Engagement and Change

Progress Needs People, Pressure, and Perseverance. That means YOU!

Progress Needs People, Pressure, and Perseverance. That means YOU!

The last few months have shown us so many inspiring examples of individual people joining together, in the name of democracy, to fight for the issues that matter to them and to push for racial equity. We’ve seen what the person-to-person, hour-by-hour, small-moment work looks like and how it adds up to big change.

We know that what we say to our kids matters - but what we DO matters more.

We Stories families are raising children who not only prioritize racial equity but who understand the importance and power of civic engagement. Who know deep in their bones that it’s their responsibility to show up and that when 1+1+1+1+1 work together, change is possible.

Because progress needs people, pressure and perseverance. If nothing else this election was marked by incredible people power. Initiatives and races that weren’t destined to succeed but captured the readiness of many individual people willing to work for the future they desire.

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80-in-80: Using Relationship Power to Build Community and Strengthen Impact

80-in-80: Using Relationship Power to Build Community and Strengthen Impact

In some ways We Stories is about the very small. The intimate moments like bedtime stories, memories from childhood, private hopes for the future, the starting of new habits, the subtle but significant changes in language and conversation that shape a family.

And in many ways We Stories is about the very big. Interrupting systemic racism, engaging a critical mass, building towards a tipping point, disrupting the status quo, embracing the unconventional, pushing everyday in every way towards transformation.

As an organization it is part of our work to bridge these two spheres: the small and the big. To mobilize these personal shifts and shape them into waves of lasting change.

That bridging takes a tremendous amount of relationship power. Our ability to make impact, to help transform is directly related to our connectedness...to our members’ sense of belonging and being known, and our overall community cohesion.

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Not In Our Name...A Rally to Push for Progress in Clayton, MO

Not In Our Name...A Rally to Push for Progress in Clayton, MO

I have three messages I want to share today: the importance of defining problems, the power of apology, and the role of community in supporting action.

As anyone will tell you, you can’t solve a problem until you’ve defined the problem.  Or as Nicole Hudson, one of the most consistent and courageous voices for racial equity in our region has put it - “diagnosis determines treatment.” 

I spent a lot of time preparing for this rally by conducting imagined conversations in my head with quite a number of white folks - folks who worry that a rally is divisive, who bristle at the word racial profiling, who think this topic has been given far too much time and attention already, who use their position or power to wonder aloud if racism is OR isn’t a problem holding our region back, and who with equal fervor declare that they could not, would not, are not racist as if their individual intent alone is all that truly matters.

So let’s be clear…

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Segregation in St. Louis hurts whites too

 Segregation in St. Louis hurts whites too

St. Louis is truly a tale of two cities. Neighborhoods of high crime and high poverty eerily exist in a region that also contains communities with family-friendly attractions, beautiful housing, and good schools. This divide is well-known and historically accepted in our region.

One city deals with disinvestment so devastating, it is regularly and nationally recognized as a worst place to live. This is adjacent to another city so enriched and safe that it’s regularly and nationally recognized as a best place to raise a family.

It is this contrast that we tend to focus on most when we talk about segregation. And we should. It’s real. It’s startling. It’s damaging to our region and the people who live here.

This reality alone should be enough to muster the political will to change it. But it's not. And that has everything to do with the shadow of racial bias in the city of abundance. This shadow blinds people from seeing a national and local history of policy advantages that got them inside this bubble. It makes them complicit in policies and ways of life that put this region among the 10 most segregated in the country.

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Who Will You Become in the Meantime?

Who Will You Become in the Meantime?

“But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I HAD to say yes. Because in the 6 years I’ve lived in St. Louis, I have learned something important, and I do want to share it with you today.

What I have learned is that everyday people, citizens, parents, and students can make a big difference.

I think intellectually, I always knew that. I think intellectually, you probably all know that, too. But my experience has made that idea real to me in ways I never expected when I first moved here…”

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The Moment I Knew I Had to Talk to My Kids About Race

The Moment I Knew I Had to Talk to My Kids About Race

Days after Michael Brown was shot and killed I stood on my front porch staring at the street in front of my house. I was pushing my then 6 month old son in a swing and watching my two year old son and four year old daughter run around in the front yard. I was nauseous thinking about Michael Brown’s body on the pavement and the hours that he lay still in the street. I was nauseous knowing that that wouldn’t happen to my white boys. I knew that someone like me would never be held back by law enforcement from my wounded child, as Michael Brown’s mother was. I couldn’t pretend it was a normal day. I couldn’t pretend I was fine...or that this was fine.

It was then that I first knew that I had to talk to my kids about race. Actually it was really then that I fully confronted the truth that I HADN’T yet talked to my kids about race.

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Your Story, My Story, We Stories

Your Story, My Story, We Stories

Change often starts with a nudge, a subtle but intentional shift that can’t always be seen by others. A push against what’s stuck, perhaps an old habit or limiting belief. A small step towards a new connection or way of thinking.

Over time, the nudges and small steps add up, turning into strides. A new pace is established. It feels good…like progress.

Most people have experienced something like this.

But it’s different when this is happens in community… when those nudges are known to others, and those strides are taken together. When there is a common purpose and an eagerness to help each other push against the forces that hold us collectively in place.

This is the magic that we experience.

Securing Justice for All in St. Louis

Securing Justice for All in St. Louis

On Friday, September 15, a local judge in St. Louis City ruled that Jason Stockley, the former SLMPD officer who killed city resident, Anthony Lamar Smith, would not be found guilty of any charges from the case. As region-wide protests and economic direct actions ensued, Forward through Ferguson co-chairs wrote an open statement to the region—reminding us of the history and tools we embody to catalyze change and inviting regional civic and social organizations to help forward efforts to racial equity and police reform. 

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This is So Much Bigger Than Ourselves

This is So Much Bigger Than Ourselves

All the weeks are busy but last week was busy in a particular and exciting way; our whole community was alive with activity. When you’re building a small organization or community there’s a long time where you as the founder(s) are the energy source for everything. People can help but ultimately you are fueling that process.

Growth is all about establishing and strengthening coordinated renewable energy centers across the system. Over the last year we’ve been working hard to expand our capacity by establishing these energy centers in the form of volunteer leaders, participant leaders, and now paid staff. Last week was one of the first times we were able to turn all of the lights in the house on…and keep them on.

Don’t get me wrong, last week still took everything we have, but there was so much more generative input than just the two of us. And you could feel it. Twice Laura and I looked at each other and said, “wow, this is amazing.” It is remarkable just how many people have truly committed their resources, talents and time to moving this work forward. We want to share this thrilling and humbling experience with you. Hopefully this piece: a week in We Stories will give you a sense of the kind of electricity that we are fortunate to experience.

A Week in We Stories

Scratching the Surface of Possibility

Scratching the Surface of Possibility

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.

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