August Equity Hub

Most people might associate the word “revival” with the season of spring. And, yes, I’m well aware that this fall doesn’t appear to be much of a revival period at first glance. But, hey, Toys R Us is back, so it really seems like anything is possible...and if the 2020’s have taught me anything, it is to be prepared for the unexpected! More importantly, what’s not surprising at all is that our MasterMind Cohort alumni continue to revive democracy and connection through their crucial work. They are a shining example of how to navigate uncertainty in a powerful and effective way. Check out the following updates on what our alumni have been up to! If fall doesn’t revive your spirit, these updates will.

First up is Paul Swearengin of cohort #2! When we met Paul, he was an Author, Content Creator, Commentator, and Personal Development Mentor for Nonpartisan Evangelical. The mission of his organization was to challenge mindsets, build community, and move to action those in or impacted by the identity politics of the evangelical church. Paul creates space for those who have lost their access to the churches because they no longer meet the political litmus tests of the evangelical movement. 

Paul is currently transitioning and rebranding his work from the “Non-Partisan Evangelical” to “Pastor Paul” with the tagline “Pursuing Spiritual Life in Unconventional Ways.” His new work involves four prongs. The first is shifting mindsets through unconventional conversations, which will consist of content creation through YouTube and TikTok, as well as his podcast. The second prong will be “living an unconventional spiritual life,” which will encompass: being a part of a weekly time of corporate contemplation and well-being, a weekly discussion of topics for deconstructing beliefs based on biblical principles, and an online “Church” for those who have lost their faith community. Thirdly, Paul will continue his coaching practices. He offers both group and individual coaching. His group coaching aims to walk members through a journey into determining identity, mission, and purpose to the greater world, while his one-on-one coaching helps those in search of a renewed spiritual life. Lastly, Paul is working on a Post-Evangelical Think Tank. This think tank will be a group of former evangelical ministers who meet monthly for mutual support and discussion of what the Church of the 21st century should look like and will provide administrative services to ministers, including licensing.

If you’d like a sample of his work, Paul recently released a YouTube video titled: “War and Binary Thinking: An NPE Discussion w/ Pastor Paul.” In this video, he discusses the situation in Afghanistan and why (1) seeking out someone to blame and (2) worshipping war can be toxic. We won’t give away too much, but here is small snippet to wet your pallet:

“ [...] You’re either a conservative or a liberal [...] this is binary thinking and it makes it very tough for us to get anything done or accomplished [...] I’m calling us to change. I’m coaching people to change and, in my coaching work, I’ve seen people have the lights go on and say ‘I’ve been believing what I am believing because it is all I’ve ever known.’ I call it the chicken coup mentality. I asked my grandfather, the farmer, once ‘why don’t chickens fly when they have wings?’ and he said, basically, because they live in a coup where no other chickens fly [...] guys, we are living in the chicken coup [...] it’s taking away our eyes to see and ability to think differently.”

Next up is Justine Lee! We’re taking it all the way back to cohort #1. That’s right, she has been with us from the very beginning and we’re extremely proud of this fact! Justine is the executive director of Living Room Conversations as well as the co-creator of Make America Dinner Again. As head of partnerships, she has developed relationships and worked collaboratively with media and organizations to bring civil dialogue to more people. She is also the co-lead for Tea With The People, a series of conversations on race and democracy in the time of COVID-19 that she developed in conjunction with MasterMind Cohort Alumni Jeanelle Austin. She is an experienced conversation host, event producer, and communications specialist. Her work is focused on building connections and understanding across differences and inspiring civic engagement through small group conversations. We’re so excited to announce that Justine joined Civil Squared, another Bridge Alliance member organization, on their podcast! In this podcast she discusses her background, lessons learned, and tips to minimize the negative effects of political polarization. If you’d like a sneak peek, here is a snippet of Justine’s advice for those who want to get involved in her work but feel hesitant:

“My first invitation would be to invite folks to check out our website: livingroomconversations.org and take a look at our topics [...] if you’re someone who is just getting started and you don’t know that you have four to six people in mind to make this conversation happen, you can have this conversation with one other person. [...] That’s one way to start, by testing the waters with one person who you think might be a good co-host or just someone you want to learn more from. If you don’t know anyone, we do have public conversations that we invite anyone to join. [...] There have been conversations I’ve been a part of where one person does feel like they are representing a certain set of views. What we try to do in that situation is focus or broaden what we’re talking about a little so that we are able to find the common thread such that one person is not feeling like they have to carry all of that”

Justine is an expert in reviving connection! We hope you listen to this podcast and are inspired to revive your interest in connecting with those who hold different viewpoints from you.

We’re not done just yet! Falling in at lucky number three is Jillian Youngblood from cohort #3. Jillian is the executive director at Civic Genius, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization with the goal of overcoming political polarization and rebuilding civic culture through everyday opportunities to learn and engage. Jillian has more than 15 years of experience in politics, government, and communications with a focus on democracy reform, public health, and education policy. This summer, Jillian has starred in numerous social media “live” videos. You can find that content on Civic Genius’s Facebook page and Instagram page

We’d like to specifically highlight a video titled: “Five Minutes of Common Ground: Redistricting”. In this video, Jillian provides what is described as a “a little morale boost”. Although this video is just five minutes long, it packs a punch and delivers all the vital information you need to know about redistricting and gerrymandering. So, you may be wondering where the morale boost is coming from...and we’ve got an answer for you. You’ll find the promised motivation from the surprising numbers of individuals across political lines who actually agree on redistricting issues! Jillian does a fantastic job of presenting those numbers in an engaging and upbeat way…plus, she presents potential solutions to these issues. At Bridge Alliance, we believe that there’s nothing more revitalizing than solidarity and solutions! If you agree with us and enjoyed this video, please check out Jillian in Civic Genius’s issue breakdown of redistricting for additional interesting tidbits.

Lastly, did you know that Bridge Alliance has a podcast? Well, if not, we hope you’ll check it out during a long commute or on your lunch break. It’s called “To Build a Bridge” and is available on Apple Podcasts as well as on Spotify. The podcast is hosted by our Deputy Chief of Staff, Shakira Mills! She sits down with various Bridge Alliance member organizations and field experts on topics guaranteed to enhance the work you do as a leader. One of our very own MasterMind Alumni was recently featured in an episode...cohort #3’s Lida Azim of America Indivisible! The episode is titled: “To Genuinely Reach The Muslim Community” and is centered around building bridges with the Muslim community in America. 

We believe the United States is a nation that requires inclusion and relationship building with all groups, even those with which we may have a complex history. In this episode, Lida Azim sits down with Shakira to discuss genuine ways in which we can reach out to Muslims in our community to build the relationships needed to mend fences.The following resources are mentioned in this episode: “Toolkit for Mobilizing to Support American Muslims” and “Muslims in America Policy Poll 2020.” Please email [email protected] for links to any resources mentioned in the episode. Bridge Alliance believes in diversity as an operating system, meaning that it should be inherent in our environment, and that starts with reaching out to communities different from our own. We hope this episode inspires you to do just that alongside us.

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