SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – In our ‘Voices of Courage’ series we’re exploring ways to increase understanding between people of different races and backgrounds. A Shreveport-Bossier based non-profit has been doing it for decades. It all starts with getting to know your neighbor.
“Every person is important. Every person has dignity. Every person has a story to tell,” said Mike Leonard, Associate Coordinator at Community Renewal International.
For more than a quarter of a century, the non-profit has been helping people connect, share their stories, and improve their communities. “Our belief is there are more good guys out there than bad guys. We just don’t know who each other are,” shared Leonard.
To help people get to know each other, Community Renewal has built 10 Friendship Houses in 5 neighborhoods, where they host community activities. They’ve trained more than 1,700 block leaders in their Haven House program. “It requires a volunteer who is willing to just get to know the neighbors on the street where they live,” Leonard explained.
Friendships develop between people of all backgrounds. “If you look at Shreveport demographics and Bossier, you know you see all the diversity represented in our nation,” Leonard said. “We’ve got black, white, young, old, male, female, rich, poor… the whole smorgasbord of diversity. Thank goodness! “
Leonard says every relationship, from friendship to marriage, requires effort and focus. “You have to find things you share in common if you want your relationship to grow. You have to be intentional about your relationship. You’ve got to give it positive attention. But if we focus on how we’re different as a starting point it’s very difficult to get to some of those tougher conversations.”
The diverse group working with the non-profit has one thing in common, building better neighborhoods. “They don’t come to talk about race relationships or economics or any of that kind of stuff. We come together to talk about what’s going on on your block. And it represents all the diversity in town from Martin Luther King to Southern Trace and everything in between. Those friendships begin to flourish in a very natural and organic way.”