Name: Steven Smith
Sponsoring Organization: United Citizen Power
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Circle Start Date: March 3, 2018
What attracted you to Ben Franklin Circles?
In the Jacksonville community, I am the past president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association, a civil rights organization which consists of Jacksonville’s Black lawyers and judges. I met Chris, the United Citizen Power (UCP) organizer in my area, during his time at Florida Coastal School of Law. He proposed the idea to me, and I wanted to show support for what he was doing to engage residents in improving the area.
How did you recruit members for your Circle? Lessons learned?
I used my connection with the local radio station as well Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about the event. Chris and I also went out door to door to pass out flyers and do sign-ups.
How has hosting a Ben Franklin Circle impacted you?
It was an amazing experience. I love the chance to be proactive for instead of reactive to change—and that is what this felt like to me. I like that the participants all cared about different issues, but were willing to listen and provide constructive suggestions to help each other.
Which virtue means the most to you personally and why?
Because I am a pastor and a lawyer, I would lean towards justice. The ugly truth is that those in power in my community just don’t care about what happens to the people in the low-income areas that I came from. It is painful to see the lack of justice. Those from the community that helped get me to where I am are oftentimes ignored and passed over by their decision-makers in government. It is important to me to change that.
What is the last commitment you made to yourself? How’s it going?
That I would use the knowledge and the skills I have to do more in the community. I have been impressed with the work I have seen Chris and United Citizen Power doing in such a short time here. For a while, I believed members in the community didn’t care. But, through the my time in the field, out knocking doors with Chris and other UCP volunteers, I saw that people are waiting for a chance to be heard.