August 4, 2020
Category: Open Minds Respectful Voices
Tags: Community, Community-Building, Inclusion, Open Minds Respectful Voices, Respect, Testimonial,
This is part of a series of spotlights on community leaders in the Triad who have signed their names to NCCJ’s Open Minds, Respectful Voices initiative to affirm their commitment to practicing the initiative’s 5 Community Practices in their daily conversations. Here’s what Charisse Hart, CEO of Ready for School, Ready for Life, has to say:
Why did you sign on to the Open Minds, Respectful Voices initiative, committing to the five Community Practices?
I joined to the Open Minds, Respectful Voices initiative because these five community practices strongly align with my personal values. Initiating change begins with listening and developing an understanding with those who may have a different perspective based upon their lived personal experiences.
Committing to the five community practices also allows me to be a part of something greater. I know that I am not alone in administering these practices and that I have a variety of friends, stakeholders, leaders and organizations that I can contact if I stumble across any barriers while leading impactful conversations.
What are you learning through your practice?
I am learning that the five community practices associated with Open Minds, Respectful Voices can be used in almost any setting and with any type of relationship. The challenge is often bringing people together with varying perspectives to have a robust and meaningful conversation. It is easy for us to remain in our comfort zones and dialogue with those that we know will give us the “safe” responses that we are seeking. At Ready for School, Ready for Life, our goal is advocating for early childhood systems change. Each advocacy-focused conversation entails education for both our staff and recipients of our message. We have learned that we must encounter every situation with an empathetic perspective in order to establish common ground with those we hope to engage in our mission.
What do you hope happens in our community as more people sign on to the Open Minds, Respectful Voices initiative, and commit to the five Community Practices?
I hope that when more people sign on to the Open Minds, Respectful Voices initiative, we will continue to share our stories. While documenting our experiences, I hope that members of our community will still consider lessons learned as well as feelings of disappointment as success. The main takeaway is that that we attempted to make progress. I also hope that our scope will extend beyond our local community – realizing our ability to drive change in Greensboro and beyond.
What advice do you have for others who are just starting to engage in these practices?
Be patient. It takes time to fully engage in these practices. We must allow time to become secure with leading these conversations. This means that we must become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Keep in mind that our initial conversations may not go as we had envisioned – and that’s perfectly fine. We may not have all of the answers and it is completely acceptable to engage others in our thoughts and concerns about this work when we need additional support. That’s what it’s all about – strengthening dialogue and building solidarity among members in our community. A unified community ultimately creates a unified voice.