Six Ways to Lead Your Cities Anyway

Six Ways to Lead Your Cities Anyway

What do you do to make sure you can create your city, as it is?

Last post, I wanted people who I’d worked with or tried to work with in the past to listen and allow me the space to be myself and work in improving my home city.

While that message was needed, it forced me to examine myself and realize that nobody was really chasing me away from my city but myself. I couldn’t handle the fact that some of the powers-to-be or family and friends just didn’t like my ideas or that I often had to present a dissenting view on boards and commissions, as well as in the press.

I really wanted to be liked and feted, but being liked and feted doesn’t always guarantee progress, especially if you’re being liked  and feted by people who are part of the status quo.

So, I’m writing this follow-up to encourage you (and ME) to take opportunities to create the city that you need to create, wherever that is. Here are six things I think we have to do, if we choose to remain on the ground and make change.

Keep protesting.

They may not want to listen, but it’s our first amendment right to make demands of the government, as well as others such as developers , nonprofits and  stores who claim to want to serve other people. Truth is, many of them are listening and it’s guilt and their own maintenance of the status quo (or financial reward) that keeps them from not wanting to do right by the people.

Run a political campaign.

Go to the board of elections the next time there’s an election you want to affect and put your name on the ballot.Yes, you may get smeared. But if done smartly, you won’t lose your job and you’ll find out there are people in town that think exactly like you. Also, yard signs don’t cost that much money. Some of the best political campaigns were not the ones where the people won, but ones where people raised awareness and got the current leaders to change their minds.

Buy some property, any property.

Now there are not very many cities left, well, hip popular cities, where you can do this. But there are plenty of smaller cities and small towns that have cool storefronts that will let you purchase them and pilot your business and development ideas there. Again, there are plenty of people who are like-minded and will support you if you have a good idea and motivation. This also goes for vacant farmland and vacant homes, especially in cities like KC that are not offering them at a discount. Just because you own property doesn’t make you have to behave like a douche.

Create multiple streams of income and multiple online and offline networks.

Don’t be bound by just one source of income and one set of people who have ideas. This is what some of the developers have done. They started with an advantage, but they maintain that advantage by networking and having multiple buildings and business ventures. This is why they think they can bully people. DO NOT BECOME A BULLY.  DO NOT BECOME A SNOB. Use this to secure your future and create avenues for other voices and people in the community, as well as have a place for your to just be yourself and laugh and enjoy things.

Don’t beat yourself up when the bullies and the powers to be do something stupid.

The ignorance of your leaders is not your fault. If you have people in your circle who believe that, dump them. If you feel insecure because of the actions of other leaders, STOP. One thing that elected officials and major landowners and the Academy and Grammys and even being in jail hasn’t stopped is your ability to sing, dance, create and write out things you feel. In other words, until you die, you are a human being on this planet, with value and no one can stop you from being.

When you, yourself, after realizing that what you really want is to explore the world and see other things, is to move on to a different place, move on.

Some of these people already have. Many are maintaining homes in other countries, if not other cities. Yes, finances and having a family of your own may play a factor, but sometimes, moving around and again, keeping multiple support networks and visiting other places is exactly what you need to do.

While we should continue to speak out against global forced displacement and various other violations of civil rights, we also have to remember that we’ve been given a gift as community builders. Sometimes that gift is for our hometown and sometimes it’s for other towns, cities and even countries. Ask for help, be resourceful and know that we all have issues. I support you and I wish you great success as we continue to build better cities and towns together worldwide.

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About Kristen Jeffers

I'm Kristen. Almost five years ago, I got tired of not seeing black women as nerded out about trains, better streets, riding bikes, walking not just out of necessity, tall buildings, old buildings and honestly a lot of other things. I was in grad school for community and economic development (ok, it’s actually an MPA), and I wanted to make sure people knew I existed and that I could help them do this thing called placemaking better. Five years later, I’m still doing that, although not from my hometown of Greensboro, NC, but from Kansas City, MO. I spend most of my time in Kansas City promoting better biking and walking infrastructure metro-wide with BikeWalk KC and the Kansas City B-cycle. But I also wrote a book A Black Urbanist (you can grab that over on the right) and sometimes I give speeches and help other communities tell their stories at design charrettes and public meetings. I’ve also written or appeared in all of the major “urbanist” publications, either as a subject or as a writer, as well as most of my hometown papers as subject or writer as well.