It is inhuman to impede another’s progress

29 Nov

Have you ever had that moment when you read a passage in a book that rings so true to your life you can’t help but remember it long after you’ve finished the book? In You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers, a novel about two friends who find themselves in possession of $40,000 and decide to travel the world to give it away, one of the characters proclaims: “It’s inhuman to impede another’s progress.” This quote, as simple as it is, captures the philosophy behind why I do what I do.

My parents, African-Americans who grew up in Mississippi during the ’50s and ’60s, instilled in me a thirst for equality through lessons they bestowed upon me from their experiences. They made sure I understood that two of the greatest sins of humanity are the desire to control others through the suppression of facts and the act of denying someone their rightful place as an equal participant in the development of humanity. The ultimate tool to defeat these injustices is education. So when I meditate on why I now believe in the power of education for societal change, my thoughts always go back to my parents and how I was raised to believe that we are all capable of extraordinary actions.

I wanted to be a part of Public Allies because I knew I would be able to do work that aligned with my own philosophy about service. The mission of service is not to save people. Service is about working with people so that they can liberate themselves. In all my activities I have sought opportunities that kept true to this. As a field organizer on Barack Obama’s campaign, one of my main responsibilities was training volunteers to be leaders in their own community, who in the end deserve most of the credit nationwide for this success. When I worked for The Young People’s Project in Boston, I ran a workshop with youth on how their education can be a tool for social change. In the West Bank, I facilitated discussions with refugee youth on what they would want in a future Palestinian state.

I knew the Public Allies program would fit perfectly into this trajectory based on the core value of its mission statement: everyone leads. I knew that this program, and specifically the one at Eagle Rock School, is where I belong. I had decided to apply to the Eagle Rock site over a year before the deadline. That’s how sure I was that this program was the right fit for what I believed in and what I wanted to do. And now that I’ve been a member of Public Allies for over two months now, I’m still sure I made the right decision.

Advertisements

5 Responses to “It is inhuman to impede another’s progress”

  1. imdelgado November 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    “The mission of service is not to save people. Service is about working with people so that they can liberate themselves.” Hit the nail on the head.

    • Dara December 3, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      Agreed x10

  2. Laura@Public Allies November 29, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    Well spoken Steph… I especially liked “…and the act of denying someone their rightful place as an equal participant in the development of humanity.” And I also especially care about ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and DC Voice (I worked in various D.C. schools for a few years). Look forward to more blogs- your fellow blogger-Laura

    • Dara December 3, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      I agree with Laura.

      “They made sure I understood that two of the greatest sins of humanity are the desire to control others through the suppression of facts and the act of denying someone their rightful place as an equal participant in the development of humanity.”

      That is some really powerful stuff.

  3. Ariel November 30, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Steph, you should check out “Ever is a Long Time” by Ralph Eubanks. Like your parents, he grew up in Mississippi and his parents were radicals (at least for the deep South) and the state of Mississippi kept records of their activities. The book was written in reaction to the records becoming public in the 90s and Eubanks’ own desire to own his past and his family history. It’s a really well-written book and he’s a super interesting guy.

    Anyway, looking forward to more posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: