What exactly is Metropolis St. Louis? It seems like this is a common question people have when I talk to people about the organization. Some people see Metropolis as that group of "kids who drink downtown." Other people think of Metropolis when they see the weekend action on Washington Ave. Still others see Metropolis as a booster group for the city. Well, I am here to say to that Metropolis is all of these things and more.
The mission of Metropolis is to create an environment in the city that attracts and retains young people. This mission was developed by a group of 20-somethings who were upset by the constant drain of young people from the region. The founding members of Metropolis thought if they created more social, cultural, educational, leadership and political opportunities for young people they would stay. So create they did.
The creation of Metropolis reminds me of the line from Field of Dreams where it is said, "build it and they will come." This phrase is definitely true with Metropolis. Over the past four years Metropolis has built an organization of five committees, eleven steering committee members, and over 1200 members scattered throughout the St. Louis region. Our members are of all ages, races, and religious denominations. The one thing that brings them all together is their belief that St. Louis can be a better place for all.
As mentioned before, Metropolis is still a young organization and like any young organization that grows quickly, growing pains are inevitable. During my tenure as president I would like to help the organization get over this crucial period by focusing my efforts on three important issues.
My first goal deals with organizational structure. Some people within the organization may believe that we have become exactly like the "status quo" organizations we despise. While I can see this point, I disagree. I think in order for Metropolis to gain its reputation it had to put some type of structure to its mission. It is my desire during my term to assist the organization in taking a serious look at its structure and determining if it is still appropriate for the organization. I would like to get the input of not only steering committee members, but members, and organizations with which we have partnered. After a complete review of our organizational structure we would be prepared to make positive changes.
My second goal involves membership involvement. During the recent visioning session, Metropolis' membership was considered one of its strengths. While we do have some members involved in the organization, we have many more who watch along the fringes. One former steering committee member said that Metropolis has "multiple entry points," and I think this is both a strength and a weakness for the organization. I believe we would get more involvement if we had a systematic way of letting people know about the organization and how they could get involved. Not everyone feels comfortable just showing up to a Walk or a meeting. I would like to work with the steering committee to determine how to get these members involved in the organization. Without membership involvement the organization will slowly fade away leaving a void in the city that other organizations have yet to fulfill.
My final goal is diversity. There has been much said on this topic over the past four years. Some members believe we have tried to reach out to diverse groups and if they don't join then that is not our problem. Other members believe we could be doing so much more to make the organization welcoming to all. And finally a small group believes that the only way to ensure diversity is to disband the organization and rebuild with a diverse membership. All of these ideas are valid because they come from our members. Personally I believe there has to be some middle ground. St. Louis is a city that has struggled with race since the first African set foot within its borders. It is naïve for us to believe that in four years Metropolis, a predominately white organization, can solve the race problems and create an organization that reflects the city. Instead, I would like to challenge the Metropolis members to continue the discussions and each determine what they can do to diversify the organization. This could be inviting people of color to attend meetings and programs or helping create partnerships with diverse organizations. The only way Metropolis is going to become a diverse organization is if each member takes it upon themselves to do their part. This is my challenge to the membership.
Over the last few days there have been emotional exchanges over e-mail concerning the future of Metropolis. Some of the information is fact and other is fiction. Nonetheless, I am here to say that Metropolis has become a vital part of the city of St. Louis and will continue its great work in the community. If you have any suggestions for the organization, please contact me at email@example.com. For more information about Metropolis and how you can get involved, please go to www.mstl.org.
Melanie Adams is the new president of Metropolis St. Louis; her term runs from August 1, 2001 to January 31, 2002.