Building a Better World

In Buzz, July/August 2020 by Raleigh Magazine1 Comment

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The peaceful demonstrations for racial equity and justice and protests against police brutality over the past few weeks in Raleigh got us thinking about how we can build a better, more just, more equitable world. In times of crisis, it’s common to look to leaders, helpers, teachers and community builders who are best positioned to help guide the way. Three Raleighites share their thoughts about the work that lies ahead for us all. 

Communicate and Educate

JoJo Polk

In this time, we need more educating. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and be willing to share our own perspective. We need to communicate; I feel we are having a major breakdown in communication. 

Under normal circumstances, I would ask how you’re doing, but I understand the response to that question has many layers considering everything happening in our country. I do hope that in this time, you are navigating through this crisis as best you can and are able to find moments of peace as you go throughout your days. 

I think we are all forgetting one major thing: We control our own lives, our own thoughts. We decide how we view things, how we attack our days. We can’t let what is going on around us change the people we are. Is it easy? No. It is a test of character, a test of willpower and strength. Right now, the world is making us go back to basics. Find the passion and love we used to have in this world. When we were young, we took whatever came at us whether we knew better or not and we accepted challenges. Well, this is our biggest challenge. And we need to not only step up but be willing to accept we will not be able to do this alone. We have to work together on all of these issues, or we will fail. 

We must understand that words are not enough. It takes people, resources and action to create the change we want to see, and, to help further efforts in bringing about lasting change, we need to find what it is we can do personally. Whether it’s volunteering virtually or in person; giving to a charity; talking with others. If you need to, start small: make changes within your immediate family. Reach out to your friends and family, to co-workers.

This is just one small step, but will give you something to strive for to bring people together. 

We need your courage and resilience. You can use what you are good at to help in your community. I am the owner of a fitness studio. I work with people every day on their physical as well as mental health. When our business was shut down, we took everything virtual and continued to teach classes and tried to help our other local businesses with donation classes. I am also a Black man who has been a victim of police brutality. So I have stood up for justice and will continue to until we all understand that no man should lose his life for no reason. Ask yourself this: What will you do when no one else is around? When there is no coach. No boss. No audience. No set plan. That is when you find out who you truly are. 

Mend Hearts, Change Minds

Nick Neptune

“There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.
Sometimes I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.”
– African American Spiritual.

We’re all listening now. I must’ve started around age 5 – or whenever I began leaving the house; heading out for a friend’s, running off to a park or walking to school. My mother admonishing: “People will look at you a certain way … simply because of the color of your skin.”

I just wanted to go outside and play. She just wanted her first-born to come back alive.

George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery … I imagine their mothers wanted the same.

“Hey man. Just checking in. You doing OK?” This former pleasantry comes with unusual frequency now.

I’m grateful to be alive; to not have COVID-19; for the protesters.

I’m grateful for my family; my work.

I shared with friends recently, our politics, our systems, are a reflection of our society and our culture. Us. As we seek justice through better laws and policies, we must also seek to change and mend the hearts and minds of our nation’s people—if we are to achieve the truly equitable and enduring community we all seek.

This has been the nature of my work. Our work at Transfer Company.

Food brings us to the table—where it’s then our collective responsibility to transfer and exchange knowledge across our community. To inform, plan, organize … and mobilize.

With the constant pain and suffering in our world, we seek to heal the hearts of our people through the constant building and strengthening of our community and culture, through celebration around our music, art, food, drink and play.

If George, Breonna, Ahmaud, and the countless lives that have come before mattered … if my life matters … If Black lives matter … then may our work be not in vain and may we be revived again.

To march in protest. Dance in protest. Create in protest. Legislate in protest. Live in protest.

We all have a role to play. And we have a long way yet to go.

Step Back and Listen

Patrice C. Graham

This is a movement, not a moment. 

For far too long, racism has been viewed as a segmented, nuanced and individual problem. In modern times (since the late 1960s) blatant and overt racism is no longer socially acceptable and now, no one wants to be labeled a racist.

Too often, racism is associated with overt/deliberate bias and this results in failing to examine implicit biases. Without the examination of our blind spots of implicit bias, we remain unaware of the ways we uphold white supremacy and remain complacent with systemic racism. 

It is long overdue for us to collectively consider the systemic racism this country was built on and upholds daily. It’s not just a few bad apples in the police force, it’s a foundation and legacy of defining (and redefining) race and power in order to maintain the control and power of White folks to the detriment of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and all other minority groups (women, LGBTQIA+, disabled, bigger-bodied, and others). 

Every single system in this country was built on racism and continues to have racist policies. From redlining, to health disparities, to achievement gaps and discipline disparities in schools, to the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration of BIPOC, to a lack of diversity in leadership positions, the list goes on and on.

It’s time for us to take a step back and consider the ways in which racism affects every single part of this country.

No one is immune to the powerful system of white supremacy that built and sustains systemic racism. Much like at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in order to end systemic racism we must take steps to keep ourselves and others safe. We must all assume that we are racist and/or embody implicit bias, listen to experts and do our part to not spread racism; and we must be willing to adapt policies and social norms to prevent the spread and further harm. 

So, what can we do? 

We must be intentional and actively work to be anti-racist. We begin by examining our own implicit biases and where they come from. 

We can educate ourselves and unlearn and relearn the foundation of this country and about the experiences of BIPOC. 

Reeducation efforts may include attending an equity training, such as the Phase 1 training offered by Racial Equity Institute. 

We can listen to the voices and stories of people of color. 

We can take the time to notice what voices are being amplified and invited to engage. Who is represented (and who is not) in your community, at work, at events, in leadership, in government?

There is no quick fix. Just as it took hundreds of years and thousands of policies to create this racist system, it will take a great deal of work and dedication to undo this complicated and entangled racist web. 

How will you be part of the solution? 

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  1. My brother is JoJo. Thanks allowing him to share his thoughts with the world!

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