16 Jul 2021

My Journey Toward a Culture of Health

By: Daniel Gibson, Regional Vice President, Miami-Dade

I recently graduated from my three-year fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leader (CoHL). As a CoHL, I was encouraged to approach every aspect of my personal and professional life through a lens of racial equity and justice. “What impact does racism have on Black-owned business and entrepreneurs in Miami?” “Why aren’t Black households and Black entrepreneurs in Miami benefiting from the local economic boom and mobility that Miami’s White and Latinx households are experiencing?” Me asking these types of questions helped to catapult the Overtown Common Good Initiative into exciting efforts to improve how Miami’s Black entrepreneurs and businesses are supported, launched, and grown today.

Hustle to Scale Documentary:

One tangible outcome of my fellowship is a new documentary short titled “Hustle to Scale” that celebrates black entrepreneurs in Miami. Applying resources and education gained through the program, I coproduced this documentary with Common Good partner, aīre ventures, to highlight the power building partnerships that the Overtown Common Good Initiative is developing on behalf of local Black-owned businesses.

The first full-length viewing of Hustle to Scale premiered on PBS South Florida on June 19, 2021. And we are now promoting the documentary to other media outlets and film festivals nationwide. You can watch the Hustle to Scale trailer here.

Benefit and Lessons Learned:

There are far too many benefits from being a CoHL to name in this one article. However, three benefits that immediately come to mind are:

1. New Social Network: I know that the impressive network of new friends and colleagues amassed over my three years will be part of my personal and professional life indefinitely. The other fellows provided me with invaluable inspiration, support, access to new information, and partnership that already have impacted me and my community far beyond my capstone project.

2. New Personal Commitment: Being a CoHL did not introduce the ideas of racism, oppression, and privilege to me. I have always been outspoken about these types of injustices. However, CoHL courses and related conversations helped me to realize that I had settled into a career as an intellectual advocate for justice. I had not yet considered using my personal capital as an organizer for change in my community. Today, when entering a room, I intentionally survey my environment through a lens of equity and justice, and ask myself, “what more can I be doing?”

3. New Professional Understanding: And finally, I became a CoHL during my first year with Allegany and after 15-years of raising money and running community-based programs. As a new member in Florida’s philanthropic community, I challenged myself with the question, “how can I use my early career as a community advocate and nonprofit leader to inform my new role as a gatekeeper to foundation funds and capital.” My time as a CoHL Fellow and applied experiences in the Common Good Initiative have been invaluable tools to model true partnership between community-based leaders and a foundation. And today, I continue to learn when and how to use and/or hold back my leadership, when to defer to others, and how important trust and shared visions are to create longstanding change in our community.