January 7, 2018

Where have we been & where are we going?

Since our inception in 2011, we have worked to focus on meeting the needs of people of color living in systemically disinvested neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.

Although we didn’t take on the name of The Urban Core Collective until 2012 our work has always been in the Urban Core.

Our work began in the mid-2000s under the guidance of the National Equity Project (NEP), an organization of the bay area working across the United States to ensure access to education is equitably available across districts, classrooms, nonprofits, and communities. Our work with the NEP led us to develop a community of practice. But what exactly does a community of practice mean and look like in the city of Grand Rapids?

In order to answer this questions--let's first examine what a community of practice means in its’ most accurate sense.

A community of practice is essentially a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and have come together to do it better or to come up with solutions as a group.

The Urban Core Collective has never been interested in recreating already existing networks or partnerships in Grand Rapids. Instead, we focus our efforts on using our collective power to dismantle the racism that affects many Grand Rapidians today. Because we believe in the power of unity--from the beginning we knew we couldn’t do this on our own so we reached out to six organizations not to create partnerships but to develop a collective.

The six organizations embedded in our work are Baxter Community Center, Family Outreach Center, The Grand Rapids Urban League, The Hispanic Center of West Michigan, The Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, and United Methodist Community House.

A collective of leaders, residents, neighbors, and families to be the backbone of this work. Each organization is a necessary foundational part of the work--parts of which could not exist without them.

This means that we need one another to do the work we have set out to do -- ensure communities of color have equitable access to education, economic opportunities, and healthy communities. Because our communities are constantly growing and changing and adapting to our political and environmental climates--we have taken the responsibility of recruiting, training and preparing the next generation of leaders of color. Our interest is in equipping emerging leaders of color bringing a diversity of lived experiences, interests, and passions to partner with us in ending systemic racism in our communities.

The Urban Core Collective has fostered the environment for these six organizations to share knowledge, resources, referrals, and build meaningful relationships within the urban core of Grand Rapids. There is not a single way these organizations function collectively -- because it is an ever-evolving balancing act of asking each other, “how can I show up for you?”.

Whether that is in sharing a therapist across organizations to ensure every resident in the urban core of Grand Rapids has access to consistent behavioral health, or in the coming together to facilitate a conversation about our failures and successes--we are committed to be a collective force to make Grand Rapids a more equitable place for all of us.

Our work is possible thanks to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a foundation working to ensure the livability of all children.

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