Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our Unfinished Business Defined: America's Story

On the eve of the Summit at Gettysburg, convening a diverse audience of servant leaders from across sectors, we had the honor to hear the soul stirring testimonies of those who have served our great country as part of our domestic and military service infrastructure. Some served in inner city America helping our children and youth realize their futures and others served our country protecting our freedoms. Despite where and how they served, one thing was clear, their service is tied to the historical legacy of the continuing journey to define and create one perfect union. 

As the stories were told from the battle of Gettysburg to the formation of Global Health Corps, our unfinished business was clarified and revealed. Our collective journey to one America continues; and just as those who have served in our civilian military have continued the fight to protect our values and freedoms, another group of Americans are hearing the call to leverage their time and talents to address some of the most pressing domestic challenges our country is faciing. 

From cleaning up our rivers and water sources to inspiring some of our best and brightest minds to teach in schools across the country; individuals from all walks of life are hearing the call of our shared destiny to make and sustain The United States of America as the shining light for freedom and opportunity for all who call her home. 

Let the work continue and let us take bold steps to break down the barriers to opportunity for all to serve and realize our role in manifesting the dream of America as one perfect union.

Let's get it done!

Why Gettysburg? Our Unfinished Business

The call to convene national service leaders and supporters for a summit at Gettysburg may seem odd to some at first thought. But for those that understand the foundation of national service and volunteerism in this country goes back beyond the Serve America Act, the creatiion of AmeriCorps or the creation of the civilian conservation corps or peace corps. It's rooted in our nations fight for freedom and democracy for all it's citizens. It's founded in the sacrifice of thousands who gave their lives to move out country forward and address the most challenging issues we have faced and to build a shared identity as Americans.

I am honored to join my fellow Americans here for the Summit of Gettysburg to not only discuss the big idea of our unfinished business, but to take personal responsibility to make the call for National service a reality for all who hear the call to serve.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Empowerment Theory Revisited: I am deserving!

Regardless if it's non-profit social change movement building work or individual or group social work or theraputic work, we often here the words empowerment and self-empowerment used over and over again. I use them, when people ask what is my passion I often state "empowering people to create the lives, communities, and world they desire to live in. Or we will here someone say, "our work is all about self-empowerment", or "empowering commmunities to advocate for themselves". More and more as I look at "social change or movement building work" I have begun to ask myself what does that mean? When I catch myself or others using these words I often want to follow-up with how, what does that look like? Very often people can run down their never ending list of programs, initiatives, or trainings, but rarely have I encountered people who can actually paint a picture of how they guide individuals or groups to empowerment. I have come to recognize the the reason why most who work in these spaces aren't able to communicate the how or what around empowerment is because empowerment doesn't come from a program, initiative or training. Empowerment comes from the self-realization the I or We are deserving and worthy of............. It is in the moment of our internal recognition that because of our very existence on this earth we are deserving and worthy. Yes, the tools or opportunities that come often via programs, initiatives, or trainings can help ignite this realization; but it is the internal reflection and exploration that fosters true self-empowerment. This sparked in my mind today as I had a very special encounter with a very special soul that reminded me that I am deserving and I am worthy as they acknoweldged their recognition that they are deserving of all the goodness and greatness life has to offer. This has challenged me to begin to re-think how I engage with individuals and communities around empowerment and social movement building. It's not about my program or training, it's about fostering the inner recognition that individually and collectivelly we are deserving and worthy. Despite life circumstances, past experiences, race, creed, color, sexual orientation......., your very existence on this earth claims your birth right to whatever it is you desire in life. Representation, clearn water, violent free communities, equality, love and the opportunity for long life, the list is infinite. WHATEVER!!!!! Thank you Sir for the reminder and reflection. We are worthy and most definitly deserving!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Oppression or Liberation: What frames your vision of change?

For many of us within the "progressive movement" we find ourselves doing the work we do as a result of our or others experiences with oppression.

It is our experience as or with oppressed, victimized, or marginalized people that drives us to do our part to facilitate change.

The challenge with oppression being the foundational motivation for our work, is that often we find ourselves stuck in the mindset of the oppressed and the victimized.

Despite our desire to grow, expand, and create change, we find ourselves unable to step out of our hurt, pain, frustration, and fear to a place of liberation.

While our lens as or with oppressed people shapes the foundation of our work, it cannot be the sole framework in which we work.

In order to be successful in our work, we must also be able to guide ourselves and others through a clear lens of what change looks like. We must be able to share a vision of what liberation looks like beyond the state of oppression.

This is especially important for those of us in leadership. We owe it to those we speak on behalf of to move beyond our oppressed identity and lead from our lens of liberation.

If we allow ourselves to learn from and work through our oppression, we will find ourselves in a place where we can truly lead.

Our oppressed identity often serves as our drive to fight our way through, but fighting alone will not win the battle to creat change. We must push through to liberation and discover a clear vision of change. It is from this vision that our leadership should emerge.

I challenge my colleagues in the movement to join me in moving beyond our identity as the oppressed and victimized to discover our liberation and clear vision of change.

Yours in Solidarity,

My Voice for Now

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Leading from a place of self

One of the things that I believe has and continues to hold so many of our movements or change efforts back is narrow minded leadership that comes from a lens of self.

I believe if more of us that are in leadership roles, formally or informally (we have a lot of gate keepers without titles) would step outside of self and allow ourselves to lead from our collective experience, our movements would be further along.

One of the things that may be the hardest thing to fight in our work, is the call of the ego. When we step into leadership roles, our work is no longer solely about us, it is about the broader mission and vision of change we have for our communities.

As leaders we have to push ourselves beyond our ego to lead and guide for the collective good. This is a very important aspect of successful leadership from my lens. We cannot continue to silo ourselves and our efforts, we cannot move a mountain alone. Other perspectives, experiences, and strategies outside of our lens are needed for progress to be achieved.

In the paraphrased words of Iyanla Vanzant, "Just for today, allow yourself to challenge your lens of leadership, lay down the I, pick up the We, and be lead by the broader mission and vision of change we have for our communities.

Yours In Solidarity,

My Voice for Now

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Voice, My Voice

When I first set-up this blog site I did so because of my desire to share my thoughts and perspectives on issues of the day; providing a new progressive voice as a black gay man fighting the pressure to "PLAY" politics as a means of creating change."

Since starting this blog and accepting new and different leadership roles professionally and politically, I have found it difficult to live up to my desire to provide a new progressive voice as a black gay man fighting the pressure to "PLAY" politics as a means of creating change."

However after two years of experiences within the partisan political system, the non-profit progressive movement community, and most recently the political side of government; I feel I must shake loose my self imposed gage order. I am being driven to share my thoughts and reflections in hopes of helping my community move beyond divisions and old strategies that have not and are not moving us forward.

I am not here to throw stones or share negative thoughts about individuals or organizations, but I am here to share insight and reflections that may indeed aid in fostering a community that has a unified vision of change through empowerment, education, and mutual respect.

I believe in the old saying, that too whom much is given much is required, and I have been given so much. Therefore I am required to move beyond the structural, prescribed, and often assumed boundaries of the systems in which I exist and share my voice.

So to those that support me and those that throw shade; the voice is here and it is just getting started.

In Solidarity,

My Voice for Now

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Gift of Voice

In reflecting on the passing of vocal legend Whitney Houston I continue to go back to the label of "The Voice". Whitney Houston has been called the voice, not only because of her vocal talent, but also because how she used her vocal talent to do things musically that had never been done before.

This led me to the reflection of how powerful the gift of voice is and how we so often take the gift of voice forgranted in our lives.

I'm not simply speaking of voice in the vocal sense of the word, but I am using it in the active sense. Being in a position to have Voice and utilize your Voice to inform, educate, or influence is a powerful thing and one that we, especially in Washington, DC and in politics, take forgranted.

We must be reminded, that there are people all over this world, while they have the physical biological function of voice, have no Voice in their own lives.

So many people, in so many ways, live their lives without the opportunity to fully own their lives by giving Voice to their very existence.

I am reminded and challenged today, to not forget the blessing it is and gift it is to have Voice in my life, my community, and the world around me.

Let us not take our Voices forgranted.