Just after learning of the horrific water crisis in predominately African American and largely poor Flint, MI, I got a call from a friend and mentee. She told me about one of her middle school students, a young black boy who was shot and in critical condition in a city hospital in Washington, DC. My friend, a young, black school principal dedicated to working with students from nearly-decimated communities, wasn’t just calling to tell me a story. She was calling to seek support as she faced one of the most challenging leadership moments she will ever be called to address.
“What will I say to my teachers this time?” she asked me. “How will I face the school community this time?”
My heart sank as I took it all in. No matter the number of times I hear these stories of everyday people – especially children – being put in harm’s way through gun violence, environmental injustices , or any of the other results of structural oppression, it is always heartbreaking.
I was also reminded in that moment that the challenges of our time are many, and require more people beyond leaders in the nonprofit sector to step up and step into leadership roles. Teachers, gun violence prevention advocates, #BlackLivesMatter activists, school principals, impacted students, LGBT advocates, undocumented immigrants, policymakers and government officials: these roles call people to act quickly and decisively from a place of power, a clarity of purpose, a vision of transformation, and a mantle of love.
Now is the time for us to redefine our notions of cross-movement, to be more expansive in who we tap as leaders, and to increase all of the opportunities for learning that we have to offer. Bringing together people from many different vantage points, positions of influence, and commitments to love in action will undoubtedly result in the kinds of transformation we know can change this world for the better. It’s time for something fresh, something creative, something lasting, something that just might work in ways that any one of these leaders could not produce alone.
Earlier this week, as I reflected on what Dr. King might think if given the opportunity to observe this movement moment, I imagined how pleased he’d be with some of the progress that’s been made… and how impatient he’d be to reach that beloved community that he spoke of so many years ago.
I feel that urgency in my heart, I see that urgency in the courageous acts of leadership being taken on by so many of you each day. I know that without those of you on the ground in the daily struggle to lead change, our lives would never be transformed.
That’s what is driving my vision for the future of Rockwood: creating the conditions for increased accessibility to ensure that all those who would benefit from the leadership and collaboration tools we offer are able to do so.
To each of you, we are immensely grateful for your leadership in the work you do. To all those with whom we’ve already worked, we will continue to connect with you, support your leadership and your ongoing connection to one another. For those leaders who we have yet to reach, we will find ways to make all the resources we offer available to you.
I look forward to the many ways you will help shape the next era of Rockwood and transform this world, one courageous leadership act at a time.