We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for
It’s not every meeting I go to ends with a prayer.
But that’s how the church activists — leaders at the frontline of social justice – ended our meeting (my first official engagement) in the 174 Trust, North Belfast, last night.
It was deeply moving and reminded me of the famous book about the Mayor of Philadelphia, ‘A Prayer for the City’ by Buzz Bissinger which recounted Mayor Ed Rindell’s Homeric efforts to save Philly from decline.
Our discussion centred on building the peace and giving clear evidence of progress from the peace to our underserved communities. Our shared view was that our citizens who live along the peacelines need to see, taste and experience the benefits of peace.
I am tremendously impressed by the leadership of the Rev Bill Shaw at the 174 Trust and was pleased to see that his wonderful community hub is enjoying a £2m makeover. But that’s what should be happening right across Belfast, areas like the New Lodge and Shankill should see the greatest investment for undoubtedly they suffered the most during our years of warfare.
I’ll be happy to accept more prayers for this city in the time ahead but over almost 30 years in public life, I am convinced that Belfast has irrepressible champions of change right who are building a better future right now. Sometimes, so close are those leaders to the coalface of change, that they don’t realise the new Belfast they are building all around us.
As the black civil rights leader Stokley Carmichael (later Kwamé Touré) put it: “We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.”
Anois, chun oibre, mo chéad lá iomlán in oifig romham.
Now, to work, my first day in office lies ahead.