Voices of More for Memphis: Shante Avant of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis

Editor's Note: This interview was conducted by Tafui Owusu to help uplift the voices and stories of community members who have been instrumental in developing the More for Memphis plan. 

Shante Avant is the President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, a philanthropic organization that focuses on helping low-income families improve their economic and social mobility.

Avant’s description of what that looks like includes everything from affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, opportunities for economic growth, and all other amenities marginalized people have been denied, or limited to, in past decades from becoming thriving communities.

Since 2015, the foundation has built private and public partnerships working alongside the Memphis Housing Authority to support the revitalization of 38126, one of the city’s poorest zip codes, that resulted in a $7.3 million investment to improve the economic and social mobility for families that reside there.

This investment included supporting community-based organizations to provide programming in case management, job and workforce development, early education, and literacy, just to name a few. 
Shante Avant.
Avant and her team intentionally keep families at the center of how these solutions are created, “because the people who are the most approximate to the problems are the best authors of those solutions,” she stated. 

The quality of life declined during decades of de-investments of their neighborhoods like 38106 and 38126, paired with concentrated public housing. Yet, with the assistance of philanthropic efforts and visionary leadership from some of our city leaders, investments have been garnered toward improving infrastructure and the revitalization of these communities.

“More importantly, we’ve seen an investment in the people who live in these communities,” Avant expressed as we discussed the poor living conditions of people who are in these zip codes.

The Women’s Foundation feels that the work being done by making investments in low-income areas of Memphis can help solve our poverty issue and create a better Memphis. A myriad of support and resources — from understanding wealth building to helping with business ownership — is part of the recipe to get families from surviving to thriving.

The foundation takes a two-gen approach, aiding youth and their families, to produce these life-changing results. Avant ended by saying, “When you are thinking about it from a two-gen approach to supporting families holistically in the things that they need, you are able to see the kind of change that we have been able to see!” 
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Read more articles by Tafui Owusu.

Tafui Owusu (formerly Shelia Williams) is a resident of the Bickford-Bearwater area of North Memphis and a graduate of the second High Ground News Community Correspondents program. She is also a board commissioner for MATA.