Wichita has put the burden of progress on the shoulders of a few. In 2018, let’s battle burnout by supporting influencers and shouldering our change.
TEAM LIFT: A NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION
We’ve all seen it printed on a giant cardboard box, warning us that we can’t do it by ourselves. This one is too heavy, too awkwardly shaped for one person. You need to find help. If you go it alone, you may use up all your strength and, even then, not get the job done. “Team lift,” the box says, with multiple stick figures combining their strength.
It’s a warning not only for moving heavy objects, but also for Wichita.
In the course of five days, Wichitans received two bits of sour news. On December 28, in a heartfelt Facebook post, artist and entrepreneur Kevin Wildt announced that he was stepping away from the We Are Wichita project that he founded in 2015. This pride-inducing effort celebrated Wichita’s creative community through long form articles, interviews, podcasts and iconic imagery. Now, however, it will serve as an online directory of Wichita area artists, as Mr. Wildt will no longer be actively publishing new content. As the primary creator for the project, which is but one of Mr. Wildt’s endeavors, he reached a point of exhaustion.
Four days later, on the first day of 2018, Alex Pemberton also took to Facebook to share his decision to end involvement with the Yellowbrick Street Team, an organization he founded in 2016. Yellowbrick Street Team sought to improve the livability of places in Wichita through acts of tactical urbanism. Guerrilla-style, grass roots projects, some of which displayed a healthy disregard for ordinances, helped open Wichitans' eyes to different ways to interact with their surroundings. Citing the personal cost, both financial and emotional, Mr. Pemberton is pivoting away to pursue other interests.
While disappointing, the seeming end of these two popular movements is not a defeat. Both organizations, and their founders, have made a significant impact on Wichita and generated progress towards overcoming our challenges related to perception and talent. They have engaged people in meaningful dialogue and ideation, while shining a light on the great potential of our people and places. That does not go away with We Are Wichita or Yellowbrick Street Team and neither will Mr. Wildt and Mr. Pemberton. They have planted seeds in the form of every volunteer and citizen who had the good fortune of experiencing their work, and those seeds will continue to blossom.
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The real concerning aspect of this recent news is the circumstances that led these two innovative thinkers to change direction. Exhaustion, frustration and the overwhelming weight of responsibility create a real struggle for those who strike out to make change. It sometimes feels like the Wichita way. We rely on influential people from the business community, our government officials or a handful of ambitious change agents to carry the load. Some things, however, are too heavy to lift alone.
The Wichita metro area is home to nearly 650,000 residents. Having the weight of progress rest on relatively few shoulders inevitably leads to the burden growing too great for these influencers to bear. This should bother all who want to see Wichita grow and prosper.
We can’t hold out hope for 10, 20 or 50 community leaders to solve our problems. We must cast a wide net to inspire and engage each other. More people need to pursue their passion projects and build on the work of those who came before. We shouldn’t mourn the loss of We Are Wichita or Yellowbrick Street Team. We should celebrate the impact they made and see them as a blueprint for future projects that bring even more Wichitans into a shared effort to fulfill our great potential.
“We are all Team Wichita.” That’s a phrase we use quite a bit at The Chung Report. It is more than just an applause line. It gets to the heart of the matter. Progress must involve as many Wichitans as possible. Some will always give more, sacrifice more, but getting more people involved will lighten the load on our change agents and enable us to team lift our city higher in 2018 and beyond.
— The Chung Report Team