Orienting the New Schweitzer Fellows

By Artina Dozier-Gage

On April 1st we formally welcomed our new cohort of Schweitzer Fellows to the Authority Health family. The group presents as passionate and optimistic about their work and the impact it can have with underserved communities. They bring with them a real sense of focus and commitment to their mission. We’ll have much more on the group and their respective projects to come.

However, as to their orientation we reached back into our community here in Detroit and invited Orlando Bailey from BridgeDetroit to serve as the keynote speaker for the occasion.

Mr. Bailey gave a passionate account of his experience both growing up a member of the community and now as an activist with the goal of serving the community.

Mr. Bailey spoke about how important it is for anyone going into a community in which they are not a member to gain real appreciation and respect for the knowledge and experiences that the members of those communities already have within them. Mr. Bailey went on to introduce the cohorts to the philosophy behind the meaning of ‘allyship vs saviorship’, that is the understanding that BIPOC communities have the ability, knowledge, and experiences to help themselves and that as a community volunteer or activist you should not assume that you have the solutions to problems that you yourself or your community have not experienced or dealt with firsthand.

He shared intimate details of his experiences as child watching his elders, including his grandmother engage in community discussions; he also shared less flattering moments that he experienced during his early days as a community activist; interactions that he now cherishes for the lessons that they provided, such as not assuming that he has the right to speak on behalf of a community without the consent of the members of that community regardless of the best possible intentions. It is perhaps this particular lesson taught to him by a member of the community in which he had been working at the time that resonates most to his message that the opportunity for volunteers or allies to learn from the community in which they serve is perhaps far greater than any chance of them teaching or bestowing knowledge unto that community.