At 6’8″ flying can be a rather uncomfortable experience. There’s little leg room for individuals my size. Even after leaning my seat back there is little comfort; I feel the knees of the person behind me probing the dense foam of my seat (SIGH!). Overcoming this discomfort has required a simple but effective strategy – kicking off my shoes and falling asleep before the wheels leave the ground. As long as I am sleep before the wheels start moving I’m good.
My strategy was in full effect last week on my flight to Philadelphia to participate in A Gathering of Leaders: Cultivating Connections & Changing Conversations conference. This two day convening, hosted by Frontline Solutions and sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brought together several practitioners, grantmakers, and change agents who are working to improve the conditions and outcomes for males of color. Nearly half of the participants were from the philanthropic sector, with Education and Youth Development being two of the most represented program areas. Despite the heavy influence of folks working in the education space, topics such as youth imprisonment, LGBQT issues, mental health, historical and cultural awareness were heavily touched on. With over 44 cities represented and several voices from various sectors and communities, conversations were rich and real. I credit Marcus Littles, Senior Partner of Frontline Solutions, with designing a format that allowed participants to convene with their particular sector (i.e. Philanthropic, media, or higher learning) to address the challenges, opportunities, and next steps in our respective sectors.
Towards the end of day two, I was feeling highly positive about the direction that we were moving and our collective thoughts towards how building a philanthropic sector that better serve boys and men of color. As the conversation shifted from challenges to opportunities and finally next steps, I began thinking how do we move beyond “next steps” and begin putting these items into action. These thoughts followed me all the way to the airport where I was ,yet once again, in a cramped seat. It soon dawned on me that similar to how I constantly have to adjust while flying, our work in philanthropy pushes us to constantly examine how to move the work of boys of men of color forward.
I’ve come to terms that airlines will never make seats that offer five extra inches of leg room – well least not at a main cabin price. As such, I have to work within the confines of those tight spaces just to find solace. For philanthropy it is no different. As responsive changemakers, we cannot become paralyzed just because we may not have our desired leg room, whether that be resources or attention. For the betterment of boys and men of color, we must continue to adjust! Philadelphia brought power, leadership, and experience under one roof. Let’s build off of what took place in Philly and move this wheel forward. Just don’t fall asleep!
photo source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com