Sunday, July 17, 2016

Storytelling Is Political

I had a professor and mentor - a Black Latino from Panama and a world-class scholar.

When he came to the U.S., he gravitated to the Latin@ community but was rejected because of his race even though he spoke the same language and shared similar values.

Everyone - from scholars to the immigrant who owned the copy center where I bought the reader for his class - says the same thing about him: he is humble and gracious.

In class one day, he told us a story about being out in the community for a meeting and walking with a colleague when he got stopped by the police with guns drawn and put face down. Years later, retelling that story still made him emotional.

You can have a PhD from a prestigious university, you can be a well respected scholar, you can be kind and respectful to everyone you meet regardless of race, class or gender and still be a target of racial injustice.

As a social worker, I have stories to tell about law enforcement too - how we teamed up to go to homes where children were being sexually abused or homes where children were holding a knife threatening to kill themselves. I couldn't have done my job safely without them.

I'm on a personal-professional mission, because the personal is political.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I'm Gonna Tell Some Stories Now

The best medicine I know in the face of fear, hatred, lies and violence is love, storytelling, understanding, empathy and social action.


So I'm gonna tell some stories now, until I'm blue in the face and die.


Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! Matthew 11:15 (New Living Translation)
“Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!” (Mark 4:9 NET).


When I was in the 5th or 6th grade, a very close family member was dating a Black man.
He took good care of her and loved her. I loved him too because of his kindness.
I borrowed a book from his library - an autobiography written by Dick Gregory.
It was funny and very relatable - I realized that the Black and Brown community had a lot in common.


Initially, my beloved mother would sometimes say really prejudiced and mean things about him.
This made me sad and angry and I called her on it.
She grew to love him because he was kind and spoke her love language - gifts.
Now as a middle-aged woman, I understand that my beloved mother was a product of her time and generation.
She was a dark-skinned Latina who grew up in Mexico in the 40s & 50s.
Colorism (prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group) is alive and well in the Mexican community - on both sides of the border.
I can only imagine what she was called growing up. She never talked about it.
I knew she was ashamed of her color because she did talk about that (an example of internalized oppression - when a member of an oppressed group believes and acts out the stereotypes created about their group, also called “self-hate”).
My beloved mother was very beautiful and had her vanity.
Telling this story is a bit nerve-wracking because even though she died in 2003, I can feel her over my shoulder giving me "the look" as I write this.
I am not betraying you, mami. I am telling my story.
It's all I've got in the face of fear, hatred, lies and violence.
I love all my relations.

I wanna look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them what I did and didn't do about racial injustice.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Passion

I am passionate about the resilience and success of low-income ethnic minority urban youth and families.

I was a low-income ethnic minority urban youth.

When you find happiness, you kinda wish it for others too.

I am working with a dream team of fabulous colleagues to develop a minority male mentoring program for college freshman.

Thinking about, talking about, reading about, and writing about helping minority male college students succeed feels great - like mainlining a shot of hope.

The Challenge:
  • The nation is approaching a point in the future — estimated to be 2050 — when minorities will constitute a collective majority.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau projects that more than half the nation's children will be members of minorities by 2023, and that members of minority groups are expected to make up 54 percent of the nation's population by 2050.
  • Only 26 percent of blacks, 18 percent of Latin@s, and 26 percent of American Indians complete postsecondary degrees — with the percentages even lower among men.
  • Educational attainment by minority males lags in comparison with minority women and Whites.
  • African-American males are almost half the inmate population and Hispanics constitute 20 percent of that population. Among Asian-Americans, the most vulnerable population are the males of Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander descent in comparison with those of Northeast Asian descent.
  • 2010 College Board Report recommendation: K-12 schools, colleges, universities and state higher education agencies should develop partnerships to help minority males gain preparation and succeed in college.

Check this out: Based on US demographic projections,Whites will go from the majority (65%) in 2010 to the minority (46%) in 2050. People don't tend to give up power in order to share it easily.

Check this out: People of color - Latin@ (30%), Black (12%), Asian (8%) and Other (4%) - will make up the majority (54%) in 2050, if and only if, we band together. Together we are powerful. Divided, the 46% White minority retain a numerical advantage over individual groups of color. Now I understand the efforts to divide and conquer. Don't let the Man break us up! If we all banded together than we would truly be powerful - like 100% powerful.

What we know works...
  • A nursing college developed a multifaceted program to promote ethnic minority and male students' success. Students engaged in mentoring, academic support, and service-learning activities. Participants (N = 51) achieved 100% retention and graduation rates.
  • A recent evaluation of the Men of Color Initiative at DePaul University (serving 200 low-income, first generation college students) showed promising results. A prime indicator that students will persist to graduation is that they earn at least a 2.5 GPA and at least 48 credit hours by the end of freshman year. Initiative participants achieved those benchmarks at a higher rate than men of color on campus who did not participate.
What we know about the gaps...
  • Male students who are members of minority groups continue to face overwhelming obstacles to pursuing their academic aspirations. The result is a little-talked-about "third America" that is predominantly male, largely incapable of contributing to society, and often destined to be incarcerated. 
  • The crisis has been overlooked by much of society, but is shared by male students across minority backgrounds. Its common themes include a lack of male role models, a search for respect outside of education, the sense of a failing education system, poverty, language barriers, community pressures, and a loss of cultural memory.
  • Findings in one study suggest that most African American and Latino participants have social networks that are inefficient, disrupted, and fractured resulting in prominent informational gaps about college-related information.
  • Male students are less likely to use counseling services than female students.
  • “We know students with untreated mental health disorders do worse educationally, from lower grades to delayed graduation to dropping out.” Dr. Bradley Stein, senior scientist at RAND.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reading Nerd

I love reading.

My mom used to say my real mother was my books. They still inform, console and inspire me.

I am currently reading a stack of books - mostly non-fiction as usual. Today's excerpt comes from, The Storyteller's Secret by Carmine Gallo.

I am fascinated by the power and medicine of storytelling.

I am writing a manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal about traumatic stress, family communication/storytelling and PTSD. I want it to be scientifically rigorous and tell a good story at the same time. Tall order, I know. I'm hoping this book gives me some tips about how to do this.

Here are the lines I've underlined so far:

"You're all brilliant...but many of you cannot tell an emotional story." Billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla addressing an audience of entrepreneurs.

"...they all had to learn to tell a story if they hoped to change the world with their ideas."

"Ideas are the currency of the twenty-first century. In the information age, the knowledge economy, you are only as valuable as your ideas. Story is the means by which we transfer those ideas to one another. Your ability to package your ideas with emotion, context, and relevancy is the one skill that will make you more valuable in the next decade. Storytelling is the act of framing an idea as a narrative to inform, illuminate, and inspire."

"There's a difference between a story, a good story, and a transformative story that builds trust...and inspires people to dream bigger."

"Ideas that catch on are wrapped in story."

"...the art and science of storytelling to inspire, motivate, and, ultimately, to persuade others to take a desired course of action."

"The art of storytelling can be used to drive change. - Richard Branson"

"The ability to communicate ideas simply and clearly and to tell compelling stories is critical to standing apart in the marketplace of ideas. Technologists and scientists no longer talk to just their peers...They must translate the language of bits and bytes into a story every consumer understands."

"And the best of the best - the most admired storytellers - use 'multimodal communication' such as gestures, imitations, sound effects and songs."

"The Kalahari [Bushmen] storytellers learned that they had to deliver information, convey experiences, inspire and entertain. If people aren't entertained, they stop listening and go to sleep."

"Through stories and discussions people collected experiences of others and accumulated knowledge of options that others had tried. Night talk was critical for transmitting the big picture."

"More than 2,500 years ago a rhetorician named Gorgias learned that great storytellers can inspire audiences. He traveled around ancient Greece teaching rhetoric, specifically arguing that adding emotional stories in one's speeches can 'stop fear and banish grief and create joy and nurture piety.'"

"Emotion trumps logic. You cannot reach a person's head without first touching their heart and the path to the heart runs through the brain, starting with the amygdala."

"For many years medical researchers believed that people could only get addicted to drugs and alcohol. Then, neuroimaging technologies emerged that allowed researchers to see blood flow in the brain revealing that humans are also addicted to activities like sex, gambling, food and shopping. Some activities hijack the brain just as powerful drugs do. Drugs like heroin produce an especially powerful surge of dopamine - one so intense that a single hit can hook a person for life."

"The greatest waste is an unfulfilled ideas that fails to connect with audiences, not because it's a bad idea, but because it's not packaged in a way that moves people."

"...Steve Jobs 'reality distortion field,' a phrase coined to describe Job's mix of charisma and his ability to convince people that they could accomplish the impossible."

"Steve Jobs was intensely passionate at making an important difference in the lives of his fellow humans while he was on this planet. He never was into money or measured his life through owning stuff..."

"Every public presentation that Steve Jobs gave resembled a Broadway play and had all the classic components of a great narrative: sets and surprises, heroes and villains."

"Jobs combined passion, logic, and emotion to make a profoundly meaningful connection with his audiences."

"'Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become,' Jobs told the graduates."

"Passion is contagious. Passion is irresistible. Passion fuel the inner fire...Your passion is not a passing interest or even a hobby, but something that is intensely meaningful and core to your identity."

"The secret to success is to find something you love to do so much, you can't wait for the sun to rise to do it all over again." Chris Gardner (the man portrayed by actor Will Smith in the movie, Pursuit of Happiness)

"If you have yet to find your passion, ask yourself a better question. Don't ask, What do I want to do? Ask yourself, What makes my heart sing? Both questions will lead to very different answers."

"The question - what makes your heart sing - triggers a story. Facts alone don't inspire. The heart of your story gives facts their soul. Fact-filled PowerPoint presentations do not win hearts and minds; stories do. Well-designed slides complement the story, but the story must come first."

"Will its emotional hook inspire people to join the hero's journey?"

"Ask yourself, What makes my heart sing? The answer is the foundation upon which all great stories are built."

Good-night, my fellow passionate storytellers.