The Way Forward by Deborah Richardson

Deborah Richardson is the Executive Vice President of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Inc.

There has been much analysis on the outcome of our recent Presidential Election. I applaud Secretary Clinton for her gracious concession and addressing her supporters regarding the need to move past the divisive culture created in the campaign toward peace and conciliation.

WEB Dubois Talented Tenth
W.E.B Dubois

This evening, I had the pleasure of having dinner with my niece and nephew who both attended Georgetown University and are certainly part of the Talented Tenth that Dr. Dubois refers to as the black intelligentsia charged with leading the race forward. They shared that they both were despondent, afraid of the future, and the uncertainty of how to begin reconciliatory dialogues among friends who clearly did not share their same political views.

In reflecting on this moment, I am reminded that as a country, we have been down this path before. The outcomes of Presidential elections are always filled with anxiety regarding the uncertainty of the unknown. Will the incoming President’s agenda align with what I care about?

There is a huge opportunity before us to ignite our civic engagement responsibilities as citizens, Democracies were never intended to be controlled by those at the top. WE the people elect our political representatives and it is up to WE the people to set the agenda. Instead of passively watching the news and lamenting over the opinions among the political pundits, how about holding our own think tank conversations in our living rooms, faith communities, schools and even at the Center for Civil and Human Rights? What are the issues you care about—economic justice, gender equity, environmental protections, LGBT rights, ending the culture of violence against women in our schools, the military and other institutions? The list of critical issues of our times is long and all deserve attention.

t_logo-no-backgroundToday I was fortunate to attend the JuST (Juvenile Sex Trafficking) National Advisory Council meeting sponsored by Shared Hope International. Policy wonks, law enforcement, child welfare workers, advocates and survivors discussed protocols and priorities recommendations for state governments to implement the recently passed Justice for Juvenile Victims Act together for 6 hours. Based on our diverse perspectives and experiences, there were few items discussed that began with a consensus, but through the hard work of listening deeply, questioning for clarification, and the art of compromise, we ended the day with recommendations that far exceeded what any of us individually could have produced.

Our way forward is to reignite citizen participation. Gather persons of differing views and life experiences who share a commitment toward addressing an issue. Our continuing to gather and talk in silos with like-minded people is part of the problem, not the solution. Now is our opportunity to test the model of inclusive democracy, where all persons have a seat at the table, and the outcome is the result of our collective voices.

As my friend, Rev. Joanna Adams shared with me—Hope has two daughters–anger and courage. Anger at what ought to be and the courage to make what ought to be, come to be.

In the spirit of progress,

Deborah J. Richardson

Executive Vice President