This week I took two days away from R/GA to spend with the people at Opportunity Nation. I’ve been involved with OppNation since they launched in 2011 at The Apollo Theater in Harlem.
The first time we got together was wild– sleepless nights and laughs. We dined that first evening at Sylvias-a local historical icon. At dinner we broke into regions.
As I recall it, we had 8 people sitting around a table for New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. A diverse group of people sat around the table. Seriously diverse from a young girl working to change the dynamic for incarcerated men of color to a John Hopkins alum working on cutting edge research. These two have been in my mind, but the people around that table came from all paths of leadership all focused on making a difference.
I was at community college then. I was intensely eager to make my community stronger, but I was still figuring out what my impact could be. Everything they said sort of amazed me. I had just started writing ‘my book’ and many of them were already on chapter 4 and 7, but it’s no matter. I could feel that OppNation had put me in a room of brilliant people committed to something greater than our individual selves.
The problems were daunting, but I wasn’t alone.
Harlem in my backyard. I proudly carried myself with a New York demeanor- walk, talk, and tone—inside I was nothing short of nervous. Even with all that it was easy to find the kindred spirits, “the crew.” Many of us have remained friends and found intersections in our work. Even some folks that I didn’t expect to, would go on to play a role in my life– that young girl from Philly, another from Michigan, and a third buddy from Rhode Island.
That was a different time in my leadership story, but whether then or now, the most basic foundation is having the right people around you & OppNation assembled that for me.
I felt a similar de ja vu when I walked into summit training this year. Only now, I’m on chapter 3. I was quieter and more interested to listen– just as amazed with what folks had to share.
More important than anything, our little unit of changemakers grew.
I found a lot of amazing people this year– a woman poised on making STEM more relevant to girls in her Hawaiian community, a boy poised to make teaching an important position in the minds of modern-day America, and a professor figuring out how she could make opportunity more accessible to everyday people.
This is only a short snippet of all the wonderful folks I met from across the country this week-people who see the world in a greater scope than themselves. I am very pleased and excited. I hope to ask How Can I Help, much more with these leaders. I am most excited for how they will keep me motivated and believing that we can achieve greater, how they will pull me up when I’m in too deep, and how our relationships will facilitate greater exchange of knowledge, ideas, and change.
Leadership can be a lonely thing sometimes, but no one is alone here. I’ve got your back. Reach out. If you’re stuck, reach out. Problems are just roadblocks–and bridges are never entirely burned. Everything will work out. Just put good people around you and commit yourselves to the service of others.
Our stories are in their infancy. Let’s nurture one another as we write the rest.
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something. ” FDR