|Brian Cox (unitylab.org)
Brian Cox spent his twenties working toward a professional football career. His life took a different turn when he settled in his hometown of Los Angeles, started a family and got a job as an administer of the Parks Department in a series of LA neighborhoods.
When he was given the opportunity to rehabilitate a struggling and troublesome South Park, he took it on. Brian had always been told that, "If you don't get involved in your own community and the kids in your own area that you work in... if you don't do it, who will?"
Brian took the job of Director for the South Park Recreation Center on the south central side of Los Angeles. Physically, the park was a mess. Also, it had a bad reputation for good reason. There were violent turf war between two rival gangs. People were scared to go to the park.
Attitudes needed to be changed. Brian knew that one important element was needed, the gang itself needed to be a part of the solution. Fortunately, Brian gained an ally in this mission. A former gang leader who said that he had been one of those who had "torn up South Park" was now a parent and wanted to join Cox to "clean this park up." Their common bond was football. Perry, known as "Blue", had to get the parents and kids to trust him. He also had to gain the trust of rival gang members to join in their common love of football. They successfully set up a scrimmage game with a nearby community - something that their own community, and Brian himself, thought could never happen. They provided hot dogs for the kids, watched proudly as the kids shook hands in the best sports tradition and knew that - Yes, this can work.
As Perry says, "4 years! Not an argument in the parking lot, nothing"
Brian says, "To organize something, and then you have to have a staff and there has to be a vision. We run this park as a team."
Brian says they have options now: play soccer, tackle football, we have a dance program for kids, and adult aerobics class, a senior citizens group, tutorial program, a teen club. It's great to see some of these kids and how they've turned their lives around."
One of the teenagers interviewed says, "I've learned responsibility, I've learned how to communicate with everybody else, I've learned that it doesn't matter what race you are - everybody's the same, and you just have to get along with everybody."
Brian says that what makes him most proud is that, "We make two culturally diverse people (Hispanic and black) come together, each and every day and make it work."
A parent says that "we got the Hispanic people, they look out for the black kids. We got the black people, they look out for the Hispanic kids. It's just a good situation going on at this park."
As Brian says, "If there's something that you feel that you can do, never look at the circumstances around you or look at that challenge of how big the task is, you Believe in yourself, believe in what your doing is right and just do it."