Nolan Rollins, JD, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, has credited the Crescent City with having its Ph.D. in culture “that has your taste buds dancing, ears perking up with jazz and your eyes bulging because of the optical illusions witnessed at Mardis Gras.”
Although he’s a native of Baltimore, his affinity for New Orleans is quite apparent when he talks about how it’s regaining its pre-Katrina prominence, a city with a unique culture of art, music and cuisine.
“New Orleans is like a Polaroid picture. We develop from the negative,” he says with pride. “Those negative scourges of destruction, those negative things that are in our communities are the things that make our students, our kids, [and] our families stronger. Any one that has spent any time in church knows that you have to go through something to get to something.”
A dynamic speaker and esteemed law professional, Rollins also chairs the New Orleans Aviation Board. He is advocate for tourism, who also believes that no city should not be solely dependent upon it is as an economic source and he emphasizes the medical, biomedical and technology industries will bring jobs.
“If ever there was a resilient city that you should look at as a 21st century model of true leadership, if there was ever a city that we should look to and look toward to understand what a stabilizing community looks like, it is New Orleans. When you walk down our streets and meet someone, look at them with a smile. Greet them with a hug. Give them a handshake. Because, behind those eyes is a story you could never imagine. In front of your face is a person you couldn’t possibly do anything but love,” adds Rollins. “We have a whole lot of work to do. We are the city that you have been waiting to adopt, support and be a part of.”
Rollins boasts that he’s a child of the Urban League, having started his professional journey with the 100-year-old civil rights organization as the senior vice president of economic and community development for the Baltimore affiliate and under the tutelage of longtime servants of the Urban League.
“I was developed through the organization. I had the opportunity to sit at the foot of John Mack and Jim Buford. Because of this organization, I stand as the torchbearer for this community, this city and as a student of this movement,” he finishes. –yvette caslin