Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blogger Appreciation: Viable Third

Last week, I had lunch with Airick Leonard West, the spark plug behind Viable Third. Viable Third pushes the limits of what I consider to be a blog - it has a journal, it features amateur's opinions and it allows comments, so it qualifies in my book, but it is really an advocacy site more than a typical blog. If Viable Third were a more traditional effort, its website would simply be another homepage of a nonprofit.

So, what is Viable Third? It is a focus on improving the viability of Kansas City's Third City Council District - the geography bounded by Independence to the north, 45th street to the south, Troost to the west, 435 to the east, and fear on all sides. The opening page of Viable Third features this explanation:
what i stand for:

A viablethird district that will catalyze a peaceful, clean, educated and thriving community.

Economic viability is a catalyst to change the way we think about urban blight and the neighborhoods that wear that label. It is not acceptable to have neighborhoods with conditions so low that people are disinclined to live there, go to school there, open businesses there, and work there. The agreement that such neighborhoods can exist in Kansas City must end. And a new agreement must take its place. I agree to a viablethird.
Audacious and simple, isn't it?

The website features commentary from Airick, Robyne Turner, and others, and it also features a space where visitors are invited to make their own commitments to support the Third District (Alexis - let's see those photos!!).

It is fitting that Viable Third pushes up against the boundaries of the blog format. It's its own thing. It's not a 501c3 organization with a Board and staff. It's not a closed group of activists meeting in some dim basement. It's not one person's project, cautiously controlled by the founder. Trying to describe it in traditional terms prevents you from "getting it". Instead, you have to visit the site, visit the neighborhoods, reflect on it and understand it in your own way.

If that kind of thing makes you nervous, though, I've figured out a way you can kill it out of your own world. First, make Airick a hero. He has some of the attributes - a willingness to get involved in causes and address needs with little apparent concern for his own financial and other needs, a sense of outrage that comes through as intensity rather than anger, a ubiquity in the "hot spots" of Kansas City's social activism, a willingness to help out the least of our brothers with longterm personal involvement, and an energetic charisma. It would be easy to slap a hero label on Airick, which would allow us to dehumanize him and free ourselves of the challenge to internalize his issues and involvement. After you slap that hero label on Airick, you are free to excuse yourself from imitating his efforts to help the Third District. Indeed, you can then even view the effort as quixotic and implausible, and do nothing.

Airick Leonard West is one of the more challenging people I've ever had lunch with. I might even say "inspiring". But I won't say he's a hero - instead, I'll say that he has challenged me to look at my own commitments with a dissatisfied eye.

4 Comments:

Blogger KC Sponge said...

I've met Mr. West a couple times in the last year - and am humbled by his mind, his actions and his humanity. A hero - not in labels, but in truth. There are some that do it for the glory - look at how great I am, I am here to save the world; then there are some that say - look how great this is, you can be great, too. The Viable Third is his bat cave, but he opens it to the world and hopes everyone will come over for tea. Because he has faith in OUR greatness and knows that people will save what one man can not.

10/02/2007 10:35 AM  
Blogger Robyne said...

Thanks much, Dan for a tip 'o the blog to Viable Third. It is vitally important that people outside the 3rd district come to understand that the Eastside is real - not some 6 O'Clock news tidbit, that the people are just living their lives - going to school, jobs, church, raising kids, dreaming dreams. Most non-minority people have privilege just by virtue of that characteristic. When you add geography and money to the equation, you get substantial inequities perpetrated on "others" for no reason than they are different. The Viable Third seeks to redress that inequity by creating a virtual community as a portal of entry to the 3rd district. Congrats on the blog award for Gone Mild. Keep it up!

10/02/2007 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Airick West, great guy, love talking with him. At first I did not understand the vision of the Viable Third until really getting to know Airick. The Viable Third is not something that is taken lightly by him. Seeing Airick’s compassion, determination and commitment to Viable Third has really changed my prospective on things in life into making a difference. The purpose of Viable Third as really struck my attention; it’s a very intelligent and logical way of building a community. I am very excited to seeing the outcomes of what Viable Third will bring. I encourage anyone and everyone to experience conservation with Airick West. His passion and visions are very enlightening. After experiencing a talk with Airick you will leave with something to talk and think about.

10/02/2007 8:34 PM  
Blogger KC Sponge said...

Congrats, Dan - you're getting a little blogger appreciation yourself! Couldn't happen to a better blogger.

=)

10/03/2007 7:58 PM  

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