Educator, organizer, author, event producer, and performer, Asali DeVan Ecclesiastes brings her deep roots in New Orleans’ indigenous culture to her new work as Executive Director of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center. On January 1, 2020, Ms. Ecclesiastes took the reins of one of the city’s most important community development institutions and looks forward to ushering in a new era of culture, community, and commerce.
For the past five years, as Director of Strategic Neighborhood Development for the New Orleans Business Alliance and Claiborne Corridor Program Manager for the Mayor’s Office of New Orleans, Asali designed equitable development strategies for high impact neighborhoods—empowering resident leaders and making bold commitments to address entrenched disparities. She advanced place-based projects and secured funding within six priority areas: economic opportunity, cultural preservation, affordable housing, transportation choice and access, environmental sustainability, and safe & healthy neighborhoods.
Before her brief life in government, Ms. Ecclesiastes worked as Congo Square Coordinator for N.O. Jazz & Heritage Festival, Artist Relations Director and Empowerment Seminars Author for Essence Music Festival, and Executive Producer of Tremé 200 Festival, N.O. Juneteenth Festival, Tremé/7th Ward Arts & Culture Festival, and Akoben Words-In-Action Festival. She has taught in New Orleans public schools, universities, and prisons, and continues to utilize her spoken and written word as a platform for societal change through art and social justice for all humanity. Asali has toured nationally with the critically acclaimed, “Swimming Upstream”, a play she co-wrote with a cohort of extraordinary NOLA women, exploring life in New Orleans after the flood, produced by author of the Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler.
The author of two TED presentations and chosen as one of the 300 most influential citizens for the City’s Tricentennial, Asali is a 2019 Tulane University Mellon Fellow who counts among her honors President Obama’s 2012 Drum Major for Service Award, the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council’s 2013 Queen’s Scribe Award, and Essence Magazine’s 2018 Excellence in Service Award.
Ms. Ecclesiastes is a graduate of McMain Magnet High School and Vanderbilt University, where she earned Bachelors of Science in English Literature and Secondary Education, with minors in Biology and African Diaspora Studies, a program she co-founded.
As she transitions to her new role as Executive Director of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Asali embraces the wisdom of Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo who proclaims, “To help people takes strength, to inspire people takes wisdom, to rule over them takes virtue, but to elevate them takes love. The real power of a leader is in the number of minds she can reach, hearts she can touch, souls she can move, and lives she can change.”