“For your dreams to come true you gotta wake up.”
I’m struggling right now to define myself as someone who makes things happen, as opposed to being someone things happen to.
I doubt I’m alone in being someone whose proudest moments are times when they stepped up: proposing to my wife, negotiating for a new job with confidence, starting Detroit Diaspora. It’s invariably more awesome being the golf club than the golf ball.
But I beat myself up about the times when I let circumstances dictate my state of mind and/or productivity. Yeah, I wasn’t feeling 100%, but why didn’t I make that phone call? Why did I let fear over what the doctor might tell me enable me to put off physical therapy for 2+ years?
I was scared. I still might be. But I need to flip that fear on its head. Maybe it’s more “fear” as in “fear of the Lord” I need, the kind that really means respect, trust, and confidence.
Being productive, being a “pro,” means being willing to put yourself out there. To get hit, hurt, or embarrassed. To fall down, but to fall forward.
That takes confidence that can only be built through experience. If you think about it, we respect people that go all in for stuff in this world. Basketball players who throw their bodies after loose balls and entrepreneurs that bet on their ideas have this in common. So do great teachers and soldiers.
I’m challenging myself on this in small ways with my health and habits. Less consumption and more production. That motto should get me pointed in the right direction.
Happy Black History Month. Now go make history.
On September 11, 2001, I was thinking about my future.
My plan for that Tuesday was unique.
It was the 2nd day of the 1st week of my sophomore year. I woke up that morning in my dorm room in Ann Arbor, MI at 6AM thinking about two things: my career and the Blueprint.. Before my classes started, I had an early meeting somewhere in Troy, MI. My mother had connected me with a man that was a former General Motors colleague of hers who had a few years prior left GM to create is own consulting practice. He was an electrical engineer whose consultancy had GM as his biggest client. He was quite successful.
I was a Computer Engineering major with aspirations of owning my own business. Meeting him was an exciting proposition to me, having just come off my 2nd internship at GM that summer. He was living the dream. I wanted to understand how he did it. I called my parents at home while I was in the car on my way to his office. I got there around 720AM for my 730AM meeting.
I won’t give his name, but suffice it to say that he and his business were awesome. He opened my eyes to entrepreneurship in a way that reading a blog post about Steve Jobs or a book by Jack Welch never could. He told me about how hard it was to run a business, and how much it was worth it. He told me he wasn’t swimming in money, but he and his family were quite comfortable. He told me how terrified he was the day he quit GM, despite the fact that he had a plan, but his faith and his family undergirded him. What I remember 2nd most about that meeting was the fact that this was a real person with a real business. He had pictures of his kids on his desk and a drawing of a tiger by his daughter on his wall.
What I remember most, however, was how I felt walking out of that office. We passed by a conference room and did a double-take. Why was CNN playing? Why where 10 people in there for an 845AM meeting on no one’s calendar? What was going on?
A woman in the office was crying. The screen showed one of the twin towers that defined the most famous skyline on the planet. It was surreal. We sat down and watched in horror. The coverage was scattered and frantic, mirroring the hearts and minds of everyone in New York and everyone connected to anyone in New York. I watched the 2nd plane hit the tower in that conference room. I watch the tower collapse in that conference room.
I got back in my car and drove back to Ann Arbor. I called my dad, a Department of Defense employee, to find out if he knew anything and if his office had been put on any type of alert. He basically knew what I knew. It was scary.
I got back to campus to find everyone stunned. I had class, but when I got to North Campus I found signs on the buildings saying classes were cancelled (I think that’s the only time that’s happened before). I was supposed to go to the mall with my then-girlfriend, but the mall was closed. In my dorm room, a combination of CNN and Jay-Z served as our soundtrack for the next several days. Our room, the biggest on our floor, was where everyone came to find out what was happening. Great hip hop mixed with catastrophic news. Our TV and our stereo remained on the same channel/CD for days and days.
What strikes me most about this day and the 10 year anniversary today is that I’m still thinking about my future. The “I had no idea I’d be here today” cliche applies to me. On September 11, 2001, I expected to be starting business school at MIT on September 11, 2011. Instead, thankfully and happily, I am siting in the basement of my beautiful home in DC with my beautiful wife of exactly 2 years and 2 months, watching New York on TV, just like I was 10 years ago. I’m working in politics for the public interest, not technology like I thought I would be. I woke up this morning thinking about my future, just like I did 10 years ago today.
On September 11, 2011, I’m still thinking about my future. We all are, and we all should be. But on this day, and every day, let’s remember how important our past is too.
One Love. One II.
What’s up fam,
I wanted to make a special appeal for all would be lovers of better education in the city of Detroit. On Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 5:30pm, Teach for America – Detroit will be hosting a forum at the DIA (in the lecture hall) featuring Teach for America Founder, Wendy Koop as she discusses her new book, A chance to Make History, with Brian Dickerson, the Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press. This event is free and open to the public and you can buy books at the event. You can RSVP by clicking here.
I have the privilege of knowing some of the staff of Teach for America Detroit and I know they are doing the hard work to make education better in Detroit. I can’t think of one person that I know reads this blog that does not see or understand the importance of quality education, especially in places like Detroit. So if you are in the area, please make your way to the DIA on April 19 and help be a part of Detroit make history as a template of digging in when the going gets tough.
You can RSVP by clicking here.
Stay up fam,
Detroit is where I was born. It’s the best place on earth.
You wouldn’t know that by the Detroit Decimation Porn that has been the most resilient major media fetish of the last five years. It makes me want to spit at my computer screen now. I get showing images and telling stories with the intent to educate. But it’s clear to me that nothing new is coming out of that noise: what was once educational is now irresponsible and exploitative.
I am neither a denier nor an apologist for what’s happening in Detroit. It’s tough. Real tough. The 2010 Census says the city has lost 25% of its population in the last 10 years. That fact is jarring but unsurprising.
Like most hard truths this presents both a set of challenges and a set of opportunities. Too many people dwell on the former, lacking purpose and direction. Instead, I’m choosing to approach the latter in a way that suits my current skill set and station in life.
I introduce to you Detroit Diaspora: From Detroit. For Detroit.
Grave challenges in Detroit’s public school system drove my parents to decide to move our young family out of the city to its northwest suburbs. They felt forced to choose between their child’s education and their love for Detroit, the only city they’d known. The Census data shows that more and more individuals and families are facing the same choice every day. This opens up a unique opportunity.
Detroit Diaspora is based on the premise that a strong way to rebuild Detroit’s human capital is to leverage the human capital that Detroit and it’s neighbors built. Southeastern Michigan has birthed, educated and trained hundreds of thousands of brilliant, hardworking leaders that have contributed their time, talents and treasure to the well-being of places all over the country and the world. Detroit’s most valuable export is its people.
Many move physically, as I did after graduating from the University of Michigan to pursue a career in software development. But most don’t move emotionally. Many of these travelers have family in the area. They faithfully read the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Michigan Chronicle, etc. more than the local papers in their new cities. They perk up when they hear the word Detroit at a bar or a party and initiate conversations with people about their home. And it’s over if they find somebody who also hails from Southeastern Michigan: just call it a night.
Being an organizer, whose passion is in connecting community energy and common purpose to world-changing goals, I see great potential for Detroit in the energy of these current expatriates.
- What if everyone that ever thought about moving back home to Detroit actually did?
- What if they maintained connections with the fearless changemakers building Detroit’s future and supported them with ideas and resources?
- What if every native Detroiter changed the prevailing Detroit doomsday narrative one conversation at a time?
- What if every native Detroiter knew of and was connected to every other native Detroiter in their city?
We are only limited by our imaginations when trying to envision what would be possible if we mapped and connected the Detroit Diaspora. When you connect people to one another that share common bonds, sparks are lit, fires are started and lives are changed forever.
Detroit Diaspora is about making those connections and being a platform for this community. As we grow, we’ll decide how to proceed together. I have a few ideas about what can be done through this community, but there are infinite possibilities:
- Diaspora Map. Who makes up the Diaspora? Where are they? What are they doing today? Who do they know? Through Detroit Diaspora we’ll draw this map together.
- Detroit Stories. People sharing their stories and vision for home and how they plan on contributing. For those that do return home, people will share how and why they did so. Detroit Diaspora will be a platform where these stories are told and shared.
- Detroit Circles. Everyone has a story and a place. Each place can form a Circle, where people interact face-to-face. People will soon be able to find and join Detroit Circles.
These are just a few ideas, by no means the extent of what’s possible or what will happen. The ideas and opportunities will flow as the community grows. So join and grow the community first. Let’s do our part to contribute to the future of Detroit.
Fellow native Detroiters, join me on this Detroit Diaspora journey today. Please share this with your friends and family.
One Love. One II.
The following is a brief essay I wrote in late 2010 for the Skillman Foundation Annual Report in which I was featured. After the essay, there is a short video message I recorded for young men in Detroit as well.
One Love. One II.
I wear my Detroit heritage proudly every day. I was born at Hutzel Hospital. I played basketball at Herman Gardens. I spent sunny afternoons at Hart Plaza. I love Detroit, its people and its history. Most importantly, I love the future of this great city.
The city’s visionary leaders and institutions invested in me and thousands of other children like me. Programs like the Skillman-funded Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) exposed us to a future beyond the negative circumstances too many young people face. Foundations like Skillman joined hands with Detroit Public Schools, businesses like General Motors and universities like my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to work toward a common purpose: to expose the children of today to the skills of tomorrow, regardless of their zip code. The writing opportunities. The friendships. The science projects. The math challenges. DAPCEP transformed these subjects from intimidating and mysterious to accessible and fun. They gave me educational experiences that empowered me to choose my destiny with confidence.
The future of Detroit will be built upon initiatives like DAPCEP. They will combine the best thinking from the city’s people, government, educational, cultural, business and philanthropic communities to overcome our shared challenges. The entire Detroit community will come together to mold the Detroit we dream of.
This city produces hard-working people with brilliant minds. Many of us went to other places in search of careers and opportunities. We may have left Detroit, but Detroit certainly has not left us. Detroit’s diaspora is full of sons and daughters who are hungry to participate in the city’s renaissance. We’re ready to contribute our talents to the home that made us who we are.
DAPCEP and similar programs built human capital in Detroit. We have an opportunity to supplement the human capital investments that are being made today by reclaiming people who benefited from past investments. So let’s invest in the entire Detroit community. Let’s invest in the relationships upon which our future will be built.
I will return home to be part of Detroit’s bright future and give to the city that has given me so much. There are thousands of others who are ready to do the same.
What’s up fam and Happy New Year 2011!
For as much as we wax poetic regarding the lack of ‘movements’ in America and elsewhere, I think a key factor is the lack of dreaming. To be more precise the idea I am thinking of is what I call “humanity dreaming.” I don’t have a definition per se but for me, humanity dreaming is the force that drives individuals and groups to work on causes of essential human rights whose benefits may never be realized in their own lifetime. Examples include but are not limited to the American fight to get women the right to vote, the ending of slavery (and legal discrimination) in America, the ending of apartheid in South Africa, India’s independence movement, etc. The problem with history is that the aforementioned victories appear so preordained. These and similar moments in history rarely tell the story of non-public figures that looked at their families and decided they would not leave it to their children to fight the good fight.
I do not mean to imply that we have moved passed the ‘movements’ era. Instead, I think movements tend to be viewed in far more personal terms that inadvertently dilute the force and/or possibility of humanity dreaming.
Simply put, I hear more and more people discuss movements in terms of acquiring more resources in order to help more people. For example, a person from a bad neighborhood that is grateful to have a good education and a better job may claim that one day they will have enough resources to start a non-profit to help transform the community they grew up in. The problem with this mindset is not values, but scope.
To be sure, I have no problem with non-profits in and of themselves but generally speaking, the vast majority of people needed to help a young person “make it out” are not people of vast means or founders of non-profits. In other words, it’s like we put so too much faith in the power of institutions rather than our ability to transform our institutions to do right by the least of these. What is biggest project/event you were a part of (minus family) that had the biggest positive impact beyond you? Chances are, whatever that project/event was has had a lasting impact on how you view the futility of social change. More importantly, we need the lessons you learned from that experience to inform an even larger fight much like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made the transition between and across racial injustice, economic injustice, political injustice, and so on. When all is said and done, we are all waiting for YOU to help us see beyond ourselves and do the work that will transform the world for the better.
Just my thoughts,
Stay up fam,
If there was ever a clearer representation of the ills in the American justice system, here it is. Down in Mississippi, two Black women, Jaime and Gladys Scott are in prison for life for…wait for it…an $11 robbery. Seriously?!?!?!? Moreover, from what I have read from about this case, no one was hurt, the prosecutor has no direct evidence linking the sisters and three other people confessed to the crime. However, even if the sisters did commit the crime, is a life sentence really necessary. Can someone say cruel and unusual punishment?
Now instead of harping on what civil rights organizations are doing or not doing, YOU DO IT by contacting the Mississippi Attorney General at
Telephone: 601-359-3680 MS Attorney General’s Office
Walter Sillers Building
550 High Street, Suite 1200
Jackson, MS 39201
When you call or write, ask the office to investigate the Scott sister’s case and to look into the health of Jaime Scott.
The press release with more details is below.
Stay up fam,
PRESS RELEASETHE COMMITTEE TO FREE THE SCOTT SISTERS
CONTACT: Mrs. Evelyn Rasco P.O. Box 7100Pensacola, Florida 32534
E-mail:rqueenbee2222 @ yahoo.com
Case Summary: http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/search/label/Case%20Summary
Legal Transcripts: http://www.scribd.com/Scott%20Sisters4/2010MISSISSIPPI INJUSTICE: A DOUBLE-LIFE SENTENCE FOR $11.00!
Scott County, MS– — In a trial fraught with legal malpractice, lack of evidence and witness
coercion, Mississippi Judge Marcus Gordon sentenced sisters Gladys and Jamie Scott to
double-life each in an armed robbery. No matter the veracity of testimony; the lack of
physical evidence and the absence of any previous criminal activity of the accused; in a
questionable crime, where no one was murdered or harmed and the amount alleged to have
been taken as a whopping $11.00, one has to ask if this is Mississippi, the state in the
United States of America ? And, how does a court abdicate the national principles of justice
and fair judicial process ?
On December 24, 1993, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrested the Scott sisters for
armed robbery even though three persons confessed to committing the crime. The
Mississippi sheriff used coercion, threats, and harassment to compel these individuals to
become state’s evidence against the Scott sisters. His motive ? A long-standing vendetta
against the Father of the sisters. Later a local teen, without benefit of counsel would testify
that he was pressured to sign a written statement that he did not read and was prepared by
the sheriff. No weapon was ever recovered in this case.
During the course of the short trial only one witness was called and the sisters at the
direction of questionable legal advice, never testified or spoke for themselves during the
course of their trial.
Jamie, now 38 and Gladys, 34 are now entering their 16th year of incarceration. Jamie has
lost function of both kidneys and is gravely ill, being provided inadequate medical
treatment may very well see her sentence as a death sentence unless the Mississippi Prison
Commission relents in its rigid negligent medical care decisions for her. Recently, Jamie
Scott was diagnosed by an outside physician as being at Stage 5 (end stage) of this illness,
the next stage being death. Should Jamie Scott die in prison for an alleged robbery of
$11.00 almost 16 years ago?
A national campaign has been undertaken by their elderly Mother, Mrs. Evelyn Rasco, to
gain justice for her daughters and their family. Nationwide support for Jamie and Gladys is
building increasingly louder and active.
Nancy Lockhart, the young woman who has acted as the spokesperson of the Free the Scott
Sisters Campaign, and the Mother of Jamie and Gladys Scott are available for live and
telephone interviews. They have been featured guests on the Warren Ballentine Show ( XM
Radio The Power); Our Common Ground with Janice Graham ( USTalkNetwork); The
Mark Thompson Show ( Sirius Radio The Left Side); The Rip Daniels Show, WJZD
Mississippi; and their comments are featured in many newspapers across the country and
throughout the blogosphere.In June, 2009, Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD of the Editorial
Board of BlackCommentator.com wrote about the wrongfully conviction of Jamie and Gladys Scott in a featured editorial, titled, “Represent Our Resistance” (http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/2009/08/dr-lenore-daniels-says-to-represent-our_19.html) and Mother Jones magazine’s investigative reporter, James Ridgeway, did an exhaustive piece entitled, “Cruel and Unusual Health Care — How Mississippi Prisoner
Jamie Scott’s Life Sentence Could Turn Into a Death Sentence” (http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/jamie-scott-gladys-scott-haley-barbour-wexford-health)#####