I was happy to usher in the New Year at IDEAS xLab as the Community Health Advocate. Just three weeks into my new position, it made me think about my former position at Bates Memorial Baptist Church. I was blessed to work at Bates Memorial Baptist Church for 16 years. During that time, I was able to work with Dr. Williams as his administrative assistant and an amazing staff made up entirely of African-Americans. I know it is a common thought that for some races, they can go an entire day maybe even a week without seeing someone of a different race. The same could be said for me.
There were many days that I could go throughout my life and never see anyone or have interactions with someone that looked differently than I. When I started my new position I realized that my life was somewhat insulated. When I shaved all my hair off and decided to “go natural,” I never gave it a second thought. Rocking my fight the power earrings and Black Lives Matter hoodie on a Friday was common. I remember we rejoiced when President Obama took office. We let out a collective sigh as we heard the George Zimmerman verdict. We stood with our hands up in solidarity with those in Ferguson. It was just the way it was. We were united, and the one thread that bound us, beyond our faith, was our race.
When I started my new position, it was the first time I paused and thought about these things. Quite frankly, the first week I felt like a fish out of the water. I was now aware of my race, my hair, my attire that often was a t-shirt with a slogan intended to challenge those that read it, my slang. I was aware of my blackness in all its glory. Something I never really thought about for 16 years. I was now back in the “real world” and I wondered how I was going to fit in? I embraced the changes with optimism. I had a voice. I had something to offer. I was happy to share my views as well as hear views from others. I realized being insulated is not good for the soul. There is something beautiful that comes from learning about other people, your community, where you live. I walked the streets of NuLu, admiring the unique shops and I wondered why I never took the time to do that before? I ate an amazing burger at Garage Bar, I people watched as people hurried about their day. I laughed with Miguel, a painter in the office that always seems to be in a wonderful mood. I listened to classical music as we discussed health disparities. I listened to an NPR interview about a freed slave who wrote his life story in a time when writing by slaves was punishable by death. I heard stories of those that have lived in Smoketown for decades. I learned about Louisville and its implementation of plans to make the city one that thrives. I attended meetings with people that cared about the health of their community. These people were just ordinary people trying to make a difference in their small part of the world. All of the people I met and all of the experiences thus far have challenged me to think differently on some issues, to expand my experiences so that I can have a whole life, not an insulated life because a life of insulation is truly not living.
I wondered how much richer and fuller our lives would be if we stepped outside of our safe space? If we stepped outside of our familiar? If we made it a point to truly know those in our community and then step beyond our community to meet people that do not look like us? People that challenge us to think differently, to go just a little bit deeper. How much better would our lives be if we lived in such a way that we welcomed interactions with others? If we valued their thoughts and opinions? If we embraced their challenges wondering how we could make a difference? If we used what we learn from other to grow individually and collectively?
I have seen an entirely different side of Louisville since the start of the New Year. Our city does have its challenges, but I now see them as opportunities for me to help in my small corner of the world. There is beauty all around us in Louisville; we simply have to open our eyes and discover it. I look forward to working with IDEAS xLab and growing as a poet, artist and advocate for the Smoketown Community. And I will still be rocking my fight the power earrings while I do it!