It’s hard to believe summer 2021 is almost over and even harder to fathom that we’ve entered the eighth month of 2021. Our second year of a global pandemic and life as we knew it continues to shift in ways most of us would’ve never imagined. It’s surreal to live through a pandemic, an ominous and omnipresent part of life since January 2020 with seemingly no end in sight. While life albeit very different, so many of us continuous to pulse along.
To say that we have kept busy is an understatement. This year the 540 team has been busier than ever before. At the top of the year we launched our organizational membership program, co-hosted the 4th annual gentrification conference with City Roots Community Land Trust, and recruited for the first Antiracism Facilitator Fellowship. That’s big impact for a small but mighty grassroots non-profit. This growth has not come without a fair share of growing pains.
We are all learning every day
I for one am learning more than ever, examining my leadership and areas of challenge (aka operational budgets and accounting) and how to better communicate shifting and evolving roles and responsibilities as the organization scales. The systems that worked well when I wore all the hats no longer serve us, a reality that I sometimes forget.
These challenges are shared by many non-profit founders and hardly surprising. However, my inner perfectionist often struggles not to wallow in self-doubt and feelings of complete incompetence. I think the saving grace is knowing that everyone, myself included, is dong their best. Extending that same grace to myself is essential, too. No one is perfect but we are all learning every day.
What we’ve accomplished this summer
Successfully raised over $10,000 through our annual fundraising campaign.
Supported several organizations with creating and successfully implementing DEAI strategic initiatives including Writers and Books, Child Care Council, Every.org, SUNY Brockport, and the Memorial Art Gallery, among others.
Enrolled 15 teams dedicated to antiracism and social justice work with our organizational membership.
Launched a scaled up 5th Black Women Roc! campaign where we honored: Tara Banks, Tiffany Porter and Shamicka Joseph. This year included gorgeous photoshoots by Alison McDonald and interviews with journalist Alison Harper. Our virtual panel moderated by Bri Milon can be viewed on demand here.
Recruited the first cohort of our Antiracism Facilitator Fellowship. Twelve fellows were selected out of 45 applicants and are currently taking part in the 8 week intensive where they engage in weekly and gain the skills necessary to become long-term community stewards with a strong dedication to dismantling white supremacy.
Held our first annual strategic planning retreat at the M.K Gandhi Institute. For the first time in over a year, the whole 540 Team was together for three consecutive days reflecting on what we have accomplished and looking ahead to the future. We had a blast and even though we weren’t able to get through all the things we wanted, we were able to collaborate, connect, and discuss ways to be more intentional in how we do all the things we do.
Began community engagement efforts for our Kaboom! Play Everywhere Design project with University of Rochester’s iZone Center. This wondrous playspace and sensory garden is coming the Arnett neighborhood of Rochester, NY and will be constructed with accessibility at the forefront of the design process. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months!
Slowing down to be intentional in our work
And there is still so much more. There is never a dull moment in the 540 world — we are truly moving and shaking every day. Even though my disabled body and mind is not always able to keep up I am truly grateful for my entire team and the level of intention and talent that they bring to our work every day.
It is truly impressive reflecting on all the things we do and have done and keeping that on the forefront of my mind is so important. Reflection, intention and slowing down are recurring themes for us and it has been so important to make sure that we do not constantly push ourselves to do more with less, but to do less better.
I can’t sign out without expressing my thanks and gratitude for your support and engagement. I sincerely appreciate each one of you and your continued support.