Dr. Monette Ferguson: How one LDR alumna is leading authentically and equitably

While I am humbled to be the leader of a 30-million dollar a year plus Community Action Agency, I am also well prepared for the task. A black woman from poverty and public housing is probably the most equipped to run an organization whose objective is to serve and empower. The most important thing about being a woman of color is that I’m from the neighborhoods, and the demographics that I represent, a very large percentage of whom are African American.

I think challenges are handed to black women or black folks specifically because they have what it takes to dig out of trouble. We were historically essential in the building of this country, and it was birthed on our backs with what is now sometimes euphemistically called a little, “black girl magic”. That magic comes from our capacity to appreciate the opportunity so much, we’ll stay up late nights and work around the clock to make it happen if necessary.

As for dealing with issues related to equity, our agency Alliance For Community Empowerment, was born out of the civil rights act of 1964. So, when we think about Community Action Agencies like ours and equity, well they’re synonymous. Today we take the same stance but add training programs and policies that are fair to all. We see through an equity lens and have gone from being born of a certain civil rights action to engaging purposely and intentionally, embedding equity into our agency.

What I want others to know is that I’m the kid from the projects, I am black, and I am a woman, what they used to call three strikes against us but today I am Doctor Ferguson and I want people to know they can overcome those stereotypes and life circumstances to help others. So, three strikes are now a home run! Many people don’t even know they have power and I hope they can see it in themselves. When they find it, however, I hope there is a conscious use of it for the good. To do that, find good people to help you and the people you serve. Be colorblind of the folks who want to help. I’ve needed people of all colors and from all communities, who represent specific skill sets to uplift our community; bankers and lawyers, business folks, developers and doctors, all kinds of great folks help us.

I’m first a fellow human, then I happen to be black which is a blessing, and then I happen to be a woman which is a double blessing because I have a nurturing spirit and a love for humankind that black women historically have, it’s in my DNA. I like it that way.