As we near the birthday of our beloved VSEDC Founder Marva Smith Battle-Bey on June 18th, we pause today to commemorate and celebrate her indelible legacy. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1952, Marva was a beacon of hope, instigating transformative change within underserved communities.
In 1979, Marva’s vision took shape when she established VSEDC. Her leadership catalyzed the first major retail investment in the community since the 1965 Watts riots. But Marva’s vision went beyond immediate responses. She saw an opportunity for sustainable growth and development, overseeing projects worth over $60 million, spearheading the establishment of major supermarkets, and rehabilitating hundreds of housing units for low- and moderate-income residents. Under her guidance, VSEDC facilitated the creation of over 3,000 jobs for residents.
The legacy Marva left behind in 2016 continues to inspire our drive for economic prosperity. One significant achievement posts her passing has been VSEDC’s establishment as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), allowing us to engage in micro and small business lending.
“Prior, we were a microloan intermediary for the SBA,” commented Namoch Sokhom, who leads the loans team. “Being a CDFI is a significant undertaking for a non-profit like VSEDC, like stepping up to the major league of community lending. This certification is one of the crowning accomplishments of the leadership that succeeded Marva.”
Moreover, the establishment of the South LA Best Buy Teen Tech Center and the AT&T Connected Learning Center on property Marva led VSEDC to purchase, stands as a testament to her enduring legacy and our commitment to her dream.
Marva’s remarkable work led to recognition from U.S. Presidents, Mayors, and numerous prestigious awards, including the Leadership Award from Leadership California, the Paul Davidoff National Award for Social Advocacy, and an NAACP Image Award.
Terry Gubatan, the most tenured team member at VSEDC, fondly recalls Marva’s wisdom. She would often say, “Not all money is good money,” cautioning the community and stakeholders to be mindful of their collaborations. Her other enduring quote, “When you have policy, money, and a cause, you have momentum,” encapsulates Marva’s philosophy and approach towards community upliftment.
Today, we celebrate Marva’s life, her spirit of advocacy, and her unwavering commitment to community development. Her legacy lives on in every initiative we undertake, every partnership we form, and every life we touch. As we continue to foster a vibrant, thriving South LA, we do so with Marva in our hearts and her vision guiding our actions. Happy Birthday, Marva. Your life’s work continues to inspire and empower us all.
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