This Bridgebuilder Spotlight is one of a three part series highlighting the Columbus organization We Are Linden and the minds behind the work.
“You're doing Community work? I’m doing community work.”
Growing up in Linden, Londale Towns and Ralph Carter were neighborhood pals. They were both involved in community engagement projects and played on the same little league team. And while separate high schools put a temporary distance between them, their story together was far from over.
“We didn't know it at the time, but there was a bigger reason we were separated in high school.”
After graduating high school, Londale moved to Kentucky to attend Kentucky State University, an HBCU in the KY capital of Frankfort. Londale is a hands-on, get your feet wet, kind of guy. He became highly involved in KSU’s student government and served as president of the organization during his Freshman year. He also became active in Alpha Phi Alpha where service projects put him back in the swing of what he always loved to do, inspire and impact the lives of everyday people. It was also with Alpha Phi Alpha that Londale got to know the ends and out of working within a 501(c)3.
At KSU, Londale wanted to understand more about local legislation. With some hands-on experience through student government, Londale became active outside of the university and within the larger Frankfort community. He served on the Kentucky Board of Regents, a similar governing structure as the city council body in Columbus, where he did a lot of direct consulting with the Governor in Kentucky.
Through his involvement both inside and outside of KSU, Londale and his peers worked to champion Black equity through entrepreneurship and in his tenure saw the creation of 6 Black-owned restaurants, 3 shoe stores, and a book store in Frankfort. He was on a mission to utilize his time to make a lasting impact on the state capital. “I am already here, why not make it feel as homely as possible?”
“This was our effort, to make a lasting difference in Kentucky by empowering and investing in the people, in Black Kentuckians. Those that didn't like it saw a Black college making noise and doing things in the city, changing people’s thoughts and empowering each other. There was some push back, but we kept rocking.”
After KSU, Londale returned to Columbus where he began to join ministry forces with his father, a local pastor in the Linden community. From sunset to sundown, Londale and his father were witnessing their faith across the neighborhood. “Seeing people praise God without a roof over their head or who have been without food for a day, it was a different type of atmosphere and witness.”
But also during this time, Londale was having a bit of a culture shock. The Linden he knew and loved was impacted by neighborhood disinvestment. “It was a reality check. I saw my friends in jail, people I grew up with who were thrown into cycles that were impacting the Linden community as a whole.” Something was going on, and Londale was ready to step up.
He began to take what he had learned at KSU and reconnected with some mentors within the Columbus legislative system. Londale was riding the wave of building the Linden community up and he realized that aside from being active at the local governing level, he wanted to focus his passion and love to inspire the youth of Linden.
“I wanted to encourage the next generation of change makers in our neighborhood.”
While Londale was moving to focus on Linden’s youth, he reunited with his old friend Ralph, someone who was doing similar work just on another side of the Linden neighborhood.
“We reconnected and realized that we were both doing community service and work. So we began to strategize something, something we never lost sight of which was instilling pride back into Linden.”
And thus, the beginning of a new chapter began to flourish as Londale and Ralph began to, “dot some i’s and cross some t’s” laying the foundations of We Are Linden.