Our Anchors

Alex Lawson

Alex is a financial services and community economic development professional passionate about helping marginalized communities reach their full potential by shifting norms in economic policy, social innovation, and business strategies. He is currently the Corporate Project Manager for HOPE (a family of nonprofit community development financial institutions consisting of Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Federal Credit Union, and Hope Policy Institute). In this role, Alex manages enterprise-wide projects related to affordable housing, healthy food access, small business development, corporate innovation, and disaster recovery. Prior to his current role, Alex helped HOPE raise more than $60 million as a member of the Investor Relations team where he played an integral role in developing the company’s blight elimination strategy for the Mississippi Delta and worked extensively with local, regional, and federal funders. Before joining HOPE, Alex was the Founding Director of Operations for a middle school in Jackson, MS, a Financial Analyst for a social media technology firm, and a higher education professional at his alma mater, Millsaps College.

Noel Didla

 Noel Didla is an immigrant from South India making Jackson, MS home. She is a resource generator who has moved 1.25 million dollars to indigenous, black and brown communities across the Gulf South states, NC and Michigan as COVID rapid response, and has also moved over half a million in support of community organizations engaged in environmental justice, economic justice, cultural resistance, food sovereignty, and civic engagement. A former professor in the English Department at Jackson State University she currently works within the Jackson City Administration and serves as the co-chair of the Mississippi Food Policy Council.

Tufara Waller Muhammad

Tufara Waller Muhammad is a multidisciplinary artist, cultural organizer, popular educator, strategist, administrator, and emerging cooperative developer. She is a sixth-generation community worker based in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her work at the nexus of art, faith, and justice in the US South and Global South spans over 25years. From 2004 to 2015, Tufara directed Cultural Programs at the Highlander Research and Education Center in East Tennessee. For many years she was a show producer/DJ on KABF 88.3 in Little Rock Arkansas hosting Sankofa Sessions. 

She is a member of Alternate Roots, a founding member of Datule’ Artist Collective, and the Southern Movement Alliance Governance Council.  She has served on the National Steering Committee for Art X Cultural X Social Justice Network, Leadership of the Arkansas Women’s Project, Design Team for InterCultural Leadership Institute  and as an international advisor for the New Season’s Youth Program that provides US educational opportunities for African and Caribbean Students. 

Ed Whitfield

Ed Whitfield is originally from Little Rock Arkansas and was a long time social justice activist before becoming involved in community development, cooperative development and philanthropy.  He now spends most of his time trying to help communities build self-reliant economies to meet their needs and elevate the quality of life. Ed was Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC) and continues to serve on the boards of the Seed Commons: A Community Wealth Cooperative and the New Economy Coalition (NEC)  Ed spent 9 years as Board Chairman of the Greensboro NC Redevelopment Commission and was the board chair of Greensboro’s Triad Minority Development Corporation before becoming involved with  the cooperatives and the world of democratic non-extractive finance. Ed has  written recently about comprehensive approaches to community economic development.

Leonette Henderson

Leonette Henderson is a native of Clarksdale, MS and serves as the Director of Development and Partnership for Higher Purpose Co. (HPC). HPC is a 501c3 economic justice nonprofit, building community wealth with Black residents across Mississippi by supporting the ownership of financial, cultural, and political power.  Leonette has a fervent desire to propel economic and social justice. This desire is rooted in a genuine concern for the overall well-being of people and community as well as a predilection for an equitable distribution of justice. As a documentarian, she believes in shared stories that recreate narratives for individuals, communities, regions, and countries, giving light to their truth and healing.  Leonette has spent 14 years in higher education, education reform and secondary education collectively, six of which as a nonprofit professional.  She has served on the Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development team for the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine.  Prior to returning to the University of Virginia, Leonette joined New Leaders, a national nonprofit that develops transformational school leaders, where she served as the Program Coordinator and later the Program Manager for the Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) in Memphis City Schools.  She then served as the organization’s Interim Development Manager.  

 Leonette has served as a guest co-lecturer at the University of Virginia on the “Obesity in the African American Community,” and as a guest speaker on “Philanthroculture” for the North Carolina Planned Giving Council. She has served as a board chair for Sisters Conquering Cancer, board member of Shelter for Help in Emergency in Virginia and Higher Purpose Co (MS).  Leonette has a Masters in Philanthropy and Development from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and is a proud HBCU alum with a BA in History from Tuskegee University.