King Day spurs revitalization effort

By Caroline Moses - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was a chance for some community activists to come full circle, from civil rights to clean change. About 150 LSU students and community leaders worked to revitalize homes and businesses in old South Baton Rouge.

One of those students was Aaron Lathan. He said both his grandmother and mother participated in the Baton Rouge bus boycott. He said he grew up learning about old South Baton Rouge from his father, mainly how it shifted from a center for civil rights to a center for crime.

"He would always give me stories of how things used to be and how it was the economic center for the African American people when he was growing up," Lathan said. "To see it is in the state it is now, just to do anything you can to help bring it back."

It's why he and other students from LSU decided to help revitalize homes and businesses in the neighborhood. One of the businesses targeted was Mable's flower shop. According to Evonne Thomas, her mother opened it 35 years ago.

Thomas later took over the small business and kept it in the same store because of costs. The initial goal was for volunteers to put a fresh coat of paint on the building, so Thomas picked a bright color because her business is about brightening people's days. However, LSU architecture students took the effort a step further and designed a completely new look for her.

"I think it will bring more business to the area," Thomas said. "If people put more investment into their communities and support the people who are trying to build businesses here," Lathan added.

The ultimate goal of organizers is to recharge the economy and people's energy in old South Baton Rouge. The volunteers helped fix up two homes and one business Monday. The entire "Revitalize Old South Baton Rouge" program has fixed about 13 homes so far. There are plans to fix more as more funds become available.

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