My Year with the MNA, by Shelly Baldwin, Acting Chair, November to December 2022
My experience as a member of the Steering Committee has been varied and full of information, new friends and acquaintances, and learning about my neighborhood. I really never intended to run for the Steering Committee, let alone put myself forward for the Vice-Chair position, but I was inspired by my friend and former Chair, Koreena, to get involved and to work for the betterment of the neighborhood.
I must say how extremely proud I am of all the hard work this young Steering Committee put into making this year outstanding for the MNA. I am by far the oldest member of this year’s Steering Committee and am excited to see such determination and dedication among the younger members. All organizations need the influx of new ideas and problem-solving skills that are exhibited by these members. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes in 2023.
After two years of the pandemic, we were able to start the year in April with our first event of the year, the Spring Fling. Because of the hard work and ingenuity of our Chair, we were able to reserve the use of the Pavilion at Branch Park for all of our MNA-sponsored events, which really improved the experience for attendees and participants. Eid was our second event, the first time it was held as an MNA event. It was very well attended and will be a wonderful addition to the calendar. The Fourth of July was the third event and went off well, according to all reports. Finally, we had the Fall Fest, which was a wonderful time for all. Many thanks to Danielle Henderson, who chaired both Spring Fling and Fall Fest! Both events were fresh and fun for all.
Besides these regular neighborhood events, back after two years, the Steering Committee and the Equity Team were able to promote two events that are dear to my heart. We had book studies throughout the year which gave white neighbors the opportunity to learn about anti-racism and to work on making personal changes to help create a more welcoming and equitable neighborhood for our neighbors of color. We also made it possible for a number of white neighbors to attend an anti-racism training, called White People Working for Racial Justice. This workshop was intense, pointing out just how embedded White Supremacy is in our systems, especially how it is at work in Mueller. I am so honored to have been able to participate in these training sessions and am looking forward to more learning and more practice at being anti-racist.
I am so proud of this work and that we were able to get it done in spite of the undercutting, misinformation and conspiring by former members of the Steering Committee to block us at every turn. This ugly pushback began even before the 2022 Steering Committee was in office, in December of 2021. Emails began circulating as soon as Koreena Malone was elected Chair of the 2022 Steering Committee, and they related to funds that these former members wanted to control, changing bylaws to prevent us from spending MNA money in the same way it had been spent in the past. Because a woman of color was Chair and had been one of the people behind the anti-racism training, these actions were racist. And it was just the beginning of microaggressions and threats directed at Koreena and those of us who supported the anti-racism programs and a new direction for the MNA becoming more inclusive of people of color and of renters.
All progress and growth requires change, a letting go of the way things have always been to make room for the way things are supposed to be. As long as people with some power in the neighborhood work to keep things the same, the longer there will be tension around the desire to grow and change. Progress always wins in human society. It is a simple fact. Progress always wins. For a neighborhood advertised as inclusive and progressive, we are certainly presenting the opposite.
The question for the MNA is how much fighting for the status quo we are willing to tolerate before finally accepting the inevitable change. I hope it happens before our people of color neighbors give up on the white neighbors and leave.