Connecting innovative and radical individuals doesn’t jibe with the status quo, but throughout 2022, dozens of Positive Deviants from across the country were dismantling silos and building bridges towards grassroots change.
Co-created by The Collaboratory, New Sun Rising, and The Learning Tree, the series held three virtual retreats and two Deviant Dialogues with 11 guest speakers who are community leaders utilizing unconventional, yet creative and impactful strategies for positive transformation.
“When you see something in the world that just isn’t sitting right with you, you have two options: you can complain about it or or can step into your calling and say, ‘I’m going to make a difference. I’m going to change this. I’m going to be a catalyst for change in the world.’ And don’t let anyone believe you cannot,” said Michael Knote, founder of Have A Gay Day in Dayton, Ohio and Positive Deviant speaker.
Knote’s organization focuses primarily on the LGBTQ community to feel seen and loved where kindness is lacking. For his organization and other participants, the 2022 speaker series was utilized as a platform to raise awareness of these leaders and the impact their making.
Jmar Bey, co-founder of South Hilltop Men’s Group and Hilltop Rising LLC. in Pittsburgh, was a speaker during a 2022 retreat. He is committed to providing training, employment opportunities, and promoting environmental protection through community programs that teach sustainable practices.
“We’re building ladders in Pittsburgh to find solutions for the unemployment crisis. If not us, then who? The deviant collective has to do it for ourselves,” said Bey.
By elevating their stories, Positive Deviant’s aims to shift the narrative towards a deeper understanding of what is possible, and how we can achieve it.
“Fear is a prison that we all need to escape. When you think outside the box, people will tell you you’re crazy, but you’ll never move forward surrounded by naysayers,” said Tasha Rountree, a leading advocate for medical marijuana and marijuana expungement in Ohio.
While the speakers were a central component of Positive Deviants retreats, community members also participated in small group discussions to tease out the most common methods used by unconventional change agents to shift their state of being and inspire those around them. Those themes were analyzed and refined over the course of the year resulting in the Practices for Community Transformation.
Other 2022 Positive Deviant speakers included:
- De’Amon Harges, founder of The Learning Tree in Indianapolis describes his role on this planet as a social banker. He utilizes the intangible currencies that are cultivated and used by human assets and relationships to build a more abundant community. The bulk of De’Amon’s work is based on the principles and practices of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) that brings neighbors and institutions together to discover the power of being a good neighbor. De’Amon builds on what is already present and in place in the neighborhood, using those formally undiscovered assets to connect and empower rather than working only from the community’s needs and deficits.
- Brett Bartlett is a spoken word artist and activist. Her passion for Women and Gender Studies is a common theme in her work. Brett writes poems of survival- her target audience is folks who have survived domestic violence or assault and those that love them so that they can figure out how to best support them.
- Treble NLS is a multi-hyphenate Emmy Award winning artist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Treble currently works as the head teaching artist for 1Hood Media, a collective of artists and activists who utilize their medium to raise awareness and build liberated communities. He also has his own clothing line and is an Emmy nominated writer for his piece titled “Don’t Clip Our Tails” written in protest of the murder of George Floyd.
- Charlie Smith, is a futurist, author, transformation consultant and co-founder of Possibility Club. Charlie helps individuals and organizations find the courage to imagine breakthroughs and take uncharacteristic action to get what they want but don’t think they can have. His current interests are in the future of democracy at all levels of society, deep dives into the nature of collaborative innovation, conscious conversations, and podcasts to engage large numbers of kindred spirits and businesses.
- Taylor Stewart founded the Oregon Remembrance Project in 2018 to help communities unearth stories of injustice and engage in the truth-telling and repair required to reconcile instances of historical harm. His work connects historical racism to its present-day legacies in order to inspire contemporary racial justice action. In what started as simply a way to memorialize a man named Alonzo Tucker, the most widely documented African-American victim of lynching in Oregon, Taylor now uses the power of reconciliation to rectify further instances of historical injustice.
- “WILDSTYLE” PASCHALL is a musician, producer, visual artist, activist and author, Wildstyle is a great example of how we are more than what we see! As a producer, photographer and curator for All317HipHop, Roving Illustrator for The Learning Tree, and Central Indiana Community Foundation Ambassador, Wildstyle strives to make the invisible (issues, people, art) visible in Indianapolis. Wildstyle also uses his time to cultivate young hip hop artists to hone their skills like Jedi Knights. He promotes and manages them. He says that “if I don’t model how to be a productive person how can young people see how to be one?”
- Glenna Jennings is a passionate educator and activist whose teaching, research and service inform her dynamic, transdisciplinary practice of image-making, curating and socially-engaged creation. Her work in the local community focuses on food justice and social equity through collaboration.
- Amaha Sellassie is an afro-futurist, peace builder, social healer, freedom fighter, network weaver, student of cooperation and lover of humanity. An Associate Professor of Sociology and director of Center for Applied Social Issues at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio, Amaha is a practitioner-scholar dedicated towards building bridges of trust, healing historical wounds, and harnessing the unique gifts and talents of every human being as we press towards a just and equitable society.
The Positive Deviants community is excited to announce their first in-person Learning Journey on Thursday, September 14 through Saturday, September 16, 2023. If you are interested to learn more and join us please fill out the pre-registration form. Positive Deviants is an initiative of Dayton Collaboratory, New Sun Rising, and The Learning Tree. In order to get connected, partner, or support the Positive Deviants practitioners or project please email firstname.lastname@example.org.