| Ford Church

Women of the Storm

I started a non-profit organization about a year ago called the Cottonwood Institute, whose mission is to teach students how to change the world through an exciting blend of adventure and service. I have dedicated my life to inspiring the youth of America and I continually hear my mom say, "where did he come from?" However, to me, it is very clear where I came from.

My mom, Beverly Church, is a New Orleans civic activist, community leader, author, lecturer, event planner, and a primary source of my inspiration to be committed to my community. She recently helped organize a group of women called Women of the Storm to help rebuild the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated my hometown at the end of August 2005. They boarded a donated charter flight bound for Washington D.C. with a cross-section of women from New Orleans who were affected by the storm and who are deeply committed to rebuild the historic city. Their goal is to invite members of congress to visit New Orleans to see the devastation first-hand so they will be more likely to vote to save the city.

The term activism can conjure up negative images of almost militant people fighting extreme causes. But for those who have been ignored or oppressed, many times activism is the only card they can play. Activism does not have to have a negative connotation. Gandhi was an activist; Martin Luther King, Jr. was an activist; Mother Theresa was an activist. But these examples set high standards that paralyze many of us from ever getting involved. Let us instead be inspired by the average citizens like Beverly Church and the Women of the Storm who have the courage to exercise their voice and take a stand for what they believe in.

Question: When have you taken a stand for something you believed in?

Categories: How to Change the World

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3 Responses to “Women of the Storm”

  1. Mikal

    I recently took a stand against a restaurant in my neighborhood.

    Here’s the scoop:

    Recently, a new pizza joint opened in my neighborhood, and its owners refuse–despite customer’s frequent requests–to sell pizza by the slice. The reason? Well, at first I thought maybe they just didn’t see the value proposition in selling pizza by the slice. After all, they’re new to the restaurant business, so maybe they just hadn’t figured out how to price slices so they’d come out even or ahead of the price of a full pie. If not that, then I figured they must have a prep issue… you know, the pizza oven isn’t calibrated to handle one slice at a time, or something like that. Both perfectly reasonable but easily solvable obstacles.

    Well, as it turns out, neither price nor preparation is the issue. (Ready for this?)

    The only reason they’ve chosen not to sell pizza by the slice is because they do not want certain types of people walking in off the street and frequenting their restaurant. And just who are these certain types of people? Well, while the owner of the pizza shop wouldn’t come right out and say it, she referred to “those people” from up the street, “the ones who are always walking up and down this part of our street.”

    Translation: if you live in my neighborhood, you know darned well that she’s referring to the folks who make their home in a facility owned and operated by United Methodist Women. Many of the men and women living in the five-story building are actively engaged in rebuilding their lives from substance abuse. Some are parolees, while others are visually impaired. The common thread though running through all of them is that they eagerly share in learning to function as independent citizens.

    Many of them however also happen to be African-American, but I digress.

    Bottom line… if the pizza shop starts offering slices, which again, people are asking for, the owners feel they’ll be overrun with the wrong type of customer, who just so happens to be black. Never mind that this wrong type of customer’s money is just as good as anyone else’s, and never mind that serving the wrong type of customer when he or she is down but on their way back up may actually endear them to the restaurant for years to come. Aww, heck… while we’re at it, never mind the discriminatory and exclusionary nature of the practice.

    My suggestion of a policy that slices only be made available for to-go orders only was met with, “Yeah, but they’d still have to come inside the restaurant.”

    The stand I took was not to support the restaurant with my business. I believe in equal service for all, while the restaurant in question does not. In the grand scheme of things, not that big of a deal, but every voice counts, as does every dollar not spent at this particular business.

  2. Ford Church

    Way to go Mikal! My sense is that they probably won’t be in business too long if they keep turning away hungry customers willing to pay for a slice.

  3. Byrne Reese

    I always liked the saying:

    Think globally, act locally.

    I believe strongly in my local neighborhood community, a wonderful group of people living in the Grand Lake area of Oakland, California. We are commited to raising the standard of living for everyone in the neighborhood. I routinely volunteer to pick up trash, to help landscape public parks and areas, participate in crime prevention programs, attend neighborhood gatherings, and whatever I can involve myself in.

    Participating in your neighborhood is one of the best ways to increase your sense of belonging, to establish roots and friendships and to build a network of people who can trust and rely on in times of need.

    It doesn’t take much. Saying “hello” to your next door neighbors whenever you see them is small thing everyone can do to help strengthen a neighborhood. Bottom line, it is about being engaged, no matter how little.


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