News From the Kitchen

Our Youth-Led Mayoral Town Hall

October 11, 2017 | Events, Youth Leadership

On Thursday, September 28th, Liberty’s Kitchen held its first event in our brand new Taylor Center for Young Leadership. The inaugural event was none other than a Young Adult-led Town Hall forum featuring the mayoral candidates. The event was put together by fellow YLP/YMVP intern DJ Bolling, myself, and members of our Youth Leadership Council (Andryan LaGarde, Kiall Wilson, and Nadja Sampson).

After attending the Spring Lobby Weekend hosted by The Friends Committee on National Legislation where Nadja, DJ, and I learned how to lobby by telling your story, DJ and I came up with the idea for a town hall forum. We realized the power that young adults have when it comes to voicing their opinions on the issues that matter most to them.

We started planning the forum in June. From the inception to the execution of the event, we knew that we were in charge of organizing a project that took a great deal of time and effort to execute. Many hours were poured into meetings and research sessions to ensure that we were able to put forth a quality event that would allow not only participants of our Youth Development Program (YDP), but young adults around the city the opportunity to voice their concerns about the issues they find the most important to potential leaders of our city.

DJ having a conversation with Michael Bagneris during the meet and greet portion of the town hall.

I’m glad to say the event was a huge success. Featured on our panel of candidates were Michael Bagneris, Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno, Edward “Ed” Bruski, Edward Collins Sr., Brandon Dorrington, Matthew Hill, Derrick O’Brien Martin, Tommie A. Vassel and Hashim Walters.

Before the start of the forum, candidates had the opportunity to talk with their potential constituents during the meet and greet portion of the event.

The topics of the town hall forum were drawn from both participants and alumni of our Youth Development Program. In preparation for the event, over the course of the summer, during every other Friday, DJ and I held a series of informational workshops, conversations, and presentations deemed “Advocacy Friday”. Throughout these sessions, we discussed topics such as lobbying, apathy in the political process, utilizing social media to have conversations on important issues, and other issues that the participants of the program found to be the most pressing.

After narrowing down the wide list of suggested topics, we found that the 3 topics that participants and alumni found most important were: The Criminal Justice System, Minimum Wage, and Homelessness.

Audience members during the town hall forum.

Next, came the outreach portion of our project. In order to have an audience for our event, we reached out to various youth-focused organizations in the city along with any of our personal contacts involved in similar organizations, letting them know about our plan to have a young adult-led town hall forum. Along with said organizations, we also tapped our alumni base to see what issues they found to be important and invited them to be a part of the forum. In the process, I also learned how to write a press release to attract news media to our event, a skill that I’m sure will be quite useful in my career.

From left to right: Alum Kenisha Charles, Joya Barconey, and Jayy Riley.

Alum Kenisha Charles, YDP participant Jayy Riley, and alum Joya Barconey, volunteered to each present one of the 3 questions, which were voted on by participants and alumni prior to the event. The questions included:

  • “As Mayor, what will you do to curb crime in the city? Will you put more NOPD officers on the street? Or do you have a different approach to making New Orleans safer? (Criminal Justice System)”
  • “As Mayor, what will you do to increase the minimum wage while ensuring the cost of living doesn’t outpace it? (Minimum Wage)”
  • and “What are your plans for reducing homelessness and helping homeless people get the resources they need? (Homelessness)”

Hashim Walters discussing his plans to improve the city’s outdated water pump systems.

After the preselected questions, we opened the floor to audience questions. The questions ranged in topic from blighted properties to fixing potholes in the street and what should be done about the city’s water pump systems.

When asked about what they would do to improve the city’s water pump systems, Hashim Walters offered a creative solution: in order to inform people about the status of the pumps, he would utilize an app that would notify people which pumps are in working order with updates once a week outside of hurricane season and notifications every four days during hurricane season.

Lita Farquhar asking the candidates what they would do to improve the lives of hospitality workers.

Overall, the audience was highly satisfied with the answers that the candidates gave. Lita Farquhar, Director of Community Engagement at R.E.A.C.H. Out NOLA, who asked a question about what the candidates would do to improve the lives of hospitality workers, noted: “It felt like a one-on-one experience, and I feel like a lot of voices got heard that usually don’t get heard.”

Assane Ndiaye asking a question about how the candidates would improve the condition of damaged roads in the city.

After the event, I had a chance to talk to Assane Ndiaye, a student at Benjamin Franklin High School, who had a question about how the candidates would fix the various damaged roads in the city. He said, “I think the event was very helpful, in terms of deciding who’s the best for the job. I know I can’t vote yet, but I’m starting to see how we’re moving away from our kind of shady type of politics in New Orleans to more open conversations and leading to change. I think all of the candidates here seem like they were open to being open with us instead of what we’ve been seeing, which is more closed in.”

The event ended just a little while before 7 p.m. With the audience feeling content about the issues that the candidates covered, we were able to end the forum earlier than planned with our thoughts focused on how we could possibly follow up this momentous occasion.

Our Mayoral Town Hall Forum may have been the first major event in our brand new space, but it certainly won’t be the last. We look forward to bringing you many more exciting, informative, and thought-provoking events in the near future.

Posted by Ahmaad Lott, YMVP Intern

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What’s Up in The YDP: Skills Share Roundtable


Our first Skills Share session during Wednesday’s Job Fair

This past Wednesday, our Youth Development Program offered a career event that included a job fair and an exclusive Skills Share Round Table. Representatives from ShiftGig, MoPho, Pagoda Cafe, Creole Cuisine, Ruby Slipper, and City Greens came to the job fair ready to hire. Susan Spicer, owner of Bayona, Mondo, and Rosedale and longtime partner of Liberty’s Kitchen, also joined the event.

During our first ever Skills Share Round Table, Liberty’s Kitchen youth had the opportunity to hear from professionals in an intimate discussion setting. Employers discussed the importance of accountability, punctuality, and attendance for achieving workplace success, all of which are heavily stressed in our Youth Development Program. They also talked about the organizational culture and company values within their respective organizations.

The event was open to both alumni and current program participants and brought in a total of 17 young adults. Onsite childcare was provided during the event for parents who are seeking employment opportunities. Liberty’s Kitchen stresses equity and access to provide all young adults with the opportunity for success.

A huge thanks to all of the employment partners who attended the event including Donnie Middleton and William Owens from ShiftGig, Jeff Gulotta from MoPho, Shana Sassoon from Pagoda Cafe, Steve Lowry and Thomas Burns from Creole Cuisine, Becky Leone and Ethan Gardam from Ruby Slipper, Abhi Bansali and Justin Faulkner from City Greens, Susan Spicer, owner of Bayona, Mondo, and Rosedale and also to Kayla Paul Wiggins, Devon Turner (Youth Leadership Program Coordinator), and Dix Marie deLaneuville (Career Development Manager) for their assistance with childcare service.

Our next job fair and Skills Share round table will be held on Wednesday, April 19th.

If you are an employer interested in attending future job fairs and/or Skills Share roundtables, please contact our Career Development Manager, Dix Marie deLaneuville (Ms. D) at

Alumni and participants hear from a panel of employers during a Skills Share session

Alumni and participants hear from a panel of employers during a Skills Share session

Posted by Rhea Lewis (Development Intern)

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What’s Up in the YLP: October Edition

October 31, 2016 | Training, Youth Leadership

Lots of big happenings this month in our Youth Leadership Program!

School Round-Up

Congratulations to August 2016 graduates Da’Mon (Tumma) Keelen, Noel (Know) Jackson, and Diana (DiDi) Otowoshe, who joined the ranks of college students! Tumma and Know are pursuing degrees in general studies at Delgado Community College; DiDi is pursuing a degree in mass communication at UNO. We are so proud and can’t wait to see what’s next!

Bourbon House = Team LK

On October 17th,  Chefs Devan Giddix and Rene Bajeux  hosted a group of LK graduates at Bourbon House, of the Dickie Brennan family of restaurants. Attendees gained insight into the path to become a chef as well as creating a sustainable work-life balance, toured their fabulous kitchen and event spaces, learned to efficiently shuck oysters, and of course sampled delicious items off the menu. Thanks to Bourbon House for such an exceptional experience!

On the Horizon: Health and Wellness

Starting Tuesday, November 1st, LK grads will have an opportunity to work out their bodies along with their minds in a newly formed running group. Look for us jogging the Lafitte Greenway every Tuesday morning, weather permitting!

Marathon, black silhouettes of runners on the sunset


–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator


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Next Level at Liberty’s: Youth Leadership!

We are thrilled to be rolling out an additional eight months of “next level” support and programming for YDP graduates! We sat down with stellar Youth Leadership Program Coordinator Devon Turner to learn about what’s ahead.

LK grad Kiall, YLP Coordinator Devon, and YMVP interns Wil and Ray!

LK grad Kiall, YLP Coordinator Devon, and YMVP interns Wil and Ray!

Tell us about YLP.

The Youth Leadership Program is an 8-month extension to the training program. It’s all about building upon previous personal successes to cultivate their leadership potential and address issues within their families, communities, and city.

What does that look like day to day?

A lot of this is brand new, so we’ve been building out a structure for the YLP and developing new programming. I’m working with two great interns – Wil Cousin and Raynard Janeau – who came to us through the Kellogg Foundation’s Young Men’s Voices (have) Power initiative. Together, we’ve focused on building an alumni community in general and a strong Youth Leadership Council specifically.


Wil and Ray with Mayor Landrieu!

Day to day, we’re creating a community of graduates across time and place. We have six key areas of engagement: leadership and civic engagement, education, career development, advanced hospitality exposure, health and well-being, and social engagement. Every month we want to offer at least one activity in each of those areas and have a monthly check in and goal planning session to which all graduates are invited.

What are some events you’ve had?

Our Youth Leadership Council held its first meeting in March 2016, and programming started in May with a career development workshop. We’ve had additional career development workshops, a demonstration with Chef Renee at Palace Café, another with Chef Chris Okorie, goal planning sessions, give back opportunities, and opportunities for alumni to engage trainees. In April, alumni participated in the Raise the Age campaign, which was part of the juvenile justice reform movement.  Youth Leadership Council members also participated in a leadership training offered by Harvard School of Government students and met with Councilmember Latoya Cantrell.

Chef Okorie's demonstration

Chef Okorie’s demonstration

Tell us about the Youth Leadership Council.
The YLC is a group of very dedicated grads who are creating and developing alumni programming, recruiting new participants, and taking on leadership projects. The Council is intended to redefine existing narratives of young people in this city. Narratives about young people who work hard, who have a different vision for what the city can look like, who are tired of crime and miseducation and violence and substandard housing and urban blight – those stories are treated as celebrated exceptions. However, our participants demonstrate that those stories are far from the exception.  They can speak very well about what this city could look like. My role is that of a facilitator and advisor.

YLC with Councilmember Cantrell

YLC with Councilmember Cantrell

Let’s talk future. What is the ultimate vision for YLP (one year from now)?

I’d love to see graduates who have really embraced a leadership role in their communities, who are really active in trying to address the social issues that affect them the most. In a beautiful world, they would be addressing those larger issues so they’re not just trying to survive from day to day, but tackling the issues that produce that kind of day to day living.

Harvard Leadership Training

Harvard Leadership Training

What does leadership mean to you?

To be a leader is to be someone who understands the day-to-day struggle and can transform that understanding into a call to action. As it pertains to YLP, we’re really helping graduates understand their strengths and their leadership potential, helping them to understand that being a leader is not something that’s dependent upon having “X” amount of dollars in your account or having achieved a certain level of formal education. We all can and should be leaders.



–Posted by Nadia Laher, Development Coordinator

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