PENSACOLA — During the past month, the K.Y.L.E Project in Pensacola has organized and gathered residents of all races and backgrounds to protest and demand reform from local and federal governments. They want to see an end to police brutality and the birth of race reconciliation.
The K.Y.L.E Project stands for Keeping Young Leaders Empowered, and that is exactly what lead organizer and motivational speaker Caleb Houston has done along with the founder of the organization, Kyle Cole.
Houston has been part of the Pensacola protests held at a landmark spot in the city, the Graffiti Bridge, for over a month now. As protesters and community leaders have gathered to demand justice for police brutality and new legislation and policies from Pensacola government officials, Houston has been at the forefront of these gatherings.
Kiera Mitchell, a fourth-year accounting student at Florida A&M University and Pensacola native, can attest to the work the organization has done.
“When I attended the Graffiti Bridge protest I felt peace,” Mitchell said. “Real change will come from showing up and being present during conversations.”
Mitchell noticed the crowd was largely non African American and she encourages those within the Black community in Pensacola to remain involved.
The organization holds a special place in Houston’s heart. He has a passion for justice and uses his testimony in person and on his social media pages to connect with the protesters on a personal level. Houston says that at least 20 people have either been prayed for or given their life to Christ from the protests.
“I was just marching and a guy just came up to me and said,‘Man, I’m going to be honest with you bro. I didn’t even believe in God before I came to this protest but after coming here I believe in God.’I just knew right then that it had to be God,” Houston said.
Houston is open about his faith and says it’s the reason why he leads marches and meets with local government officials.
But just 10 years ago Houston wasn’t leading the community to justice. He was struggling with drug addiction and found himself in and out of jail. But if it hadn’t been for the time he spent in jail, he may have never met Kyle Cole, the founder of the K.Y.L.E Project who was also incarcerated during that time. It’s Houston’s faith in God and wisdom from his mother that allowed him to overcome his drug addiction and get his life back on the path he wanted it to be on.
“Being raised in the church I was always taught to believe God and trust God through any situation,” Houston said. “A gentleman told me something one time. He said,‘It’s not going to happen until you’re tired of being tired.’”
As Houston continued to use his faith and wisdom from his mother, he eventually broke free of his addiction and never returned to jail again. Fast forward to May 2020 when Cole is on Facebook Live talking about the Graffiti Bridge mural of George Floyd being defaced and repainted, Houston knew what was taking place was divine intervention. What he and Cole envisioned in jail was becoming a reality right before their eyes.
Since the formation of the K.Y.L.E Project over a month ago, Houston has had the opportunity to talk to Mayor Grover Robinson of Pensacola directly and lead protests at least five nights a week against police brutality and for social reform. A major issue Houston is pushing to change in Pensacola is the removal of a Confederate monument downtown.
According to emorialPark is to commemorate heroes from the Southern Confederacy., the monument in Civil War M
“In 1891, after years of fundraising and planning, a 30-foot monument to ‘our Confederate dead’ was erected in the park…” The City of Pensacola say on its website.
Under the leadership of Houston and other members of the K.Y.L.E Project, the removal of the monument is now on the City Council’s agenda for July.
Houston’s life is a testament that we go through peaks and valleys. The valleys that our nation is going through now is motivating Houston to continue standing up and speaking out for the things he’s passionate about.