Bill Traynor: No One Rises Alone
Bill Traynor is the Co-Facilitator, with Frankie Blackburn, of the Connectivity Task Force at Boston Rising. The Task Force is staffed by Talia Rivera and includes Imari Paris Jeffries, Paul Johnson, Chrismaldi Vasquez, Alice Stein, Sam Novey, Damon Cox and Brittany Parker
The New Marketplaces of the Rising Class
The Connectivity Task Force at Boston Rising ensures that relationship building is at the center of every aspect of our work and central to the goal of eradicating poverty in Boston. I want to share some thoughts about how we see ‘connectivity’ in the context of the Rising Class.
All the aspects of poverty that we experience in our own lives, and witness in the lives of others – economic, spiritual, emotional – those born of injustice and those born of isolation or fear – are the handiwork of a community that can neither imagine nor realize its interconnectedness. These communities are destined to be trapped in an ordeal of perpetual pain and distress – the evidence of which is the colossal investment that is made in things like insurance, health care, law enforcement, incarceration.
Great disparities in income and wealth in our country has increasingly yielded economic poverty for many and a poverty of awareness, spirit and action for most. Greed, for instance, is an action born of fear and detachment. Aspiration is an impulse born from a sense of personal power and connection. Which of these was fed in the real estate bubble/financial services collapse? Toxic assets can only be peddled in a toxic environment.
The Rising Class is an idea put forth by Boston Rising signifying that the solution to multi-generational poverty is to clear the way for, and feed, the ambitions and aspirations that lie in the heart and mind of all people, the “poor” being no exception. This idea is based on few simple apparent truths about “rising;”
- That none of us rise alone.
- That relationships in a diverse network of support create the pivotal moments of opportunity in life
- That our interconnectedness as a community – for better or worse – is a fact, not just a lovely idea.
- That the things that prevent us from seeing and realizing this fact – class, power, race, geography, professionalism, paternalism, fear, bad habits – these things cultivate poverty of one kind or another and isolation in every corner of our community.
The Rising Class is an interesting sideways idea about “class.” Instead of seeing “class” as a stamp – a determinant of a specific economic condition, the Rising Class’s identity is rooted in a more a universal condition (We are all rising and we all need each other to rise), a call to a new conversation (What is the truth about rising?) and a call to action (Connect-up people!)
What the Rising Class is interested in is this: greater connectivity among people who are different from each other – a vast robust marketplace for all the unrealized value that we have to offer each other as we all try to rise and contribute to community.
But in this, the Rising Class has a problem. The world is not organized to facilitate this deeper and broader exchange – between the neighbor in 1A and the neighbor in 1B, the school principal and the parent, the Wellesley resident and the Grove Hall resident, the teen and the grandparent, the new immigrant and the old timer, the homeowner and the renter. And it is definitely not set up to reach out to connect the most isolated and most de-valued of us to the broad current of the mainstream economy. The “poor” are offered help in exchange for control, not invited into the marketplace to explore their value.
So the Rising Class needs to build its own marketplaces, by shaping new kinds of “trusted spaces” that are explicitly designed to confront these barriers by offering:
- New networks of relationships across differences,
- Intentional ways of revealing hidden or suppressed value, and
- New methods of, and spaces for, exchange.
- Ways of marshaling aggregate (market)power, in addition to collective power, as a way to make change
Neighbors who live next door to each other for years but don’t know each other have no exchange value – even the minimum needed to defend their street. These same neighbors who have met through a Boston Rising NeighborCircle, who share dinner and life stories, and then go on to look out for each other’s children, exchange favors, appreciate and smile at each other on the street, take on local issues together – these neighbors are exploring, revealing and exchanging value in a trusted space, the exact function of a marketplace.
Families who come together through the Family Independence Initiative (FII) cohorts are invited to exchange help, networks, advice, favors and to offer each other opportunities and they do. In the process they are expanding the resource base to feed their own and other’s aspirations for jobs, homes, education and small business ventures.
Whether through a simple NeighborCircle or the elegant FII approach, a small business accelerator space or neighborhood controlled trust fund to stimulate local connection and action, all these serve as early examples of the new marketplaces that Rising Class demands; 21st Century trusted spaces where a deeper and broader exchange can take place, where hidden value is revealed, and when new resources are unleashed. We will need hundreds more of these examples, especially those kinds of trusted spaces that specialize in connecting people across different socio-economic backgrounds.
This then is the life and work of the Rising Class – to engage in ‘rising acts,’ to create new trusted spaces for exchange, to push us all to a greater place as a community, all fueled the unleashing of the still great and powerful aspirational spirit of human beings as we strive to connect, contribute and rise.