How do we build a healthy and vibrant civic community?

There is no doubt that we are experiencing a time of immense sociocultural upheaval and division in the United States. Our podcast, “This Civic Moment,” explores how we can come through it together.

David Blount, MSW '21, (left) and Louis Jones, an Engage Democracy Fellow with the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, hosted the podcast, “This Civic Moment” in 2020 and 2021. Photo by Joe Angeles

We are a country divided. This is not novel. For all of our country’s history, there have been ongoing divisions along racial, class, ideological and, of course, partisan lines. The uniqueness of this current moment lies not in the division we are experiencing, but the very context in which we are experiencing it. 

About David Blount and Louis Jones

About David Blount:

Blount, MSW ’21, was an Engage ­Democracy Fellow at the ­Gephardt Institute for ­Civic and Community ­Engagement, which supports the podcast. He earned a master’s degree in social work at the Brown School and now works at the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, D.C.

About Louis Jones:

Jones is an Engage ­Democracy Fellow at the ­Gephardt Institute for ­Civic and ­Community ­Engagement and a graduate student at the Brown School.

Newest Host:

Bethany Copeland, the new Engage Democracy Fellow, is joining the podcast to take over for Blount.

check it out:

Listen to the podcast here.

Current movements and events have added new fuel to ancient American debates on civil and religious liberties, access and affordability of health care, access to and quality of jobs, impacts of climate change and the right to vote. The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted global normalcy to rearrange priorities related to health and the economy. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 brought people out to the streets to advance the movement for the liberation of Black people, along with all people, from systemic racism and violence. This movement and many others across the political landscape have motivated groundswells of people standing together behind a message and vision to make our nation healthier, safer and more equitable. 

It was in this climate that we created our podcast, “This Civic Moment,” where we speak with regional, civic and community leaders about what inspired them to engage in this civic moment and better understand what is next for our future. 

We conceived the podcast in March 2020, at the beginning of major actions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communities and activists were responding to multiple incidents of police
violence. Sights were set on the presidential election in November. Fear, anxiety, conspiracy and divisions were amplified. But people were also asking, “What can I do to help?” 

“We believe in the power of personal narrative and storytelling to empower others to step into their own civic calling, whatever that may be.”

David Blount and Louis Jones

We often hear narratives of political partisanship, polarizing stances and adversarial political maneuvering in government. The podcast centers on personal stories of how people from different spheres of influence and walks of life are embodying community solidarity and collective visioning to answer the call and help address big problems. 

We believe in the power of personal narrative and storytelling to empower others to step into their own civic calling, whatever that may be, and have healthier dialogues and disagreements with neighbors. Whether they’re serving at a local food bank, leading a congregation as a religious figure, covering stories in the community as a journalist or developing scholarship on social issues -impacting people of color, we wanted to elevate narratives of everyday leaders. These folks contribute to more livable, equitable and sustainable communities for all of us. 

As we have been working on our podcast, we have been reminded of the speech “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the speech, King points out how global our society has become and says, “we’ve made of this world a neighborhood” through our advancements in science and technology. Personal computers and cell phones connect people globally through the internet, and the farthest points of the globe are only a couple flights away. More than ever, no problem, or endeavor to solve it, sits within only one country’s borders or touches only one nation’s people. We are, as King said, “tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Despite the recent technological advancements, there is a long way to go to realize the possibilities that our world offers. As we toil to find answers to the challenges of today, we are invited to see that we all have inherited what King refers to as a “great world house” — a place of -social charity and civic community. This world house has the potential to be a place of familial togetherness where injustice is swallowed up in harmony. In a time of deep racism and inequalities, King was able to see the opportunities of the present -moment to build belonging across difference.

Inspired by King, we are attempting to give voice to the strengths of our particular corner of human history in our podcast. We hope that it will allow people to envision collective efforts where we all agree to generously and selflessly solve big problems inhibiting human growth and well-being.

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