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of running for office, “but I don’t want to get my gold teeth taken off to become mayor.”

Changing his community, particularly the way young men see themselves, has him constantly scheming.

Of his generation, he says, “We took crime and what was bad in our neighborhood, and we made it worse. There was a code of honor, you didn’t rape and rob grandmothers. Now there ain’t no codes.”

Kids in downtown Jackson, he said, “all want to get out. Some use college. Some think they gotta sell enough dope. But the neighborhood never benefits from the people who leave.”

So he stays. He tries to figure out where the Young People’s Project could be doing more. A couple of years ago he was conspiring with his best friend, Chris Albogodyn. Chris had gone to that first Algebra Project meeting. They had started YPP together. Soon they were thinking of opening boxing clubs and recording studios for teenage boys to use to channel their boredom and aggression.

They were looking to buy up some vacant buildings. Then one day a 16-year-old boy flagged Chris’ car down. Chris was talking on his cell phone with Albert. He told Albert, “Hold on, I’ll call you back.” A few minutes later Albert got a call. Chris was shot to death.

After the shock, after many months when he only felt like listening to soft music, Albert says, “I felt betrayed. The young man who killed him was who we were out there for.” Albert’s position in the community and infectious confidence

has led to other work around the South. After Hurricane Katrina struck, he organized a YPP operation known as “Finding Our Folk,” which organized support visits to FEMA camps from Baton Rouge to Atlanta. Depressed storm victims heard a big bus arriving, then the blasting of horns from the New Orleans Hot 8 Brass Band as out came a chef with Cajun food, Danny Glover, volunteer psychologists, and a bunch of students with handheld video cameras ready to let the displaced vent their emotions on the record. “That was the most accomplished I’ve ever felt


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