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This blog series will focus on the Baton Rouge community and issues we, as a young professional organization, can make an impact or start a discussion on.


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Top tags: community  baton rouge  diversity  inclusion  coronavirus  mental health  service  voting 

Continuing Your Education on Racism in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and America

Posted By Morgan Kastner, Monday, July 20, 2020

Written by Morgan Kastner, Forum 225 President-Elect


Forum 225 prides itself on providing opportunities to the community’s young professionals to grow and develop into Baton Rouge’s next group of leaders. As protests for racial justice engulfed our nation after the George Floyd killing, we knew that if we truly wanted to shape our community’s future leaders, then they must be equipped with the historical knowledge of racism in our own community and its implications today.

To address this, we held a three part panel series on the history of racism in Baton Rouge and Louisiana. Expert panelists shed light on howt institutional racism was codified through housing discrimination and voter suppression, how Baton Rougeans fought back against racism through protest and distruption, and how organizations and activists are working to dismantle the remaining systems of racism in our community today. To help attendees build on the information they learned during these powerful presentations, our speakers detailed literary works and actions we can take to keep educating ourselves and to keep the movement going.

Check out their suggestions below.

  • Dr. Jhacova Williams, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, suggests:
    •  Reading The Color of Money by Mehrsa Baradaran, a book discussing the racial wealth gap that challenges the idea that black banking and community self-help is the solution
  • Chris Tyson, president and CEO of Build Baton Rouge, suggests:
  • Dr. Lori Latrice Martin, LSU sociology and African and African American studies professor, suggests:
    • Watching LPB’s Troubled Waters, a documentary that looks at life in South Baton Rouge from the 1940s until now
    • Engaging in the work of local organizations, one of her examples was MetroMorphosis, an organization with a mission to transform urban communities from within
    • Reading “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr., which was written by King Jr. after being arrested for protesting racial injustice in Birmingham
    • Evaluating your strengths and network to determine how you can best leverage your sphere of influence to help or support others
  • Myra Richardson, student at Southern University and racial justice activist, suggests:
    • Amplifying black voices by following black leaders on social media, sharing the information they put out, and engaging in the work and organizations they are creating and leading
    • Listening to 1619, a podcast by The New York Times that evaluates “the long shadow of American history”
    • Supporting local black businesses not just once, but consistently
  • Rev. Alexis Anderson, founder and executive director of PREACH, suggests:
    • Getting to know people who are expressing oppression, learn their stories, hear what they want to change, and form strong relationships with them
    • Reading Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari, a book which explores human stories of the war on drugs
    • Reading state and organizational budgets to find out where your tax dollars are going
  • Casey Phillips, director of the Walls Project, suggests:
    • Joining organizations that are already doing good work in the community and see how you can help advance their mission, he listed Baton Roots, an offshoot of the Walls Project that focuses on sustainable agriculture in urban farms, as a potential organization to get involved in
    • Reading The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century by George Friedman, a book forecasting changes we can expect around the world during the twenty-first century supported by research and analysis
  • Edgar Cage, leader ofTogether Louisiana, suggests:
  • Maxine Crump, president and CEO of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, suggests:
    • Participating in Dialogue on Race, a structured series of small group conversations that help participants unpack the confusion and misinformation around race
If you missed a session, but still want to hear what all of our amazing speakers had to say, you can watch recordings of the full series. Watch Part One: The History of Institutional Racism, Part Two: The History and Impact of Protest, and Part Three: Dismantling Systems of Racism.

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Don’t Find Your Routine. Find Yourself.

Posted By Janel Page, LSU Foundation, Sunday, April 19, 2020

Don’t Find Your Routine. Find Yourself.

Anonymously written by a member of Forum 225


We are more than a month into COVID-19 restrictions and stay at home orders, and times have been challenging for everyone. 

I originally agreed to write this article as a “how to” on keeping your routine in this new normal. I was three weeks into my new normal and had found my footing – I was getting up at the same time every morning for a virtual workout with my same group of fellow gym members and friends, I was following my same nutrition and wellness guidelines I set for myself, working my same hours, and doing my best to be just as productive as always while also taking time to relax. I thought I could share some tips on how others might keep from just treading water.

Fifteen hours after signing up for this task, I became a statistic; one of the impacts our unprecedented circumstance has forced upon us. I was laid off by my employer of nearly 13 years.

With one phone call, my entire being shifted. A routine was irrelevant. Time no longer held meaning. I had no major obligations to schedule chores around, no one waiting on me to complete my duties and obviously no place to go. I found myself sitting for long periods of time just staring out the window or mindlessly opening and closing social media apps. I watched Netflix, roamed around my house, and read to keep my thoughts from stirring. Doing all these things around the times I slept because I was exhausted and drained from the myriad of emotions I was feeling.

I knew it would take some time for me to heal and get back to my productivity level, and I promised myself that time. I vowed to give myself the freedom to just be, to not weigh myself down with what I should do or what I could do. Instead, I just allowed myself to do what I felt like doing in the moment I felt like doing it – whether it was cleaning, exercising, chatting with friends and family, doing something fun, something necessary, or simply doing nothing.

That was important. These are not normal times. It’s not necessary to harp on what to do or how to do it. It’s condescending to believe you must live at the same capacity while juggling more stressors in new, unknowing circumstances. It’s belittling to tell yourself that something is wrong if you feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Things have changed. The world is different. Do what makes sense and lean into it.

In the week following my unfortunate career halt, I realized a few things.

  1. Always take care of what matters most. The place where I had spent nearly my entire adult life was now a memory. Without that focus, I was forced to consider if I was taking care of the people in my life who had been there for me outside of my work. More importantly, was I taking care of myself?

  2. Be present. Take in every moment. Without looming deadlines, I was able to spend more time outdoors, noticing the sites and sounds around me. Genuinely thankful for the beautiful weather recently, I realized that I had been moving so quickly from one responsibility to the next that I didn’t appreciate the life I had built and the things around me that were worth enjoying.

  3. Do things that make you happy. Don’t waste time on something that doesn’t bring excitement and value to your life. When it’s gone, it won’t be worth it. Be intentional in the things you do and let them serve a greater purpose for something that will leave you fulfilled in the long run.

  4. Breathe. Just breathe.

Whether you’re working or not working, juggling jobs and kids, caring for sick family members or just trying to survive, you’re doing great. Everyone’s situation is different. However, we can all be mindful of the season of life we are in and allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel and do what we need to do. Then look forward, because better days are ahead.

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10 Ways to Serve the Community from Your House During COVID-19

Posted By Janel Page, LSU Foundation, Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Title: 10 Ways to Serve the Community from Your House During COVID-19

by: DeVannon Hubert, V.P. of Service

Don’t let sitting around at home get you down! We love our city and take pride in serving our community and are continuing to work to do so in every way possible.  We’ve come up with a list of ways we can work to stay connected and be of service during this difficult time:
1. Take the Census. Data collected from the Census is used to determine the allocation of federal funding to all the states and how many representatives each state gets. It is important we do our part to be counted and ensure our state receives the proper representation. The survey only takes 5-10 minutes to complete.
2. Give to a good cause (BRAF Emergency Relief Fund or CAUW Community Relief Fund). For those that are able to donate it is a great way to help those in our community who are in dire need at this time.  No amount is too small to give as a little can go a long way.
3. Purchase a Forum 225 "We Are BR!" shirt benefiting the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.  Food continues to be one of our greatest societal needs and we have teamed up with our local Food Bank in order to provide funding to address this issue within our community.  A portion of the proceeds are donated directly to the Food Bank.
4. Order a meal to-go or purchase a gift card for later @ Keep BR Serving ! This is a collaborative initiative among local restaurants benefiting their employees.  20% off all gift card sales go directly to cover lost tips and wages.
5. Tip a service worker through Tip It Forward ! Service industry workers have input their information into a Google Sheet to include place of work, position, etc.  If there is a worker you would like to donate to directly this spreadsheet contains information on how to do so.  
6. Bring a little happiness to your neighborhood with #ChalkYourWalkBR and #HeartsFromHomeBR.  Combine a little creativity with a whole lotta love by hanging blue hearts in your doors/windows to show healthcare workers that they are appreciated.  You can also draw brightly colored inspirational messages on your driveway or sidewalk with chalk to add to the positive energy of your neighborhood.  
7. Consider participating in Virtual Volunteering! has compiled a very comprehensive list of various volunteer tasks for various agencies which can be accomplished right from your living room!
8. Assist the eldery and disabled in obtaining groceries or other needed supplies.  Consider if any of your neighbors may be in need but unable to get out and get things on their own.  Lend a hand in any way that is safe to do so. 
9. Only go out when absolutely necessary.  Just reinforcing the stay at home policies our Governor has set in place.  Our necessities will vary but limitimg contact as much as possible seems to be of some benefit to us thus far. 
10. Just stay home.  If all else fails the best thing we can do for our community is to stay indoors.  And hey now that you have this list of ideas to do staying at home just became that much more fun! 

Tags:  community  coronavirus  service 

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There are no small, unimportant elections

Posted By Jessica Keasler, Wednesday, October 31, 2018

“There are no small, unimportant elections,” said Michael Victorian, member of 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, Ltd, to a full room on LSU’s campus Tuesday morning. I was already planning on voting in this election but hearing his words I was compelled to go the polls for early voting.  


As a leader of Forum 35, I was invited to attend the Civic Engagement Breakfast, which featured a panel of community leaders. The breakfast was part of a symposium put on by LSU: Behind the Ballot: Examining the Influences and Trends Driving Modern Elections, featuring two days packed full of topics and amazing speakers.


The overall message was clear among the panelists, civic engagement begins with voting. Donald Cravins, Jr. of the National Urban League echoed that message saying ‘Some of you will be disappointed when your candidate doesn’t win. Some will be disappointed when your candidate wins but turns out to not be who you thought. Civic engagement isn’t just one vote. It’s showing up and engaging in conversation.' This really resonated with me, especially upon hearing the statistics that half of millennials aren’t voting. I used to be part of that non-voting cohort.


As the largest workplace, and group with the largest buying power, millennials should be a proportionally large influential group when it comes to politics. So, here is my challenge to you: vote on November 6th. Vote again on December 8th. Go to the polls every time there is an opportunity to. Don’t let the results of the elections stop your engagement. Let your elected officials know where you stand on issues. Go to public meetings, council meetings and use other venues to find out information on issues that matter to you. Get engaged.


As members of Forum 35, we all want a better Baton Rouge, it’s in our mission statement after all. Exercising your right to vote and following that up with civic engagement is definitely a way to work toward our mission. We may not all agree on every issue/candidate, but I strongly believe we ought to not only be the voice behind change, but be the action that causes it.




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Tags:  voting 

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Proud to Progress

Posted By Angela Schifani, Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Since the New York Stonewall Riots in 1969, activists, advocates and allies have been fighting to improve inclusion, protection and equal treatment of LGBTQ people in the U.S. While those initial protests began in the Big Apple, activities such as Pride Month, occur in cities across the country—even in our very own Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, a conservative state. Politics aside, conservative ideals have been historically associated with a delay in accepting the LGBTQ community. As expected, Louisiana does not necessarily have a reputation of being particularly “gay-friendly.” Since Forum 35 works to improve the city of Baton Rouge for all of its residents, we hosted a Pride Month survey! For this survey, we polled our members and other locals on their thoughts regarding how our city treats the LGBTQ community.


Disclaimer: we only received 31 responses to our survey, so we won't dive deep into the numbers. But we will take a look at a few statements given in the comments section, because I think they could shed some light on why Forum 35 felt the need to create the survey in the first place.


“We have many great progressive community organizations and events like BR Pride to create this culture of inclusiveness. However, city policies to actually protect citizens and thereby attract economic opportunities are greatly lacking.” -Anonymous survey respondent


We know that times change. New discoveries, ideas and technology move us forward through social and biological evolution. We as people have to change too in order to fit in the growing landscape around us. Much of Forum 35’s efforts focus on Baton Rouge’s ability to attract and maintain residents who can help keep the city relevant and progressing. In order to compete with other cities, we need to consider changing some of our “old fashioned” ideologies, practices and legislation.


“I think many business leaders and younger generations realize the importance of inclusivity and want to preserve it. Our elected officials are the ones that seem to have a harder time coming out in favor.” -Anonymous survey respondent


We keep saying that children are the future. We don’t have to develop existential dread right now, but we have to face the facts: as we age, we get closer to not being around anymore. So, quite literally, youth are the future. If younger generations are focusing on inclusivity, the rest of us should probably listen.


So what does that mean? We, the residents of Baton Rouge, should examine our landscape! What types of public events do we host for each other? Which venues and spaces are welcoming to everyone who lives in Baton Rouge? What laws do we have in place that protect or hurt our neighbors? Which services and resources could be helpful to those that are disenfranchised?


We want to hear from you! We want to know what Baton Rouge is doing right, and what we could improve, in terms of being inclusive to our LGBTQ residents. Forum 35 will start the conversation by providing a list of local groups that serve those who identify as LGBTQ, as well as other resources that have LGBTQ-informed services. This list may not be comprehensive, so please feel free to add to it in the comments below!


Advocacy Organizations

Baton Rouge Pride Fest

Capital City Alliance

Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) of Baton Rouge

Pride 1

Progressive Social Network


Student Groups

First Contact at Louisiana State University

Gay Alliance for Legal Equality (GALE) at Southern University

OUTlaw at Louisiana State University

Spectrum at Louisiana State University

The Student Equality Project at Louisiana State University


Health Services

HIV/Aids Alliance Region II (HAART)

Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center (STAR)

The Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center


Self Defense & Safety

Operation Blazing Sword


Recreation & Social

George’s Place

Red Stick Roller Derby

Splash Nightclub


Tags:  diversity  inclusion 

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A Courageous Conversation: Building an Inclusive Community

Posted By Monique Harris & Chelsea Borruano, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I don’t see color.” This statement is often said in an attempt to showcase an appreciation for diversity and acceptance of those that may be different from one’s self, but by the end of this blog post I hope you’ll think twice before using it again.

At this year’s Diversity Summit, Building an Inclusive Community, the panelists tackled inclusion’s role as the second wave of diversity and its importance.

About 15 minutes into the panel discussion, I regretted not being able to record it. The dialogue between our esteemed panelists was so authentic, vulnerable and insightful, both Chelsea and I knew we had to somehow capture the takeaways. So, we did that by getting together on a beautiful afternoon and having a real talk about diversity and ultimately, inclusion in our community.

I could dedicate this post to simply recapping who said what, but instead I’d like to share the insights that all seem to hinge on a central theme: diversity is being invited to the a party, inclusion is getting asked to dance.

One of our panelists shared a story in which he and his best friends were on their annual guys trip when his friend said, “man I don’t see you as black.” The panelist replied to his friend that there wasn’t a day that he didn’t know his friend was white. He injected that for someone to be colorblind means that you can’t fully see another because who you are is a direct result of your experience, and part of that experience is a result of your culture, your background.

The panel echoed this sentiment, and suggested that we grow together and we grow as a community when we give people the space to be themselves, their whole selves. Not having to check part of their identity at the door; that is what inclusivity is.

This matters to our community because, when there is a brain drain of people leaving for other places they feel more accepted, we all lose. We lose talented people, we lose prospective jobs, we lose solutions, and we lose community enrichment. For our city to continue to blossom, it is imperative we become inclusive to all of our residents.

Through multiple examples, the panelists shared ways in which they leaned into difficult conversations with an open mind, and simply kept asking questions without judgement.

How do you create inclusivity? You ask questions. You seek to gain more understanding of someone else’s experience. The starting place is acknowledging someone’s story without judgement; listening to seek to understand, not to offer a rebuttal. “I can't hear you when you’re screaming.” The core is being vulnerable to one another’s humanity. This challenge is what they left us with.

And now I’d like to challenge all of us to do the same. I hope that in your daily conversations you’ll lean into what can sometimes be the discomfort to learn more about someone else. I hope that you won’t work to be colorblind (or gender blind or any other type of blind), but rather work to see people as they are and as they share themselves to be. I too, am working on this daily. When I hear someone offer an opinion varying from mine, instead of immediately rebutting, I default on asking them follow up questions on why they hold that belief. In the short few weeks of practicing this, I’ve found myself growing to understand those around me on a deeper level than I expected.

We should all be having these conversations, with our peers, and with people who are culturally different from us. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative and continuing the discussion, let us know by emailing  

Tags:  baton rouge  community  diversity  inclusion 

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“I am still in the middle of my story. I fear it will never end.”

Posted By Chelsea Borruano, Gravel Road Marketing & You Aren't Alone Project, Wednesday, June 13, 2018

“I am still in the middle of my story. I fear it will never end.” -Mental Health poll respondent   

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. May was also followed by June, and the deaths of two prominent, influential, driven and passionate people who took their own lives. It's heartbreaking. It’s painful. It’s shocking—hearing about public figures, people who we've adored, committing suicide. But it shouldn't be a reminder that depression is one of the most dangerous of diseases. It shouldn't be the only time we consider what our cities and states are doing for mental and behavioral health. It shouldn't be the only time we think to look out for the "signs" which, by the way, are often hidden behind that smile or passion or drive.


Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain—they committed suicide last week, but let's not forget the average of 123 neighbors or classmates or loved ones each day that see no other way out of this desperate fight. Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. For every suicide, 25 others attempt it. Being kind to someone who is sad may cheer them up and brighten their day, but just being kind to someone with depression is not enough. They—we—need actual professional, possibly medical, and maybe holistic help. And sometimes we need someone to take that step with us, because depression is a lonely, dark, hopeless road that none of us should have to travel alone.


In May, we also asked you, the young professional community here in Baton Rouge, to give us your feedback, thoughts and experiences with mental health in our city. This is what you told us…


“Including federal matching dollars, the total cuts to the Louisiana Department of Health would amount to over half a billion dollars, compromising mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs when temporary revenue measures expire on July 1.”


Out of 24 respondents, 83% of you do not support these proposed budget cuts.


100% support health insurance coverage for the treatment of behavioral health.


96% of respondents answered yes to the question, “Do you suffer from or know someone who suffers from a mental illness?” and one respondent was “unsure” (we get that).

That same percentage has sought or knows someone who has successfully sought treatment for a mental health condition.


And lastly, only 8% feel Baton Rouge is adequately supporting behavioral health and addressing these issues among our community—that’s 80% who answered no and 12% who are unsure.


We also touched on the key factors that may keep someone from seeking treatment:

“money, being stigmatized
cost of treatment if insurance was unavailable
Cost and lack of knowledge on knowing where to go for help
lack of available resource
quality of treatment
and fear of disclosure
there are few options for holistic health in Baton Rouge


There is definitely a theme. Stigma, cost, lack of resources – we all see the same issues, so the question now is, what are we going to do about it?


Since this survey, there’s been at least one positive mental health initiative for our city. Last week Mayor Broome announced the creation of an EMS mental health program, CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management). According to Broome, the CISM team will assist medics in coping with day-to-day work stresses and other mental health burdens that can arise from the workload, call volume, and the nature of certain emergency response situations. We challenge the community to expand on that. Bring this team out to the public as a Mental Health EMS squad. Obviously we’re just throwing ideas out there, BUT we’d like to see the young professionals in this community do something more with their ideas.


If you would like to be a part of this discussion and make an impact on mental health in our community, get in touch with us by emailing

Tags:  baton rouge  community  mental health 

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