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National Community Activist Has Hopes for Detroit

geoffrey Canada

Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone

The second day (Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009) of the Promise Neighborhood Conference in New York opened by a welcome from the recently re-elected Mayor of New York – Michael Bloomberg.

The first panel of the day consisted of Otis Johnson Mayor of Savannah, GA; Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ (and star of the Sundance Channel’s documentary, “Brick City”); Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of HUD; and Adolfo Carrion, Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs.  Two of the panelists — Johnson and Sims–were there during the civil rights struggles; the other two, recognized that many battles remain to achieve equality of opportunity for all children.  I was inspired and overwhelmed by the knowledge that the White House brought both generations into its circle and allowed them to tell their stories.

Several messages came to me loud and clear in that session:

1.  Excellence does not exist in a vacuum.

2.  We tend to operate in a “State of SEDENTARY AGITATION.”

3.  We all know what the problems are, but yet we all continue working in different directions.

4.  We need to articulate a SHARED SET OF VALUES for our city and region.

5.  A Zip code should just be an address,  NOT a predictor of life outcomes.

6.  The only impediment we have is ourselves.

I was fortunate enough to join Geoffrey Canada (pictured), founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, on an elevator ride in the hotel.  After a “fawning” hello, I told him that I was sorry to have missed his presentation at the Independent Sector conference in Detroit last week – November 6.

He responded with, “I am rooting for Detroit.”  I assured him that WE ALL ARE!

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