“It’s like lightning and thunder. Shake and bake.”
The word ‘are’ is a linking verb, connecting a subject with other parts of a sentence to emphasize the qualifiers of that subject–what it is or what it is doing. But in the case of We Are Linden, ‘are’ is more than just a simple part of speech but rather the ethos of an organization that is putting ‘unity’ back in ‘community’.
We Are Linden strives to instill pride for the neighborhood residents, an idea that goes back to both a hashtag and a block party. Through programmatic services and resources tailored to youth and families, We Are Linden is building productive relationships and making positive impacts while “instilling pride within ourselves with being the A.R.E. in We Are Linden.”
For Ralph Carter and Londale Towns (the minds behind We Are Linden), advocating for the neighborhood is just in their nature. “We are both two little Linden boys who decided we wanted to make a difference.”
Like many historically Black neighborhoods, a new wave of changes, disinvestment, and gentrification have provoked long-term residents to question: who are these new developments and jobs for, and what place do we have amidst the changes over the last decade?
A.R.E. Actively Restoring and Empowering.
Carter and Towns told Cohear that too often, the people of Linden feel things are happening to them and not for them. And that is why We Are Linden has a focus on activating the community so that residents can begin to take back their ownership and pride in the neighborhood. It is about building momentum to do good for our family, household, and neighbors.
“We have to be active and continue to think outside the box and get creative. We Are Linden wants to be that motivator to help folks go above and beyond.”
We Are Linden is driven to restore equitable neighborhood growth one brick at a time. Restoring Linden for residents means shifting the through line. We Are Linden catalyzes the neighborhood to come out of the house and engage with one another; It is about taking those relational bonds and leveling up. “It’s easy to repaint a house, but just because you paint over something doesn't mean you're making it better.”
“When our neighbors are active and working alongside each other, restoring the foundation is just organic. it begins to seep in, to take over, as the building becomes repurposed, stronger, and unified.”
But the buck doesn't stop there. For We Are Linden, the thread that pulls everything together is increasing community and individual level empowerment. Building the foundation is an important and necessary step, but empowering others to keep going and building, is where the real magic rests. As Towns puts it, “If you look up empowerment in the dictionary, the word is described as giving authority and power to someone to do something.”
“Empowering Linden–Linden youth, families, and the Linden people–to keep going, to keep building, is what we do. They see the changes that are being made and then become inspired to keep going and to take Linden’s pride and ownership into their own hands.”
Relationship building is everything to We Are Linden and its founders. As Ralph explained, “You can’t get anything done without relationships, it's our genetic makeup, our fiber.” And expanding on these relationships led Ralph and Londale to a familiar face, Cohear’s Jasmine Ayres.
We Are Linden teamed up with Cohear and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in efforts to expand on their Healthy Neighborhoods Healthy Families initiative (HNHF). As Nationwide connected with Cohear to garner feedback and insights from the Linden community, it provided an opportunity for We Are Linden to place the empowerment piece back into the hands of the Linden community.
With the help of everyone involved, 40 community members aided in the creation of the One Linden Plan which focuses on the vibrant health and wellness of the growing Linden community. Youth success, workforce development, and access to housing are key building blocks to the One Linden Plan, and building relationships between Nationwide and the Linden community is the key.
“No matter where you are, you can’t get anything done within a community without having relationships and those relationships come with trust and care. Relationships break down barriers and is the ARE in We Are Linden.”
At the root of it all, We Are Linden is fundamentally restoring community-led responsibility to rebuild Linden into a collective voice. “We are aiming to remove the division and demographic barriers in our neighborhood. It’s not about North, East, and South Linden, it's about Linden because We Are Linden.”
When we asked Ralph and Londale what their vision is for Linden, it was simple. They want everyone to embrace, wholeheartedly, the love and powerhouse that is Linden. “We are inspiring others to get involved, one step at a time, one conversation at a time.”
To learn more about We Are Linden and to get involved, visit their website at: