Politics: From the bottom-up and the inside-out

For many people, politics is . . . disappointing. It is a means to an end, where it is seemingly the living, breathing embodiment of dysfunction and maltreatment.

Not for me. Politics, in the words of my late professor Dr. Ighovadha (and originally penned by Harold Laswell), is about “who gets what, when, where and how.”

I have made it my life’s mission to connect everyday people and communities with the resources they need.

In Jackson, Mississippi, we face tremendous challenges: declining population, decreasing revenues, dangerously high debt, and a debilitated infrastructure that has aged beyond its years.

So, why run for office? Why get involved? Why not continue advocating for change from the outside? Is it easier to force change externally, rather than being part of the system that is, again, …disappointing?

Would I be more comfortable watching from afar, away from the entanglements?

Yes! I have done just that for a number of years.

I began my political career as a community organizer. I left college, one class shy of graduation, to move to Tampa, Florida where I was introduced to grassroots community organizing.

The community of Rainbow Heights was my first assignment.

Rainbow Heights’ issues mirrored those of Jackson: a high crime rate, dimly-lit neighborhoods, abandoned and dilapidated buildings, and dwindling hopes for the future. It was a community that believed that it was forgotten.

Through the practices and relationships that I cultivated within the community, we began to gained momentum. My army of one(myself), became a team of 5 … then 10 … and eventually to over 150.

My goal was to empower residents to harness their collective voices to speak for themselves — to speak of their realities to those who made decisions.

It worked. All our efforts culminated into a community meeting involving residents and elected officials.

Although it took a toll on my health, becoming so physically ill that I could barely speak to the over 150people in attendance, something beautiful happened.

They spoke.

They articulated their issues, stated their demands, expressed possible solutions, and refused to take “NO” for an answer.

They were heard.

With my voice barely being a whisper, I simply said, “Thank you.”

Shortly after the meeting, we conducted a silent march to demonstrate the silence of the City of Tampa with respect to the needs of the Rainbow Heights community.

Our demands were met.

Rainbow Heights birthed leadership, built a community from a disjointed collection of houses, and began on the road to collective power.

Irony is indeed alive and well.

Now, I find myself one-seventh of a city council in the city of my birth and rearing — Jackson, Mississippi. I was raised in South Jackson — a part of town that has long felt forgotten … overlooked … neglected.

In South Jackson, our people are our landmarks. Our schools are our crests of honor. Our neighborhoods are our battlegrounds against decay.

So, we fight. We fight for South Jackson, and ALL of Jackson because this is OUR HOME.

As our revenues decrease, our population migrates to the surrounding suburbs, and as homes of the recent-past become skeletons of bricks and walls and roofs, our potential for a come-back greatly decreases.

But, the very thing that has sustained us will deliver us: Our people, who replenish our hope in our city and connect our souls to the place that we call home.

My experiences have taught many lessons. I learned that our future is not dictated by our past. Our potential is not dependent upon the posturing of those who do not see our city for the gem that it is. Our limits are only those which we place on ourselves, not based upon what those who do not believe in what we could be.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you, as we join all multifaceted individuals that make Jackson home, into one collective voice and future. Let’s move Jackson, Mississippi into the 21st Century.

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