On February 6, 2024, The Village program director, Erika Burnett, prepared the following remarks to be shared during our Metro Council's Pre-Budget Hearing Public Comments regarding an investment in the work of The Village. If she had 5 minutes instead of 2, here's what she would have shared in its entirety.

The Village program director, Erika Burnett, speaks to Metro Council at February 6, 2024 council meeting.

My name is Erika Burnett and I live in District 12; Erin Evans is my Councilperson.

I owe my unwavering and deep commitment to community and community-rooted solutions to my education. First at The Tennessee State University, and then at Vanderbilt. My educational experience is the perfect case study for the equitable distribution of resources.

Equitable distribution of resources is why I stand before you today as the Program Manager for The Village asking for a $1.2 million investment and a commitment to that same investment for 3 years.

My community and civic engagement intersected with many of you on both ends of this room. You've heard a lot about The Village tonight. So let me fill in a few gaps.

Here's what I know to be true:

The Village is an intentionally curated, safe and affirming space committed to upskilling and resourcing for leaders and organizations closest in proximity to the epicenter of many of our communities ills.

The Village was one of the many impactful programs supported by the Mayor's Office of Community Safety under the previous administration. That office has since been disbanded.

This work, the movement of The Village, was birthed in and through and from community and it continues to uphold the values, priorities, and needs of that community.

With Council's support, our budget allocation grew from $100,000 in year one, to $300,000 in year two, to an operating budget of nearly $600,000 as we rounded out year three.

To date the reach and impact of The Village spans over 800 individuals representing themselves and over 300 local nonprofit organizations.

Many of you, elected officials, benefitted from the platform, support, captive audience, and social capital The Village as a collective provided during your recent campaigns.

The Black nonprofit leaders I support every day have historically been underfunded, overworked, mismanaged and overlooked.

The organizations serving our most vulnerable populations have their initiatives exploited, their impact tokenized, their ideas co-oped and their priorities pretzeled into parameters necessary to fit the guidelines of the next shiney partnership opportunity.

There is a need for a robust, comprehensive and cross-sector community safety plan that understands violence, crime and belonging related outcomes through the lens of prevention, intervention and responsive services offered by the most contextually informed amongst us.

Through the diligence and strategy of Village leadership, we have built momentum and secured commitment from both public and private sector investors who believe in the power and necessity of this work. Ensuring diverse and sustainable funding streams.

The threat of divestment on the part of our Metro government was enough to motivate a number of YOUR constituents, constituents serving OUR communities, to exercise their political capital to advocate on behalf of a space that has been carved out with the sole purpose of creating an ecosystem where they move beyond survival and truly thrive.

What I know to be true is that we are doing our part. Before today, we may not have done much talking, but we have for sure walked the walk. So now, we are standing here with extended hands. We are asking that Council extend a hand, complete with $1.2 million a year for three years, and meet us exactly where we are: standing in the gaps, serving the most vulnerable, the most marginalized and the most overlooked in our communities.

I look forward to every opportunity offered to share about the work and impact of the Village.

We are worthy and deserving of your commitment.