A few years ago a friend took a photo of me looking up at the Washington Monument. If I had to articulate any sort of meaning in the photo, I would say there was a sense of aspiration wrapped in something bigger than the guy with (then) short hair. I remember that day vividly, as I realized the National Mall was more than just buildings planned by old white guys and made on the backs of black people; it’s steeped in a complicated history with the rumblings of potential as well.
My cousin, who is a DC import once told me, “Washington D.C. forces you to be impressive.” It was a spot-on line for a guy looking to find his way, looking for deeper meaning in the hours of 9am to 5pm. As I began to take opportunities and risks, I often wondered, “Does Indy force me to be impressive?” Perhaps it’s up to the individual and their definition? For me, being impressive can be stepped in accolades and all the associated trappings, but those doing the work will always be the most impressive to me. Those who see the long play or the bigger picture and continually push not only themselves, but their communities forward.
Last week I had the honor of traveling to Washington D.C. with 29 other individuals who are working toward the same goal. What started as strangers from different backgrounds, quickly transitioned into the sort of necessary dialogue and laughs people only have with family. The tours of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provided a necessary dynamic; one born in struggle, but also one born in hope. As we met with our congressional representatives, as well as leaders from the American Jewish Committee, NAACP and the Urban League I realized now is always the right time to do the necessary work.
It’s easy to get caught up in my own culture, my own way of seeing things; it’s important to me and always will be, but having the opportunity to intentionally learn more about others is so necessary. There is no monopoly on struggle, just like there is no monopoly on success. The perseverance of Black and Jewish people is encouraging, but the potential shared by both our communities is nothing short of inspirational.
As much as we are different, as much as we learned about each other, it was the intangible moments that truly brought us together. From thought-provoking discussions on code switching to the political mishegas from both parties, I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity and hope others get this experience being around such impressive people as well.