WE WIN Together Week 2024: Celebrating Changemakers in St. Louis

Apr 29, 2024 | News

WE WIN Together Week 2024: Celebrating Changemakers in St. Louis

In the heart of St. Louis, amid its bustling streets and vibrant energy, an extraordinary gathering unfolded–WE WIN Together Week 2024. From April 22 to April 25, the Gateway City became a focal point of inspiration and collaboration as activists, innovators, and community leaders from across the nation converged for a transformative experience.

Hosted by the WIN Network, Communities RISE Together, and Well-being and Equity in the World, this annual gathering was themed “Being Better Ancestors in Turbulent Times.” Participants explored questions such as what or who motivates them to be better ancestors, reflecting on generational legacies of injustice like racism and economic inequality, and examining their personal connections to these legacies.

The week commenced with an intergenerational Hackathon for Social Change, where participants tackled pressing issues such as structural racism and health equity. The gathering showcased innovative solutions, with standout projects earning recognition and prizes.

Among the highlights, Algoma Venture Academy’s “Youth Only Team” developed a community platform for changemakers in rural areas, while D-ART created a game to illuminate structural racial inequity. #IcanENDthetrend focused on mapping racially disparate impacts from tobacco sales, and San Robinson’s work centered on educating healthcare providers about structural racism.

Throughout the week, hundreds of changemakers convened at the Urban League of Metropolitan Saint Louis and Saint Louis University, sharing strategies and forging connections. James Clark, Vice President at The Urban League, emphasized the importance of community partnerships in stabilizing neighborhoods.

To a standing ovation, Dr. Chico Tillmon, a prominent figure in the crusade against gun violence, captivated the audience with his poignant narrative. From enduring 16 years behind bars due to mandatory minimums to returning to his community in Chicago with a genuine commitment to instigate change, his journey inspired all.

The gathering united changemakers from diverse sectors, including public health, education, and policy, under the common goal of being a #betterancestor. Participants embraced a collaborative approach to address systemic injustices and create a nation where everyone belongs.

Jessina Thomas, Urban League-RISE Coordinator, warmly welcomed attendees with a message of unity and purpose, highlighting St. Louis’s pivotal role as a catalyst for positive change.

The week’s agenda was filled with activities designed to inspire and champion participants. The Hackathon for Social Change ignited with teams fervently working to craft innovative solutions. Throughout the week, gatherings, workshops, and site visits provided fertile ground for learning and collaboration.

Distinguished speakers like Somava Saha, founder of Well-being and Equity (WE) in the World and executive lead of the WIN Network, and Veronica Halloway, Retired Chief of the Center for Minority Health Services at Illinois Department of Public Health, challenged participants to envision a future where collective action propels meaningful change. Breakout sessions delved into topics like health equity and community strengthening, promoting dialogue and collaboration.

Moreover, the gathering spotlighted St. Louis’s rich cultural heritage and unwavering commitment to social justice. Participants engaged with local businesses and organizations, amplifying the voices of the city’s residents.

During the week, participants also traveled to communities near and far from St. Louis, including Ferguson, Missouri, and Alton, Illinois. In Alton, attendees met with influential figures such as Mayor David Goins, Chief of Police Jarrett Ford, and several other community leaders.This gathering catalyzed change, igniting discussions on pressing issues like youth violence and the pervasive influence of social media in perpetuating crime. Participants delved into the contrasting mindsets of “death before dishonor” vs. “what are you willing to live for?” Ultimately, the gathering affirmed the transformative power of visibility, validation, and genuine connection in shaping the lives of young people, embracing the conviction that by ensuring their voices are heard and valued, we can pave a path toward a brighter future.

During the visit to Ferguson, Calvin Terrell,  a powerhouse leader dedicated to educating individuals about healing historical trauma linked to race, class, religion, gender, and environmental disruption,  poignantly shared, “We toured St Louis’s beauty and horror of structural racism and classism sustained by civil engineering in a metropolitan area to reflect a dark age of European feudalism. Palatial mansions, stone churches, and statues of soldiers nestled in bombed out Black neighborhoods suffering in poverty was the path we discussed leading us to Ferguson.  A circle of all colors and kinds of peoples prayed, sang, and offered our lives to be better Ancestors under a large beautiful tree near where Mike Brown was murdered by an officer of the law.”

Reflecting on the impact of WE WIN Together Week, participants underscored the importance of visibility and connection in shaping the future. By supporting marginalized communities and addressing the root causes of injustice, they aspire to chart a course toward a brighter future for all.

Toward the end of the week, BetterAncestor.org was launched, giving participants an opportunity to join a global #betterancestor community and commit to making the world more abundant. 

As the week drew to a close, participants also had time to dance, create art, and reflect before departing imbued with a renewed sense of purpose and determination. While the annual gathering may have concluded for now, the spirit of collaboration and activism continues to resonate in the hearts and minds of all who attended.

Calvin, who also wore the hat of emceeing the dance party, shared, “Dancing and singing put us on top of the world as we celebrated on top of the Angad hotel in St Louis.  To be a good DJ is to read the room to move the crowd, I believe we are moving the world by reading realities better.”

Shemekka Ebony Stewart-Isaacs, founder of Black Girl Magic Market and author of “While I’m Getting Naked” and “Sanctuary Life: Reflections Of A Homeless Leader,” encapsulated the sentiment, sharing, “When you can shed those burdens you’ve been clinging to, getting naked becomes a liberating act that enables you to embrace your true calling.”

For many, WE WIN Together Week 2024 served as a poignant reminder of the potency of community and collective action in steering social change, offering an opportunity to carry forward the lessons learned and persist in working together to forge a more just and equitable world. Many participants left thinking about the world they’d like to leave behind for future generations, calling on themselves and each other to work toward creating this very future.


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