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Marie Louis, Chief Operating Officer of BUILD, 1972-2011

Marie Louis, Chief Operating Officer of Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement signatory BUILD (Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development), died December 23, 2011, after a six-month battle with cancer.

Her family asked that, in her honor, people register to be bone marrow donors.

I'll write more about Louis at a later date, but want to share the obituary, provided by her family, which appears in this week's Our Time Press. It also was distributed at her funeral service this week. (Note that she was actually not a founder of BUILD but joined it early on.)
Obituary: Marie Francesse Louis

Marie Francesse Louis was born in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, New York on July 12, 1972 to the late Jacques Louis and Marie Louise Paraison. She was the eldest of five children. During infancy she was sent to Haiti were she was raised by her grandparents, and returned to the United States at the age of three. She attended PS 241, Holy Spirit Catholic School, A. Philip Randolph Campus High School, and Columbia University, where in 1994 she obtained a BA degree in Biology.

Early on in childhood, her aspiration was to become a physician, but while attending college, she worked for the Milken Foundation, as a Milken Scholar, where she realized that her true calling lied in empowering others. While working for The Valley, a non-profit agency, she developed a passion for serving the community and addressing its needs, especially that of education and employment.

From 1995-1998 she worked for the Valley at the Wadleigh Beacon site in Harlem where she was the director of tutorial, educational and recreational programs and developed and managed after-school programs, helped start the Paul Roberson Leadership program, summer camps and provided summer youth employment opportunities.

In 1998, Marie joined Community Counseling and Mediation (CCM) Beacon, where she worked closely with Emory Brooks to provide counseling services, after-school,employment, cultural and recreational programs for youth and young adults. She was instrumental in starting Georgia’s Place, which provides housing for senior citizens and homeless adults.

Marie was there to make sure that the Brooklyn community got its fair share when Bruce Ratner, of Forest City Ratner, announced plans to move the NBA Nets to Brooklyn and build an arena, housing, parks and office space in the Prospect Heights section. She was on the board and at the signing of the monumental Community Benefits Agreement that heralded a shift in the community development paradigm.

While working on the terms for Community Benefits Agreement, Marie and James Caldwell started the non-profit organization, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, as known as BUILD. As Chief Operating Officer of BUILD, she worked long hours and developed many programs for the Brooklyn community. She was also exceedingly active in politics, working behind the scenes on numerous campaigns. She was the Youth Director for the 77th Precinct Community Council and an active member of the Community Board of District 8.

Marie wrote many proposals to obtain grants and funding to help start and support numerous programs and initiatives. A few of these initiatives included the High School for Youth and Community Development, Bethune Junior Scholar Society, as well as the College and Career Circle program.

As passionate as Marie was about the community, she was even more engaged, devoted and loving towards her family. Before her father passed away in 1992, Marie promised him that she would help keep the her siblings close, and true to her promise, they grew closer as they got older. She was always there to provide love, support and guidance in every way.

In 2007, Marie married her love, Jean Wikerson Louisma. Through this union, they had two beautiful children, Josiah, age 4 and Dariana, age 18 months.

Her love went beyond her immediate family. Whenever someone was in need, Marie rarely said no to a request. She never took her blessings for granted and always wanted to help in any way possible. She extended open arms to all and was know as a kindhearted soul by family and friends alike. To those close to her, she was also know as somewhat of a family historian. She spent many hours speaking with elders in the family so that she could preserve our rich family history as members of the Haitian Diaspora with an undying love for Haiti. She believed in leaving a lasting legacy for future generations.

She had an infectious smile that just drew you in. She took pleasure in reading, watching movies and the Soap Network and listening to Haitian music, just to name a few. Her love of Tiramisu was also worth a thirty minute trip to the Olive Garden just to satisfy a craving. Although her organization and filing style was unconventional, she was always on top of her game, and no matter how short day was, there was always another errand to run.

During her short time here on earth, she always had optimistic insight, kind words and a warm heart. For the past six months she fought a challenging battle with cancer. Through it all, Marie Francesse always kept her faith in God and was thankful for all the blessings God provided throughout her life. She triumphantly went home to be with the Lord at 7:52 AM on December 23, 2011 at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

Marie Francesse Louis is survived by her husband Jean Wikerson Louisma, son Josiah, daughter Dariana, mother Marie Louise Paraison, sisters Marie Edwige, Marie Margareth, Donna and Rachelle, brother Jacques, step mother Alberte Louis, mother-in-law Lumene Louisma, sisters-in-law Geslie Janvier-Abellard with her husband Laft Abellard and Betty Louiville and brother-in-law Jean Gardy Louiville.

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