We are Celebrating 20 Years of Service with 20 Stories of Impact
To Our Community,
When I contemplate telling 20 stories about One Common Unity (OCU) that span over the past 20 years, I think: we have to know our history. We have to remember, always, why we started this work and why we continue this work. When we are grounded in our history, we make sure we keep learning, growing, and improving. If we don’t tell our stories then either they will be forgotten or they will be misconstrued and used as ways to continue cycles of violence and oppression. The way we interrupt and break cycles of violence is by remembering how we’ve truly created alternatives that prove what is possible when we put in the work. We take a moment to reflect and honor the journey, one that was filled with triumphs and failures, but the process of reflecting is how we refuel, replenish, and gather our energy for the next 20 years! When we reflect on what we’ve done and how we’ve gotten to where we are today then we are able to see even more possibilities for tomorrow.
When I compare our amazing organization today to what it was 20 years ago, I see and feel the difference because it has grown so much! We have nearly 30 full-time staff and programs that spread all across Washington, DC. During the first 10 years, even though we were still creating deep impact, it was through smaller initiatives that were not being widely replicated. When we were still “small,” we were more nimble and had the ability, in some ways, to adapt faster. Yet, what we’ve sacrificed in our nimbleness, we’ve gained in our ability to impact culture and shape a larger local and national dialogue. We’ve elevated to shifting consciousness by raising awareness through our award-winning model programming.
Part of the ability for this “shift” is the attention we put into our Five Pillars: Artistic Expression, Social Emotional Literacy, Health and Wellness, Environmental Leadership, and Social Justice. As OCU formed from artists, healers, yogis, and educators, in our own personal, real worlds, the pillars were implicitly part of everything we did. When developing the Fly By Light curriculum we needed to make it tangible and digestible. At the time, codifying the pillars was a way to create order into the process of curriculum development. The pillars are truly the DNA of the organization; the thread that connects all of our programming from our inception 20 years ago.
Telling and sharing our collective stories is as important now as it ever was. When I think about our current programs and how they evolved out of OCU’s “small” beginnings, I’m filled with gratitude at the incredible trajectory.
For 20 continuous years, we have been creating powerful showcases where youth and adults share their mind-blowing talents and shine their artistic light with the world. For over 15 years, we’ve been producing music albums and videos, and documentary films with social justice messages. Since 2008, we’ve been facilitating life changing retreats into big nature and supporting youth and adults to get out of the city and become environmental stewards. In 2011, we started our now flagship youth program, “Fly By Light,” and today have a certification training program that goes along with our 190+ page curriculum. Just in 2018, the “Intention Room” was born where we create much needed safe-spaces for youth inside schools and are making restorative justice the new normal. And, most recently, in 2019 we began the Mental Health Services arm to our organization, recognizing the immense need for transformative, evidence-based holistic approaches to healing trauma. We now have full-time licensed therapists working with us to realize our mission of healing communities. I’m hoping that as people view, listen, and watch these 20 stories they’ll see how they’re connected to our humble beginnings and understand what’s possible when you don’t give up on a dream.
One Common Unity is truly a product of unwavering commitment, passion, selflessness, and love. It’s never been easy and we’ve made tons of mistakes along the way. Even around 10 years ago, when we considered throwing in the towel, every time we tried slowing down, something would happen in the community that only confirmed how important it was that we resisted, persisted, and existed. What has pushed us forward is that we never gave up, because we kept fighting for something bigger than just any one of us — that’s what makes One Common Unity. This organization is the epitome of resilience.
I believe these stories will help and inspire others to know that none of us are alone. We must share our stories in order to transform THE story. And we must commit to something bigger, bolder, and more beautiful than what currently exists in our world.
One Common Unity