Friday, November 30, 2012

Say What?! - Tereva Parham

Another MCLP session completed and as I’ve come to expect – another vital layer of concrete has been added to my newly formed foundation of servant-leadership.  Today was focused on the words we speak. From public speaking and storytelling all the way to the highly sensitive and often avoided conversations.
Time out: I REALLY value the wealth of resources that the MCLP draws from in order to bring us a variety of presenters.
As someone who has always been “lights, camera, action , ” speaking in front of others has been a place of unique comfort. The sessions today reminded me of things I’ve heard before, while presenting new concepts relating to communication. In hindsight, my impromptu Oreo speech was fun. In addition to informing the listeners of my Oreo addiction, I also persuaded…   tempted many to enjoy an Oreo very soon.
The talkative atmosphere shifted as we were moved to consider “crucial conversations”.  Crucial conversations are topics, issues and concerns that move us to a place of fear, alarm, conflict and major discomfort. They can appear anywhere but as individuals and budding leaders we need to know how to handle them regardless of their planned or spontaneous occurrence.
As the weeks progressed I became mindful of the situations that warranted a crucial conversation. Although not always bad, they can no doubt be considered tough. I considered many things…   What are the things that I need to hear from someone unashamed to smack me with the truth? What do I need to acknowledge and accept within myself?  How have I avoided people to keep the peace? What are things that I’m keeping from others that need to be addressed?
The questions and their answers naturally came as I authentically considered the concept and reality of crucial conversations.
Say what?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lenses and Barriers—Understanding Racial Injustice

by Angelique Ambers, MCLP  marketing committee member

All individuals must realize their implication in racial injustice. This was the message emphasized by keynote speaker, Tim Wise, at the Fourth Racial Justice Summit hosted on November 9 by the YWCA, Tim Wise, like the Multicultural Leadership Program, understands the importance of shared interest and how those interests are converging.

The perceptions that individuals have depend largely on their race, because the color of their skin often depicts their treatment and experiences within society. A person’s race is one of the factors that creates their lens—in other words, how they view the world and themselves. According to Wise, people of color are aware of how others feel about them and often develop a more accurate perception in terms of how other countries/cultures view Americans. Wise used the example of the common question “why do they hate us,” stating that majority of people are under the false belief that “they hate us for our freedom.” Other countries do not hate Americans for their freedom, but rather for political, social, or economic reasons.  Furthermore, Wise discussed the various misconceptions that are assumed about minorities due to lack of familiarity and knowledge. Language is captivating because of the various meanings and ideas that can be created; however, language can also serve as a barrier between people.
Additionally, experience and identity shape meaning. While minorities are required to know about white culture, white people do not have to know about minority circumstance and communities. There is the mutual understanding among the majority that some people are underserved, no coincidence that these underserved people are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or Indians. Wise argues that individuals are not underserved, but they are marginalized, oppressed, and discriminated against.

The summit continued and the group was broken up into two caucuses. I participated in the people of color caucus, where individuals discussed their personal experiences of being oppressed and discriminated against. Together the group developed a definition for racism. Additionally, individuals discussed the importance of addressing racism or social injustices head on, and not allowing incidents to go unnoticed or unaddressed. 

The two caucuses reconvened in the auditorium and discussed important topics and ideas that were brought up in their individual groups. Overall, through the summit individuals gained new perspectives and knowledge about injustice in our community. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Laughter and Gratitude—Participant and Mentor Reflect on Class Experience

by Emily Vigneri, MCLP Class of 2013 participant

Recently, my mentor, Carole, made a comment to me that I think of often—a comment about all of you, my MCLP classmates. I think about it when I get a little stressed with all of the commitments that all of us are juggling at the present moment. I think about it when I get a little insecure about my leadership capabilities and I definitely think about it when I find myself wanting to fight my own vulnerability—the very vulnerability that I now know is needed to be most impacted by what we’re learning from our program.

So, by now, you’re probably hoping that I eventually tell you what it is that my mentor said about all of you, so here I go. During dinner at the Leadership in Education session, my mentor was seated at a table with me and 4-5 other classmates. Throughout the meal, those seated at the table were actively engaged in conversation with each other, me, and Carole. There was also a good amount of happy yelling and teasing back and forth between our table and some of the other tables that the remainder of the MCLP class and guests occupied.

As we got up from the table that evening to return back in to the auditorium for the remainder of our evening session, Carole remarked to me what a great MCLP class we are. She stated that all of the teasing, laughing, and joking she witnessed was the sign of a wonderful group and that she was glad to see us having fun with one another.  Now, I admit—I am a Feeling type, so perhaps that accounts for some of this, but her comment absolutely touched my heart and I so wanted to share it with each of you.

Above all, her comment reminded me of how lucky I am to be in this program and how lucky I have been to meet each and every one of you. Although I may not have had the opportunity to speak at length with each of you, I hope you know how much I value your input in class and how happy I feel to be a member of the 2013 class with you! I also consider myself very lucky to have met all of the people that make MCLP possible for us.

As I said earlier, I have thought of this comment frequently (sometimes during times of a little stress) and it always helps me keep going. I hope that if you happen to find yourself in a moment of stress sometime soon, that Carole’s words bring a smile to your face, as they always do for me.