I am from bacon sizzling in the morning right after the rooster crows, gumbo bubbling while the moss on the trees blows in the breeze.
I am from hearing sirens and gunshots at night, a ‘hard head makes a soft behind’
That is how 20 residents from NHT-Enterprise communities in Washington, D.C. started the first National Housing Trust Resident Leadership Workshop earlier this month. These two excerpts are from “I Am From” poems each resident wrote and shared about their life experiences and where they grew up. From the smells and sounds of their childhood, to the historical events that helped shape who they are today, the exercise demonstrated both the diversity and similarities within a small pool of our residents and prepared them to come together as leaders.
The NHT Resident Engagement Team organized the Leadership Workshop as a training that focused on knowledge and resource sharing around affordable housing issues in Washington, D.C., with the goal of fostering community engagement and empowering residents. After weeks of NHT staff conducting face-to-face information meetings with residents at each property, 20 of those residents spent their Saturday in a four-hour workshop led by facilitator, Je’Kendria Trahan.
For the first half of the day, Je’Kendria guided the residents on a historical journey, exploring the background of D.C.’s housing policies, learning America’s past of systemic racism, and tying all these topics to issues confronted in low-income communities today.
During the second half of the workshop, residents explored the concept of leadership. They discussed social movements in history that involved not just one single leader, but a community of leaders who spearheaded change. The residents then broke out into smaller groups based on where they live and developed a plan-of-action to address a specific issue within their community. Some wanted to involve more neighbors in the community leadership efforts, others wanted to re-establish after school programs and activities for the children. As the day concluded, each community established one deliberate action they would take home.
At the end of the workshop, the residents, armed with new tools and skills, left excited to get started on the engagement plans they outlined. They hope to not only empower friends, family and neighbors through sharing this knowledge, but to also engage their communities in meaningful change.
NHT’s Where Will We Live campaign aims to change the way we advocate for affordable housing and the residents of affordable housing communities are integral to that change. Residents not only have compelling, first-hand stories, they are also on the front lines and fully capable of moving their communities to incite change.
With the success of this “pilot” Resident Leadership Workshop, NHT hopes to expand this model to engage our residents similarly in other properties and continue to empower a broader coalition of affordable housing advocates.