Community-centered strategist says ‘We cannot prepare a new generation for challenges if they have never seen trouble.’
Although many people refer to me as an activist, I see my way of working as a direct reflection of my responsibility to my child and the world that we are creating for all children. I see accountability, working together, and encouragement as a constant cycle in my work. If the big “we” is to be successful, we must be critical of our selected tactics, we must ask hard questions, and we must be willing to work together to solve the issues. I ask hard questions of myself and others to lead us to real solutions and call us to reflectively redirect our energy.
My daughter keeps me going–she is an inspiration to me and has been for approximately 14 years. She decided to testify in front of the school board in April and asked me to stay in my seat while she took three minutes to address a room full of adults on behalf of social supports and mental health needs for middle school students. Fully her own person, she demonstrates active kindness, love, and consideration to people she meets and extends empathy to those she hears about locally and abroad. I love watching her use her voice, even when she uses it to challenge me. She teaches me every day.
My work in community building in Charlotte, through On The Table CLT and other initiatives, is a joyful commitment to making the world better for her. As a mother, I make space for self-care by honoring my desire to communicate in intentional and clear ways. I feel that this demonstrates a commitment to myself and my truth, and I give myself permission to feel as good as I can every day.
Although I am proud that I have created a way to harness my purpose and passion into a career, working as an entrepreneur full-time requires painful sacrifices and long nights. By launching my company Facilitate Movement two and a half years ago, I married my undergraduate degree in anthropology, my years as a classroom teacher, my work as a museum educator, and my ability to organize communities into one social impact organization.
If there was one thing I could change, I would encourage mothers in Charlotte to take their children with them as they engage civically- we cannot prepare a new generation for challenges if they have never seen trouble.
As an independent consultant, I thrive most when in connection with challenging issues and committed groups of thinkers who are willing to take risks. I like wrestling with complex issues, mapping power, and strategizing solutions.
I am glad to have been a part of the shift supporting community organizing around educational equity. Since 2014, I have seen a tremendous shift as the voices of community members are more consistently raised as a part of the process of policy making for our school board. We started with issues related to restorative justice, student assignment, and school to prison pipeline, and now seek equitable redistribution of resources to high poverty schools.
Having been in Charlotte for close to 18 years, I know we are a community that can change for the better. Our school system can be integrated by race and socioeconomic status, our organizers can be strategically aligned, our philanthropic supports can build in accountability metrics, and our most marginalized community members can have a voice in policy planning.
Janeen Bryant, founder of consultancy Facilitate Movement, is a community-centered program developer and an educational activist. She was the project director for On The Table CLT, strategized for the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, and was an impactful leader for national movement MASS Action–Museums as Sites of Social Action.