“I want to tell you a story about dreams.”

I’ll never forget that line in Paulo Coelho’s classic, The Alchemist. What followed was a parable explaining the multilayered approach to how history is
made, which resulted in the summation: “No matter what he does,” the alchemist said, “every person on earth plays a central role in the history of
the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”

I remember reading over the documents related to the Forward Cities Initiative and thinking to myself (and later telling others,) “I believe, ON PAPER,
Forward Cities is exactly what we need in Durham.” I thought and said that because, unlike the parable in The Alchemist, the Forward Cities Initiative
Executive Summary provided a skeletal overview of roles, data obtaining research opportunities and cross-city relationships that, with enough vision,
any reader could assume that an “open knowledge platform for shared learning” could result in great inclusive innovation to the benefit of the targeted
community, Northeast Central Durham.

…and we signed up. After a discussion with our management team, iNvictus Office Center agreed to participate. In fact, we were excited at the opportunity
to join this initiative. At the time, almost five years into our mentor-based minority entrepreneurship curriculum and having already worked/working
with entrepreneurs across the southeast, AND having just cut the ribbon on our new six thousand square foot coworking facility located on the Fayetteville
Street Corridor leading into Downtown Durham, North Carolina, there was one dilemma. We had a business model concentration on national economic development
through helping to locate, develop, mentor and grow minority entrepreneurs and businesses. The biggest hesitation before us was how do we add a more
concentrated, single city/community, almost microeconomic aspect to our overall mission. The answer was obvious: HOW COULD WE NOT?!

At the time, our current macroeconomic approach was successful. Almost ninety percent of the companies we had worked with since our founding in 2010, were
still alive and doing well. At iNvictus, success is measured with a pretty high bar. We expect companies to be able to “zero out” all books at the
end of each quarter and save, invest and scale responsibly. Additionally, we expect all of the entrepreneurs and companies we work with to invest in
ethnic minority dominant culture communities. That investment can come in a myriad of diverse pathways; hiring from within those communities, providing
beneficial technical support to those communities, supporting organizations or other businesses whose primary mission is to positively engage and affect
the needs of those communities, etc. Economic development is difficult, but community redevelopment has its own set of concerns to overcome. There
has been a lot of research done on cities and the fracturedness of their existence, if you will. Many of the ills underserved communities face are
living, layered and systemic. A more common sense results oriented approach would include very living, layered and systemic offerings also. Too many
times help is extremely segmented.

One non-profit offers job training to a segment of the community that finds difficulty in finding sustainable employment. A church offers a food pantry.
A make shift women’s shelter provides a respite for abuse victims. A beautician doubles as a counselor while the community store and neighborhood restaurant
offers nourishment, sometimes through much needed credit allocations. And unfortunately, law enforcement and various financial lending institutions
have become equally predatory on these same communities. Two of the largest documented dilemmas found within these solutions revolve around “acknowledgement.”
The community demands acknowledgement of its sheer existence while many of those that attempt to provide aid beg for recognition for their work. Most
books have “Acknowledgements,” a section dedicated to giving public recognition to those that contributed to the greatness that resulted in the book.
Howard Zinn, in his classic account of America’s history told from the perspective of Native Americans, “A People’s History of the United States” stated,
“It is possible, reading standard histories, to forget half the population of the country. …the very invisibility of women, the overlooking
of women, is a sign of their submerged status.” He would later go on, in a chapter entitled, The Intimately Oppressed, to compare the biological uniqueness
of women to skin color and facial characteristics for (Negroes) as a “basis for treating them as inferiors.”

“ON PAPER, Forward Cities is exactly what we need in Durham.” is the thought that repetitively bounced through my mind numerous times during the Durham,
NC convening of the Forward Cities Initiative as I physically made my way through the convening’s programming December 9-11, 2015. This work had to
establish a point of departure that reveled in the acknowledgement of the existence of the citizens of the community and their desires as well as their
needs coupled with a multifaceted, diversely innovative collaborative panacea. This elixir would have to be ushered in through a paradoxical understanding
by all involved; everyone is both part of the problem and should first accept blame for the state of these communities and that no one is worthy of
credit for the resulting successes of the work they contribute. Panel after panel, symposiums, table gatherings, networking luncheons, dinner and informal
discussions and confirmation plagued my mind. The Forward Cities Initiative IS exactly what we need in Durham. The opportunity to openly discuss, problem
solve and contribute across state lines all to the benefit of the previously underserved selected communities in Durham, New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland
is dynamic in every capacity that word offers us. And I met, discussed and debated person after person, to whom I would acclaim have done what Carter
G. Woodson asked of us all in The Mis-education of the Negro: “abandoning the idea of leadership and instead taking up definite tasks and sacrificing
their time and energy in doing things that might accomplish something.”

– Edward Boyd Jr