Mayor Jennifer Vidrine of Ville Platte, Louisiana was born and raised in the city she leads. “What I love about Ville Platte is the people,” she says. “They’re the friendliest in the world.”
Vidrine says that residents sit out on their porches and chat between houses. She loves that folks know their neighbors. But she was growing concerned that residents didn’t know people who live just a few blocks away, or on the other side of town. Ville Platte is diverse, but highly segregated; mostly-white neighborhoods sit right beside mostly-Black ones. At around 6,500 people, Ville Platte is a small city, but racial divisions make it feel smaller.
Virdrine was troubled by this. She wanted to unify her town and connect people who might not otherwise meet. She became an E Pluribus Unum Fellow in 2020 and developed a plan to combat the rising racial and political friction she saw in her community. As she attended the Fellowship’s racial equity trainings and connected with the other Fellows, she decided that the best way to erode division in her community was to leverage its strengths. If Ville Platte residents connected on their porches, Vidrine decided to bring those “porches” together in intentionally integrated spaces. Existing public spaces weren’t serving this purpose.
“We have two parks,” says Vidrine. “But they’re known as ‘the Black park,’ and ‘the white park.’”