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It goes without saying that our region is still in the midst of a revolution.
Long time Detroit civil rights leader and organizer Grace Lee Boggs once said “every revolution gives a community a chance to reimagine their lives, their neighborhood, their future.”
How will we do this right here, right now?
Some may want small incremental changes and the comfort of what we knew before. Yet, this type of safe, timid response to what has happened in our region is simply not enough.
Every day, Beyond Housing sets out to reimagine our communities with something imperative at the forefront – the women, men and families we serve therein. Known as Beyond Housing’s 24:1 Initiative, what we do in these communities is driven by those we serve.
Our Ask, Align, Act model of community development focuses on the front side of our community and this engagement drives our ability to reimagine what might be next. We are absolutely convinced that if our community is to become what the residents and leaders want and desire, it must focus on all the aspects of a thriving, vibrant place.
But we must look further than the periphery: We must imagine more.
Imagine if every child in our community received high quality early childhood education
Imagine if no one went to sleep hungry Imagine if our public schools were accredited and able to position all our children for a lifetime of success
Imagine if everyone had a decent, safe and affordable place to call home
Imagine if everyone who wanted to work could find a job that paid a living wage Imagine if all our communities had grocery stores, banks and other businesses to meet their needs Imagine if all our neighborhoods were safe and free from violence
Imagine if all our communities had responsive community policing that had positive relationships with their citizens
When I think of these possibilities, I am reminded of Robert F. Kennedy’s words that ring as true today as when he spoke them in 1966:
“There is discrimination in this world. . . Governments repress their people? Millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers? That they share with us the same short moment of life? That they seek as we do nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.
The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress. It is a revolutionary world we live in, and this generation at home and around the world has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived.
The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.