Jacob Dixon is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at Choice for All. He’s committed to working with the people of Long Island to achieve equity by utilizing collective impact and mobilization.
11575 (Roosevelt, NY) – a zip code with one third of single head of households struggling economically, 89% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch, a childhood obesity rate that is the highest in Nassau County and a childhood asthma hospital discharge rate greater than Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island combined. It is also a zip code with a nature preserve, four local parks, new school buildings, a new library and a small town feel of physical proximity between homes, schools and business. Rich in diversity, cultural and social assets, it is a zip code that has been impacted by inequality of wealth and opportunity.
The power of language influences our feelings, decisions, policies and movements that could shape our future. I know this first hand as someone who was born, raised and works in 11575; suburbia Long Island. The data above often is experienced by zip codes of communities of color and impacts our region’s ability to achieve equity – fair and just inclusion where all can participate, grow and reach their fullest potential. However, research shows that your zip code has more of an impact on your life expectancy than your own genetic code. For example, education in one zip code has one of the top performing districts in New York, but less than mile away, education is drastically different. This, in itself, represents an urgent call to action.
The tale of the zip codes gave me the fuel to start my own non-profit organization, Choice for All, to change the narrative with the people of 11575. Our purpose has expanded in the last eight years with a clear mission to build the power and capacity of Long Island’s children and families in underserved areas to change their communities. Work can’t be done in silos; that’s a significant challenge we experience on Long island that continues to perpetuate the cycle of inequity. It also poses a critical question that we need to address as a region: How do we, as Long Island, shift the narrative to where when one zip code struggles, we all struggle and when one zip code wins, we all win? The answer is with resources and movement building.
Yet, we know this type of hard work and hard equity is a multifaceted strategy of growth, but it requires a fundamental understanding that all of us – residents, elected officials, community based organizations, health and the private sector – believe that our region is at our stake if we don’t invest in building opportunities for fair and just inclusion in all faucets impacting our lives: education, housing, transit, air and water quality, employment, health, child care and more. nextLI plays a critical role in this process with a bold mission of research and conversation about our future. The language we use, the data we collect, the stories that we share and the resources we bring all must align with equity for all to prosper, regardless of zip code. As a social justice strategist and an educator, I hope my experiences can shed a light to the building blocks needed to solidify a movement of equity for the people, with the people on Long Island.