Joshua Rawls, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation

Where are you from?

Originally I’m from the south side. I’ve spent about 2 years living in about every side of the city you can imagine–my family moved around a lot! Right now I live in Woodlawn.

What led you to your current organization? 

I had been involved with St Sabina, a partner of Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation. They have a youth initiative called Strong Futures. I was staying in my car at the time and had been for a few months. A friend of mine, his spouse had been a participant of the program, and she was able to get housing–a good amount of space for a decent price–so she led me to Strong Futures. I got involved with them doing peer-to-peer coaching. A lot of people coming through there were my age or younger. [Afterwards] I worked at Amazon and at Allstate making decent money but it wasn’t the most meaningful. I dropped by Strong Futures one day, and they let me know about some opportunities with GAGDC. I volunteered for about 2 months before being offered a supervisor position leading our COVID response work. I haven’t looked back!

What do you hope to accomplish as a CSAC member?

I would like a greater sense of awareness in the community in terms of how policy is effected in their communities, a greater awareness of what affects their quality of life based on the social determinants of health, and a greater awareness of how to navigate their environment to tap into the organizations and entities that manage those resources. I would like for this community to have a strong understanding of how to get themselves from the consumer side of things to the director side of things–and for people to go from being an everyday resident to being a person who’s at the table contributing to decision-making in their environment.

What are some issues in your community you hope to resolve?

Largely that lack of awareness. And nutritional awareness–we have limited options in terms of what we consume in terms of a food perspective, but also from a media perspective. I’d like for us to be able to embrace something outside of the norm when it comes to entertainment and leisure activities, and also when it comes to civics. We often participate in normal conversation around local policy or national policy, but we are ignorant about how to navigate our power as residents and as human beings. How can we bring that together collectively to affect policy and affect conditions in our environment?

Do you have any fun facts? 

I am a follower of traditional African spirituality. A lot of my teachers come from where people work six months of the year and focus the other six months on perfecting themselves and their environment. There’s such a shift in perspective from the philosophies we deal with on an everyday basis as a western society. There’s an overlooked, simpler path back to being in tune with being in balance, civil, harmonious, and extending our expected life.