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Legacy, Leadership, and Leaning into the Moment

Last month, around the 69th anniversary of the historic voting rights marches from Selma and Montgomery, FLY’s Executive Team went on a racial justice pilgrimage where we visited historical sites in both Alabama cities. Some of the sites we visited included: the Legacy Sites of Equal Justice Initiative, the Mothers of Gynecology Park created by local artist Michelle Browder, and crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Rachel Wyley, of Culture Kinesis served as our team facilitator throughout the journey. Suffice it to say, this was a powerful experience for the whole team.

In preparation for the trip, to connect the experience to our work at FLY, I was asked a provocative question: What vision do you hold for FLY’s Legacy? 

I found this difficult to answer. For one, it feels a little bit arrogant to hold a vision for any legacy, let alone one other than your own. I believe that as leaders, we live in the moment. We do what is right in the moment, and then we hope that history is fair in its assessment in terms of righteousness or impact. Moverover, you can never know the impact you have on people, a cause, or the world; and you certainly can’t know how this impact will play out after you’re no longer around to have direct influence. 

Still, I found myself pondering this question, and thinking about the journey we’ve been on together at FLY, particularly these past four years that I had the honor of serving as your CEO.

  • I think about how we built on the legacy of elevating youth voice laid out by our founder and others before me, and how it is now so core to who we are today. 
  • I think about how we boldly leaned into justice as a mandate for our work and birthed a completely new part of our mission – systems change work – to continue to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice. 
  • I think about how we listened to and responded to the needs of the communities and expanded our service beyond the age and the geographic boundaries of the past: how supporting Transition Age Youth in Contra Costa County is necessary for the future. 

These are the seeds of today, that if I were to be so bold, I would hope to hold the vision for FLY’s legacy. 

I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work alongside you all to plant these seeds, and I look forward to watching them grow into what is next for FLY. 

There were many powerful moments for me on this racial justice pilgrimage. I was struck by how the Equal Justice Initiative continues to evolve how it tells the story of America’s history around slavery and its connection to mass incarceration today. I am still haunted by images from the Mothers of Gynecology monument, a monument that honors the sacrifice of Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, three black women who were enslaved experimental subjects and whose lives and reproductive rights were violated in the name of science.

But the walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge continues to be the experience that sticks with me. I think about the tens of thousands of people who crossed that bridge and walked the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. People who put their lives on the line in the name of human rights; in the name of justice. I think about FLY’s journey today and the figurative miles walked alongside and on behalf of young people across the Bay Area. I see our efforts as a continuation of their struggle, and others since them. 

I am so grateful for all of those freedom fighters and justice crusaders who came before me–who modeled selflessness and courage in the pursuit of a fairer and more just world. And I’m so grateful for the leaders at FLY and across the movement who will continue to cross bridges in the name of righteousness, even as we lean into the moment, oblivious to how tomorrow will judge our actions.