Growing up in a small town in Louisiana, I have had a desire to live in a major city since I was a child. Something about big cities always held an allure for me. I didn’t know then that I’d one day fulfill that desire by moving 1,200 miles North along the “Mighty Mississippi” to a state that was part of the Louisiana Purchase — Minneapolis, MN — the home of NATIV3 HQ.
Unless you’ve been camping in the wilderness or hiding under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard about the extraordinary amount of unrest that began here a week ago, on May 25. On that fateful day, a white Minneapolis police officer responding to a call kneeled on the neck of an unarmed black man for a full 8 agonizing minutes, while being recorded by observers who also pleaded with him to get off of Mr. Floyd’s neck. I hate what happened to him… that his life was snatched from him so senselessly… that his killer stared ahead blankly as 45 year-old George Floyd cried out for his mother and for breath. Mr. Floyd’s killing was inexcusable and was the catalyst of what has now become nationwide protests and riots.
For three nights following My. Floyd’s death, Minneapolis was under siege by rioters and looters who ultimately destroyed over 200 businesses. Some were large corporate business locations like AutoZone, Target, and Wendy’s.
The vast majority of these businesses were businesses like mine. They were businesses that were the culmination of a lifetime of savings and hope and hard work. They were businesses that had been built on the backs of proprietors who worked countless hours to establish them, grow them, and serve their customers and their communities. They were mom and pop retail shops and restaurants. They were barbershops that were pillars in the community. They were immigrant and minority-owned businesses, woman- and veteran-owned businesses. They were businesses that served a diverse and mostly working class neighborhood of this beautiful city. They were looted and burned without discrimination.
I’ve been in this city for 9 years, and it’s become a home to me. Some of my kids call themselves Minnesotans and Vikings fans (I’ve failed as a parent … Who dat!). Two were born in neighborhoods where the ashes of burning buildings still smolder. My kids go to school in the same area. I know the exact corner where George Floyd was killed because I’ve passed it a thousand times on my way to church or music lessons or a lake to go fishing. I’ve been to the Speedway around the corner. I have deep roots in Louisiana and wholehearted pride in my bayou upbringing, but Minneapolis is where I live and work and raise my family. This city is my home. I love this city.
I live in North Minneapolis, an area that knows it’s own unrest. During my time here on the Northside, I’ve coached football and baseball in the local parks, and I have met some wonderful young people. As a coach, you quickly realize that you become more than a coach to some kids and families. You become a driver and conversation partner. You become a mentor and confidant. In the course of building relationships, you hear stories. In the stories I’ve heard from some kids, I’ve heard my story. I see the younger, angrier version of myself that I once was in these kids.
One of the pivotal moments of my life occurred as I entered the 11th grade. I had been a somewhat troubled young person, and found trouble for myself in high school. When I tried to sign up for a program called DECA, my guidance counselor assured me that there was no chance for me to be accepted due to my history. I went to the teacher myself and asked to join the program. I was accepted.
DECA is a program that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges around the globe. In DECA I travelled to New York City, Germany, and Orlando to attend training, student exchange programs, and conferences. I became an executive officer for my state chapter. My membership in DECA gave me more than entrepreneurial and leadership training. It gave me a sense of purpose and hope.
This past week has been tense and difficult. There has been a heart-wrenching cry for justice that has filled our city streets and highways. The young people of this city have witnessed a war-like situation that they will never forget. And this, coming in the midst of a global pandemic that had already changed nearly every aspect of daily life. Despite the overwhelming sense of desperation that is palpable in Minneapolis, each day the people of this city get up and go clean up the mess, showing that there is hope. The opportunities that I received in DECA helped shape my future as a young adult. They gave me hope. I am committed to providing those same opportunities and hope to the youth of my community through NATIV3.
NATIV3 is moving closer to the Northside, and we want to be a company that is a pillar in its community. That is why we are creating the NATIV3 Young Leaders Internship.
Our internship is specifically focused on providing opportunities to high-school students who live in North Minneapolis to come for 8 weeks and take a peek into the inner workings of NATIV3. It will be a paid internship and will provide interns an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, marketing, coding, project management, leadership, and all of the other things it takes to run a business.
They will spend dedicated time with each team member in NATIV3, learning the roles and how they work together. They will participate on real client projects and attend client meetings. Most of all, they will be invested in by every person on this team. We are committed to making an investment into the youth of this city, along with so many other wonderful organizations, so that they can be the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders.
This has been a desire of mine since I started NATIV3, and after 4 years in business, we have developed the resources to build this internship. We don’t have the details worked out yet, but we are working hard on them and will release more details in the coming weeks. If you’ve read this far, thank you. Pray for our city.