From KFLA’s New Director of Programs, Brenda Williams-Sears
The principles of fairness and equity are the foundation of a dignified civilization. Such a society makes every effort to create a world where quality education for all is the standard; where people work at a decent job for decent pay; where everyone feels safe in his or her home, at work, and on the street; and where every person is valued no matter their ability, income, education, race, ethnicity, gender identity, geographic background, religious belief, or sexual orientation. For the past 40 years, Kellogg Fellows have leveraged their networks and platforms to make this vision a reality for humankind. It is a group with the values, courage, and creativity to heal and enrich this diverse and interconnected world. I am in awe as I learn about what Kellogg Fellows have done to build a just health system, create an equitable food system, secure safe and affordable housing, protect our sacred sites, ensure a clean and sustainable environment, and promote social, legal, civil and human rights. You have done everything from teaching to marching to painting to accomplish this.
However, you know as well as I do, that there is more work to be done. We currently live in a world full of fear, hate, and intolerance, and therefore, we need all 1,700+ Kellogg Fellows now, more than ever.
All over the world, people get up every day and work hard; yet hundreds of millions of people lack basic needs. In 2015, in the world, nearly 50% of people were living in poverty, 65% were forcibly displaced from their homes and community, 33% were malnourished, and 25% were living in places with high levels of religious hostilities. In the US, many of our children are going hungry, families are being ripped apart, and veterans are sleeping on the street.
And so, it is with deep respect for the work you have done and will continue to do, that I am honored and humbled to accept this role as Director of Programs for KFLA.
I grew up among health care workers, community organizers, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, bus drivers, sanitation workers, and train operators. My family, friends, and neighbors served food, cleaned offices, stocked shelves, and served their country. They worked two shifts and still manage to raise their children well and sustained a steadfast spirit in the face of racism, classism, and every other ism. Even when living in poverty, my grandmother responded compassionately to the plight of others, sharing whatever she had in that moment so that they did not go without food, clothing, transportation, or money to pay their bills.
The people in the metaphorical village that raised me are often stereotyped as angry, disobedient, lazy, violent, and uneducated, but in reality, they are courageous, driven, entrepreneurial, resourceful, and smart. We need to capitalize on their gifts instead of excluding and exploiting them. They are often routine targets for excessive aggression and criminalization. They face painful and stress-filled decisions every single day as they are forced to make difficult and dangerous tradeoffs to prioritize between rent, food, heat, transportation, and medical care. While I cannot make up for their sacrifice, I have an obligation to continue to work on building a society in which our institutions and organizations are equitable and just.
The Kellogg Fellows are a legacy of people who have addressed some of society’s toughest challenges. It is a clear testament to something I believe very strongly: that we all have the talent and resources to create positive change in the world by building community power. I know this work is not easy and requires new ideas and collaboration. I am grateful for the blood, sweat and tears you have poured into your work. Thank you for answering the call to local, national, and global service. I look forward to working with you
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts and ideas. What issues do you think we should tackle?