Name: Kenyona “Sunny” Matthews
Occupation: Public Speaker and Deputy Service Bailiff
Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Home Now: Cuyahoga Falls
Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook at Kenyona Matthews
What’s your big idea?
I want to have a community dialogue about the issues we are facing in our society, with hopes to find solutions that come from the people. The People’s State of the Union in its simplest form is a chance for us to determine what happens in our society to make it a better one. Just like the President, governors and mayors give State of the Union/State/City addresses, I want the people to do the same. Through nationwide simultaneous conversations, we will develop the People’s State of the Union, and together, we will deliver it in a formal address.
It’s a three part movement. First, we’ll have community conversations led by community panelists to define the issues. Second, we’ll have discussion-based solution-generating dialogues. Third, we’ll deliver the formal The People’s State of the Union Address from Akron. All three of these events will happen simultaneously nationwide.
Why pursue it?
At some point America became disconnected. Those who make decisions aren’t in tune with those who are are affected by those decisions. For example, in North Carolina, where I’m from, they just passed a law on transgender bathroom use, basically requiring that people use the bathroom according to the sex they were born into. Who in North Carolina thought this was an issue? It wasn’t. But some higher-up made it an issue, passed a law, and now it affects everyone. We’re facing the same problem nationwide, where people in power are making decisions without input from their constituents. My goal is to hold leaders accountable for their decisions and give voice and power back to the community—not just protest afterwards, but influence, by defining the issues, preparing solutions and then working to make those solutions realities. If we come together, hold community conversations and then send those people out to implement those solutions through grassroots organizing within groups that already exist, how cool is that?
When did you know your big idea was a good idea?
I knew it was a good idea when I was talking to someone, and she said it gave her chills. I knew it was a good idea when I was listening to community activists and seeing smaller versions of this happen all over different towns, and I thought, “How cool would it be to have the same conversations at the same time all across the county?”
How do you hope your big idea helps Akron grow?
Number one, I want Akron to be the birthplace of this national movement. Being the birthplace of a movement in and of itself is amazing. Akron has the power to do that. I also hope the community leaders here in Akron will help to spread the idea, and will in turn get more help from their community to implement solutions to the problems we face here in Akron.
(Featured photo by M. Sophie Franchi)