In March 2018, I was one of 15 people from Mansfield who went to the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The original intent of the trip, which was funded by a grant from the Richland County Foundation, was to come back with ideas on how to continue the revitalization of the central business district in Mansfield. What evolved from that trip was the Mansfield Rising Plan which the Foundation now uses to prioritize its investments in downtown.
Prior to our departure, Richland Source President Jay Allred, who has attended many SXSW conferences, described SXSW to our group as drinking from a firehose of information. He said we would feel like our hair was on fire.
That was an understatement.
The amount of information was unimaginable, the quality of the information was mind-blowing.
Mind Body Align Founder Annamarie Fernyak speaks about being mindful and present. Being among 30,000 people in a six-block radius does not lend itself to being mindful and present but you find yourself quickly becoming just that. You cannot possibly think about which session you will attend later or tomorrow or three days from now. You must focus on where you are and who is speaking to you in that moment. The hustle and bustle outside your conference room door or down on the street is not for you.
I would love to tell you I heard one speaker at SXSW who changed everything for me but that is not true. I heard many speakers whom I gleaned tidbits of information from to bring back to Mansfield.
One of my favorite speakers was Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer with Uber at the time. She spoke about rebranding while unapologetically wearing a sequin jumpsuit in the middle of the day.
Listening to her speak about the importance of branding and sometimes re-branding, I started to think about the things that come out of our mouths when someone tilts their head to the side and says, “Mansfield? Where’s that?” We all say the same thing. We say, “About an hour between Cleveland and Columbus. Have you seen Shawshank Redemption?” Bozoma made me think… What if we re-branded Mansfield? What if we mentioned Cleveland, Columbus, and Shawshank after telling people about how amazing Mansfield is to live, work, and gather?
Bozoma also spoke about the need for racial and gender diversity. I think we can do better with both. She said people like to say, “there’s a pipeline problem” with equity in diversity in the workforce. Bozoma says, “That’s bullshit.” She talked about the need for white men to look around in their office and say, “there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change that.” Why does she, the one black woman, have to change it? She believes it’s a comfortability issue, not a pipeline issue. The question becomes, are we reflecting the population we’re trying to serve and are we willing to make the changes necessary to do so?
Back to her sequin jumpsuit. She said, “I’m a woman who wears sequins in the daytime. I’m not afraid of a lot. There’s a lot happening around women and diversity empowerment. I intend to step right in there with my sequins and bust it right open.”
Let’s all be more like Bozoma. Let’s invite more people of color to the table. Let’s open more doors for women. Let’s include those who haven’t been included before. Let’s reach back and lift up someone younger. Because let’s be honest, we can all think of a time when we didn’t feel included because of our gender, age, race, otherness. Let’s do what we can to be more like Bozoma, although I’ll do it in a plain black dress and pearls instead of sequins.
Born and raised in Mansfield, Allie has done everything her 18-year-old-self opposed. She married a Mansfield guy, settled down, bought a house in town and had babies who attend her alma mater.
After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University with a double major in Journalism and Women’s Studies and a minor in Sociology she headed east. Doing the only job she could with a BS and $12 in an expensive city, she was a live-in nanny for a little boy with autism and worked as a glorified gopher in Manhattan. Her first day of work in mid-town was to be September 12, 2001. Realizing quickly the differences between the two landscapes and benefits Ohio offered she moved home to West First Street with the same $12. On her first day as a substitute teacher at her alma mater, she met her husband, Sam. One year later, they were married.
After a couple of babies and job changes, she has hit the “sweet-spot” as the mom-bloggers call it. Her kids are old enough to be self-sufficient and young enough to still think she’s awesome. Working for the Richland County Foundation since 2012, Allie handles grants in our community, she gets to see the direct impact of donors’ investments and the great things nonprofit organizations do to enhance and enrich our area. She is grateful to be part of an organization that contributes in such a significant manner to the betterment of our community.