A few days ago, I read about Beyonce’s New Year’s gift to her “girls”–her closest friends. The gift is a diamond-encrusted necklace which has “2020” in the shape of a hand giving the middle finger.* My first reaction was to yell “YASS, Sis” in agreement that 2020 was an exceptionally challenging year. But, as I meditated on all that we lost in 2020, I also had to acknowledge all that we have gained, particularly the awareness that we are all interconnected. It’s through those connections that we learn, we grow, and we thrive. That is exactly what Power of Two is all about and 2020 brought that fact into even sharper focus.
Like many nonprofit organizations, the pandemic threatened to throw us into a tailspin. But, thanks to our deep roots in community; the fervent belief in the power of relationships; and support from a legion of allies (I see you and thank you)–we were able to pivot our in-person programming to a digital platform. To support that digital platform we provided our families access to broadband and mini-ipads and we were able to successfully engage and support a total of 1,246 families in 2020. While that in and of itself is cause for celebration, what was most rewarding was seeing how 80% of parents increased in sensitivity to their children’s behavioral and emotional cues after taking part in our program. In a year of unprecedented uncertainty, instability and stress, this positive increase is yet another profound example of our families’ remarkable dedication to their children’s healthy development.
This year, we also grew into our role as a connector for families as we tapped into our expertise in asset mapping and relationship-building. Thanks to this expertise we connected families to groceries; baby essentials; health care; rental assistance; public benefits; and mental health services. We also partnered with local Community Boards to develop accessible messaging regarding COVID, safety protocols, and testing.
As summer arrived and the national consciousness shifted towards police brutality and oppressive, punitive policies targeting communities of color — a reality all too familiar for our communities–Power of Two doubled down on its efforts to support those most affected. As an organization led by a woman of color and serving families of color–81% of whom have direct or indirect experience with law enforcement and the criminal justice system through a parent, partner or other relative–we knew that we needed to actively engage in conversations that imagined a new reality for our communities. To do so, we partnered with 30 grassroots organizations in Brownsville to create the Ocean Hill Brownsville Equity Coalition (OBEC) that seeks to identify and dismantle anti-Black racist policies and practices that have perpetuated cycles of trauma in our community. In July, OHBEC made substantive recommendations on police reform that have been shared with local, state and national elected officials and is currently finalizing its recommendations for health equity in Ocean Hill Brownsville.
In addition to participating in OHBEC, we expanded our Community Ambassador initiative which provides graduates of our parent coaching program with opportunities to receive training in community history; critical race theory; child development; early childhood; social determinants of health; policy development; and advocacy practices. This effort responds to our graduates’ desire to continue to engage with Power of Two. It is also indicative of their interest in expanding their knowledge of the policies and practices that affect their families and in being empowered with the means to drive the change they want to see in their communities.
This year we once again hosted our Annual Winter Wonderland in Brownsville and while it couldn’t be held in person, we tapped into our culture of resourcefulness to create a fantastic virtual holiday extravaganza for close to 400 children and their families. Additionally, families also received–delivered directly to their door–holiday boxes full of gifts for the children, custom made masks with HEPA filters, and bundles of groceries. We are so grateful to our partners, donors and volunteers for their willingness to help and for their generosity this holiday season.
None of these accomplishments this year would have been possible without our remarkable team that leaned into the work of supporting our communities even while navigating the challenges in their own lives. Their commitment was both humbling and energizing and reminded me of the importance of prioritizing compassion to ourselves. To support our team, we implemented a host of practices and dedicated resources to tackling the effects of toxic stress and racial trauma on our professional and personal well-being.
This important work is also happening in conjunction with the implementation of our five-year strategic plan- launched with support from The Sirus Fund and facilitated by Community Resource Exchange (CRE). Our strategic plan focuses on the exploration of 4 key strategies: Growing Our Organizational Impact, Increasing Our Visibility and Influence, Ensuring Our Financial Sustainability, and Improving Administrative Infrastructure. To learn more about our Five-Year Strategic Plan click Here.
While I agree with Beyonce that 2020 wasn’t easy and the losses that we endured have been great, I will nevertheless opt to conclude the year celebrating the gems that we amassed: our interconnectedness, our shared sense of purpose, and our communities’ resourcefulness and strength. And as we forge forward together into 2021, those gems will continue to serve as our beacon, come what may.