LaPlace businessman funds outreach to stop violence escalation here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 25, 2005



LAPLACE – “Put the gun down! Think a Minute!”

The phrase is powerful, and quickly got the attention of LaPlace businessman Dedrick Johnson when he was watching the movie “South Central” on television recently.

“As soon as I saw it, I knew that was what I was looking for,” Johnson said.

Operating a successful business in St. John Parish as owner of Johnson Concrete and Construction, as well as Johnson Real Estate Investors, the lifelong River Region resident has been more than just concerned about the escalating violence locally in the past year.

“The last time there was a killing around here I just thought ‘this is really getting out of hand.’ I knew that I wanted to do something, but I just wasn’t sure what,” he explained.

But after sitting on the panel for the recent Committee Against Violence in St. John Parish, Johnson wanted to do more than talk about possible ways to start combating the problem.

So when he heard that line of “Put down the gun!” from a movie he was watching, along with dialogue that went with it, he knew what he wanted to do.

In only a matter of weeks, Johnson has put up $8,000 of his own money to finance a long series of ads on two New Orleans Hip-Hop stations. The content of the ads is powerful and will hopefully make any individual thinking about using a gun, to think otherwise.

He has purchased 141 spots on stations 104.5 and Q93 FM in New

Orleans, starting over a week ago and scheduled to run through the summer.

“Somebody has to stand up and start somewhere against this,” he said. “I always wanted to do something and this is just a place we are starting.”

Johnson has begun the “Stop the Violence Campaign,” working with Kelwyn Napoleon of the New Orleans radio station. Napoleon has a group called Reality Check, which also uses various ways to reach young people heading down the wrong path.

Johnson said he believes much of the problem is found in the music kids are listening to today.

“I will probably get slammed for saying this, but I think the violence problem has everything to do with the gangsta music kids are listening to,” he said. “It affects them every way across the board.”

Johnson, 35, said that it was the work ethic taught to him by his father and mother which put him on the right track.

His father, John Johnson, started the concrete and construction business, and brought his son into it at an early age.

“When I was a kid, my friends thought I was spoiled because I always had the first of every new toy or whatever was popular,” he said. “What they didn’t know is my dad made me work to make the money to buy it. I worked all summer and on weekends for him. My dad was a man of integrity from head to toe, and he taught me the importance of working for what you want.”

He especially remembers the way his parents maintained a good relationship even though they split up when he was 14.

“I still had both parents. They remained friends and always were there for me,” he recalled. “My mom even invited my dad and his new wife over to eat at our house. My childhood was very good, and that was something that helped me.”

Even though he moved to California for a number of years, he said he was destined to return here and run the family business.

“My dad kept calling me and saying ‘son, when you coming home.’ Finally some circumstances happened, and I knew I was supposed to go home. It was like divine intervention,” he remarked.

Now he is also operating the Second Chance program for people about to lose their home to foreclosure (See separate story with this article.) He continues to operate both companies and employs 30 people in his companies.

‘Second Chance’ program helping individuals keep their homes



LAPLACE – Dedrick Johnson has always had a mentality for business.

But now that he is having plenty of success with Johnson Concrete and Construction, along with Johnson Real Estate Investors, he is trying to find ways to help people with the success he has had.

Enter the “Second Chance” program, which recently began as a way to help individuals keep their homes, which were about to be foreclosed on.

“My uncle and my fiancĂ© were recently sitting around talking about the fact that my mother had lost her property and we weren’t able to get it back from the bank in time to save it,” he explained. “Suddenly my uncle said we needed to find a way to help people, kind of like a second chance. That gave us the idea for the business.”

Johnson has now embarked on a program that has already helped 10 people keep their homes, even

though they were about to lose them to foreclosure.

One example was Geraldine Brown of LaPlace, a 62-year-old woman who fell into difficulty after a divorce, and not having two jobs to keep up the mortgage on her property.

On the day of this interview, she was sitting in Johnson’s office signing the papers to save her home and stay.

“I was going to lose it since I had always worked two jobs, but after getting married, I just worked one job. However when I split from my husband, he quit paying on the house and then I couldn’t afford it,” she said.

However Johnson came in at that point, bought the house from the bank or mortgage company, and restructured the loan to give her a second chance to start over, without having to pay missed payments.

He adds a percentage to the original mortgage so his company can still make it profitable.

However the added amount is minimal, and was something people like Brown were happy to pay.

“I feel 100 percent relieved and I am so thankful to Mr. Johnson for this program,” she said. “I prayed to God for help, and now I don’t have to move. I’m just so happy and pleased about this.”

Johnson learned about real estate early in his business career when he moved to California, and started buying, fixing up, and reselling property.

“We certainly still have to make some money on these deals since we are a business, but it’s a win-win situation. They may pay a little more long term for their house, but they get to keep it, and we put them back in a situation that they can manage in. The main thing for me is the personal satisfaction to help people,” he said.

Anyone interested in more information on the program can call 652-4207.