Project Greensboro formed in 1993 as a recommendation of the Mayor’s Task Force on Crime. Its mission was to promote community building through training and the formation of relationships between fragile communities and outside resources. Barton Parks had been the co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force and he, Cynthia Doyle, Ben Rawlins, Suzanne Plihcik, and Pat Gill were the initial volunteer staff who put into place an organizational structure. Everyone but Ms. Doyle stayed on the project and Tracy Lucas and Nettie Coad were hired as trainer and community outreach staff respectively. After the first Director left, Suzanne Plihcik took over the position.
Three years later, Bill Rogers, President of Guilford College and Chair of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation Board of Directors, proposed a partnership among Project Greensboro, the City of Greensboro, and Guilford College. This partnership would strive to deepen the capacity of fragile neighborhoods to take responsibility for community improvement. The partners applied to the Foundation and received a Community Problem Solving grant for three years of funding.
The resulting partnership was titled the Partnership Project and was a collaboration of the three organizations: Project Greensboro, Guilford College, and the City of Greensboro. A national search was conducted to find the first director of the project. Mark George, of Valdosta Ga, who had worked for Project Change was offered and accepted the Director position. Mark brought to the Partnership an analysis of race, institutional racism, and the power of organizing. He began training board and staff. He formed neighborhood committees and worked to reorganize the Project. He suggested members attend a PISAB (People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond) antiracism training to better understand the nature of racism and address it’s institutional manifestations. Nettie Coad was made Director as the Partnership strove to be accountable to People of Color and their communities.
The Partnership began to organize to bring PISAB training to Greensboro. The first training in Greensboro was sponsored by Mayor Carolyn Allen’s Community Initiative and was held in 1997. Grants were sought thereafter to support trainings. Deena Hayes became Board Chair with Rev. James W. Fisher. A full board was appointed and focused on increasing organizational capacity and creating financial stability. Marnie Thompson, John Stewart, Jean Davison and others developed funding plans. It became clear that it was not possible to pay for PISAB trainings and sustain the organization. The board voted to close the Project and just continue the Health Disparities Initiative. Because of the nature of the grants received by the Initiative, however, the Partnership was needed to represent the community.
In May 2003, the Partnership Project was reorganized as a 501(c)(3) corporation to support the work of the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative (GHDC), which was being formed at that time to research health disparities. The Partnership Project continues to organize antiracism workshops that include other systems and inequities.
By Suzanne Plihcik and Jennifer Schaal
Nettie L. Coad was a founding member and former executive director of The Partnership Project and a founding member of The Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative. If you knew Nettie, you knew of her tireless commitment to her community, her constant pursuit to involve people in anti-racism work, her tenacious convictions and her loving spirit. As one friend said, "You could not help but feel loved by her." Her accolades and accomplishments were numerous and beyond measure. Her passion and enthusiasm were contagious. Her legacy is not just the work she did, but the work yet to be done by those she inspired. To quote Nettie, "The most important aspect is that (the work) does not stay with me, it is shared."
"Mama Nettie" died on April 10, 2012, but her memory is never far from our minds as we continue to do the work she inspired so many of us to begin.