January 2020: Starting with Why

Dear Friends,

While I look to January as the start of a new year and a time for intention-setting, I am reminded that the start of the year is also a great chance to tell again the stories of why we choose the work we do.

Recently, over coffee with Ken May, the former Executive Director of the SC Arts Commission, I had the opportunity to say it plain: My personal mission, at its core across projects, is first in service to the preservation and sustainability of Black arts and culture, both artists and orgs. I gestured with my hands a core, as though cradling my mission like a cup. Pulling my hands wider apart I said, then: small arts organizations of color. Pulling my hands wider still, I concluded, and finally: small arts & culture at large.

I had embodied the idea of the Golden Circle, Simon Sinek’s framework for his approach to leadership. Here’s an image: 

The WHY: our raison d’etre

The HOW: value proposition; differentiation of services from others

The WHAT: products/larger industry

Many leaders often start outside with WHAT, the visible aspects of running a business or an organization, then go in towards the core, the gravitational pull of the center.

Simon argues/advocates that we go from center out. Start with why. Then, he says, “The WHY [can be] offered as the reason to [invest/get involved] and the WHAT serves as the tangible proof of that belief.”

When I think about the initiatives I’ve launched, they are largely vehicles to move resources (human, financial, intellectual, volunteer) to Black arts organizations and their artists. This year, I’m exploring what other resources—

Land & Housing?             Employment?             Technology?

can I move towards the WHY of it all?

Just last month we went to bed on 2019 hopeful for what a new year would bring us and woke up on the precipice of another unending conflict in the Middle East, a tough and long election year, and fires burning in the distance, creating an impact that will reverberate for generations.

I don’t have an answer for any of that, except an even larger internal imperative to urge us all to continue to hold and believe that art (and here I am specifically arguing for Black art) remain a part of the future we all fight for.

What would it mean to journey through all of this and leave the beauty—the stories and storytellers—behind us?

In solidarity,