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Write every day: Change by Design—Remembering C.T. Vivian and John Lewis

Today Civil Rights leader C.T. Vivian will be laid to rest. The minister of the movement, he passed just hours before John Lewis, albeit having lived 15 years longer. For over 60 years, the two of them fought side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, in the same direction toward equality.

The example of their lives is a blueprint for us now in this great moment of change. This Civil Rights Movement was strategically and meticulously planned with an end goal and the steps to get there. The leaders and activists were committed, not just for a day or a month or a year, but for a lifetime. Rosa Parks didn’t just decide in the moment to sit down on a bus. Rosa Parks was trained in resistance. She had picked, planned, and was prepared for that moment, and a lifetime of backlash for it. The Montgomery Bus Boycott didn’t just happen because of her courageous action. They studied their opponent. They had a goal, and were dedicated and determined to reach it.

This is true for the Civil Rights Movement. It’s also true for suffrage and for social changes like reforms in the mental healthcare system driven by people such as Nellie Bly. They were purposeful and plotted step-by-step. Systemic change needs a plan. It takes unwavering commitment on many fronts by many people. Do we have the commitment for it?

None of these movements were perfect. Not by a long shot. The Civil Rights Movement often marginalized women; Rosa Parks was one of the few people in the room when that planning was happening and she was given the role of secretary because that was women’s work. Suffrage marginalized women of color to a terrible degree. In recent years, this has been written about more often but not enough. Even John Lewis’s speech at the March on Washington was changed at the last minute, not because he wanted to change it but because the other senior leaders of the March asked him to change it for fear that the anger in his words would upset President Kennedy and decrease their chances of success. Congressman Lewis wouldn’t publicly discuss these changes and his feelings about it until many years later. You can read the initial draft and the final, and hear him discuss his feelings about it, at this link.

History will often wash over the details of these movements. I’m not sure why. Maybe because in the details we lose a bit of the romance, serendipity, and drama of it all. Or maybe it’s because we don’t have the patience to really study and understand them. Their lessons take resolve to learn, embody, and put into practice.

Lasting change is difficult, painfully and sadly slow at a times, and expensive in terms of time, energy, and real dollars. We can best honor and continue the bravery and thoughtful actions of our elders now by wrestling with and answering the difficult questions before us:

Who and what needs to change? How and at what cost? And who pays? Do we have the lifetime commitment for it? Do we have the resolve and decisiveness that C.T. Vivian, John Lewis, and so many others had? Are we willing to come together and collaborate rather than divide our energies and efforts? Will we embrace one another and lift up each other in this work?

Because without that, nothing and no one changes. Systemic change takes systemic solutions, and it needs many hands, hearts, and minds. Change doesn’t happen by accident; it’s made by design. We must now be those designers as the torch passes to us. What will we do with it?

About Christa Avampato

The short of it: Writer. Health, education, and art advocate. Theater and film producer. Visual artist. Product geek. Proud alumnae of the University of Pennsylvania (BA) and the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia (MBA). Inspired by ancient wisdom & modern tech. Proliferator of goodness. Opener of doors. Friend to animals. Fan of creative work in all its wondrous forms. I use my business skills to create passion projects that build a better world. I’ve been called the happiest New Yorker, and I try hard to live up to that title every day. The long of it: My career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, entertainment, technology, and financial services. I’ve been a product developer and product manager, theater manager, strategic consultant, marketer, voice over artist, , teacher, and fundraiser. I use my business and storytelling to support and sustain passion projects that build a better world. In every experience, I’ve used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, programs, and events. While building a business career, I also built a strong portfolio as a journalist, novelist, freelance writer, interviewer, presenter, and public speaker. My writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, PBS.org, Boston.com, Royal Media Partners publications, and The Motley Fool on a wide range of topics including business, technology, science, health, education, culture, and lifestyle. I have also been an invited speaker at SXSW, Teach for America, Avon headquarters, Games for Change, NYU, Columbia University, Hunter College, and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. The first book in my young adult book series, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, was acquired by a publisher and launched in November 2017. I’m currently working on the second book in the series. A recovering multi-tasker, I’m equally at home in front of my Mac, on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I also cut up small bits of paper and put them back together as a collage artist. My company: I’m bringing together all of my business and creative career paths as the Founder of Double or Nothing Media: • I craft products, programs, and projects that make a difference; • I build the business plans that make what I craft financially sustainable; • I tell the stories that matter about the people, places, and products that inspire me. Follow my adventures on Twitter at https://twitter.com/christanyc and Instagram at https://instagram.com/christarosenyc.

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