in 2005 through a grant from the Independence Community Foundation.
Currently, CIBS conducts programming through five program networks including financial education and asset-building, workforce development, business vitality, physical development and social services.
The objective of each network, chaired by member organizations, is to collaborate around shared service objectives and issues, planning, research, outreach, and grant development. The member organizations reads like a “Who’s Who” of Bed-Stuy’s top non-profit organizations including the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Bridge Street Development Corporation, the Black Veterans of Social Justice, the Brownstoners of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Real Estate Board, the Vannguard Urban Improvement Association, the Pratt Area Community Council and Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Tillard holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia School of Architecture and a Master of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She also lives in the community as a mother of five children and wife to Rev. Conrad Tillard, pastor of Nazarene Congregational UCC Church. Rev. Tillard is also a declared city council candidate to replace the term-limited Al Vann.
In person, Ms. Tillard comes off as an independent thinker. The kind of individual capable of standing up to even some of CIBS more powerful member organizations – some of which have financial and real estate members on its board that have reputations for buying and selling properties to the highest bidders that could spur gentrification and displace longtime residents on fixed or lower income.
But for now, Ms. Tillard is focusing on digesting goals that CIBS previously set and going from there in positive and holistic ways that can address a myriad of issues in the community.
“Right now, I’m taking stock of each member organization and what opportunities each organization has in the short term and long term, and what we have to do collectively in the long and short term,” she said. “And also finding where we can strengthen what we have at the moment with existing funders and partners.”