Giving the community influence and powerQ&A with Chanel Hampton: Nonprofit Journal Project

Ensuring that marginalized communities have influence, power, resources, and opportunities has been the mission of Strategic Community Partners (SCP) since they first opened their doors in 2015. Dr. Chanel Hampton is the founder and CEO.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started SCP in 2015?

There are no blueprints for launching and leading an organization for entrepreneurship or for leading an organization – even if it's an organization that has existed for decades. Also, before launching SCP I was very cognizant that the most salient part of my identity was being black. When launching the company I quickly became aware that I'm a black woman, and being a woman in business is still, in 2023, inequitable. That is something that there's also no blueprint for.

What are some of the critical conversations you're having with people?

After the murder of George Floyd, we saw a lot of organizations and folks commit to equity and anti-racism. And we know that a lot of that was performative. Equity is this buzzword that is very popular now. We're having conversations with folks to really say, who is defining equity in your community or organization? There are conversations like, what is true equity? Who needs to be at the table?

And that can be very difficult for folks. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes years to talk about dismantling systems that have been in place for generations. It takes more time and it is more complex when you're bringing so many different people to the table.

If you had to guess, who would you say is the biggest fan of your incubator program? Why?

I think about the kids that are served by the organizations that are in our incubator. There are several kids who I've gotten to know over the last three years because they engage with these organizations. A grandma came up to me recently and thanked me at a program I visited. It caught me off guard. She said, "Our babies are taken care of when they're here. They are around people who are safe and love them." She had been looking for programming for her granddaughter for over a year.

Why is it important that power, influence and resources are placed directly into the hands of marginalized communities?

People know what they need. Good people know. I think that too often, folks in power sit and pontificate, and think about what people need. But, if you ask someone, they will genuinely tell you what they need. Whether it's a kid, a teacher or community member, an elder, whoever it is, people know what they need. I'm a firm believer that when we launched SCP it is about sustainable, transformative change that is led by community, with community and for community.

Can you share a bit about the power of leading SCP with an "unapologetic" approach?

We're committed to standing alongside community and letting community drive what we do. In the past, there have been efforts with partners where they thought it would be one thing. And then we brought teachers to the table, or we got students around a table, and we listened to them. Then, in fact, there was something completely different that needed to happen — that required complete pivots. We are unapologetic about things like that, because we have to do what is right, even when it's challenging.

The connection between your own ancestors, answered prayers and legacy is something that seems woven into SCP's relatively young history. Can you talk about this?

I have lived on my own since I was 13. I had worked 60 or 80 hours a week since I was 13. On top of high school, on top of dual enrollment. I have raised kids who aren't biologically mine, but they are my babies. I became emancipated when I was 16. From 13 to 16, I ducked and dodged the foster care system. So, this work is very personal for me. I was the kid that we serve. I had a mom who was young, and I saw her struggling to navigate a system that was not made to support her or me or my brother. I grew up in poverty. I've been homeless. I know what my mom and my grandparents sacrificed for me.

I don't want a kid to think that they can't be something because of their circumstances. SCP is about a village. It is about serving, in particular, Black babies and Black community members. And it's about building a legacy that is far beyond what we can even imagine.

This entry is part of our Nonprofit Journal Project, an initiative inviting nonprofit leaders across Metro Detroit to contribute their thoughts via journal entries on how COVID-19, a heightened awareness of racial injustice and inequality, issues of climate change, and more are affecting their work and how they are responding. This series is made possible with the generous support of our partners, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Co.act Detroit.
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