The chronic crises that afflict Mayfair all result from the issue of Power – the imbalance of power in society and the prevalence of oppressive forms of power. The Mayfair neighborhood is the inevitable consequence of that dynamic. So how does a community that is victimized by the larger power dynamics in society create a new power that enables it to be the architects of the community and lives that we aspire to?
Power is a word that is too often avoided in the work of nonprofit agencies. Power is often understood from the basis of people’s negative experiences with power – such as their inability to confront City Hall, to escape violent relationships, or to get a fair shake from their employer. For others, discussions of power feel “too political”. And often in the world on nonprofits, agencies are reluctant to confront the leaders who hold power for fear of repercussions on their funding streams.
Yet power is at the very core of community development in Mayfair. In order to genuinely address chronic crisis, power must be cultivated. At Somos, we seek to nurture a power that is characterized by the power we hold “with” others. We don’t seek to build power that is vested in individuals; rather we seek a power that is vested across a community. We build power that enables us to fight for a compassionate justice that doesn’t simply resort to a redistribution of justice in a “zero sum” game. The primary asset we use to build such power is our team of Promotores (peer mentors), Mayfair residents who are committed to building a new form of power in Mayfair and who are deeply trained in popular education and the process that Paulo Freire called concientizacion (raising of critical consciousness).