Generating ideas, connections, and action

CSXII Perspectives | Thoughts from Jeffrey Jones

The following was written by our Creating Space XII facilitator Jeffrey Jones. 

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Greetings Creating Space XII family,

As some time has passed since our shared journey into non-traditional leadership at Creating Space XII, I have had the opportunity for reflection and I thought I would take this opportunity to relate my some of my perspectives and learning with everyone. Undoubtedly, the raw emotions and genuine examples of non-traditional leadership that we experienced during Creating Space XII are testaments to our collective commitment to this work; to witness it first-hand at Grace in Action and the Oakland Avenue Market Garden turned a mirror upon ourselves and the tremendous work that we all do.

The value of shared learning is that in participation, each person owns a portion of the accumulating knowledge through their contribution and engagement. A major highlight for me came on day one as we challenged the assumptions of the traditional leadership paradigm. I still smile when I think about the phrase; you are NOT a traditional leader!  Panelists Darel Ross, Lisa Leverette and Martha Thawnghmung brought three unique perspectives on the values of non-traditional leadership, how to support non-traditional leadership, and the environments which engender non-traditional leadership.

“Passionate” can hardly surmise the words of wisdom expressed by Mary Luevanos, Tracy Chandler and Clark Washington in describing their work, its challenges, and how they have succeeded as non-traditional leaders. As Clark replayed the challenges faced by his constituents in navigating various systems for the disenfranchised and went on to share stories of the accomplishments of the Detroit Action Commonwealth, I observed optimism and determination on the faces around the room.

Day two of Creating Space XII was nothing short of momentous.  As mentioned earlier, the field trips were phenomenal and I believe everyone took away memories that will cement Creating Space XII in their minds.  Next, Dr. Peter Hammer delivered a riveting presentation on structural racism in Detroit that articulated how the legacy of spatial racism has given rise to many of the current plights negatively impacting the community.  It is encouraging to know that academia hasn’t lost sight of the perilous times in which we live and the underlying prejudices that perpetuate it.

To further punctuate day two, Creating Space XII offered up a scintillating fishbowl exercise that featured an informative exchange between Jah’Shams Abdul-Mu’min and Allen Frimpong regarding national perspectives of non-traditional leadership. As a Detroiter, I found comfort in knowing that other places are wrestling with challenges and finding victory in new ways.  Jah’Shams shared his work around Healing and how it is important for non-traditional leaders to self-examine and to allow for the process of healing to occur. The fishbowl exercise also provided an opportunity for Creating Space XII participants to enter the discussion.  This unscripted movement of people and voices set the stage for perhaps the most emotionally poignant segment of Creating Space XII.  Tracy Chandler shared a heart-felt story about the school children she assists in Grand Rapids. Her selfless example of non-traditional leadership in this instance brought many of us in the room to tears.  Additionally, I took great satisfaction in knowing that young leaders like Allen Frimpong are stepping up to the challenges, and confronting them with new ideas and strategies that are birthed in grassroots organizing.

Day two culminated with a hybrid Open Space exercise that saw our Creating Space XII family dancing, chanting, and giving expression through performance art. Deborah Taylor and Monica Patrick, from We The People inspired us to see the issues around affordability and access to water as our collective fight. Whose Water? …OUR Water!  Samantha Magdaleno, Detroit Hispanic Development Corps, led a discussion about immigration, ICE, and her work to preserve families under the threat of deportation.  I was moved by her story of a family whose father was facing deportation and how her work which delayed the inevitable, gave his children additional precious time with their father.  Our Creating Space XII family also showcased their talents with a performance piece on caring for the non-traditional leader; recharging the spirit and the necessity of rest.  

Day three of Creating Space XII brought the discussion full circle as we delved into evaluating the kind of leadership needed for successful community and systems change.   Dr. Ebony Roberts and Sally Liederman provided participants with a wealth of information about the importance of telling your story effectively and also challenged us to think about the metrics of our work. Their perspectives allowed participants to deliberate in small groups on how we measure our impacts and quantify outcomes.

Day three also served as a crescendo for Creating Space XII participants as we engaged in a Meaning Making exercise where we captured our thoughts on post it notes and did a Gallery Walk to discern common threads about what we have learned related to non-traditional leadership. Here, as at other times throughout Creating Space XII, the overarching theme was positive action. This assembly of non-traditional leaders spoke of unwavering commitment, sense of purpose, tireless fight, creative