ecf-30-button-150x150.jpgLOOKING FORWARD — ECF's 2017 Strategic Plan

on Monique's mind

Empowered Evanston
Connecting with Our Future

MBJ-headshot-Jan2017.jpgdear friends,

To begin the New Year I took a quick trip to Washington D. C. This trip was planned well before the national election, but when I booked it I was hopeful that this visit would take me to a place in time between two historical moments: the first African-American President and first woman President. Traveling with me was my five-year-old daughter, Brielle. She was born while the first African-American President was leading our country and she has never known a time when a black man couldn’t be President. Because the historical moment I had hoped for had not come to pass, we looked forward to the other best experience we could have: visiting the newly opened Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Along the way we spent some time catching the major sites around town and witnessing the construction preparations for the inauguration.

This was a test.

What positive things can I experience when I’m feeling less than hopeful about the future of the country and how do I use my negative feelings to produce great outcomes? Here is what I am certain of.

Our community — national and local — is built by connections. No one family, no one person, no one institution can survive alone. Humankind requires connections. Without them, we surely perish and most certainly forget what it means to feel success, pain, frustration, and happiness. We divide ourselves between the haves and have-nots. We choose to do what is easy as opposed to changing the system that can make the hard living dissipate. Without connections to a common good we retreat into our selfish space of only wanting good for the people we know, our like-minded friends and family. Without connections, we forget that we are people with hearts, with feelings, with concerns and hopes. Connections keep us balanced and call us to the carpet when we are wrong. Connections are necessary to survive.

In a recent interview with Dear Evanston, I voiced my thoughts on having very basic human needs met and a sense of community as necessities for violence prevention. Having made a career of working with families to tackle some of their toughest interpersonal issues, I’ve heard firsthand the outcomes of not having your needs met and not feeling like you belong…to anyone or anything. As I walked around our nation’s capital, I deeply recognized feelings of emptiness, worthlessness, voiceless, and lack of belonging.

But then I looked at the little girl holding my hand and I simply smiled. She knows not the harsh feelings I have. While I’m responsible for teaching her her history and truth, I am dedicated to guarding her spirit and encouraging her to do what is RIGHT. As I look at my daughter, I have hopes and aspirations for her future and I’m hopeful that she will be afforded the same if not better opportunities than I earned 20 years ago. I want to know that the rights we have all had all of our lives will still exist for future generations. Regression is not an option. Not now, not ever. We can only move forward, better, stronger together.

Monique B. Jones (with daughter Brielle) in Washington DCOn our last day we made a stop at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Monument. Brielle has read about Dr. King, Rosa Parks and several other civil rights leaders. She found friends to play with around the monument as I carefully re-read the quotes etched in the wall. I marveled at the positioning of the stone. I compared it to the sculptures in the museum. I stood with other parents as we watched the kids try to climb the monument-impossible to reach the top.

I needed this entire experience in my life right now. Life never stops, so sometimes you have to steal your moments. The next time I make my way back to Washington D.C. will be for the Women’s March on Washington. My hope is that the experiences of the past few months will translate into actions that promote equal rights and honest connections. When we go out and make our voices heard, it’s my hope that we consider the whole, not just the part of the issue that affects us as individuals. To be sure — it’s never easy to speak with a holistic perspective or do what is best for all. It is however what garners you the greater good.

In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this year I hope you are encouraged to be in the community, connecting with each other, serving. This is the one holiday on the calendar for us that adds purpose to a dream  and requires a rejuvenated charge from Dr. King. His quote that has stayed in my heart reads:

“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” Washington D.C., 1959

I hope your honoring of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is filled with encouragement and connections to your community.

January 16, 2017