SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Mayor Adrian Perkins vividly remembers his childhood growing up in Shreveport’s Cedar Grover neighborhood.
“I was raised by a single mother; my father left when I was 3 years old,” he said. “I would hide under my bed when I heard gunshots outside.”
Now, years later, he is working to revitalize a national program in Shreveport, created to help provide an opportunity to young men of color. It’s an initiative that hits extra close to home.
“A lot of the traumas that lead young people in our city down that path, I experienced myself,” he said.
My Brother’s Keeper was started under former President Barack Obama in 2014, with “a call to action for all members of our communities, and mayors in particular, as they sit at the intersection of many of the vital forces and structural components needed to enact sustainable change...”
In an interview with KSLA, Perkins discussed how this initiative takes a collective effort to be successful - not just on the part of local elected officials. He placed heavy emphasis on the need for energy, effort and empathy.
“Obviously, our city is not all young men of color, so for all the citizens who say, ‘oh, this program isn’t for me, it doesn’t directly impact me,’ that empathy and compassion is what we should all have,” Perkins said. “This particular demographic is hurting more than most, we need to pitch and we need to see how we can lift them, so we can lift up the entire city.”
Mayor Perkins laid out his vision and objectives for the program’s revamped success in Shreveport:
- Prevent youth violence and provide second chances
- Improve access to jobs and valuable work experience
- Ensure all children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed
“I am very certain that we will see real change here and I think everyone right now has a sense of urgency,” Perkins explained. “I think too often we are seeing our young people go by the wayside, I know when we come together, we can accomplish some amazing things.”
Perkins said the city is partnering with Step Forward, an organization which “uses data to illuminate obstacles faced by children of color and those living in poverty,” to help achieve these goals.
“Mayor Perkins’ decision to accept the My Brother’s Keeper Challenge is a clear indicator of his commitment to address the persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color in the City of Shreveport,” said Carla Burgos, director of special initiatives for the Community Foundation of North Louisiana (CFNL). “His decision will aid young people in reaching their full potential. Step Forward is excited to partner with area leaders to build a community that is intentional about meeting the complicated needs of the children and youth in our great city.”
Perkins hopes the program also clears up misunderstandings about the hurdles and unique difficulties facing young people in this group.
“Even if you’re a citizen of Shreveport, just because you don’t live in that neighborhood, your son or daughter might know that person, your son or daughter might have to travel through that neighborhood,” he said. “We are a community and we have to take care of each other.”