This article originally appeared in the Summer Edition of Heliopolis Magazine.
We have a One-Percenter problem, but it’s not what you think. It is not the bored, rich, and gorgeous taking over our best-loved local haunts and raising property values exponentially. It is not a billionaire family’s Political Action Committee fighting tax elections that could threaten public services, or masked anarchists protesting the oligarchy (or anything else) on the lawn of the Caddo Courthouse. Our One-Percenter problem is one of participation, or lack thereof, in the actual fabric-building of our community.
Congratulations! The simple act of reading this is initiation into the club, and for that, you should feel awesome for making even a slight attempt at embracing the things that give Shreveport and Bossier City (“SBC”) an authentic identity. Participation is the antidote to our identity crisis. SBC is letting one percent of its citizens determine our capacity and potential to be a vibrant, creative, and authentic community.
Behold the One-Percenters of SBC: citizens of any generational, cultural, or socio-economic background who are seekers of local events, supporters of the local music and art scenes, samplers of craft beer, purchasers at the Makers’ Fair, consumers of produce at the Farmers’ Market, and diners at locally-owned restaurants. The One-Percenters annually make it to at least one or two local theater events (including the Opera, Ballet, and Symphony) and volunteer for Friends of the Library, the Meadows Museum, or the Strand Theatre. They are members of Sci-Port or the Robinson Film Center. They were early adopters of the Louisiana Film Prize and, when All Y’all tickets go on sale, they purchase their tickets immediately… because, to a One-Percenter, tickets to an event showcasing the stories or our neighbors are a hot commodity.
This description isn’t a judgment or an attack on a specific aesthetic; these venues and events are accessible to anyone.
However, the “Give for Good Day” on May 3rd of this year allowed us to see how the region buys in, or gives; 180 organizations and news outlets promoted the idea of a one-day donation. In three years of participating in Give for Good, the numbers have stayed mostly the same. Some 6,883 gifts were made, raising over 1.7 million dollars. These gifts were made by 3,500 unique individuals in North Louisiana.
There’s a palpable frustration, though, among locals who work for nonprofits or who support nonprofits, local events, and local venues who see the same faces in every venue in SBC. Many citizens are quite happy living a suburban existence with the occasional outing to a huge mainstream pop concert or dinner at a national chain restaurant; the collective suspicion among locals is that there is a small group of people who support everything that, according to popular theory, improves the quality of life for our community.
Our population is near a tipping point for the number of amenities we can sustain without expanding this group of prolific attenders and givers. We can’t maintain culture-based amenities on just one percent of our population. Growth will come with industry and jobs; but areas with an educated populace, replete with amenities like good schools, libraries, parks, and museums, attract jobs.
Far fewer people sustain Sci-Port, Robinson Film Center, and The Strand Theater. All report fewer than 1500 members, and the names and addresses on these organizations’ rosters are more or less historically consistent.
One-Percenters of SBC: this is your call to arms! Get out of your comfort zone and engage that friend who says there is nothing to do in Shreveport. Invite them along on your next outing downtown. Offer your babysitting services in exchange for your best friend and their spouse getting out of their chain restaurant comfort zone and going to your favorite, locally-owned establishments instead. Recognize that you are in a position of leadership and that your status as a member of this elite club gives you an opportunity to set an example. Resolve to change the heart and mind of one friend per month for the rest of this year, and we will have expanded our enclave of engaged participants by orders of magnitude.