Lula Gilliam was born and raised in extreme poverty in the Mississippi Delta – Vicksburg (Redwood), MS. The middle child of eleven siblings, her childhood was replete with living in sub-standard housing without running water and witnessing her parents’ day-to-day struggles to provide for their family. Her mother had an 8th-grade education. Her father, barely literate, and a third-generation victim of mental health challenges, only completed the 4th grade. While Lula was a high school freshman, his subsequent tragic death greatly impacted her life and exposed her to mental illness conditions within communities of color. Lula worked tirelessly to change her narrative to achieve a different and better outcome. Following high school graduation, she moved to Northern California to live with two older siblings.
Lula worked full-time during the day, attended Contra Costa College and Laney Community College at night. She later transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where she completed a double major in mass communications and sociology.
For more than 30 years, Lula has worked in our community to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, and their families. Lula knows too well the debilitating impact of racism, generational childhood poverty and inequity, but also the positive and transformative power of education within the “it takes a village” construct.
In 1990, determined to share her love for education and her escape from the clutches of generational poverty, she founded Youth Enhancement Services (Y.E.S.) (www.yesgeorgia.org), a community-based nonprofit organization.
Today, the agency continues to address the academic needs of youth (ages 16 to 24) who have left schools without completing their high school diploma. At Y.E.S., students are offered a chance to earn a GED (General Education Diploma) and attend local colleges, universities, or apprenticeship programs that provide living-wage opportunities.
In addition to her non-profit, Lula owned and operated a trucking business for ten years – K&L Transport, Inc.
Lula is a dependable, fierce, and unwavering advocate for the well-being and success of our communities. She has developed empowerment programs in education, workforce readiness training, life skills, and mental health initiatives. Lula has touched the lives of thousands of young people throughout her years of service.
Following Hurricane Katrina, Lula hosted a New Orleans family of thirteen, helping them to recover and restore normalcy to their lives. She continues to provide aid to the underserved and disenfranchised. She has a long history of partnerships with non-profits throughout metropolitan Atlanta, helping to bring about positive change to local communities.
Lula is the proud mother of a loving, beautiful and supportive daughter, Kai Williamson. While raising Kai as a single, working mom, Lula refused to allow defined negative statistics and stereotypes to determine their outcomes.
Kai attended S.L. Lewis Elementary School, McNair Middle School, and Creekside High School. She obtained both her bachelor's and master’s degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Kai lives in Atlanta and has a successful small business, Studio 7 Design Group, L.L.C.
Lula’s entire life is one of public service in the fight for equity and social justice. While in California, she served on the Richmond NAACP Executive Committee, and chaired the Education Committee.
Since moving to Georgia in 1987, she has participated in numerous civic engagement initiatives:
*Former East Point Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard’s Task Force to Improve Education in South Fulton
*Fulton County Schools Vice President of South Fulton Talented and Gifted (T.A.G.)
* Fulton County Juvenile Court’s Restorative Justice Board Chair
*Atlanta Technical College Advisory Chair and Committee Member for the Academic and Learning Support Department
*Committee member for Family-Self-Sufficiency Program for East Point Housing Authority
*Love 860 AM Radio talk show host & producer, “YES! Our Children Matter!”
*Alliance Theatre Advisory Board (Education and New Works Committees)
*Atlanta NAACP Executive Committee
*Atlanta NAACP Education Committee (Chair - last 8 years)
*Atlanta NAACP Labor and Industry Committee Co-Chair
Lula is the recipient of several awards, including:
* Atlanta NAACP “Outstanding Community Service Award”
* Barron Connections, Inc. “Heart 2 Heart Award – Doing Good in the Neighborhood”
* Urban League of Greater Atlanta “Spirit of the League Award”