People often feel compelled to take swift action after events of enormous impact, such as what took place in Charlottesville over the weekend. That demonstration of divisive behavior fueled by hatred was seen and heard around the world. This is bigger than a single community, a state, or even our nation. Hate rooted in unfounded prejudice has created a long history of battles all over the globe and that war continues. So what do we do as community leaders?
After watching several news reports, reading the chatter on social media, and talking with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors it is clear that there is a lot of blame thrown around and not enough conversation getting to the roots of issues. Historically there have been decisions made based on biases and gaps in access of all kinds that continue to divide us (education, economic prosperity, healthcare, basic social services). Those gaps have led to an even greater divide in communication, which has led us to a place of misunderstanding.
Leadership Metro Richmond (LMR) was created to be a catalyst to close those gaps in the Richmond region. Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman wrote in their recent book, Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences, “Leadership Metro Richmond offers exactly the type of opportunity for bias reduction that contact theory suggests.” Each annual LMR class is a group that reflects the diversity in race, gender, profession, industry, and economic status across our region. We bring together diverse leaders to broaden perspectives and connect those who are working towards the same goal of a better and brighter future for our communities. However, while we continue on that mission today, our annual program is just the beginning. We continue to urge our members/graduates to take the knowledge, experience and connections they have to create positive impact. We want them to keep building bridges of understanding and engage in inquiry to heighten their own understanding.
This fall we will host a facilitation training for our members through the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities so that the tough conversations we are able to have within our membership can continue outside of our doors. We want our community leaders to not only talk to each other, but also facilitate challenging conversations in their own communities. We desire for our members to continue to push for diversity and inclusion in leadership so that many voices are present at the table. Encourage diversity within mission driven and public service boards and councils. We envision a future where we can look around at those with decision making power and smile with pride at the fact that they reflect the culture, best interests, and values of many.