“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”- Martin Luther King Jr.
This summer I had the pleasure of interning with Living Cities, an organization that strives to mold consensus in an attempt to change the current American order. It is no secret that America’s iconic claim of freedom and liberty for all rests upon a foundation of racism, exploitation, and oppression. Historically, public service leaders, of all colors and backgrounds, have arisen to not only call out America for its hypocrisy but to offer it a vision of the shining beacon of hope it could be. However, the burden of change cannot rest solely upon the public sector and its leaders. What I learned this summer is that you must engage all leaders in a system, both public and private sector, to achieve radical reformation.
Living Cities does this well. It brings together leaders from both sides of the aisle, so that it may accomplish its goal of racial equity. How though does Living Cities bring together these leaders? How does it manage to draw agreements between, what at times can be, opposing groups? How does it produce tangible results? The answer to all these hefty questions is strategic communication. Living Cities knows how to best frame its racial equity message so that it resonates with all significant parties in the American system.
When Living Cities consults with a private sector partner such as J.P. Morgan, it recognizes the bank’s importance in the economic empowerment of low-income people of color. It attempts to convey to J.P. Morgan how advantageous it would be for them to aid people of color in their quest for home-ownership and capital considering America’s current demographic change. When Living Cities discusses with a public sector partner such as the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office, it understands the educational power of municipal programming. It recognizes how the programs can be used to provide guidance to low-income people of color who are unaware of capital building opportunities. Living Cities meets its differing partners where they stand within the system. It doesn’t force consensus. Living Cities pushes its partners to think critically about their roles, and most importantly, how to best apply a racial equity lens to their work. By promoting complementary action and thought Living Cities follows in the steps of Dr. King and molds consensus.
Before Living Cities, I was somewhat unsure as to how one could bring together different sides of a community or a system. In two weeks, I will be entering my senior year of college. As an Afro-American, at a predominately white institution, I have often found it difficult to reach agreement among my community about the systemic barriers that prevent all students, specifically low-income students of color, from achieving success. In my experience, it is usually only the low-income students of color who voice these concerns and work to bring about necessary change. However, as I alluded to earlier, the burdens of a community cannot be carried by one sect of that community. You need all members of a community involved to acquire change.
Thanks to my Fellowship, I now know you must meet people where they stand and progress from there. Not everyone on my college campus will inherently understand or see the problems that are apparent to students like myself, but they can. If we improve our communication skills and make clear to them their role in promoting racial equity, then, hopefully we will be able to mold consensus.