This afternoon on the NFL Network, airing between 2-4 pm CT during Thursday Night Football First Look, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan’s new four-part docuseries Inspire Change will premiere. Full length parts will be available a day after airing on NFL.com.
This series will be following Jordan’s involvement with the non-profit organization Crescent City Corps.
Straight from their mouths, The Crescent City Corps is “a New Orleans-based non-profit that equips new police officers with leadership development, racial equity and community engagement training so that they can work alongside citizens to build a more just, safe, and inclusive city.”
This program has just graduated its second class of fellows, the police officers being trained. Cam Jordan has been a major part of keeping this program funded, as his work to better the New Orleans community has always been important to him. Jordan and his God Iz Love foundation have committed to bringing this education and deeper connection with the community to at least 80 New Orleans police officers.
I had the honor of attending the graduation for this class of Fellows. What I saw was a group of officers who had never felt closer in understanding to the community that they are serving. This should honestly be a requirement for any officer coming in that isn’t from New Orleans or at least Louisiana. Multiple officers felt that they had better learned how to approach their dealings with the community, because they got to learn what it is all about and how the people who inhabit it act. They brought in multiple community leaders and organizations to talk with the fellows during training to help with the effort of creating a vision of how officers should go about public safety in New Orleans.
While attending, I spoke with the executive director, two of the fellows and even Cam Jordan himself about what the program has meant to them.
When speaking with Brent Godfrey, the Executive Director of Crescent City Corps, I asked him how this program got started. Godfrey, who was also a New Orleans firefighter for a while, told me, “I saw a missed opportunity to provide leadership. There are so many natural leaders who are first responders in New Orleans, but very infrequently are we given a chance to step into our leadership potential.” “Also,” he added, “People who are first responders spend their careers responding to emergency calls, but very rarely do they have a chance to zoom back and understand the context of why those calls are happening. Who are the citizens on the other end of those calls? What is the context they are operating under?”
I also wanted to know his favorite thing he has seen come out of his program through his two graduating classes. “Honestly, the changes in awareness and consciousness that both first responders and people in the program have. As well as the community members that are coming in. I love seeing when people’s perspectives shift and there’s more they have to learn about a certain challenge of the world that they live in.”
Also during that night, I spoke with graduating Fellow CJ Coleman. CJ is an Officer for the New Orleans Police Department who moved to New Orleans for the job. I asked him what he has learned about the community because of this program. “I’ve learned about the resiliency of this community. New Orleans just always seems to rebuild and help their own through any adversity. I really love that about this city. It really feels less like a city, it’s like its own country. It really has its own resources, has its own culture, has its own people. I will always love that.”
I wanted to also speak with a fellow who isn’t new to New Orleans. I got to talk to Officer Aaron Jones, who was born and raised in the 504. He is now a police officer in the Third District.
When speaking with Jones, I first asked him what his relationship and view of the police was when he was growing up. “I never heard too many good things about the police, especially in the area I grew up in. When the police would come around, everyone would scatter. I knew people and family members never had any good encounters with the police. I never thought I would serve, but after college I moved back home and thought ‘Ok. I could be a police officer.’ and so I decided to do it.
I wanted to know why he wanted to do this program, as someone who knew the community already. “Obviously I grew up in New Orleans, I knew the culture. I knew the people I would be policing. But I figured I could learn more about the different communities in New Orleans and how to better serve them and change their perspective of the police.”
The last person I got to talk to that night was New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan.
I obviously had to know, what made Cam want to get involved with Crescent City Corps? “Two or three years ago I was in this mind frame of ‘What can I do to positively affect my city?’ I’m talking about going from everything like the peaceful protests that happened in New Orleans, to just talking to different community leaders, talking to my teammates. What can we do? How can we make an impact? Then came this. being put in contact with the mayor, with everyone here. It’s been a lot of legwork to get us to this point. Connecting with Brent on these ideas of how we can create a positive impact. I love that this idea came from a really good-hearted person like Brent.”
During the graduation ceremony, Cam said that program helped him, even though he didn’t technically go through any training. I asked him to go a little bit deeper into how he’s grown from it. “You know, thinking back to when I was just at home thinking about what I could do, I had always felt at odds with policing agencies. I had always felt like it was a suppressive force, instead of somebody who’s looking out for my freaking good. Doing this sort of instilled a new sense of hope. I could only ever vouch for the officers I knew personally. But, going through something like this, you know once they get through this program, they’re putting out the right energy and the mindset to go out there and positively affect the community.”
The last thing that I asked Godfrey, Jordan and Jones was about what they would want to say to the New Orleans community who aren’t able to sit in and see all of the training happening behind the scenes. They all had a shared sentiment.
Godfrey said, “I would say to just like continue to push yourself to be as open as you can, and to acquaint yourself with perspectives that are as different from your own as you can and try to understand people on their own terms.
The New Orleans native Aaron Jones wanted to tell his community, “We want to do more of this work and we want to show this community that hey we there may have been bad apples in the past. We’re taking numerous steps to weed that out. We are public servants.”
Jordan closes with, “You know, it’s not like I just want to go out there and be like ‘Hey come look at the work we’re doing’ but at the same time these officers came here with a hope in mind and an open heart trying to be the best police they can be. As much as the community may feel like in general we’re not gaining any ground, not making any leaps. You have to take steps before you can make a leap. You have to have a strong foundation. I feel like Crescent City Corps is doing a great job of building that foundation.”
Be sure to check out the first part of the Inspire Change docuseries on NFL Network later today, and an extended cut on NFL.com tomorrow.