And a Child Shall Lead Them

by Angela Harper

“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
-Marianne Williamson

Well, in this case, it’s not really a child; more of a young adult. In the Gate City of Greensboro, NC one young woman with the help of her peers is rejuvenating and preserving the 202 year old city. Zim Ugochukwu, a UNCG student, has been working diligently over the past two years at these endeavors. She is the creator of The Ignite Greensboro Project; an idea she conjured up during a 2008 conference with the intent to showcase Greensboro’s rich Civil Rights Movement history. During the Civil Rights Movement many college students in Greensboro were involved; from the sit-in of the Greensboro Four to the shootout with the National Guard. Though it’s been over 40 years since the movement there are still social issues that need addressing.

I chose to talk to Zim, because like myself; she sees the importance of college-age individuals being actively involved in their communities and if need be being the driving force of change. When she began the Ignite Greensboro Project she spoke with former mayor Yvonne Johnson about her idea to for the Civil Rights Museum and her other ideas. Mayor Johnson said to her, “Get $2 from every college student.” Genius! Greensboro is home to thousands of college students from various parts of the world! Zim instantly got to work; talking with coworkers on the Obama campaign and at the local colleges.

The fundraising was only a portion of the Ignite Greensboro Project. Educating students on the history of Greensboro and the importance of community involvement was the core of this movement. Students spent time in training sessions learning and even more time in the community putting to use what they’d learn. The Ignite Greensboro Project gained momentum and swept across the city!

As a result the Civil Rights Museum opened in Downtown Greensboro and the Ignite Greensboro Project donated a mosaic, video diaries, and $1,000. The museum celebrated its opening with grandeur and paid homage to those who involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Guests for the opening activities included Gospel music recording artist Yolanda Adams, activist Rev. Jessie Jackson, Miss North Carolina USA Nadia Moffett, a division of The Buffalo Soldiers, Greensboro Four members: Franklin McCain, David Richmond, Jr. (son of David Richmond), Joseph McNeil, and Jibreel Khazan, NC Senator Kay Hagen, Geneva Tisdale (who was a waitress at the Woolworth’s in 1960), countless students, countless Greensboro citizens, news cameras, and above all of that a spirit of unity and peace!

Zim’s efforts didn’t stop with the museum! She quickly began working on an energy conservation project, “Let’s Raise 1,000,000”. With the help of approximately 400 college students, Lowe’s, and other community organizers , the East White Oak community of Greensboro was provided with energy efficient light bulbs. A small change in their everyday lives resulted in a $60,000 decrease in the community’s overall energy bill. The community was grateful for and overjoyed.

Her achievements could fill an entire edition of The P3 Power Boost, but that isn’t why I wanted to interview her. While I am impressed with the outcomes of all her projects, I am more impressed with the work that goes into these projects. In today’s society our college aged citizens seem to be more concerned with what to wear and what’s on television than they are with anything else. Zim and I chatted for a bit about the difficulties she faced when working on these projects. During the Let’s Raise 1,000,000 project she acted as a liaison between…everyone involved! She told me that in 12 days she used 1,000 minutes on her cell phone and was even working while recovering from surgery! She had a moment of fear when she realized there may not be enough funding for the project, but that problem was fixed and the funding came through. She tapped into the power of “word of mouth” to spread the information and used social networking sites to reach even more people.

We wrapped up our dialogue by discussing the importance of our generation becoming more involved in their communities. Large populations of college students in Greensboro are not from there, but live there for college and for many post-graduation. She and I both feel that it is imperative to become involved in the community you’re living in; regardless if that is your hometown or not. The college experience is not solely about going to class, partying, and joining clubs. The college experience is four years (or more) of life experience. It is, for many, the foundation of self-discovery; moments that will shape them for the rest of their lives.

She and I both agreed that several people in our generation see social issues, but aren’t sure how to fix them, may not be in the position to fix them, or may not have the courage to start the process. Zim made it clear that if our generation steps outside of the box and becomes involved in the community just by doing the smallest things they will gain the knowledge, courage, and drive to make a difference. It starts with one person and then others will join. Zim’s projects started small, but through perseverance and consistency they grew into historical events that have inspired a generation and will be remembered for generations to come.

With her bright smile, contagious laugh, and beautiful spirit Zimuzor Ugochukwu may have a name that can twist your tongue, but will never be forgotten.

Angela Harper is a member of the P3 team and plays a vital role in getting the the P3 Power Boost out and into your inbox every month.

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