Freedom is people realizing they are their own leaders. Diane Nash
Every day, ordinary people make a difference in the world by embracing their moral responsibility to leave the world a better place than how they found it. History has shown us that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact on the world around them. Whether it be:
Marian Wright Edelman (who has taken a stand to ensure every child has a healthy start), Ida B. Wells (who recognized that the pen is mightier than the sword by writing for justice), or Shirley Chisholm known as the “candidate of the people “(who understood the importance of political engagement which compelled her to become the first black woman elected to Congress and the first black woman to seek nomination for the highest office in the land as President).
These are just a few examples of how ordinary people have played a key role in protecting the rights of the voiceless by serving as engineers of social change. This unveiling of one’s gifts and talents coupled with a courageous commitment to the cause of justice is demonstrative of leadership.
Leadership is an individual’s ability to exercise influence by organizing others around a shared vision. It focuses on making this vision become a reality in partnership with other key stakeholders and collaborators. Leadership is also about motivating and inspiring others to lead. In the process of social change, the leader focuses on empowering others to lead and sustaining the momentum of change movements. A leader recognizes that each person has a unique leadership role to play in advancing justice and freedom. A leader also acknowledges that leadership is not hierarchical or positional but instead there is a shared responsibility to build stronger communities and collectively effect change. This is a new definition of leadership that focuses on what the collective can build together since we are stronger together than apart.
How can we lead together in the fight for justice?
One way to lead together in the fight for justice is to inspire the next generation to serve in the community. This is why I decided to write a new children’s book about my journey to law school. In my book, “Making a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire,” I share about the many great heroes and sheroes who have come before me and modeled excellence in leadership. The main character of the book, Justice, loves reading and learning about history. Justice finds in her Grandma’s library of books motivation for her future. She learns about trailblazers for justice like Charles Hamilton Houston, Paul Robeson, and Dr. Wangari Maathai. With each chapter on her learning journey, she begins to discover the leader within. Justice decides to make a difference in the world by becoming a lawyer.
Justice’s love for superheroes shaped her vision for the future. Her dream was to become Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire—a superhero with a law degree and an afro. She was determined to use her education in the struggle for justice. As young readers follow Justice on her journey, they will begin to discover the leader within.
Over the next year, I will share words of inspiration and hand deliver 1,000 copies of “Making a Difference” to schoolchildren around the world. Starting in my hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and traveling to several cities, I will wrap up my book tour in Ghana. My goal is to motivate and inspire young people to become superheroes for justice who make a difference in the world. This is of critical importance since young people are the future. For generations, students have been at the forefront of social change movements whether it be the Freedom Riders of the past (who fought against racial segregation) or the Dream Defenders of our present (who fought against stand your ground laws). “Making a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire” can aid in equipping students for this important leadership role.
Visit www.artikatyner.com for more information about this children’s book project.