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Jonathan Lewis

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The Improbable Ms. Windwood

Posted: 04/ 2/2012 10:38 am

If The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable were not already taken as a renown book title, I would have used it to name my on-camera iOnPoverty conversation with Akaya Windwood.

Think I'm batty? Check it out yourself:


Improbably for a world of avoided candor, Akaya is a social justice truth-builder.

Akaya is the CEO of the Rockwood Leadership Institute. She trains nonprofit leaders, empowering them with the personal tools to take their organizations to new heights. She is a one woman social change movement.

The world of social change is a miasma of myths, hero/heroine fables, hidden failures, and puffed-up origin stories. At economic opportunity conferences and anti-poverty gatherings we bow to civility, pass out compliments, succumb to herd think and sip the Kool-Aid of convention. Rare are the voices to challenge the charlatans.

I'm as guilty as the next person. It is exhausting work. Akaya embraces it with the grace of a swan and the special insights of a black woman.

In her most formative childhood days, Akaya was one of just two black elementary school children "used" to desegregate an all-white school. I can't even imagine what that was like, but Akaya learned, and now teaches, that "isolation is one of the worst things we can do to each other as humans. So much is lost when we cut each other off."

Rejection is personal and hard, she acknowledges. And, the curative counsel: "You are not your ideas." Don't let rejection diminish your worth as a human. If rejected, she asks, "What are you learning? What meaning are you making of this?"

For these times, Akaya applauds many and multiple change-maker paths. "We inherently like order, but it's all falling apart and I think that's terrific," she rejoices. The takeaway: Flexibility is essential. In her words, social change opportunities call for "purposeful, risky action."

You just know that taking her "What moves your heart? What makes you light up?" advice is solid and sound. Her twinkling eyes, nurturing smile and smart charm are enveloping and encouraging, but with her strength she is pressing you to change yourself while changing the world.

I trust her. I listen to her. I try to see all of her -- to let her know she can safely be all of who she is. And, I take her advice (well, most of it). Isn't that pretty much what any friendship, but especially a friendship fixed on reinventing the future, is all about?

 
 
 

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