November 19 marked the third installment of in a series of conversations with Congressional Representative Eva Clayton (D - NC) at the Insight/KMOJ Public Policy Forum. Clayton joined the Minneapolis-based discussion via video-conference from her home district in Henderson, NC. Following her previous Forum appearances addressing how African American consumers and entrepreneurs can profitably interact with the nation’s grocery and supermarket industry, at last Tuesday’s Forum, she focused on developing leadership as a means to create a bridge to the future.
Clayton is in the process of launching a self-empowerment program in her home district. The objective is to foster and develop business leadership. The program will expand over 14 counties. It will involve northeast North Carolina as well as some parts of southern Virginia. She pointed out that responsible leadership is essential regardless of the Census count or geographical location. “You live in a big city. We’re in [rural North Carolina] where there are less than 35,000 people in the county. The idea of a facility that would stimulate excellent leadership for youth and adults is just as important in St. Paul or Minneapolis as is it is in Henderson or Warren County. No society ever will grow without leadership.”
Emphasizing the importance of empowering the young, Clayton said, “If you’re talking about the future, we have to invest in training young people for the future. Any institution that’s bored of investing in the future is bored of having a future. Having this regional center for excellent leadership is an investment in the future for years to come.”
Joining Clayton in North Carolina were Meredith Smildsin, Warren County Extension agent for 4-H and Youth Development;; Margaret Bullock, Cooperative Extension agent for Family and Consumer Science; Dr. Claudette Smith, Extension specialist for Leadership Development, and Philip McMillan, director of the Warren County Cooperative Extension Office. They all are involved in the land grant-funded Agricultural Extension Service and working with her to facilitate leadership.
Smildsin spoke of the opportunities and activities supporting youth development at her organization. “I currently work with 10 community clubs in [my] county. We’ve been fortunate to have the Buck Spring 4-H Center in Warren County.” She said among the expectations for this center are a computerized technology lab where adolescents can access and utilize information to maximum effect.
Bullock is involved with strengthening adult leadership through a program called Community Voices where participants acquire organizational skills. “We are offering citizens the opportunity to prepare for leadership fields. They learn how to look at issues within their communities and how to go about doing investigations to find out how they can solve their problems. They also learn how to have a voice in what’s going on in their communities. It’s been real productive. We’ve expanded our program to reach four counties surrounding Warren County.” Woods added that in addition to providing training devised by her office, Community Voices and its partner program Voices Reaches Visions, welcome input from participants who have their own ideas about what they need to learn.
Smith has been involved in training for the Agricultural Extension Service, most recently through a grant from the Kellogg Foundation. “Our major role is to design programs that reach people in a productive manner with the proper adult-learning principles that are necessary for them to really learn skills.”
Speaking on the value of the Buck Spring Center, McMillan observed that over the last 15 years, there has been a lack of opportunity in Warren County for “youth in our area. We came up with the idea to promote positive actions the kids can get involved in. One of the things the Extension does extremely well is leadership development with our youth. We thought the best thing we could do, then, [is] to create a [local] leadership development and leadership excellence center. Through that came the vision of the Buck Spring Regional Leadership Excellence Center.”
In person at Lucille’s Kitchen were Silas Houston Economic Development Officer of Minneapolis NAACP, Bill English co-chair of Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit and Tyrone Terrill, chair of the St. Paul African American Leaders