Actually, that's not even true.
As the founder and day-to-day lead of Reveille Grounds, I want to own it. I need to own it.
I screwed up.
Reveille is on a mission to build stronger veterans, thriving communities, and an enduring legacy of service in EVERY community where we all live, work, and play.
The United States Military happens to be the most diverse workforce in the country, and yet, depending on who you ask, many of the spaces built for veterans to gather and connect are not necessarily the places where all veterans feel welcome, safe, and included. In fact, research shows that minority veterans experience greater challenges with unemployment, poverty, homelessness, etc compared to their non-minority peers, and yet, we're still building social and physical constructs that exclude rather than unite.
Hoping to serve as a long overdue, very necessary, and counter-cultural alternative, Reveille seeks to provide a warm, nimble, equitable, and inclusive environment for military-connected individuals and families to gather, build community, and thrive together. We are building a "Third Space" where people actually want to be - a place where we ALL can experience a sense of belonging. Where we recognize that we're all looking for something and we all have something to offer.
But last month, before we've even formally opened our doors, I failed to execute our mission with the integrity that I want to be able to promise to - and expect from - every entity in our growing ecosystem.
Weeks ago, when a community-based coalition working to combat veteran suicide reached out to inquire about our ability to host a special event in our space, my immediate response was, "YES, of course!" Although we won't formally open our doors to the public until our Veterans Day Grand Opening on November 11th, we are eager to begin activating our space and sharing our resources with groups who can help us do just that.
And then - and I'm certainly not proud of it - I recoiled, changed my mind, and told this group that we couldn't accommodate their Drag Show event after all.
I did exactly the opposite of what Reveille has set out to achieve, and I said "no" to an already under-represented group who probably only had a short list of venue options that met their needs to begin with. We can't promise safety, accessibility, and inclusion to integrity-driven groups who are looking to gather, educate, and empower if we fail to exercise our values in the moments when it matters the most.
So yes. I messed up. Before the paint was even dry on our new digs, I abandoned our North Star in a cowardly attempt to play it safe. This decision could have easily made another place to gather for those who already have many to choose from, while also closing the door on those who might still be looking for their own safety. In worrying that we'd ruffle the feathers of some of our stakeholders who might never embark on their own journey to expand their views and values, I was well on my way to compromising my own... and Reveille's.
BUT, while it took longer than it should have, I knew relatively quickly that I was wrong.
I also knew that we'd built a support system within our growing community that believed in our mission and core values, and if consulted, they would help us course correct. Thanks to some quick heart-to-hearts with a few trusted individuals and mentors in this space and a gut check with our Executive Committee, I got in touch with the coalition, apologized, and asked if they would consider hosting their event with us after all.
And we hope you can join us on September 30th for an event that - I hope - sets the tone for exactly who I hope Reveille Grounds continues to be in a world where too many are still searching for a place of belonging. Join me!
This SNAFU was not in vain, though... It reaffirmed our values and lit a fire under me to begin working on our organization's INCLUSION statement.
We learned our lesson. I certainly learned MY lesson as a Founder and leader, and I'm glad that I was given the gift of failing forward before we perpetuated the very spirit of exclusion we exist to combat.
The following statement (doubling as our "Nondiscrimination Policy") is a living commitment to doing better by every member of our community every single day. We probably don't have this exactly right just yet, but we won't let "perfect be the enemy of good." This is where we start and how we plan to hold ourselves accountable in the pursuit of access, equity, and inclusion, but we don't plan on ending the work now. This is just the beginning and we hope you'll join us in disrupting "the way we've always done it" and proving that it is possible to tame the tide that will lift all boats.
In Pursuit of How Things Should Be,
Katie Kilby Founder & President Reveille Grounds