Leading with Curiosity: A TBR Oral History with Glenn Linzer

Glenn Linzer is a TBR leader from University Baptist Church (UBC). A native of New Iberia, Louisiana, he initially connected with UBC during his time as a student at LSU. After growing up in a close-knit small town, his move to the city offered Glenn a fuller perspective on life in the United States and around the world. Taking on a new mentors and making friends from all over the world, he had the opportunity to sharpen his curiosity about people in the place that he would come to call home. Shortly after graduating from LSU, Glenn took on a job teaching at Istrouma High School. This experience was a formative one that would go on to inform his future work organizing and educating for equal opportunity across East Baton Rouge Parish. Now employed in real estate, Glenn has a passion for working with minority investors, helping them to accumulate generational wealth and push back against stereotypes. As a TBR leader, Glenn has learned a great deal under the mentorship of folks like Dianne Hanley and Edgar Cage. In his oral history, Glenn reflects on faith, justice work, and his growth as a leader. 

                                                                                                             Photo by Lily Brooks

They really did go out of their way to be nice to everybody. To extend kindness to everybody. They never tried to force someone into believing what they did, or never tried to shutdown anybody who believed differently.

I was born in Lafayette, but I grew up in New Iberia, Louisiana. Cajun country. Small-town, still is. We had one public high school. A very racially integrated environment. It was a great experience. It seems like everybody in New Iberia was Catholic except my family and maybe one or two other families. I was raised Pentecostal, so we were the odd family out *laughs* But it was a good environment. A sheltered environment. Now as a grown-up I look back on those years and realize just how sheltered my life was. I had great parents who were ever present. Doing the usual things parents do. Working and taking care of home life and pushing us to be the best we can. I grew up thinking that my parents were very strict, but in hindsight maybe not so much. There were rules and behaviors to follow and consequences when they weren’t.  

My dad only had a first-grade education. He began working at 9 years old in the sugar cane fields of the plantation where he grew up. He later worked at sugar mill and then at Amoco Corporation, a company that provided fertilizer to the owners of the sugar cane fields. New Iberia and the surrounding towns have lots of sugar cane fields. And my mom was a nurse. My parents had eleven children. Their oldest child died when she was about a year or two old. I have learned that the mortality rate of babies among African Americans was very high in families of my parents’ generation. Years later, in 2019, I would experience the loss of a younger sister. So, there's nine of us now, including myself. I have eight surviving siblings, five brothers and three sisters. There is a four-year gap between me and my four oldest siblings and a five-year gap between me and my three youngest siblings. 

My upbringing was totally unlike the environment my parents were born into: poverty, segregation and lack of a formal education. They were able to provide a totally different life for their children. I grew up completely oblivious to how different my early childhood was compared to theirs. Our school education was very important to our parents. Reading materials were all over the house. We had lots of books for every stage of our life. My parents really encouraged us to read and do well in school. And of course, there was punishment at home if you didn't *laughs* So that was a great motivator to do well in school. You know, we weren't wealthy. My parents were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. They just made some good choices and they were smart enough, I guess, or wise enough—I won't say smart enough—wise enough to realize that their kids’ academics was important, and they made certain that we were educated. And for me, education was kind of easy. I think I was an above average student, I mean all of my teachers would always say can do better. And they would write in the conduct area of my report card the word “talkative”. The first time I ever noticed that word was on my fifth-grade report card. I don’t think much has changed in that area since then. 

I don’t know that I ever gave much thought about specific things I liked to do as a kid, while growing up. Riding my bike or being with my friends. Things or events just happened and they were fun. I had three close friends in the neighborhood. All three families knew each other well.  I wasn’t allowed to really be around people or have friends whose parents my parents didn't know. So as a kid, and during the summer, my three close friends were Dana, Kermit, and Clifford. We just hung out and rode our bikes, played baseball, and occasionally football. And we did have vacation Bible School and church activities. So when we weren't at church, then it was in the neighborhood with the guys playing football, bike riding,  or just hanging out pretty much. Just an uneventful summer. Some summers my parents would drive us to Houston to visit our relatives. Several of my dad's older nieces and nephews live there.

We were raised Pentecostal, so we were very, very—I don't think the correct word is religious. But to use it as a common expression, then yes we were very religious. But I would say my parents lived beyond that, they were very spiritual people as well. They really did go out of their way to be nice to everybody. To extend kindness to everybody. They never tried to force someone into believing what they did, or never tried to shut down anybody who believed differently. So again, yes, a very, very religious background, but it was very accepting also. And I don’t think Pentecostals are thought of as accepting people, but my parents were. My parents were really good at that. Which is really weird, because several other families within our church seem to have some very, very rigid and strict beliefs. It seems that my parents were a little more understanding about our life experiences, the pressures that we encountered with our peers who were from a different, more accepted religion. I see a difference between religion and spirituality, as I've grown. One has the potential to be more closed, restrictive and the other provides opportunity to be far more open and loving.

Growing up, we didn't know people outside the church. That was my life. So, I wouldn't say I had any mentors outside of that structured home environment. Not until I got to college. I can look back on some experiences I had in college and say, "Okay, these are my mentors." It may not make any sense, but growing up in the Pentecostal environment, I realized, my relationship with God was me and my parents and God *laughs* And then after I got to college, it became me and God, because I had to discover this new relationship on my own.

Coming from a small environment and wanting to stretch myself, and expand myself, and just figure things out on my own, I was fortunate to have some friends who looked out for me and kept an eye on me so I wouldn't go too far.

I would have loved to have gone out of state for college, but my parents were hesitant about me going too far away. As safe as my environment was, it was still controlling, and I wanted to experience something different. All I knew was New Iberia and my family. In high school, I think it might have been my senior year, I worked at a Wendy's Restaurant. One night these guys come in and they were from Denmark or somewhere close to Denmark. I can't recall exactly but I remember having a conversation with them and I'm thinking, Wow, wouldn't it be cool to meet people like that on a regular basis? So that was another one of my reasons for wanting to get away, just to meet different people, and see the world.

So things changed after I got into college. I met different people, lots of different people, in the college environment. And I was very fortunate because I was around a group of people who were open to different beliefs and they weren't afraid of hearing different beliefs and a different way of thinking. It didn't diminish their belief or their faith in any way. I was surrounded by people who really, really watched out for me. Coming from a small environment and wanting to stretch myself, and expand myself, and just figure things out on my own, I was fortunate to have some friends who looked out for me and kept an eye on me so I wouldn't go too far. Because I would say I could have been a bit wild in college. 

For the first year of college, I did not go to church at all. Might've been two years. But there was this guy named Tripp and his roommate named Greg who moved next door in the same dorm as me. Tripp and Greg were both from Gonzalez. Tripp would stop by my room every Sunday morning and knock on the door and ask if I wanted to go to church. He attended the local church University Baptist Church. And I always said, "No." *Laughs* "No, not this Sunday." But, you know, they were there. They were always there. And sometimes Greg, I think it was on Wednesday or Friday afternoon, he would take me with him to Gonzalez to his parents’ house and his mom would cook dinner for us.

Tripp invited me to the Baptist Student Union one year. It was the beginning of fall semester, school was starting back up again. Every year for Labor Day weekend the Baptist Student Union would take a trip to Florida. The whole group would go and Tripp invited me to go. I didn't know that Tripp was known as being mischievous among the group *laughs* He was known as a little wild guy at times, And so we get to Florida, and they're like, "Are you going to keep control of Tripp?" And I'm going, "Me? I can't control Tripp!” *Laughing*  but in the end it was a fun vacation and everything went well. I tell that story because that is how, through Tripp, I got involved with the Baptist Student Union, which is now the BCM, and through them I got to meet a lot of mentors. Older people who really, really guided me in my life and through some bad decisions I made. They were just there for me as I was a young adult trying to find my own self, and my own direction, in life. 

When I think about her, I think of her as an activist. Making change, affecting change. She did not sit around and just wait.

The first church I ended up going to was First Baptist downtown. And I would say Anne and Jack Lord were some of my mentors there. Anne passed away last year. They have four daughters—Jackie, Nancy, Kathy and Jan. But I was like the son that Anne and Jack never had. I got to spend holidays with them and they were awesome. They were amazing, and they really, really were good mentors, spiritually. I could talk to them about anything. The Jubans, Martha and Joe Juban, were also good mentors at First Baptist. As were Gaynel and Bill Watson. The four of them were my Sunday School teachers. And Perry Webb was the church pastor. They are all amazing people who helped shape my life.

The director at the BSU, John Moore, was another great mentor. They really, really guided me, and helped me find my way. They allowed us students to figure things out for ourselves without it being damning. They provided non-judgmental thoughts and observations, questions that really made us think and search for the answers we were seeking. We would drive to New Orleans on Saturday night, get home at 3:00 in the morning, sleep a few hours then go to church. That was not a big deal within that group of Southern Baptist believers. They showed what true Godly love is.  I mean, it was a really good group of people, and all of them showed love and kindness to each of us without judgment. You know, people don't have that image of Southern Baptist people behaving that way today. These were Southern Baptist people who were just really, really loving and nonjudgmental. 

Later on, some of the families of First Baptist Church decided to move their membership to University Baptist Church. Jack and Anne Lord were among that group of families. When Jackie, their daughter, told me of their plans to move to UBC, I said I'm going along with you guys. And so I joined UBC the following Sunday after they did. There I encountered even more mentors, Ron and Patsy Perritt, as well as Carolyn and Michael Cavanaugh, who are also members of Together Baton Rouge. Those folks, along with other members of that congregation, had a profound impact on my life. George Hale was the pastor at the time. A really good and kind man. So once again, I was fortunate to continue to have a lot of good people in my life. 

Another person, a mentor in my life during my college and post-college years, was Dorothy Aramburo. Another amazing human being. She is known to me and several friends as Mama D. She passed away some years ago. I met her through her son Tim, and I met Tim through my friend Stephen. Mama D put herself through school and taught on a college level. A divorced mother of four kids, she was able to put herself through school and earn a PhD. The family is from New Orleans, amazing family. Mama D was a force to be reckoned with. She was kind, caring, generous, intelligent, disciplined, determined, and well-informed. I'll never forget, when I first met her, Stephen, Tim and I were going to Florida for the weekend, And we had to stop at Tim's house to pick him up. A little background on my life before I continue. My parents, born in the '30s, came of age through all the racial tensions of the 30’s through the 60’s but they tried to shelter us from all the pain of that. I think they were trying to protect us from some of the hurtful things they had gone through. As a result, my knowledge of race relations in America was very limited. As Stephen, Tim and I are about to leave for our trip, I'll never forget, we’re getting in the car and Mama D walks to the car to say goodbye to us. A song begins to play on the radio and I said, "Oh, that's the black national anthem.” Mama D quickly informed me of how wrong I was and asked why it was that I didn’t know it.  This was my first encounter with her. She wasn’t afraid to speak up. She was an amazing individual.

I got to know Mama D and she got to know a better side of me through the years. I learned a lot from her. A devout Catholic woman who was passionate about what she believed and lived it. When I think about her, I think of her as an activist. Making change, affecting change. She did not sit around and just wait. On one occasion, as we sat at her home discussing a hurricane disaster and expressing our concern with the lack of government response, she says, "So now what we gotta do, we gotta sit down and write a letter to the paper and our elected officials.” She was this type of person who believed in not just talking about it but doing something about it. I loved that about her. She continues to influence my life to this day. I believe she would be very supportive of the work of Together Baton Rouge.

He told me later, "Glenn, you know, nobody would come up and talk to us, but you did." I'm like, "Okay." I was just curious to see what they were like and if they were as dirty as it seemed they looked *laughs*

I enjoy meeting lots of different people. If I meet somebody strange I'm like, Okay, what is that about? My curiosity might get the better of me and I want to figure out what's going on with them. So college life provided that. I remember there was a group of people hanging out on Chimes. They were grunge, they seemed like they never bathed *laughed* And I guess a lot of my friends—and I was young, maybe I didn't know any better—it seemed like people shunned them. Preppy people didn't talk to them. So I made a point of reaching out and talking to one or two of them. One of them, it just so happened, his family had grown up at First Baptist and he started coming to BSU. And he told me later, "Glenn, you know, nobody would come up and talk to us, but you did." I'm like, "Okay." I was just curious to see what they were like and if they were as dirty as it seemed they looked *laughs* I was just curious! And turns out, most of them are middle class people. Middle class kids who just was trying to buck the system *laughs* 

In college I would go to New Orleans a lot, especially during Mardi Gras. A couple of friends of mine lived at the corner of Esplanade and Bourbon, so I would park my car there and for the weekend I would party in New Orleans. And then, I'll never forget, one time I'm walking from their apartment down Bourbon Street to go out and have a good time, and some guy approaches me and he starts walking with me and starts talking to me. And we're just talking. He's this strange person who's telling me how, you know, just robbery and crime goes on in the area. And I'm like, "Really?" Thinking, I've never experienced that. It didn't dawn on me, what he was driving at. But At some point, he goes, "Hey, do you have a couple of dollars I could borrow?" "Yeah, sure." I said. I gave him the money and he left. I remember I was telling somebody about that incident later on, and they're like, "Glenn, what you experienced was a soft mugging." *Laughs*  I was like, "Wow, I got mugged. Cool." That experience speaks to my shallow, sheltered, and very naive early 20’s life.

In another college experience, I became friends with a guy named Shoan. Shoan dated a Belgian girl named Patricia. She and I became friends as well and through them I got to meet lots of people from many different countries. Shoan and Patricia would entertain quite often at their apartment and always invited me to attend. At these gatherings I was introduced and became friends with even more people from various parts of the world. In that environment I discovered some people who were agnostic or atheist. Those evenings at Patricia and Shoan’s place were always good times. So it was a good experience for me. I love meeting international people. I was impressed that many of them (if not all) spoke a minimum of two different languages. Some even spoke from five to seven different languages. I learned about their different cultures, different life experiences and the similarities we share. It really did influence how I see the world. As a result, my view of the world is a lot broader. I enjoyed becoming friends with some of the people there. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had. It opened my world. 

Somewhere around that time or before I met Patricia, my friend Jackie was speaking with a staff member at the Chapel on the Campus, who was looking for volunteers to help teach an International English conversation class. She decided to volunteer me for the position. Again, I was introduced and became friends with many different people from around the globe. That experience still impacts me to this day. I have realized that there are many different facets to a human being. And when I take the time to invest in getting to know that person no matter how they speak, look, or dress, I discover so much. I become a better human being because of it. There is beauty in every human.

I want to do my part in changing the image of minorities. I'd like there to be more minorities that are investing. So, if I can be there to help them, and to guide them, I want to do that.

At the end of the 2002-2003 school year, my last year of teaching in the school system, I began looking for a summer job. I was actually praying for a summer job and I was hoping to start as soon as the last day of school. One day my friend Lacy comes to visit me at an after school, part-time job I had teaching a G.E.D. class. I first met Lacy at one of the local casinos where I worked part-time for 6 miserable months. If ever there was a job I hated, that would be it. One of the very few positive experiences to come from that job was my friendship with Lacy. Lacy had been a licensed realtor for two years by this time. She shows up at my part time job for what I assumed was a random visit to see me. As we sat talking, she tells me that she is looking for someone to come organize her files and then she asks if I would be willing to help with that once the summer began. And she offered to pay. I thought this would most likely take two weeks at best then I would find something else to do for the rest of the summer. At the end of the two weeks, she tells me that she would like for me to work with her for the rest of the summer. I didn’t realize until then my prayer had been answered. 

At the end of the summer, when I thought I would be going back into the school system, my friend surprised me again. She asked if I would continue working as her assistant and she would pay for my tuition to a real estate school. I agreed and years later I can say that this has been another amazing life experience. Several years ago, I remembered a conversation I had with my high school guidance counselor about what I wanted to do with my life after high school. We talked about colleges and for some reason I told him that I thought I would like to get involved in the real estate industry. I am amazed to see how many aspects of my life have come full circle. I love what I do in this business. Teaching first-time homebuyer classes is one of my favorite aspects of the job.

When it comes to real estate, a lot of people don't know the process. A lot of people are afraid, a lot of people think it's a more daunting task than it actually is. They get afraid to look at their credit report. There's a lot of people out there who just think that they may never own a home. On one occasion I was able to help a couple from New Orleans who had come into our office looking for an apartment to rent.  I sat with them getting information about the type of property they were hoping to rent. During that exchange I asked if they had ever considered buying a home. Their response was, "No, we just never thought we could afford one." I took the time to educate them of the process and explain how a credit check would have to be done whether they were renting or buying. I still remember to this day the joy and excitement of that couple when they were approved for a mortgage loan and they learned their payments would be in the same range they wanted to pay in rent. This business provides an opportunity to meet people from many different sectors of society. I am able to share knowledge about this industry. Knowledge is power and being able to share that knowledge is beautiful.

In addition to working with owner occupant home buyers, I've been fortunate to work with investors. Whether they be seasoned or new to real estate investment, it is an opportunity for me to share knowledge. Investors tend to be easier to work with. It’s all about numbers with them. I have had the opportunity to work with lots of young minority investors. They are just getting into the business and trying to navigate the process. I love that I am able to help them realize their vision. As they gain more financial independence through this industry they are also changing the stereotypical images of our minority and marginalized society. 

So, I want to do my part in changing the image of minorities. I'd like there to be more minorities that are investing. So, if I can be there to help them, and to guide them, I want to do that. But I don't limit myself to only working with minority people. Because I don't believe in limiting people or myself. Everybody can learn from each other. But I do want to do what I can to help minority people become financially independent and be seen in a different light. I want that to be portrayed to the rest of this environment so people can see, Okay, yeah, there's a lot more people doing good than there are doing bad, right?

I have some really, really good investors. I mean I have the best investors, they're amazing. Its funny because it seems after I have walked them through acquiring their first two investment properties, they tend to think they know everything about real estate and try to tell me how to do my job. At the beginning, while they’re learning, they are eager to listen and follow my directions. But usually by their third project, they're trying to tell me how I should put together an offer. They seem to think they know more about the value of a property. How much is a reasonable offering price and what they think the seller will accept. Throughout this process I realize they are growing and gaining more knowledge which will help them become more independent and that makes me happy.

At one point I realized that all of my life experiences have prepared me for this moment, and I'm equipped to actually do this work. It's what I love doing, also, but I'm equipped to do it.

Another one of my mentors is Bubba Henry, E.L. Henry. He's been a member of our church for many years. Several years ago our church held an event for Together Baton Rouge, and I decided to attend so that I could help in some capacity. At one point he turns to me and says, "The church paid dues for you to come, so you're a member of TBR." *laughs* I felt so guilty, I remember thinking, Oh my god, these people shelled out money for me, I got to get involved in this! *laughs* And I knew nothing about TBR before then. I remember listening to the guest speakers and others in attendance speak about the work of TBR, and realized that the issues they spoke of were of concern to me. They had organized, and they planned and had successes in effecting social justice. 

That was my introduction to TBR, their event at my church. Hearing the discussions of issues, the strategies at addressing them, involving other members of the community, and speaking with elected officials to seek justice, was exciting. As I've grown and learned more about TBR, it's like, Okay, this fits into what I believe and how I think we should be as citizens of this city, state, country and world. We're supposed to help people.

After that initial meeting with TBR, I didn't do too much with the organization. I don't think I did anything with TBR unless it was strictly with our church and I'd go as a representative of my church. Then one day I received a call from Dianne Hanely and she said, "I would like for you to come with us to the school board meeting.” We needed to show our opposition to an issue that was coming before them. And from then on I got more calls and got more involved in showing up at a school board or metro council meeting to show support in favor or in opposition to a matter that was coming before the board. Dianne would say this particular issue is going on, TBR has decided that we're taking this position, so we need people to show up. So, I showed up. But what I didn't know is that they were going to ask me to read a script *laughs* So I think the first time I was asked to read a statement was a school board meeting. I was surprised and very nervous. I went again to another school board meeting and again they asked me to read a statement. And then from there to Metro Council. But it was Dianne who gently pushed me into speaking publicly. In hindsight, I am grateful she did so.  

I absolutely hated speaking in public. I don't like my voice *laughs* I just didn't like doing it. But Dianne asked me to speak again a while back, this was sometime just last year, and at one point I realized that all of my life experiences have prepared me for this moment, and I'm equipped to actually do this work. It's what I love doing, also, but I'm equipped to do it. Also, seeing the work of Dianne and other members of TBR, I realize that I have seen this kind of organizing within my church. Being part of a collective group to organize, strategize and act in order to make a change. Moving toward a higher goal for a greater good. That is my TBR experience. 

As I have grown and met people with differing views, I have learned that we are all unique. This has also helped me feel more comfortable when speaking in a public forum. When I have to deal with a person who has a grievance. No matter who the person may be, or their cause, I have learned not to take everything he or she does or says personally. Stay focused. Listen attentively and try to understand their problem. I have found that these tools help me when speaking to their concerns or objections. There is always a solution to a problem, sometimes we just have to search a little more intently for it. That’s an important thing to remember. So I think it’s just being open to people, coming in contact with different people and being able to address their concerns and put them at ease so they can hear what you have to say.

Now I'm not as nervous as I used to be when I have to speak publicly on a TBR issue. Depending on the subject matter, depending on what you ask me to do, as long as I have time to read it several times in advance and I know what my expectations are, I can do it. I can do it. So, I have learned that I'm equipped to do this. I'm equipped to do what I need to do. Especially if it's something I feel passionate about, which is social justice for others, being aware of other people's struggle. I am in a unique position to be able to either provide some sort of knowledge or some guidance to help people realize where they need to get, or just point them in the right direction. 

I don't believe that the wealthy should give up all their wealth. But I think because you earn more you should pay more, simple as that. Long before we had country clubs or planned subdivisions there was a mix within an environment of wealthy people and not so wealthy people living on the same street. And now, with country clubs, gated communities and planned subdivisions, that diverse sort of economic living is gone. And I wonder to what degree this has played a role in the wealth gap within our country. There is a certain part of Government Street where there are beautiful large houses interspersed with some that are not as large or grand. I wonder how much was the income difference between these neighbors? How was their daily interactions? What was life like for them? I think I would love to experience a life like that, where you have wealthy people living among not so wealthy people. That'd be cool. 

Dianne has a way of going about pushing you and putting you in some roles and you don't realize what she's doing until after you're there. You're like, How did I get here? I think maybe she recognizes something in a person from the beginning and just guides them to that.

Together Baton Rouge organizes people from different religious denominations, which I love. I really love being a part of a group of people whose worship style differs from mine. I love that we bring different walks of faith together to engage, to recognize the humanness in all of us. And then from there we expand to people in different communities. I think as a society we are supposed to live in an environment where everybody's happy. It's just not right or fair—especially living in America, one of the wealthiest countries in the world—that a person should not enjoy a decent standard of living. Every American should have access to a good public education. I think it’s quite sad that within certain communities across this country, the public education quality far exceeds that of other communities within the same city. This is an American problem that needs to be addressed. There is an answer, we need to be serious about finding it. The reward will be exponential to our society. 

That is part of the work of Together Baton Rouge and it is satisfying. I love being a part of that. I get a sense of peace knowing that, as a human being, I helped to make a better life for my fellow human being. I think it's wrong to see someone suffering and not to try to alleviate that suffering. The suffering of one human being is the suffering of all human beings. 

I’ve gained friendships through Together Baton Rouge. With Rick Moreland of University Presbyterian Church, Dianne Hanley of Spirit and Justice, Pat Leduff of CADAV and countless others who have inspired me. Then Edgar Cage. I would say Edgar Cage made a huge impact on me as well. What I admire most about him is his knowledge about what he's fighting for, the justice he's fighting for, his passion. And he's willing to talk about the issue with anybody who will listen. And it is not confrontational, just the facts and passion. He just puts it out there. It's very relatable. Our society gives us a portrait of what leaders look like but I didn’t realize that there are lots of ordinary people among us leading the cause to resolve some societal issues. They are doing the “good work”. Edgar's just one of those leaders, affecting change in this city. 

I’ve also developed a friendship with our organizer, Khalid. I think Khalid has passion for what he believes in. He is also very knowledgeable and he listens. He's genuine. He doesn’t react to opposition, he responds. And it’s always calmly, intelligently and methodically. He's doing a great job. 

Connecting with Together Baton Rouge has also opened up an opportunity for me to learn more and speak with others about our country’s racial history. Dianne introduced me to the Just Faith Ministries. They put programs together on a wide range of social issues ranging from race relations to climate change. I've realized something I should have known all along and that is that not everybody living in this country has the same lived experiences. My thoughts, ideas and beliefs are born of my lived experiences and so it is for every person in this country or on this planet. I must remember that before I judge another human being. The Just Faith programs have opened my eyes to that fact. I think it’s important that everyone should know the truth about the African Americans and every other immigrant’s lived experiences so that we are able to heal, learn and grow into a more perfect society. 

I've taught some kids and I'm like, That's a leader. They don't realize they're leaders. I mean, they're just stirring up trouble *laughs* Or they're debating you on something or another. They're asking lots of questions. They don't accept the status quo.

The hardest thing for me as a TBR leader, I'd say, is that the battles, they're not always easy wins. You're going to have a lot of battles before you win the war. You have to know which battles to fight, where to pull back and decide to come back at a later date. Or how to adjust and to change. Change rarely happens overnight. A lot of these battles are not just a matter of, we fought the battle, we won, it's over with. You have to continue to fight and move closer to a more perfect justice. These steps are not always big. They're small, incremental. And you have to stay the course. That was one hard lesson I learned with TBR.  But they stay the course.

One example that comes to mind is police reform. My thoughts about the police force were shaped in large part because of where I lived in the city. Once I entered the inner-city environment, I discovered that there was a different opinion or relationship with the police force. This is a glaring example of two communities in the same city having different lived experiences with an entity that is supposed to serve and protect us all. The service and protection that I experienced was not the same in the inner-city area. TBR has worked hard on this issue and made great progress but the battle is still far from won. Yet, they press on.  

I believe some people are born to lead and I think some people become leaders simply because of their passion and dedication to a cause—accidental leaders. I have met some students who I believe are born leaders. It’s amazing. They don't realize that they are. That this gift lies within them. In part because of how our society portrays leaders. Some of them have come up with some great arguments about why they should not have to learn math or why they should not have to do homework. They ask lots of questions. They don't accept the status quo. They want to know why. I also think a good leader listens, even if they’re not the ones asking all the questions. They're hearing someone else's complaints and they're figuring out how to go about responding to it. A leader also tries to engage every one to help bring about change and a leader knows when to compromise. 

I would add that a good leader empowers his people. He makes them feel as if they are just as important as he or she. He doesn’t just delegate, he works along-side his people. Knowing when to engage, knowing who to engage, recognizing somebody's talent and weaknesses. There's a lot of responsibility placed upon the leader. I don't think it's an easy position to be in. When you're born to be a leader, it will come naturally to you, but it won't be easy.

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