from the LA Garment & Citizen
Skid Row beat cop Deon Joseph wants successful African-American and Latino-American adults to tell local kids that they're “JustLike U.”
by Sam Hassan
August 27, 2009
Los Angeles Police Department Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph sees plenty of what's wrong as he goes about his duties in the Skid Row district of Downtown — and so do plenty of youngsters who live in and around hard-pressed stretches of the city's center.
Now Joseph has taken it upon himself to give those youngsters a look at some of what's going right through a mentoring program that he's been quietly working at as a solo volunteer.
The program is called “Just Like U” and aims to bring inner-city youth in contact with successful adults. Joseph is seeking professionals, tradespeople, artists and just about anyone else who has enjoyed some success in life and is willing to spend a half-hour or so with the kids.
The program is open to anyone, but Joseph is currently aiming to encourage African Americans and Latino Americans to serve as mentors. He says he hopes that successful professionals of the same ethnic background of the youths in the program — a group of 20 to 25 youngsters about evenly split between African Americans and Latino Americans — will be able to strike a chord by offering examples of how they avoided gang life and other temptations of the streets, or perhaps explain how they got themselves out of such situations.
Another goal of the program is to overcome racial tensions between young African Americans and Latino Americans.
“I'm not looking for any money from anyone,” Joseph said. “I'm just asking for a little bit of their time.”
The program meets every other week in various locations, including occasional events at the facilities of Union Rescue Mission on the 500 block of South San Pedro Street in Skid Row.
“It does not matter what you do for a living, as long as you have been successful at it and have a story that can identify with these youths,” Joseph said. “The only thing I need from you is 15 to 30 minutes of your time to share your story, so that we can plant a seed in these young minds that will encourage them to think beyond their current circumstance. These kids desperately need to know that we value their lives, and want them to live long and productively.”
Anyone interested in participating in the program can call Joseph at (213) 793-0740 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Sam Hassan is a writer for the L.A. Garment & Citizen, which, along with the L.A. Watts Times and five other publications, publishes local stories on www.labeez.org