How many of you think Garden City is exactly where it is supposed to be right now?
That question was one of many asked of an audience Monday during a talk by LaTosha Brown at Garden City Community College’s Dennis Perryman Athletic Complex.
Brown spoke at 10:30 a.m. to students and community members in accordance with Martin Luther King Jr. Day about the importance of community, and how to create a place that will make people proud.
“My wish around how we use this day is that we really reconnect and recommit ourselves to what is the best of us,” Brown said. “I believe — I say this with all my heart — that we can ultimately create the kind of America that we deserve. But we have to be honest that we aren’t there yet. I believe that we can create the kind of Garden City that every single citizen in this city deserves.
Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, an artist and activist, started by comparing Garden City to a garden.
“I heard about the amount of diversity that’s here,” Brown said. “What makes a garden beautiful is diversity, but what also makes a garden beautiful is when the flowers get what they need. You can’t have one side of the soil one way, and not the other side of the soil. All the soil needs water, and sunlight and fertilizer.”
When talking about King, Brown noted that before his death, King was not well liked, and that people really started to praise him after he died. King spoke about war and poverty — issues that Brown said were not popular among communities.
“I really want it to be a conversation with you and offer you all for us to think about this question: Where do we go from here? What kind of world are we trying to create?” Brown said.
Brown interacted with the crowd by asking them to close their eyes and imagine a world without racism. When the audience was told to open their eyes, and raise their hand if they could picture anything, few people did.
More people raised their hands when asked if they were not able to picture a world without racism.
“How are we going to create and shape a world without racism when we can’t even envision it?” Brown asked. “Even that exercise alone lets us know that diversity is not necessarily the evidence that there is a lack of racism. We’ve got to be honest in that conversation that diversity in itself does not solve the problem. It creates an opportunity for us to really lean into the issue.”
Brown said if the audience leaves with nothing else, she hoped they remembered the question of “Where do we go from here?”
“Where we go from here, you all will make the decision,” Brown said. “No, I’m not just talking about politics. I’m talking about our way and our being. How do we show up? Do we show up in the spirit that we are trying to advance the country to move forward? Are we showing up in a space of love?”
Brown again asked the crowd to close their eyes, but this time encouraged them to think about radical re-imagination.
“What would America look like if all human beings were valued?” Brown asked. “As we are talking about America there are a couple of things that I want us to think about. I think the first thing we gotta do is be honest. When we are talking about where we go from here, we’ve got to make the assessments of where are we. How many of you think Garden City is exactly where it’s supposed to be right now? How many of you think that Garden City has tremendous potential to be the greatest city in Kansas?”
Brown said the city already has great potential to grow and transform.
“As I’m looking out there, I’m looking at the diversity of the audience,” Brown said. “There is so much beauty that is already here. Ya’ll have a lot to work with.”
Brown closed out her talk with a quote from King: “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.
“I’m appealing to you that on this day, let’s not make this just be a celebration of our brother who is inspiring us years later and left such a big legacy,” Brown said. “But that we continue in that spirit of legacy of really creating a world of love for ourselves, for our children and for all of humanity.”