You are now being logged in using your Facebook credentials

Supporting Leadership that Promotes Racial Justice

Written by Deborah Meehan on 01 October 2010.

The youth organizations, in coordination with the city of Oakland, provided safe spaces at five sites throughout the city where young people could meet, participate in peacemaking circles, use art, music, digital storytelling and radio to talk about what had happened and their feelings. The youth organizations provided multiracial teams of trained facilitators at each of the centers. People were also encouraged to attend a large demonstration being organized in front of city hall, and close by open mics were set up for young people under 25 to speak out. A coalition, “Oaklanders for Peace, Justice and Healing,” developed teams of peacekeepers trained in nonviolent communication and had 40 people in orange vests talking to the crowds and encouraging participation in peaceful opportunities to speak to injustice.


Those of us who believe that we can help to bring about change by supporting leadership have a lot to learn from the events in Oakland early this summer.  As thereport explains, “Focusing on the role of individuals in creating and solving problems does not look at the impact that systems have on the ways people behave and tends to attribute racism only to ignorance or hateful behaviors.”   Leadership programs need to mobilize broad action that promotes more systemic changes in the criminal justice systems, e.g. eliminating the Three Strikes Law, promoting community policing programs, or demanding changes in the demographic makeup of the police force to better represent communities served, and outlawing racial profiling.

If in our leadership work we are not helping people to understand and address the consequences of structural racism, we help to maintain it.  We hope this report, which was  produced as a collaborative project by the Leadership Learning CommunityApplied Research CenterCenter for Assessment and Policy Development,The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and EthnicityMP Associates and Social Policy Research Associates,  will help leadership programs that engage thousands of people every year to make an important contribution to a more just and equitable future for people of all races and ethnicities.  This report is part of theLeadership for a New Era Series, a collaborative research project launched by the Leadership Learning Community in 2009 to promote leadership approaches that are more inclusive, networked and collective.  For more information about the report, please visit


Deborah Meehan is founder and Executive Director of the Leadership Learning Community (LLC), a nonprofit organization focused on transforming the way leadership is conceived, conducted, and evaluated.  She is also one of the co-authors of the How to Develop and Support Leaderships that Contributes to Racial Justice report.



2006. The Covenant with Black America 1st ed., Chicago: Third World Press.

Quiroz-MartĂ­nez, J., HoSang, D., & Villarosa, L. (2004). Changing the Rules of the Game: Youth Development & Structural Racism. Washington, D.C.:

Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity.