Randall Keith Benjamin II – List of Dreamers
Community Partnerships Manager
(Randall) Keith Benjamin is responsible for initiating, coordinating and assisting public policy campaigns at state and local levels to advance adoption of complete streets and Safe Routes to School policies, MAP-21 and TAP funds, bicycle and pedestrian transportation planning, and other active transportation improvements to increase physical activity in underserved communities. Keith works with national, state, and local leaders in underserved communities to identify, develop and collaborate on advocacy campaigns, provide technical assistance, and increase leadership capacity.
How did you determine what you were passionate about?
In college there was a demand for students to balance academic excellence and civic engagement. To sit regionally in the middle of Philadelphia and Chester allowed me to start tapping into my intrigue about how communities were formed and who the decision makers were. Between becoming the first Chester Fellow from Swarthmore College, and working with their Housing Authority, to being taking under the wing of community development guru, Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. in the 4th District of Philadelphia, seeds were planted that ultimately grew into a passion for planning, development and transportation.
What challenges have you overcome to pursue your dreams?
Four years ago on February 28th at about 4:30pm, my entire world collapsed. I lost my job, my livelihood, and my home. If it weren't for my youngest brother, Everett calling me with prayer after I texted him the news,I would have lossed it right in my office chair.
For 17 months I went on a roller coaster ride of emotions, experiences and lessons. I remember getting up to run at 6am, getting dressed in a suit and walking the city everyday just to keep my mind stable. I remember Thione giving me a chance to be the first Give1Project Fellow to come from the Americas to France and Senegal. I remember being on the flight home from that trip and seeing an email letting me know that the fellowship I thought I was coming back to fell through. I remember needing to speak at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference in Washington DC but being stuck in Philly with only seven dollars in my pocket. I remember Dr. Innocent putting me in the late Representative Donald Payne's office so I could get on my feet. I remember Khalil making room for me on the Congressional Affairs team for the 2012 Democratic Convention. I remember staying on his couch and surviving off of birthday cake oreos for a week. I remember the exact place when I told my now wife that I trusted her. I remember finding out that two of my mentors were having separate conversations with the executive director of my current organization telling the executive director they needed me on the team.
I remember it all, and I believe with every part of me that what I thought was loss and failure was really a pruning process so I could occupy my purpose and passion with a focused humility. Now, as I travel the country and support communities, I do the work knowing that this has all been given to me and I am obligated to be a good steward of what is in my hands.
How do you stay focused and productive in your area of passion?
I know what is at stake. The truth is, everyday there are people, powers and politics that are governing how communities are built, function and grow. All of these aspects are predicated on voice. Who is and is not speaking up for that community and to what cause. It is imperative that citizens of every neighborhood whether urban, suburban or rural becomes cognisant of the power they have in their voice to articulate their community's health, mobility, and safety needs. In the policy world we call it equity. Over the last three years I have been privileged to hear, learn and uplift those voices. From the southern city of Knoxville, to the Native American reservation in Walthill, to the sprawling city of Houston, to the seventh and eighth wards of Washington DC, being a part of creating better places for everyone to live no matter the class, ethnicity, age, or disability is my passion and I am committed to the work.