from Angela Waters Austin, CEO
Aside from “What do you do?” the question I am most often asked is “How long have you been here?”
It’s a deceptively simple question with an equally complex answer. Define “here.”
One Love Global is located in Lansing, Michigan and I am pleased to report, in a wonderful new location since the fall of 2019. Our letter of determination from the federal government says our effective date of exemption is January 14, 2004.
If we’ve been around 15 years, why are you just learning about our work? The answer lies in the way we work and how we began.
One Love Global was born out of three days of fasting and praying that resulted in a visionary download of what would become the next chapter of my life. I was the founder and CEO of a public relations and management consulting firm in Detroit, DiverseCity Inc., that I started with a friend from college. Many of our clients were grassroots organizations and startups who had more passion and purpose than resources. Our shared backgrounds in nonprofit and human services equipped us with grant writing and fundraising skills that we put to use for our clients.
We were intentional about working with clients who were positively impacting Detroit’s people, economy or environment. Our initial client base was mid- to mature life cycle nonprofits and faith-based organizations who were graduates of the Eureka Communities Fellowship. Eureka was an amazing opportunity for nonprofit leaders to learn from one another and from mentoring host organizations. Among the fellows and host organizations from Eureka Cities in California and New York were several who were leading work in a field I was just discovering: social entrepreneurship.
Our business was growing and thriving when I was blindsided by my father’s diagnosis with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I had no idea how profoundly my life was changing. In addition to being my father, his post-retirement consulting firm had become a frequent partner to us in client-based organizational assessment and strategic planning. I scaled down to one client, then no clients as I commuted back and forth from Detroit to Lansing to care for my father. Long story short… my father died within months of diagnosis and I took a long hard look at my life and found it lacking. I struggled to restart the business and felt I was lacking.
What do you do when you come to the end of your ability to fix things? For me, the answer was a determination to be still until I heard from God.
The church I attended had just completed a series on the three-fold cord of praying, fasting and giving. Praying and giving were easy and felt good. Being hungry does not feel good and I had always opted out of communal fasting. I had never fasted before, but I made the commitment and aside from liquids ate nothing for three days.
What I did, other than sleep as much as possible, was write. And the vision for One Love Global emerged.
One Love Detroit was to be the first of many cities where God’s heart for justice was calling for action.
I knew that the vision that was so much bigger than me, and I wanted to bring people together to help shape and think about it. I reached out to people who I trusted and knew were passionate about our community. We organized to meet, and our founding board convened on January 14, 2004.
Together, we compiled a body of research on cities in the United States with the highest populations of Black children living in poverty and not coincidentally, the highest rates of segregation. We analyzed the data and used it to inform our theory of action planning process.
We were all between the ages of 17-35 and the prompt for our planning was, “what made the difference for us?” How did we beat the odds of growing up Black in America? Too many of our childhood friends were in prison, dead or working dead-end jobs that required other means of earning to take care of their families.
After months of discussions, we unanimously agreed that education was the one factor that we all had in common. We also acknowledged how important informed and committed leadership is to affecting change. We believed the research on transgenerational trauma of slavery and that healing was rooted in celebrating our humanity and culture.
Amplifying youth voice to build power and prompt change has always been at the heart of our work. Here is a December 2008 article on our writing competition, "Dear President Obama" in partnership with Keeper of the Word. See youth submissions below.
In hindsight, we are doing now exactly what we set out to accomplish without having the full picture of what it would look like or how we would get there.
We took a leap of faith and spent the next four years planning and piloting our ideas for One Love Detroit as a charitable division of DiverseCity Inc. We collaborated on projects and events that aligned with our mission, with One Love Detroit operating in the background in alignment with the culture and nature of our work. We partnered with organizations like Greater Pontiac Community Coalition on Woodward Dream Cruise and MLK Week. We developed content and programming in collaboration with Keeper of the Word Foundation on Global Lessons: Celebrating the Legacies of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a multi-year tribute to Malcolm X called 365:50.
January 2009 article with submissions of youth to our writing competition, "Dear President Obama" in partnership with Keeper of the Word.
In August 2008, One Love Detroit relocated to Lansing and filed an application for tax exempt status with an expanded vision. We received a phone call that our application was being expedited. We were awarded a letter of determination date-stamped December 11, 2008. In 10 years of consulting with nonprofit organizations we have never experienced such a rapid response to an application for 501c3 determination. We are eternally grateful to Marvis Cofield and our extended family at Alkebu-lan Village for doing for us what we now do for other grassroots organizations by incubating innovation.
I will close this reflection on the humble beginnings of One Love Global by thanking my friends and family for supporting me as either thought partners or founding board members: Robyn Seay, Bobbie Parker, Marc White, Angelica Stepp, Phillip Hamilton, Kyra Jefferson, Tiffeny Forrest.
I dedicate this 15 year look back to Weusi Olusola, the man who inspired us to adopt peace as part of our mission.