When there is a problem, Twiggy Billue believes in taking action rather than waiting for someone else to do something. This direct approach has led to her community organizing and advocacy efforts in Syracuse. It was also is the reason she was named a recipient of the 2002 Unsung Heroes and Heroines Award at Syracuse University.
Among Billue’s many community projects is the creation of the Rockland Avenue Neighborhood Association. “We created it because we felt voiceless when it came to neighborhood problems,” she says. Twiggy has also been president of the Elmwood Elementary and Shea Middle School Parent-Teacher Organizations, coached youth little leagues and basketball at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School and has been involved in the Youth Enrichment Opportunity Program.
In 1989, Billue began exploring the issue of infant mortality in the Syracuse community. She was invited by Congressman James Walsh to testify before a Senate subcommittee on infant mortality. The Syracuse Housing Authority adopted a program she wrote to combat infant mortality. The program involved educating parents who lived in zip codes where the rates of infant mortality were the highest about parenting techniques. As a result of her efforts, Billue was offered a job at the Syracuse Community Health Center. She eventually became the center’s member service coordinator, the interim marketing director and a marketing representative for Medicaid managed health care.
Twiggy has been married for 26 year and has raised three children with her husband Ras Simien Anu. Twiggy has also been involved in efforts to find out why the African American community has a high rate of alcoholism, school inequality and suspension, infant mortality and gun violence. Mrs. Billue was a past member and co-chair of the Syracuse Partnership to Reduce Gun Violence Community Management Team and received training in trauma response from the Boston Trauma team and Dr. Robert Macy.
Twiggy participated with Trauma Team members to respond to the scene of violence or traumatic incidents in the community and to debrief and offer assistance to community members. Twiggy is currently a member of the Syracuse Chapter of the National Action Network and Co-Chair of the Education Committee. Twiggy currently serves as the Director of Project Hotep and the Copy Shop.
Despite her heavy involvement in community organizations, Billue still believes in dealing with problems directly. If a parent calls her because they can’t find their child, Billue will go right out and look for the child. “I believe in the one-onone community-building approach,” she says.