Nyree A. Ramsey

Executive Director

Nyree is committed to upholding the heritage, history, and culture of New Orleans.  Daughter of a Jamaican immigrant father and a Harlem-born activist-mom, Nyree calls upon these roots to ensure progress leaves no one behind.  Her work started early. As a youth, Nyree participated in the Ford Foundation’s national outreach campaign and was selected as Youth Commissioner on Urban Poverty, her cohort published, Healing the Heart of the Cities: Youth Voices Speak Out. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Human & Organizational Development (H&OD) and her master’s degree in Educational and Administrative Leadership at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was the recipient of the POSSE Leadership Scholarship. At Vanderbilt, she created inclusive programming such as, “Open Doors” and helped to institute the university’s minor in African American studies. She would later follow her artist heart to Tremé in New Orleans, where she immediately connected to her indigenous culture and music roots. Here, she served the City of New Orleans as Deputy Director of Community Affairs & Special Events and would later be promoted to Director of Arts and Tourism in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the first African American to hold that position. In that role, she led the city’s Bicentennial celebrations of the Louisiana Purchase, highlighting the Haitian influence and presence, producing week-long events called “True Roots.” Click here to read entire bio

Hurricane Katrina’s displacement re-ignited her motivation to attend law school. She received her law degree at Quinnipiac University School of Law, where she excelled in their certificate programs for intellectual property and alternative dispute resolution. Nyree is a mediator who values the “win-win”, less adversarial road to resolution; a skill overwhelmingly apparent among her colleagues. The transformative work she now does in New Orleans for Ujamaa Economic Development Corporation, to direct the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District (CID), propels the servant-leader spirit she personifies. 

Nyree is a 27-year member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a service organization, and sits on the board of New York Deltas, Inc. She also served as chairwoman for the Delta’s Centennial celebrations in New York. Nyree sits on the Advisory Board of the Lafitte Greenway, Arts Committee, serves as a Board Member of “Tremé Kids” Second-line club, which promotes youth development through cultural arts; and serves as an ancillary advisor to StudioBE, Eternal Seeds. Working on behalf of the Cultural Innovation District (CID) during New Orleans’ Tricentennial celebration was a culmination of her lived experiences and professional grit, her desire to nurture progress, seek potential, and carry it to its’ full growth. 

Whawn Allen

CID Project Manager

Whawn Marie Allen, AIA, CCM, NCARB, NOMA is the Founder of Whawn Allen Architects and Construction Consultants (WAACC), a design and project management company founded in 2017. Whawn is a registered architect and certified construction manager whose life passion is creating opportunities, learning new cultures and enjoying their arts, architecture, food, and people. It is Whawn’s appreciation for community service that inspired her to established WAACC – a company focused on rebuilding New Orleans utilizing community-based design in historically suppressed neighborhoods.Click here to read entire bio

She has 20 plus years professional experience in the design and construction industry as an architect, building code official, project manager, and construction manager. Whawn started her career as an Intern Architect, at Hewitt Washington Architects and Planners and has since worked for Jacobs Engineering, URS (now AECOM), Federal and City governments and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. She has successfully managed various projects valued up to 900 million dollars, including the St. Regis New York, St. Regis Bal Harbor, St. Regis Punta Mita, New Orleans VA Medical Center and the Fort Lee, Virginia Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. Whawn holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami’s School of Architecture located in Coral Gables, Florida.

Currently, Whawn, a native New Orleanian, has been working on projects in New Orleans providing an array of professional services including architectural, historic preservation, construction management and quality control consulting. She is a graduate of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Businesses Cohort 30. Has served as guest lecturer for the University of New Orleans Community Development Finance Course and served on NCARB’s inaugural Re-Think Tank Committee.

Whawn plans to continue teaming with professionals, owners, contractors and citizens to develop meaningful and successful projects.

Pernell Butler

Operations Manager

PURNELL BUTLER, is a fifth-generation New Orleanian and third-generation Black Masking Indian. 

He retired after 30 years as a Production and Operations Manager for Mars, Incorporated, a multinational manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products. He ran manufacturing plants in New Orleans, Jackson, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Juarez, Mexico.  Post-retirement, Mr. Butler has become a staple of the local festival scene managing stages, logistics, and art markets for New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Essence Music Festival, Voodoo Festival, and many neighborhood productions. As a production, project, and operations expert, Mr. Butler has deep experience in site preparation, site construction, construction, logistics, mapping, load-in and load-out, day to day preparation leading up to event day, site breakdowns, and post-production wrap up. Besides having a great work ethic, Pernell is a team player who will never ask anyone to do what he cannot or will not do.  He has been a champion of the CID since its conception by the Claiborne Avenue Design Team in 1970 and now that he is considered an elder, it is his joy to see the vision of his own elders come to fruition.

Malaika Moran

Communications Director

Malaika is a Marketing and Business Strategist with core competencies in marketing, strategic planning, digital marketing, event logistics, class facilitation, and public speaking.  

In 1996 Malaika Moran pioneered an online channel that connected professionals to quality social, cultural, and networking events in 10 cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Miami. For twelve years, SOCIALSTEP was considered the premier resource for events among professionals. At its pinnacle the site averaged over 2 million impressions and 300,000 visits per month. It was also an effective advertising channel that serviced a variety of clients including ESSENCE Magazine, Microsoft, Heineken, Verizon, Martell, HBO, Sony Music and more.  Click here to read entire bio

Prior to launching SOCIALSTEP, Malaika received her Marketing Degree from Hampton University. She launched her professional career in Credit Card Marketing at Chase Manhattan Bank and Small Business Marketing at American Express in New York. A New Orleans native, Malaika took a break from running SOCIALSTEP in 2005 to assist her family after Hurricane Katrina. Her professional path then led her to develop and execute all online and digital marketing strategies for The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, develop and launch the new Latitudes Cruise Loyalty Program for Norwegian Cruise Line; and manage Business Development for Entertainment Benefits Group. 

In recent years, with her consulting firm SocialStep Marketing and Consulting, she’s provided marketing strategy and business development services for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the New Orleans Business Alliance and an array of small and mid-sized businesses. She also teaches Strategic Business Planning and Entrepreneurship for the Urban League’s Women’s Business Resource Center.

Christina Ruffins

Office Manager and HR Generalist

Christina is a native of the Treme neighborhood, currently performing as the Part-Time HR Generalist and Office Manager for the CID. She also works full-time in Human Resources at ESPN for The Walt Disney Company. Her goal is to align her passion for the arts with culture preservation. Through selfless acts of service, Christina is driven to continually improve upon the neighborhood and city she loves. 


Ruffins has performed as the CID Program Coordinator and Social Media Administrator, as well as Talent Coordinator when assisting with programming community activities under the bridge (T7 Festival, and other CID Initiatives). She is also a 400-hr certified yoga instructor (via scholarship at Swan River Yoga) and founder of Ruffins & Co. LLC which offers accessible, affordable, and convenient yoga resources to the BIPOC community. Ruffins’ connections with communities along the Claiborné Corridor run deeply through familial ties – a daughter of Kermit Ruffins and a great-granddaughter of the late Andrew Robertson Sr. who founded the Little People’s Place in the Treme. She is an alumna of Spelman College, McDonogh 35 Senior High School, and St. Peter Claver Elementary School.

Myriam Martinez

Project Coordinator

Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Myriam completed her degree at Tulane University. She has a passion for broadcasting the best of culture through her business [KINFOLK.CITY] & other projects where she’s creatively collaborated. 

In recent years she has lended her creativity to multiple projects in music, art and beauty for projects including: DJ Rqaway / #AWAYTEAM, Shea Moisture Hair and Beauty products, visual artist Brandan “B-Mike” Odums, Mixed Chicks LLC Hair Products and more. She continues to spread & give New Orleans natives a voice in projects she leads.

Micah Theodore

Social Media and Marketing Intern

Micah Theodore is a New Orleans Cultural Historian and Freelance Digital Media Strategist, who helps professionals build an audience and grow their brands on popular social media platforms. Micah is a New Orleans native and culture bearer, as an Original Tremé  Babydoll, with a passion for community engagement. This passion has been demonstrated by her four years as a volunteer, lending her time to community organizations such as Voices of the Experienced, The New Orleans Jazz Museum and The Greater Tremé Consortium. She has also contributed to the Micheal Bagneris for Mayor 2017 political campaign, as a volunteer and social media consultant. Micah enjoys exploring different genres of cultural arts such as African dance, painting, and story-telling. Her favorite pastime is assisting her mother create their dream nonprofit organization, Tremé Kids Cultural Launchpad, teaching kids about community cultivation and cultural preservation. Micah holds a bachelor’s degree in Historical studies with a concentration in Africana Studies from Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Jeremiah Jones

Advocacy & Outreach Intern

JEREMIAH JONES is a student at Xavier University of Louisiana where he majors in General History, and minors in business administration with a strong focus on historic exposure and civic engagement. Born and raised in New Orleans, Jeremiah has an adept way of speaking to people of all walks of life. He attributes this to a strong central study of African and African- American history, which also blends into his poetry, speeches, and community works to uplift the Black community. Jeremiah intends to utilize his skills of communication, oration, and compassion to reach the communities of New Orleans to ensure the long-term success of the blooming economies and improve the quality of life of all the city’s citizens. Jeremiah is a member of the “Mobilizing Millennials” advocacy group and lead organizer for their social justice and community mobilization campaigns. His intern focus is to provide technical and outreach support to the Claiborne Avenue Merchants & Business Association.

Ingrid "Nell" Andrews

Outreach Volunteer & Treme Health Community Worker

Ingrid is an accomplished businesswoman and successful entrepreneur, having owned and operated boutiques, clothing stores, and an online jewelry store. A native of New Orleans, Nell manages the legendary Andrews Family Band and the iconic Andrews Brass Band, led by Glen Andrews of the Grammy award-winning Rebirth Brass Band. Her love of music and culture keeps her motivated and inspired, she maintains a role as a cultural ambassador for New Orleans each time she books the band and music lovers are introduced to the family of musicians. She has also consistently staffed the “T7” Tremé/7th Ward Arts & Cultural Festival supporting the Tremé Consortium by identifying vendors and managing site operations.

Utopia Francois

The Kresge Foundation, BASED Project Intern

Utopia Francois is a highly skilled musician. As a student of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, she continuously excels in both music and academic programs. Recognized as a role model for New Orleans youth, she has enjoyed training and mentoring youth at the Roots of Music school, formed by Phil & Keith Frazier founders of the Grammy award-winning Rebirth Brass Band—who are also her uncles. Her musical influence was further underscored by being under the tutelage of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews at the Trombone Shorty Foundation. Utopia also boasts six consecutive years at the Tamborine and Fan youth leadership program under the direction of freedom rider and civil rights icon, Mr. Jerome Smith. Ms. Francois furthered her music education by attending an intensive five-week program at the Berklee College of Music for three summers in a row. Pioneered as the first woman to play with an all-male brass band in New Orleans, Utopia continues to freelance as a saxophone player with various bands and currently parades as a member of the iconic Tremé Sidewalk Steppers. Utopia is currently enrolled at Xavier University for Music Education on a partial scholarship. 

Sunni Patterson


New Orleans Native and Visionary, Sunni Patterson, is an internationally acclaimed Poet, Performer, Workshop Facilitator, Certified Spiritual Life Coach/Consultant, and an Initiated Priestess and Minister. She began her career as a full-time high school Teacher, and much of her life since has been devoted to serving as a Cultural Worker and Activist. Armed with an engaging story and voice, Sunni deliberately uses art, poetry, and praise (Ancestral remembrance) to encourage dialogue, connectivity, spiritual awareness, and healing. She has had the privilege of studying under great Scholars and Teachers, allowing her to become a diligent student in the Healing and Spiritual Arts. Her Artistry and Gift has allowed her to grace a plethora of stages and platforms. Whether speaking at TEDWomen, featuring on Grammy award winning Hip-Hop albums, officiating a wedding, or cooking up breakfast for families in the Community, you can rest assured, Sunni’s way and words bring us all to a place of recollection, remembrance, and hope. 

Sunni is a 2020/2021 John O’Neal Cultural Arts Fellow. She currently serves as a Resident Artist for both the City of New Orleans’ Claiborne Corridor Cultural Initiative and Junebug Productions. She is also co-founder, along with Scientist and Atmospheric Chemist, Cherelle Blazer, of Environmental Arts and Public Health Organization, Breath is Lyfe.  

Ujamaa EDC