Meet The 2016 – 2017 Trailblazers

Data News Staff Report

Each month, Data News Weekly pays tribute to an individual doing extraordinary things in the community.  For years, Data has highlighted these outstanding people as Trailblazers of the Month.  These are their stories, and please join us in honoring your 2016-2017 Trailblazers.
 
TRAILBLAZERS 2017
Charles L Rice, Jr.
Giving Fuel to the Next Generation
July 2, 2016

Charles L. Rice Jr. is President and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, Inc., a post he’s held since 2010. What many do not know is that he is committed to serving the New Orleans community in many ways, working hard to inspire the next generation.
Outside of his work at Entergy, he serves on several boards that are business and civic related aimed at helping the City and its citizens. “I sit on a number of boards including the Boy Scouts, Greater New Orleans Foundation, New Orleans Business Alliance and I am also involved in the Silver Backs, in addition to many others. I do this because I feel that it’s important to give back to the community that produced me and give back to those who are not as fortunate and have not had the same opportunities,” says Rice.Charles Rice, is a native of the Crescent City and has a record of excellence in many areas. He is a Howard University graduate. Additionally, he served as a Commissioned Officer in United States Army, serving as a Military Intelligence Officer with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, KY. While in the Army, he earned the Airborne Badge, Air Assault Badge and was awarded the Army Commendation and the Army Achievement Medals. Mr. Rice also holds a Juris Doctorate from Loyola University’s School of Law and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Tulane University. While Rice has reached amazing heights in business, he proudly states he is a product of New Orleans and that all the people who raised and inspired him on his journey to success deserves a share of the credit.

Juan LaFonta
Man-child in the Promise Land  
August 13, 2016

Juan LaFonta, is a life-long and die-hard advocate for the City of New Orleans. Describing himself he says, “I am a community oriented guy with a huge heart. I’ve spent much of my life in the 7th Ward going to school on Elysian Fields Avenue at St. Raphael, Brother Martin and the University of New Orleans (UNO) and now my law office is located there. Speaking of his community and its impact on his life he says, “Throughout my life I’ve honored all those people who have helped shape me into the person I am today; and long ago I made a promise to myself to remain in my community and influence the lives of the people around me.”
His work of serving others extends in many areas, but is centered on the youth. Something he feels is important is expanding their horizons and encouraging them to dream big and know that with hard work it can become a reality. “I do a lot of things with the kids in my neighborhood and around the City,” says LaFonta. “I sometimes rent a suite for the New Orleans Pelicans Basketball Games and take kids from the neighborhood. I’ve done back to school events giving away school supplies and many other things for the youth of our City. My goal is giving them experiences that can enrich their lives.”LaFonta once served as an elected official as a Louisiana State Representative in District 96, while he still has a love for politics he is involved with it in a different way. Today as opposed to voting on bills in Baton Rouge, he’s merged his political and business skills into empowering citizens in addition to small businesses in New Orleans. “I enjoyed my time in politics serving my community, but I think I grew up from politics to a full-time law practice and in my role now as a private citizen I can help more people out. I feel in this way I can impact more people’s lives positively without constraints.”

 
Shedrick Roy
Inspiring the Drum Major Instinct  
September 24, 2016

Shedrick Roy is a man whose commitment to serving others runs deep through his veins and is part of a tradition started by his grandfather Carlton Roy Sr., “My grandfather owned multiple businesses and was a Civil Rights Activist with the late Rev. Avery Alexander, A.L. Davis, Oretha Castle Haley and Dorothy Mae Taylor,” states Roy of why he is civically active. “Just growing up around those people I had no choice but to be conscientious of the issues going on around me as it relates to poor people, but Black people in particular.”
 
Speaking of his work to empower his community he says he is only a vessel that is being used to deliver the message that his community so desperately needs, “I’m interested in finding a way to spark Black people to vote, to start sticking together; because it seems in 2016 we are regressing instead of progressing.
 
When it comes to his life’s meaning and purpose; Roy speaks of the “Drum Major Instinct” a speech made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Where he spoke against the need for glory of those seeking to be in the front of the line, but telling his audience the Drum Major Instinct can be used for good if one desires to be first in the line loving their fellow human beings and serving others. “When my life on earth is done I want people to remember I was a dude from the 3rd Ward on Baronne Street who possessed the Drum Major Instinct.  I have a personal plea to make a difference. If I don’t say something or do something, then it doesn’t sit well in my soul. Therefore, I must do something, I must say something because my ancestors said something, so I feel my life can be one lived not in vain but with a purpose.”

Troy Carter
A Life Dedicated to Building Bridges in our Community
November 26, 2016)

Selfless and service are two words that describe Troy Carter; a man who has dedicated his life as both a public servant and private citizen to helping others. “To whom much is given much is required and I grew up in a household with a mother who instilled in us the importance of giving back and the passing on of life’s lessons,” says Carter of the origins of his will to give back. “From a young age, I have enjoyed volunteering, helping people, so it was natural for me to live a life that is centered on serving my community.”
In addition to his work as an elected official, Carter serves on several boards most notably the Police Athletic League and Boys and Girls Club where he was the Chairman of the Southeastern Region. While he is passionate about helping young people, Carter is also concerned with helping all that are in need. He is the type of elected leader who when the cameras are off he is still doing the work of serving others. Several times a year this is on display as he hosts an Annual Thanksgiving Dinner that is in its 24th Year. Additionally, he gives away gifts for Christmas and school supplies to children at the beginning of the school year.
Throughout his political career, he has been a bridge builder bringing diverse populations together. In the various offices, he’s held as a State Representative, City Councilman and now State Senator, Carter is the first African-American elected in the districts he’s represented. 
 
Leroy Crawford Jr.
Creating Change from the Inside Out
December 31, 2016

Leroy Crawford Jr. is a passionate advocate who is committed to helping young people out of the darkness of hopelessness and strife giving them the tools to envision and navigate their way to brighter futures for themselves. A New Orleans native and St. Augustine graduate, he is one of the nation’s most sought after motivational speakers, specializing in cultural competency and working with at-risk youth. He has two decades of experience working with at-risk youth and is founder/owner of “InsideOut Behavior Consulting Services.” Crawford believes that change begins from within and that we all must frequently or as needed do a self-checkup/triage about changing our lives from the “Inside Out.”
Speaking about his commitment to service he says, “Basically, it comes from my humble beginnings growing up in the St. Bernard Housing Development where we didn’t have a lot of money but the people around me were rich in their service to their community,” says Crawford. Continuing he says of the person who influenced him the most in the spirit of giving is his late father Leroy Crawford Sr., who taught him and his brother Wayne Crawford valuable life lessons. “We were in church and he was an usher and an altar boy and anything he did we did. In doing these and so many other things my father did was that we learned if you do right by people that you will be rewarded in the end. He was also a man who was the true definition of love, selflessness and compassion. I remember watching my dad take care of my mom Diana Crawford, who had an aneurysm for 18 years; I watched a man wash, clean and feed her for 18 years.”
He believes that exposing young people to a world beyond their immediate environment is important in them dreaming big dreams for their lives and then taking the steps to make them a reality.
 
Michele Brierre Jean-Pierre
A Holistic Prescription to Saving a Community
February 24, 2017

Michele Brierre Jean-Pierre, is the Executive Director of the Ellis Marsalis Center, located in the Lower Ninth Ward, named for the patriarch of the first family of Jazz and co-founded by musicians Brandford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. Since opening its doors in 2011, it is changing the lives of children using music education by engaging them and giving them the skills to lead fulfilling and successful lives.
Prior to coming to the Ellis Marsalis Center, Jean-Pierre was working in Public Health but always found time to volunteer in the community. “I have been giving back for a long time; I feel it is my duty. Throughout the years I have worked with kids as a tutor. I volunteered to help first time homebuyers and I also served as a parent advocate with the school system.” She uses her experience in Public Health to approach how she runs the center, focusing on the children in a holistic way. Speaking of this she says, “Community health and what makes a community healthy are things I have tried to incorporate into the programming and planning of the center. We support the kids academically and socially, there is a component where they have access to good nutrition and healthy eating, so we provide healthy snacks for them when they come after school and they also can get a hot healthy balanced meal. We also provide homework help and we have certified teachers helping with that.”
 
In the center, the kids are getting the tools and developing their full potential, but Jean-Pierre says the center serves another purpose by passing on and preserving the important musical and cultural legacy of New Orleans. “I see the impact in the growth of my students, they are getting wiser and growing and becoming focused young people.”  Continuing she says, “I feel our young people are ambassadors of our culture and our program helps in preserving our musical heritage and its growth and development.”
 
Keith Hart
Living and Giving in the Key of Life
March 11, 2017

There is an old adage that states, ‘music is a universal language.’ In the case of Music Educator Keith Hart, it is a bridge that connects young people to overcoming obstacles and achieving their dreams, hopes and aspirations. “It started with middle school in seventh grade where I was privileged to have great teachers.  Mr. Jones in middle school and Mr. Harris in high school; these were transformative teachers who taught music that had ways of engaging your morality and helping you make good choices. I was inspired by them and I now take those lessons and pass them onto the students I teach,” remarks Hart, who has been in the classroom for two decades speaking of these early influences that inspired him in what has become his life’s work of teaching young people.
 
There are many qualities Hart says that can make young people successful, but the one he feels is most essential is developing good habits, something he feels that would cause them to make better choices as they navigate their way through life. Speaking of this recipe for success, he remarks, “I impart on my students that habits defines your choices and these ideas of excellence and virtues become the integrity and perseverance that will define your destiny.”
 
In his two decades of teaching he’s been instrumental in helping change the lives of many young people. He says what gives him the most joy is when he sees the ‘aha’ moment when the light bulb comes on and the young people get the concepts he is teaching them.” Continuing he says, “I love to see when a kid goes from saying ‘I can’t to saying and believing I can do anything’ this is the most rewarding part of the work I do as a teacher.”  Recently, for his work with young people he was nominated for a Grammy in the category for Music Educator making it to the final round of 10, being chosen from several hundred nominees. For a man who is armed with an impressive list of accomplishments under his belt, Keith Hart is a humble man with a large heart filled to capacity in the spirit of giving back.
 
Jerome “DJ Jubilee” Temple
All About “Serving” the 5-0-4
April 29, 2017

Many know Jerome “DJ Jubilee” Temple as the King of Bounce, the first to use the word “Twerk,” and the man behind the dances with his classic song “Stop Pause (Jubilee All)” released in 1993 on the iconic Take Fo Records. Today he still has people young and old doing an array of dances and having a good time. But what some may not know is that Temple is committed to serving his community and has for several decades been giving back. “My life has been dedicated to saving people’s lives. Making a difference to my young brothers and sisters through coaching sports and trying to steer people in the right direction; giving them lessons on how to live and get an education and telling people what life is all about. I have been doing this for the last 30 plus years,” says Temple.
 
He is an advocate of education and serves as a mentor to young people across the City. Speaking of this work he says, “I graduated from Walter L. Cohen Senior High School and Grambling State University.   I worked for the City of New Orleans as a supervisor at A.L. Davis and two other playgrounds coaching little league sports. I have also been in education for over 20 years at West Jefferson High School working with special need kids, something that is my passion and I not only like but love it. I just want to give something back to the youth and provide them with alternatives to getting in with the wrong crowd and let them know through hard work their dreams can become a reality.”
From these communities and many like them comes the best of what New Orleans has to offer and Temple feels New Orleans is an amazing City and believes you can be successful in spite of some of the obstacles you may face in your climb to shine.
“We have a lot of creativity, we are known for creating things like the Second-Line, Mardi Gras, our Bounce Music, our Jazz music, our food, there is so much in New Orleans. You could create your own business. We also have great universities.” Continuing he says, “In what’s become my life’s work; I try to steer kids away from drugs and other forms of negativity by using my life as an example. I want to show them you don’t have to be a gangster or join a gang to be successful. In New Orleans, you can live in a City with a rich history, have fun, party and just be yourself, but also get an education and reach your full potential.”
 
Mia X
No Limits to Giving Back to the Community
May 27, 2017

Mia X is a Hip-Hop Legend most notably known for her work with Master P and his No Limit Records; where she released three albums with two of them going gold. But what many do not know is that offstage Mia has a heart of gold; touching the lives of people with her selfless spirit and is dedicated to giving back to those in need and is an advocate for social causes in the community. “From the beginning of my career in the early 90’s I have been on the frontlines fighting against injustice since Adolph Archie was murdered while in police custody. I have also worked with schools speaking to kids, giving money and bringing things like toiletries because a lot of people don’t have the basic necessities; so, I go to schools and bring things like soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins and deodorant.”
Born Mia Young in New Orleans Seventh Ward, she says her dedication to giving back began with her late grandmother “Mamaw” who was an early example of someone who was a selfless giver. “My grandmother cooked 10 pounds of red beans every day of my life and she fed everybody who was hungry in our community every day of my life. She was always doing stuff like that. It’s the normal and natural thing to do. I don’t feel right if something is going wrong with someone and I don’t do anything; it’s just in me.”
This influence is something Mia passes on to young people in addition to recipes she learned in her upcoming book “Things My Grandma Told Me, Things My Grandma Showed Me” which is part memoir and cookbook that intersperses Mia’s life from five years old to her grandmothers’ passing. Speaking of the book and the important life lessons taught to her by her grandmother and her own recipe for a successful life she says, “The recipe for a successful life is work hard, be honest, be humble and have integrity. I feel if you are honest and humble the sky is the limit.”
Throughout her life, Mia has been representing the best of New Orleans; saying of its uniqueness, “You don’t live in New Orleans, New Orleans lives in you. We are a people who love great food, great music and care about each other.  When I am giving back I am living in the spirit of my grandmother and those who helped me become the person I am, so as I have been blessed it is my responsibility to bless and inspire others.”

Ameer Baraka
The Rose that Grew from Concrete
July 29, 2017

Ameer Baraka, is an Author, Activist, Actor and Educator. Many know of him as the guy who’s appeared in countless films and television shows including HBO’s Treme’, Fox TV, America’s Horror Story, Blackboard Wars on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN and many others, but behind the glory is a story of inspiration proving that anyone can turn their lives around and with hard work and determination anything is possible. Baraka, whose name means “blessed prince”, grew up in the Calliope Housing Projects, where oftentimes dreams died before they are birthed.
Early in life he found himself living in a broken home feeling alone and misunderstood.  This led to him being a troubled youth being arrested multiple times soon finding himself incarcerated facing a six decades long prison sentence as a young adult, completely illiterate, dyslexic, and totally ill equipped for anything but the bleakest of futures behind bars. In this moment, he took control of his life and changing its direction forever.
 
Baraka has become the face of Dyslexia, recently testifying before Congress. Also, he has been part of a movement to remove the stigma as part of a campaign, Dyslexia Is Sexy (DIS), as he is called the Sexy Dyslexic, bringing attention and working to get people diagnosed early.  “Growing up I was dyslexic and didn’t know what it was, my mother didn’t know and my brothers and sister did extremely well in school. I failed miserably; I hated school. But to tease and whip children is not the answer, get them tested and then get them the one on one help they need. Because people can go through life not knowing they have dyslexia; I found out while I was in prison, I was 23 years old, when I was tested and was reading on a 3rd grade level.”
Today Baraka is an example of triumph over tragedy and an example of the power of learning to read and how it empowered him. Now it’s his mission to help kids like himself reach their full potential.  
He is the author of the book “The Life I Chose – The Streets Lied to Me,” is being used by police departments across the country as a practical manual on better policing and better police-community relations.
 
Tony Brual 
Fighting the Good Fight
August 19, 2017

Tony Brual is someone who has for more than two decades dedicated his life to serving those in need. He says this quality is something that was implanted in him early by his parents the late Tommy Brual and most importantly, his mother the late Dolores Brual, who he still calls his best friend. It is her being active and it is something that influenced me about getting involved in making sure there was equality for my community and my race,” he says of his late mother Dolores Brual and her importance in shaping his dedication to civic engagement.
 
Throughout the years he’s served in many capacities helping communities as a Program Manager of several initiatives that’s served to improve the quality of life of those in need. Presently, he is a Senior Program Manager providing day-to-day oversight of operational activities of marketing, enrollment and communications initiatives for Xavier University’s 22 million-dollar National Institutes of Health (NIH) BUILD Grant.
 
He’s garnered much recognition for his work including several years ago receiving the Employee of the Year Award for Community Outreach and Program Development in Jefferson Parish. He says it brings him joy to see many of the people’s lives he’s touched over the years doing well. “To see young people, succeed is important to the future of our community. It feels good to do work that you know aligns with your purpose and passion.” Continuing he says, “I’ve always felt you should serve others because if you have found the secret to success that’s helping you live a better life then share that. There is an old saying, ‘if you see a good fight jump in it’ and the things that are going on in our community it is necessary to get out there and take part in the fight. This fight is not something that is specifically racial, but a fight for a better quality of life for all people, because at the end of the day it is about all of us.”

Dr. Alvin Williams, Ph.D.
A Life Dedicated to Adding Value to the Lives of the Young People
October 14, 2017
 
He is the definition of a man dedicated to giving back to his community. Dr. Alvin Williams, Ph.D. was a Mathematics Teacher for over four decades instructing and serving as a mentor inspiring young people to be the best they can be. “My will to give back comes from my family and all the people that sacrificed so I could become successful” says Williams.
Through his work at his church and his fraternity Omega Psi Phi Chapter over the years has raised money for scholarships to help college students achieve the successes they so richly deserve.  It is this kind of dedication that sets Dr. Williams apart from the crowd. “Through my church and fraternity, we are committed to helping students and giving them opportunities to advance in their lives and be those who will lead us in the future.”
At the root of his will to give back is his Christian faith where he says if you believe then all things are possible. “God has seen me through a lot of tough times in my life and also touched my heart to live my life to help solve the problems in our community through educating youth. Looking back this has given my life meaning and purpose; one that I’ve dedicated to inspiring others.” 

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