004. Lessons From Chef Shawn

As the Librii team continues to build its network in Anacostia, we recently we made the acquaintance of Chef Shawn Lightfoot.  Shawn exemplifies the kind of citizen who feels a personal responsibility for his community and has found a way to put those beliefs into action through his work.

We met Shawn at his new cafe in the Anacostia Arts Center, near the corner of Martin Luther King and Good hope road. With more than 25 years of culinary experience, chef is seeking to make a strong impact on the community by empowering underrepresented and undercapitalized entrepreneurs. He seeks to uplift individuals throughout the greater DMV community and support them in their own personal growth.

Librii can learn many lessons from Shawn’s Fresh Food Factory. A critical observation is deliberately engaging the community prior to the launch of any permanent facility. While the old mantra “Build it and they will come” may work with baseball fields, the same cannot be said with a transformative education experience in the heart of SE Washington. Librii must strive to meet the community at their current understanding and help our new neighbors understand the true value of the organization. By partnering with local leaders, Librii can better explain its’ mission and how it can have a direct impact on the daily lives of everyone who participates.

It is one thing to craft the perfect message, but it is essential to know how the message will be understood. Librii stands to gain much benefit from partnering with local community leaders, such as Councilwoman LaRuby May, Local Anacostia community centers, existing youth programs, and other cultural hubs. If they fail to make these critical connections, the local community can easily be isolated from this experience and view the organizations as merely another form of gentrification. 

Finally, Shawn advised us to remember to meet people where they are.  You can tell this is not a platitude, but words of wisdom that are hard-earned by someone who lives a life of deep empathy and compassion. 

By Albert DeGarmo, Librii Development Specialist