Building A Bench for Leadership

Zaneta J Smith
Jul 30, 2018 · 3 min read
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Over more than a quarter-century the Empowerment Congress and the Honorable Mark Ridley-Thomas have made grassroots leadership development and service real for South and Greater Los Angeles. There has always been a focus on developing younger people for major roles as they mature. The activities of young people were largely housed in the Youth Committee. In 2014, then-Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas began working with Empowerment Congress leaders and Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ Office to focus more attention on the cultivation of young professionals who were eager to engage, educate, and empower. Thus, the Youth Committee was rebranded as the Emerging Civic Leaders Committee and a recognition program was announced to lift up Los Angeles’ 40 most dynamic leaders under the age of 40.

There is a recognition that generational change is upon us and those who established groups like the Empowerment Congress needed to invest in training and building up younger interested peers to take the mantle of leadership in the future.

In 2018, the 40 Under 40 Awards are as dynamic as ever. A cross-section of activists, businesses, non-governmental organizations, governmental and media professionals who are already making a difference were highlighted. The honorees are nominated from a mix of sources including governmental, advisory boards, non-governmental organization board of directors, volunteers, and neighborhood councils. Nominations are based on what honorees have already accomplished and what they can additionally achieve with focus on civic participation.

One of the more substantial benefits of the awards ceremony is the networking at the event as well as the acknowledgement of those who attend that the future is bright and it is also now! The rapid pace of change caused by pre-retirement and retirement has accelerated millennial and generation-x workplace activities. It has also left civic institutions wanting for skilled and compassionate membership to sustain missions aligned with the public interest.

If Los Angeles is to remain the capital of America’s future and its dreams, fresh and new ideas must continue to make their way to all aspects of life. The City’s growth is driven by investment, innovation, and industry. Community leadership can and should grow in parallel fashion to prevent displacement, aggressively provide for those experiencing homelessness, eliminate healthcare disparity, promote affordable housing, close the educational achievement gap, align students of our region with the best jobs, and make the region an inviting and affirming place in which to live, work, play, and retire.

The Emerging Civic Leaders Committee is an organization that takes all such activities into account. It is one of a dozen committees of the Empowerment Congress, which all meet monthly, and strive to improve quality of life through resident engagement and civic participation. The long-standing experiment of participatory democracy and reciprocal accountability continues. The 2018 cohort of leaders under the age of 40 are the great hope that change starts at home. With a home like Los Angeles, change can be transformational in an instant.

All communities benefit from the work of change, kudos to this year’s honorees and the Emerging Civic Leaders Committee. The work of justice, inclusive governance, and bench-building continues. It is the task of each generation to renew the struggle.

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