How do you give someone dignity?
Dignity is acknowledging your humanity. You are a human being with the capacity and capability. You possess the ability to experience life fully. Maybe we can create an environment which encourages people to feel that there is trust in their capacity. Maybe if we created using our own ideas and resources it would help us to restore our dignity. In many ways this is what Marcus Garvey was showing us;the descendants of Africans at home and abroad, Confidence in self.
Confidence in self maintains dignity. Do we still believe in our ability? Much of our confidence has been removed systematically and we have been made dependent on Governments or a political system that abuses power and monopolizes the wealth of the country to maintain itself. We have been manipulated away from ourselves. In this process losing our dignity.
People can choose to reclaim their dignity or leave it for dead and continue living.
We all have to choose how we want to live. Some choices are harder than others but all our choices add up.
We should not try to choose a life for anyone. No matter what the situation. We have to make our own choices.
Many community projects or development projects are not designed with an understanding of how dignity or choice work.
Di ISL is a not a community or development project but i have learnt that living in a “community” or working in a collective requires understanding choice. This removes the gap created by expectations that people will act according to some ideal within the community. Understanding choice allows us to pursue goals collectively.
We have problem at the ISL . We cannot get any volunteers from the Alman Town community which is closest to the ISL and where most of the young people and adults who use the ISL live. We are also not getting volunteers from outside the community to work with us at the ISL. Sometimes people ask what they can do but they don’t follow up on their initial interest and they usually have a problem giving time consistently. We have tried to offer a small stipend for volunteers in the reading programme at the ISL and even this still doesn’t get us volunteers. Sometimes friends come and support but we need people who are willing to give time consistently.
As soon as i started to write this post i remembered a post i had written at the beginning of the ISL about designing an effective volunteer program.
When asking for volunteers we have only specified the time we need and the activity we want the volunteer to be involved in.
We currently need volunteers for a reading programme for young people ages 4-13 from 4-6pm on a Thursday. We meet the ISL and take the children to Heroes Circle.
We also need volunteers for our Science Technology Art and Maths Programme (STEAM) for young people ages 4-13 on Wednesdays 3-5pm.
Di Institute for Social Leadership( ISL) was started in December 2013. After one year we decided to ask Uche Onobe his thoughts on the space and to share with us what the space means to him.
Today makes one year since we decided to open the Di Institute for Social Leadership. We have tried to share different reflections on the process, the experiences, the shifting goals, the objectives and the things we have learned. I am happy that we made it to the end of the year and we are looking forward to more years and more learning.
For me the Institute represents a space for experimentation and using a soulful and artistic approach to creating and growing communities and societies that are critical, responsible, responsive, self-sufficient. It is a space for creating a collective consciousness, and relationships based on love, equality, equity, and understanding. It is a space that activates Africa in the past and in the present, it seeks to foster the African identity not through mere aesthetics but through ways of thinking and being.
The space is both physical and spiritual it is a thing as well as the embodiment of a set of ideas you experience or feel and then begin to live.
We started with a specific problem (the lack of learning opportunities and social support services for youth from low income families and communities) and we started with a desire to explore a concept, social leadership. Using an approach rooted in art practice we have been able to begin to articulate a sustainable alternative model for the future. A collective consciousness, community and Africa is at the centre and it anchors and grounds the questions that we ask and the solutions or possibilities we see.
For example we have began to understand how to create opportunities for learning that are not about formal education models. We are beginning to see how different people can learn or be thought new things without being in a classroom. This is both very exciting and very important because we are giving ourselves room to think about complex problems and to understand complex answers, answers that are grounded in an African experience in a black experience and answers that are projecting a desire to create an alternative future or alternative possibilities that are driven by our desire for a healthy collective.
As a part of the process this year there has been a lot of defining and redefining. For example we are constantly defining the word social leadership. We are constantly redefining community. We see these as very important components of our project. We should always be able to question language, create new language.
Some of our language here may seem abstract but it is how we have to begin to put forward the vision and then break it up in smaller pieces. In other post we will highlight in more details some of the projects we have started during the year and how we want to continue into 2015.
“Miss you know any don weh good?”
“I want to talk to the adults in the community but i don’t know how. I am unfamilar with the politics of the area and afraid of coming face to face with the don. I have been told several times that you have to go in through the don. You have to have the leadership of the community on your side. But what if the leadership is a don and what if the don is not a good leader? What if our view points are opposed? What if i become a threat to the don?”
Di Institute for Social Leadership is concerned with exploring and engaging different ideas of leadership. We consider social leadership to be an important move forward or shift towards creating equitable, caring communities and responsible, socially and politically aware individuals. We do not define communities as merely a physical location but a collective of individuals who share a similar vision or interest in how we all can live together.
However in the Jamaican context, Leadership and community have very familiar meanings.
Leadership refers to a responsibility or role, to be in charge of a task or group of people is to demonstrate leadership. Community is usually physical and usually inner-city communities or rural communities come to mind. Community Leadership is usually connected to the “Don”.
Leadership is closely related to the idea of power. The link between leadership and power is a significant one. One of the questions that the Institute for Social leadership will have to engage is how power and leadership work in physical communities and whether or not the idea and model of social leadership challenges the present as well as what we can learn from that relationship and dynamic.
Any work that looks at social change and social re-engineering will bring us close to physical communities. Di Institute is located close to many communities and so we will have to understand the dynamics of the life of youth and adults that we want to engage. These communities are not targets because we feel like this is where most of the work needs to be done, but we want to increase access to learning and provide support to grow where it is limited and we also want to connect to people. Physical communities such as the ones near to the ISL have always been important for their potential to start revolutionary change in a country.
In our reflection on communities, leadership and dons we have identified a few questions which we are seeking answers to over time. These answers we believe can help in the creation of a model for social leadership.