I'm Pam Newman.
I am awesome every day & you are too.
Follow my butt on Twitter!
I'm a writer of aricles, poems & songs. Here's some cool stuff I wrote.
So let me tell y’all about this little Louisville group called The Network Center for Community Change, aka NC3 aka The Network. It’s not a rap group, I promise.
If you’re involved at all in grassroots stuff or community organizing, you’ll wanna read this whole post, or come back to it later. I’m about to drop some real knowledge & transformative stuff in your pixels.
NC3 is seriously one of my favorite places to be, here in Louisville. They are a 4,800 strong membership of people who live in, work in, worship in, or care about Louisville’s urban core neighborhoods. They organize around a few key areas like food, economic development (so like, jobs & housing), education and youth development & leadership.
What I believe is unique about NC3 vs a lot of other social justice/community groups, (and what really attracts me to them on a primal, let’s-be-best-friends-forever level) is that when they go into a neighborhood to do work, they always ask the folks in the neighborhood what they need prior to beginning work.
So a couple of weeks ago, a lady by the name of June Holley came to visit NC3 and have some candid conversations with the network.
June Holley is an expert on what she calls Network Weaving, which is essentially building people-oriented networks of people within a cause or organization. The principals of a network are fundamentally different from the way most hierarchical organizations and groups function, because everyone has a true stake in what happens and a valued voice. Leadership in networks is generally horizontal, rather than vertical and everyone, even volunteers, are Members of a network, thus giving more personal responsibility to everyone.
The Network wanted to learn some more stuff from June Holley about what she does, and share with her how the network gets down. So, The Network being The Network invited a bunch of people to come to their space and get involved in this conversation with Ms Holley at 3pm one afternoon.
I was kind of there all day, just by accident. I walked in at lunchtime to use the NC3 computers, because my laptop cable had fried out… and I walked into a lunch meeting that was mostly NC3 staff, board members and a few Network power members (I’m a power member too, but there are a lot of us). In a “Normal” office, I would have just left them to this meeting knowing I hadn’t been invited to it, but nope. Not at the network. Anthony Smith, one of the staff members at NC3, says, “Hey Pam, you wanna sit in on this meeting? We’ve got some chicken and cake!”
So of course I’m gonna sit in on this meeting and eat their cake and chicken!
June Holley was there already, and the meeting had just begun. She was very interested in what we had to say about how The Network functioned, and we had some deep conversation around how personally invested we were in The Network. Personal stories were shared, and high-level conceptual ideas were tossed out about why the network is so attractive to so many people. It got a little emotional (which tends to happen at meetings in The Network) and the meeting adjourned with hugs, laughter and more cake.
So, I hung out for a while, used the computers, and the next meeting started.
There were maybe 30 people in the room for this meeting. It was pretty cool, too— Jessica Potish, the social media maven of The Network was live-tweeting the event, video was recorded by Lavelle, a network member, and pictures were snapped by a network member named Kerry.
Now, I’m going to talk specifically about what happened for/to me during this meeting.
After introductions, we all were charged to think about what’s on the paper in the picture above. What’s the value of the network to you as an individual, and how does that lead to change at a community level?
Well, all I wanted to say was: I really love the network, and how inclusive it is… and that I think the vibe of the network is something that will transform Louisville as a city. Something that is sorely needed in a city that is mentally, physically and spiritually segregated and is in dire need of support in a plethora of areas.
This is what I ended up saying, and sobbing my face off while I said it:
I really and truly love the network. People are hungry for the ability to create positive change in their neighborhoods and a catalyst to get them started. People fundamentally want to help each other. As someone who is originally from Philadelphia, a 40% black city, I had some culture shock issues with Louisville. I’ve worked in the corporate world, and as a leader, I was always challenged by my superiors for having this woo-woo kind of attitude where I empowered my team first, and was focused on the strengths of my team members rather than only the results they put out.
Then I moved to Kentucky, where it isn’t particularly cool to be a Black woman, let alone a Black woman who’s in charge and doesn’t take anybody’s crap. And not only was I that, but I was a Black woman, in charge, not taking anybody’s crap, doing things my own way. That attitude eventually got me fired, and I thought there was something wrong with me. Maybe the corporate way was the only way. Maybe I was wrong.
Then, after that, something happened that I think happened to a lot of people between 2007 and 2009. I got involved. I started getting more political and paying more attention to what was happening to the world I lived in, and I kept doing that. Then, this year, I found the network. I found a place where everyone was welcome regardless of race, class, gender identity, sexuality or how many freckles you had on your arm. It was the coolest thing.
And then when I learned more about the network? They worked by the principals that I thought were essential to being a good team— that ALL people are creative, resourceful and whole. That we should be accountable for the things we do. That sometimes you just have to let stuff go, and move on to the next season of your life. And all of this lovey-dovey stuff WORKED.
I found my people!
And?? The executive director of the place is a Black Woman.
Now, I’m 31 years old. I’ve experienced a fair share of workplaces, and have seen black women In Charge of stuff. But seeing this particular black woman not only be someone who sets a positive example, and exists in a role where she’s not all, “Hey, look at me! I’m in charge of all this awesome stuff!” Her response to being a leader is more, “Hey, look at all these awesome people and the great work they’re doing.”
I’ll repeat: And it WORKS.
So, I summed all of this up by saying: I really think people want this. They are on the streets, emotionally starved of real connections, and the opportunity to change their communities. I believe that the network has the power to literally change Louisville. In 10-20 years we’ll look back at what the network was, and be amazed at how it’s evolved into a new kind of living breathing organism.
And let me tell y’all. After all of that, I was crying, people were in tears, and I was transformed. That was a lot of stuff I’d never thought about. Honestly, I felt a little embarrassed to have cried so hard in front of my friends (and a few strangers) but it was freeing. The best part is that I know what I said is true.
The network IS going to change people, this city, and possibly be a catalyst for world change. World change is possible because if organizations can function like this— and work? Then so can communities, and that’s really what people want.
People want to be trusted, valued and loved… and that’s what The Network is doing!
(Source: Flickr / nc3louisville)