Clay Young is a New Roads native and 20-year veteran of the local media industry. Over the past two decades, his firm, Clay Young Enterprises, has handled advertising, public relations, video production and message consulting for businesses, individuals and governmental agencies. Recently, he also launched his own podcast, The Clay Young Show, which tackles controversial and divisive topics head on. But while Young often finds himself in the midst of heated controversies, he crosses racial, political and economic lines with ease, and is equally at home working with executives in the corporate boardroom and helping kids in the inner city.
What is the most important issue facing Baton Rouge?
A realization of who we really are. I believe Baton Rouge should acknowledge the fact that our school system can be better, that crime is an issue, that there are two Baton Rouges based on which side of Florida [Boulevard] you’re on. When we can start talking about these issues then we can really get to solutions.
But we talk about these problems all the time. What is it that we are not saying?
The school system is improving and will improve because Warren Drake cares about the bottom line. In terms of addressing crime, the sheriff, DA and chief are in the trenches trying to make a difference, but the communities need to partner with law enforcement and find a way to identify people who are problem citizens and either get them help or deal with them. In terms of business and infrastructure, Baton Rouge has come a far distance. There are more businesses here. But rising tides lift all ships, and if we address the inner city and the northern part of the parish it will have an impact on the southeastern and western side of the parish.
How do you bridge the gap between the northern and southern parts of Baton Rouge?
People like to live where they live, and there is no wrong or right about that. However, the realities of the growing southern part of the parish versus the dwindling northern part of the parish is relatable to schools, income and investment. The northern part of the parish has seen some investment, but the racial component keeps people from coming to a table together and having a mature conversation together.
If you were having a mature conversation what would be on your list of topics?
I think we have to invest in our children and young people in impoverished communities. We have to give them a focus on education and a purpose because a young person who is focused on becoming a success is less likely to be pulled into a situation where he or she could become a lifelong criminal. Anybody can make a mistake, but I’m talking about kids who get into violent trouble because of the lack of attention paid to them. We should catch them earlier. We should create an addiction to education so they are uninterested in getting into trouble. The adults in the room can’t be screaming at each other. We have to be acknowledging each other and trying to come up with a solution.
How do we stop the problem of teen births?
So many of these children have been let down by all the adults around them and are not being held accountable. The moment we invest in them and make them understand that they can create their destiny and that they are worth making good decisions for, then they won’t want to let down the people around them. The best way to predict the future is to create it and so we have to teach people that, as Aristotle says, success is not an accident. It isn’t. We have to be able to give kids a reason to believe in themselves—that their self worth is so high that they would be leery of making mistakes. Some of these kids have never had an opportunity to be around adults who instill in them a sense of value, where they can feel like, “I am worth this investment. I can be special. I can win.”
Why aren’t more leaders in the black community saying this?
I think there are leaders in the black community who are working as hard as they can to reach young men and women to give them an opportunity, but there aren’t enough of them in the trenches doing it. It isn’t because of lack of effort. They try. But there needs to be more.
You defy category and cross over successfully from black circles to white, Republican to Democrat. How do you do it?
Because I’ve had a lot of help in my life. And people who would not let me listen to naysayers and doubters held me accountable to the mission. I grew up in a small town and had people of all races encourage me as a kid, and I have always kept that with me. I believe success is important because of the things that you are able to do for and on behalf of others. It is difficult because I have been the only person of color in a room and it has sometimes been awkward but never discouraging. I have also been a person of color who sees right and wrong through the prism of right and wrong, not through the prism of white and black. I know I’m not perfect, but I believe all people deserve an opportunity to prove or at least show their intentions for good or bad. I think we have more in common than we like to give each other credit. We love our children. We love our families, and we want to win.