Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jeffery and Denell

One of the nuances to being a black man in American society is the tendency by people to label you as being a certain type of person for the rest of your life. There are many brothers who made mistakes at 16 and 17 years old that are now in their 30’s and still have to fight through the stigma of whatever they did. At least once a week I try to go to Café Reconcile for lunch. Café Reconcile is a non profit restaurant uptown in New Orleans that serves as a program to teach at risk youth life skills and work skills to empower them to move beyond the street mentality. That’s the main reason I go. The second reason is that they have the best crawfish bisque you can buy for less than 5.00. Today my waiter was 17 year old Denell. He wore black like the rest of the kids that are still in training. This may have been his first week actually taking orders because he kept reading it over and over. I didn’t care when he brought me iced tea instead of lemonade. I was happy to see the young man neat and well dressed trying to do something positive. My colleague and I happened to be sitting at the table closest to the window. There was a local magazine taking pictures of the executive director Craig Cuccia. He offered us a free desert if we would pose in the picture with him and his head waiter Jeffery. Mr. Cuccia is a cool guy. Jeffery is 18 years old. He is Denell’s trainer. Jeffery started in the program at the age of 16 and now, two years later is getting ready to buy his own house uptown. You can have your opinions about how far in life a man can get by being a waiter. I know this for sure. Jeffery and Denell could be somewhere walking around looking to bust someone over the head and take their stuff. It’s amazing how this program and others like it do great things to try and turn some of these kids around yet the local news never says a damn thing about them. All we see are crooked politicians and defendants. There are so many days when you ride around this city and see hopelessness, desperation and ignorance. You see, hear, and read so much negativity that sometimes you wonder if it’s worth even trying to change these kids or the environment. I would like to thank Jeffery and Denell for giving me a little hope today. Stay focused and strong young brothers. Today you are waiting tables. Tomorrow you will own a restaurant on St. Charles.


mominem said...

Impressive, I wish I could have bought a house at 18.

A waiter in a high end establishment can do quite well. Tips on $200 meals aren't bad.

And you can end up as an owner someday.

mominem said...

Impressive. I wish I'd have been able to buy a house when I was 18.

Waiters at high end establishments might make six figures.

Bliss said...

wow. they need a program like that in every major city. but i guess it's up to the individuals to get involved. i wonder who in my town would be willing to do something like this? i wish all these young men the best. home ownership is a wonderful step along the straight road.