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Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

If you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ardell Broadbent.

Ardell Broadbent has a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She is currently marketing and expanding on a game-based politics curriculum. The intent is to provide a platform for lighthearted discussion and understanding of the strengths and contribution of the four largest parties, with the intent of transcending the entrenched divisiveness of public media messages. She served seven years as a board member and one year as president of La Vereda, a community-centered non-profit in Del Norte, Colorado. She is a court-rostered mediator.

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Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

Yes. I have a sister and brother who don’t talk to each other anymore. There are a lot of similarities between them. They are only two years apart in age, both have four kids, belong to the same church, and make their kids take music lessons. My sister’s family is in some ways a typical liberal city-dwelling family, drives a hybrid, eats vegan, and posted Bernie signs. My daughter and I lived with them eight months in their mother-in-law apartment, so we know their beliefs pretty well. Prior to the pandemic, they refused to visit the family home for gatherings because of my brother who lives there with his family. It’s rural. Although my brother and sister-in-law both work other jobs, they keep a small hobby farm and have a few horses. She processes chickens herself. I lived in the separate unit of the house for two summers, and there wasn’t any soundproofing. I pretty much know their business, and I consider them responsible parents. But the issue for my sister was that they let their children own and handle guns, and reportedly one wasn’t put away at a time that my sister visited. The gun issue is just a symbol of a rift that seems political, to the point that they couldn’t talk to work out an agreement. The family helped work out an agreement about guns put away at family gatherings, but there wasn’t trust that it would be adhered to.

Before we go further into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Yes. It’s actually relevant to the topic. I’ve lived in a variety of locations or communities that epitomize the four largest political parties of the U.S.

  • I was raised in semi-rural staunchly conservative and religious community, in Utah, which for nearly six decades has voted Republican.
  • In college I fell in with a crowd who supported every conservationist cause. The value of frugality and long-term planning fit with my pioneer heritage. This immersed me in Green party ideologies. During and after the college roommate communes, many of us continued these ecologically conscious ideals including permaculture gardens, green architecture, minimalism, and beekeeping.
  • Next I became conscious of Democrat ideals. A couple of years prior to and during my graduate studies I lived in large cities where I grew to appreciate public transit, worked for government social services, and benefited from federal school loans. I married a public school teacher who became a professor of multicultural education, and I had a minor in multicultural and women’s issues from my undergraduate degree as well. I lived in Los Angeles for 5 years, the epitome of ethnic and cultural diversity, working closely with clients of a variety of nationalities.
  • Then back to Green. I wanted to raise my daughter in a location that offered more connection to nature and a sense of community. Her earliest schooling was in the small town of Crestone Colorado, a unique place that grew out of a land grant donation to any certifiable major religion. An ashram, zen center, native American ceremonial group, and monastery, brought a variety of experiences to the community. Tie dye, music festivals, new age spiritual beliefs, UFO sightings, government conspiracy theory like chem trails, and abundant cannabis use were all part of the culture.
  • I’ve also had a solid Libertarian training. At one point I lived in a small mountain town that to me represents this outlook. My cousin in LA tells me I just am not acquainted with the urban libertarian type, and she’s right, but anyway, I’m thinking of a friend describing a road trip during which they saw Hillary signs in every city and only Trump signs in between. The insistence on self-sufficiency, in addition to some lack of economic opportunity, created a specific look characterized by a lot of rusted metal and weathered wood. The look of the town was wild west, with garages or yards of hoarded clutter subject to neighborly sharing. There and in nearby communities I had friends with family-owned ranches, small farms, cottage industries such as cheese-making, the type of artisan work that big business continues to push out of the market. They value their independent livelihoods and tend to be fiscally conservative, but they can’t compete with the low prices offered by government-subsidized big agribusiness. This worldview ties back into my childhood. My dad was a prepper and John Bircher, intent on raising a family without negative cultural influences such as TV and popular music. I grew up hearing about the illuminati, the mark of the beast, and the new world order.

So I’ve been in more than one bubble.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I developed a set of games to help give a platform for families, friends, classrooms, or any small group to have a more lighthearted way to discuss politics. These are role-playing games. You can take a stance and explore ideas without wondering if others will think you are deluded or evil, because you’re just playing. The website is fractioNation.US. For the most part, it’s not presenting you with prepackaged ideas but inviting you to respectfully debate, to share examples and experiences, or figure out a compromise.

What or who inspired you to pursue this interest?

It was my daughter. She was 11 in 2015, and I was trying to figure out how to help her understand the issues she was hearing about, in a way that didn’t dumb it down but also wasn’t so complicated. I found it was really fun to work on game-based learning, and it just took on a life of its own even though I didn’t really have time for another project.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

As far as the games project, there was a local game-maker’s guild that would get together weekly to playtest each other’s games, and they had a lot of good feedback and encouragement.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Can’t think of anything relevant.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Lemme mention one relevant to this topic. The title is We Must Not Be Enemies, by Micheal Austin. The title is from a quote by Abraham Lincoln. You can get a good overview on the Amazon description of the book. Among his main points are that we need to learn how to be better friends with people we disagree with. I’ve tried to do that. It has been maddening sometimes. Also, he says we should argue for things and not just against things. Be part of a solution, rather than opposing others’ solutions.

Another is Cultivating Peace by James O’Dea, who was the Washington DC director of Amnesty International. That book influenced me to go thru training to become a court-rostered mediator.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

There’s one framework that has been important for me while working on this project. It’s Carol Sanford’s idea of four levels of operating an organization. The lowest level is extracting value: You try to get as much out as you can while putting in as little as necessary. It’s a self-serving strategy, and it is often a short-term strategy. An example in the energy business would be continuing to extract and burn coal to convert to electric. The next level is arrest disorder. You try to stop some of the damaging effects while you’re extracting value. You provide housing and reparation to those whose family members died from black lung, and use better smokestack filters to stop externalizing costs. Better than that is a commitment to do good. Here you try to adopt best practices in the business. You might build some solar farms or windmills and try to phase out fossil fuels. You may even reverse some of the damage by planting trees. But solar and wind tech have their own extractive impact. The top level is regenerative, meaning to use systems thinking to consider how the various parts work, and how to heal. In this case, we would look at the regulation of insulative values for buildings, include rooftop solar costs in the mortgage to avoid power loss thru transmission lines, use glass brick windows for lighting and passive solar heating, and in general use structural design to maximize comfort and minimize the need for external energy.

So applying this principle to politics, we wouldn’t be trying to drain the swamp. We would look at how the political system incentivizes behaviors that are exploitative, on both sides. We would look at how the economic system interacts with the political system, on both sides. On the “do good” level we could work on election reform to enable third party candidates or examine the strengths of other nations that are functioning as social democracies, to adopt best practices. On the regenerative level, we notice that fundamentally it is the doctrine that “greed is good,” “might makes right,” and “winner takes all” that has permitted a culture of exploitation to become accepted, which has damaged trust in business interactions, replaced it with reliance on lawyers, and obliterated the social contract. Then we can start the slow work of rebuilding culture at the level of values.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The organizational leadership literature has an important distinction between position power, which is more a manager role, and leadership, which is more an influencer role that doesn’t necessarily rely on position power. Obviously, you can be both at the same time, but everyone with position power I believe should strive to not exert coercive power but to instead influence by example and persuasion. When you think about the people who have made an important positive impact on your life, it’s more likely to be a family member, a school teacher, or a mentor rather than someone famous. I love Brene Brown’s books on leadership, including Braving the Wilderness, which talks a lot about not allowing yourself to be pigeonholed into one side or the other. There’s a lot about being truthful and respectful, which is both daring and vulnerable.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Collectively we’ve been living beyond our means, and we could argue whether it’s because of peak oil or the growing wealth disparity, but as the easy credit dried up, many are getting uncomfortable if they’re not already at the point of barely scraping by. At the same time, we see so many on social media living enviable lives, and a lot of people feel the economic opportunities are unfairly distributed. However, few have the time to really dig into the historical trends of economics and social changes that got us here, so instead we play a blame game. It’s easier to pass along phrases that are partly true and that jive with our views than to take a balanced perspective.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Well, this is where I can put in another plug for those educational games. With my politically diverse family, there was one time we assigned everyone to play the political role pretty much the opposite of what we knew them to be. It was fun, and I came away from it realizing that those whose views are most different from mine knew more about my favored positions than I thought they did. I also played many times with my mom, because who else would have enough patience and love to playtest games over and over? We both learned a lot. She has never voted the same as me, but we began to see that we had a lot more areas of agreement than we had differences.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

One of my sisters deleted her Facebook account because she was using up too much time arguing on social media and just couldn’t quit the habit. Even if you make a snappy comeback and feel some satisfaction from it, it isn’t helping you or them if it’s antagonistic. You just make people more defensive and dug in. That adage from educators applies: “They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Focus on something we can all agree on. Everybody from every party can agree that human trafficking is wrong, and it’s a lot more pervasive than most are aware. Let’s unite to work on something we agree on and table the other discussions until we fix that.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

There are some great movies that are entertaining and also show nuances of social and political stances, and people’s interactions around them. Crash is a brilliant example, super relevant to the current conversations. Beware of Children is a more recent one.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

We can try to find the most unbiased news sources possible using monitors such as allsides.com. Don’t support other news outlets.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

This is not going to be the answer you want to hear. The problem isn’t out there. It’s inside each of us. I don’t think there’s any way to lower the ante beside becoming more mature ourselves, and getting our own anxiety under control. If we’re less reactive and less antagonistic, then those we talk to won’t be as threatened. Also we won’t be bothered as much by the idea of deluded people who need to be persuaded or stopped. We don’t want to be stressed out by something we have almost no control over. We can work toward our own version of a solution without convincing the opposition. I also wonder if it’s not as bad as it sounds from the media. Those with extreme positions get a lot of press, but they don’t represent the majority.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

First, if you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

Second, set boundaries. Boundaries show self respect. I love how Brene Brown insists that “clear is kind.” Don’t make others guess. This can reduce the potential for hurt feelings and conflict. Without making others wrong for their views, you can say “that doesn’t work for me” or “that’s not a topic I’m open to discussing.” Get some support if some aren’t respecting your boundaries.

Third, see if you can get some mediation or therapy to work through whatever rifts you have between members of your family. This may seem harder than fixing the national political divide, but it’s where unity starts. There’s no guarantee, but you can at least know you gave it a chance. Again I love Brene Brown’s reminder that family isn’t replaceable. It’s not your political allies who are going to help watch your sick kid or join in to help pay for a family member’s rehab.

Fourth, once your own backyard is tidied up, you might be ready to expand your influence. Find how you can contribute your talent and interests to make your neighborhood better, maybe thru clubs, church groups, activist groups that are non-violent, or just a volunteer effort that your workplace or social group might take on. For example, as a way to unite in an important goal that isn’t politically charged, on the website fractioNation.US there’s a free download of a role-playing game that helps talk thru emergency preparedness by setting up potential disaster scenarios that you have to navigate with limited supplies.

If you manage to do the first four, then it might be time to get even more involved locally in your community. You might attend local government meetings. You might hire a local mediator to guide a discussion between two groups that have been at odds about a local issue. This is where it counts, where you can actually make a difference. Trading insults on social media is not how you can make an impact in changing anyone’s mind. This is where it becomes obvious the need to speak respectfully face to face. James O’Dea, an author mentioned earlier, said that when faced with another’s rage, an important question to diffuse the situation is, “What do you need me to understand?”

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Every major religion has some version of the perennial philosophy, to treat others as you would want to be treated, which means offering respect even if and when we need to set boundaries.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am optimistic. I think it might get worse before it gets better, but I am confident in the overall trajectory of cultural evolution. It might be that climate change, wealth disparity, loneliness, and the mental health epidemic all becomes so challenging that we quit focusing on trivialities and pull together.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

There’s an organization called Cultures of Dignity that’s created resources especially for young people, to help them emotionally deal with tough cultural issues, including politics. I would point them to resources they can access online.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

What a helpful question! I’d say Jo Jorgensen who was the Libertarian party’s presidential nominee AND Ralf Nader, who of course was the Green party presidential candidate a while back. I’d want to get them at the same table to see where they could agree and possibly unify the anti-establishment. That could provide us with a qualified candidate who stands a chance of challenging the duopoly.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’ve got a lot of projects going, but relevant to this topic, check out fractioNation.US, or Google-search my name.


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our…

Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness

Commit to leading with gratitude — that is, consciously commit to looking for the positive in things and striving to look on the bright side and be grateful, rather than the opposite — lamenting the challenges that crop up and overfocusing on the negative. Adopting a positive mindset is an important step toward reaping the benefits of gratitude and restoring our mental wellness. Gratitude improves peoples’ well-being because it helps reduces negative emotions like envy and resentment.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kendra Davenport.

Kendra Davenport, CFRE, is the Chief Development Officer for Operation Smile, a global surgical nonprofit that brings families renewed hope through cleft surgery and comprehensive care. She previously served as president of the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and vice president of institutional advancement and external affairs at Africare. Kendra has supported development at Project HOPE, the Population Reference Bureau, and other organizations. Recently, she earned an Executive Master of Policy Leadership from Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

In my senior year of college, I attended a career forum hosted by my school and listened to a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer speak about her career path. I was completely enamored with her from the confident, engaging way she spoke, to her manicured nails, perfectly coiffed hair, right down to her black patten leather Ferragamo pumps. I wanted to be like her and thought it would be terrific to learn from her and watch her in action. So, I wrote her a letter (you have to remember this was 1988, and there were no cell phones or Internet) asking if she would consider letting me serve as an unpaid intern for her. She enthusiastically agreed and a few months later, I was taking the train from Chestnut Hill to downtown Philadelphia, where I worked alongside Caroline Stewart, Business Buzz columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, for several wonderful months. At least a few days a week, she would take me to business lunches with her and she always very graciously introduced me to whomever she was meeting, as her “incredible intern.” Most people would politely ask what my plans were after graduation and on more than one occasion, people very generously offered to arrange interviews for me with their company. I interviewed with a shipping company, a hedge fund, the Chamber of Commerce, a major insurance company, a big eight accounting firm and a children’s museum. Caroline was intent on helping me identify a first job that would be educational at a minimum and fulfilling at best.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time to have in Caroline such a wonderful mentor, but three decades later, I strive to be the same to young people who cross my path.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I graduated from a small then women’s college and immediately entered the working world as an associate in the development (fundraising department) of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. It was one of the nation’s first tactile, participatory museums designed exclusively for children. I honestly had no idea what development was, but I was grateful for the job and quickly found that I enjoyed helping the museum advance its mission and goals through fundraising and brand raising. Thirty-two years later I am still working in nonprofit development. One of my mentors says I am either a masochist or an eternal optimist. I think I am probably a little of both.

Since that first job, I have been immensely fortunate to have worked for many amazing national and international nonprofits. I think the reason I never veered from the nonprofit sector to the for-profit arena is that I find nonprofit work challenging but exceptionally fulfilling because it has purpose. I believe helping people is a terrifically compelling and rewarding way to spend a career.

There have been many things I have had the good fortune of doing throughout my career, and I have been truly blessed to have worked alongside many incredibly impressive people whose experience and expertise I have taken to heart and emulated. Choosing a particular story that I think would be interesting to others is tricky because I feel so close to my work — it’s personal for me and it always has been. I think that’s why I have been able to forge a pretty nice career for myself … because I am devoted to what I do. I have found that whatever I give of myself to my job tends to come back to me tenfold, time and time again.

Several years ago, when I was working for Africare, I was deep in rural Liberia, touring maternal waiting homes that my D.C.-based development team and I had worked hard to raise the money to construct. I was with a gentleman who now works for Operation Smile, Ernest Gaie. At the time, Ernest was Africare’s Country Director for Liberia. We had been driving literally all day and had participated in several meetings with village officials along the way to a maternal hospital on the Guinean border. I was exhausted, and I can still remember hoping to myself as we approached the very remote hospital that our stop would be brief because I was tired, sweaty, hungry, and longing for a hot shower, and I knew we still had a very long drive to make back to Monrovia.

As we got closer, Ernest telephoned the hospital to let them know we were almost there. When we arrived, we were greeted by a throng of women dressed in white. They broke out into song as soon as we exited the vehicle, welcoming us as a show of appreciation and hospitality. They were so genuine and kind, I was deeply moved. I quickly learned, they were traditional midwives, trained by Africare to safely deliver healthy babies and help ensure mothers were healthy as well. To this day, maternal mortality rates in West Africa are the highest in the world. When I went into the hospital, mothers-to-be were equally happy to see us and welcoming. Many of them had just had their babies and offered to let me hold them. They were also very willing to take pictures with me, which I was just blown away by. I felt very guilty for initially hoping the visit would be quick. I enjoyed talking with them, listening to their stories and seeing their newborn babies so much. The memory is indelibly etched on my mind as one of the most powerfully moving professional experiences I have ever had.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Success is never final, and failure is never fatal.” To be successful in development, you need to put yourself out there. You need to try new things and not be afraid of rejection. The same I think is true in life. If you want to achieve your personal and professional goals, you need to take some risks. If you don’t, you’re not apt to advance in any measurable way. I also think it’s important to constantly reassess and reset those goals — both personal and professional. How else do you stay fulfilled? This line of thought does not resonate with everyone, but I am an ambitious person and once I have attained a goal I established for myself, I move on to another and then another. I think my career is illustrative of the drive and energy I devote to my work. Ambitious women often find that what is applauded in their male counterparts is frowned upon in women. I believe things are getting better and that opportunities to lead in the private and nonprofit sectors are opening up for women, but the working world is still largely dominated by men.

At this stage in my career, I feel obligated to encourage young female professionals to aim higher and to push forward, especially after suffering a setback. I think the best thing female leaders can do is to help pave the way for younger women professionals to overcome barriers to success, while encouraging them to constantly set new goals for themselves. I have been fortunate to have had so many pivotal people throughout my career believe in me, take chances on me, and help create opportunities for me. I am grateful to this day, for the many opportunities other people facilitated for me. Gratitude and my acknowledgement that I would not be where I am today without the help of many others motivates me to pay it forward.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

I love to read and have read all my life. When I was younger, I read a great deal for pleasure, but as the pace of my life and my career picked up, I found it more difficult to find the time to read for fun. Now that my children are grown and I have more time to devote to my work, I find myself reading more for work than for pleasure, but I admit to stealing time to enjoy a work of fiction every now and then. I am always looking for ways to inspire the team of amazing people I manage, to be more effective in some area of my professional life, or to address something I feel I need help tackling. Most recently, my team and I have been reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It’s about the aggregation of marginal gains — how over time, small changes that become habits can add up to big impacts. We have an informal book club that anyone on our team can participate in and the discussions this book has spawned have been remarkable. My original intent in selecting Atomic Habits for my team to focus on and read, was to encourage them to work on the things during the pandemic that they could tangibly influence. Together, we have learned about the benefits and control we could realize if we focused on making small but impactful changes that over time would amount to significant achievements.

Holding book club discussions with members of my team is also a nice way of convening them and inspiring fun, relaxed, participatory discussions that inevitably get people laughing. Facilitating good team communication has taken on greater significance since we began working entirely remotely and laughter in midst of the pandemic has become a soothing tonic that everyone can benefit from and use.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The nature of our work — fundraising, brand, marketing, and communications makes — for an assortment of simultaneous projects that are exciting. For example, we are having early planning discussions about launching a capital campaign through which we will raise at least $40 million in the next two years. The campaign will be a very large, global project that will engage almost everyone on our team of 50. In addition to helping Operation Smile raise its brand awareness and tens of millions of dollars, the campaign will provide most everyone on our team great experience and opportunities to work on new things and to do things that we excel at, in new ways. Projects like this keep our team motivated and enthused about our work, which is critical because development is like the nonprofit version of sales — only it’s much harder and much more subtle.

Another project we are launching, is called the VUCA Workshop series. VUCA, stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The intent of the workshop series is to facilitate meaningful discussions about everything people are going through as a result of COVID-19. Because I am very concerned about the mental strain and stress the pandemic is having on my team, I thought we could all benefit from working with experts who through a series of discussions and hands-on exercises will give people some mechanisms and tools to better cope with all that life is throwing at them right now. I truly believe in planning and implementing this series, we are proactively addressing the things that are on everyone’s minds and which are potentially creating mental anguish and anxiety for people that inevitably spills over into their work life. If we can equip them with some helpful ideas and tools to better handle the stress and uncertainty and fear they may be experiencing, we can improve their outlook and possibly their well-being, which is very important to me. I think it’s incumbent on employers to do as much as they can to help employees cope in this crazy time we’re all living in and the VUCA Workshop series is one small initiative aimed at doing just that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Fortunately, I have many mentors whose guidance and support has helped me throughout my life. My father has served as a guiding star and is a major influence in my life. My husband of 32 years is also a source of near constant guidance and advice, especially regarding management. I believe both he and my father are two of the best managers I know. I frequently seek their advice and while I don’t always abide by it, I sincerely value it.

As I think I said earlier, I have been blessed to work for some wonderful mentors/bosses. One in particular, Judith Jacobson, was my supervisor for nearly 10 years when I worked for the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance. Like many nonprofits, shortly after I began working the Alliance, it experienced a very austere period during which all travel was halted, a hiring freeze was instituted, and money to operate was scarce. Judy took over as CEO during this trying period after the former CEO was let go. She had a very difficult job, and yet, she infused humor into the most challenging of circumstances and was throughout the two-year period incredibly positive and resourceful. I was in awe of her fortitude and mental and emotional strength throughout that time, but it was not until years later that I learned she didn’t pay herself in order to be able to pay me and my colleagues without bankrupting the organization. To make that kind of self-imposed, long term sacrifice for the benefit of her employees and the organization is something that to this day, inspires me to be a better person.

Judy remains one of my most trusted confidants and advisors. I have incredible respect for her.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe gratitude is more a state of mind than an act and to live a life of gratitude, to me, is more about paying it forward, sharing your gifts and time with others. It is a consciousness of the many ways in which you are fortunate and an active commitment to renew that awareness by sharing your bounty and your gifts

It is also about maintaining a positive attitude. Leading with gratitude is empowering. When you consciously acknowledge how fortunate and blessed you are, it’s easier to shrug off the things you cannot control, to ignore little hurts or aggressions we all experience every day — from someone cutting us off in the car, to being left off an email chain you feel you should have been included on.

I frequently remind my team to embody and espouse an attitude of gratitude and to avoid assuming malintent whenever they might feel slighted. Actively striving to live a life of gratitude helps promote a happy, grateful, mindful culture that people enjoy working in.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

I like to believe that there is good in everyone and that we all just experience life in different ways. For some, gratitude is an emotion that is present in everything they experience, in all they do, and in everything they believe. I think people can learn to put gratitude at the forefront of their lives, but I think it comes more naturally when we are raised to be grateful for all that we have, for the gifts we have been given, and for everything good that comes our way.

If it is truly elusive and I am not altogether sure it is, I think that has a lot to do with the environment in which people exist, the influencers they tap into and surround themselves with. I have worked in some of the poorest countries in the world, but felt while there, an omnipresent sense of gratitude in everyone I met. Again, I think it’s about perspective. The India Arie song, “There’s Hope,” illustrates perfectly what I experienced — perspective and taking nothing for granted.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Expressions of gratitude come in all shapes and forms. When I encourage my team, for example, to put gratitude first, I don’t mean that they should all break out their good stationery and stamps and send people thank you notes — though I don’t think that is ever a bad idea. Gratitude can be expressed in countless ways including giving someone your time when you don’t necessarily have it to spare, putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own because you know or sense they need something more than you do, acknowledging everyone who worked on a project you led, even if their collective contributions do not equal what you alone may have devoted to the effort. These are the small acts and gestures that convey gratitude and promote a culture of kindness, trust and empathy.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

I believe mental wellness is a critical, but all too often overlooked component of health — not just here in the U.S. but all over the world. I think attitudes about mental health and how important it is to just about everything are changing for the better, but there is a long way to go before, as a society, we assertively champion mental health as a means or barrier to well-being. Stigmas around mental health prevent many employers from openly addressing issues such as depression or anxiety.

If the past year has taught me anything with respect to work and my team, the primary lesson has been about the importance of helping people create a culture at work that enables and encourages mental wellness.

When people feel appreciated, it boosts their spirits, so being mindful about recognizing when people have done something special or achieved a goal can change their mood for the better. I know of no one who does not like their efforts recognized, and recognizing people publicly is even more effective. Infusing gratitude is a game changer because if done frequently enough in meaningful ways, it inspires a lightness and happiness. It helps create a culture of kindness. Wouldn’t everyone want to work in an environment where the guiding principles are gratitude, kindness and empathy? By virtue of inculcating gratitude as a highly desirable quality and trait that is valued, respect for one another is facilitated, which is the foundation on which a caring atmosphere is established.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Commit to leading with gratitude — that is, consciously commit to looking for the positive in things and striving to look on the bright side and be grateful, rather than the opposite — lamenting the challenges that crop up and overfocusing on the negative. Adopting a positive mindset is an important step toward reaping the benefits of gratitude and restoring our mental wellness. Gratitude improves peoples’ well-being because it helps reduces negative emotions like envy and resentment.
  • By proactively and deliberately striving to thank people for the small and the not so small ways they might help you, you can completely alter the way you are perceived for the better. Acknowledgement is a powerful tool that can touch even the hardest person to get along with. Gratitude is a relationship builder. My husband and my father were active-duty, career officers in the Coast Guard and Navy. I moved frequently as a child and my nomadic lifestyle continued after I married. Many times, shortly after we moved to a new place, thoughtful neighbors would bring baked goods or plants to welcome us to the neighborhood. Their thoughtfulness always touched me and helped me envision my life in our new surroundings. I would always return the gesture within a few weeks and make a point of acknowledging how much their kindness meant to me and my family. Everywhere we have lived, we forged strong and enduring relationships with people who reached out to us almost as soon as the moving truck departed — or sooner! To this day, we remain friends with several of these thoughtful souls and I marvel at the fact that our relationships, now decades old in many cases, began with a simple but kind gesture of gratitude.
  • Sometimes, a small gesture of appreciation can yield unexpected dividends. This is surely true at work but almost everywhere in life as well. Recently, my husband and I helped our middle child move into her first post-college apartment. Because she had not yet applied to the city for a parking permit, she had to park her car in a lot near her apartment. The parking lot attendant was an older gentleman and when my daughter went to pay him, he struck up a conversation with her. They talked for about 10 minutes and at the end of their conversation, he told her he would keep an eye on her car, gave her a “family discount” on the parking fee, and thanked her profusely for taking the time to talk. He told her he got lonely and bored sitting alone all day and that her bright smile and willingness to chat had made his day. By simply treating the older man with respect and kindness, my daughter developed a friend, who in just a few minutes, helped her make the transition to her new independence and home a little easier.
  • I am a practicing Catholic and my faith is integral to every aspect and fiber of my life. I think of it as the greatest gift my parents have ever given me, because Catholicism is predicated on gratitude — we thank God for everything He has given us — from the basic and most banal everyday things to the more amorphous things that are harder to quantify but mean so much to us and define and shape who we are — our intellect, our talents, our health, and our creativity to name a few. I learned at a very young age from Sister Leilia, an Irish Sister of St. Joseph of Cluny, that regardless of how badly I thought my day might have been going, the most important thing I could do to turn it around was to thank God for giving it to me. At the time, I truly struggled with her logic, but as I matured and moved up to Sister Rachel’s fifth grade class, I began to understand how much I really had to be grateful for and that understanding became a guiding principle that remains salient to me today as I approach my 55th year on the planet. I attribute the fact that I am not an envious person to my gratitude for who I am, who God made me, and for the many gifts He has given me. It might sound simple and I suppose it is, but I believe gratitude might just be my north star.
  • My mother drilled into me and my siblings the importance of writing and mailing thank you notes. It often felt as though no sooner than we had blown out our birthday candles than we were required to sit at the kitchen table, write a draft on scratch paper and then pen a formal note of appreciation to everyone who had given us a gift. Today, my dear mom is nearing 80 and our family jokes about writing her a thank you note before we get whatever she has mailed us from the mailbox to the house. We all write thank you notes that sometimes seem superfluous, but more often than not, become treasured, sometimes humorous or sentimental mementos. The act of putting your feelings on paper is powerful and tangible expression of gratitude that means a lot to people. As soon as Operation Smile began working entirely remotely last March, I became concerned about how I was going to help my team stay connected, feel supported, and maintain the elusive esprit de corps we enjoyed. I began writing and sending each of them cards once or twice a month and I have tried to maintain that written, fun, very personal communication. I often include favorite quotes in the cards I send that might be references to things we’re experiencing as a group. The responses I have received have been very positive. While written communication is not nearly the same as speaking with someone in person, I think sometimes it’s more meaningful. I try to express how grateful I am for each member of my team and to provide a little encouragement as well.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive

I think it can be helpful to write about feelings, especially feelings of sadness, frustration or hurt. Journaling is proven to be a cathartic activity that can help people process their feelings and reflect on past experiences, which can be very elucidative. One of the things I started doing a few months ago, was writing in a gratitude journal I originally purchased to give to one of my children for Christmas. Upon reading some of its contents, I decided I needed it much more than my daughter and I gifted it to myself. One of the suggested ways of practicing gratitude I found in the journal is writing a gratitude list. The simple act of making a written list of all I am grateful for helps me recalibrate when I am feeling stressed or anxious or angry. It’s a practice I now do regularly — sometimes very deliberately and other times more absentmindedly.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

Instagram:

Touker Suleyman’s Instagram Feed

Dr. Elvis Francois’s Instagram Feed

Stay.Positive.In.Life Feed

LinkedIn:

Gratitude Company LinkedIn profile

Books:

Ambition, Leading with Gratitude, Seth Buechley

The Practice of Finding, Holly Whitcomb

Gratitude Journal, by Chronicle Books

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would amplify the notion that kindness in the workplace is essential to making vulnerability acceptable. I believe demonstrating real vulnerability is not reflective of weakness. I believe it demonstrates strength of character. If more people felt they could truly share the way they feel at work without repercussions or judgement, I think people would be healthier mentally and physically, and that work would become less of a necessary evil and more of an avocation for more people. I am not suggesting we make work a substitute for therapy. I just think there is a lot more room for the workplace to be a kinder, more empathic place for everyone.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

LinkedIn.com/in/kendradavenport

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our…

Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our World

It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing JP McNeill of Ando.

With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership roles at early-stage and high-growth companies, JP is skilled at combining vision and pragmatism to transform concepts into thriving businesses focused on reversing climate change.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I was born in Mexico City to a Mexican mother and an American father and moved to the United States (Ohio) when I was four. My family and I frequently traveled back and forth to Mexico to visit family and friends; to this day I feel so grateful to have grown up with influences from both of these cultures, as I feel it truly shaped me to be who I am today.

My parents started and ran a Mexican restaurant for 35 years, treating their employees and community with kindness, respect and courage — and also great food and margaritas! I began working there when I was 14 years old and was able to learn so much about hard work and cultivating a positive work environment. Much of what I learned working under my parents has shaped the way I run my own business and interact with my peers and colleagues.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Our goal is simple: we want to empower everyone, everywhere to combat climate change. We do this by making everyday banking a force for good that benefits people and the planet.

Banking works under a simple principle: for every $1 in a checking account, savings account, CD or other bank account, a bank is able to invest and make $1 worth of loans. Unfortunately, of the $1 trillion in total loans issued each year by banks in the U.S., less than 2% support green initiatives. Most loans fund companies and assets which create more emissions and further harm the environment. This problem exists not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. Our money has been utilized, and continues to be utilized, to fund trillions of dollars in loans which harm our environment.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. What we need is a method in which our money solely gets utilized to fund green investments which will create a thriving sustainable economy. Ando introduces two new principles which have the power to transform the banking industry on a global scale.

1.) Loans should be green, not brown. 100% of customer bank balances in a checking and savings account should be green. Green loans exist across every major economic sector. For example, in the energy industry, banks can provide loans for renewable energy investments. In the building industry, banks offer residential and commercial green mortgages. In the transportation sector, banks offer loans for electric cars, hybrids, busses and trains. In the agriculture and forestry sectors, loans exist for sustainable agriculture and forestry. In sustainable industry, banks make loans to reduce waste, increase recycling, increase sustainable materials.

2.) Banks should provide 100% transparency on what they finance. When you buy food, they tell you exactly what’s in it and provide the nutritional facts. Transparency is important so consumers know exactly what they’re buying into. The same should be true of banking. Banks should be transparent about what they do with customer deposits. If I have $2,000 in my checking account, I would like to know how my $2,000 is being utilized by the bank. Is 1% of it going to finance green loans, 5% or 100% of it? This level of transparency helps inform customers on what happens when they hand over their paycheck to the bank.

When enough people join Ando (and other banks who follow these additional two principles), we hopefully will create a social tipping dynamic, whereby other banks will need to incorporate these principles so that they don’t lose their customer deposits. This transformation will shift trillions of dollars away from funding brown loans to funding green loans thereby stopping global warming, improving our environment and creating a sustainable global economy.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

In August 2000, my wife and I heard Bill McDunough speak at a conference in Palm Desert, CA. He described that our economy was broken; it creates significant waste that harms our well-being and all life on the planet. He went on to describe how through better design we could create an economy modeled after nature, where there is no waste and a tremendous amount of abundance. After hearing him speak, I was forever changed. I realized my purpose in life was to work on solutions which promote sustainability and improve life for everyone on this planet.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

In the fall of 2019, I had a conversation with my 13-year-old son who is very concerned about the environment, global warming, and the implications of both on his future. I explained to him how banks operate, how much money they hold, and that people actually hold the power by choosing whom they bank with. When I was done, he looked at me and sighed and said, “Dad, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” I knew that if a 13-year-old boy understood Ando, we were going to connect with enough people for Ando to be successful.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I reached out to people who have been extremely successful, many of whom I have worked with in the past, to ask for advice, guidance and insight. I presented the concept to them, invited them to join and gave every person an equity stake in Ando. Admitting that you don’t always have the answers and learning from people who have been successful in their respective endeavors is what has helped me get to where I am today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

It takes a village to do almost anything. Our purpose and opportunities enable us to connect with people who I never thought possible of reaching, mostly because of the team of people I have behind me. When you start something new it may feel like you are climbing Mt. Everest alone. I am in constant awe and extremely grateful for those who have joined the Ando team and continue to play a critical role in its development and success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I had a key team member once say that they maybe were not the right fit for the role because my ideas were too “out there” or too heavy. I didn’t know how to control and express my passions effectively, leaving him overwhelmed by my ideas. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but we look back on it now and laugh. For me, the lesson was and is now to lead with curiosity and seek first to understand and to apologize when and if you’ve made a mistake.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I am fortunate to have a number of people who have mentored and advised me along the way. First my spouse and children, both of whom inspire me and support me on my journey each and every day. Second, my co-founders and the entire Ando team who are experts in what they do and keep the machine running. They each influence and shape the company, and myself for that matter, on a daily basis.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The community and society can do two very important things to help address the root of the climate crisis. First, raise awareness of the connection between banking and the environment and the role we each play. We enable banks to either harm the environment or heal it by simply giving them our money. Second, to encourage people to take action. With awareness comes responsibility, but many people don’t follow through on this or don’t know where to start. It’s important we each support each other and encourage one another to be a participant of change rather than a spectator.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Today more people care about sustainability and the environment than they ever have before. As such, I think the biggest impact sustainability and environmental care have on a company’s bottom line is their role in defining a company’s culture. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In the last company I started and grew to 650 people, we had an intern program for MBA students. In our first year, we had 300 people apply for only nine spots. By the end of the program, the nine participants had offers from some of the top firms nationwide. Each intern we extended an offer to stayed in the industry because of our mission.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Love what you do. Challenges occur regularly. When you love what you do, it makes it much easier to work through them.
  2. It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters. I wanted to launch our services in the summer, but this was not realistic. I could have been angry or disappointed, instead I reevaluated my expectations and moved forward.
  3. Trust in your community to spread awareness. Ando is now a community of people who I have never met and are joining in the conversation and contributing in ways I had never imagined.
  4. Fail quickly and fail often. There have been a lot of trial-and-error periods while launching Ando. For example, we came up with many different names for the company. It was important to “fail” quickly and realize what names worked vs. what didn’t as to not waste time and money building supporting assets for a name that didn’t stick.
  5. It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Fantastic! The world needs lots of people to participate in making a positive impact. Your participation will propel others to do the same!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As mentioned above, “It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters.” For me, this life lesson comes into play almost every day. There are so many things that happen in life, and how we relate to them makes all the difference. I wish I would have learned this life lesson early on in my life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Billie Eilish and Greta Thunberg. Two young passionate climate change agents.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jp-mcneill/

https://twitter.com/jpmcneill_ando

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author S Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby Is Helping To Change Our World

Leave it all on the floor. This book is deeply personal and revealing. I am also hoping to prove to the women who entrusted me with their stories that they made the right choice. At this moment, if things don’t go the way I hope, it is not just about this moment, it’s not just that I have not been an effective storyteller. For someone like me who overachieves to mitigate imposter syndrome, it is also about my identity as a Black woman and not wanting to disappoint my family, my friends, my mentors, my boss, colleagues, team, or others who look like me. However, even if people don’t like the book, I know I have left it all on the floor and so, it won’t be for lack of trying. And so because of that, I feel good.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing S. Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby, an attorney with a long history of advocating for policies that empower marginalized communities. She currently works in policy in the city of Chicago and sits on the boards of Between Friends and GirlForward. After she experienced dismissive treatment while seeking answers for a mysterious and ongoing health issue, Ms. Grigsby decided to expand her advocacy by addressing disparities in the US health care system in her first book EmpowHERed Health: Reforming a Dismissive Health Care System. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, and raised in Houston, Texas by way of Paris, France, author, Ms. Grigsby intersperses her personal story and that of other Black women when interacting with an often dismissive health care system to both highlight the need for immediate action and to propose community-led solutions. Bilingual, in French and English, Ms. Grigsby is a graduate of Georgetown University and Northeastern University School of Law. She describes herself as an author, advocate, attorney and joyful warrior.

https://medium.com/media/182d104f168ed58c74618446b44b9b5b/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My drive to find solutions to problems facing women and children was inspired by my own mother. Prior to the onset of the 13-year civil war that decimated Liberia’s infrastructure and killed so many, she walked out of the country with my father and whatever money she could carry in her “lappa,” a piece of cloth Liberian women wear around their waist. My sister and I immigrated to Europe on the last KLM flight out of Liberia before the civil war and we reunited with our parents in the United States years later. My mother was the one who managed to navigate the impossible chaos of that period and keep our family together. Her ability to keep our family strong in the midst of external turbulence has allowed my sister, my father, and me to thrive despite the negative effects of war. In my adult life, I have tried to honor my mother’s strength by seeking innovative solutions that create systemic change for women and youth. My work is driven by my commitment to empowering marginalized communities to be the drivers for their own sustainable social change. To me, that has meant working at the intersection of law, public policy, and social change.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

There were two books — Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery and Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I am so jealous of children who have access to a plethora of children’s books with diverse representation these days but unfortunately I wasn’t exposed, even while growing up on the continent of Africa. I read both Le Petit Prince and Harriet the Spy when I was in 4th grade in France. And, as the new kid who spent a lot of time alone, I appreciated that they both made me think about the world and my place in the world. Le Petit Prince reminded me that all grown ups were children once even though only a few remembered. And, Harriet the Spy made me want to be a writer, retreating into my thoughts and the world I created with my writing when people around me were not as welcoming.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I decided to research memorable opening statements for a moot court trial once. I was very proud of myself when I found one that seemed perfect and everyone appeared to be very impressed by my rendition. That was until the judge for the day told me he had heard that opening before — many, times. The lesson there was to always, always make something my own.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My vision of good public policy and sustainable, positive change involves empowering marginalized communities with the tools required to be their own advocates. When society turns their back on marginalized communities through historic disinvestment or systemic racism, these communities often find ways to survive. Their means of survival sometimes includes paths outside of established economic or social avenues. However, those means are usually suited to the unique challenges of the community and are therefore best articulated by members of these communities. For any solution to work, these solutions should originate with these community stakeholders.

2020 was a consequential year for all of us but I finally realized that I can achieve this vision through using storytelling to build a community of changemakers, providing those who are most impacted with the data and resources required to be the engineers of their own change. That is why my book, EmpowHERed Health: Reforming A Dismissive Health Care System is a mix of personal stories, data, research and proposed solutions. I hope that people see themselves in those stories, realize they are not alone, and consider my solutions as potential paths to reform.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

All of the stories were interesting and I appreciate everyone who shared their story with me. I believe the one that resonated the most with me is about a woman I called “Sheila” in a chapter entitled “Make Sure They Know You’re a Lawyer.’ Sheila is a lawyer like me and also someone who will always do her research. She picked a doctor with experience working with women like her who had suffered from miscarriages, hoping that she would receive compassionate care when pregnant with her son. Instead, as she asked more questions, her doctor became colder towards her and Sheila was left questioning whether she was being paranoid. Ultimately Sheila realized that she was not being paranoid and that something was wrong. Sheila was right. What followed was 50 hours of tortuous labor. Sheila drives home why education or income or quality of insurance does not matter in the face of implicit bias.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

For years I was ignored when expressing that I was in pain. My most vivid memory involved crawling on the floor to grab a remote control because I could not stand up due to unbearable pain. I went to see a doctor and she told me I was ‘fine’ and she ‘didn’t see anything wrong.’ I decided that I would no longer accept doctors’ diagnosis that I was ‘fine’ while dismissing my pain. I left the doctor’s office and spent hours ‘googling’ my symptoms. That night I knew and later, a specialist confirmed that I had been living with 30 fibroids — benign tumors that grow in the uterus and would need surgery. Saving the doctor from the inconvenience of having to go further in diagnosing me ended up inconveniencing me.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one who had been treated that way and I was right. Women in my circle, women connected to women in my circle, allies in the LGBTQ+ community all approached me with their own stories. I decided that now, when we as a society are having very real conversations about why a global pandemic can have such a devastating impact on women; and, facing long-simmering tensions around racism and bias, could be the time to change things for the better.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

A woman I called ‘Willow’ in the chapter ‘I Was Doped Up And I Liked It.’ I wrote about her first experience giving birth, which was not a magical nor a positive experience. She called after giving birth to her second child and told me the experience was much better than her first time giving birth. She told me that her husband was more vigilant this time and that she thought it was because of books like mine. More people were sharing their stories and health care workers seemed to be listening.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes. Health disparities are prevalent in the United States, particularly as it relates to Black women and especially within the context of the maternal mortality rate. While maternal mortality is declining elsewhere in the world, the rate of maternal mortality in the United States has been increasing. And Black women are up to four times more likely to die in child-birth than their White counterparts. These deaths are preventable. These deaths happen to Black women more than their White counterparts in the US. The disparity between Black and White women is consistent at all income levels. We should do what we can to empower communities to fight back and hold the health care facilities who receive funding to serve them — accountable for prioritizing and addressing disparities in the maternal mortality rate and improving women’s health overall.

So. 1) Believe women and others belonging to similarly marginalized groups when they tell you that they are on the receiving end of dismissive treatment. 2) Tie the funding health care facilities receive from the government to steps they take to address health disparities based on race 3) Empower community groups and leaders to hold them accountable to act to address health disparities.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

People will tell you I considered myself a servant leader before it became a ‘buzzy’ term. My role as an attorney and as an advocate is to use my skills to amplify voices and not to displace them. I believe a good leader is compassionate, innovative, and leads by example. An example of positive leadership for me, is when you empower the people you work with to push themselves to work harder and to think outside of the box.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

5 things I wish someone told me when I first started:

  1. Listen to your Instincts — in this book, I talk about interactions with doctors that left me feeling dismissed. While I recognize that doctors are experts in medicine, I am the expert on my body. I wish that I had stopped the first doctor who told me I was fine and told them to continue working to find out what was wrong.
  2. Check in with your community — I didn’t tell anyone outside of my doctors about my pain and my symptoms, and once I did, I found that I was not alone. I wish I had checked in with my community earlier and crowd-sourced answers or just asked for support.
  3. Give yourself grace — I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel. And, when I miss the mark, I magically forget all of the wins. I find that that happens with a lot of women I know and the women in my book, who felt they should have done more to advocate for themselves. Life is tough, especially for those of us who belong to marginalized communities — celebrate the small wins, and, give yourself grace.
  4. This is also from the book but, Find Doctors you trust. Find Specialists you trust. Find Mentors you trust. — It takes a level of vulnerability to ask for help and advice so make sure the people you seek out are worthy of your vulnerability. So often in the book, people felt like they were at fault — they were being demanding. Or, they were being paranoid. And all along, they were on the receiving end of dismissive treatment.
  5. Leave it all on the floor. This book is deeply personal and revealing. I am also hoping to prove to the women who entrusted me with their stories that they made the right choice. At this moment, if things don’t go the way I hope, it is not just about this moment, it’s not just that I have not been an effective storyteller. For someone like me who overachieves to mitigate imposter syndrome, it is also about my identity as a Black woman and not wanting to disappoint my family, my friends, my mentors, my boss, colleagues, team, or others who look like me. However, even if people don’t like the book, I know I have left it all on the floor and so, it won’t be for lack of trying. And so because of that, I feel good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I will go back to Le Petit Prince — “Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Translated to — It’s simple, we can only see well with the heart, what is essential is invisible for the eyes. There have been so many times in my life when the path to success was not immediately clear. I did not know how my life would turn out on that last flight out of Liberia. I did not know that I would be here, an advocate, an author, an attorney and a joyful warrior. However, I felt compelled to take the path that I did and knew that whatever life threw at me, I would meet it with everything I had.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

OPRAH! I am her biggest fan.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am at @empowheredhealth on instagram; @GrigsbyUmi on twitter, https://linktr.ee/smayumigrigsby, and, https://www.linkedin.com/in/smayumigrigsby/ on LinkedIn.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author S Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Clemencia Vargas of Vive Bailando Is Helping To Change Our World

It is time to prioritize solidarity, empathy, adaption to change, collaboration and teamwork as well. The government, politicians, society…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

The hard truth is that in situations where your worth as a human being is disregarded, the divide may never be bridged. This is an important reality we have to understand.
That said, there is hope. But it requires vulnerability, humility, and the ability to actively listen. All of those elements are key, but there can be no healing without truly hearing each other. We’re not great at doing that as a society — we tend to listen to respond. We need to practice listening and truly hearing the thoughts presented by this person we care about. We have to care about people and have interactions that reflect that.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandyn Campbell.

Brandyn Campbell combines her passions for communications and diversity to help businesses build and articulate their commitment to racial justice. The founder of Brandyn Campbell Communications, she has worked with clients including the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Drawing on 15 years of experience focused on education and cultural competence, Brandyn’s Antiracism Consulting helps organizations identify opportunities to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their communications and cultures.

https://medium.com/media/855158ef9fa967d4c1c0c82e67dbd8b6/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up as an Air Force brat and was well-suited for that lifestyle. Until I moved to Philadelphia as an adult, the longest place I had ever lived was for four years. That experience fostered a lifelong love for travel and learning about different cultures. I was born in Guyana, and lived in Japan and England for a substantial part of my childhood. These experiences led me to study politics and international relations for my undergrad and graduate degrees and are a clear path that led to the work that I currently do.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

There are two inspirations in the work that I do: my mom and my children.

My mom was a single mother who raised two girls on her own while taking us around the world, and added a third master’s degree and a Ph.D to her already impressive list of academic qualifications. She was a teacher, and that passion for education is present in every aspect of my work. Though never a classroom teacher like she was, I know that, through my experiences as a trainer and presenter, I am indeed a teacher.

I’ve always had a strong sense of self, and I credit this to my mom. There was never any option for “I can’t,” so I grew up knowing that anything I wanted to achieve was possible.

The decision to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in my work was inspired my wonderful children: my seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. Very simply, I don’t want them to have to have “The Talk” that every Black parent has to have with their kids with my future grandchildren. I want this world to change quickly to allow kids the ability to remain children as long as possible. Every child deserves to have the comfort of knowing that they are not only free, but safe to be themselves however they look or identify.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The real blessing with my work is that every project is exciting. I work with people and organizations who strive to build more inclusive workplaces to help build a better world — that’s pretty incredible. My networking calls are often with other DEI practitioners who are leaders examining and refining ways to facilitate change. The push for positive change surrounds me, and I love it.

I’m currently in the midst of two long-term projects with organizations to help them become more inclusive from top to bottom. I’m creating a new workshop for universities to help students navigate issues of diversity and inclusion as new members of the workforce. I’m also wrapping up a couple of inclusive marking consulting projects.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My sister Paige has been my biggest cheerleader in adulthood and entrepreneurship. We are similar in a lot of ways — she is also in communications and an entrepreneur. Her opinion means everything to me, and there are times when she’s helped me realize the progress I was making when I was stuck chasing an ever-changing goal.

There are so many examples, but one story is our practice of having business brunches. We catch up, talk shop to help us problem-solve issues in our businesses, and celebrate our wins. As women, we do not take enough time to acknowledge our progress! When we began doing these brunches last year at the start of the pandemic, it was to help us see the many bright spots in the work we were doing and pursuing.

When I get stuck overcomplicating things or nitpicking successes, Paige stops me and chides me in the way only a big sister can and makes me stop in my tracks. She helps me get outside of myself and appreciate when I’ve hit my goals. She is the absolute best!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Before I ran my business full-time and did freelance writing, I made the mistake of not having contracts in place for every assignment. I had no issue with that — until I did. My biggest client at the time, a local magazine, began paying me more and more sporadically…and then the payments stopped completely.

There were excuses and unanswered emails, and no progress was made. Then I decided to sue them. I went to small claims court in Philadelphia and submitted my paperwork. Here comes the fun part: within days, I was receiving UPS and FedEx letters from shows like the People’s Court, Judge Mathis, and even — wait for it — Judge Judy! They have staff who scan lawsuit filings around the country and try to recruit them to be their next guests.

I didn’t follow through with any TV appearances, but I am proud to report that I got all of the money I was due. Because of that hard lesson, I have agreements for all projects, no matter how small. That is the best way to protect everyone involved.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X in 8th grade, and it had such a profound impact on me. It was one of the first autobiographies I ever read, and perhaps the first time I was presented with a broader context to the many lessons and stories my mother taught to me about Black history, race, and racism in the United States.

Reading his words about his life helped me critique depictions of him in textbooks and the media. I remember doing so much of what is now my practice: consuming information from a variety of sources through a critical lens.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” -Maya Angelou

I love this quote for so many reasons. So much of what women are taught is about being passive and to politely accept and endure. That has implications in areas like how we’re treated in relationships or the compensation we receive. If we want change in our minds, lives, and worlds, then we need to claim it and go for it. Change isn’t a bad word. It’s empowering to set your boundaries and know what you will not accept.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership, like anti-racism, is a practice. A leader is not made simply by virtue of a title. A leader cares about those in her or his charge and builds trust and relationships that move a collective toward a common goal. Caring about and cultivating the people in your care requires humility, vulnerability, and wisdom. True leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable, which is ultimately a sign of strength.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

We’ve been taught to run away from hard things. Fundamental human rights issues are labeled as political. And of course, you can never talk politics! So the cycle of burying things that need to be addressed continues.

So when do we get to speak openly about the things that really matter? The things that are wrong?

That’s what’s happening now. And it’s long overdue.

As a society, we have never acknowledged the uncomfortable truths of the creation of this country and the ongoing impact on our existence. Conversations about genocide and systemic racism are hushed and swept under the carpet. We’ve literally white-washed history, and now we have generations who can’t separate fiction from inconvenient truth.

All this is the backdrop of the racial justice protests of last summer and the reality that the white majority will become a minority in 2045. Gen Z is 48% BIPOC. Change is here. We’re seeing the foundations erupt because people are no longer willing to stay quiet about racial violence. And that fact is threatening to the very foundations of American society.

When we can acknowledge hard truths, we can begin to heal.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

As James Baldwin says, “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” The attempt to dodge difficult conversations in America is couched in the damaging social “norm” that we shouldn’t discuss politics. When issues like your right to wear your hair as it naturally grows out of your head are topics of legislation, there is no ability to be non-political. I don’t have that privilege.

I am married to a white man, and my children are biracial. I am fortunate that I have not had to deal with issues of racism with my immediate in-laws. But the past four years have revealed some ugliness in the extended family.

I was a political science major in school and can talk political theory all day. However, there has been a dangerous blurring of lines between fact and fiction.

If your opinion is verifiably false, then no, you’re not entitled to hold onto a falsehood as your flag. If you voted for Trump, then racism isn’t a deal-breaker for you, which means that my life and my children’s lives don’t matter to you. As Ibram X. Kendi says, there is no non-racist middle.

So the extended family that voted for Trump twice are those no longer in my circle. They no longer get cards, calls, or visits. My safety and that of my children doesn’t matter to them, so there is clearly no love or care there. That’s not something I will negotiate on.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

The hard truth is that in situations where your worth as a human being is disregarded, the divide may never be bridged. This is an important reality we have to understand.

That said, there is hope. But it requires vulnerability, humility, and the ability to actively listen. All of those elements are key, but there can be no healing without truly hearing each other. We’re not great at doing that as a society — we tend to listen to respond. We need to practice listening and truly hearing the thoughts presented by this person we care about. We have to care about people and have interactions that reflect that.

It takes a lot of practice, and it requires a desire to listen more than to speak. But if we can do that and understand that discomfort is a necessary part of life, we can begin to cross the bridge toward healing.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

We have to be careful in what we characterize as partisan, and what is in fact discriminatory. We learned about the workplaces of many of those involved in the Capital Insurrection on January 6. There were CEOs and politicians and bosses who now face criminal charges.

Those are not partisan divides that need to be repaired. That is white supremacy that needs to be addressed and removed.

We have to have workplaces that care about people as humans. We need to allow employees to bring their full selves to work so that they can feel safe for both the person and the community to thrive. It’s another example of needing to face hard truths for the benefit of healing.

A general example is the shift we’ve seen in many workplaces cultures due to COVID. The American workplace has been the same since its inception, designed to serve white men who had unpaid labor to take care of children and the home. As women and marginalized populations entered the workplace, there were never changes or updates. We had to duck our heads and try to fit into these structures that were never built for us as best we could.

We have been long overdue for a shift to the way we do business, and the pandemic forced us into that. Mothers could no longer hide their parenthood as children barged into home offices during Zoom calls. Anyone’s status as a parent shouldn’t have to be hidden, but again, businesses were not traditionally built to care about those balancing career and parenthood.

For the first time in many corporate cultures, we saw managers talk about feelings and create space for their teams to come as they were. It happened again at many organizations last summer after George Floyd’s brutal murder.

Ask your people if they are okay, and care about the answer. Make that a practice. We are not machines and shouldn’t be expected to be. Make time to connect as humans in your check-ins. Building professional relationships that value humanity first are the way that we will heal divides and begin to create inclusive cultures.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

This was certainly the case during the election cycle, and the cult of personality that developed around some candidates helped this reality remain beyond the election. We have to look at each other as family, friends, and labels and not political opponents. We have to want to heal and address the damage that this division has created in order for this to happen.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

The problems we see on social media are a symptom of the wider problems over the past several years. Ultimately, it’s people who are behind social media. It’s the way that folks act on social media that’s the challenge. Sitting behind a keyboard and being anonymous emboldens people to say things they would never say in person. It’s not just divisive, it’s dangerous. I’m glad that social media platforms have finally started to moderate comments and accounts making clear threats.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

So much goes back to how much we undervalue as a society. We need to value education. We need to value independent thought and critical thinking skills. We need to be able to critique the information we’re fed to identify misinformation. Clear lines need to be drawn between fact and fiction. Falsehoods should have no role in our political discourse and should be called out wherever they appear.

It also points to the importance of sustaining independent journalism. Our media landscape has completely changed by the decentralization of our news. News is big business, and being loud and bombastic gets ratings. What do we want to stand for as a society? The challenge isn’t for the pundits. It’s on each of us to consider, live, and advocate for our values.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

There are some long overdue changes need to our political system, that’s for sure. I can’t pretend to have the answers. I think the divisiveness prevents some of the best leaders from pursuing public service, which is a problem that impacts us all. Perhaps that challenge alone can spark change on some level.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1.) Listen. It’s time to return to fundamental communications skills. Practice active listening — don’t just hear, but listen to understand what’s truly being said.

Example: Conversations are a two-way street. We listen partially for content, and also to know when it is our time to respond. To practice active listening, do only one of those things. Don’t plan to interrupt every few seconds with an “mmhhmm” or “uh-huh,” or with your objection to what is being said. Stop and stay silent until the other party has completed their remarks. Nod to indicate that you are present and paying attention, but let someone else fully have the floor.

2.) Learn. To heal the divide, we need to adopt a learning orientation in all that we do. We have to learn more about our family, friends, and colleagues. We have to understand more about ourselves, including how we react to conflict. Then we must be willing to learn about the facts at the heart of our disagreements by reading from reputable news sources and, in some cases, making a concerted effort to learn about history.

Example: When we get into arguments, we don’t care about facts or nuance. We just want to be right. We generally don’t have information to cite to support our stances in the moment, but this is where differentiating between fact and falsehood is critical in discussing our opinions. We must be willing to learn and challenge ourselves. If we find that our arguments are verifiably false, we must then be willing to adapt our views.

3.) Empathize. A large part of the divide we’ve seen is that we’ve slowly dehumanized our opponents. Instead of friends and family, it’s blue or red, patriot or socialist, and on and on. Stop with the labels and remember that you are speaking to people first. We are long overdue for heart-centered interactions where we not only recognize the humanity of those with whom we have conversations, but also try to put ourselves in their shoes to understand their perspective and experience.

Brene Brown puts it so well: “In order to empathize with someone’s experience you must be willing to believe them as they see it and not how we imagine their experience to be.”

Story: I once had to address a pattern of microaggressions and disrespectful treatment with a former boss. When we discussed the incidents, there was no opportunity to hear each other’s experience. Instead, her approach was, “I re-reread the emails and you’re wrong. Here’s why.” Then it was my turn to do the same, and nothing was resolved. Instead, it made the situation worse.

Taking an entirely different approach and creating space for each of us to feel heard would have been an entirely different experience that may have marked a turning point in our relationship. The conversation may have started with, “I understand that you’re disappointed, and I’d like to better understand where you’re coming from. Can you talk to me a bit more about what you experienced after receiving my emails?”

After I shared, there would have been an opportunity to acknowledge the obvious truth — that I was very hurt by what happened. Her reply to this could have been, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I better understand why that was so upsetting, and how my reaction contributed to your feeling hurt.”

Particularly when there is a power component at play, it’s up to leaders to take extra steps to understand team members to determine an appropriate, empathetic response. In our personal lives, we must consider that it is a person and not an object or enemy that we are talking to who is making themselves vulnerable to try to be heard. At the very least, let’s respect the trust they’ve put in us.

4.) Love. This is a really hard one to embrace when we’re angry. With family and friends in particular, think about why we care about them in the first place. Has hate helped the situation? Probably not. Then why not try another approach?

Example/story: When having challenging conversations with someone I love, to keep my anger in check I think about and try to picture the word “love” during the interaction. I think about the reasons this person is valuable in my life and know that it’s easy to risk all of that with words of anger. That happens so easily when look at the problem and not the person. Center the human and focus on the relationship you’d like to have to try to heal to guide you through your interactions.

Act. If we want to heal relationships, communities, and our country, then we each have to take action. Each of the ways outlined here requires action, focus, and reflection. If you are committed to fostering healing, what will you do to get there?

Example: In an argument with a friend who you found out was not on “your” side on an important political issue, you say something extremely hurtful and inappropriate to them. You feel awful about it. But that feeling alone isn’t going to change anything. You have to take ownership of what you said, and reach out to apologize. If it’s a line you don’t want to cross again, what is your plan to make sure that you don’t get to that place again? There is a list of action steps presented to you here. You can read and forget them, or you can start thinking about how to use them to repair relationships and divides in your life. Which will you choose?

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other?

Fortunately, there are many things we can do. Start out by just picking one of the 5 things listed here.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am hopeful. As in our personal lives, there will always be hills and valleys we experience as a society. We are most certainly in a valley, but we’ll climb back up.

We have faced Civil War and survived as a country. In 1918 a pandemic was experienced alongside a world war. That must have felt like the end. But it wasn’t.

If we are willing to learn from this experience individually and collectively, we won’t just survive, but we can emerge as a stronger nation. If we learn to listen to and value each other as friends, family, colleagues, and community members, there is a path forward. But we must take the time to reflect. We have been forced to be still during COVID-19, which revealed many uncomfortable truths hiding in plain sight. Let’s not bury them under the carpet again.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

Be true to yourself and be kind to others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oh my goodness, there are a few, but my daughter would kill me if I didn’t say Michelle Obama. My little girl loves Michelle just like her mommy does! When I put on one of her PBS Kids Read Aloud videos that featured Michelle with President Obama, my daughter was visibly annoyed and said, “Who’s the boy?”

I admire Michelle Obama so very much. Her hard work, leadership, kindness, and vulnerability under immense scrutiny were awe-inspiring. The honesty with which she raised issues about the challenges of being a Black women in America in her career, and then the added challenges of being a mother. Though I don’t know her, I feel like I do. Her authenticity and genuineness in the face of immense fame is astounding.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can visit my website at brandyncampbell.com, or follow me on Instagram at @brandyncampbellcomms. I’d love to meet you!

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mike Jones from The Mike Jones Band.

Mike Jones is an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Leesburg, Virginia. He also happens to be working as an ER Nurse. With a roots-rock/Americana focus, Mike Jones plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, and rock music and is known for his unique guitar-playing, vocals and live performances. Jones is currently self-producing and releasing a compilation of debut singles while working in a busy emergency room that serves the immediate Washington DC area.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in Purchase, NY. It’s a small town about 40 miles NW of New York City. The Metro North was a 5 minute drive from my house so my friends and I spent a lot of time riding trains in and out of the City. I’ve been playing music since I was 13 years old and I played my first live show at an old club called Kenny’s Castaways in Greenwich Village on Bleeker St. I grew up with a lot of freedom that I’m not sure I’d give to my own kids.

I left New York in 2002 when I was 22, and went down to Washington DC. I crashed on my sister’s couch for a month or so and then found my own place in Columbia Heights NW, DC. I rented out a basement apartment with one of my old high school friends. The place didn’t have heat or A/C. It didn’t even have a lock on the front door. But it had a yard to drink beer in and we could play music as loud as we wanted. I lived there for 10 years. I kicked my roommate out the day after a house fire that I shouldn’t have survived. He was crazy as hell, even by my standards.

The band I formed, The Jones, has been together since then. We have played all around the DMV. It was in 2014 or so I graduated from Nursing School. Music is not an easy way to make money as I’m sure your readers know. Nursing has been a means to an end. My mom is a nurse and it seemed like something I could do. I have always felt comfortable in chaotic situations. So I became an ER nurse. Still feels VERY weird to say that. There really wasn’t much else to It. I think it shows I can basically be talked into anything.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been a musician since I was 13 years old. I play drums, guitar, bass guitar, a little bit of harmonica, super simple keys and a few others. I’ve always been able to make some organized noise come out of stuff. I’ve been writing songs since then. I wrote all of the music for The Jones, and co-wrote the music for my other band The Creaky Bones. Now I am doing my solo thing. It feels like I am getting back to my roots with this current effort. Mostly acoustic and stripped down. I’ve released a few electric songs but they are simple. I’m keeping it simple on this one.

In regards to nursing: The Honest answer is that I was sitting on my couch in my cold and dank basement apartment with a budweiser in my hand and I said, “screw it, I’ll go to nursing school.” Five years later I went. . . It ended up being this thing that kind of nagged at me for that time so I finally did it. I always joke about it being a calling. My coworkers and I constantly joke about it being a calling when we are restraining psych patients or keeping patients hovering only slightly above death while we are titrating their sedation meds, with blood pressure meds and preventing them from jumping off the table and pulling their ET tubes out. No person in their right mind would want to do this job if they knew what it was before going into it. In all sincerity though, It’s probably almost as much of a calling as music is for me. I definitely define myself as an ER nurse as much as I define myself as a musician, and I’ve been a musician much longer.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I’ll give you a funny thing in music and a funny thing in the ER. A funny music thing is when I was in my first college I did a talent show that the fraternities and sororities sponsored. My friend and I got up on stage and I sang “Masters of War,” by Bob Dylan. They didn’t have a microphone stand so the little sorority girl had to hold the mic for me. . . for 7 minutes. “Masters of war” is a very long folk song. Technically I didn’t get booed off because I didn’t leave and I finished the song. But the crowd was pissed. No one talked to me on campus after that. I can’t step foot on that campus ever again. The lesson is the ole’ “don’t give up” and sometimes life presents a person with really uncomfortable situations. Best learn to wallow in them. Be prepared to lie in the crappy beds you make. Life is a series of moments. You gotta take the good with the crappy.

Funny work story. There are so many on a daily basis. There was the time that a guy was having a heart attack and died (I know, not funny yet) but then we defibrillated him back to life. We shocked him right back to talking. He was like “Thank you, thank you, It’s ok I can die a happy man but thank you.” I guess this story isn’t as funny as it was incredible! To have that kind of clarity after literally dying for a few minutes. The lesson I learned here was that happiness is attainable. He wasn’t afraid. It was crazy. I’ve seen some amazing things both good and bad. There is a guy that comes through that slips into a cardiac rhythm called SVT. It’s where the heart pumps at 160 beats per minute and higher. Everytime we cardiovert him he wants us to put on “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. We shock him on the chorus, naturally. “. . . Thunder ZAP!!” The lesson I took from him is to always be a badass and AC/DC is medicine. Next time I’m gonna suggest Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart.” I doubt he’ll take me up on it.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

First of all it is important to decide how one defines success. I know that my definition has changed dramatically. By my definition and perception, I have become successful. It has taken me a long time to feel this way though. I get to do what I love in playing music, I have a supportive family, and as my wife and I say, “We have two kinds of water that comes out of our faucet. Hot and cold.” Define what success means to you. When you think you have figured it out it will change on you and you’ll have to redefine it again: Wash, rinse, repeat.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be dead. I came close a few times but those stories are for a different interview. When we got together I was floundering as a musician and I was a dog walker in DC. Great physical exercise but terrible mental exercise. I needed something. She was the one that pushed me to getting my nursing degree while I was working on music. She realized that I can do the work but I can’t organize. Hell, I’ll out-work almost anyone. But I am terrible at planning. I can GO to class, I just suck at SIGNING UP for them. I can GO to gigs, I just suck at KNOWING WHEN TO GO HOME. I still have that problem. Having a real partner is priceless. I’m very lucky in this regard.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’m an ER nurse in a pandemic. At the time of this interview my state of Virginia is the only state in the country experiencing a rise in COVID cases. It might end up being our turn on national TV showing refrigerator trucks outside of our hospitals to store the dead. Grim, I know. I don’t mean it to be. But the truth kind of sucks right now.

That being said I’m going to work and doing what I can to help who I can. All of the medical staff I know are tired. My hospital is a community hospital and the community it serves is a little rough around the edges. Not many people have insurance, significant psychiatric illness runs rampant and living conditions could definitely be improved. COVID has had a deeply significant impact on the population that my hospital serves and it has taken an insurmountable toll on the community. I think I’m having more of a local social impact than a global one. Ultimately, it all starts in the community anyway.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

The Pandemic was a perfect opportunity for me to do my solo thing. I’ve been in my bands The Jones for 15 years and The Creaky Bones for the last year or so. COVID shut down the live shows so I have the time to record my solo stuff and the time to start Toss and Turn Records, my new record label. The change to our collective way of life is obviously awful but I’m trying to use the time to do something positive. I can’t sit still. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My debut single “Wild Heart (Calamity Jane)” was released and since then I’ve been off the ground running.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Everyone needs to chill out. That would help so much. We have to get through this pandemic. We (I and the people with whom I work) need some breathing room or you (Society, individuals, and the government) won’t have us any more. We are tired. we are quitting at an alarming rate and that puts your lives at risk. The virus doesn’t care if you are blue or red. Either way it can make you dead. Rhyming intended. Wear a mask and social distance and don’t sweat the small stuff. Stop flashing your guns when someone cuts you off on the highway. That’s a metaphor.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stay at it: Many of the people who I used to play music with don’t do it anymore. It is evident. It is obvious when you see someone that has passion. It keeps them young in mind and body.
  2. Be patient: I spent so much time rushing towards a goal that wasn’t really defined. Getting “famous” is a stupid thing to wish for. I think back to the dude I shocked back to talking. He wasn’t famous but he was happy. I’d rather be that guy than some person that was just famous and miserable. It must be lonely to be a shell of a person. That took a long time for me to learn.
  3. Find spaces that allow for your true self: You are at your best when you feel comfortable. It shouldn’t be that hard to be yourself. If it seems hard then you’re in the wrong situation, job, crowd, relationship etc. Change it.
  4. Jump: You have to take risks. Sometimes you have to jump and hope a safety net will appear rather than waiting for the parachute. Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face but go back to that part where I talked about learning how to wallow in your own disasters. You’ll learn from it and you never know what might come.
  5. Don’t flash all your cards and move in silence. I wish I was better at this.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to see people get medical care and not go bankrupt. Sucks to get cancer and also go broke trying to stay alive. This isn’t a unique idea but It’s close to me. The most amount of good I can think of giving would be that of health. The old expression, “At least we have our health!” The thing is, we don’t.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I’m going to quote Method Man because that’s who first heard it from, but I think it’s an old Italian proverb. “At the end of the game the king and the pawn go in the same box.” The theoretical hierarchies, and perceived social ladders that we are all faced with are illusions. No one is ”better than.” Run your own game. Trust me when I tell you that we all end up as just a bag of bones.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Neil Young. I haven’t seen anyone else rock harder and leave it all out on the stage every show like he does. The Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps tour was my first concert. It was at Nassau Coliseum in 1986 and I was 6 years old. He started with his own electric version of the “Star Bangled Banner.” All I smelled was stinky weed and the stadium shook for 2 hours. At 6 years old it was quite the experience that left a major impression on me.

From the interviews that I have seen he says his personal life keeps him grounded. Despite his very obvious genius and astronomical success he seems to be a normal guy. I know that I said earlier that no one would out-work me but Neil Young has clearly outworked many many people. I was weaned on him as a kid. He is tremendously musically multifaceted and I try to be like him in that way. He rocks so hard on one hand and on the other he can pivot and play some of the sweetest songs ever written.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.
Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing rising LA-based, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, MAUMAUMAU.

MAUMAUMAU is a solo endeavor by Night Lights’ lead vocalist, Mauricio Jimenez, and at its core, the project strives to provide a soundtrack for the underdogs and a voice for the underrepresented. Imbued with a spectrum of influences ranging from 90s pop-rock to Mob Rich, Gorillaz, Oliver Tree, Tame Impala, and others, MAUMAUMAU’s distinct sound will stick with you and have you coming back for more.

Following two standout releases, “Heartbreak Police,” a commentary on current events, and “Mouth Breather,” a vulnerable, 90s-inspired song about the anxieties and identities experienced through social distancing, MAUMAUMAU returns with “B!L!NGVAL,” an alt-rock smash that examines the complexities of finding common ground with people of opposing political views.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Mexico City until about age 6, at which point my dad got a job in Williamsburg, VA. My whole family moved to the small colonial town and lived there for about six years. I got a weird and colorful cultural upbringing because of it. I never really realized until I got older how much impact it would have on my two brothers and me, but it is blatantly apparent now that I have done a full circle and moved out to Los Angeles. Anyway, if it’s not clear by now, I also grew up with a clinically diagnosed case of ADHD, and it is what led me to write and live for music. Growing up, it was hard to find ways to express what I felt clearly, and I always felt misunderstood. It wasn’t until I wrote my first song and witnessed the impact it had on my family when they heard it that I got hooked on writing songs. Even if my words were clumsy and my voice was pitchy, I felt like they got what I was going through, and it was amazing. Since then, I’ve polished my craft and dialed in on my ADHD (somewhat) and have kept writing to try and help others process their feelings and hopefully also help them navigate the complexities of coexisting.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love this story. I studied Mechatronic Engineering for a year, a mechanical/electrical engineering major in La Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Although my passion was music at this point, I (like most people who go into music) feared I would struggle to make ends meet as a musician. After failing programming (twice), I decided to drop out of the major and told my parents I needed to figure out what I would do. They were very supportive, and I’m sure they thought I finally stopped fighting my desire to pursue music. Needless to say, they were surprised that I came back and told them I wanted to study industrial design. They slapped me on the side of the head and insisted I pursue music. My mom challenged me and asked me to leave it to God. She said, “apply to one school you think is the best of the best and if you get accepted, take it as a sign.” So I did. I applied to Berklee College of Music, and to my surprise, I got in. God, I still don’t know how. I’ve been finding my way ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I was on tour with my other band, Night Lights, and everyone has to carry their gear and are responsible for it. I am renowned for forgetting things. The first night of the tour, I forgot the power adapter to my vocal effects pedal, which to me, is essential. It’s part of my appeal when I sing. It was not funny at the time, but now in retrospect, I can laugh about it. We ended up having to go around the city looking for a music store that carried the power adapter, which was specific to this pedalboard in a foreign city (I think we were in Buffalo, NY), 2 hours before showtime. The worst part is that thanks to that event, I was so anxious about losing stuff that I’m pretty sure it just set off the scatterbrained-ness, and I ended up losing a camera, a go pro, a microphone, and a lot of cables. I’m not proud of it, but it made for a good laugh. Also, it set in motion a checklist that my bandmates go through for me after every show.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I think success is a tough thing to pinpoint nowadays in the music industry. Of course, you can measure it in quantity and all that. However, I find that to be an empty response that doesn’t quite fulfill everyone in their pursuit. I know I still haven’t hit my benchmark, though, and it’s an ever-evolving concept. So, I think my first and most significant suggestion is to understand the responsibility that comes with choosing to share your opinion. Artists influence society. At all levels. And I don’t think people realize that that’s what they’re signing up for. Once you make peace with that, I think defining what success is to you is paramount. To some, it’s hitting Billie Eilish’s status. Others, it’s getting 1,000 streams, making millions with their music, headlining a bar gig, or being referenced as a sound for other artists. Whatever it is, it’s valid, and it will evolve. After that, it’s a game of patience and intention because it’s like any business. It takes an investment of money and a lot of time. You gotta chip at it. If something happens that helps you grow fast, take it. If not, you have to keep making what you love and keep strategizing and taking the thing seriously. Winded answer, but I mean it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many! Although people in the industry have bet on me and have pushed me and invested in me along the way, the people who have done it for me from ground zero (and it’s not always the case) are my parents. They have supported me when I was afraid of the industry’s climb and when I didn’t even think music was a viable form of a career. Hands down, my parents are the number one. It might not be an extravagant answer, but it’s facts. The list of people I am grateful for is extensive, and they all deserve to be named here. However, that would be cheating!

I will make an honorable mention to Gianna Vona. She’s not in the industry, but she has been the closest person to my music and my vision for the last three years, and her impact on my music and my mental health is without a doubt palpable. Thank you.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.

Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

With B!L!NGVAL, the focus is on the mass manipulation that former president trump instilled on people and the frustration I’ve experienced confronting a brainwashed population. I don’t mean to insult you if you are reading this and you stand with Trump. However, as a professional communicator, I witnessed firsthand the language and techniques specifically used to manipulate people and the narrative his campaign tried to push. It’s the same language I heard used by the people who believed in him. As a resident alien in this country, my approach was purely observational and bore no interest in changing someone’s mind but instead to try and understand it. Even still, that was frustrating and confusing. So this song came from those frustrating interactions, and I hope it encourages people to seek that discomfort for the sake of our society. It’s also incredibly catchy and fun, so regardless, it’s something you can enjoy.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Well, I think the trick is to find a way to make your dream sustainable. A lot of us think we want the rockstar life (and by no means am I living that) but don’t realize how lonely that road can be or how scary it is. I think for me, it was a “grass is always greener” scenario where when you realize the loop, you can decide to tend to your own damn grass. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think the dream and responsibility are mutually exclusive. If you want to write and create or paint or build a farm or grow things or become a chef, I think there’s a way to live a wholehearted life where you get to pursue those things and also tend to your family or build up your wealth. There’s no reason you should stop. However, if that’s what you want to do for money, it’s an arduous and trying road.

For me, it was an all-in kind of thing. I didn’t just want to make music for me or those close to me. I wanted to write to strangers that feel stuck like I have. I felt the urge was enough to tighten the belt and sacrifice a steady, comfortable life. Pick your battles I guess.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I get a lot of DMs from people who feel affected by my music. It’s large in part what keeps me going and where I find success. The other day I got a DM from a fan that felt encouraged to come out to his parents. I was so deeply moved by somehow being involved in such an intimate moment of a stranger’s life. That one marked me. I got to connect with a fan who has had to deal with paralyzing amounts of anxiety, and we have talks about it now, but at first, it was just an effect from my music that got her through a tough time. I’ve gotten to listen to and support people going through depression and rejection and insecurities. I have gotten messages from fans about how the music I make has talked them off a ledge and into safety. I in no way pretend to be able to navigate the complexities of psychology, nor am I qualified to actually help them through that journey other than sharing my experiences with them, but it gets a conversation going that I think positively impacts them. It’s really special, and I’m eternally grateful for that. I get to live these intimate moments with people who have been affected by my intimate moments in music, and if they feel up to sharing, we get to talk about it and form some sort of bond. It’s awesome.

Are there three things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I think the immediate call to action for individuals is a call to be bold and patient in talking to people about these tough conversations. Listen to B!L!NGVAL if you need a little pump-up music before diving in! I wish to encourage you not to stop having them. I encourage you to learn about communication methods so you can go in untethered to an opinion and instead be encouraged by curiosity. I highly recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown if you seek to learn more about vulnerability and hopefully empathy.

I think the individuals would greatly impact society. But just in case, I think society could be more okay with being offended. The fact that I can partake in ruining a restaurant through Yelp because I didn’t like the way a waiter looked at me is heartbreaking. We feel so empowered in our opinions and forget that they affect people, and it’s not fair to take out our shortcomings on others. Be less entitled, Society!

As far as the government goes, I’m curious to see how our new president does in unifying the nation and all the steps they’re going to take. I believe Trump being out of office is a HUGE step in the right direction that will allow for fewer conflicting (I hope) confrontations between family members and neighbors. But an active thing the government could do is to put more money into mental health. It would be incredible to have access to a shrink without emptying your wallet, and honestly, some of the toughest cases of mental health issues come from the anxieties of financial strain. So the lower-income population, among many others, could really use the government’s support in that.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  • People just want to connect with honesty, not with flashiness.

It’s easy to see people blow up overnight nowadays because of Tik Tok and to think that maybe writing what you think people want to hear is the quickest way to get noticed. Doesn’t work like that.

  • Being yourself and finding your voice is the best way to make art that people will want to hear.

Finding your sound is a weird one. The first step I think everyone takes is to imitate other things you like, and I think that process is incredible. However, there comes the point where the instinct starts telling you to mix things or to explore new horizons. I think those instincts and desires are what lead people to make new sounds and to stand out. Respect the process.

  • No one really knows how the industry works.

Man, this one is scary. I think no one at any level truly knows how to make an artist big. ESPECIALLY nowadays. It’s about trying new things and exploring your art. I think I’m still working on this one, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with just throwing things at the dartboard and seeing what sticks.

  • It’s a really lonely road.

Pursuing something like music is a lonely journey. You can have a lot of friends and all that along the way, and a ton of people that mark and improve your chances. However, it’s a lonely journey where the person that has to believe in what you do the most is you. It’s a heavy weight to carry, and I think it’s worth it, but it will crush a lot of people out there, and news flash, making it WON’T CHANGE THAT.

  • Learn the business

Sounds obvious, but I think all artists want a magical man that will calculate and contact everyone to make things work. That a team of super lawyers will keep you from making mistakes and that the music is all that matters. Learning about the music industry’s ins and outs is essential, and it’s a lesson most of us learn through failure and trial/error.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think I’d love to do a movement where every day you have to do an act of kindness, however small. To start working that muscle in the brain to look for opportunities to intervene. It can be cleaning all your roomies’ dishes, paying an expired meter for someone who forgot, or buying lunch for a homeless person. Or something bigger like helping a family member or lover pay off their credit card debt and creating a culture of not only paying it forward, because I think that sets a limit but of just thinking of others consistently. I’m not sure that can be a movement or anything like that, but I think that would vastly increase people’s happiness, and if it spreads wide enough, you can create a new sense and meaning to community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My dad always told my brothers and me, “Life is good always,” which has always stuck out to us. It’s a lesson about gratitude and perspective. As we grew older, both of my brothers became writers and directors involved in Mexico’s film industry. My younger brother is a man full of wisdom that, in his musings, added to the quote, “life is good always, even when it’s not.” I love that quote. I believe in that quote. It’s a decision to see the good in your life. To acknowledge the bad and to keep going in gratitude.

Being a musician is not easy. Most months, I struggle to find a way to pay rent and balance all my checks and still maintain creativity. That’s the truth. However, if I can keep that mantra in the forefront of my mind, I can enjoy the path and confront these things from a place of gratitude for the opportunity I DO get to pursue. It makes life worth it because you are present every step of the way.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Wow, no pressure, huh? I know you asked for one, but on the off chance we can send a shotgun blast, I will name the top 3 people I admire that advocate for significant movements in the social, ecological, and economic fields in hopes I could meet just one of them. I could use some guidance, ha!

  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Brene Brown (DUH)
  • Daniel Ek

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Thank you guys so much for what you do and for giving our stories a platform. It has a massive impact on our lives.

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is…

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is Helping To Change Our World

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Bertine, an author, athlete, activist and CEO of Homestretch Foundation. On the bike, Bertine had a five-year career in professional cycling, three-year pro career in triathlon, and a year-long career as a pro figure skater. Off the playing fields, she was a columnist for ESPN, senior editor for ESPNW and author of four nonfiction books, All the Sundays Yet to Come (Little, Brown), As Good As Gold (ESPN/RandomHouse), and The Road Less Taken (Triumph Books) and her new book, STAND (New Shelf Press), which arrives February 2021.

Her award-winning documentary, HALF THE ROAD: The passion, pitfalls and power of women’s professional cycling gives a glimpse into the trials women face in this sport. In 2017, she founded and currently serves as CEO for Homestretch Foundation, a 501c3 which provides free housing to female professional athletes struggling with the gender pay gap.

A native of Bronxville, NY she lives in Tucson, AZ. She holds a BA from Colgate University and an MFA from the University of Arizona.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports and activism?

As a kid, I played all sorts of wonderful sports: softball, running, skiing, skating. In college I was a competitive Division 1 rower, and a figure skater. After my pro skating career, I became a pro triathlete, which segued into a five-year career as a professional road cyclist. Because all the other sports before cycling provided an equal opportunity for women, I was shocked how many road blocks there were in the world of professional cycling. That’s what sparked my initiative to change the sport for equal inclusion.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

As an athlete, the answer is simple: work your ass off and rise through the ranks. As an activist, the road to equal opportunity is a bumpy journey, so my best advice is to form a team, a thick skin and a strong sense of humor. I write more about this topic in my new book, STAND.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

At 45, I’m now able to understand that people affect us in a plethora of ways. I have amazing role models I look up to, and they’re responsible for motivating me with joy. There have also been people who stood in my way, trying to block my path. In the beginning, these were obstacles. Now I see the opposition as inspiration. The people who make us question our path are the ones who help us keep our eyes on what really matters. They’re not a challenge, they’re a gift.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

For women in pro sports, many of us struggle with the gender pay gap. It’s important to call out this inequity. Not every pro athlete is rollin’ in luxury. The quicker we can dispel that myth, the better and closer we are to fixing it.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m the CEO of Homestretch Foundation, a nonprofit which assists female pro athletes who struggle with the gender pay gap. Behind the scenes, we fight to eradicate this hurdle. Makes me feel pretty great to be part of the solution instead of the struggle.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I’m honored to say we have many stories where we’ve affected the lives of our residents for the better. From helping them rise through the pro ranks, becoming Olympians, and even helping them transition to careers after their sport… it’s such an awesome thing to be part of someone’s life journey, to see how helping others helps society move forward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Together we all move forward.” So true. No one achieves anything great alone.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Is Madam VP part of your readership? Because I would love to shake Kamala Harris’s hand and discuss some of the work I’m doing with bills in the Senate on equal opportunity! I’m also a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick, for standing up for his beliefs. I’d also love to have lunch with Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron and Geena Davis not because they’re amazing actors but because they produce films on women and stories that matter. If I could get a copy STAND into their hands, I’d die happy. Ok, I’ll stop there. For now. The list goes longer…

How can our readers follow you online?

Yes! I’m on social media @kathrynbertine and I’ve got a website / mailing list where I enjoy keeping people posted about the latest project I’m working on. www.kathrynbertine.com

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To…

Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

Yes, I use my platforms (mainly Instagram and Clubhouse) to educate my followers on the realities of various causes. I work to provide tangible solutions that they can become involved in to assist with the efforts of the things I speak out on. I largely dedicate my social media to social justice related causes and advocate for the progression and acknowledgement of Black life and the experiences of all Black People. Being an adoptive mother of 3 Black children I am transparent, not only about my own journey, but about the need for focus on children within the system, especially children of color.

As a part of my series about leaders who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Lauren.

Rachel is a conscious social influencer who is passionate about racial equity, Black life, women’s rights, foster care/adoption, and holistic wellness. By profession Rachel is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department head within the Tech Sector and also a founding partner and Chief Programming Officer for Diversified, a boutique DEI consulting firm. Through her popular social platforms and various contributor positions, Rachel speaks out against racial injustice and advocates most commonly for the lives of all Black people.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been focused on being a voice for the voiceless and fighting for people and communities that need it. This pull to make a change is what led me to my career in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and ultimately what has enabled me to grow my social media presence and influencer platform. I use my personal experiences to influence my following and draw attention to issues I believe in and advocate for. Specifically, my journey as a Black woman in corporate America as well as my path to becoming an adoptive mother are what truly led me to speaking out and leveraging my resources.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Speaking out about my foster to adopt journey opened the door for many valuable conversations with individuals who have either been impacted by the system or are interested in impacting the system. I often receive DM’s from people telling me their stories and asking for my advice. I once had a woman reach out and share that her journey with infertility was a source of her depression. She was able to find comfort when she heard me mention that the method to mommyhood can be unique and doesn’t have to be biological to be filled with love. That woman is currently working on becoming licensed to foster and adopt.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once went live and didn’t exit properly so the video stayed on. Luckily nothing inappropriate occurred! But I learned the importance of double checking you are off camera.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice wouldn’t be limited to Social Media Influencing. I think that the life of an Activist, Advocate, or any Professional can fall into the category of influence. The reality is we all have a responsibility to use our experiences and our expertise to positively impact people, communities, and organizations. Every person’s circle of influence will not be the same, however, that does not mean that the outcome won’t be felt in a major way. I recommend that everyone take time to identify what they can contribute to and how they can make a difference with that contribution. It is often the case that the thing we do well, our gift or our passion, is the thing that we ignore or don’t consider using as a tool in the fight to make a difference.

Remember that if you can help one person, heal one person, hear one person, and even lead one person you haven’t failed at all. It isn’t always about the size of your contribution but about the change it can make and the evolution that change can take.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Yes, I use my platforms (mainly Instagram and Clubhouse) to educate my followers on the realities of various causes. I work to provide tangible solutions that they can become involved in to assist with the efforts of the things I speak out on. I largely dedicate my social media to social justice related causes and advocate for the progression and acknowledgement of Black life and the experiences of all Black People. Being an adoptive mother of 3 Black children I am transparent, not only about my own journey, but about the need for focus on children within the system, especially children of color.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I do not like to share “who” I help out of respect for them and because this work isn’t for advertisement. I will say that I have been able to assist several organizations with accessing donors to support the work they do within our community.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

My tipping point came from a place of pain. Being a Black woman has meant oftentimes not being acknowledged, heard, considered, respected, or supported. Our country has largely denied the effects racism and systemic racism have had on the opportunities and access people that look like me get. I grew tired of fighting for others to recognize the value of Black women and the power our voices bring. If a seat at the table is not saved for us then we have to create the table and believe in the foundation of it. My focus on growing my following and using it is essentially me defying society’s box. It is me saying you will hear, respect, and make space for me and those that share the same story.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

There are more than 3 however I will say:

1. Use your voice and your platform. I don’t want to hear that Social Media doesn’t matter nor that you speaking up and out to the people you have access to has no weight. The truth is 2020 proved that smartphones and social platforms can actually be used to communicate across differences and reveal hard truths that many want to ignore. Living in a pandemic has meant many of us can’t mobilize in traditional ways. When a problem is presented you have to be the solution, use what you have. I often say that silence speaks volumes, my call to action for all people is to speak up and show up there should be no question where you stand in the face of racism.

2. Reform policy and adjust budgets. There are SEVERAL reformations that need to be addressed, however, policies surrounding police brutality and mass incarceration are at the top of the list. We need to divest dollars that support our current police system and re-invest into the community, end police violence and require that officers be held accountable, end no knock raids, fund public defender offices, establish more sanctuary cities, invest in mental health and school systems. The list goes on!

3. Support Foster Care. The foster system needs not only more funding that can assist with educating the public, properly paying case-workers, and investing in impacted families, but also, it is in dire need of more people. Individuals and families can work to find ways to support the system whether by becoming licensed to foster/adopt, serving as a respite home (temporary placements), volunteering to be a CASA worker, or simply mentoring and donating time and/or dollars to our youth.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

In addition to posting and speaking regularly I create content for the African Diaspora News Channel on YouTube. I also run an email club called “The Conscious Club” that individuals can sign up for and receive weekly emails that include updates, advice centered on how to make an impact, and tangible opportunities to act. For example, I often send out petitions for various causes or volunteer opportunities for organizations related to the causes I advocate for.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Start no matter how many people seem to be watching. If one person hears your message it is worth it!
  2. Don’t give up. It is easy to feel like your message isn’t landing and this can cause you to stop trying altogether. However, you never know who might share your content or when you may just reach the “right” person.
  3. Hashtags are important. I used to post and not give much thought to adding these but tags really help get your content in front of the individuals who are looking for it. They also serve as a great way to network and find people with similar interests or careers.
  4. Pay attention to trending topics. Oftentimes topics, challenges, holidays serve as a wonderful opportunity to get your message in front of people that are in the space to see or interact with it.
  5. Always have places to point your audience to. Social platforms tend to connect to one another which enables you to grow more than one space at a time, you can always direct your followers on one platform to the net and find ways to make each profile unique. It is also important to connect websites and action items to your profile to keep your followers engaged and give them opportunities to support what you do in more ways than one.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My message and purpose centers on advocating for and reforming Black life. At the end of the day every cause, movement, and demographic I support leads back to this central point. However, I believe that Black women are at the core and deserve to have focus that doesn’t evolve into everyone else. We are daughters, sisters, wives, birthers, nurturers, fighters, professionals. We do it all but never get the attention, assistance, and respect due us. I truly believe if Black women could receive equity and in many areas justice much of the fight for all Black people would be actualized.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Shirley Chisholm. Shirley Chisholm was a member of my sorority Delta Sigma Theta and the first Black woman elected to congress, the first candidate elected to a major party for Presidential election, and the first woman to run for the democratic party’s Presidential nomination. Shirley is a reminder to me that I have a right to take up space and that I can make room for my authentic self even when others fail to do so. It is easy to choose not to try something if a precedent hasn’t been set by someone before you, Shirley Chisolm is proof that you can be the precedent setter.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many people that I would absolutely love to just learn from! However, i will say Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She is bold, wise, determined, and unapologetically herself. Maxine Waters is my literal Shero and I am so impressed with her legislative efforts and lifelong service to our community. I literally feel like she is my long lost Auntie and I would be honored to meet her one day!

How can our readers further follow your work online ?

My handle on most Social Platforms is @theonlyrachel. I prefer Instagram and Clubhouse! My bios have links for more information on me however my website www.theonlyrachel.com provides opportunities for individuals to work with me and/or join my mailing list.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Dr Dona Biswas Is Helping To Change Our World

For me, leadership stems from authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dona Biswas, author of ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist: From Zero to Zen Using Evidence-Based Solutions Beyond Medications and Therapy’. Dr. Dona Biswas specialized in Psychiatry in India, where she practiced for a number of years before moving to Australia. After gaining her Fellowship in Australia, she worked in several reputed public hospitals in Sydney, before moving into her own private practice at Blacktown. While in private practice, she realized the limited impact that conventional psychiatric treatments were having on her clients’ lives and began to train in several cutting-edge interventions to help her clients. She has gained expertise in modalities like neurofeedback, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), emotional freedom technique (EFT) and RESET therapy among others and integrates these modalities with conventional treatments in her practice. She is also an experienced energy healer, being a Reiki Master for more than 15 years and a Seichim Master as well. Her passion is to help people not only overcome their mental illness, but also encourage them to fulfil their untapped and unlimited potential.

https://medium.com/media/76d30a8bfe1536f1f739f376771feb61/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in India and as my father travelled a lot, I spent several years abroad, and got to travel to many countries. This experience helped shape my global outlook, while maintaining strong roots in my cultural heritage. As I grew up, I became very interested in psychology and the power of the mind. I was an avid reader and devoured books like there was no tomorrow! Yet, socially, I was very awkward and self-conscious and absolutely dreaded public speaking. It took me years of working on myself to overcome my self-consciousness and accept myself completely.

I developed debilitating asthma toward the end of high school, which affected my school years significantly. My father, frustrated by many trips to the doctor, took me to a homeopath, who prescribed me some homeopathic remedies which drastically reduced my asthmatic attacks and allowed me to continue my studies. This was the beginning of my passion for holistic healing. I explored alternative and traditional modes of healing and went into medicine to pursue my passion for healing. I was particularly drawn to mental health and decided to specialize in Psychiatry, hoping eventually to explore the power of the mind in physical and emotional healing. Yet, I became frustrated by the limited therapeutic options available in mainstream Psychiatry, mainly medications and psychotherapy.

I moved to Australia a decade back to continue my search for better therapeutic modalities here. I realized that conventional Psychiatry is quite limited worldwide, and I needed to walk down the path less travelled in order to realize my goals. I have been very fortunate to have had opportunities to train in many different modalities of mental healing and integrate them into my clinical practice.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

As a teenager, I read ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by the American psychiatrist, M.Scott Peck, which had a tremendous impact on me and inspired me to take up Psychiatry later on. It is a classical and inspiring book on Life’s meaning, developing a higher understanding of self and spiritual growth, and it left a deep impression on my mind.

Peck believes that the spiritual path, or the ‘road less travelled’, is rockier and more dimly lit than the regular highway of life, yet, the rewards are enormous. But unlike many self-help books today, he emphasizes that this path is long and difficult and requires a lot of self-discipline. As a young adult, I often questioned what most people accepted as ‘normal’ or ‘usual practice’. Sometimes I was afraid of the repercussions of my questions, but this book was the beginning of my journey into authenticity and I learnt not to be afraid to ask the tough questions.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Psychiatry is usually a somber profession as we mostly get to see the vulnerable side of people, so it is rare to find humor on a daily basis. As a female psychiatrist, I have learnt to work in a man’s world and take it in my stride, but sometimes I get thrown off by unexpected incidents, like one session in which the client actually proposed to me. It was awkward, to say the least, and I tried to dismiss it as a joke. That client never returned for another session; I guess he was embarrassed about his faux-pas too! From a client’s perspective, it is easy to develop feelings for one’s therapist, as they show their most vulnerable side to us. I wish I had not dismissed it as a joke but rather discussed his feelings openly and why it was common in a therapeutic relationship, so that he could feel comfortable and continue to get help.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

The idea for my book, The Quantum Psychiatrist, came to me in 2019, a few years after I started my private practice. At that point, I was researching a range of new and effective solutions for mental health problems and wondering why I had not heard of these techniques during all my years of training. It struck me that many mental health professionals would be in a similar situation like me and might not be aware of many effective treatment options that they could be offering to their clients. I thought that all mental health professionals as well as people with mental illnesses deserve to know about some of these amazing techniques which can impact their lives. I wrote The Quantum Psychiatrist to spread awareness about a range of treatment options available to address mental health problems, which you won’t find in mainstream psychiatry or psychology literature. I hope that there is an increased uptake of these techniques among mental health professionals as I believe these techniques can be absolute game-changers in the mental health arena. Today’s psychiatry practice is to focused on pharmacology and I hope to stimulate research into non-pharmaceutical options to heal mental illnesses.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

By far the most fascinating technique I have come across and trained in is RESET therapy for PTSD, developed by Dr. George Lindenfeld, a Clinical Psychologist in the US. I did a single session of RESET therapy for a young girl who had experienced sexual assault in school and was distressed by nightmares and flashbacks about it. After the session, when I asked her to visualize the event and rate her distress, she said “I can’t see it anymore!’ Her nightmares and flashbacks reduced drastically after this session, she was happier and ready to move on from the traumatic experience. I have not seen such quick results with any other therapy in my career! Such effective methods deserve a wider audience.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

It was 2017 and I had just started part-time private practice. There were a number of clients who had experienced severe childhood trauma and were coming to me for help. I felt that conventional treatments like medications and psychotherapy were inadequate to address many of my clients’ problems. I was beginning to get frustrated by my lack of success with these clients, yet I felt stuck.

In December, I had an accident and broke my right elbow and was forced to take a month’s leave from my otherwise hectic schedule. I truly believe the Universe wanted me to slow down and reflect on my practice. I spent most of my month reading and I came across Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps The Score, where he described a range of lesser known interventions for developmental trauma. I also devoured books by Dr. Norman Doidge, a Canadian psychiatrist who talks about harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to heal mental illness. I heard about techniques like neurofeedback, which used the brain’s neuroplasticity to create deep and lasting healing. My first response was ‘Why wasn’t I taught about these techniques during my training?’ I began to train in a range of techniques which were rapidly gaining evidence of efficacy in treating mental illnesses.

I realized that most people, including mental health professionals, were not aware of many of these techniques which were worthy of getting into mainstream mental health treatment. This inspired me to bring awareness to the public and inspire people that change is possible, no matter how chronic or difficult the illness might seem.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In my book, I share stories of a number of clients who have been impacted by these little-known therapeutic techniques. One of my clients had severe treatment resistant depression and a lot of childhood trauma. She had been seeing me for a couple of years and had tried a range of antidepressants and mood stabilizers without improvement. She was frequently suicidal and struggled with even the simplest chores. Her family life was severely affected by her illness. On my advice she started neurofeedback and in 6 months she had made progress that she had not seen in the last 10 years. Her depression was in sustained remission, she was functioning well and was able to work towards goals she had only dreamed off, like holding a job and learning how to drive. I don’t believe she would have seen these changes if I had only stuck to conventional methods like medications and psychotherapy.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I think the community as well as political leaders can do a lot to help address the root problem. The root problem is not that there are not enough effective treatments for mental health problems, but that there is not enough awareness of the different techniques available. Since these techniques are not usually available in the mainstream mental health system, innumerable people with mental illnesses are deprived of the benefits. Individuals who try to spread awareness about these options are met with skepticism. Most of the research today is on medications, which is backed by significant funding by pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit from these medications.

Unfortunately, many of these novel and inexpensive therapeutic modalities do not have the funding and backing required to produce high quality studies, and research is limited to case reports, pilot studies or small trials, which are then dismissed by ‘experts’ as inadequate evidence. It is important to realize the politics of healthcare and if our society and politicians are truly motivated to find effective solutions to vexing mental health problems which costs the economy billions of dollar, they can help in the following ways:

1. Help create an awareness about effective mental health solutions, whether through websites, social media and other platforms. Provide accurate information to consumers so that they can make an informed decision about which modalities they would like to opt for.

2. Encourage and fund more research into these novel modalities of treatment. Many of these techniques are backed by anecdotal evidence or small trials but would benefit from more robust research to gain acceptance in the mainstream.

3. Governments and insurance companies should not discriminate against mental health providers who want to provide these treatment options at their practice. Currently, funding is skewed to only mainstream modalities, but this limits the ability of providers to impact clients more meaningfully through cutting edge tools and techniques.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me, leadership stems in authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I am a true believer in unlimited human potential and it pains me to see people accepting a limited life due to constant negative societal messages. I wish people appreciated the power of words and how they can impact others. Messages like ‘You can’t’ or ‘You’re not smart enough’ or ‘You’re not good/old/young/capable/intelligent enough’ when repeated often, can limit people and make them resigned to a mediocre life. So here are five things I wish I had been told when I first started out in my profession:

1. Dream with your eyes open: Dreams are not what you see in your sleep, dreams are what you conceive of with your eyes open and make into your reality. Where people ask “Why?”, ask instead ‘Why not?’. All progress that humanity has made has been because people had the courage to dream of something that wasn’t conceivable to others. Daydreams are the stuff the future is made of, so dream on!

2. Make your passion your purpose: When you love what you do and do what you love, work will be a ball, not a chore. Too many people work at jobs that are not aligned with their purpose to pay their bills. When you focus on your passion and grow it, the money takes care of itself.

3. Take the path less travelled: The need to conform and the need for social approval often limits our potential. Be brave enough to march to a different drummer and be who you are!

4. Be a bubblegum brain: People who do extraordinary things are people who have a growth mindset. They are not afraid to learn new things and explore new solutions, even if it means moving out of their comfort zone. Life is a mystery that keeps unravelling, no matter how much of it we solve, so keep challenging yourself and keep expanding your mind! You don’t need to be perfect, just curious.

5. There is more to truth than meets the eye: In this age, we are being bombarded with information constantly, whether it is on TV, written media or social media. People are constantly vying for our attention and it might seem reasonable to pay attention to those that shout the loudest. But sometimes the truth is not so obvious and often the truth is tucked away in a corner waiting to be found out. So don’t accept everything at face value, but do some digging yourself to find out the truth!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite poet is Robert Frost and my favorite life lesson quote is from his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. It goes as follows:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The quote, of course, is also the title of the book by M Scott Peck, which had a great impact on me since my teens.

Growing up, I was always questioning and contemplating why things were the way they were. And I felt like a misfit because I was not interested in the things other kids my age were, and found it difficult to conform to societal standards. This quote gave me hope and inspired me to follow my heart rather than the herd. And that truly has made all the difference to my life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well, there are many thought leaders who inspire me and it is difficult to pick just one person! One person I wish I had met, but unfortunately has passed on, was Dr. Wayne Dyer, a truly inspirational figure in the mental health sphere. I do hope to meet Dr. Deepak Chopra one day, as his work inspired me on my journey into healing. His book Quantum Healing is truly a masterpiece. He is a prolific writer and original thinker and I would love to someday have a chat with him!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My book ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist” is available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats from all major book retailers. My website www.thequantumpsychiatrist.com has more information about my work, including my blog and my online courses. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my website to follow my work online.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


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