After reading the letter I wrote to myself in week one, it is clear to see I have learned so much and grown significantly in just a short amount of time. While before I had a general understanding of the way most Detroiters do not benefit from economic development initiatives, I now have a much deeper understanding of the root causes of this phenomenon. I understand the work being done at organizations like ProsperUS to bolster small businesses and build community wealth in response. Even with all of my academic experience, before this internship, it never occurred to me that entrepreneurial justice—addressing disparities among entrepreneurs—is a form of social justice. Now, this is a realm of social justice that I can feasibly see myself working in, in the future.
One perception I had at the beginning of the program was that remote working would create barriers between getting to know my organization and building trust with community members. However, after adjusting, I was able to build relationships with the ProsperUS team members, and I felt welcomed and appreciated by my supervisors. I also believe the engagements with community members were not deterred by the remote aspect, as I was able to conduct meaningful and informative interviews with the fellows from the Tapestry program. After a few icebreaker questions, I feel that the fellows became comfortable sharing their stories and were happy to have their journeys shared. While I was correct in my assumption that my remote participation would make it difficult to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds, I was able to overcome this. I did so by creatively using the technology at hand and building rapport with my fellow DCERP interns, team, and community members. I was also worried about how I would apply my creative background to my tasks, given that it was remote. However, I was able to use my skills in designing the final deliverable of the report as well as creating and dispersing social media content for ProsperUS. My perceptions are overall more hopeful now, as I understand what working in the remote world looks like and feels like, and I know how to thrive within that space.
I am happy to say that the reality of this experience exceeded my expectations. I have evolved to become more confident in myself and my working ability, and I now feel more self-assured in my pursuit of a career in social justice. When I first began, I was nervous about interacting with professionals, and I was afraid to mess up. I did not know how well the experience would go as a remote program, and I was worried that I would not get as much out of it as I would have in person, or that I would not be able to contribute to my site as fully. After, I’m now comfortable sharing my ideas and acting as a contributing member of a team, and I feel much more confident in my interpersonal and professional skills. I have a better understanding of the structure of a non-profit, and all of the moving parts it takes to operate the entire organization. My contribution to creating a report for ProsperUS about their fellowship, will serve as a resource for future entrepreneurs and help them in improving future cohorts and obtaining future funding. Not to mention my work for their social media maintains the network of entrepreneurs that ProsperUS works with, and shares information about grant opportunities and resources for community members.
While I’ve had a passion for social justice for years, in the past, I have received negative sentiments from family members and friends when I describe that I wish to pursue a career working in this sector. This was discouraging to me, and I sometimes doubted myself. After working alongside professionals who strive for equity every day at ProsperUS, I have an objective understanding of what working in social justice in the real world looks like, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. One of the most comforting things I learned is that going into social justice can look like a regular job, that simply has the caveat of specifically helping underprivileged and historically oppressed communities. This revelation may seem obvious, but I feel it’s a pivotal moment for me as I map out what my future career can be. I can begin my job search in my senior year confident in pursuing social change as a viable path. Because of the influence from Ray, my site mentors, the guest speakers from other Detroit organizations, the DCERP fellowship, and my position with ProsperUS—I’m happy to say I feel even more encouraged and inspired to go into social justice, and join the movement for change.