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Message from the RTA Chairwoman 08-13

Message from the Chairwoman of the RTA

As I write my last message as Chair of the Board of Commissioners of the RTA my heart is full with both grief and expectation. I am full with grief and sadness for the family of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. I am cognizant of the heavy weight of a broken justice system that menaces our sons as they journey on the path toward positive, effective adult citizenship.

At the same time, the RTA is participating in the Mayor’s NOLA Youth Works program and so my heart is also full with expectation as we have with us six young Black men as NOLA Interns. These young men, three of whom are enrolled in the Honore’ Center for Undergraduate Student Achievement at Southern University, come from different neighborhoods, different backgrounds, different family situations and different life experiences but to a person each shares an expectation of success and a personal commitment to family and community.

Donald Brown is a Biology and Pre-med Major at Southern University in New Orleans (SUNO) with plans of becoming a Cardiac Surgeon. Donald recognizes that ‘you don’t have to be an athlete or an entertainer to be a role model’ and plans to serve the next generation of Black leadership in the kindergarten classroom while pursuing his ultimate career goal. Greg Lewis is an Education Major, also at SUNO. Greg tells us that he knows his history, not because anybody brought it to him, but because "he went looking for it."

Lamar Smith of Grambling University and Kelvin Naquin of Southern University in Baton Rouge are both Engineering Majors. An athlete and scholar Lamar says that he "is expected to get an education and expected to do better" -- an expectation that he tells us comes from his mother, father, step-father and older brother. Kelvin is a musician and scholar and sees Engineering as an opportunity to get in front of innovation, be a leader and "come back to the community with what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned."

Louis Blackmon, III is a Criminal Justice Major at SUNO. Louis acknowledges that some have more than others, that some people ‘have a harder way to go’ and understands that having less is a challenge, but not an insurmountable obstacle. Reuben Dunn is a Business Administration Major at Louisiana State University who has plans of attaining his Bachelors and his MBA and entering the workforce prepared to compete.

All six of these young men acknowledge that they leave home every day with a target on their backs and yet they are not burdened, they don’t cower, they walk with

confident youthful swagger, and they see the future through a lens of opportunity and success that comes from hard work and commitment. Ruben Dunn tells us that statistically many expect him to be "prisoner number 567392 at Tulane and Broad or a photo on a repast-Tee Shirt." He says this with both matter-of-factness and pride in the fact that he’s come this far and that he’s a positive role model for his three younger brothers.

When asked what advice they would give the Mayor in his effort to save our sons Lamar Smith speaks of recreation, sports, and organized youth activities that keep youth engaged in positive activities. Kelvin Naquin reinforces this advice and speaks of music as an outlet to release anger and frustration, and focus on creativity.

Donald Brown talks about the influence of Black men in the community coaching, mentoring and encouraging. Louis Blackmon, III recommends that we hold our youth to a higher standard and acknowledges the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities as a bridge to adulthood. Greg Lewis says our youth have to know where they come from to have a positive vision of where they’re going.

I step down as Chair of the RTA with the knowledge that there are still many "rivers to cross" -- literally. Yet I am positive that the mantle of leadership is well placed in the care of the RTA’s new Chair Salvador G. Longoria.

More importantly, I am confident that there is a next generation of leadership for the RTA, the community and the nation – six positive, effective, confident young Black men right here at the RTA – and their brothers in every community and every city in every state throughout this country.


Barbara C. Major


Regional Transit Authority Board of Commissioners


Reprinted from letter for Tribune, July 2013

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