Magic Wands

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If you could wave your magic wand and transform this community, what change would you most want to see?


You are driving around Topeka with a magic wand…


Think about this for a moment…


This summer Heartland Visioning partnered with the Topeka and Shawnee County Library to do community engagements. At an engagement with young professionals, the top aspiration for the community was, “opportunities to embrace and value diversity and different cultures.” I asked a friend to share his perspective:


“Where can you go and find a vibrant arts community (NOTO and other aspects of Topeka fine arts), nearly every shade of the socio-economic spectrum, dual-language schools (Whitson elementary) next to upscale historic neighborhoods (Westboro)...Germanfest, Irishfest, Indiafest, different races, religions, and cultures living right next door to one another, shopping together, and even working out together (the gym where we work out is super diverse)...does this place sound like New York? LA? Chicago? In fact, I just described Topeka, Kansas.

When I shared these observations with people back home in Wisconsin, our family and friends were amazed. They had never thought of Topeka (let alone Kansas) as a place of diversity. This has been one of the most endearing aspects of Topeka to me and my wife, especially in comparison to other places that we have lived in the past. Topeka has been a place where we have observed and been invited to take part in holistic diversity, which crosses socio-economic, professional, and racial barriers, among many others. We are excited for the future in Topeka, and we can't wait to see what this community will look like in the months and years to come!”


This testimony is a superb example of Topeka leveraging and celebrating differences. Like my friend, I see differences in color, age, gender, social economic status, and more. I see things I wish were celebrated more and I see negative situations I wish were discussed more.

Think about your own experiences. Do you wish to engage in the discussion about diversity but don’t feel like you have a safe arena to do so? I think I’ve found a magic wand: Topeka is coming together to celebrate Remember Rosa, the 60th anniversary of Rosa Parks taking a stand through a unity walk and a 6 word sharing of experiences. This is going to be a BIG event.

The part I am most excited about follows the model of the Race Card Project. Individuals are asked to share 6 words about their race experience. The 501 schools are asking their students this: “Think about your experiences, questions, hopes, dreams, laments, or observations about race and identity. Take those thoughts and distill them fdown to 6 words. Race Cards can be thoughtful, funny, heartbreaking, brave, teeming with anger and shimmering with hope.”  Thier participation, your participation will help create enriching conversations about equality that promote healing & unity in our community.

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What are your 6 words? What is the story behind them? I urge you to join the discussion, walk united over the bridge, and enjoy a community focused evening in NOTO on October’s First Friday. Sign up now to share your 6 words at http://www.rememberrosa.com/. I have no doubt this will push everyone there outside of their comfort zone. Topeka is not perfect and no place is, but look at the unique array of diversity we have around us to further leverage! #rememberrosa

 bus Rosa

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