Eleven years ago, I moved to Shreveport sight unseen for a job. Today, I still live in Shreveport and call Shreveport home. In March of 2017, I started an unofficial online campaign to highlight many of the things I thought made Shreveport cool – things of which we could be proud. I called it the Shreveport Cool – Shreveport Proud campaign and tagged every social media post with the #shreveportcool #shreveportproud hashtags. I started this campaign mainly out of frustration. As an outsider who chose to call Shreveport home, I was appalled by the prerequisite negativity and embarrassment that often seemed to come with being a native of Shreveport. Fueled in part by decades of disappointment with its leaders and alleged mismanagement of the city, anything that appeared the least-bit forward thinking in Shreveport was met with doubt and a collective eye-roll from the community.
I began to examine this systemic and deeply rooted lack of civic pride and discovered something very important. Many people don’t believe that Shreveport is cool because they were told over and over again in an echo chamber of negativity that it isn’t. As with anything, if you’re told an untruth over and over again, you will – on a sub-conscious level – begin to believe the lines you’re being fed. These preconceived notions coupled with a cursory glance at a news headline only affirm these loosely formed ideas of Shreveport – that it is not a cool place to live or be from.
To understand this lack of pride among its residents, we must understand where pride in a community comes from. Civic pride is not a magical potion that the gods pour out on some cities but not others. Civic pride is actionable. Civic pride is fostered and developed over time and the good news is we can start today.
So listen to me closely and listen good: Shreveport IS cool – and you should be proud.
How? Civic pride begins with a serious and intentioned examination of what makes Shreveport Shreveport. The good things. The great things. The things we have that no one else in the world does. What comes to my mind off the top of my head is our amazing music history with Leadbelly Ledbetter, the Calanthean Temple, and the Louisiana Hayride. I think of Southern Maid Donuts and the enchanting gardens of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery. I think of more incredible live music than you could ever hear from some of the most talented musicians in the world. I think too of our thriving art community full of painters, sculptors, and photographers.
I think of the raucous crowds at George’s Pond rooting for our Shreveport Mudbugs. I think of a stroll through the Gardens of the American Rose Center and Saturday nights on Line Avenue. I think of the lights of the casinos twinkling on the Red River. I think of the Shreveport Symphony and Shreveport Opera. I think of lazy afternoons at Rhino Coffee and an independent movie at the Robinson Film Center. I think of Christmas in the Sky and Derby Days. I think of the Red River Revel and Mudbug Madness. Most importantly, I think of the fact that Shreveport is my home and this city is one of the main characters in the story of my life. And darn it, I’m proud of my home. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t live here.
Any attempt at promoting civic pride in Shreveport often prompts a chorus of boos from what I call Debbie the Downers, citing the Saturday Night Live skit of the same name. This army of keyboard warriors is quick to complain but never offer solutions. Ultimately, their howls of negativity will fade into oblivion never to be discussed or remembered. Do we have problems? Yes! Does your street have a pothole? Of course! Every city deals with these issues. But never in the course of humanity have problems been solved with more negativity. An examination of the past reveals that problems are only solved with optimism. For this reason, an honest discussion about civic pride is vitally important to the future of our community. You work the hardest on improving and promoting the things you love and so developing a sense of pride and love for our community is arguably the most important ingredient in the recipe for a better future.
There is among our residents a group of Shreveport Cool, Shreveport Proud warriors who are already fighting the good fight – people who long ago took up the gauntlet and work every day to spread this message of Shreveport civic pride and optimism. I’m honored to work alongside these great people. But the truth of the matter is we need more people in our movement.
My challenge to you today is to purge your spirit of negativity and think about what you love about Shreveport. If you traveled into the world and were telling a total stranger something positive about your home, what would you tell them? If we can begin to change one heart at a time in this regard, I truly believe Shreveport will see an exciting new era where everyone is excited to stand up and boldly say they are Shreveport Cool and Shreveport Proud! Will you join me? Please share this post and spread the word!
We are #shreveportcool and #shreveportproud!