Deep in our hearts we know that if we’re going to ever “live out the true meaning of our creed, that all men are created equal” it will be something that happens between us day to day – in the places we live, in the lives we lead, in the actions we take and the decisions we make – large and small. Yet still we reliably turn toward our television sets and social media when the worst happens, where we know our resentments will be stroked and our fury stoked. Imagine if in times of crisis, instead of separating, we gathered? Who might we be then?
In the wake of the gut-wrenching events of the 2016 election cycle, Stephen Colbert offered up this: “A nation is not its politics… a nation is as the relationships between its people.” If we don’t have those relationships right here, right now, that’s on us.
We cannot stay disconnected to each other until a time of deep community crisis forces up to confront our distance. A more divided people are vulnerable. As America grows closer to being a majority minority country, communities that thrive will be the ones that build institutions incorporating this diversity dynamically into the fabric of everyday community life – it should simply become how we roll. In times of turmoil, we turn toward each other – in the glorious diversity of race, religion and opinion we find in the human race. It’s our Local Color.
In the opening number of the Broadway musical “Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda belts out “and there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait…” American democracy bequeathed to us was as a draft version, and the founders left us the mechanisms for revisions. We have that power right here and now in this place we share. Forget Washington. If we don’t iterate, it’s on us.
We imagine a public space where we come to really know each other, where we look unflinchingly at what divides us as we revel in what unites us – sort of an old-fashioned civic barnraising of sorts. We imagine an idea-generating, deeply real (possibly even joyful) Hamilton-inspired Technicolor town hall. We’re deep believers this American community is up to the challenge. We think we can teach the world a thing or two.
“Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that matter.”
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
*Local Color is supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the Community Foundation of North Florida. It has also been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.