Erin Barnes: Reflecting on this moment, and starting in our own backyards

Dear neighbors, 

I can’t describe how meaningful it is to be an Obama Fellow and learn from President and Mrs. Obama in these tumultuous times. The protests in support of the movement for Black lives have been incredibly inspiring, even as the state repression that follows is horrifying. It’s laid bare the brutality of our racist system, but it’s also reminded many of us that racism permeates deeper than our police and criminal justice system; we see it in our housing, our parks, our schools, our neighborhoods, and our healthcare system. 

With this national uprising in mind it was a tremendous honor to be able to ask Mrs. Obama last week the question that is most on my mind right now, and perhaps on many of yours, too: How can we use this moment when so many of our eyes are wide open to fight for racial justice in all aspects of our lives? 

Mrs. Obama said that the answer is to look to our kitchen tables, and to tend to our own gardens. She said that the first place you could start is in our own backyards. Her answer might be unsurprising to those of us who work on a daily basis to make grassroots change, but it was overwhelmingly validating and personally meaningful nonetheless to hear Mrs. Obama say that. I couldn’t agree more!

That’s the very reason ioby exists: to help our neighbors tend to their gardens, and nurture change where they are most able to, right in our backyards, block by block. We see the leadership of everyday neighbors create real, transformative change—people like Gwen Garth and Kaela Geschke in Cleveland, and Danny Glover, in Georgia, and countless others elsewhere. It reminds me that our work at ioby has just begun. 

So, take this as a gentle nudge or a small reminder. If you haven’t already, get started in your own backyard, and start today. Wherever you are, however you’re ready to show up in the fight for racial justice, you don’t have to go it alone; ioby has your back. 

See you around the neighborhood, 

Erin Barnes

CEO & Co-founder