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 Kendra or other Bridgebuilders, contact our Lead Organizer Nikita Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kendra Davis is passionate about supporting the people in her community. A Cincinnati-native, Kendra believes that community problems and their solutions are interconnected, but if she had to choose one issue to take up, ensuring that families have what they need to succeed would be at the top of the list.
“Supporting a mother and supporting a father, whether they are together or not, supports a child, and in turn supports the whole community.”
Never afraid to share her opinion, it was no surprise that she jumped at the opportunity to attend a conversation that Cohear was facilitating at the Evanston Recreation Center between residents and the CEO of the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Director of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation in Ohio. A resident of CMHA housing, she decided to go to conversation to “speak to the folks at the top.”
“There are a lot of things going on and I wanted to be able to speak to and actually see the person who makes the decisions that impact us.”
Kendra remembers feeling like that the expertise she had gained was clearly valuable for the decision makers in the room to hear. . “Some of them had clearly never heard these complaints before,” she recalled. That observation sparked her to invite other people to future conversations, determined to ensure that community voices were heard, “I didn’t know what was going to happen after the first meeting but I knew that it wasn’t the end.”
Kendra reached out to her sister-in-law, family members and friends and told them about the next Cohear conversation. “I told them ‘you need to come and talk to these people and let them know what’s actually happening in our apartments.’"
The power of conversations we facilitate is not just in the insights that the decision makers received, but the information that the everyday experts walk away with. Kendra witnessed that first hand with her sister, who was able to deny contractors entrance into her apartment based on the information that she received at that conversation: “She was able to tell contractors that they couldn’t enter her apartment without notice at 7pm, even though they had a key. She was a little bit more empowered after that conversation. Because of that conversation, she was able to get information that helped her in a real life situation.”
The game changing conversation for Kendra, however, was with the Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.
“Meeting with the Women’s Fund made me realize that there is really someone out there who cares for and sees women,” said Kendra. “And not only that, but there are people who believe that a key way to make change for women is by specifically helping black women. That’s amazing.”
After connecting with Lauren Jones, engagement officer at the Women’s Fund, the ball really started rolling. Kendra met staff from the Port Authority, ended up connecting with Vanessa White, Chief of Staff in Greg Landman’s office, and was recommended to take part in United Way’s Champions of Change program. Kendra was also one of the speakers for the Greater Cincinnati Affordable Housing Strategy effort’s kick-off meeting by sharing her story and the critical need for change.
“I’m a 32 year old woman in a city that I can truly say that I love. I never really felt like I could affect change or that my voice mattered,” said Kendra. “The fact that there is something out there like Cohear that’s saying ‘Hey don’t forget about the voice of the little guy...in fact, we’ll help you talk to the little guy and facilitate that meeting’...That’s awesome.”
This is just the beginning for Kendra. She’s on a mission to make sure that people in her community are represented.
“I want to make sure my dad isn’t left out. I want to make sure my sisters get an opportunity to shine. That those who don’t watch the news or can’t make it to a forum are educated and communicated to.”
We’re thankful for Kendra, her work as a Bridgebuilder and, more importantly, her vision and leadership as a passionate and dedicated member of the Cincinnati community. At its best, our work is about more than empowering new voices to have a seat at the table. It is about how the spark of that initial engagement can illuminate a path to leadership and influence for people who are motivated by the urgency and wisdom of their own experience.