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We Are City Summit – Are We? – We Shall See!

“While growth is important, it is also imperative that growth becomes more inclusive because if certain regions, sectors or groups of people are denied economic opportunities for long periods, the spread and sustainability of growth itself is threatened. Hence, growth, to be inclusive, must take into account the betterment of every section of society.” Dr. Anil Kumar, Professor of Economics, Banaras Hindu University, India.

Next month we have the Second Annual We Are City Summit – Thursday August 22, 2013 http://wearecity.us/ .  I expect it to be an interesting half day.

It’s goal:  “The goal of We Are City is to enhance the conversation about city-building and celebrate the people and organizations that are doing it well.” http://wearecity.us

Last year it’s goal, “’We Are City’ is an effort to build consensus around a variety of topics, to form a shared narrative of our values and vision for Indianapolis.”

 A month after the 2012 We Are City Summit, I wrote about the juxtaposition between the theme of We Are City and the fact that the presenters were the only diverse part of the summit. In fact I went further in my analysis, feedback and critique to say the following:

We are City” displayed a focus of “Advancing ideas that make a better city”. However, like the Urbanized Summit, the company was sparse on diversity; so much that I could count the number of people of color in the room (including several of the presenters) on one hand.  Yet this was “We Are City” Summit“.  Not even a quarter of the persons in the room, let alone the majority looked like me, nor many others like me, engaged and invested in Indianapolis…Scanning the program, I immediately noticed the list of presenters was more diverse than the make-up of the audience…What a contrast, that the presenters at a summit entitled “We are City”, should be more diverse than the audience in the room…” 

Now let me make this clear last year’s We Are City Summit’s content was interesting, relevant, applicable and innovative. The presenters by all estimation were good. In the break there was what seemed to be genuine interaction grounded in meet n greet, colleagues catching-up, some slipping in work by sending an email, others texting and the presenters being  bombarded by inquisitive folks like myself who seek connectivity to their work as they walk through this life. As for the format it was rather academic with a traditional presentation style. The presenter speaks, Q&A’s at the end and an emcee popping-in and out between presentations with your standard break.

We are City - Summit 2012

We are City – Summit 2012

In my  response to last years summit I quoted one of the organizers from an interview in the Indiana Business Journal about a month before the event:

 “’We Are City’ is an effort to build consensus around a variety of topics, to form a shared narrative of our values and vision for Indianapolis,” said Michael Kaufmann, director of special projects and civic investment at Health and Hospital Corporation, one of the co-founders and organizers of the event. “The goal is to propel us forward through both an analysis of our past, an acknowledgment of our present, and a hope for our future.” (IBJ News Release – August 30, 2012)” 

In the summation of my article I highlighted  that We Are City Summit in it’s attempt to claim an absolute “We”, had failed; given it’s glaring lack of representation of people of color from all walks of life in Indianapolis who play a vital role in shaping this City’s future. In fact here is what I said and what I continue to purport not just for We Are City (Summit) but for Indianapolis at this pivotal time in it’s development.

“The “We are City” Summit may have started the process of building consensus around these topics. As for creating  a shared narrative of our values and vision for Indianapolis, it will surely have to include a broader, more inclusive and reflective audience in a City that is moving toward a majority minority. If the hope for this City’s future is centered around truly shared values of all stakeholders, cultures and ethnicity’s  propelling Indianapolis forward, “We are City” will require an even more thorough  analysis and acknowledgement of the present, with a willingness to move outside of its traditional relationships and comfort zones.”

Following my blog two of the organizers  met with me, wanting to get to know more about me but to really talk about the observations/critique in my blog. Both of the meetings were civil, a healthy exchange of ideas an elaboration on my closing remarks from my blog and a brief update by me on the emergence of project that was sparked by one of the presenters. In fact, they were so excited about the project, this February I was asked to write a brief for the We Are City bi-weekly emailed newsletter/brief. Needless to say the brief never made it to press.

So here is the “Brief” that never was:

My experience being part of Indianapolis’ community of change makers hinges on uncertainty and hope. Uncertainty because one never knows what’s the next feel good initiative popping up to meet some foundation or funders imperative; usually under the guise of making Indianapolis an innovative, transformed and inclusive City.  My hope, this change maker community will reflect on its thinking and behavior and recognize the change they envision is hampered by their cultural tunnel vision.

Looking ahead, I have no idea what the next, We Are City Summit will offer or if the outreach efforts will develop a more inclusive and diverse audience. However, organizers did reach out in response to my blog: http://equitabledevelopment.com regarding We Are City’s lack of a diverse audience. I refer to the attendees as “usual suspects.” Were the organizers encouraging building of relationships in an attempt to understand “those neighborhoods” or were they covering their bases? I do not know.

Here is what I do know. As a result of the last We Are City, myself and a group of stakeholders (Prosecutors Office, Juvenile Probation, HITS and Collabo) have come together to replicate the “You Got Arrested-Now What?” comic book, presented by the Center for Urban Pedagogy. This would be a response to the issue of Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), reflected by the increasing number of young men of color entering the juvenile/adult criminal justice system. The belief being that education is the best prevention for young men of color becoming another statistic.

Simultaneously, panel discussions surrounding job creation exploring the feasibility of the Evergreen Cooperative and it’s like being replicated in Indianapolis are taking place at Ki-EcoCenter,  http://kiecocenterorg.ipage.com  hosted by Executive Director, Imhotep Adisa, Jim Naremore and Amy Rubin – Partners of 3rd Sector &Whitepaper Bluesky-http://whitepaperbluesky.com and myself. These conversations will hopefully open doors for additional job-created cooperatives in Indianapolis creating pathways of prevention for community residents and the same young men targeted by DMC.

Another outcome of We Are City aligned with the current conversation regarding Mass Transit. Javier Barrera (Latino Youth Collective) presented on how to make T.O.D. user-friendly, essential, relative and lucrative. Improving infrastructure and converting bus stops and buses into Wi-Fi hot spots, will give patrons from all walks of life continued connectivity.

My hope is We Are City is bold and authentic enough to challenge this community of change makers by creating space for authentic engagement with individuals and communities that do not look like its organizers, sponsors and gatekeepers.

I plan on attending the We Are City Summit next month (http://wearecity.us/) as you should too. From the line-up it is shaping up to be a good mix of interesting, innovative and creative presenters.

We are City Summit 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013 (12 - 5PM) The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center home of the Indiana Historical Society

Thursday, August 22, 2013 (12 – 5PM)
The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center home of the Indiana Historical Society

We Are City Summit – 2013 Goal

“We Are City SUMMIT”, presented by Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., reemerges this summer with an eclectic mix of national and local speakers who work and play in the trenches and front lines of city-building. The second annual SUMMIT is designed to amplify city improvement conversations throughout Indianapolis and challenges local leaders to think innovatively and act boldly. The half-day conference will celebrate smart, unique and bold city-building with discussions, presentations and interactive projects.” – Thursday August 22, 2013 – http://wearecity.us/

So, if you live or work in/with communities that are far too often traditionally under-represented at these events, if you represent the “priority population” one of those “marginalized communities” which is deemed “hard to reach” you may consider freeing-up your afternoon on the August 22nd.  In the same breathe, may I remind the organizers, funders and sponsors of the summit, because there is innovation and creativity with a feel good sense of change that does not inherently translate to progress.

The “We” in We are City is a bold statement that is grounded in the authenticity of community representation at all levels, from all races and backgrounds. However, if the “We” is a reflection of the current planning efforts and initiatives that far too often is built on an illusion of inclusion through buzz feel good language like “transformation”, “community”  or  “creative ways that people engage with cities” then the sponsors, funders and organizers have once again mirrored the “cosmetic diversity” we are all to accustom and taken one more step in widening the gap.

Julianne Maleaux, economist, educator and author  expresses it best: “You cannot have an inclusive society unless everyone has access. You cannot exclude people of color from commerce and expect them to be full participants in our economy” 

Change does not always equal progress and Progress does not always equal change. However, it is the delicate balance of intentionally marrying both of these, at times competing tensions, which are the central tenets that breathes life into the “We” whether it be  an individual, neighborhood, community or City.  

We Are City (Summit) –  Are we? – We Shall See!

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An Olympic reality in the wake of a legacy. Part 2

“Until public service leadership becomes truly diverse—where the representation and perspectives from communities of color begin to approach the proportion of the overall population— the total capacity of our full efforts will remain unrealized. The potential for contributions to solving social ills is going untapped because the treasure talent within communities of color remains on the margins of leadership.” Diversity Counts: Racial and Ethnic Diversity among Public Service Leadership Report ,May 2012: National Urban Fellows -Public  Service Diversity Leadership Initiative. www.nuf.org.

Young women and men of color, whether in  low-income local communities or parts of London or Chicago, live under a constant cloud of rejection through attitudes and behaviors considered microagressions or micro-insults. Reflected as an embedded tenet in our current culture and related to my assertions in Part 1 of this blog article, are for some of you a diatribe;

“In essence, there are three  significant challenges in the current practice in Indianapolis’ “theory of change”(Including a good portion of Cities throughout the United States), a) planning from a place of cultural tunnel vision, b) cherry-picking of communities and neighborhoods and c) Structural Racism embedded in the process of philanthropic, economic and community development…” 

More often than not, every turn is greeted with a distinct microaggression that reminds the black male/female of color  that he/she is not welcomed and does not belong. This is even more evident, when he/she embraces his/her authentic self-expression while keeping in line with the status quo. Acceptance is less than marginal; making  navigating  the world of work like walking through a  minefield without a map. Not that a map makes a difference,  as witnessed by countless educated black males who have been duped by the illusion of opportunity, only to be smacked in the face with lack of access.  It is the silence, the coded language, uninviting posturing that rips any hope of social and professional movement. Bear in mind that these encounters are a constant. Embedded so much within the social fabric, that they go unrecognized by the status quo (those who fail in employing their own sense of self-accountability). Other cases of microaggression or negative encounters are more intentional, only confirming the lack of hope and the possibility of “transformation.”

“Racial microaggressions cause considerable psychological distress among Black Americans and are manifested in nearly all interracial encounters. They set in motion energy-depleting attempts to determine whether incidents were racially motivated. Reactions can be classified into 4 major themes: healthy paranoia, sanity check, empowering and validating self, and rescuing offenders. Microaggressions result in high degrees of stress for Blacks because of denigrating messages: “You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and “You are all the same.” Feelings of powerlessness, invisibility, forced compliance and loss of integrity, and pressure to represent one’s group are some of the consequences.” Racial Microaggressions in the Life Experience of Black Americans: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice © 2008 American Psychological Association: Derald Wing Sue, Christina M. Capodilupo, and Aisha M. B. Holder -Teachers College, Columbia University

Executive  America  continues to assume zero responsibility for an ongoing slaughter of the black male and persons of color psyche. Yet, individual responsibility and the lack thereof, are preached as the main stay to why men  and women of color cannot succeed. Stereotypes and microaggressions manifest at every interaction, intersection and crossroad: the grocery store, cinema, department store, job searching, hailing a taxi and yes in schools, universities and the work place, seeming only to reinforce the assumptions and facts that low-income males and all males of color are not welcomed in this citizenry.

Nivea tried tell blacks to re-civilize themselves

Understanding the manifestations of these microaggressions lends credibility and confirmation  to encounters which are far from being experienced inside out. Those of us who engage in authentic, honest and transparent transformative and restorative work are left with the burden and responsibility to placate Executive America and ensure its comfortability comes first. The reactions from  Executive America when issues with microagressions are raised, results in the following categorization and positions (too mention few):  a) the angry black man b) playing the race card and c) “Why do we want to go there? That’s not the issue. You have a black President”. All without an iota of responsibility for personal actions and limited worldview.

Race Matters Image – Illustration/Stokely Baksh

Before I sound as if I’m making baseless assertions, accusations and uniformed analysis, let me say that I agree with National Urban Fellows, Diversity Counts Report; “The United States of America was founded on the principles of justice, equality, and inclusion. As a nation, we continue to strive for full participation and equality for all citizens, upon whose shoulders rests the responsibility for upholding these principles.”

Although growing in population, people of color remain under-represented in leadership of the public service sector. This is an issue that can and must be resolved if we are to successfully address the nation’s most pressing social issues—from education to health, environment and justice.  People of color now make up one-third, or 36 percent, of the U.S. population—a population that is projected to grow to 54 percent by 2042. The public service sector—from government and academic think tanks to foundations and nonprofit organizations—must become more inclusive and representative if we are to develop fair and effective structures to fulfill the intention of our democracy.

As a Negro with a graduate education, one does not need research or data to see and experience that which is readily visible with the naked eye. Lack of representation is  in all facets but especially in the non-profits and philanthropic realms, where imperatives are driven to impact change.

“Nonprofit organizations play an extremely important role in our society; helping both the government and the private sector to address many of our nation’s important social issues. Board Source reports that among directors of nonprofit organizations in 2010, 86 percent were people of White, non- Hispanic heritage and 14 percent were people of color”. Specifically, “7 percent were African American, 3 percent Latino/ Latina, and 4 percent other. The leadership and boards of directors for nonprofit agencies tended to be less ethnically and racially diverse than the staff in this segment of the public service sector.

As with boards of directors, there is also little diversity among executives of nonprofit organizations.”The vast majority, 88 percent of nonprofit executives are of White, non-Hispanic heritage. Only 4 percent are African American, 2 percent are Latino/Latina, 0.6 percent are Asian Pacific American, 0.2 percent are Native American and 6 percent have a heritage of two or more racial groups. The lack of diversity among nonprofit leadership is also evident throughout the nonprofit sector. It is estimated that among all nonprofit employees, 82 percent are of White, non-Hispanic heritage and 18 percent are people of color. Specifically, 10 percent are African Americans, 5 percent Latino/Latina, 3 percent other and 1 percent Asian Pacific American” . (Diversity Counts Report p.14)

“The field of Philanthropy is one of the most important segments of our nation’s public service sector. As the financial backbone of  programs and services, philanthropy makes it possible for our nation’s nonprofit agencies to address key social issues such as education and healthcare. Philanthropy influnces not only our awareness of important social issues but also our responses to them. Philanthropic boards are often the key decision-making bodies determining which organizations and programs receive funding. Previous research has shown that foundations with diverse boards are more likely to support activities led by and in diverse communities. According to the most recent research presented by the D5,  people of color make-up 34 percent of program officers at foundations; however, individuals of White, non-Hispanic heritage represent 92 percent of foundation CEOs and executive leadership. Specifically, recent reports reveal that only 3 percent of CEOs are African American, 3 percent are Latino/Latina, 1 percent are Asian Pacific American, and 0.5 percent are Native American. Similarly, 88 percent of full-time executive staff are of White, non-Hispanic heritage, while only 12 percent are people of color”. (Diversity Counts Report p.14-15) www.nuf.org

Inspire a Generation!,should be a motto for all metropolis, whether  London, Rio, Beijing or Indianapolis and should not be relegated to minor community trade-off’s the likes of Legacy Projects and Quality of Life Initiatives.  The next generation, the majority of which are minority groups, opportunities rest on “transactional” premises of philanthropic and community development initiatives. It makes one shudder, knowing that current planning imperatives are under the disguise of  language like “diversity” and “transformation”, yet are short on inclusion from the onset. This surely serves as  reinforcement and a reminder that low-income and communities of color are not reflective of  a “rising tide lifts all boats.” In fact, in these communities, there is no tide; only small waves creating an illusion of progress.

New Paradigm Ahead

New Paradigm Ahead

If you want to Inspire a Generation, you must start with inclusion in the planning process; equity, validating young voices and opening up the board rooms and staff meetings to more people that do not look like you. Stop engaging in “cosmetic diversity”; embrace and appreciative inquiry as a method to advance your organization, as the external landscape changes. Refocus your attention on the true emerging markets (low-income). The next wave of  workforce and economic development has the potential to be a driving force to combat austerity measures. Stop driving personal agendas and imposing cultural tunnel vision regarding expectations that reinforce the status quo. Leave more than just bite sized portions of huge investments, which often take longer in development and redevelopment than it would take to pocket the profits, secure a six figure income and increase stock/shareholders revenue.

Even before the recession/austerity measures it was apparent that traditional education and employment landscapes would not readily take into consideration the myriad of challenges for low-income young adults, as they wrestle their way into the labor market. Through  lack of inclusion, “cosmetic diversity” and  microagressions; an added ingredient in philanthropic, community and economic develop, it makes me  wonder on the real motives of those in leadership. Inspiring a Generation starts with changing your thinking, attitudes and behaviors. Creating real space demonstrated in actions not rhetoric, which at times is condescending at best.

Hosting an Olympic’s or a  Super Bowl are great achievements but the true achievement is in how legacy projects present opportunity and access across all communities, especially those the hardest hit by an economic downturn. “Transformation” to form a strong City is grounded in a process of inclusion. Creating a City by erecting buildings is grounded in a process of merely valuing “transactions”.  Building a stronger City that has a pulse, a soul, a vibrancy and colorfulness that draws people in,  intentionally  reflecting  leadership of the nation’s  increasingly growing population is “transformation” and “community” at its best; especially in City’s the likes of Indianapolis.  National Urban Fellows  Diversity Counts report:

“While there are segments of public service leadership that have effectively engaged people of color, in too many areas of leadership there is an under representation of people of color. Even in some of our nation’s most diverse communities, people of color are not represented in public service leadership at levels commensurate with their percentage of the population.” 

You can not Inspire a Generation when a particular segment of that generation is  not seeing or experiencing inclusion. Einstein said it best:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

 

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