Sunday, June 27, 2010

The "Restoring our Community" March - 6/26/10

The weather man said it was 98 degrees out there... But still we marched. Not a short walk, not downhill, and not even down shaded streets. We marched 4 miles, at 12 noon, in the blazing sun, for nearly 2 hours, right through the heart of our community. We marched to send a message; that we are ready to make a change. That we are ready to be the change we want to see... Young folks and seniors, walking together, praying together, singing together as we called for an end to the violence that has plagued our community for too long.

It was beautiful...

I would like to personally thank the Wichita Ministerial League, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Urban League of Kansas, the Peace and Social Justice Center, Sunflower Community Action, the African American Coalition, Real Men Inc, the Council of Elders, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Sigma Gamma Rho, and Zeta Phi Beta Sororities, Alpha Phi Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, Iota Phi Theta, Phi Beta Sigma, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternities, The Wichita Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Wichita Black Nurses Association, the Center for Heath and Wellness, the Universalist Unitarian Church, the Kansas African American Museum, 316 the Rescue Zone, "Do you want to Live or Die" , Woman to Woman, the Justice Keepers, the Advocacy Coalition of Kansas, Bigelow Bethea, Rice Services, the Boys and Girls Club, Real Men Real Heroes, the Kappa Leadership League, the Optimist Club, and the City of Wichita.

I would also like to offer a special word of thanks to David and Lynne Gilkey, Pastor Reuben Eckels, Pastor Lincoln Montgomery, Pastor Cynthia Wolford, Carl Kirkendal, Cindi Donaldson, Prisca Barnes, Leah George, Frankie Brown, Reverend Peggy Elliott, Pastor Titus James, and the Reverend Michael Tyson for helping to carry the vision...

Thanks to Reverends Wade, Steele, and Sims, who offered up their Church buses and vans to make sure that those who were tired or who needed a rest could get on the bus for a while and continue on the path. Thank you to Fire Chief Blackwell for analyzing the route and having the fire department open several of the hydrants as we approached to provide a cooling mist as we marched by. Thank you to McDonalds and Youthville for providing water and ice. And thank you to Maaskelah Thomas for being my sounding board...

I'd like to also recognize those who sacrificed to be a part of this event. Folks such as Wanda Hunt who came just after a home-going celebration, Lanora Nolan who 'literally' walked until her feet bled, Superintendent Mark Gilkey who had an event going on at his own church but still found a moment to slip away and march with us, Mayor Carl Brewer whose schedule was full but found a way to make it over and join in the march and stayed through the program to speak to the community as well.

And last but certainly not least, my heartfelt thanks to my "team". Elaine Guillory, Kenya Cox, Kenyal Lattimore, Lavonta Williams, VJ Sessions, Sandra Rankins, Mary Dean, Charles Coleman... you guys helped take the "pictures" in my head and formulate the vision... I know I sometimes work y'all to death, but I love you all for letting me...

And another very special thanks to the Wichita NAACP Youth Council. You guys created the facebook and my space pages, sent out over 2,000 personal notices and invitations, stayed down at the office until 10pm making signs, carried the banners, and did everything we could ask, and things we didn't even know to ask... So to Amani, Kyron, Jesyka, Isaiah, AJ, Ronnell, Andrew, Carl Jr, Kendall, Jowonia, Aaron, Shelby, Mya, Jordon, Sharell, and all of the rest of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart...

And lastly a special word of thanks to Candice Reed who helped keep us focused on why this is so very important...


That said, this was only the beginning. The march and meeting were the "kick-off" events for what will be a long but rewarding process of transformation. Be clear, we will make some mis-steps, there will be a few gaffes and disappointments along the way, but if we stay focused and stay committed, we can do something that will serve as an example for cities across this Country.

The next step will be a facilitated session in August (we're still finalizing the venue). At that meeting we will work to design some multi-faceted and multi-disciplined collaborative initiatives that will maximize the shared resources and talents of the Organizations that have come to the table... How much more could we accomplish if we all strategically worked together? - In August, we'll see if we can't answer that question...

...but in the interim, yesterday we talked about 7 points that we can implement right now to begin the process of community restoration and transformation.

1. BELIEVE IT - The first thing we must do to begin the process of transforming our community is we must BELIEVE that we can. There are a Million detractors out there who will offer us reasons why we can't. We even have a million voices inside our own heads that will tell us that we're too flawed, too broken, or to self-centered to ever truly come together.. But conquering the haters and our doubts is the first step in this effort. It is a pre-requisite for the other steps. Believe that we CAN rebuild our community and SPEAK it to all those who will listen.

2. PRACTICE FORGIVENESS - We must all take the difficult step of forgiving one another. Within our community we have held on to far too many old grievances, hurts and disappointments. We too often listen to one another, not to hear the message we're trying to convey, but rather to validate our distrusts and disdains. By holding on to our grudges we deprive our youth of the opportunity to experience the healthy and nurturing communities we knew as children. If we as a community are to become like a shining city upon a hill, it will not begin with bricks and mortar, it will not begin with a summer jobs initiative, or a great new grant funded program. It will begin with us... It will begin with us FORGIVING one another and deciding that we are willing to leave our hurts and anger and mistrust in the past; Stand with one another (flaws and all) and TRY AGAIN.

3.TAKE THE PLEDGE - We must each pledge to place the interests of our Community above those of our respective organizations. This one is difficult... Those of you who know me, know that I love the NAACP. And my love is not passive; I will travel any distance and go to any length for my organization because I believe in its mission its purpose and its history. But I know that I was a member of our community before I'd ever heard of the NAACP, and I will remain a member of our community long after my NAACP days have ended... So my first loyalty MUST be to the community that nurtured me and that will serve as the home and foundation for my children and grandchildren. But the reality is that Grant Funding combined with Generations of "Willie Lynch" like conditioning have served to make natural colleagues into fierce competitors; willing to publicly tear each other down at a net-loss for the community. So we must pledge: If another Organization offers a service or program of greater benefit than what I can offer, I pledge that I will not compete with them. Rather, I will offer my services and talents to try and help them. I will make referrals as necessary and will offer my unqualified support, because in all our efforts the COMMUNITY must come first.

4. COMMIT to rolling out at least one new initiative specifically targeted to the at-risk youth in our community. We have no shortage of youth groups in our community and most of them are OUTSTANDING. We have any number of Excellent programs with great leadership and wonderful curriculums. But, if we are honest, many of our programs are serving the best and brightest. We take the great and make them excellent. But those of our children who have made poor choices, who have gotten into some trouble, or who are heading down the wrong paths, don't benefit from our programming. Once they're "out there" we tend to leave them "out there" and we rationalize it by saying that they have to 'want' to change... But we must not forget that they are children, and as children, how will they know the right way unless they are shown? These children on the margins have the same potential for excellence and their own unique gifts and abilities... often times they just need our attention, our concern, and our guidance. So we ask that each participating organization roll out one new initiative designed to reach these children and help them shine as well.

5. FULLY COMMIT the resources of your organization to support at least one effort or initiative of a different organization. We can't just talk about collaborating and working together, we have to make it happen.. After the March we distributed resource guides with contact information and a snapshot of the work of all of the participating organizations. We will continue to build that resource guide as we bring more and more organizations into this effort and as we edit, we will make the guide available online. Find something that you can support and lets start amplifying each others efforts!

6. COMMUNICATE - We are asking that each participating organization send a copy of your organizational calendar to the Community Voice Newspaper so that they can publish a Community Calendar. This will be a resource to help us support each others efforts and it will also help us to avoid scheduling competing events on the same days.

7. COMMIT to staying at the table. Our next event will be held in late August (details will be posted online).

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