Back in March I had the honor of being a selected for “Heroes of Asheville,” a project of the third grade classrooms of Francine Delany New School for Children and Evergreen Community Charter School. For this project, adults in the community are nominated as heroes. As the nomination materials explained, “a Hero of Asheville is someone who uses his/her mind, heart, body and spirit to bring positive change to our community. Heroes exist in all walks of life: political leaders, artists, scientists, advocates of social justice, athletes, entrepreneurs, cultural leaders, naturalists, educators, spiritual leaders, and more.” After the nominations are compiled, “each student chooses one local hero to interview in order to learn how that person has helped to make Asheville a better place; we honor our heroes through biographical reports, poetry, monuments, and portraits at a community event called Heroes’ Night.”

My sweet Heroes of Asheville nominator, Kriya Lendzion, had this to say about me: “Ami is an awesome ‘proponent of joy and justice.’ She is always involved in important local projects that help to eliminate racism and empower African American people. She used to coordinate Stand Against Racism for the YWCA, worked on the Goombay Festival and Africans Americans in Western NC Conference this year, and involves herself in every opportunity to learn about and better the world around her. She manages a blog called Asheville Action that encourages people to get involved in actions in the community that promote equity and inclusion for all. AND she makes fun music!”

An absolutely delightful third grader picked me. She was poised and ernest when I met her at Evergreen to be interviewed, and the experience of seeing myself through her eyes had a real impact on me. At first I was uncomfortable with being called a “hero,” but my desire to be a positive example for my new friend allowed me to reflect on the good things I’ve done over the years. And why.

heroes night

The Heroes’ Night celebration was moving. The kids’ projects were impressive, and the evening program showcased the inspiration the heroes provided the students, and vice versa. One powerful aspect of the night was seeing the other heroes at the event that I knew, and learning about other folks doing good in the community. As one of third grade student explained about the project, “We learned the difference between a hero and a celebrity.” That really resonated with me as I looked around the room to see people who do great work every day, not for applause, but because of a calling in their hearts.

queen mother, lael gray, ami worthen

Heroes of Asheville: Maggie Belle Gladden, Lael Gray, Me

Of course I touched to see the awesome writings and art my new favorite third grader created about me. Looking at her work, I appreciated the opportunity to celebrate what I’ve accomplished in my life thus far. In addition, it felt like a call to action to fully live up to my new “hero” status.

So here I am, back to writing here after two months spent reorganizing my life in order to create more space for my passions, including using this platform as a means to amplify and encourage positive change in our community.

There are so many heroes among us. Let’s continue to celebrate them.

ami-worthen-art