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Bridgebuilder Spotlight: Danielle Burris

This feature is a part of our “Bridgebuilder Spotlight” series where we lift up some of the amazing Bridgebuilders in our network. If you’d like to connect with Danielle or other Bridgebuilders, contact our Communications Lead: Adam Denney

“Community investment starts small, it happens in your own tiny space, then you build from there. One little bit at a time."

Danielle Burris is no stranger to speaking up for what she believes in. A self-proclaimed weirdo, Danielle likes to get her feet wet as an advocate and activist. Born in Missouri, Danielle relocated to Cincinnati thirty-two years ago and became vocal in her then home neighborhood of Norwood.

“Norwood was a sundown town. It wasn’t that long ago that if you were Black in Norwood, the folks there would chase you back across the train tracks into Evanston.” It is important for Danielle to let people know the history of neighborhoods in Cincinnati. As she said, “ I’m vocal because it is in my blood, it’s the right thing to do.” She wants to see change, and she isn’t afraid to speak up for it.

After graduating from Public Allies in the same year as Cohear’s Director of Organizing Nikita Anderson, Danielle worked as a job developer for a construction program designed to engage youth who had dropped out of high school to provide them with skill training and career pathways to the workforce. And when it comes to working with youth, Danielle is adamant about one thing. “Give me the rejects, the nerds, and the weirdos. Give me those awkward babies so I can teach them that it is okay to be you.”

Her time with Public Allies helped solidify her identity as an activist. At first, however, she wasn’t getting that feeling she thought others were having. “They kept saying to trust the process, but I wasn’t having one of those enlightening experiences.” But, then it hit. She started seeing a shift in her mindset, a little bit at a time, and learned how to focus her energy on those things that mattered most to her— specifically building community.

Now living in Avondale for the past two years, Danielle has started to get involved in creating micro-communities in her building and with her neighbors. “Being new in a place makes you a little bit of an insider/outsider. So, you have to start small to build investment, to build trust, one village at a time.” She feels that when we start with small steps, we can begin to make change within the inside that can then expand outward.

That is what brought her to participate in Cohear conversations. A long-time Bridgebuilder, Danielle is currently on the Metro Bus Rider Advisory Council where she helps Metro leadership invest and make better decisions on behalf of everyday experts. “It has been incredible to be a part of [Cohear’s] work, whether it’s something small like diversity in bus promotions or something life-changing like providing free PPE on the buses.” Danielle likes to see the little touches of impact within the city and surrounding areas that her engagement has helped support.

By engaging with Cohear and sitting down with local leaders, Danielle feels her sense of greatness and experience with using her voice has gone way up. “In the past I thought that insider knowledge and access to decision makers was reserved for the select few. My time with Cohear has shown me otherwise.” And this is why she plans on remaining a Cohear Bridgebuilder.

When we asked Danielle in her interview if she had any lingering advice for others, she was quick in her response. “Be weird. Embrace it.”


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