This important issue inspired Dave Chappelle to address his local city council.

When he's not on the road, selling out theaters, or filming specials, comedian Dave Chappelle makes his home in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

It's a small, mostly white town outside Dayton where Chappelle grew up and went to school. You may recall he returned to Yellow Springs to invite residents to attend his outdoor concert in Brooklyn for "Dave Chappelle's Block Party." Now the comedian is raising his own kids there. It would be easy to say he's come full circle, but his heart never really left.

Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Bombay Sapphire Gin.


Like many residents, Chappelle was shocked by the events that took place in Yellow Springs on New Year's Eve.

Following the town's annual midnight ball drop, people usually clear out on their own. But just minutes into 2017, police drove cruisers through the crowd, sirens wailing. After an intense back-and-forth between partygoers and police, one reveler, David Carlson, who is black, was slammed to the ground by officers. Community members were immediately outraged by the officer's aggressive tactics. The chief of police resigned days later. And the tight-knit community is still reeling after the incident, which made national news.

Photo by iStock.

In the wake of the incident, Chappelle went to the village council meeting to make an impassioned push for progressive, community policing.

As Yellow Springs prepares to hire a new police chief, the village council held a public meeting March 6, 2017, to address community issues, including police behavior. Chappelle spoke to the council and shared fond memories of the police force he grew up with. But today, Chappelle feels like the officers don't know Yellow Springs or its residents.

"Now we're being policed by what feels like an alien force," he told the council.

This wasn't a call for "the good old days" but instead a plea to build and restore trust from the ground up.

Chappelle pushed for progressive policing, which focuses on relationship building, particularly with law enforcement and communities of color. It's accomplished through better data collection, improved training, and a focus on recruiting and retaining officers that look like the communities they serve.

"I would beseech the council to look deeply and to look hard. Because ... this is a golden opportunity," Chappelle said. "Literally you could kill the game. I mean in this Trump era, there's an opportunity to show everybody that local politics reigns supreme."  

When we get active at the local level, we can all improve our respective corners of the world.

Whether you're Dave Chappelle and you squeeze in a town hall meeting or two before your Netflix specials come out or you're Chance the Rapper announcing plans to donate $1 million to the public school system that made you and needs your help or you're a person reading this on your bus ride home, there's always something you can do to make an impact in your community. No celebrity status required. We can all build and shape the cities we want, but it starts with showing up.

Guests listen as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) speaks during a town hall meeting on March 6, 2017, in Chicago. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It may be attending or speaking at a city council meeting. It might be hosting a block party, cleaning up a local park, or making sure local schools have the resources they need. Perhaps it's voting for policies and referenda that will impact residents for generations to come. These seemingly small acts can make a big difference. And unlike politics at the national level, you'll likely see a greater and more immediate impact when you get involved at the local level.

Need some inspiration? Watch Chappelle's address to the Yellow Springs village council.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

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Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

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Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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