I AM MORE THAN – Leadership out of Montgomery


Selma to Montgomery 2015

I want you to know about this!

Thanks to the vision of my friend Michelle Browder, and her collaborators – the youth of Montgomery, Alabama – there will be a powerful commemoration of Bloody Sunday – The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery March 6, 1965.  Michelle and her colleagues are pulling out the stops.  They’ve created an organization – I AM MORE THAN – and they are working steadily toward a three day event, March 5-7, 2015.  They’re also getting national attention and I want them to get yours.

Michelle and I met in Austin, TX in February, 2008.  She and her mom had driven over from Montgomery and I’d flown down from Portland, all of us there to volunteer for the first Obama Campaign.  A year later, when I was driving around the country asking everyday people about change, both Michelle and her mom agreed to be two of the voices in what became 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change.

A few days ago, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Institute (EJI) headquartered in Montgomery, was on the Daily Show.  Bryan’s work is vital and inspiring and you can get a good sense of it through his TED talk (reputed to have recieved the longest standing O ever for TED), and through his new book, Just Mercy, which is what he and Stewart were talking about.

Last time I was in Montgomery, Michelle took me by to meet Bryan.  While I do tend toward enthusiasm, I was really excited when I saw that Bryan and EJI were getting this great exposure with Stewart.  So, I had to write Michelle.  We were long overdue.  She wrote back early the next day telling about I AM MORE THAN and the march.

Michelle’s one of those leaders who is going to make innovative and community-supportive change happen no matter what.  And she does.  Often with almost no resources.  So, while she’s been working on the commemoration since early this year – and maybe because she’s been at it that long – she was feeling tired, a little hopeless, and way too short on support.

We decided to spend some time on Skype so I could help her get recharged with strategies to anchor her planning over the next 5 months.  We got well into a systematic inventory of progress, resources available and needed, and next steps when Michelle’s phone rang.  Well, from now on I’ll forever be convinced of angels because when Michelle answered the call, the heavens opened up for the I AM MORE THAN commemoration.

There I was on Skype, trying to be quiet, but jumping around with delight in Red Lodge, Montana while I listened to the voice from New York City that Michelle had on speaker in Montgomery, Alabama.  The man on the phone is a retired NBA player and a buddy with basketball greats Bill Russel and Marcus Haines – to name only a very few.  Essentially, he was pledging enthusiastic support for the I AM MORE THAN commemoration from the Legends of Basketball and every other influential friend he has across the nation.

“We want this not just to get national attention,” he said, “but to have national attendance.  And we’ll do all we can to make it happen.”

Snap!  So, now Michelle Browder, the youth of Montgomery and I AM MORE THAN can really make it real.  “The main thing I want along with the commemorative march itself,” Michelle told me later, “is the dialogue the youth and I have wanted from the beginning.”

“Together forward,” she said. “We – all people – have to move forward collectively. To do that we have to be open and willing to address the scars of our past.”  She went on, “Slavery hurt all of us.  Together we can face it by listening to each other – by having a conversation, recognizing the many things we have in common, sharing the solutions each of us sees, and agreeing to keep talking and moving forward – together.”

Yes.  Together.

Check out this initiative.  Be inspired.  We are in it together – all of us.  And now is the time to show up.

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