By Dionne Watts-Williams, Director of Communications
On Tuesday, December 19, a group of progressive leaders entered the Rotunda at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, having traveled from 74 different organization headquarters across the United States. They carried signs protesting border family separation policies and arms sales to Israel, and underneath a painting of Christopher Columbus on San Salvador, they unfurled a massive banner reading, “The people choose life. CEASEFIRE NOW.”
When Capitol Police demanded they end their protest and leave the Capitol, they refused, and more than 50 attendees were arrested. In that number was Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER Interfaith’s Executive Director, and as POWER’s new Director of Communications, I was there to document every moment.
It was my 91st day on the job.
I came to POWER Interfaith in September 2023, following a 23-year career in Communications, the last decade of which was spent in city government. While my experiences in government, tourism, nonprofit, and law have proven valuable, I harbored a deep-seated desire to engage in more profound work.
Witnessing POWER Interfaith’s incredible grassroots work throughout Pennsylvania has been nothing short of enlightening. I’m awe of the organization’s remarkable achievements, all orchestrated by a team of less than a few dozen individuals.
I feel blessed to have joined POWER’s ranks at such a critical juncture in its history – and the following are just a few lessons that aren’t lost on me.
Lesson 1: There’s power in purposeful communication.
Advocacy – the very essence of POWER Interfaith’s work – is all about communication.
Coordinating messages, goals, and issues has, in my mind, reinforced the transformative power of communications when paired with heart-centered work.
Amplifying POWER Interfaith’s collective voice isn’t solely about broadcasting actions; it’s about actively listening to the pain of the communities we serve, and intentionally facilitating hard conversations with lawmakers who are morally obligated to ensure the needs of their constituents get met.
To realize that I am contributing to improving educational opportunities for black and brown children, and playing a role in effectively communicating the multifaceted work for social, racial, and environmental justice is incredibly fulfilling.
Lesson 2: Living the dash is a guiding principle.
Every obituary bears witness to a life encapsulated between a birth and death date, symbolized by a small dash. The uncertainty of what follows that dash became even more apparent to me during the COVID pandemic, particularly after my mother’s sudden passing in 2021.
Contemplating her diverse career, from being a housekeeper on Philly’s Main Line to a geriatric home health aid, classroom assistant, and school bus attendant, I recognized the seamless alignment between her professional journey and her ministry of offering a helping hand.
While not everyone feels compelled to intertwine their vocation and alignment in this manner, for me, there’s no distinction between the two. I’ve been on a quest to leverage my talents and experiences in ways that leave a lasting impact.
In my family, we call that “living the dash.”
Joining POWER has been a transformative experience, providing an avenue to align with a higher purpose rather than just fulfilling a job description. Here, communications plays a central role, acting as the linchpin that binds the organization’s diverse endeavors together.
Lesson 3: Faith, work, and community has reshaped my perspective.
The talents and skills that God has blessed me with aren’t intended for isolation; rather, they are meant to be utilized in the service of others. My role at POWER has been instrumental in forging more intentional connections between my faith and my daily work, fostering a deeper sense of purpose.
Even the nature of meetings at POWER are different.
Initially puzzled by the recurrent question in my 1:1 meetings with POWER directors and managers, “So, tell me about yourself?” I soon discovered the unique, personable approach that is essential to our work. My first staff meeting commenced with a faith reflection and breakout sessions. Coming from city government, I was left in awe. It was an experience unlike any other.
The incorporation of relational dialogue, prayers, and reflections within POWER’s meetings speaks volumes about its holistic, faith-driven ethos. This alignment has totally shifted my approach to my job, infusing it with newfound purpose and meaning.
Life unfolds as a series of seemingly disconnected experiences, deliberately concealed by God, who reveals the path to me one step at a time. It’s aptly called a “faith walk” for a reason.
My role here extends far beyond fulfilling professional obligations. Meaningful work, when intertwined with my faith-driven actions, possesses the potential to leave an enduring impact that resonates beyond my time here.
I understand now that all of POWER’s endeavors are fundamentally acts of faith. This realization has not only elevated my commitment, but also prompted me to deepen my introspection. The integration of faith into my daily job is not just fulfilling, but profoundly rewarding, too.