Desmond Boling Jr. (DJ) was 19 and looking for a job. Down the street from his home the new Whole Foods was having their grand opening- so he decided to give it a try and apply. He got the job and right next door was Liberty’s Kitchen opening up its doors.
“It feels like it all fell into place for me.”
DJ (left) and Ahmaad Lott (right) came to us as our Young Men’s Voices have Power (YMVP) interns. YMVP is trying to change the narrative of the young black man and is funded by the Kellogg Foundation.
“Society portrays us as robbers and killers, negative things, but the goal is to change the narrative that we are out here doing things like working here at Liberty’s Kitchen- working as mentors,” DJ.
They have spent the last year forming different parts of the Youth Leadership Program (YLP).
“The YLP is a way for alumni to become more engaged with things outside of the Youth Development Program- getting them to learn about advocacy as well,” Ahmaad said.
They were both crucial to inducting the new Youth Leadership Council (YLC). The council will lead many events for alumni and current trainees to attend. They were involved in all of Liberty’s Kitchens events and happenings around recruitment and alumni.
“I just remember when I was a student here at Liberty’s Kitchen and I was lost not really knowing what I wanted to do. And now …. some of the students look to me as a mentor,” DJ.
These two have proven to be pillars of what Liberty’s Kitchen is attempting to mold: tomorrow’s leaders, young folks taking initiative to achieve their version of greatness.
“It taught me to want more for myself- because this is what it feels like to want more for myself, to be able to make decent income and to travel and to be looked at as a leader. I have a few pictures out there of myself it just – it makes me feel good about myself. I don’t take it for granted- I am just thankful and blessed,” DJ said.
“Some of the major changes that I’ve witnessed is through the Youth Leadership Program. We’ve been able to show the board members we are able to put on our town hall forum- that was the first event in the community room here at Liberty’s Kitchen. We were able to show our voices do matter,” Ahmaad said.
“I’d like to know that I left Liberty’s Kitchen better than I found it. That’s something I’ve always heard Ms. D talk about and it’s been kind of drilled into my head. I want to make sure I am doing anything I can to get things done,” Ahmaad.
DJ and Ahmaad were both able to travel to Baltimore, Miami and Washington, D.C. through their roles as YLC members and YMVP interns. They learned about advocacy, what it’s like to own your own business, become entrepreneurs and other valuable skills to take home and shape with their peers.
Through the YMVP internship, they created a documentary on Gentrification in New Orleans.
Check it out below: