5 Questions for...
Emanuel Lain Jr.
President, People United for Armstrong Park
The grassroots organization People United for Armstrong Park (PUfAP) is known for its efforts to revitalize and enhance the historic Treme park and for its series of free outdoor concerts called Jazz in the Park.
5 Questions for...
New Orleans native Ameer Baraka was introduced to a life of crime at an early age. Struggling with Dyslexia, he decided that academic achievement was out of reach and began emulating his father and other men in his community by becoming a drug dealer. As a result, Ameer was arrested and sentenced to 60 years in prison. It was there that he decided to turn his life around and strive for a better future. Ameer was released from prison early and decided to moved to Los Angeles to kick start his dream of becoming a model and actor. He is currently an accomplished actor and model and a passionate advocate for at-risk youth in New Orleans.
NOLA FOR LIFE: What was it like growing up in New Orleans?
Ameer Baraka: Growing up in New Orleans, my childhood was rough like so many other black kids. Devoid of a positive male, I took to the drug dealers in the hood. My image of a man was distorted and because of that I made poor choices.
5 Questions for...
Artist and Graphic Designer
Ayo Scott grew up in the New Orleans art community learning and working alongside his father, John T. Scott, the renowned sculptor, 40-year art professor and recipient of the McArthur Genius Fellowship. He is making a name for himself as an artist, graphic designer and entrepreneur whose company, NOYO Designs, sells original artwork and clothing. Scott created a unique graphic tee to raise awareness and funds for the NOLA FOR LIFE campaign.
5 Questions for...
Paulette Carter, President/CEO, the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans
Paulette Carter knows that violence takes an especially hard toll on the youngest members of our community. Her organization, the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, works with children on a myriad of issues, including the trauma of loss and the fear and anxiety that exposure to community violence can cause. During Mental Health Awareness in May, the Children’s Bureau is working to raise awareness about the importance of mental health in our community and is highlighting Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on Thursday, May 9.
NOLA FOR LIFE: Why is this issue so important?
Paulette Carter: Mental health is essential to the overall health and well-being of individuals and the community at large. It impacts everything from whether a child gets up and goes to school in the morning to avoiding potential violent situations like shootings, or even worse, massacres like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School. We want people to understand that prevention works and treatment is available. Through the national observance of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, we celebrate the fact that children and youth can and do recover from setbacks in their lives with the proper support.
N4L: How can addressing mental health issues help reduce youth violence?
5 Questions for...
Terry Clay, President/Founder, Institute of Behavioral Science
In his youth, Terry Clay got caught up in a lifestyle of thugs and drugs. He found a way to escape the streets and turn his life around and now has dedicated his life to helping others do the same. Clay founded the Institute of Behavioral Science (IBS), which offers a network of community-based services, including the trademarked “Addicted to the Lifestyle” program, which provides a researched-based, culturally specific cognitive behavioral approach to change. IBS is one of nine organizations participating in the NOLA FOR LIFE Fund Community of Practice.
NOLA FOR LIFE: How was the Addicted to the Lifestyle program developed?
Terry Clay: As a teen I, like so many of our youth today, became attracted to the lifestyle. After seventeen years on the streets of New Orleans I was able to escape the death sentence of the streets and change my life.
5 Questions for...
DJ Wild Wayne
Radio personality DJ Wild Wayne has been a longtime role model and public figure in the New Orleans community. Recognizing and wanting to do something about the city's murder culture, he decided to use his influence to help create positive opportunities for young men. Joining with NOLA FOR LIFE efforts, DJ Wild Wayne is an integral part of Midnight Basketball. Sharing the details of Midnight Basketball with his listeners and lending his talent and voice every week, he is committed to seeing change in the lives of New Orleans youth.
NOLA FOR LIFE: Why do you think Midnight Basketball is so important for these young men?
Wild Wayne: First off, it's a safe and inviting environment to get young men off the street in a state of the art facility and to get a great work out and work on team skills. Secondly, structured competition can be a productive life lesson and an asset to be used in the real world. Many young men look at competition in the real world as threatening, which is not always true. Competition when assessed properly can be a motivating factor for betterment on and off the court. Additionally, there's simply not enough positive activities for young men in New Orleans PERIOD, so any and all extra ones can have a positive impact. Also, adding JOB 1 and other resource tables is a great way to get these guys information that they might not otherwise get.
N4L: What kind of positive behavior have you noticed throughout the first three seasons?
WW: I've seen many of these young men build camaraderie, participate without violence if the game isn't going their way and increase their basketball skills. These guys seem to be genuinely appreciative of having an outlet every Saturday to get quality runs in a peaceful and structured environment. Also the weekly enrichment speakers are a great addition as well. The speakers have been diverse and having them speak to a captive audience gets a serious life lesson across.
N4L: How do you encourage young people to get involved in NOLA FOR LIFE?
WW: Primarily, I encourage people to participate when I'm on the air or often on social media and even word of mouth. I also encourage other young people to come by and see and become peer to peer beacons.
N4L: Why was teaming up with NOLA FOR LIFE so important to you?
WW: I was excited about having the opportunity bring my positivity to N4L. Since I have been a fixture in the community for many years and have championed community outreach, it was only natural to be involved with another positive outlet. Also, since I am a die-hard, born & raised New Orleanian, it was important to me because in my life and career I have already represented N4L, so it was a great fit. And I also believe it was important for youth and the new era of New Orleanians to see someone that they readily associated with and trusted to be a part of N4L.
5 Questions for...
NOLA FOR LIFE: Tell us about your son, Damond.
Patrina Peters: Damond was a great kid. He was smart and had good sense. He was active; he was a basketball player and also masked with the Mardi Gras Indians. He was my baby. More than just my son, Damond was my friend; one of my closest friends. But that friendship was taken away from me May 26, 2010, and my life hasn't been the same since. That night Damond had been lured into an SVU and his body was found later that night in the 9th ward. Almost three years later, thinking about that night still brings me to tears because I miss my son so much.
N4L: You still keep in touch with Damond's friends. How has that helped in your recovery?
PP: Still being a part of the lives of Damond's friends has been instrumental in my recovery. I see a piece of my son in all of them. They were always over my house, eating, playing games, and hanging out with Damond. They are my sons too. I do everything I can to ensure that they stay on the straight and narrow. I just want the best for them.
N4L: What do you want other parents and young men to learn from your story?
PP: I want other parents to cherish their children. Stay involved in their lives, make sure your kids know how to avoid trouble and learn how to resolve issues in a non-violent way. Turning around this epidemic of young black men being murdered starts with us, in the home. We have to enforce positivity and show our sons that life is worth living and all lives are precious. We have to remind them of their greatness. I want young men to know that they have so much life to live. They hold so much potential and promise. All of the old clichés ring true, they can accomplish any goal they set, the sky is the limit, and they are the gems of the future.
N4L: What's different about NOLA FOR LIFE from other murder reduction strategies you've seen?
PP: NOLA FOR LIFE is genuine. This initiative has truly been a huge part of my healing process. NOLA FOR LIFE calls for all of our input. It is a community effort. It's all of us working together, organically, to bring change for our communities. I can tell that Mayor Landrieu is passionate about this issue and it means all the difference to have the City backing our community.
N4L: Do you think NOLA's murder problem can be solved?
PP: Absolutely! Our sons are not a lost cause, we are not a lost cause. There's still so much that we can and have to do. But it has to be a "we" effort. We can and will come together to save our community. I know that it is possible. I believe that with every fiber of my being and that's why I am committed to NOLA FOR LIFE.
5 Questions For...
Bivian "Sonny" Lee III
Founder/Chairman, Son of a Saint Sports Foundation
NOLA FOR LIFE: Why did you start Son of a Saint?
Sonny Lee: I started Son of a Saint because I was enriched by everything that we offer our fatherless males; mentorship, tutoring, counseling and recreational access. I am a product of our formula. My father passed away when I was three, so I grew up with mostly women. It's hard for a boy to learn how to be a man from a woman.
N4L: What are the qualifications of a great mentor and what difference can a strong role model have in the life of fatherless child?
SL: It takes dedication and consistency. These boys expect the mentor to leave their life through their experiences with other males. When a boy realizes the mentor is there to stay and true to his word, he will open up and welcome the guidance.
N4L: Congratulations on Son of a Saint being one of the first NOLA FOR LIFE Fund grant recipients. How will this grant help your work?
SL: We are using the funds to help our core kids as well as other young boys in New Orleans. We will continue to help fund our kids' mental health services, mentorship outings, tutoring sessions and recreational cost. We are developing a Son of a Saint Code of Conduct poster that will be distributed to boys and expected to hang in rooms for years. It will serve as a reminder of how each kid is expected to carry himself. We will also ignite our speaking engagements at schools and hot spots for crime in New Orleans.
N4L: What makes NOLA FOR LIFE different from other murder reduction initiatives?
SL: The main thing is that it has the backing of multiple credible entities. It is a partnership where all parties are determined to guarantee its success. Synergy is powerful and NOLA FOR LIFE is a prime example. It starts with identifying the issue, developing a plan with awareness involved and financial backing. NOLA FOR LIFE has all three.
N4L: Tell us about Son of a Saint Amazing Challenge that's coming up in April.
SL: The Challenge is a course meant to bond adults and youngsters between the ages of 9-13. It starts at Pinkberry on Canal and ends at Pinkberry uptown on Magazine. There are eleven different obstacles that are related to Son of a Saints core mission of education, mentorship, mental health and recreation. We expect about 200 participants. The grand prize is a 7 day stay in Disney World for 6 people, eating Pinkberry with Saints Cornerback Jabari Greer and gifts from Magazine stores. Sounds good to me!
5 QUESTIONS FOR...
NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball Coordinator
NOLA FOR LIFE: What was it like growing up in the 8th Ward?
Ryan Dalton: I’ve seen a lot and faced a lot of first time experiences. Violence, fights, shoot-outs, drive-bys, you name it. Growing up in the 8th ward, I always had less than the other kids in the neighborhood. We had the house where the electricity was frequently disconnected, water shut off, eviction notices on the front door, and the repo man every now and then would come to repossess the car. I had a loving mother who could only do so much by herself. With five kids in the house and a drug addicted husband, we lived below a livable income. The 8th ward taught me how to improvise.
N4L: What made you realize it was time to “flip your script”?
RD: A multitude of things happened that caused me to realize it was time to flip the script, but being shot three times, and having family members, including my oldest brother taken away through violence really opened my eyes. One huge thing that impacted my change was the outside support, and having people truly believe and invest in me. This gave me the ability to think ahead, and create goals for myself, which led me to want to see all young people succeed and think differently.
N4L: How have your friends and family responded to your lifestyle change?
RD: Most of my friends and family encouraged me. They tell me every day to keep doing what I’m doing and that God has something in store for me. I am always being told how proud they are of me and to not let anyone or anything stop me.
N4L: You’re running Season 3 of NOLA FOR LIFE Midnight Basketball. What’s that like?
RD: Running Midnight Basketball gives me the opportunity to give back in a greater way, and interact with a lot of great people that will continue to inspire me to go higher. This is an opportunity for me to learn and grow personally every day.
N4L: What’s your message to other young men struggling right now?
RD: My message to young men struggling right now is that “trouble doesn’t last always.” In every negative situation there is a positive solution and it’s up to you to find that solution despite any situation or challenge. Your actions dictate your outcome. Start dreaming because your dream can be the weapon you use to win your battle. Dreams Are Weapons.