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Weekly commentaries on current issues. Commentaries are posted every Monday, in English and Spanish. Please, read our previous commentaries in the Archive section.
I recently attended a community meeting where residents in several neighborhoods were looking for answers to pollution and health issues affecting them. As expected, many local “community leaders” (please, note the quotation marks) were also there, but not to express solidarity or support, but to let others know they were there.
I know many of those “leaders”. They are the same people who very seldom will venture in the neighborhoods they suddenly “represent”, who will never return your messages or calls, and who will never cooperate in any project not initiated by them or where they are not the special guests.
I was not surprised at all to see them at the community meeting, but it was clear they had no desire or intention of listening to other leaders or to the neighbors, and they didn’t want to hear any other point of view, but theirs.
It was painful to see that, in most cases, the community leaders spent most of their time at the podium talking about their organizations, what they did, and how much they had accomplished, with few, if any references to the issue at hand. And that’s not all: many of them don’t live and have no connections with the neighborhood where the meeting took place.
In addition, it was clear they wanted all the attention only on themselves, and, to do it, they used all kinds of non-traditional strategies, from reciting poems to crying (sincere tears, of course), from reading a sequence of dates from the calendar to acting (as if on stage), to present alternative versions of history and, of course, to talk about themselves.
At the end of the meeting, only a handful of the leaders who spoke during the meeting were still there. Clearly, they had no intention or interest, not even for a moment, of listening to other remarks or to propose solutions.
They simply left. I am sure the next day they were back at their grandiose offices where once again they told others they were the “spokespersons” and the “true representatives” of our community. Even worst, several of them received applauses of support after speaking at the meeting.
I was also invited by a large organization to be a part of a project to “help the community”. They said they wanted to learn how to do such a project. Now, they told me, we would me only at their offices and I would be supervised by the youngest and newest person in the organization.
To complicate matters, that person (literally in his first week of his first full-time job of his life) would evaluate me for several months to see if my experience and education would allow me to be part of the team. And, of course, there was no budget to cover my work. They even got mad when I told them “No”.
“Lord, deliver us from the evil one”, I pray. Do you really want to help your community? Then, deliver the community from your own ideas.