Category Archives: Inspiration

Powerful

This is the most powerful piece of music I have heard in awhile. (h/t @ShaunKing)

#BlackLivesMatter is a demand, not a plea. It is going to make a lot of white people (all people)(conservative AND liberal AND even so-called progressives) uncomfortable, but our nation is on fire. And it’s time.

As Shaun King wrote in an email to supporters of the new coalition and movement he’s putting together called Justice Together:

“In each generation, in each era, the overwhelming majority of people strongly preferred the status quo.

During the height of chattel slavery in the United States, in which people, by force, were brutalized into lifelong servitude, most historians suggest that nearly 80% of Americans approved of slavery.

We look back on that time and wonder how in the hell 80% of a country could support such a thing, but it’s the American way.

Dr. King was not popular nationwide. He was despised by most Americans and the Civil Rights Movement was WIDELY disregarded as overkill, attention-seeking, and completely unnecessary. The constant criticism was that it was seeking “too much, too fast.” Mind you, it was 100 years after slavery.

Today, in 2015, we live in an America that is VERY similar to the America’s I just described to you. Our nation is highly resistant to change, leaders who speak out on racial injustice or police brutality are demeaned and called outrageous names, and we are told that we are fighting for a worthless cause.

…Your family may not understand. Your friends may not get it. We created Justice Together so that you would always have a tribe that loves and supports you in this struggle.”

I had chills listening to the song at the top of this post. I feel it in my bones and in my hurting heart and in my soul that our nation is hurting, and that we need to move forward together. And I didn’t know where to share it. I retweeted it and got no retweets. I emailed it to colleagues and got no response. I posted it on Facebook and got two likes. I don’t know how many people heard me. I don’t know if anyone will read this. I don’t even know what reaction I’m looking for.

I saw this tweet last weekend during #FergusonTaughtMe to honor the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death.

It resonated because I feel the same. I DON’T know my place in this movement yet, but I DO know that I cannot — and WILL NOT — ignore it. I will actively be supporting it in whatever way I can. Even if it scares the shit out of me. Because #FollowYourFear. Fear means you care; fear means growth; fear means it matters.

This next year’s election is going to be a circus no matter what. I’m glad people are using the platform to get their voices heard. Let’s listen. Let’s amplify their voices. Let’s fight for the justice we believe in.

Nick Kristof + Silver Buckshot

I went to a Commonwealth Club talk with Nicholas Kristof last month. I went into the evening curious what kind of tone he would have as a speaker, and I left inspired. Here are two stories that he shared that I really needed to hear:

1. Hope in the face of complex issues

A woman stands at the mic and tells Kristof that his book inspired her friends to start a dine + donate club. They choose an issue and make contributions each month. They’ve been looking at human trafficking, and she wants his advice on where to focus their energy — the rescue piece? the prevention and education of young girls piece? the law enforcement piece?

He says: “Everyone is looking for a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet…But there is silver buckshot.”

The project I’m working on with schools in the South is ostensibly about improving students’ academic performance, so they can get good educations, so they can be successful and thrive. But that really means helping them be more ready to learn. Which means attending to their emotional needs + focus skills + motivation. Which means fostering resilience in the face of trauma + toxic stress. Which stems from growing up in poverty and surrounded by violence. Which is merely a symptom of all sorts of nasty complex challenges, not the least of which is intergenerational disenfranchisement stemming from overt + subtle racism. (And we can only ever openly talk about the first third of that iceberg.)

Our approach favors small evidence-based kernels that empower teachers over big programmatic changes that can feel prescriptive. But that means we are starting with 1-to-3 very small, very tiny, seemingly microscopic things this spring. Laughably tiny.

And some days, the gremlins come around and say WTF WTF WTF.

And on those days, my mantra has become Silver Buckshot Silver Buckshot Silver Buckshot.

2. Believing in the value of drops-in-the-bucket

Kristof shared this story of a successful NAACP lawyer who was a troubled youth in his younger days. He was one of the tough kids, cutting class, always in trouble, never around. He’s walking through the school library one day after detention, and this sultry cover catches his attention out of the corner of his eye. It’s a book by Ali Neil. He’s intrigued. But he’s one of the tough kids, he can’t be checking out books. He checks to make sure the librarian Mrs. Grady isn’t watching and walks out of the library with the book under his jacket.

He reads the book at home and loves it. He returns the next week to see if there are any other books by the same author. There’s another one on the shelf. So he steals that one, too.

And he comes back and steals a third one. And a fourth one. And those books were his gateway drug back into reading, and starting to show up to English class again, and eventually graduating high school, going to college, going on to become a lawyer with the NAACP and becoming influential during the civil rights movement.

And at his high school reunion, he’s one of the success stories, one of the heroes. He finds Mrs. Grady to tell her how he stole all those Ali Neil books back in the day and to thank her. And she tells him that she knew he was doing it all along.

She had seen him, and at first she had been so mad. She had been about to stop him from walking out of the library. Why would you steal a book when you could just as easily check one out? But in a flash of insight, she knew it wasn’t that easy for him; his reputation meant he couldn’t be caught checking out a book. She went to see which book it was and then drove 45 minutes to the nearest bookstore in Nashville to see if she could find any more Ali Neil books. They didn’t have any, so she drove to another bookstore and another one and another one until she found a different book by the same author. She bought them and put them on that same shelf on the off-chance that this one kid might come back.

Helping is hard, but sometimes that risk pays off.

We are all interconnected, and yet we are all stuck in our own little ego’d bodies and brains, working from our own little circles of concern and attending to our own selfish needs. And still, you never know how what you say or do–even things you may not even be aware of–will affect another person or peoples or the world.

Inspiration: Letters to July

Oh, July. A month of fireworks, birthdays, summer fruits, and swimming holes. I don’t mind the fact that foggy SF makes me question my assumptions and expand my definitions of things like “summer.” But I do miss seasons in California: I miss the change in rhythms that the weather triggers in people’s routines.

I miss the signals for our minds and bodies to slow down: to soak up the sun, to sip iced beverages from sweating bottles, to aim the whirring fan straight at your face, to lounge with friends out-of-doors on lazy-afternoons-turned-late-nights, to enjoy the messy-juicy fruits of summer like peaches and watermelon, and to seek out that spike of relief you get from jumping into water after a long day’s hike. Sunscreen, bug spray, short shorts, and sandals…July is sweet mangoes and salt water and a time to savor the year because we’re dead in the middle of it.

How we talk to girls

I’m always skeptical of advertising and marketing from big companies. It’s all too easy for them to co-opt activists’ messages to try to sell us something, and insidiously it might even make us all feel as if we’ve made more progress than we actually have towards some serious issues. (Think greenwashing.)

On the other hand, I’m aware that these ads reach huge audiences, and anything that increases representation of traditionally underrepresented groups is great — especially if done without fanfare. (Think Honey Maid’s Wholesome campaign and their reaction to the backlash.)

So even after watching with my skeptic’s hat on, I appreciate that the following two commercials provoke their audiences to question how we talk to and about girls.

Good reminders that our own words and messages to the girls in our lives are equally important as the messages they’re bombarded with in the media. And as the recent SCOTUS Hobby Lobby decision has made so painfully clear, representation matters.

Here’s a great post on the same topic of how to talk to little girls. Basically, try biting your tongue if our culture has trained you to compliment them on their dress/hair/cuteness. Instead, try asking them what they’re thinking, interested in, or reading. Hell, ask me those same things.

As Lisa Bloom says, “Here’s to changing the world, one little girl at a time.”

Inspiration: Universal Love from Cowbird

This video called “Universal Love”  is lovely, just lovely. Its topic: human life, and its content: crowdsourced from the stories published on Cowbird — a storytelling platform whose mission is to capture the great big messy human experience.

(Cowbird is Jonathan Harris’s latest endeavor. If you don’t know his work, totally worth diving into his winding journey to here.)