'The Colored Waiting Room': Takeaways That Transcend Generations
Written by David Daniels, Vice President, Operations and Organizational Effectiveness, Bainum Family Foundation
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a thought-provoking, poignant and powerfully packaged event hosted by the Maryland Philanthropy Network for Baltimore Area Grantmakers (Maryland Philanthropy Network). This event included a discussion by Kevin Shird and Nelson Malden, authors of the recently published book The Colored Waiting Room: Empowering the Original and the New Civil Movements followed by a panel discussion on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. This experience left an indelible mark on me personally and professionally because of the generational perspectives related to the civil rights movement that identified the critical systemic issues while sparking hopeful, solutions-oriented conversations.
I appreciated both men reflecting on their experiences and found myself drawn to the stories that Mr. Malden shared, the issues that are still pervasive in communities of color, and both men’s reflections on how their relationship developed. Shird’s intentional effort to seek out 84-year-old Malden and forge a friendship reinforced the importance of taking the time to not just listen but learn from elders who were willing to sacrifice so much to advance the civil rights movement. I was struck by the fact that while he experienced such a painful period, he was able to focus on the good, hopeful and often comical experiences that took place during the movement for strength. It caused me to reflect on the need for balancing the frustration I often feel when I think about the systemic racism that limits opportunities for people of color throughout this nation; with the need to remain hopeful and learn to find joy in the midst of struggle in the way that Mr. Malden and others have successfully done.
The deep discussion that took place that afternoon was particularly meaningful for me because of who I got to experience it with — my 16-year-old daughter, Lauryn. Just as the struggle spanned between the authors’ generations, the same entrenched issues transgressed ours. The event sparked multiple conversations between the two of us, and I was able to help my daughter better understand the unresolved hardships that people of color have and continue to face. This event presented an opportunity for the two of us to discuss our understandings of history, its complexities and the nuances that have shaped our individual understanding.
The panel discussion following Shird and Malden presented another opportunity for further reflections from Baltimore community leaders. While all of the panelists shared interesting insights and perspectives, my daughter Lauryn was particularly inspired by Diane Bell-McKoy and how she wielded influence and passion towards making change in her community. With injustice so evident and palpable in our world right now, hearing how these leaders are tirelessly rolling up their sleeves to tackle it was encouraging. And for Lauryn, with so much of her life still in front of her, I believe it was monumental. It was powerful for me to hear Lauryn’s reflections, specifically about Ms. Bell-McKoy because I knew what it meant for her to see someone that looks like her in such an influential role. As a parent, I want my children to see the endless possibilities and the impact they can have on others, and Lauryn saw that in Ms. Bell-McKoy.
I applaud Maryland Philanthropy Network and Celeste Amato for their continued deliberate, open and engaging efforts that not only benefit the greater Baltimore community but the philanthropic and nonprofit sector as a whole. Together, equipped with a more thorough understanding of systemic racism and equity, we can all advance our missions and visions and, ultimately, build and better serve our communities.
David Daniels is the vice president of operations and organizational effectiveness at the Bainum Family Foundation. The Bainum Family Foundation operates and supports educational programs and projects assisting undeserved children and youth, from early childhood through post-secondary education. They have been a member of the Maryland Philanthropy Network since 2016.