JANUARY 1, 2021
2020 Reflections | The Audacity to Confront Audacious Injustice
This December, I have especially appreciated both the small and big things in my life: the taste of my favorite dessert, the smell of Christmas trees, the never-ending laughter of a single meme, my health, the health of those around me, and timeless memories shared with those I’ve lost to this behemoth we call 2020.
I am incredibly grateful for the WEPOWER community. I am so grateful for the unwavering commitment our community shares to collectively uproot the seeds of injustice that shade the light on our path forward. During a year that has presented so many challenges, all of the support and partnership affirm that we must stay the course together. All of our children, families, and communities deserve a future radically different than the brutal present we are now enduring.
As I sit in all this gratitude, intentional reflection feels more important than ever. I am reflecting on who we are today, who we aspire to become, and trying to make sense of the moments we must create between the two. As a friend committed to creating a St. Louis that our children deserve, I thought I would share a few of my reflections with you.
Audacious Injustice Requires Audacious Commitment
If I had to choose one word to describe 2020 it would be audacious. It has been a year of absolute audacious injustice.
While 2020 has been an undeniably triumphant year for the enemy of our collective well-being – generational, systemic racism – there is a path forward. I believe the only way to eradicate audacious injustice is through our collective audacity to sustain radically different behaviors and beliefs together. Our audacity must be mightier than that of the generational, systemic racism that continues to strangle our future of the air we need to breathe, live, and thrive.
How does collective audacity look, sound, and feel?
Dreams. The audacious are unafraid to dream and declare the necessity of a profoundly different world from the one of our past and present.
“Without the radical imagination, we are left only with the residual dreams of the powerful and, for the vast majority, they are experienced not as dreams but as nightmares of insecurity, precarity, violence, and hopelessness. Without the radical imagination, we are lost.” ― Alex Khasnabish and Max Haiven, Why social movements need the radical imagination
Data. The data matters. Our collective audacity to adopt different behaviors includes understanding how data has been used to exploit and harm, then reclaiming its power, to tell the truth of racial injustice. We must have the audacity to fanatically use the data as a tool towards our dreams. As Data 4 Black Lives puts it, “Data as protest. Data as accountability. Data as (a catalyst for) collective action.”
Dialogue. No, not a tweet, hashtag, or post. (Well, maybe afterward.) Real dialogue. The kind where we look into each other’s (virtual) eyes, open our hearts, and speak of our uncomfortable truths and pain. Where we truly listen and keep a box of tissue close. The kind of conversations that lead to a dream that reflects our collective needs and hopes, but especially centering those most historically harmed by the audacious injustice of our leaders, institutions, and systems. The kind of dialogue that allows us to celebrate the resilience of our ancestors and begin to heal from the morbid data that tells of our past. The kind of dialogue that co-creates audacious ideas and the relationships that will make the ideas possible.
“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people--they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.” ― Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Demands. Yes, we must demand, together. Demand is a noun and a verb. The ideas we co-create must become demands that close the gap between the data and our dreams. The ideas that we declare as our demands are only demands if backed by persistent, audacious action and pressure and partnership. Our audacity to realize our dreams requires our collective courage to demand what we know our children and communities deserve.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them…” ― Frederick Douglass
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
As we end 2020, once again, I would like to thank every WEPOWER changemaker, entrepreneur, partner, funder, advocate, and champion for being part of the journey to win tangible changes that will impact the lives of everyday people. It was your belief and partnership that allowed us to:
- welcome 150+ new Black and Latinx changemakers to the WEPOWER community who are leading education and economic systems change;
- win millions of dollars in funding for early childhood education;
- support our first cohort of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs achieve significant growth in their monthly revenue and raise several hundreds of thousands in follow on capital; and
- create a COVID-19 resource hub that engaged thousands of St. Louisans seeking support.
As we transition into 2021, I consider it a privilege to continue our partnership. Together, I am so thrilled that our audacity to dream, use of data as protest, and willingness to engage in unflinching dialogue, will lay the groundwork for us to demand that bold ideas become policies and practices that nurture our lives and the future that awaits our children.
Until then, check out the “One Good Thing” blurbs from members of the WEPOWER team. We chose to end the year by reflecting on what we have come to appreciate more than ever.
Happy New Year!
-Charli Cooksey, CEO & Founder of WEPOWER