We have been careless. It’s time for that to change.

The following post is written by Rev. Denise McKinney

I remember one of the first times I was careless with another person. It was first grade, and my friends and I were walking home from Manor Heights Elementary on a snowy Wyoming afternoon. A group of boys that lived nearby began pelting us with snowballs. The next day, the pelting began again. I remember feeling what could be described as a 6-year-old’s indignation and decided that I would seek justice the following morning. 

So my friends and I asked to go to see our principal, Mr. Rock, at the start of the school day. When we shared our saga of mistreatment, the principal called in the group of boys for questioning. They defended themselves and gave their side of the story, which included that we began the conflict several days earlier by piling up snow on the slides as they were going down during recess. 

Then Mr. Rock’s demeanor changed. He got up and retrieved a paddle that said “board of education.” Fear seized my heart. Suddenly I was in danger of getting a spanking from my principal as a tender first grader! He looked at all of us and asked if we could work it out to treat each other better or if we needed help from the board of education. Everyone quickly agreed that we could figure out a way to coexist peacefully on the playground and on the way home!

In my defense, I thought the snow piling up on a slide was harmless fun so it didn’t even occur to me that it could be used against me. However, boys throwing snowballs at my head crossed the line. But I can only guess that they were responding with what they thought was fun. I appreciate Mr. Rock’s response because I know now he probably never intended to spank us. He wanted to make a point about the consequences of careless actions. Without a lecture, he communicated that a cycle of retaliation and blaming does not end conflict, it spurs it on.

That childhood memory surfaced Wednesday as I watched and read about the violence in our nation’s Capitol. Of course I know the difference between a child’s early lessons in getting along with others and the costly lesson learned Wednesday about the deterioration of our country’s unity over years of growing polarization. The chasm of intent, guilt and consequence between the two stories spans between little ones who are learning to know a better way and grown humans who should know better. But what holds these two events in tandem for me is that human trust and empathy are broken when we are careless with one another.

One was a momentary life lesson. The other represents the most egregious grown up version of that lesson not being learned. The survival of our republic and the soul of our nation are both hanging in the balance of us choosing to be careful over being careless with democracy, with our neighbors, and with conflict.

Careful: anxious to protect (something) from harm or loss;  and the definition of careless: not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors.

The Oxford Dictionary

My fellow Americans, we have become careless. We have not given sufficient attention to the harm we are inflicting on each other with political retaliation and inflammatory language. We have not given wise thought to how exaggerated divides are robbing us of shared identity. We have not been willing to admit the errors of government, structures, or relationships that perpetuate polarization and pit people against each other as only binary winners and losers.

As a part of the One America Movement Board for several years now, I have learned that it takes care to listen to opposing views and groups to find common ground. I have witnessed the cultivating of deeply-rooted friendship and healing when we begin with fully caring for people we don’t understand or think we won’t like. Much like my little lesson in elementary school about fighting for my rights and beliefs concerning snowballs and snow piles, we must be willing to acknowledge the whole story—and our part in it—if we are to figure out a way forward. What we may see as harmless or someone else’s fault may very well be something we still bear a responsibility to change.

I feel like Wednesday was our nation’s visit to the principal’s office. The oceanic depth of our fractured democratic story was laid bare. The hard question we must answer is whether the pain of this undeniable reality is now enough to move us towards a care for one another that restores and reconciles.

My hope is that we would be so careful—so filled with care for protecting the well-being of our neighbors and nation—that we can hardly sleep when unity within either is threatened with polarization.

My prayer is that it would be impossible for us to enjoy our own freedom while someone else is being oppressed or treated as less than.

My challenge is that we be willing to listen to the story of another before we decide they are trying to ruin everything for us.

The reality is that we are not as far apart as hyperbolized rhetoric and social media echo chambers make us think we are. We have so much in common. And we could share so much more and be richer for it personally and nationally. But first, we have to learn to be careful with one another because a few snowballs may seem harmless, but blizzard after blizzard of carelessness can ruin us.

We should remain restless, anxious, unsatisfied and maybe even a little sleepless until we see the icy hatred that has been building melt and that care-filled culture flourishing in all the places each of us can help make it happen.

Rev. Denise McKinney has been a youth, worship and connections pastor over the last 25 years. She started The Well, a dinner church in Tulsa OK in 2020 (yes in the middle of a pandemic!) She is the author of Mile Markers: A Path for Nurturing Adolescent Faith. She is passionate about connecting people in relationship and mission and serves on the One America Movement board.

One America Voices: Alden Groves

Alden Groves

Charlottesville, Virginia

Regional Coordinator (Virginia), One America Movement

 

Q: You grew up in Philadelphia and then went to South Carolina for college. What was that transition like?

A: I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into when I stepped out of the car for freshman orientation at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. I didn’t know any country songs, I said “you guys” rather than “y’all,” and I’d never had sweet tea (once was more than enough for a lifetime). That first night, I lay awake long into the night, certain I’d made a huge mistake.

But I was profoundly shaped by my time at Wofford, and I look back on those four years with gratitude. Philadelphia is ocean blue. Spartanburg is tomato red. If I hadn’t spent significant time in both places, I think my relationships and worldview would be much narrower. In both contexts, I encountered people with very strong views different than my own. And I came to love people “on both sides.” In an age where we all seem to end up in echo-chambers if we’re not constantly vigilant, I’m thankful to have people—liberal and conservative—who challenge me and push me to think deeply about my beliefs and extend grace to those who disagree with me.

 

Q: You moved to Charlottesville, VA the weekend of the white supremacist rally…What was that like, and what does it have to do with your role with One America?

A: “Do you regret moving here?” my friend asked me during that first week. My wife and I were unpacking boxes and trying to find our bearing in a city reeling from heartbreak. Charlottesville was silent and felt heavy everywhere we went, as if a great cloud hung over the city.

I considered the question and then replied, “No, I don’t regret it.” And I really didn’t. From the first, I felt like I had two choices: I could write the timing of our move off as horribly ironic, or I could see it as an opportunity to join our neighbors in the effort to seek healing and pursue hope in the face of tragedy. I chose the latter. In that spirit, I was drawn to the One America Movement. Now, as the One America Movement Regional Coordinator of Virginia, I have the opportunity to daily help people build relationships across divides and take action together to turn their communities toward love rather than hate, hope rather than fear.

 

Q: You gather people on a regular basis to play basketball and watch movies together. What is the deal with that?

A: Both are inherited traits. My dad used to say that basketball was “nature’s perfect sport.” Frankly, I never knew what that meant, but he loved it and taught me as a kid that basketball—and sports in general—can do so much to transcend divides and bring people together. So now I round up anyone with an ounce of interest (and often less than an ounce of athleticism) and drag them to a local court. It’s amazing how well you can get to know somebody just by playing pick-up basketball with them every week.

Movies are the same deal, just a different crowd. Another idea borrowed from my parents, movie-and-discussion-nights have become a monthly staple in our house. People from many different walks of life come together in our living room to share the mutual joy of watching a film and taking time to think deeply about what it might say about us as humans.

If you’re ever in Charlottesville, bring your basketball shoes and your appetite for popcorn and come on over!

Pain and Promise: One Muslim’s Reflections on New Zealand

By Areesa Somani

My experience as a Muslim has always involved building bridges of understanding.

From as early as I can remember, my family and I have been in churches. My mother sang hymns in an Episcopalian boarding school as a child. Growing up, I thumbed through Bibles and hymnals in evangelical sanctuaries during holiday services, piano recitals, and choir concerts. For my undergraduate studies, I chose Seattle University, a Jesuit institution of higher learning. I was the sole Muslim in the university chapel choir, singing in Mass every Sunday. I flew to Zambia two years later to work at a Catholic school in Lusaka.

But as much as my experiences introduced me to diversity and complexity, they made me a target for the disdain and suspicion that often surrounded people of my faith.

In church sanctuaries, my beliefs and way of life were sometimes met with hostility or calls for conversion. In middle and high school, classmates and strangers called upon me to make sense of acts of terror. In college, one internship supervisor demanded that I answer for terrorism. I became a target of hate speech on my college campus. Chapel choir no longer felt safe, and I left without explanation.

The truth is that my ability to practice my faith freely has never felt free.

So in a world where Muslims are judged often and with ferocity, I can only imagine the noor, the light, that Hajji-Daoud Nabi held as he stood at the door of the Al-Noor mosque that day, welcoming his brothers, his sisters, and a new stranger.

The belief that kindness is thereif you just open the door.

For many Muslims, it may be tempting to spurn the ideals that leads us to suspend suspicion and open our hearts. But my ultimate appeal is this:

We are never wrong to be and to live as exactly who we are.

We are never wrong to assume goodness in other people.

We are never wrong to open the door.

My experiences as a Muslim have not been easy. But as much as Islam has brought the bitterness of others into my life, it has brought beauty. I have gained a unique appreciation for the complexity facing Muslims today, and I have grappled with how to best represent my values without serving as an ambassador of Islam. I hold gratitude for the friends, coworkers and neighbors who value my right to be who I am.

I genuinely feel that the world is coming to know us for the humanity we represent. It is just not fast enough.

The world feels less welcome today. As much as I hold our pain, I offer our promise. And Inshallah, our hope will be rewarded.

My Year With One America

By Areesa Somani

 

Last month marked my one-year anniversary with The One America Movement. And reflections on complexity are on my mind.

I traveled across Oklahoma, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Charlottesville this past year. I’ve learned a lot. But above all, I’ve learned that it’s much easier to conceive of your enemy as a caricature than to be forced to grapple with their complexity.

The neuroscientists and peacebuilders I work with teach us that as a species, we gather in groups to survive. We fought warring tribes, then and now. We naturally put others into boxes. We hate complexity. And that’s why work that humanizes is important.

I’m really proud to be doing work that pushes the needle forward. Because in the process, that work pushes me forward too. Every day I’m forced to question my deepest-held truths and the universality of my experiences. Every day I learn something new about Americans and about myself.

I’ve learned about people. The faithful Democrats. The faithful Republicans. The single-issue voters. The activists. The evangelicals. The disengaged. The frustrated. The angry. The hopeful.

The more righteous we get, the more mistakes we make. I make my share every day. But because of this work, I’m constantly falling and rising in my approaches. And most importantly, my heart is constantly changing.

Isn’t that the point of all of this?

One America Voices: Andrew Hanauer

Andrew Hanauer

Washington, D.C.

Director, One America Movement

 

Q: What in your personal life brought you to the work you do as Director of One America?

A: I heard Arthur Brooks, the head of the American Enterprise Institute, interviewed on the radio recently and he talked about how he has a mix of liberal and conservative people in his family. Polarization means, he said, that no matter who is being attacked, “it’s somebody I love.”

I feel the same way.

I was raised in a progressive, secular Jewish family and later converted to Christianity. I have family members who voted for Trump and Clinton (and neither). Family and friends who are black, brown, white, Jewish, evangelical Christian and Muslim. I don’t want to see any of them mistreated. I love and care about all of them. And while polarization, racism, dehumanization and hate impact them in different measures and in different ways, it matters to me that we hold on to the fundamental ideal that every human being has inherent dignity and value.

I believe that’s what the work of One America is all about.

 

Q: Tell us about howOneAmerica has evolved since faith leaders founded the organization. What stands out?

A: When we launched One America in Spring, 2017, we had a sense that bringing people together through action could be a game-changer. And we knew we had a model for multi-faith engagement that was fundamentally different and could reach communities typically leery of “interfaith” work. We knew we had a board and leadership that were unique. It’s one thing to build a board of 20 people who all agree on gun control or immigration or abortion. It’s quite another to build a board that’s intentionally politically, racially and religiously diverse. That’s not normal. We knew we were on to something.

But what really changed and what really made a huge difference for us was the partnerships we formed with experts: social scientists, neuroscientists, academics and researchers, people who have been confronting division and conflict in other countries, including countries stricken with violence. They affirmed us in the areas where we were getting things right, helped us grow and improve in the areas where we weren’t and really gave our work the scientific support it needed to ensure that what we’re doing is as impactful as possible. I can’t say enough about our partners at Over Zero and Beyond Conflict in particular, who are both doing extraordinary work.

Q: One America is growing. Where do you see it going?

A: Everywhere! I feel very lucky to work every day with incredible women and men dedicated to doing the difficult, messy, complicated, inspiring, frustrating, impactful work of bringing people together across divides. When 2018 began, we had a staff of one. Me. Now we’re hiring staffers #4 and #5, including a Regional Coordinator who will launch projects and chapters all across the Mid-Atlantic. We’re hoping to hire Regional Directors all over the country and really scale up this work to meet the scope of the challenge.

We don’t have to put up with broken, divisive politics and government. We don’t have to hate each other because our favorite cable news shows tell us we do. We don’t have to ignore the most important issues impacting us to bridge divides. On the contrary – we can, and must, come together to confront the challenges we face. That’s what we’re doing, and I’m so excited to see that work growing.

One America Voices: Denise McKinney

Denise McKinney

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Worship and Community Pastor, Redeemer Covenant Church

1. You are the Worship and Community Pastor for Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tell us about that. 

A: Redeemer has been where I have been in ministry for about 18 of the last 25 years. I started out as the youth pastor to middle and high school students for over a decade. Today I have the privilege to lead and encourage the staff & volunteer teams for three areas: creating space for people to experience the presence of God in our worship services, encouraging deeper community together through our Life Groups and supporting people during sickness and difficult seasons through our care ministry. I am also on the preaching team and do the initial follow-up with guests after they visit.

2. You are part of the One America Movement board. What sparked your interest in our bridge-building work? 

A: When you work in a church, much of social and vocational life can revolve around just that place. I have been on a personal journey this decade of recognizing how insulated my Christian experience has been. It was really two different things that set my path leading to the One America board: 1) discovering the diversity and richness of ethnicity, faith and cultures at my children’s schools and 2) a few seminary courses that framed the incredible hospitality of the early Christian church. Both helped spark my passion for offering genuine and life-giving hospitality that truly changes how we see and treat each other.

My mom and dad modeled this kind of hospitality by fostering children for twenty years. They literally welcomed fragile strangers into their home, taught us to share our stuff, our space, and even our parents with children who could not go home. Their willingness to give time, energy and resources where it can sometimes be disruptive, messy and challenging has shaped much of my ministry practice.

So, when my friend, Scott Cooper, called and asked if I had any interest in One America’s bold mission, I definitely wanted to learn more. Then, all it took was a conversation with Andrew Hanauer to realize that One America’s vision for bringing people together to make tangible change in how we understand and help each other was in rhythm with my own hospitality heartbeat. It just made sense to get involved!

3. What is the best part about living in Tulsa?

A: That’s an easy one! Tulsa is experiencing a wonderful renewal that I think is encouraging unity across our city to grow. Our downtown area is flourishing with food, music and cultural venues that invite people from across the metro area to come and enjoy. The Gathering Place (https://www.gatheringplace.org) is an amazing riverfront park that just opened in early September and it’s purpose is to bring Tulsans together and strengthen our community. You can’t help but smile when you walk around and see how wonderful it is! Lastly, one of my favorite parts of Tulsa is our running/biking trail system that pretty much encircles the city. As a runner, I love being able to easily access the trails a few blocks from my house.

One America Voices: Anna Robinson

Anna Robinson

Martinsburg, West Virginia

Program Coordinator, One America West Virginia

1. You hail from Martinsburg, West Virginia. Tell us about your hometown.

A: There’s so many different things that I can say about Martinsburg as a city. I could talk about the fact that it’s historic, it’s also pretty small compared to most American cities with almost 18,000 people, and it’s one of the fastest growing cities in West Virginia. But Martinsburg to me is home, so in addition to those things, it’s so much more than that.

Martinsburg is the epitome of an American small town. Growing up, everyone knew everyone and seemingly everything about everyone – which can be considered a bad thing, but it can also be a very good thing. It felt like we were all connected in a way, almost like an extended family. We always looked out for one another, and I always knew — no matter where I went — that I had someone in my corner. 

The people in Martinsburg offer a support system like no other. You see it from the dedicated fans like my father who go to almost every home Bulldog football and basketball game. You can see it on social media from people who love to share the news about kids who grew up here and went on to do great things. You can see it when tragedy strikes, and people come around to give a much-needed hug or offer a word of encouragement. 

I love that about Martinsburg. We’re pretty close-knit. 

2. As the Program Coordinator for One America West Virginia, you will be coordinating One America‘s fight against opioids in your hometown and the surrounding area. Tell us about your new job?

A: When I saw the posting for the Program Coordinator position, I immediately thought that it was a perfect fit for me. I think that my desire to work in a more humanitarian environment coupled with that fact that the opioids project is taking place in the Eastern Panhandle, just seemed too good of an opportunity for me to pass up. As many of us know, the Eastern Panhandle (specifically Berkeley County), my home, has been greatly impacted by the opioid epidemic. There was a time where I didn’t go a day without seeing that someone had lost their life or been arrested for selling or doing heroin in Martinsburg on social media, which really broke my heart.

The fact that I actually ended up landing this position is great because now I can do something about it. As the Program Coordinator, I’ll be working with churches, members of the community and anyone who wants to get involved to fight the opioid epidemic by bridging some of the divides that exist among groups in our rather polarized country. I’m really excited about this job because I’ll be coordinating different service projects and events (and event planning is a love of mine) to get people talking and working together to fight a common enemy in my hometown.

3. What do you do for fun?

A: I really enjoy photography. I am by no means an expert, but it’s something that I picked up when I was in college that I really liked. Taking candid photographs of people is my favorite thing to do because you can tell a genuine story in just one image — a story that may be interpreted differently by everyone who views it. Photography is interesting because you can capture moments that will never happen again, but the photograph holds this memory that shows the excitement, joy, sadness or pain that people were experiencing at the time. I guess you could say that photos are almost like little time capsules.

I also love to binge-watch a good tv show. I recently finished Castle Rock on Hulu, which is a new Steven King-inspired show. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s geared me up for the new season of American Horror Story!

One America Voices: Samantha Owens

Samantha Owens

Washington, D.C.

Trainer, Over Zero

1. You work at Over Zero, an organization that works to reduce and prevent identity-based violence. Can you tell us about your role there?

A: Happily! I am the Trainer at Over Zero, which entails everything from building partnerships to delivering in-person trainings. As an organization, we focus on the role communication plays not just in fueling violence, but in preventing violence, like you said, and building peace. We all work together pretty closely, which I love, but I would say my specific focus within the ‘big picture’ is figuring out who to engage and how best to work with them. The goal is to identify actors already working in this space and/or groups and individuals who have the potential to make a really tangible impact in their communities, then equip them with insights and tools that will be useful in their efforts to counteract divisive communication and communication that targets specific groups based on their identities.

2. You spent over a year in Sarajevo researching conflict at the Post-Conflict Research Center. Tell us about that.

A: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is a really interesting case study in what ‘peace’ really is and how we define it. Active conflict in BiH ended over two decades ago, but many would argue, and I would probably be one of them, that the ‘peace’ there is actually in a lot of ways a frozen conflict. The country’s political infrastructure is built on segregation and division and, largely as a result of that, we see interethnic tensions once again increasing. During my time working in peacebuilding there, I would say the biggest lesson I learned was to never take peace for granted. Peace takes a lot of work, and we see that across contexts.

3. You just moved to Washington DC. What is your favorite part about the city so far?

A: I really love the energy of the city and being surrounded by people who are passionate about what they’re doing. I also feel like, maybe because people are coming and going a lot, people are generally really inclusive. I really appreciate that there are so many neighborhoods with distinctive characters. I’m from Chicago, which is also a “neighborhood” city, so the layout makes it feel familiar and homey even though I am still pretty new.

 

One America Voices: Melissa Balaban

Melissa Balaban

Los Angeles, California

Executive Director, Ikar

1. You are the co-founder and Executive Director of Ikar. Tell us about that.

A: When I was part of founding IKAR in 2004, our goal was to help reclaim the vitality and relevance of Jewish religious practice and reimagine the contours of what a Jewish community could look like.  We wanted to reanimate Jewish life through imaginative and traditional engagement with ritual and spiritual practice and a deep commitment to social justice.  We wanted a community that is at once pious and irreverent and would attract a great diversity of Jews–from ringers to the completely disengaged– and mobilize them to contribute their vast intellectual and creative resources to address real world concerns effectively.

Since 2004, IKAR has grown from a handful of people in my living room to a community of more than 650-member households.   In addition to establishing a vital presence in Los Angeles, IKAR has also become a model of engaging, authentic, resonant Jewish life that is inspiring change in synagogues and communities around the country.

Working and nurturing IKAR as the founding board chair and now executive director, has been one of my most challenging, fulfilling and inspiring experiences. What started as a desire to create a Jewish community that I wanted to be part of, became a life’s journey of conversation about rethinking our Jewish institutions and ensuring that they remain relevant, inspiring and are able to sustain the continuity of our rich tradition while at the same time embracing traditional ritual.

2. What is the best part about living in Los Angeles?

A: As my husband says, 75 and sunny 300 days per year does not suck.  It also is remarkable to live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and have the opportunity to partner and work for justice with such a wide variety of people. And as a native Los Angeleno, I am so fortunate to have a deep and intricate community that helps sustain me and my family.

3. You spent seven months traveling and volunteering in Africa, Southeast Asia and Israel with your children. Tell us about that (and what your family and friends thought about it!)

A: In 2007, my husband and I decided to leave our jobs, and take our children (then 13 and 9 years old) on a seven-month adventure to Tanzania, Southeast Asia and Israel, during which we did a mix of volunteering and touring.  The opportunity to immerse our family in such an experience immeasurably strengthened our connection to each other and exposed all of us to a world beyond our reasonably privileged and sheltered lives.  The trip was transformative for our family and for each of us as individuals. Our family dynamic was permanently altered. Our daughters gained a complex and nuanced understanding of life outside of Los Angeles, and it helped form their worldview that they have carried into their young adult lives.

My husband and I became partners in entirely different way. We wrote blogs together which further enhanced are already substantial mutual love and respect for each other. We learned more from and about each other then we had from 16 years of marriage and it was really a blessing to enhance and reinvent our marriage after so many years together

And for seven months, I actually downshifted from my default pace of 100 miles a minute. I knew my true nature could not be repressed forever, but the seven-month reprieve was a critical moment for my family and me.

We saw the world through a new and incredibly valuable set of prisms. And our family developed into tight-knit unit that endured even after our daughters went off to college and into the world and left an indelible mark on all of our lives.

And of course, we met Andy Hanauer (One America Director) on the trip, so even without all of the above, it was well worth it.

One America Voices: Dr. Edwin Chapman

Dr. Edwin Chapman

Washington, D.C.

Medical Director, Medical Homes Development Group

1. You head the Medical Home Development Group in Washington D.C. and are on the front lines fighting the opioid epidemic. Tell us about that. 

A. I have practiced medicine in Washington, DC for the past 40 years after completing undergraduate training, medical school, and post graduate training in internal medicine and cardiology at Howard University. I always wanted to have an office in the city close to where the people most in need of services actually live, and therefore set up an office in northeast Washington in 1980. I shared offices with Dr. Carlton Phelps until his untimely death in 2008. Dr. Phelps was an extraordinary individual who worked part-time for many years with the prison population at Lorton Reformatory, until its closure, and the mentally challenged at  St. Elizabeth’s Hospital until his death. I took a lead from him and thought I could serve in a similar capacity by helping to keep individuals out of institutional settings as much as possible and received that opportunity in 2000 when another friend, Dr. Larry DeNeal, suggested that I serve as the medical director for a proposed methadone clinic for which he was writing a grant. I spent the best 12 years of my medical career learning the travels and untold stories of the many in our community who have suffered thru what we now commonly refer to as “toxic stress” or the “pair of ACEs” (Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adverse Community Environments). The experience in the methadone clinic environment taught me much about the many additional needs of our patient population in terms of social support and what we should be doing to improve care outside of the hospital, physician’s office, or substance treatment environment.

I began treating patients for opioid addiction in my private office in 2006 using buprenorphine  medication assisted treatment (MAT) in a pilot demonstration project supported by the D.C. Superior Court. I began looking at ways to transition the lessons learned from the methadone clinic in to augmenting care in a private office setting noting that many such patients suffer from associated under-treated mental health issues, un-addressed physical health problems, and disproportionate infectious disease burdens such as HIV and hepatitis C. It was not until 2013, upon my return to the adjunct faculty at Howard University in collaboration with the Department of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry, that potential new and improved treatment models could be fashioned. This realization was augmented by the recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act  and a call for “Accountable Health Communities.” This radical change in previously siloed medical practice stressed the importance of “integrated care,” primary care with a behavioral health focus and substance abuse treatment, and the so called “social determinants of health.” 

The Medical Home Development Group was born out of the necessity to transform my solo practice into a broad-based service that could support the high needs of patients and families impacted  simultaneously by all of the aforementioned. That transformation was created by a team of experts with national experience in practice integration, collaborative care techniques, and medical technology. That transformation created a metamorphosis from a single site adult care practice to a multisite family care focusing on complex medical, mental health, substance abuse, and social service needs. Medical Home Development Group is an independent practice association (IPA) composed of internists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurse practitioners, and soon to be hired peer navigators. Our motto is “Best of Care Close to Home!”  

2. How did you know you wanted to be a doctor when you were young? 

A: My parents were both educators with strong backgrounds in community service and civil rights. As the first executive director of the Urban League in Gary, Indiana,  my father entered a firestorm of racial discord and a school strike in 1945 in which white students refused to go to school with “Negroes.” After helping to fashion a creative solution to that issue, he was asked by Black doctors in Gary to help them gain access to hospital privileges and practice access. At that time, fewer than five white hospitals in the entire nation allowed qualified Black physicians entry. However, through the persuasive efforts of the National Urban League, both hospitals in Gary began accepting Black physicians in 1947, which was a full one and one-half to two decades ahead of the rest of the nation. I always remember my father talking about the medical profession in favorable terms and I think it was his way of influencing my older brother, Joseph Jr., and I to become physicians. 

3. You recently spoke at our kick-off event for One America West Virginia, a new coalition that is bringing people together across divides to address the opioid crisis. Can you tell us about your thoughts about the program?

A: The One America Movement D.C./West Virginia concept immediately struck a cord with me when it was described as a way of bringing diverse populations of people together working around a common theme, while at the same time getting those disparate groups or “tribes” to see and know one another as not being so very different in our aspirations and goals in life. The concept was then beautifully explained in pastoral terms in an op-ed piece written by an evangelical pastor from West Virginia and a rabbi from northwest Washington. They summarized our current siloed political atmosphere as “motivate misattribution,” illustrating the near insanity of not working together as human beings to solve mutual problems, all while concurrently occupying the same space in the same nation. 

We thank One America on a daily basis for the singular opportunity to have been invited to West Virginia into a warm and welcoming atmosphere filled with purity of heart. Martinsburg solidified in my mind that selflessness and love of all humanity is the antidote to motive misattribution and key to finding lasting and heartfelt alternatives to politically-motivated self-aggrandizement. I hope to bring the same educational information, science-based medical services, political willpower and financial resources to West Virginia as I wish to do for northeast and southeast Washington D.C.

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