More action needed, not more talk

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An editorial published nearly four years ago in the Suffolk News-Herald, “Less talk, more action,” stated, ”Nearly everyone agrees there’s a problem (regarding violent crime hurting Suffolk youth)…. But when it comes to actually doing something beyond talking about the problem, it’s hard to find volunteers….”

The editorial also pointed out that those who are out “getting their hands dirty” solving some of our community’s social problems often find themselves working at cross purposes. These statements still ring true today.

A series of recent columns penned by ABetterSociety.Info Executive Director Joe Bass discussed the culture of philanthropy, charity and community involvement and has suggested that more “public dialogue” might be a solution to addressing racial, poverty, welfare, education and deteriorating communities.


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Dr. Bass and I agreed to disagree after attempts to launch public dialogues; and his analogy of the work and support from local foundations, organizations and individuals that give so generously of their time, talent and treasure fits squarely in the “disagree” box.

Instead of more talk and “intellectual” exchange, the greater need is for more leaders willing to “get their hands dirty.”

As a social entrepreneur and development consultant, with corporate business and social “activist” experience at both grassroots and national levels, I submit that solutions inarguably come from passion, commitment, partnership and collaboration.

I have had the pleasure of serving on the boards of several local organizations, meeting some of the most committed and talented leaders, who generously give their time, talent and treasure to a myriad of charitable causes. These “change agents” prefer action over dialogue, understand the community’s problems and are responding to their altruistic calling with passion.

Moreover, they strive to gain economies and efficiencies of scale in their programs, services and charitable support.

Suffolk is an evolving community experiencing tremendous economic and population growth, thus creating demographic change and new social dichotomies. Action is needed in the form of courageous and visionary leadership to strategically direct resources toward education, economic empowerment, and other social problems. The city’s elected and faith-based leader continue to overlook the youth epidemic of a loss of value on human life and the crisis in our midst.

At a recent funeral of a high school student, the eulogy was titled “How long are we going to get it twisted?” This is a profound question, particularly in the low-income black areas, where supportive youth development and empowering life-skills educational programs are sorely needed.

This trend demands action — not dialogue — to take proactive steps toward community partnerships, with strong leadership prepared to put the most vulnerable people and at-risk youth first, before party, race, politics or personal gain.

Dr. Bass and I agree that the truth is often inflammatory. As leaders, we must take courageous action to create positive change where progress is nurtured and respected.

This is exactly why the Community Action Coalition of Suffolk VA was formed in 2010. Its action-oriented approach has forged productive partnerships and strategic alliances with public and private entities aimed at solving problems, and earning it the FBI Director’s Community National Leadership Award in 2012.

I suggest that what we need is less talk and more action, and I invite more citizens to leave their keyboards, get involved and “get their hands dirty.”

Robert E. “Bob” Stephens lives near Chuckatuck and is president and CEO of Genesis Development and Consulting Services. Email him at