Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Larry ‘Coop’ D Veal of Be More Positive Is Helping To Change Our World
Don’t be afraid to challenge someone’s opinion. A truthful and honest person is not concerned with questions.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Larry ‘Coop’ D. Veal.
Larry easily has a comedic talent that could have taken him in any direction. It is as if he surveyed the country’s greatest need and chose to use his talent to fulfill that need. In his eyes, that need was to serve kids who were hurting and headed for trouble.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I came to Atlanta from Indianapolis in 1991 to do nothing but became a national stand-up comic. I was one of the first to perform on BET’s Comic view and I was doing well. However, not well enough to make a good living, so I took on a job as a Juvenile Probation Officer in Fulton County. This was during the introduction of Gangster Rap and the Central Park Five. Because of my degree in Criminology /Sociology I had a vested interest already in our societal well-being. When the 1994 Crime Bill was passed, which was very strict on juvenile offenders and made it easier for youth to go to prison and stay for longer periods of time. Many of the students I was serving started getting arrested and sentenced to adult prison, I knew these kids needed help and I wanted to be that person to do it, because there were not many. A year later my younger brother became caught up in this system over a drug charge. He was sentenced to a Mandatory Minimum of “Life in Prison without parole”. It was this when I started to contemplate “How can my life make the most impact.”
Shortly after that, while traveling to a comedy performance in my hometown of Indianapolis, I ask the driver to stop by my mom’s house. The goal was to allow them to witness me in this fancy limousine. When the driver parked in front of my mom’s home, I encountered a flashback. My mind went back to the time when I was in trouble with other gang members and getting kicked out of school. I was living a hopeless misguided life. At the time I wanted nothing more than to escape that world. I prayed to God, God if you get me out of this lifestyle, I will use my life to help other kids like me. At that very moment I knew that I would turn my comedy, and other skills to helping others headed down the wrong path.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
While I didn’t have a formal business structure at the time, I began giving my time to helping youth while I was in college. The most interesting story I have happened right out of college, when I partnered with a non-profit organization. Our goal was to help mentor teenage gang members from the Brightwood area of Indianapolis. I was selected to write a grant that would help us purchase a van and supply food and funds for field trips. We were approved for the grant. However, once the grant was awarded — I remember it was $100,000 — the leader of the organization kept all of the funds for himself and allowed the program to fold. Due to this leader being a pastor and myself being in my early twenties, I did not want to ruffle feathers. This was the first time I realized that there were people who did not have the same passion that I had and from then on I knew it was a must for me to start my own company.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of the funniest mistakes I made was thinking that every child was interested in my story. I was giving a talk at a teen boot camp with kids assigned through the Juvenile Court. I noticed how they kept asking me more and more questions about my life, my story. They appeared to be extremely interested. That is until I turned around and noticed that there were kids stealing ice cream snacks from the refrigerator. The questions were just to distract me. Lesson learned.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We are making a Social Impact in three ways.
We are introducing effective ways that schools can reduce their suspension and discipline problems. This is done by us requesting that schools direct those students to us who have demonstrated the need for intervention and guidance. It is from this demographic that we receive data that shows we, in some case, have an 80% success rate with decreasing disciplinary referral and increases academic performance.
We are making Community-Based Mentoring more popular, fun, and effective. We all know that teachers and counselor can’t do it alone. There must be support from the community. There must be mentors and community leaders that can have effective dialogue. We are having an impact by bringing these pieces together and making the connection.
We are providing a way that people can be entertained without being insulted, or offended.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
In the mid-nineties while administering a group mentoring session at Carver-Eastside Boys and Girls Club in Atlanta, I was interrupted by a person that I would like to give the name A.C.
A.C could mean, “Angry Child”. Because that is what he was.
He was angry that his basketball game was interrupted by the center director, Mr. Jerome Taylor, who was calling all the students into the building to come and sit down to listen to me speak. A.C. would slam his hand on the table to coincide with my words so that others could not hear me. After a few times I asked him what was his problem? “I don’t want to be in here. This is not school,” he said. I told him that if he would be quiet, I would play him in basketball after I finished. While on the court, to my surprise, this was clearly one of the most talented fourteen-year-old basketball players that I had ever seen.
When I asked if he played in school, he said that he dropped out and would not go back. “I hate school” he said.
To make a long story short, that kid never went back to high school. However, we did talk him into getting his GED. As a result of a conducting a lot of research, making numerous phone calls, and finding favor with people in key positions, we helped A.C. enroll in a junior college. He later attended a major university. His talent enabled him to have a thirteen-year career in the NBA.
He is currently an Assistant Coach with the Miami Heat. A.C. really stands for Anthony Carter.
Another story on the comedy side of things.
I was performing stand -up in a small pub in the mid-west, After my show a stranger approached me. He appeared to be some type of rapper or someone. He pulled me aside and said thank you. I said thank you for what. His response was, “I am a drug dealer and earlier someone sold me some bad stuff. My intention was to come here until nightfall. At that point I was going to shoot up their place. However, after hearing your funny, positive stories, I have decided to let that mess go.” This true story is one of many that inspires our “Laugh, Don’t Shoot” national comedy tours.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The community can help by requesting activities that are uplifting and engaging.
As a society, help put more constructive and uplifting content in the hands of our youth. We should look for ways to feed our youth with information and guidance to help them become the leaders we need for a brighter tomorrow. Each time I leave a classroom and see the positive impact of our work, I think about how a major change could occur if more kids had the opportunity to take part in our groups. Find ways to add that positive content to the space where our youth currently sit in as the audience (as spectators) or sponsor the ability for others to do so.
For politicians, invest more into preventative measures to lower crime and violence rather than creating more laws to punish and correct criminals once the crimes are committed. Make the investment in our youth instead of having to pay a penalty later when after unaddressed negative behavior results in actions that cause hurt and harm, or even death. It could also help to undo some of the damage inflicted by past laws and bills that did the opposite. More resources should be made available for those who are committed to changing lives for the better.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership can be explained best by the comment that Gandhi stated, “Be willing to be the change you want to see.” I never had a father or a father figure, however, I have four sons and have been married for twenty-eight years. Not having a father did not stop me from trying to be the best father I could be. With two adult sons out on their own, one in college, and one still in high school, I can say I’m not failing.
I never saw an example of a good husband. But, according to my wife I am one. This is confirmed every time I look at the contacts in her phone and do not see my name, but instead I see written the words, “A wonderful man.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I wish someone would have told me that the color of my skin is not a barrier for my success, and those who say it is have barriers of their own they need to address.
Don’t be afraid to challenge someone’s opinion. A truthful and honest person is not concerned with questions.
Partnerships are good, but not necessary to fulfill your purpose. It is better to walk right alone, that to be wrong together.
Spend quality time doing paperwork and research. Because as Socrates said, “You can argue with ideas, you can argue with theories, but you cannot argue with facts.”
Whatever you do, do it as if you already won.
Bonus: Don’t walk away from negative people…RUN!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to see a “What’s your Positive?” movement. That would be a movement where everyday citizens would encourage each other to be positive. It would be expanded by
seeking out people, programs, and organizations that are Being More Positive.
There would be “What’s Your Positive?” events and activities that will include and adults.
The goal would be to make such an impact in this country that there will never be a need to have movement such “Black Lives Matter”, because it would be evident that “All Lives Matter.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite is the one I have on my office wall which comes from the Bible.
Galatians 6:9,” Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Wow, this means so much to me because it reminds me of something that happened in 1996. I was at home with my wife and two-year-old son. I received a call from a major comedy promoter. He was putting a national tour together and wanted me on it.
The two things he said I needed to change before that happened was for me to add more curse words to spice up my act and to change some of my subject matter to not be so positive and wholesome.
He indicated that the other selected comedians did not think it fit in with the group. I recall him saying, “If you want to make it in comedy as a black man you have to be dirty and curse more.”
My response to him as I sat there holding my toddler and as my wife listened through the speaker phone was, “If I have to be dirty and curse a lot to make it, I guess it is not meant for me to make it.”
Galatians 6:9 gives me hope, because I am not giving up.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Larry ‘Coop’ D Veal of Be More Positive Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.