In many ways Diahann’s story captures the essence of what Hearts on Fire is about—following one’s inner voice and passion, defying the expectations of others.
Today Diahann is leading a groundbreaking volunteer program in
New York City. When I think of Diahann’s journey, I hear echoes of the closing lines of Invictus:
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Diahann is the chief service officer of New York City and leads NYC Service. In 2009 Mayor Michael Bloomberg established NYC Service, “to let loose an army of volunteers who will help tackle our biggest challenges.” New York City is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of over eight million. It is fast paced, vibrant, a true melting pot of people from around the world, and bursting with energy. It is a magnet for artists, innovators, dreamers, and the ambitious. It is a city where thinking big is business as usual.
The city’s five boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island—are home to some of America’s wealthiest families and some of its poorest. Mobilizing the vast volunteer human resources of New York to serve the many hundreds of thousands of families in need of food, medicine, and housing, to tutor the city’s public school children, and to make life safer and more civil, is more than a good idea: It is a way to ensure the city’s physical and social health. Diahann explains her mission this way:
We are tasked with engaging more New Yorkers in strategic service and building service as a part of what it means to be a citizen of New York City. We oversee thirty-eight initiatives, targeting areas where we know we want to measure the impact that volunteers can have on meeting a pressing need. We have initiatives in six impact areas: strengthening our communities, helping our neighbors in need, education, the environment, health, and emergency preparedness.
Our slogan is, we ask people to use their BLANK for good. The tagline means that everybody has something to offer. We believe that we will be able to make a culture shift, where everybody in New York understands that they have something to offer, no matter who they are.
Diahann’s journey to a life of service began with her own journey as a young woman dealing with conflicting expectations and discovering the power of education.