Colleagues, Friends, and Family,
When Cynthia Savo and I went to DCRA’s former licensing office on North Capitol Street NE on the afternoon of October 19, 1999, we had no thought of celebrating a 17th birthday. I recall that we filled out a couple of papers, paid $150 to create an LLC and that was that. I do remember that we were vaguely mindful of the whole “mighty trees from little acorns do grow” thing. I don’t recall much boastfulness. Just a quiet resolve to do what we came to do.
Fast forwards to 2016 and JSA remains resolved, highly resolved in fact, to do what it came to do – help increase justice and sustainability in neighborhoods and cities. Our methods boil down to engaging the right people the right way at the right time for the right reasons in order to resolve conflicts and create lasting agreements. Engage to resolve conflict and create agreements. There’s been a lot of trial and error along the way. But truth be told, we haven’t strayed very far from that mission.
We also haven’t strayed very far from our bootstrap, “make-it-up-as-we-go-along” beginnings. Seventeen years later, JSA still lives very close to the ground guided by a unique vision, corporate values, and practice principles. We’re change agents using the marketplace to do as much good as we can Along the way, we’ve innovated, gotten bigger and smaller and expanded/contracted as required to exist. Today, I am proud that we’re currently working on projects in Milwaukee, Madison, Manhattan, Richmond and Metropolitan Washington. JSA began in my apt in Ward 8, east of the Anacostia River. Now we are a firm that works across the United States. Not too shabby.
I hear people talk about leaving the USA if Trump is elected. Well, he isn’t going to be elected and even if he is, I’m not leaving. I’m a seventh generation descendant of George and Charlotte Butler, slaves in Barnwell County, SC. And JSA is going to continue to work to increase justice and sustainability as long as I have strength in my mind and body.
A couple of you remember when in the early 90s I began toying with the idea of being a “consultant” and putting my justice and sustainability colleagues in a position to do good and do well. Seventeen years later since its founding, JSA has absolutely done some good. The recent opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture which we helped get sited, despite material resistance, is just the most recent confirmation of that fact. And, somehow, we’ve kept the doors open and the lights on. So we’ve done well enough! Plus, God is good, and we pray a lot!
So what are my final words on this birthday? Classicist that I am, I’m going to lean on that arch-imperialist Tennyson because he captures my feelings exactly.
“Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Justice and Sustainability Associates presente! Viva JSA! Forwards ever. Backwards never.