Shreveport: glass half full?

In Learning by John Perkins

Originally published October 22, 2021 in The Inquisitor

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness time.  Color this column pink.  When my mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, her health was already precarious.  In the hospital with a broken hip caused by cancer in her bones, she suddenly developed a digestive tract issue that required emergency surgery.  I was contacted to go to the hospital to sign the paperwork, the surgeon was waiting.

I asked him the usual questions, “doctor, are you aware of her condition?”  He was an old friend of the family.

“Hell, yes I know her condition, it’s (expletive deleted) poor, now sign the (expletive deleted) papers so we can get started”, he stormed off.  His intern looked at me with a range of sympathetic emotions on his face as I signed.  The good news?  Mom survived the surgery and even thrived for a time.  She beat expectations for survival by 18 months.  Science, yea!

Last week, I walked into the back of the Community Foundation of North Louisiana (cfnla.org) meeting announcing their State of Shreveport Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) study results.  Good news first.  Shreveport MSA has improved our Gross Domestic Product rate.  Our workers are producing more efficiently for the businesses that employ them.  That’s fantastic news, especially when you look at the rest of the report. We work hard here in this neck of the woods.  We beat 10 other similar MSAs, Monroe, Lafayette, Jackson, Killeen, Columbus, Chattanooga, Roanoke, Fayetville, and Huntsville, but the bad news is that we bring up the bottom of that list in wages earned.  In fact, as we say about Mississippi in state rankings, “Thank God for Monroe, Louisiana.”

I noticed one of our business roundtable leaders sinking in his chair.  If it wasn’t for Monroe, we would be on the bottom of all the lists that we want to lead, Median Household Income (only $47,447), Percent of Families Below Poverty Level (17.5%), Our Unemployment Rate is in the middle, we are working despite what you see on the help wanted signs.

Poverty Rate for Families with Children Under 5?  Thanks Monroe, you beat our 31.2%.  Now one that doesn’t bode well for our already shaky future, Percent of Kindergarteners Arriving Kindergarten Ready, less than 45%.  That business roundtable leader ducked out.  This was when I realized that the condition we are in is much like my mom on that gurney in 1995.  (Expletive deleted) poor!  

Now for the Q & A time, my favorite. The audience sat in silence for a bit, probably shocked that it wasn’t even worse, so I rose and asked, “what are the solutions, what can our successful business community do to help hard working Shreveporters?’  

The answer?  It seems many businesspeople are attending the CFNLA meetings throughout the year.  There, that’s a start, but we need leaders to either lead, follow, or get out of the way.  Let me know your thoughts.    Want to help struggling students?  VOA Communities in Schools program needs volunteers.  HMU:  PerkWrites@gmail.com