Richardson: Lead, follow, or get out of Toledo’s wayWritten by Rachel Richardson | | email@example.com
I keep reading the words, “amid a groundswell of public support” in local newspaper articles and editorials about issues I care about. This phrase does my little activist heart such good and my first thought is always “Of course! Public support is what Toledo does best.”
In these same articles, however, newspapers also report on opposition to progress on these issues. The opposition seems to always come in the form of one “leader” who insists on placing obstacles in the path everyone else seems to be following toward an important, albeit complex, goal.
I have a little bit of an ant situation in my apartment. Referencing what I know about nature-to-human metaphors, these ants represent a bug army’s ability to travel over, around, under and through any log or acorn in the way to get what they want from the picnic … or my kitchen, as the case may be. My hope here is that the ants in their headquarters downstairs on the patio are actually being deterred when their scouts come up to find the mint leaves and garlic cloves I have placed to repel them.
The same cannot be said for their human activist counterparts. We will not be deterred by vague statements about “keeping an open mind” in the same sentence peppered with reasons why proposals for crucial changes continue to be rejected.
Little does the opposition know that the community rallies that much stronger when it hears that someone thinks it can’t or won’t do something. Or maybe they do know, considering one particular issue we have been remind ing them of pretty regularly for five years.
With much gratitude to members of Toledo City Council and one outstandingly courageous judge, local leaders have taken a very public stance in favor of the creation of a dedicated domestic violence docket in Toledo Municipal Court. You may know a little bit about domestic violence in Toledo; you may know nothing. I think you would still be in favor of creating this dedicated docket. That’s how straightforward a step it is to improving the community’s response to domestic violence and changing the fact that women are being murdered on a monthly basis by their intimate partners.
On a very personal note, this little ant actually was deterred on this issue by lack of real progress at a point in 2011, when I resigned from the victim advocacy and criminal justice world to turn my focus to art and culture. One really nice thing about being an independent advocate, though, is that you can independently advocate for whatever needs advocated at the time. So, this recent surge in activism at the system level swung me all the way back into that world and I couldn’t be more excited.
I have absolutely no doubt that Toledo Municipal Court will implement this dedicated docket. It is just a matter of time and a change in leadership.
I got an email from a trusted friend the other day letting me know that I should watch another local “leader” who feels that “all of these murals and yarnbombs are a waste of time and the young urbanites should concentrate on more important things.” Granted, murals and yarnbombs are not directly putting food into the mouths of hungry Toledoans. But, they are putting artists and the creative community to work, which isn’t that far off. And they exist “amid a groundswell of public support.” They are making Toledo a pleasant place to live.
Public art makes people happy! Why on earth would a “leader” try to discourage his or her neighbors and fellow Toledoans from being happy and working to make us happier? Someone has to be responsible for the warm fuzzies around here! We have a local radio station that plays only feel-good favorites! We want to feel good! Happy Toledoans are motivated and productive Toledoans. A true leader would cultivate that.
I keep using the word “leader” here. And the quotation marks are not meant to be snarky.
But, I do feel the need to have a logomachy about whether a true leader makes decisions that are so opposite the needs and wants of his or her community.
The community responsible for electing him or her, in some cases.
Email Rachel Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.