Recently, I had the privilege of attending Western States Center’s Community Strategic Training Initiative (CSTI) in Portland, Oregon. As a volunteer with the Solid Ground Advisory Council and a supporter of the Lettuce Link Program, I was honored to get an opportunity to strengthen my community leadership skills. It was refreshing to meet people from different communities and learn about different perspectives and make a few new friends.
The workshops I attended shaped my views as a community leader and helped give me a greater focus on my role and direction moving forward as a community building advocate. An organization called Smartmeme addressed the power of stories and gave me tools on how to develop new understanding about old stories and community issues.
They taught that,”The currency of narrative is not truth, but meaning…The power of Myth helps us understand our place in the world.” They encouraged participants to “Reclaim images and give them a new meaning.” So I decided to use these strategies with the concept and experience of poverty, to attempt to give it a new meaning in my life. I often find inspiration for understanding complex issues in my life from spending time in the garden. And when I looked for poverty in the garden, I didn’t see it. So, it leads me to believe that it isn’t a natural state of being. Abundance is everywhere, when I choose to connect with it instead of lack.
This idea of changing my relationship with poverty was echoed in the next workshop I attended. “Build on abundance, not scarcity” was the main point that I walked away with. It was a workshop called 1+1 + 10 – Base building for Strong Organizations and Healthier Communities. We ended up talking about building strong political campaigns. I hate politics. I ended up spending a lot of time calming my frustration by staring out the window and strengthening my relationship with the sunshine and trees. That was until the thought came to me about “empowered disengagement.” I’d never heard the term before but began to define it as the power to make a decision to actively disengage from a conversation or system and resist it simply by creating something different. So instead of challenging the belief system that I do not support or staring out the window, I simply began to contemplate and write about a system of order that I would support. What would replace politicians in my life and mind? I wrote and wrote and wrote until I realized what I needed, connection to strong community leaders. Many times they are the common everyday folks that watch out for our children, who keep an eye out on our homes when we are out-of-town, who get extra food from the food bank with us in mind. Or they are the faith-based, nonprofit-based leaders who advocate for the needs of society’s most vulnerable. This was the style of leadership that I decided I wanted to support and focus on moving forward.
I was most moved by the film called “Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker.” Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia STAND-UP, co-facilitated a discussion about leadership development and skill building and used this story to encourage discussion about great leadership styles. I was most moved by the Ella Baker story, a civil rights activist, and her practice of horizontal leadership. She nurtured the leader in every person. She helped facilitate for others independence. She inspired people of all colors to act, discuss, and explore the issues around human justice. She helped people understand fear tactics that discouraged the building of movements and encouraged them to break through to fears with clear objective.
After the conference, I began to write my path to liberation from poverty. For a personal story that came out of this experience visit www.lisayemoyali.wordpress.com and read The Day Poverty Died. Thank you Solid Ground for giving me an opportunity to grow as a community leader.