Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche (Life the Griot) and Alexander StephensAthens Oral History Project, AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche (Life the Griot) and Alexander Stephens

Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche (Life the Griot) and Alexander Stephens

Descriptive Summary

Title: Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche (Life the Griot) and Alexander Stephens
Creator: LaRoche, Lemuel
Creator: Stephens, Alexander Maxwell, 1988-
Dates: 2015 January 20
Extent: 1.0 interview
Collection Number: RBRL/361/AOHP
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: Lemuel LaRoche, also known as a LIFE The Griot, is a poet, community activist, and founder of the Athens non-profit, Chess and Community. He grew up in New York, and moved to Georgia where he attended Gordon College and later transferred to the University of Georgia. In this interview, LaRoche talks about his upbringing and early influences, his experience of the intersection between race and education, his decision to study social work at the master’s level, and his growing involvement in community engagement in Athens. He discusses Dreaded Mindz and Chess and Community, two community engagement initiatives he helped to spearhead. He discusses social conditioning, structural issues that affect the African-American community in Athens, and the relationship between the University of Georgia and the community. He reflects on fatherhood and working towards creating a better future.

Collection Description

Biographical note

Lemuel LaRoche was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 4, 1976. His father was a poet, and had a great influence on LaRoche’s written work. Early in his life LaRoche moved from New York to Georgia, where he graduated from high school, attended Gordon College, after which he transferred to the University of Georgia. His career has focused on community engagement and outreach, through which LaRoche the organization Dreaded Mindz with fellow member, Montu Miller. LaRoche also founded the non-profit Chess and Community in Athens, Georgia, an organization aimed at building leadership in at-risk African-American youth.

Scope and Content

Lemuel LaRoche talks growing up in a community of Islamic-background in New York, his parent’s influence on his beliefs and creative work, and his early poetry and writing. He describes his move south to Atlanta, becoming aware of racism in the South, and talks about his experience of racial profiling at Gordon College. LaRoche discusses transferring to the University of Georgia, confronting racial ignorance, and working on understanding different mindsets. He recalls expanding his sense of community, working to address the division between the university and community, and working on various community engagement programming. He describes co-founding of the student organization Dreaded Mindz along with hip-hop performer Montu Miller, its history and growth, the meaning behind its name, and its eventual dissolution.

LaRoche talks about deciding to pursue a Master’s degree in social work, and his transition from working with incarcerated adults to at-risk youth. LaRoche recounts learning to play chess as a child, and how he incorporated its real-world applications to found Chess and Community, a non-profit focused on developing leadership and critical thinking in at-risk youth through chess. He describes people’s reaction to chess, developing the idea of the Chess and Community Conference, and mobilizing grassroots community funding. LaRoche discusses the state of the juvenile detention system, the prison-industrial complex, and the mistrust of the Athens community that views itself as the university’s experiment. He discusses his personal beliefs on raising awareness and community involvement, shaping the next generation of thinkers, and fighting what he labels as the “programming” of society. He reflects on fatherhood and parenting in the face of police brutality.

Administrative Information and Restrictions

Custodial History note

The Athens Oral History Project was initiated in 2014 to document modern Athens history, roughly from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Interviews cover topics such as neighborhoods and communities in Athens, civil rights demonstrations, African American history, as well as personal histories of narrators.

Preferred citation

Athens Oral History Project, AOHP 007, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.

Copyright Information

Resources may be used under the guidelines described by the U.S. Copyright Office in Section 107, Title 17, United States Code (Fair use). Parties interested in production or commercial use of the resources should contact the Russell Library for a fee schedule.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2016.

Related Materials

Access Points

Oral histories.

Related Collections in this Repository

Athens Oral History Project

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche video, 2015 January 20 (Extent: 126.0 minutes ) Access Online
AOHP 007 Lemuel LaRoche video and interview index in OHMS Access Online