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  • Helms Jarrell

Fail Better Soon- planning ahead

Updated: May 3

We, at QC Family Tree, started talking about what the summer looks like. The first gut instinct is to remember what we'd already planned and think about how we could pivot it. The outcome of that thinking resulted in way too many commitments, blocks, barriers, and potential hazards. It felt like too much to tackle. So, the next idea was to start from scratch.


My suggestion: go back to the basics. Everyone, take the core values and goals of the organization and be honest with yourself. What can you lead, take on, or dream of, given the constraints of the times we are currently in? I asked folks to send me their first draft of thoughts at the end of 4 days.


Meanwhile, I've started brainstorming. Bad idea-when I start having ideas, they formulate and concretize quickly. Clifton strengths test says that I have strengths of Future Thinking and Strategy. This means I can see problems and get to solutions quickly. I'm always thinking of what's ahead. These so-called "gifts" do not bode well for collective work. I have to be very careful to give my coworkers space to dream and do for themselves without me telling them what would be easier or best. (more on how this plays out in a minute***)


Of course I thought my ideas were great, practical, thorough, attainable, interesting, etc. I made an effort not to send them to folks until I read their ideas.


One person sent a few musings. They mostly looked like "let's take this time to visit others and just be in community with one another." The next day, another person sent a scattering of ideas. I began to be overwhelmed. What someone else might think of, if we choose it, I'd have to hold myself accountable to. The scattering of notions didn't give a lot of direction. Does this mean I have to direct this whirlwind? How do I reign this in without taking over? This is too much.


I sent my ideas, the ones I'd been working on. No feedback. I sent my comments about their ideas. Crickets.


***My internal voice starts to take over*** "Be very careful how you handle this. Your whiteness does not need to show up here. What you think is a good idea is likely not in touch. What you think is practical or organized is based off of misguided judgement informed by white supremacy and middle class values. Do not take over. ****


When we're delivering community meals, my (no better term, I guess) Godson tells me that he is leaving on May 16th for a military-based high school. I am in no way supportive of this decision and I'm so sad that he's leaving...and his brother is going too. I'm also skeptical that this plan will even work out, often they don't. But, if it does I will be heart broken and also thrown for a loop. Without this essential family, my summer ideas are starting to loose their girding.


***Now I'm starting to doubt everything*** Maybe my ideas were completely off base. But, I still think they are really good ideas and very well aligned with how I imagine we'll pivot after all this. They are centered in cultural organizing, redistribution, justice, and community building. But, who's culture and who's community? What if the ideas don't work? What if they, because of my leadership, just morph into colonialism? What we're doing right now- the careboxes and the community meals- feels good. If it feels good, how can it be right? Care boxes and community meals are just charity. Charity is white saviorism. Charity is not mutuality. Even so, I still really like the ideas. But, who's going to participate?


***Helms, you've had a "captive audience" these past few weeks because most folks are staying home. How will you have an audience once people are out of their homes? Evictions are going to rise, poverty disparities are going to increase. Do you have a plan for that? You think you know that part of the answer is in obtaining more housing to offer to neighbors who are facing eviction. You think you know that part of the answer to some of the problem is to hire an additional co-director of QCFT, a person of color. You're stuck, though. The money for that does not exist.


My dream last night was that Greg and I were having to hide several of our beloved youth members from a threatening person. We were curled up in closets, hiding in the dark, trying to come up with a plan to get away. At some point, a youth started snickering. I turned to her and desperately said, "You have to be quiet! If they find us and we have to start running, I will be too slow. They will catch me. I will die!" Greg was devising a plan to get us out of harm's way. He was on the phone with someone, trying to lead them to a decoy location. I was in the bottom of a closet trying to climb up through the shelves to the ceiling to make a path out.



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