One year ago today, we published http://www.westories.org with a mix of jitters, fear, adrenaline, and determination.
We knew from our initial focus groups and the enrollment for our pilot program that we had found some initial interest. But we knew little else. We wanted to believe that the interest of these families represented what was and is possible. We wanted to believe that they would go deep and lean into the discomfort together. We wanted to believe that they could transform their own families experience about race and also become a transformational force for our region. It was a lot to hope for.
At the same time, we knew little about the work that it would take to do the work. The building and developing of a board, the fundraising, the paperwork (!), the databases (!), the constant reanalysis of the theory of change and refinement of logic models, the continual engagement with a dynamic market and region that is both always changing and always staying the same, the investment in developing a business partnership that SOARS, the constant search for champions and partners who believe in what could be and care deeply about racial equity, the curriculum development, the material development, the reading of thousands of children's books (perk!), the listening, the empowering, and all.the.damn,logistics. - all overlaid on a backdrop of heart-breaking racial disparity that harms people every single hour.
A year later, what I can say with confidence is: We've just barely begun to scratch the surface of possibility.
I'm heartened and encouraged every day by the hard work that the 300 We Stories families are doing. They ARE digging deep and hanging in. They are continually pushing themselves into discomfort and trying to learn more about their role in our very inequitable St. Louis, as are we. Many of them are also pushing themselves to learn more about what it takes to be a good ally, activist, and change agent, and are using the group for support in this process, as are we. They are shifting the normal that they present to their children, and thereby helping to shift the "normal" for white families in St. Louis. I'm honored to be both a witness and support in this process.
And am overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of interest that we have continued to receive. I now believe without a doubt that white families do care and will work for change. That doesn't mean that the road ahead isn't long and full of more learning. But instead of asking questions that begin with "if" like we did on this day last year, my mind is consumed with questions of "how best" and "when" and "what else?"
And I can't even begin to express how humbled I am by the very significant investment that so many people have made in this work. Non-profit work relies on the generosity of the community. And great work requires resources, financial and otherwise. We rely, not just on every dollar, but on every ounce of energy, every donated minute, every ray of love, every piece of feedback, every connection, and every single raised hand.
Yesterday we sent a love letter of sorts to our current families laying out our journey for the year ahead. In true We Stories style it is about growth and change and challenging the limits of what's possible together. So in many ways today marks the start of yet another leg of the journey. But this time we're trekking with hundreds more friends and allies. I'm proud to be a part of We Stories. I'm proud of the very hard work that it's taken Laura and I to get here. I'm hopelessly optimistic and determined about what lies ahead.
So, to YEAR TWO, we say: Cheers!
And to all of our board members, Executive Leadership Council members, Page Turners, We Stories families, advisors and very special donors, you know who you are: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Picture courtesy of Michele Verna Photography