Between March 9, 2023 – April 5, 2023, Urban League of Louisiana (ULLA) in conjunction with the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus engaged in a statewide tour to hear directly from residents in the cities of Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, New Orleans, Monroe, and Shreveport. While open to all community members, the vast majority of participants were African Americans. This effort across the state was sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The thoughts, comments, experiences, and information shared by residents helped inform ULLA’s 2023 Legislative Agenda and will be used to determine how best to serve the residents of our seven target cities from a policy perspective. In addition to the subject areas explicitly covered during this year’s Listen & Learn Tour, a range of additional topics surfaced as being important and impactful to African Americans and other underserved communities in each city. This summary report shares brief highlights from the tour. We encourage you to review this summary as well as our Legislative Agenda so that you can be informed about the prospective laws being debated that will no doubt have an impact on you, your family, community, and city!


Following the convening of our seven target cities, respectively, community residents repeatedly echoed concerns regarding the following:

  1. Combating food deserts and the lack of healthy nutritional food options for Black and Brown Louisianans;
  2. Closing the racial wealth gap via increasing minimum wages rates and homeownership initiatives which increase property values and community investments;
  3. Addressing educational inequities by introducing financial literacy programs and increasing teacher salaries;
  4. Prioritizing safer communities by requiring more transparency by law enforcement, mandating community policing practices, stronger gun regulations, and de-escalation training;
  5. Implementing meaningful health literacy programs in businesses and schools, combatting mental health issues, as well as initiatives ensuring equitable access to healthcare; and
  6. Enhancing the career opportunities for African Americans and other underserved communities via apprenticeships and access to the bidding of government procurement efforts.

Racial Wealth Gap

“There needs to be an earn while you learn model instead of learning to earn.”
Lafayette Resident

When asked whether to prioritize homeownership, income & wages, or business ownership/entrepreneurship – in order to close the racial wealth gap that exist between African Americans, Hispanics, and Latinos compared to their white counterparts – residents agreed that a multifaceted approach was needed. While residents felt that strategies and policies needed to focus on all three of these areas, they also elevated increasing income and wages as an aspect of their everyday lives needing immediate intervention.

Safety & Police Community Relations

“We need more peer-to-peer mediation and conflict resolution. We also need more methods that treat and address trauma.”
Baton Rouge Resident

In analyzing the most pressing need related to increasing safety in their communities and strengthening police interactions with people of color, residents in all seven target cities highlighted the need for reforms centered around community policing and increased transparency on the part of law enforcement. Additionally, while acknowledging the many areas law enforcement could be better trained and equipped to interact with citizens, residents also agreed that more can be done internally within the community to ensure that neighborhoods were safer and to foster a trusting relationship with police.


“Educating people on healthcare is a need – people go to the doctor without knowledge of themselves or their rights.”
Alexandria Resident

In addressing what information would aid them in living a healthier life and combating major health issues their community is facing, residents suggested that they, as well as their communities, would be able to live a healthier lifestyle if food deserts were eliminated in Black and Brown communities. Additionally, residents highlighted the need to be equipped with affordable healthcare, to increase the number of Black and Brown medical practitioners, combat treatment biases, and learn techniques to increase self-discipline that address the mental aspects of being healthier, such as prayer and meditation, would increase their quality of life.


“We need to make sure our kids are on level in their basic courses.”
Lake Charles Resident

While discussing the historical disparities existing in our education system, residents articulated that educational equity in schools must include, student home life interventions, increasing the number of certified teachers, addressing teacher shortages and salaries, and holding school leaders accountable. Residents also believed that funding educational initiatives, increasing special needs instructors, educating parents on how to educate their children, as well as including financial literacy and technical certifications as part curriculums would make schools more equitable.


“We need a long-term strategy to beat back extreme policies in the state that negatively impact the Black community.”
Shreveport Resident

When prompted as to what jobs or job programs their city needs to invest in, residents consistently raised the need to invest and educate the community concerning jobs and industries of the future, this included, agriculture & farming, waterway professions, science-based jobs, construction, and technological fields, to name a few examples.

2023 Listen & Learn Tour Policy Change Goals

After traveling 1,783 miles across Louisiana and speaking with residents in our seven target cities, Urban League of Louisiana’s 2023 Listen & Learn Tour resulted in policy change goals. We will work further to develop these policy goals into actionable laws, and advocate for in federal, state and local legislative bodies in furtherance of uplifting Black and Brown communities of Louisiana. The following policy change goals represent consistent themes heard across the seven cities visited.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap & Strengthening Workforce

  • Increase the minimum wage
  • Increase funding to homebuyer education/financial wellness organizations
  • Increase apprenticeships through public-private partnerships
  • Mandate coordinated economic development strategies to train workers and recruit jobs in emerging industries (i.e., renewable energy, agriculture, broadband and technology)
  • Conduct analysis of government-funded workforce development programs to assess accessibility to most vulnerable populations in its jurisdiction (i.e., distance, public transit)


  • Increase incentives for local police departments to deploy and expand community policing strategies that increase walking beats
  • Incentivize or mandate residency requirements for local law enforcement bodies
  • Mandate annual trainings for local and state police to complete de-escalation trainings, mental health screenings
  • Mandate local and state law enforcement agencies hire full-time social worker to support officers
  • Ban assault rifles
  • Implement laws on background checks for firearm purchases
  • Increase public funding to expand mental health beds
  • Increase investments in youth prevent programs


  • Fund campaign to promote benefits of consistent mental health and treatment
  • Eliminate food deserts in Louisiana by 2030
  • Recruit and incentivize black physicians to Louisiana
  • Increase public green and walk spaces in majority-Black neighborhoods
  • Increase public education regarding health inequities
  • Regulate chemical plants and other pollutants to reduce environment and health harm


  • Increase teacher pay
  • Strengthen regulations to mandate increase in teacher certifications
  • Implement financial literacy in schools
  • Increase digital and broadband access
  • Expand access to early childhood education

Learn more about our 2023 Legislative Agenda and how you can partner with the Urban League of Louisiana here.