Systems Change in the Neighborhood: Meet Tonya Monteiro


Meet Tonya Monteiro, relationship director of Love Out Loud and recent Trust grantee. We sat down with Tonya for her perspective on what long-term change looks like for her community in Forsyth County.

What is the mission you’re working to accomplish in Forsyth County?

Love Out Loud’s mission is transforming our city with the love of Jesus by connecting and mobilizing its people and resources.

What that looks like is partnering with over 300 nonprofits and over 150 faith groups. We work with scores of individual volunteers, for-profit, education, and government entities—both faith and secular groups—to help each connect with the causes they’re passionate about and reduce community silos. My role is to build relational equity and trust across racial, geographic, socio-economic, and generational lines in the community.

There are a lot of resources in Winston-Salem, but oftentimes those resources operate in silos. Love Out Loud provides support and infrastructure to scale and amplify efforts that impact policies and systems, and connects the dots of needs and resources in our community.

Increasingly, we’ve been involved in calling community members to growth and difficult conversations about systems change, equity, justice, and the roots of poverty in our community.

What motivates you to work for change?

My inspiration and motivation came from my grandparents. My paternal grandfather was a school principal for more than 40 years and planted the seed for my passion in education. My maternal grandfather is from Cape Verde and came to this country in the early 1900s so that he could earn enough to send money back to support his family. Years after his death, my aunt and I visited our family in Cape Verde, and they shared the impact he had on their lives.

Growing up, I spent the summers surrounded by a community of educators, which included my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends. They knew the impact of summer learning loss, so strongly encouraged me to read over the summer. I think that support made a difference in my life. I believe every child should have a support system that provides them with opportunities to flourish.

How is racial equity and anti-racism critical to your work?

Every day people can travel from one side of Winston-Salem to another and see the inequities that exist—if they look. We have plenty of data that affirms these deep inequities. We should all be enraged. The systemic racism that’s embedded in our unequal systems, policies, and infastructures harms everyone.

Our collective community goal should be to ensure that each person has what they need to pursue a quality life.

In order to create a thriving community, we must address disparities and provide equity. This includes equal access to the foundational barometers for quality—education, health, jobs, and housing. If we don’t address all of these issues, it will affect us all collectively.

A team of volunteers supports a food distribution site in Winston-Salem.

Injustice and inequity are laced through every aspect of poverty and privilege in our community. In the end, we should not only want equity, but justice for the communities who have been marginalized through policies and systems that have prevented them from pursing a quality life.

So, what’s happening in the neighborhood?

With the pandemic and the surge of needs in our community, Love Out Loud has been in close partnership in the neighborhoods and communities that historically are under-resourced. Two needs emerged immediately:

  • Food security: Second Harvest reached out to us to set up free meal distribution. We partnered with at least 15 churches and other organizations to set up sites for families to pick up food. We also partnered with BIPOC- and women-owned restaurants to provide additional catered meals on the weekends, supporting the restaurant industry at the same time.
  • Masks: We supported the city’s Mask the City initiative to help distribute over 75,000 masks in partnership with 192 organizations.

We serve as the amplifier for efforts that are happening in access, advocacy, and capacity, and connect organizations and resources. We partner with a number of systems change efforts, including a local effort to empower families to advocate on behalf of their children, and drive conversations about what’s happening in their schools and the community.

We’re also working with FaithHealth, part of the Wake Forest Baptist Health system, to research the barriers families experience in the early childhood health and education space, and advocate for systems change.

What will success look like when you achieve our mission?

Success is when we look around the table and the people who are most impacted by decisions and policies are driving and leading the conversation about what should happen in their community.

I’d like to see a stronger alignment from the grasstops to the grassroots, and support efforts with community leadership to ensure the voices of those most impacted are represented, valued and respected.

Everyone will be willing to do the hard work, because addressing inequity and systemic racism is not for the faint of heart. I think everyone should have patience, give people space to do the difficult work, and extend more grace, gratitude, and understanding. Systems change work is the long-game, and we have to take care of one another.

Learn more and get involved with Love Out Loud here.