Engaging European Diversity
My experience with the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network (TILN) was, in a word, beautiful. Gün Tank (TILN 2013), Integration Commissioner for the City of Berlin, and Daniel Gyamerah, Head of Each One Teach One, invited me to facilitate a day-long workshop of alumni from two previous conferences -- which I was supported to do through an MMF Alumni Leadership Action Project grant. My goal was to help the young German leaders of color better understand their individual strengths and values, align those with their public policy goals, and leave the workshop knowing how they could help one another to achieve their goals. In addition to individual written exercises, small group discussion, and unconscious bias training, we also practiced a public policymaking technique as a large group—a technique borrowed from the Aspen Institute called Racial Equity Theory of Change. With everyone in accord, the energy in the room was palpable. I learned a great deal from the young leaders about Germany, global community, and the power of young people to change not just their world but the world.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to travel to Europe, I flew to the Netherlands to meet up with a fellow Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network participant Mpanzu Bamenga (TILN 2015). A City Councilman representing Eindhoven, he arranged meetings for me in Amsterdam and The Hague with police officials, U.S. Embassy staff, Parliament policy staff, and a cadre of community activists to begin a listening tour on policing reform that will ultimately lead to joint policy recommendations. Councilman Bamenga and I also worked in Eindhoven on a piece of municipal anti-discrimination legislation that seeks to improve the under-reporting of discrimination. The proposed legislation would eliminate unnecessary barriers to reporting, strengthen the powers and resources of the monitoring agency to investigate complaints, and seek to increase public confidence in the reporting process. This was among the most productive 72 hours I have ever spent.
Conversing with locals about their life experiences and passions through this GMF experiences, I learned a little something about my own passion. I love figuring out how to make government better--and not only to work better, but to be better by carrying out its promises to all of its citizens. My time helping craft legislation and train the next generation of policymakers has inspired me to learn more and work even harder to make positive changes at home, and prepare to return to Europe with something new to contribute.
Ajenai Clemmons, Transatlantic Inclusion Leader 2015 and Marshall Memorial Fellow 2016, is the Policy Director at the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.