By Kim Louis, Forward Cities’ Project Manager – New Kensington, PA


Stories are important.  

Listening is important.  

Context is important.

Sharing our perspectives for deeper understanding is important and it’s a joy to find someone who is willing to share and listen.

Selfie with Sadell and Kim

Meet Sadell, an entrepreneur from Cincinnati doing great work in bridging people of color into greater entrepreneurial success.  I met her at the Forward Cities national conference in Pittsburgh, PA in June. Sadell was not afraid to challenge perceptions for the purpose of deeper understanding by engaging everyone in the conversation.  Sadell approached the conversation with such grace and kindness that it was easy to consider her perspective and open up conversations about equity that I otherwise would not have.

As Sadell described her experience working with entrepreneurs through Mortar, she shed light on the challenges of entrepreneurs in her influence.  She talked about how the stepping stones to a successful business and that the challenges to overcome look different for everyone. There is no one path of success for entrepreneurs and she illuminated how overcoming a personal barrier can be a measure of success.  Sadell said that we have to take African-Americans in this country from “a history of being owned to owing to being owners.” And historically, the amount of time they have had the right to move through this cycle is so small compared to the amount of time African-Americans have been part of this country.

This conversation came after immersing myself in a deeper understanding of racial equity and gaining a better understanding of what the different starting points look like for people based on their history in this country, whether their people started out as being owners or being owned.  There is a big difference… so immersing ourselves in compassion for a person as they reveal the story that got them from where they were to where they are both personally and historically can drive how we engage them. Gregory Boyle started “Homeboy Industries” in Los Angeles, working with gang members that everyone else had dismissed.  He said, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” And this sentiment goes for more than just the poor.

How do the stories of the people who are different than you affect your engagement in the community?  How do the stories affect decisions about developing communities, philanthropic giving, redevelopment plans, and community engagement?  Are there people around the decision-making table in your sphere of influence who challenge your perspective through the way they do life?  

Sadell, I stand in awe of what you have to carry and of the impact that your passion has on the people around you!  You are changing the world.