Realizing America’s Core Values
April 12, 2016 | Audrey Jordan, Senior Fellow |
In our inaugural series on “What Community Democracy Means to Me,” Senior Fellow Audrey Jordan shares her thoughts on our nation’s values, our capacity to reach our full potential and the human connection.
My vision of true community democracy is…
That America’s core values – individualism, fraternity, equality – are genuinely valued. Individualism means that what the country makes possible for you as a person matters, but not more than what you in turn give back to our country for the common good. Fraternity means reciprocity in that we all have contributions to make and needs to be met. And as for equality, I would focus on equity because when we consider accumulated advantages and disadvantages in our country, we certainly aren’t all similarly situated.
What does this look like?
In true community democracy, we see more diverse voices included in decision-making processes. More people, especially those who have been and continue to be disenfranchised, feel that the U.S. is their home and are welcome here. Community democracy doesn’t predict the conditions or outcomes for a person by simply knowing their race or their zip code, but instead sees all of us having invaluable assets and talents and needing opportunities to live up to our full potential. Those born with challenges are supported, with dignity, compassion and respect.
We see people actually giving a damn about other people and wanting the best for them. And we aren’t talking about tolerance of those who are “different,” but rather of mutual understanding and compassion. Communities become places of mutual support, accountability and cultural celebration — and are diverse, equitable and inclusive.
What brought me to Community Democracy Workshop?
I am a Garlandite — a term coined by a mutual friend and colleague, Sherece West. Seriously — I am involved in Community Democracy Workshop because Garland Yates invited me to take part and contribute to its development, and I learned many years ago that if Garland is leading something, I’m there! Along with Garland’s influence, I’m with Community Democracy Workshop because it’s about shifting the power dynamics so that people thrown to the wayside are truly seen, heard and accompanied to realize their own power for change — in solidarity, not charity.
What’s a big challenge I face in my work and what tools and practices have helped me along the way?
When all is said and done (and there is a lot to be said and done!) my biggest challenge is the disconnect that exists between the reality of our brothers and sisters who are struggling just to survive, living in neighborhoods with increasing concentrations of poverty, violence and trauma, and those who view them as “others” — subjects of initiatives and/or objects to be fixed.
With this challenge, several practices have helped me along the way, including: network organizing (thank you, Bill Traynor and LCW!); race equity training; developmental evaluation; Time Banks; Full Frame Initiative’s Five Domains of WellBeing; establishing my Leadership That Works coaching practice, listening to others stories and sharing my own.
As professionals, we are often taught to set- side the human connection, and we don’t engage or truly understand and respect people who are actually more resilient and resourceful than most of us. We are simply taught to do our jobs. But community-building is not a job – it is how we live, how we connect and how we build each other up in individualism, fraternity and equity.
Audrey Jordan is a senior fellow at Community Democracy Workshop. She is a consultant with her own practice, ADJ Coaching and Consulting, an ally of the Full Frame Initiative and a trainer with Race Matters Institute. Audrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.