VOICES: ‘Our strength is in having multiple voices and diverse experiences and identities at the table'

Note from Dayton Daily News Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest opinion column from Amaha Sellassie , the former board president of Dayton’s Human Relations Council, appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Sunday, Oct. 25. HRC has launched the campaign “Many People. Many Voices. One City.” Other columns that appeared in the edition are linked below.

A fundamental challenge that often plagues communities and cities is the lack of representation.

Decisions are being made and resources are being distributed without the inclusion of the insights, knowledge and experiences of those most impacted by the policy decisions.

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This leads to segments of the community feeling disconnected and devalued, as if their community is working against them instead of for them.

This is why I appreciate the HRC’s new “Many People. Many Voices. One City.” campaign because it is an invitation and acknowledgment that our strength is in having multiple voices and diverse experiences and identities at the table as we re-imagine the community we want to work, live and play in.

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Often times we allow the meanings that have been imagined for skin color, gender, sexual orientation or class to deny our fundamental humanness and equality.

Our community comprises geniuses, we are the home of funk, home of innovation and a multitude of patents. But our full creativity can be stifled by our lack of deep authentic connection with all segments of our city.

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This new campaign is the invitation for all of us to expand our WE. To see ourselves in each other and to help us realize — I am because WE are.

This expanded definition of self will activate the underdeveloped potential of our region and expand possibilities as we expand our definition of who we are in community with. To do this the HRC is encouraging us to have the deep, hard, reflective, honest conversations necessary to heal historical wounds and to understand the roots of structural inequality and how power operates locally so that we can emerge new policies and structures that acknowledge the dignity and worth of every human being.

Truly we are the ones we have been waiting for! To build a community that works for all of us, the HRC is calling on all of us to participate in the process of co-creating and reimagining it.

Amaha Sellassie is an assistant professor of sociology and director of Center for Applied Social Issues at Sinclair Community College. He is a practitioner-scholar and a co-founder and board chair of the Gem City Market, a community-driven effort to address food apartheid through a food coop dedicated to increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables within west Dayton. Sellassie is a former chair of the Dayton Human Relations Council Board.

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