“Why launch the Urban Proximity Initiative?”

One of the biggest hurdles Urban Alliances faces in advancing opportunities for those we serve is how often those individuals are looked at as the someone who we have nothing in common with. We all know this is far from the truth, but despite our efforts, it is too common to see the differences instead of the similarities. I would even venture to say this goes beyond just our space and into most of the spaces out there. The truth is we all have more in common than many would like to admit, in fact. The belief that we are different is at the root of many of the injustices happening in this country today. 

One of the most constant things that happens at Urban Alliance is seeing things and people who do not fit within the larger societal stereotypes, and often it is easy to assume the individual is the anomaly. Yet maybe, the stereotype is the anomaly, maybe the broad brush was brought out too quickly in an effort to advance a certain view, or maybe it was simpler to use the broad brush in order to uphold our particular view of the world. In this country we have a long history of racial oppression, criminalization of substance use, and mass incarceration. Our ability to name what is at the root of much of the gross injustices in this country is the path forward. 

I love the fact individual people and stories can break these systemic stereotypes. It doesn’t take much, for me it was singular stories around substance use, incarceration, and race that told me that what I had believed was the convenient line to believe. If single stories, and the people who are brave enough to tell them are a key to shifting the narrative, we should work to create space to have those conversations. 

Proximity is just that, space to learn, space to grow, space to understand. Through those spaces we can begin to see what is shared, what is common, and together we can begin to build a world where each individual is in control of their own narrative.  

A Note from Luke Kujacznski, Urban Alliance Executive Director

“Each year I am in awe with what can be accomplished through love, and this year is no exception. The work that was accomplished by this community makes me incredibly proud and hopeful. There were significant breakthroughs, there were challenges, but best of all, hope gained a foothold. Hope that together Kalamazoo can be a place where everyone can be successful, hope that systems are changing, and hope that love will prevail. As we wrap up 2018, and look forward to 2019, I see a lot of work to be done. However, we are not alone. The alliance of individuals working together is moving beyond an organization and into a movement seeking love and justice. Together we will create a community where every individual is valued.”

No Perfect Engagement

There is no perfect engagement…helping those in need never “looks” how we think it should, it never “feels” like we think it should, it never “works out” like we think it should. Helping those in need is not about those that help, success isn’t defined by “us” as much as we try to make it, success isn’t always obvious. It affects us and that is okay. Read more

The One I Messed Up

From the desk of Luke Kujacznski, Urban Alliance’s Executive Director

About three months after I started volunteering at Urban Alliance, the Executive Director at the time asked if I Read more

Another chance to succeed

At what point is it acceptable to give up on someone? At what point do we stop giving chances?

Our society has created a culture that gives up on others too early, and too often.

On a regular basis we have individuals that walk through our door completely hopeless. Nobody will give them a chance, whether that’s employers, services, or even their family.

Could you imagine being turned down multiple times every single day? Read more

Communicating the value that resides in every individual

At Urban Alliance, we believe that every single individual is valuable.

However, we can’t stop at believing; We must take action. Taking action requires Urban Alliance staff and volunteers to communicate the value that resides in each individual we encounter. It requires vulnerability. Read more

We believe every individual has value

We believe each individual has a unique value. They are a gift and a treasure. This view applies to every single person in our community, regardless of their past or current situation. We believe that by naming an individual’s value we speak to how they view themselves. Words and deeds are used to communicate this idea of value and, through this work, beautiful people begin to believe again in their own value. When an individual understands their value and that they are desirable, they become the most powerful instrument, not only in their own transformation, but in the transformation of their community.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation: Helping the community gain “Momentum”

Earlier this summer, thousands of Kalamazoo-area students graduated. But for a small group, the occasion was particularly momentous. These 16 individuals had reached a milestone in their lives: receiving their “diplomas” from Urban Alliance’s Momentum Neighborhood Employment Solutions program.  Read More

The most important conversation

This article was originally published on Linkedin.

I had an amazing experience a couple months ago, and after processing it all I decided I needed to share the contents of the conversation.

For a bit of background, I have been on a journey to understand the race issues in our country. More importantly I am working to understand the difference between being white or black, and what benefits there are to being white. This has led to some of the most uncomfortable conversations, readings, reflections that I have ever experienced. I have chosen to engage in this dialogue because I think empathy and understanding are critical to the work that Urban Alliance is doing, and I do not want to perpetuate any negative ideas or bias. Read more