Moving Forward, Conversations about Justice, Remembering #PhilandoCastile Post 4 of 4

July 14th, 2016 the line and wait was long to get into the doors at the Cathedral of St. Paul before the funeral of Philando Castile that day.  There are no words for what it was like to go in and walk past the body of this man we watched take his last breaths in real time on the internet.

Laying someone to rest does not make the pain go away. Over the past couple of years, we continue to hear crowds chanting; “No Justice, No Peace.” But what is justice? What is it supposed to look like? If we examine the synonyms for the word, it seems to lead lead to more questions.

  • Is there anything fair about what happened here? No
  • Was impartiality exercised in any part of this situation? Most would say no
  • Did it feel like the way this played out was done objectively? Many would say no
  • What about principles regarding the distinction between right and wrong,  or good and bad behavior?
  • Where is the morality in all of it?
  • Are the voices of the people crying out about continued injustice we witness in our communities being heard? Most would say no

It is too much repetition and people are tired. But we have to press forward. I am passionate about service and community. My regular readers see me bring it into my writing consistently. Each one of us has a part to play. One person at a time, one conversation at a time. The dialogue has to carry on and be renewed and we need each other in order to do that. The killing of Philando Castile was one of many experiences that led to the Women’s March last February, when women all over the world came together in what could be considered the greatest movement in the history of the world to speak out about treating ALL people fairly, including:

  • Refugees
  • The rights of undocumented workers
  • People of all faiths
  • The GLBT community
  • Women’s rights
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Building bridges, not walls

It can’t and won’t stop there. We have to use our voices because we need to keep building community, one person at a time, one conversation at a time. That is how we begin the to heal. There will be dialogue where we can agree to disagree without ranting. But we are better when we ask someone to tell us more about their perspective. Seek to understand, because that builds bridges.

A year ago, I wrote a post called; A Prayer and a Poem for #PhilandoCastile & Family: Look Up: What Was Entrusted To You? Pay Attention

Commit: Please, as a tribute, share it with others. Read it out loud to them. Ask them what they think about it. Use it as a tool to continue the dialogue as we continue to lift the Castile Family and others like his up in prayer.

Thank you for visiting my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to ask some questions confidentially, let me know and I will be happy to respect your privacy and respond one to one.

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No Justice. No Peace. Just Us. Remembering #PhilandoCastile Post #3 of 4

July 9th, 2016, the event, a few days after the tragic death of #PhilandoCastile, was planned and carried out with peaceful intention and collaboration with law enforcement. A collage of people with varying skin colors, religious values, ethnicities and nationalities would exercise their 2nd amendment right to peacefully gather and protest in public. Only few in the crowd knew where they were headed when they left the Governors Mansion. What wasn’t in the news that day was that for about ten hours leading up to the time of the event in the photos, the area near 94 and Dale Street in St. Paul was actively being canvased by police to ensure public safety.

Why wasn’t it announced? Because there was no desire to attract troublemakers. Complexity arises when issues that are deemed controversial converge with those who are ignorant or jump to conclusions about intent and then become blended with others who are thrill seekers. Only so much can be controlled in public, so naturally, when problems initially erupted, many (including the media) jumped to conclusions based on hearsay by stating that it was protesters who incited violence. That was not the case.

So what really happened? Those who marched from the Governors Mansion were unified and peaceful. Some in the local neighborhoods near the freeway saw what was happening live or on TV and near their homes, thought it would be “cool” to underhandedly sneak onto the road and incite violence. They were NOT part of the movement, but had every intention of causing trouble. And they did.

So what has occurred since then? The NRA was criticized for speaking up on behalf of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, yet said nothing to defend Philando’s rights until recently.

Officer Yanez was acquitted by a jury of peers, received a severance package and parted ways with the St. Anthony Police Department.

Falcon Heights, the city where Philando was killed, stepped away from being patroled by The St. Anthony Police department.

A beautiful Memorial Service was held to honor his memory, a police training plan was funded in his name, his former classmates established a scholarship in his name and the Castile family received a settlement from the St. Anthony Police Department.

So have we made progress? Perhaps.

But even then, it still isn’t good enough. It wont bring back Mr. Castile and we will continue to see the same issue repeated in different versions across the country. Friends, we still have more work to do and we can’t do it alone. What action will you take to be a servant leader about these issues?

Thank you for visiting my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to ask some questions confidentially, let me know and I will be happy to respect your privacy and respond one to one.

People as Transition | Bridging Communities One Year Later #BlackLivesMatter Post #2 of 4

People, called to action because they saw no other option. We need to step up because in the end, where there is no justice, its ‘just us,” people coming together for a greater good, one person at a time.

Imagine all the possibilities if each of us did a few things to get involved.

No matter how big or small, it’s up to all of us because that his how we bridge communities. Fellowship, we can’t do it alone and we must remember that as we continue to lift the family of #PhilandoCastile and others like his, up in prayer.

Thank you for visiting my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to ask some questions confidentially, let me know and I will be happy to respect your privacy and respond one to one.

No Justice. In the End, its “Just Us.” Remembering #PhilandoCastile One Year Later Post #1 of 4

….“equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air: we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.”   -Maya Angelou

A year ago my friend, Alberto Monserrate, was continuously posting a video that I could not ignore. She called him ‘Sir’‘ while her man, Philando Castile, was right there groaning and literally taking his last breaths. She could not console him, nor could she explain what was happening to her four year old daughter in the back seat. Even I could not process what I was seeing. right away. But I do remember how it felt and the questions spinning in my head.

  • How could this happen?
  • Why wasn’t someone coming to help?
  • Why was he pointing the gun in her direction?
  • Where was the compassion for this couple and their child?

He fired seven times. SEVEN. Where was the humanity that we assume should appear in a situation like this? No one was coming to his aid and I still can’t grasp it. I have written blog posts about unjust violence in the past. But this time, it happened close to  home, in my city and presented a view that directly has impact on me and my family in ways I can’t even begin to explain.  

BlackLivesMatterPhilandoCastile

To honor the memory of Philando Castile, my next few blog posts will have pictures I took during the two weeks following his death, where many came together to bridge the injustice that could not be ignored or understood. . People were called to action and realized that we have to step up because in the end, where there is no justice, there is ‘just us,” people coming together for a greater good, one person at a time. Imagine all of the possibilities if we each did a few things to contribute to making a difference. No matter how big or small, it’s up to each person. That is how we build communities. We can’t do it alone and we can’t forget that as we continue to lift his family and others like his, up in prayer.

Thank you for visiting my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to ask some questions confidentially, let me know and I will be happy to respect your privacy and respond one to one.

A Prayer and a Poem for #PhilandoCastile & Family: Look Up: What Was Entrusted To You? Pay Attention

Philando Castile The System Is BrokenLook up and see those who are coming from the north. Where is the flock that was entrusted to you, the sheep of which you boasted?” -Jeremiah 3.2

Look up and notice

with open minds and open hearts
Put yourself in the shoes of an opposing view
Pay attention and listen to those sharing their reality
They have something to say. Their experiences are real.
Their voices matter. They are suffering in despair
They deserve to feel heard. To be heard.

Are you listening?

Because when someone says “I am hurting
The only appropriate response is; “Tell me more, I am listening
Be patient; consider that the first story may not be the whole picture
Be open to new information, in a world full of endless possibilities
These things together will expand minds, hearts and our world

Look up and look around

We continue to see repeated patterns we know exist
Minimizing them torments our intelligence
The idea “if we don’t name it, it can’t exist” is excruciating denial
Inaction leaves us feeling stuck in perpetual wait
What are these patterns trying to tell us?
They are saying that idly standing by is no longer enough
They are directing us to take a stand and to do something
They are making it clear that we have so much more to learn from one another
When different views come together, they merge to create new knowledge, and that is a good thing. I have never known a time when we didn’t need ideas to continue to evolve

 

Entrust: to give someone the responsibility of doing something or of caring for someone or something  (Merriam-Webster)

  • Police officers are given the responsibility of protecting people, property and the law
  • Humanity is given the responsibility of being kind and compassionate to one another

Look Up2Look up:  Today, Philando Castile, who was killed last week in Minnesota by a police officer, will be laid to rest. Say his name. He is not the first and sadly, will not be the last. Let’s work towards coming together and leaving our differences behind.

Pray for these families, because they are our families. Our families are hurting.

Pray for parents of young black men and women, who are faced with presenting a balanced view about systemic injustice, because the dialogue is very complicated. May they be given the words to adequately conduct constructive discourse in a loving manner so that it leads all of us towards the right solution, together. It is time to set our differences aside because we owe it to ourselves, and one another.

I want to hear from you. Thank you for visiting my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below, or, if you prefer to ask some questions confidentially, let me know and I will be happy to respect your privacy and respond one to one.

Sparkles, S’mores and Land that I Love | Happy 4th of July

Smores Fourth of July NostalgiaI love the Fourth of July (or Fourch of Guly as I said when I was little), it makes me feel a bit nostalgic. One of my first 4th of July parades I remember being sad because I wasn’t fast enough at getting candy and I’m sure there were one or two thoughtful kids & parents who saw that and walked over to make sure I had some. Then there was the first parade I was in with my sister where we both wore costumes and tap shoes from dance lessons. My mom told us to march holding our batons with one hand lifting them straight up and down with each step and of course, we thought it was a great idea.

As we grew older, we were blessed enough to spend the first two weeks of July up north with my dad and dear friends at Crane Lake in Voyageurs National Park on the Canadian Border. The only way to get to the cabin was by boat. Imagine hauling 3-5 adults, 5-7 kids and a dog, 2 weeks worth of food, clothing  and fresh water for drinking. Sometimes it would take 2-3 trips and the boat would be so heavy the waterline was about a foot below the top. While we did have a short wave radio to hear the closest weather reports and listen to the international time, we did not have phones or television and we actually learned to appreciate that.

It was there we explored the chain of lakes where water is so clear you can look 15+ feet straight down and see the bottom. We learned how to water ski, responsibly shoot guns at targets, become great fishers and use a filet knife to clean and prepare our catch. At night, my dad would bring Crane Lakeout his guitar and we sang songs together around the fire, roasted marshmallows for S’mores and later hear the cracking and snapping of the fresh burning wood. Some evenings we would go out “on the rock” and enjoy the sunset, seen in the picture to the right. I would close my eyes and take in the fresh smell of the Norway Pine trees and burning fire. I would listen to the water lapping up on the shore, loons, seagulls or a boat humming in the distance. It was heaven on earth.

After fourth of July celebrations in the small town across the water, we would take the boat to the middle of the lake, cut the engine, watch the fireworks and have rich conversations about freedom, life or whatever was on our minds. It was there we discovered breathtaking views where stars are so clear you could see them sparkle right down to the horizon. In a good year, we could see the northern lights dance, displaying colors of green, blue and red.

I’m grateful for the people and all of those memories we created together. It shaped me in growing a deeper appreciation for this land where we live. Today, I think about so many people around the world who don’t have the same choices we do. At the same time,  we can not forget those who have gone before us and those still fighting for our freedom because they have laid much of the ground work for us.

I also will not forget that there is still more work that needs to be done.

Regardless, I celebrate the fact that we are so fortunate to be citizens in a country where we have freedom to express ourselves, choose to practice our faith, celebrate diversity, practice servant leadership,  be educated and to make a difference in the lives of others.

Wishing you a very happy Fourth of July. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about how this day has shaped you. Please share below and thanks for visiting my blog!

“I AM” and “SPIRIT” In Sync With One Another #FierceForward

Fierce Forward - I AM and Spirit = Parters

I AM – two of the most powerful words you could ever declare to yourself. This is your declaration, your choice to stand in your power and allow your vision to come to reality/ #FierceForward

SPIRIT – Your truth. Freedom is found when you live you truth and let your spirit live out loud. Do not hide. Do not deny your truth. Do not let her stay quiet. Go forward, fiercely and let your SPIRIT lead the way. #FierceForward

Knowing who we are and being grounded in our truth are at the core of what teaches us to be great leaders and even better human beings.

These bracelets are handmade using African Trade Beads to support women in Africa. They are special because they support a worthy cause and they were an authentic gift from someone whose friendship means a great deal to me.

This post is inspired by The Weekly Photo Challenge themed: Partners: Whether two of a kind, or ten, give us subjects that are in sync with one another – show us partnerships.

Learn more about #FierceForward at fierceforwardforlife.com

Gathering

GatheringOver at The Daily Post, the theme for this week’s weekly photo challenge is posed by Krista, who asks us to document a gathering and share our interpretation of it.

Consider the different ways we can think about the word; Gathering as in material things we can see and touch. Gathering as in knowledge or information we get from various sources. Gathering as in symbolic ritual like celebrations or at places of worship. Gathering as in shared experiences like school plays or concerts. Gathering as in complex systems, where everything is related to everything else. Many may argue that there are interdependencies and that  we can’t refer to one type of gathering without taking into account all the others.

Regardless of the kind of “gathering” we refer to, each person gets to decide which definition (singularly and collectively) is the most important to them.

In life we gather things that we don’t get to take with us when we leave this world.

At work, we gather reports and data. We gather at meetings or to network.

In change management, gatherings are significant because they are considered as a type of symbolic ritual that can help bring a group of people together and move them through transition, from one stage to another.

In communities, we gather to celebrate, to educate, to worship, to grieve, and to share experiences.

Mentally we gather knowledge and information.

Emotionally we gather our thoughts.

At home, we gather as families to make sense of this world. We come together to teach, learn, share, grieve, grow, pray, laugh and to love. We create memories and meaningful experiences that leave legacies.

Do your organizations use the concept of “gathering” as a symbolic tool to move people through change? My wish for you; may your gatherings bring significance to whatever is important in your personal and professional lives.

Please feel free to share your thoughts below and thanks for visiting my blog!

Interpreting “Humanity” in a Click

As part of the weekly photo challenge, Thirdeyemom asks us to decipher the theme “humanityInterpreting

So thinking about what it means to be human, poses more questions than answers.

The plural definition; “humanities” takes on more complexity.

Merriam-Webster defines humanities as;

…”the branches of learning (as philosophy, arts, or languages) that investigate human constructs and concerns as opposed to natural processes (as in physics or chemistry) and social relations (as in anthropology or economics)“[1]

This photograph taken at the National Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC is great metaphor for this week’s assignment. A young man’s image reflected in front of the wall etched with more than 58,286 names of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam war for the sake of freedom. My challenge to you is to look at this picture, ponder its meaning and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How did we get here?
  • What makes us who we are today?
  • What was life like for those who went before us?
  • How did they live?
  • How did they die?
  • How did they want to be remembered?
  • In what ways can we translate these questions to look inward and ask how we can be of service to others?
  • What is our purpose and how can we make an impact?

It only takes one person to make a difference. So reflect, and ask yourself how you will make yours?

And while you are at it, if you know someone who served, reach out and thank them.

I appreciate you visiting my blog, please feel free to make comments below.

A Random Act of Kindness for Wordless Wednesday

When was the last time someone reached out to you and performed a random act of kindness? I was pleasantly surprised when a complete stranger recently did something thoughtful for me just when I needed it most. As a result of her good-hearted deed, I plan to honor her by paying it forward.

WholeHeartedThankYou

As thought leaders, we sometimes forget the view, taking a moment to acknowledge the people around us via random acts of kindness can go a long way. We get so caught up in our calendars, goals and tasks and only see the road ahead. But when we slow down a little to enjoy, pleasant surprises seem to come out of the woodwork.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, this past Monday, has been deemed a day to encourage making a difference in communities. As I wrote in a previous post called: Servant Leadership: Facts about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. King was a strong proponent of servant leadership, so whether or not you took action this week, I would like to propose a challenge.

What can you do to make a difference for someone this week? Please make the effort, then come back here and share your story below. I’d like to hear what you did, the response you got and how it made you feel. I look forward to hearing from you.

Why You Should Know About The World Economic Forum

Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us. A global transformation is urgently needed and it must start with reinstating a global sense of social responsibility.”         -Klaus Schwab

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2013This past week over 2500 of the most important business, political, religious, academic and other leaders in the world gathered for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF). The World Economic Forum is an international non-profit organization that addresses important issues, some of which include economic growth, environmental sustainability, financial systems, health, humanity, ecosystems, gender equality, social development and more.

I would be fascinated to attend this event someday and have put it on my bucket list of things to do before I die. In today’s business environment, it is more important than ever to be informed about issues that affect and influence economies, our environment, human rights, etc. I believe anyone who works in strategy or management would benefit by paying attention to the many issues being discussed at the World Economic Forum and use the rich research issues, reports and studies it produces.

Read more of this post

Transparency And The Journey To Truth

Transparency, it’s an interesting concept. How much about ourselves and our lives should we share online, in public, with another human being and as leaders?

The truth is there is no answer because it is a decision we must seek individually. The most important person in the world that we ought to be transparent with, is ourselves.

Recently I found myself re-watching the movie; “Eat, Pray, Love,”  based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert and there is a quote in the movie that rings true for all of us.

It discusses how the Physics of the Quest is a force in nature governed by laws as real as the laws of gravity and it goes something like this:

If you’re brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting, which can be anything from your house to bitter, old resentments, and set out on a truth-seeking journey, either externally or internally, and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.

So what are your thoughts and feelings about transparency online? I really want to hear from you so please, share below what this means for you and let’s talk!

Day 14: Poetry, Letter to a Younger Self – Maya Angelou’s Birthday

21 days to happiness: My story and 3 things I am thankful for:

Art. Not sure when or how I came to appreciate it, but I do know I have always had a fascination for learning from every experience life has brought my way. I love expressing creativity through the craft of writing and was in 8th grade the first time I wrote a poem that was published by my English teacher. Just a few years later, another poem, published in our high school year book and I remember the feeling of accomplishment. Now, years later I am writing on my blog and am a grateful and accomplished award winning author. It was a lot of work and learning along the way. But I didn’t get there by myself. I could not have gone through the journey without the gifts, talents and passion of those who worked with us.

Today was Maya Angelou’s birthday, she has aged gracefully and I hope I will be able to do the same as the years pass. She is beautiful and in rare poetic form, she writes a letter to her 15 year old self.

If you were doing the same, what would your words look like? Please share below.

Three things I am grateful for today:

  1. The people I stay in touch with that I have worked with over the years
  2. My gift, the craft of writing and that I am perfectly a human being
  3. Miracles. because I am a living witness they do happen every day

More about Kakie Fitzsimmons

Day 13: Excercise Freedom of Expression Today: #Hoodiesup Movement

21 days to happiness: My story and 3 things I am thankful for:

Today the NAACP, Move-On.Org and Changeforcolor.Org have teamed up to declare social media #Millionhoodies #Hoodiesup day, an online demonstration to encourage people in to post a million pictures wearing a hoodie to honor  Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen killed by a neighborhood watch man George Zimmerman, after he was told by a 911 operator, to stop following Trayvon.

The dialogue in the media and online is controversial. Some have mistakenly categorized Trayvon’s death as an issue about black and white, but I assure you it has to do with far more. This tragic event, for many people in this country, is about perception, bias, race, judgement, assumptions, our history as a country, a flawed legal system, the media and more.

In 1983, one of my best friends was brutally murdered and her killer served just 5 years. It left us all asking; “Why?” So  many years later I think of her regularly and the death of Trayvon Martin last month has stirred emotions for me as a result of that loss. But also because I am a parent of a kid just like Trayvon. Yes, I will repeat. I am a parent of a child just like Trayvon.

Think about that for a minute and let it soak in and then put yourself in my shoes for just ten seconds. I must have productive and honest conversations about the ugly realities of race and judgement with my son because of the color of his skin and I want him to embrace all facets of his multiculturalism.  I also think it is important he is aware that there are some people who are not color-blind and there are logical arguments that the best approach is to have dialogue about it. The sad and ugly truth is that in our country social and racial injustice happen every day.

Think about the sound of anxiety in your child’s voice when an issue about race suddenly becomes real for them. And then at another time, how would you respond when your child shares fear of getting shot because of their skin color and what they have seen in the media?

I reach out to communities who understand my reality. They provide insight about having these conversations regarding perception and judgement in teachable, healthy and productive ways. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t get angry, sad or frustrated sometimes. What we live, we teach, so I focus on what I can control, which are my responses and faith that integrity wins out every time. I try to keep the following speech front of mind, because it’s how I want to interact with every person I meet.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

                                                                      -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are people who don’t know how to have complicated conversations like the one I am discussing. As you can see from an interview I gave a while back with my friend Amy Bowllan, a blogger at The School Library Journal in a series called; “Writers Against Racism,” there is a dysfunctional old school of thought that implies “If we don’t name it, it can’t exist.”  It is unjust, but it happens and every day the social undertones that go unspoken and are often misunderstood. As a parent and a compassionate human being, I am sad and shaken to the core about what happened to Trayvon.

We have had ongoing, complicated conversations in our family about the ugly realities of prejudice and racism. Through those discussions and having a strong support network, I emphasize that there is power in choices. We work towards being living examples of what is right and what is possible. The only way to plant seeds of hope and peace is to open conversation.

I believe that silence condones approval, which is what drove me to write this post. As part of this movement, they are asking we change our profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook using description  hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies (instructions below) so it can be tracked via social media monitoring tools. Here is how you can make a difference. 

  • Talk to kids about it to give them assurance and guidance. Use the Huffington Post article How To Talk To Your Child About Trayvon Martin’s Death to have productive dialogue
  • Join the conversation and tell me your thoughts and comments below.
  • Tweet, blog, comment on various social media forums using hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies
  • “Like” the Facebook Group A Million Hoodies For Trayvon Martin
  • Change your profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook using description  hashtags #hoodiesup and #millionhoodies so it can be tracked via social media monitoring tools.

Four things I am grateful for:

  1. In this country we have freedom of expression. I recently spent time in South East Asia where this is often not an option.
  2. Adversity pulls us together as communities and individuals. It takes one person to make a difference. Will you make yours today?
  3. We have access to tools and resources to facilitate conversation about challenging situations like this
  4.  Being a parent of a terrific kid
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