Tune in this April for inspiring stories of people making a difference in their communities.
Vision and leadership — these are the ideas at the very heart of the public radio series The Promised Land, airing Sundays at 10 p.m. on AM 1370/HD-FM 91.5-2. Host Majora Carter introduces us to today's visionaries — the passionate men, women, and young adults who see potential in unlikely places. This season features "Voices from the Gulf Coast" and focuses on local people, visionaries who are making a difference in communities along the Gulf Coast.
The series kicks off on Sunday, April 3 at 10 p.m.with Kyshun Webster: Reaching for Greatness. Dr. Webster is one of those visionaries they call a true “rainmaker.” He grew up in the St. Bernard Projects in New Orleans where, at the age of six, he saw his uncle murdered. Subsequently, he struggled in school and was held back in the first grade. Thus began a lifelong makeover for Webster, who now holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He fought back to transform his own life and now inspires the lives of other disadvantaged youth. Webster started at age 12, by creating a lending library in his garage. That venture grew to a “home for homework” after-school tutoring program while he was a high school and college student. And because of the endless need among neighborhood kids and Webster's sheer determination, he currently oversees what he calls a “cradle to career” program for youth that extends to three states in the Gulf South.
Webster's “Operation Reach” runs (to name a few) a full-time child development center; the Gulfsouth Youth Biodiesel Project, where kids recycle cooking oil for use as environmentally friendly fuel; and the Gulfsouth Youth Action Corps, with camps that teach young people philanthropic skills. The kids annually award $50,000 in grants to other youth-led projects. Majora Carter joins Webster as he returns to his childhood roots to explain the inspiration for and results of his 20 years of service (at the age of 32) to inspire youth to greatness.
On Sunday, April 10 at 10 p.m. The Promised Land presents Nat Turner: Planting Seeds for a Lifetime. Turner was one of countless volunteers from New York who raced to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina more than five years ago, hoping to help with the rebuilding. Turner was a high school history teacher in Manhattan who brought more than 2,000 students to New Orleans on a bright blue school bus with the name of his organization painted on the sides: “NY2NO.” Over a two-year period, Turner drove busloads of kids back and forth to pitch in with cleanup work.
But long after most relief workers had left, and as the number of volunteers dwindled, Turner recognized that there was still so much more to be done and the city was still in need of grassroots organizing and support. He decided to stay, centering his efforts on the most devastated part of the city, the Lower Ninth Ward. To date, only 10 percent of that community has returned — with only one school open and no services like stores and hospitals.
And the kids of the Lower Ninth have become Turner's passion. He has transformed an old store — the Blair Grocery — into an urban Eden. He's developed a lush farm there, which serves as both a nontraditional school and a local business run by youth who've dropped out of mainstream education and have no path to jobs. His students and trainees are learning to grow organic produce that they're now selling to local gourmet restaurants. Majora Carter spends two days observing the teaching and training and personal transformation that makes the Blair Grocery Project a true innovation.
The third episode in The Promised Land series is Sharon Hanshaw: Leading Out of the Ruins, which airs Sunday April 17 at 10:00 p.m.When Hurricane Katrina hit East Biloxi, Mississippi, it destroyed Sharon Hanshaw's home and the hairdressing business she had built over a lifetime. It also transformed her from cosmetologist to activist. After casually attending community meetings of women, she started Coastal Women for Change (CWC), an organization that mobilizes women around rebuilding Biloxi right.
Although the whole Gulf Coast was devastated by Katrina, Hanshaw believes poor women were hit hardest because they had limited resources to fall back on. Hanshaw's work empowers women to be political voices in the reconstruction of their community, especially concerning issues of lack of affordability, emergency preparedness, and now, climate change.
Majora Carter meets Hanshaw and the women leaders who are stepping up to create the Biloxi they need. Hanshaw tells the women she works with, “I'm going to train you if it kills me. … You're all going to be powerful women. Throughout this process, we've created more leaders.”
AM 1370 ends the month with Reimagining a Way of Life, airing Sunday April 24 at 10 p.m. with The Promised Land traveling to New Orleans East, home to the most-dense ethnically Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. In the Gulf region, about 80 percent of Vietnamese-Americans were connected to the fishing industry. The BP oil spill hit these people hard.
Majora Carter visits the community and meets with fisherfolk who are trying to rebuild their lives by opening gas stations and nail salons — while also dealing with the mental anguish that surfaces when a lifetime on the water suddenly disappears. Majora will talk with youth and community organizers as well as local religious leaders to learn about how the community has rallied to support their fisherfolk. She will also hear about future plans to develop a sustainable farm and aquaponic project within the Vietnamese-American community.