Our Story

This website/blog is about a group of people who went on a journey to figure out if they could develop a new way of coming together to improve local neighborhoods.  Many of them stayed together on this discovery process for a long time, some for ten to twelve years. They came from different starting places and cultural orientations.  They learned many lessons, some personal and some collective.  They arrived at several unique destinations and embarked on many side paths. They each have different ways of telling the story as it emerged and developed.

One common thread is our openness about the concept of power.  We chose to put it squarely onto the community table, in local schools, apartment buildings, local government agencies and neighborhood retail complexes.  The step of raising and naming the issue of POWER did create initial moments of pain. But, in most cases, the first feelings of pain opened up the way for greater awareness about the nuanced  – and not so nuanced –  misuse of positional power and privilege so present in a local community, even among do-gooder institutions.   This growing awareness among a diverse network of both regular folks and local officials led to a new focus on each person’s unique personal power. It also helped  create new spaces for people to begin  sharing their power – as peers –  to address the many continued inequities in our neighborhoods and community. (The title of this site is borrowed from one our favorite books/tools called The Nibble Theory, by Kaleel Jamison).

Most people who witnessed our story unfold think it is about birthing a  community-based nonprofit. Indeed, a wonderful nonprofit called IMPACT Silver Spring does exist as a result of the journey. Readers are encouraged to find out more about IMPACT and the amazing folk who are stewarding the next leg of the journey within a nonprofit framework.   Read more:  IMPACT Silver Spring.

This site was built to provide a place for people who played any kind of a role in trying out this new approach to power sharing in neighborhoods in Silver Spring, Maryland from 1999 to 2010.  A team of fellow “mad scientists” have been encouraging me to create this site and hopefully will offer their stories and reflections, as a prompt for others to do the same. Thank you Winta Teferi, Noelle Haile, Jayne Park and Mary McCurty!  If you have a story or reflection to share, please either use the comment function on the blog page, or contact me about how to make a direct post. We are working on creating a more sophisticated site that can collect stories directly on line.  We want the deep, wide network that grew out of our efforts to feel connected and included to this virtual gathering space on the internet.

This site is also a place for me, the one who had the privilege of being on the complete 12 year journey, to offer some of my reflections.  Only after jumping off the crazy “nonprofit Executive Director treadmill”,  have I found the mental space to articulate these reflections in written word.   I hope you will take a moment to read the article entitled Switching Seats. I tried to write something short and complete enough to help out others who might find themselves as we did 13 years ago – clear that we needed to find another path, but not sure which path to take.  The sections entitled Neighborhood Networks and Building/Sharing Power are mini-tool books, describing the devices and strategies we found most helpful and offering some concrete illustrations of the tools in action.  The last section, In the Schools, was an attempt to document one complete action research project of trying to use these strategies to spark more effective educational reform in our community.  It is written in story format and illustrates the importance of moving forward together in action, stopping to learn and reflect, but always moving forward.

I am grateful to the hundreds of people who sacrificed huge time and talent and funds to make this first leg of the journey possible.  I encourage you to keep supporting Ronnie Galvin and the rest of the team at IMPACT Silver Spring and to be on the lookout for how you can walk this talk at every step of the way.  Feel free to contact me at Frankie.Blackburn@gmail.com. I very much need your support and accountability as my personal journey continues and would like to offer you the same.

In Power and Love,

Frankie Blackburn

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