The Middle Project Develops Leaders for Today & Tomorrow
With so many social and political movements taking place in the U.S. and around the globe, we have yet to see an inspiring leader who has emerged from them that has captivated the hearts of the masses; a leader who promises equality, justice and peace and commits to their words. “The world needs leaders; not just any, but ethical, just leaders,” said Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, “who don’t teach hate and that are progressive forces of good.”
Four years ago Dr. Lewis helped establish The Middle Project, a non-profit organization based in New York City conceived to develop young moral and ethical leaders for a more tolerant and understanding society tomorrow. She was inspired to act when watching political figures indoctrinating hate on cable television. Utilizing her studies in theology, extensive experience advocating for rights for the disenfranchised and her position as Senior Minister of Middle Collegiate Church, she founded The Middle Project and became its Executive Director.
The organization conducts programs and leadership-development workshops for all ages, as well as interfaith and multicultural conferences. Workshops are dedicated to self-awareness, team building, conflict negotiation, and dynamics of change, race, culture and class. Furthermore, the organization leverages art and artistic expression to cultivate deeper communication. “Art speaks to the soul of all generations … it’s a language that goes right to the heart,” said Dr. Lewis. “For children who don’t read well or do well in math, it’s an equalizer.” The youth program, especially, draws on stories, music, drama and dance to address issues afflicting young people.
Although The Middle Project is affiliated with the Middle Collegiate Church, it does not represent or propagate Christianity. The program defines itself as a “step away from the church,” but borrows the good all religions have to offer to help promote morality and justice, explained Dr. Lewis. “Many social movements came from religious groups to help create a just society … all religions have a major equality and peace component and we stick to that to give back to the community.”
The Middle Project has continued to expand every year since its inception. Surveys conducted by the organization indicate that participants experienced pronounced improvements in confidence, communication, professional and personal growth and emotional intelligence. The majority of participants stressed that they have acquired skills that have made them more proficient in life.
When asked about the long-term goals of the organization, Dr. Lewis stated that, with young adults, there needs to be an early implementation of conflict resolution without resorting to violence. Moreover, it is essential that stronger and more frequent synergies between multiracial and multicultural environments are created in order to generate leaders who accept and foster diversity. “That is what we are working toward,” said Dr. Lewis. The Middle Project’s initiatives underscore the undeniable fact that good leaders are guiding stars scattered throughout the distant skies of history, and we are currently in dire need of one. #
To find out more about The Middle Project, visit www.middleproject.com.