On the heels of one of Dallas’ most violent years in recent decades, a small group of activists, police officers and local community leaders are working together to offer opportunity to young African American men.
On Wednesday, 23-year-old aspiring videographer Catavien Barnett was the first beneficiary – receiving a new camera and laptop.
“There is nothing free about this, it is going to come with some hard lessons in life and he is going to have to deal with all of us for a certain period of time,” said activist Bruce Carter, gesturing to the men by his side.
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Carter, along with Dallas Police Department Sgt. Willie Ford, Sgt. Sheldon Smith and Paul McCowan, founder of McCowan Trade School – pulled together to get the gear. As part of the deal, Barnett signed a contract promising to use the equipment for projects that not only help him achieve his career goals but make a positive difference in the community.
“It’s a positive thing to give back to show that there’s people out here who are willing to help you,” said Barnett.
Ford and Smith, who is also President of Dallas’ National Black Police Association Chapter, said they are eager to pay it forward and hopefully offer the sort of opportunity that prevents violence before it starts.
“This intervention can perhaps show that there’s a difference, that there’s a chance to get involved in something other than violent crime,” said Sergeant Smith.
In months to come, the men hope community support will allow them to help out other young people in the community looking for a jump start to chase their dreams.
“If they tell us what business they’d like to be in we are going to make sure they get the tools to do that business, there are no handouts and I believe when you do that some of the bonds that were broken between black men and black boys – we can recreate that,” said Carter.