August 2, 2017

Meet the New Kids Forward

Kids Forward Executive Director Ken Taylor delivered the following remarks at our rebranding launch event, A New Name, A New Look, A Renewed Mission, on July 11, 2017.

“One of the keys to our organization’s longevity is that we have been willing and able to look forward and change with the times. Our name change is an indication of our ongoing evolution – a demonstration of the fact that we are still becoming – as well as the realization that our world is changing rapidly around us.

So we chose a name that is less about who we are – and more about where we want to go (Forward), and who we want to travel with (Every Kid. Every Family. Every Community). We are known for our research and our advocacy on things like the budget, early learning, health care, juvenile justice and Kids Count. All of these have been very important throughout our history and will continue to be in the future. But the lessons we have learned, in part through the Race to Equity project, but also through other means, helped clarify and reinforce what some of the missing ingredients were.

I think of them as the 2 E’s: Engagement and Equity. It is not that we didn’t focus on them before, but in the future we will focus on them more. The third thing would be Action. Each of us individually and collectively must act – both more frequently and more strategically. As Gandhi famously said, “we must be the change we seek.”

Part of the rebranding process is to work through things like mission and vision and values. Two of the values we have identified are honest inquiry and accountability. So just as we take a hard look at how state government is functioning (or not) and work to hold our elected officials accountable for what they do and what they don’t do, we must do that internally as an organization as well. We have to ask ourselves hard questions, analyze our performance, and where we find ourselves wanting, we must hold ourselves accountable and act to change. In other words, we must walk our talk.

We know that we have a lot to learn about our role to achieve racial, ethnic, and economic equity in our state. We know that many of us as individuals, particularly me as a white male, and Kids Forward collectively as a majority white organization, stand in a place of privilege due to oppression and racism. We know that we can’t be the honest and impactful organization we wish to become without acknowledging that fact as we work to change it. We know we have a lot of hard work ahead of us, but we are putting our shoulder to that effort, and we hope that all of you will partner with us in that work.

So I want to highlight a few stories about who we are engaging with:

A few years back we started awarding Race to Equity scholarships. These are given to students who are working on equity in their communities, and hearing from these students is always the highlight for me of our annual Step Forward for Kids fundraiser (which this year is September 28 at the Children’s Museum – put it on your calendar). A few months ago, we heard from one of our scholarship winners. She told us that she is attending UW-Eau Clair to study Social Work and Spanish.  She went on to say, “Without you all picking me to win this amazing scholarship and giving me the opportunity to read my essay out loud, I never would have come out of my shell and tried to make an impact on my community about racism.” She explained that she did a number of school projects about racism and equality for everyone. She started doing small experiments at school, which got complements, she then created a survey about racism and also a video. She ended her note saying, “I now love giving presentations in front of people and don’t get as nervous as I used to.” What a great example about engaging young people for equity.

A person you just met in the video is Sheray Wallace. She is a Community Ambassador in the Meadowood neighborhood. Those of you who know her, know Sheray is a force to be reckoned with, but what may not have fully come across in the video is Sheray’s grit, her compassion, her selflessness, and her love for those in her community. My guess is that Sheray probably thinks she has learned a lot from us, but she may not realize how much we have learned from her and how important her expertise is to the evolution of our work. Sheray embodies what engaging with community to achieve equity is all about.  Thank you Sheray for showing me what that looks like.

So our engagement is intertwined with equity. Every Kid. Every Family. Every Community. Every means EVERY. Not some, not most, but EVERY.

In the marketing world that phrase is called a tag line, but that description undersells its importance to Kids Forward. It is an essential component of our aspiration.

WCCF was well known for its efforts to reduce poverty, Kids Forward will continue to be known for that, and added to that will be a parallel focus on racial and ethnic equity.

So what is our future? Our future is:

  • Diverse
  • Engaged
  • Compassionate
  • Equitable
  • Inclusive
  • Healthy
  • Factual
  • Thriving

Please join us in helping Wisconsin become a state where economic status, racial and ethnic identity, and zip code, do not determine a child’s destiny.

So I ask everyone here tonight to engage with us, and with each other, as we stand up for every kid, and work to achieve our vision of a state where Every Child, Every Family, and Every Community thrives. Thank You.”