They are working inside our failed criminal justice system to advocate on behalf of those most vulnerable to its inequities, and they are helping those who’ve suffered regain the dignity of employment and economic stability.
The third role to play in supporting the emergence of the world we wish for is to make visible the choice. If you’re an illuminator, then you love to tell stories, to shine a light on trailblazers’ efforts to create something new. You have to be willing to repeat yourself and to maintain grace in the face of resistance and criticism. It takes perseverance to help others see new approaches for what they are, examples of what’s possible, of what our new world could be.
How many of you have noticed the JP Local First decals and stores up and down Centre Street? The buy-local and local-first signs on many main street businesses throughout our country are the work of illuminators, those who are helping us, consumers, choose to support local businesses. They’re reminding us that half of every dollar we spend locally stays in our community, as opposed to draining out to multinational corporations. Every day, each of us makes dozens of choices, usually unconsciously, about which economy to support Illuminators help us make wiser choices.
And finally, there are those who’ve been quite successful in the dominant system. They wield power and influence, and they have access to resources and relationships that could advance or destroy pioneering efforts. If you’re a protector, then you’re willing to use your power and position to consciously create oasis where people can innovate protected from the disabling demands of the old system. You are the dedicated and thoughtful revolutionaries who live deep inside institutional life to give birth to the new.
My friend John Barros is a shining example of a protector. John is the Chief of Economic Development for the City of Boston. His roots are as a trailblazer. Right around the corner from here, in Dudley Square, John organized his community to reclaim control of their property through a groundbreaking land trust. Now he uses his influence to support pioneering efforts to make our economy more equitable and inclusive.
For too long, we’ve convinced ourselves that change will come when someone else figures out how to fix what ails us. But in living systems, there are no silver bullets.
The truth is we need all of us – the trailblazers, the hospice workers, the illuminators, and the protectors – to create the conditions for change.
So take a look around this room. If we want a healthier and more resilient Jamaica Plain, then it’s up to us. The change we wish for will emerge when each of us takes small, local actions alongside people who share our visions and dreams. Join me in being a localist.