What brought you to the city of New Orleans? The opportunity to serve my family's home state on my mom's side is what brought me to New Orleans. I was in college at Howard University when Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. At the time, Howard University opened its doors to students impacted by the hurricane and my new next-door neighbor was one of those students. He was a Dillard University student from my birth state of California and we bonded instantly. I was inspired to participate in Howard's alternative spring break program, which took Howard students to New Orleans during Spring Break to serve the community. I participated in the Alternative Spring Break program every year following, throughout my undergraduate tenure. My service to New Orleans didn't stop there, I remained committed to the program and helped lead the alternative spring break service projects to New Orleans while in law school from 2008-2011. It was clear from my years of service and connection to the city that while I was a generation removed- my grandmother moved from Louisiana to California in the 1950s with her mom- New Orleans was home. After completion of law school, I moved to New Orleans and soon after bought my home in Gentilly.
Why did you start becoming involved in the service community arena? Simple, I know firsthand that the kindness of a stranger can make a huge impact on the lives of others. I was a direct beneficiary of those who served the community, in which I am from, well; and, from their service I was able to develop as a young man. Many of those community service “giants” would tell me that old adage: “Too whom much is given, much is required!” I watched my mentors give to the community and only asking for those of us who benefitted to do for another. This inspired me with the burning desire to make the same impact.
What do you feel is your purpose of being involved with young people? I am of the belief that if I spend an hour on academics and mentoring with a student that the impact would be transformative for the community. Change can take place with one hour of investment, one opportunity and one voice. At the end of my life, I would like my personal legacy to be one dedicated to social change by inspiring youth to be different, to plan for their success, and to stay dedicated to their course of action. But I also hope it to be less about me and what I did, and more about what I stood for, ensuring that my legacy of social change will live well beyond me through the actions of inspired youth.
Do you see yourself leaning back towards education or do you want to remain an activist? If so, why? I see myself both as an activist and a leader who is strongly committed to the education of young people. I think that my work as an activist allows me to impact all of the areas that affect the development of our youth. I believe that education alone will not help solve the real poverty issues that our youth face. We must provide all of our youth with a sound education, a healthy environment that does not over criminalize and under educate them, and exposure to economic and social opportunities. Often times, working solely in education, advocates are unable to work in the different arenas (criminal justice reform, economic and workforce development, access to health and housing, etc.) that impact the well being of our youth. I want to be in the position to always advocate for the full gambit of issues that our youth face in order for them to become successful adults who are better situated than the generation before them.
What gravitated you to work with young men? I see myself in every young man with whom I work with and or mentor. I had a lot going on as a young person and can identify with much that our young men are traversing through now. I want to give all of my knowledge and experiences to the young men of this generation in order to inform their steps on how to get to a level greater than my generation and me. I am a firm believer that my peers and I are not graded on our impact on the world, but rather the impact that the next generation makes, as we were the ones to help train them up. I take this belief very serious. As a result, I want the next generation of young men to be better than my peers and I and I will do all that I can to ensure that happens.
What do you see yourself doing in the next five years? God willing, I see myself continuing to serve our community. Specifically in education, I want our public education system to become the premier option for all families seeking a high quality education. Additionally, our public education can become the driving force for economic development and diversity of industry within our region- no longer relying heavily on low skill and wage jobs from the hospitality industry. Overall, our public education can be the foundation for our students to successfully enter the next stages of their lives, whether that is pursuing higher education, the workforce or both. For if we provide our young people with these opportunities, I know that we can break the chain of generational poverty and start to move them into generational wealth through education.
How do you feel once you know you have become an impact in a young persons life? I feel like I am living out my purpose! I am serving the next generation well and it will allow my spirit and energy to live on in this world.
I hope this has provided you some insight into me, my purpose, and what drives me to work for our youth. I would love to hear from you. What is your driving force? What motivates you to create positive change?