“...And let it begin with me.”

Josh Cohen September 03, 2020 Equity, accessibility, the movement, leadership, COVID-19, equitable mobility 0 Comments

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…”

Growing up, I heard these words every week at the end of church. And, as these things tend to do, the words wormed their way inside my head. Over time, I’ve learned that--as the song infers--the only way we’re going to get anywhere great is by starting with ourselves. 

I’ve reflected on that premise plenty over the past few months as I think about the grace needed to honor the fact that everyone is dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in different ways, including the inequitable distribution of the disease on communities of color and parents managing remote learning at home. And I’ve reflected on that premise plenty as I think about what’s necessary to truly understand racial justice and effect needed change on racial equity. 

Part of leadership is doing what needs to be done, even if it isn’t easy. And making progress on issues related to racial equity will not be easy, if only because there have been generations of history, laws, precedent, psychology, sociology, and other reinforcement that will get in the way of what needs to be done. 

So if I want things to change, it has to start with me. What will I do? 

  • I will lift up those marginalized voices that have been systematically excluded from power structures for centuries and challenge other leaders to do the same

While I have always strived to ensure that we had an inclusive mix of guests on The Movement Podcast, I’ve been even more mindful of that the last few months as COVID-19 turned our lives upside down and racial justice protests opened eyes around the nation to racial inequities.  

I will continue using my platform to lift up those marginalized voices who not only have the external credentials that inform their perspectives, but also the lived experiences that have shaped themselves and our communities. And I will challenge other leaders in similar positions to use their platforms to do the same. 

  • I will spotlight the impact of racism on our communities more and more during my conversations. 

As The Movement Podcast guest Dr. Destiny Thomas has articulated much more clearly than I have: if we want equitable mobility, we first need to end racism.  

Addressing racism is inexplicably linked to leadership. For far too long, leaders and communities have tried to prioritize mobility without directly addressing the pernicious racism that is baked into mobility and other policy elements that impact it like housing, social services, economic development, and education. But racism is far too pervasive and mobility far too important for that backwards approach to work. 

  • I will share my platform.  

For the last year and a half, an amazing group of TransLoc colleagues have taken my incoherent drafts and echoey audio and polished them for consumption. It’s said that iron sharpens iron and so it is for The Movement Podcast as well. So for us to achieve our ambitious goals, I need someone to challenge me intellectually and share the  opportunity of producing great mission-driven content to drive these important conversations forward.

That partner is L’erin Jensen. While a stranger to the public side of The Movement Podcast, L’erin has been an integral teammate behind-the-scenes to make the show a reality each week. And now she’ll be stepping out in front of the mic to provide her unique spin on the topics of leadership that we tackle every week. She will undoubtedly take the conversations in different directions than I would. I expect that L’erin will host some episodes, I’ll host some episodes, and we may host some episodes together. And even though we don’t know exactly how it will all work, I also know that The Movement Podcast will be better off because of her contribution. 

A final note: this post isn’t intended as self-congratulatory. I don’t mean to imply that anything I am personally doing is required or necessary to achieve our collective goals. Only that we can’t achieve collective ambitious goals without us each doing our part. And this is my public pledge to do my part.  

So while the changes above have to start with me, I’m excited that they won’t end with me. This is indeed about L’erin, all of you, and where we are going together. So, welcome L’erin. I can’t wait to tackle what’s needed to create an equitable, accessible, and verdant mobility future together. You can get to know L’erin a little better starting on Wednesday when we chat on the latest episode of The Movement Podcast.

Catch up on the most recent episodes of The Movement or read Leadership Upside Down where Josh reflects on the hundreds of conversations he’s had over the past twelve months and unpacks the realization that if we want to bring about change we must turn the conventional way we look at leadership upside down.

Tags: Equity, accessibility, the movement, leadership, COVID-19, equitable mobility

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