June 19th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Choosing Chaos or Community
On June 19th, the Transform Westside Summit featured a special conversation with community leaders, streamed live from the MLK International Chapel on the campus of Morehouse College. The panel included powerful perspectives from Dr. David A. Thomas, President, Morehouse College; Reverend Winston Taylor, Founder, The Beloved Community, Inc.; and Makeda Johnson, Vine City Resident and Founder, Sister’s Action Team. The conversation, moderated by Westside Future Fund President and CEO, John Ahmann, continued the exploration of the question of “Where do we go from here?” that started during our June 5th Summit. Some highlights from this most recent conversation:
- Dr. Thomas shared his message to current Morehouse students, the Men of Morehouse. “You are made for this time,” he said. Recalling MLK, Thomas stressed that Morehouse students have an important role to play in “bending the moral arc [of the universe] toward justice” through action because, as Thomas said, “that arc doesn’t bend by itself.”
- Rev. Taylor talked about the necessity of taking personal ownership to improve the community. He shared his perspective as a property owner who feels called to drive community transformation. Taylor spoke to the concept of ownership on two levels. He commented, “It is a necessity in the Beloved Community… if you want a healthy, sustainable community you have to take ownership” and, “There can be all kinds of charity, but if you don’t own for yourself, there is no freedom.”
- Makeda Johnson shared the candid reflection that with the “browning of America” she sees a growing anxiety and fear among those in power. She called on all of us to not shy away from this reality but, rather, view it with honesty and compassion and then “speak truth to power.” And with regard to her work leading Sisters Action Team, Johnson said her goal is to assist the women that will play a pivotal role—as individuals and mothers—in the evolution of our communities.
- Dr. Thomas helped close out the Q&A portion of the discussion with the important conclusion that “Racial healing will require vulnerability…being open, being honest…and creating relationships,” and suggested a shift in paradigm with the idea that, “It’s about creating community, and if we’re going to create community then racial healing becomes a part of that.”
For the first time, the panel discussion was presented in segments and interspersed with pre-recorded video interviews with local and national stakeholders. The individuals featured were:
- Wykeshia Howe of parent advocacy and resource group, Atlanta Parent Buddy
- Charles Meriwether, long-time Transform Westside Summit attendee and champion for Goodwill of North Georgia
- Hillary Pennington, Executive Vice President of Programs, Ford Foundation
The interview with Hillary Pennington is part of Westside Future Fund’s effort to lift up and integrate perspectives and promising practices from around the country as we continue to strengthen and evolve our work.
View the panel discussion and interviews in full here. And be sure to watch to the end for a special music + video presentation from Joshua Meredith.
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