“The youth is the hope of our future.”
In a time where drugs and violence are prevalent in African-American communities, Larry Bowers,Jr. believes in creating programs to encourage, impact and change lives.
With his peculiar vision and extraordinary passion for change, Larry is determined to be that positive influence for the youth of his community. Utilizing the Five Towns Community Center in Inwood, NY, Larry diligently labors to create and present an alternative option for those that he mentors.
TNJ sat down with the 24-year-old community leader to discuss the inspiration and purpose of his mentoring program, his appreciation for collaborating with JoJo Simmons and why he’s a firm believer that each one must teach one.
TNJ: You don’t refer to yourself as a community leader or a youth role model. Why is that?
LB: No, I don’t. Pretty much, I create programs for the youth at my community center, as well as for the older crowd that come. I grew up in the area and when I returned home from college, I didn’t like what I was seeing. I saw a lack of people coming to the center that I grew up in, the center that made me the man that I am today. It kept me off the streets and kept me out of trouble.
TNJ: Why do you think the youth weren’t appreciating the community center like you did?
LB: I believe it had a lot to do with the changes of who’s running the center. Members of the current board are not from the area, and were not doing much to engage the youth.
TNJ: So how does Larry change that?
LB: From what I’ve noticed since I started, by providing the youth with a space to play sports. Kids love sports but the main goal is to get them back in school! Majority are currently not in school, we’re talking 15 years old, kicked out of school.
There was a young boy who told me he looked up to me. He looked up to me, so I took him under my wing. That is what made me realize that these kids need someone to talk to and show them how to be better. I believe that’s what the Man upstairs says is my calling.
TNJ: Who do you credit as your inspiration for getting involved in the community? I’m curious to know if you were motivated by the late Don Johnson, who was an extraordinary leader for the Five Towns.
LB: Of course! But my first inspiration is my father, he’s always taking care of the family and people of the community. Then it’s Don Johnson, may he rest in peace, who was one of the last to care about the youth. When we lost him, we lost the support of the older crowd who would encourage and build the youth. But his legacy still lives on, especially in the summer camp that he started. He was a father-like figure.
TNJ: Is there a name for your program? Or is it still in the works?
LB: It’s still in the works. But we have a slogan, “I am my brother’s keeper” and I recently thought of another slogan as well, “Each one, teach one.” I love that one! It’s so true. Plant your seed and watch it grow.
TNJ: You had an event with JoJo Simmons, son of one of the greatest MC’s, Rev. Run. How did you manage to do that?
LB: I have to give major credit to my sister, Ashley Howell. She helped me get in contact with him, of course because of her wonderful cupcake business. I spoke to him about what I was trying to do and he saw my vision. He’s a fellow Christian and to me, he was the perfect person to host the event. He’s very down to earth.
The event was an All-Star Basketball weekend. Friday, we had a three-point shooting and a dunk contest. It’s on YouTube so check it out! Sunday, was the game and the turn-out was great.
TNJ: We’re talking about what Larry does. But who is Larry?
LB: Wow, who is Larry? Larry is someone who didn’t know himself. But when I found my identity and put my faith in God, I realized there are other things out there than running the streets. Education gave me a 360 of life because it is key! I had my share of troubles and I learned my lessons.
TNJ: What do you want to leave behind?
LB: That’s a very good question! Before I leave, I want to see more kids from my community go to college. I want to be that change that will keep that legacy going. Each one, teach one!
TNJ: What’s next?
LB: Next up is a summer basketball league for high school students. I’m currently creating a young adult traveling team to represent the Inwood community in basketball tournaments. Also, we’re participating in the Community Center’s reunion in July; there we’ll be having a second All-Star game and including a talent show.
TNJ: Tell me about your team because I’m sure you’re not doing this all by yourself!
LB: Of course not! I tried by myself, it didn’t work. I had a meeting with one member of my team, Pete. He’s an entrepreneur and we met to discuss the vision. He told me it was a great idea and that was it! Two weeks later, I was playing basketball in the park and he came by. He said “Isn’t it hot out here?” He then took us to the community center and said that if we run a program for the youth, he’ll let us use the space. That was a blessing! He then met a man named Arnold, who’s alum of Lawrence High School, he saw the vision too. I have my right hand Richard, he’s our web designer. I have Jeremy, who’s mentoring to the youth. I call us the “Fab Five”.
TNJ: As your mentoring the young men, how are you making sure that your image is in alignment with the message that you are delivering?
LB: I practice what I preach. This is me and I can’t be anyone else.
TNJ: One word that describes Larry.
LB: Humble. I’m not here for money or recognition. You can’t put a price on feeding knowledge to the youth!
Check out footage from the All-Star Weekend hosted by JoJo Simmons here.