SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A group of Black men gathered other men and boys at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds to participate in the 1,000 Sons of Shreveport event Saturday afternoon as a continuation of Juneteenth celebrations this weekend.
The event offered food, informative community building sessions, voter registration and COVID-19 testing. With the theme being, “Because We Matter,” it shares significance in the wake of recent deaths of Black lives at the hands of police brutality.
“A lot of young Black boys around the city don’t have father figures or someone that they can actually look up to within their households so we took it upon ourselves to say we’re going to be those father figures. We’re going to be those big brothers, those uncles they can call when they need encouragement, advice or a voice of reason,” said Willie “Scooter” Burton who DJ’d the event.
He was a part of the group that organized the event and says he wants to make sure the takeaway is that their lives matter. He wants Black men to be reminded that they have a purpose for living and that Black boys can grow up to be whatever they put their minds to.
“They have been told what they are and who they are by their surroundings, by their circumstances and the negativity that they see everyday,” said Burton, “It’s important, that they’re told that they matter by somebody that looks like them.”
A few speakers included District A councilwoman, Tabatha Taylor who says she feels encouraged to see events like “1,000 Sons of Shreveport.” She knows that there are men in the community who want to see a positive change.
“With everything that’s going on in the nation it is imperative that we build and embrace community. That’s very important. So if we want our community to change for the better it needs to start with our men,” said Taylor.
Hasim Jones, a mental health counselor in Bossier City, spoke on the importance of Black men seeking therapy and counseling. He says constantly seeing Black lives killed nationwide causes trauma and the traumatization occurs over and over with new images and videos of police brutality and racism shared across the board.
“Men typically don’t talk about our feelings,” said Jones, “We grew up having to be tough. We have to be strong. We can’t express ourselves. Men don’t cry. These are the words and phrases we’ve heard our entire lives.”
Jones wore a short that emphasized the “men” in mental health matters, and wants men to understand it’s okay to express and discuss your feelings. He says Black men in particular develop unhealthy coping skills when they keep a lot of emotion inside.
“It carries over in our marriages. It carries over to our relationships. That carries over to our kids, and carries over to our jobs. It carries over to everything that we’re doing.”
Quinton Aught, is a 21-year old father to 3-month old son, Kross. He says he use to be afraid of becoming a father, but now he’s confident in his plan to raise his son.
“This event is something that’s very profound for me and my family, me and my girl because we want to build our son up to be the best young man he can be,” said Aught, “Because these are our generations. These are the people who are going to be our next principals, our next lawyers, our next doctors, and I’m so ready to be the best father I could be for him.”
The group is looking to start a 100 Black Men chapter in Shreveport as part of the national organization for male-led leadership and mentorship.