Voices

We have been supporting the Wayne County black community all month. I hope you have had the chance to visit our social media and read our blogs. They have reminded us of our past. But more importantly, they have given us a vision of what our future can be if we are serious about enabling change. I hope you have taken some things to heart. I know I certainly have.

You might be wondering why Forward Wayne County has focused so much of its platforms for this topic. The answer is simple. Our black community, just like everyone else, is part of our focus. They play a role in our workforce; they are part of our student population; and they need access to healthcare and other services.

There is not one area of our work that doesn’t include our black community. And Forward Wayne County is serious about inclusion. We are county focused and want to hear from all of our residents.

I’ve had several conversations about how the county can come together and what that could look like. But I always redirect the conversation back to the person and ask: “How are you changing?” We can’t simply point fingers and verbalize faults. It has to be a mutual relationship of trying to understand each other.

If we are serious about enabling change and coming together as a county, then we must act. A seat at the table is a start. But are we allowing voices to be heard? Here are few thoughts:

Listen

Take time to listen. We have to let others speak and let them share their thoughts and experiences. And don’t have expectations for what you want to hear. It may not be comfortable, but the conversations need to be had. Invite others in; give them opportunities at events; and ask them to participate on panels, boards, etc.

Forward Wayne County did this when we asked our current black community members of all ages to share a thought, inspiration, or their hope for the future.

Partner

Can we get outside of our normal routines or operations and look at ways to partner better? We are starting to see some of this around the county. Business and community groups are partnering on racial equality and inclusion.

The NAACP, along with other partners, are trying to do this with their Freedom Seekers to Future Framers project. It’s a roundtable discussion on where we are as a county, and where we want to go. Guests will be joining in the conversations throughout the year.

Educate

Wayne County’s history is flush with black history. We recommend educating yourself. We have the Levi Coffin House, we have context on our early black settlements, and we just recently learned of Wayne County’s connection to the Negro Leagues. There is so much more. We could only brush the tip of the iceberg. The history is there, so how do we build upon this history for stronger future?

Reflect

The most important piece of enabling change is reflection. We can hear all the words and do all the things, but if we aren’t internalizing it and thinking of ways we can personally improve, then it’s just words and works.

We need to live it daily. Speak up for change, speak out against injustice, and speak to each other. This is how we move forward together.