Our Panel of Mid-North Residents (left to right): Carlos Permell, Denise Whittaker, Jim Naramore, Amy Rubin, and Menelik Adisa
Reflecting on the job creation panel at KI EcoCenter on October 12, I recalled a few interesting perspectives. Such perspectives were centered around topics like corporate accountability, new urban developments, social entrepreneurship, the new economy and the overall future direction.
It’s clear that the issue of the economy and jobs is heavy on people’s minds. The room was packed with more than 20 people from the Mid-North Neighborhood and beyond. Heated and critical conversations filled the evening as the panel shared their personal struggles to create economic opportunity for themselves, their families, and their community.
Audience members asking questions and putting in their two cents.
As the realities of the present continue to remind us that the past is no longer, we are being forced daily to reevaluate our value systems and how we would like to shape our future. Of course, there wasn’t unanimous agreement among the panelist or audience in terms of which way we should move forward; however, all agreed that the “glorious” days of bourgeois lifestyles based on consumption are over.
The greatest challenge we face collectively is creating the needed change for our families and communities. What are we doing daily to bring about the change we hope to see? What relationships are we forming? What are we willing to let go of?
Most importantly we must not be afraid to fail walking new paths in turbulent times, being the strength we need at all times.
From BB King to Tupac, Billy Holiday to Erykah Badu, the expression of resistance through music has historically been a viable liberation tool for African Americans. Music with such flavor has captivated the hearts, ears and minds of connoisseurs while touching the souls of those connected to the African American collective memory.
Rhythms, cadences, and illustrations birthed by the struggle, have been passed from generation to generation without the brick and mortar of bureaucratic educational systems. The neighborhood porches, the neighborhood corner stores, and the parks where all the family gatherings take place are the classrooms, where music as a form of resistance and a wide variety of other topics are taught.
When oppression is an everyday reality, your freedom depends upon your creativity because it is your creativity that is able to create freedom. Therefore music/art expressing the bondage liberates by echoing the insights gained into the future and past.
So it is a must for those of us who claim to be artists working towards empowerment, to continue the fight by contributing our lessons learned for the classrooms in our communities. This is what I mean by represent or resign.
Please Support the artistry http://diopdiop.bandcamp.com/track/empower
Social entrepreneurship in relation to the buzz word sustainability is rapidly becoming the new sexy of our time. Interestingly enough, social entrepreneurship, and the vastness of definitions associated with it, all appear to have a common goal: the creation of a symbiotic framework promoting both business and social health. This trend has increasingly grown primarily due to the negative economic and educational climate in the nation. A simple focus shift brought upon by the insights provided from our current experience will not alone create the desired frameworks.
To clearly outline some of the major difficulties or challenges for approaching this mind state, we must view social entrepreneurship as the creation of a culture within a culture and examine the complexities associated with that context. For example, there is a strong “entertain yourself to death” and “consume till you die” cultural flavor ingrained in some of our youngest and oldest minds. Acknowledging this brutal fact is necessary when constructing an approach for human redirection. Until we are introspectively honest and critical, traction will just be a word.
Another major challenge when shifting frameworks, is the habitual urge to attempt to solve new problems with old framework methods. In addition to this urge, there are sight blinders associated with all paradigms and cultures. Thomas Khun’s work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions touches on this aspect in the following way, “Moping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the performed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies”. (pg 24) We must attempt to identify the parameters of our paradigms and be flexible enough to diverge from them when necessary.
Quite often individuals repackage old ideas with new language and technology in order to broadcast and promulgate them as newness, fully knowing they are advertising brass as gold. So as we watch business and social sector practitioners and theoreticians attempt to squeeze these frameworks together, we must filter these experiments critically. Which puzzle pieces should remain or be reshaped?
Over the weekend I had the great opportunity of meeting four phenomenal HBCU (Historical Black Colleges & Universities) students full of energy, courage and drive. When they first entered our center I premised our conversation with the question “Do you feel that your institution is preparing you to chase opportunities or create opportunities?”. My own answer to that question had been a fundamental epiphany for myself. Reflecting on my educational experience I came to the realization that majority of college students are developed to be technicians chasing opportunities instead of well rounded creative thinkers possessing the sight and ability to create opportunities. The students agreed for the most part with my conclusion.
A society composed of technicians is largely fragmented which allows a small group of quasi holistic thinkers to control and manipulate society. This fragmentation stretches from one’s individual skill set to the values of such a society. One common value that our society has embraced is the idea of what professional looks like. The suit and tie has been established as the representation of professionalism without being based on anything substantial. In the 50’s the movie The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit focused on dissecting the corporate archetype and what professionalism resembled. The movie also displayed the alienation of one’s own identity from the corporate archetype. The “professional look” is primarily a symbol of power rather than a symbol of professionalism. Denying others the ability to wear outfits that culturally reflect their backgrounds and dismissing these outfits as unprofessional is a clear demonstration of ethnocentrism focused on establishing cultural superiority and inferiority.
True professionalism is reflected by a person’s body of work not by a person’s body attire. College students have been equipped with the knowledge base to chase opportunities which includes endorsing the falsehood of the “professional look” as well as replacing buried passions with hopes of catching secure opportunities. Not knowing how to create opportunities for yourself and allowing others to dictate the relevance of your culture is fundamentally insecure. If this is the age of approaching “sustainability”, then worldviews that breed insecurity need to be addressed.
The air around the globe is impregnated with paradigm shift colloquies. Is the global economic crisis, the peculiar planet alignment or the exasperated earth due to our rapacious attitude towards natural resources fueling such dialogues? Or is it a combination of all three? The numerous possibilities as to why the idea of “paradigm shift” is growing in relevance can be speculated about for generations to come, but what is not subject to speculative discourse is the fact that this idea of shifting from one paradigm to another is alive, well and growing. Its spread is infectious, creeping into many minds and re-configuring the perception of reality once held before. From string theory to holographic universe, or to and, universe to multi-verse, or capitalism to humanism, a major shift in consciousness and behavior is transpiring right now. Previously endorsed norms, dogmas and authorities are being challenged by a wrath that knows no conformity. A paradigm shift “infuses a new rhythm, specific to a new generation of men, with a new language and a new humanity”. The old will not willingly be dethroned by the new. Blood shed historically has always been attached to the possession of and the struggle for power. Many hope the new psyche will change this unfortunate reality, but given the Arab Spring, Qadafi, the protests in Europe and Occupy Wall Street, blood has already been added to the soufflé. The dislocation of the current dominate worldview by new alternative worldviews screaming to be heard is where we find ourselves currently. Are you the paradigmatic figure of the paradigm shift or the resisting aristocrat fighting to retain power and prevent turmoil?
By Diop Adisa
If you embody empowerment then you are omnipotent. This is simply so because you understand the power within yourself is not limited to yourself. Your personal power call it aura, grace, demeanor, intuition, personality, innate ability or god given talent vibrates outward effecting all surrounding elements. Once you recognize and acknowledge that the depth of your vastness is deeper then any imaginable abyss, self mastery or mastery of self empowerment can become a tangible goal. Knowing your power is limitless eliminates the deficit mentality and galvanizes a new world view grounded in empowerment. Self mastery defined fundamentally means possessing the ability to harness and channel internal power towards desired outcomes. Self Masters, Alchemists or Seers empower their communities through their self cultivation. The irrefutable belief they have in themselves and how it manifestes itself through the undertakings they focus on produces phenomenal outcomes worthy of being classified as miracles. From water to wine, dirt to gold or destitute community to empowered community, however the Self Master decides to demonstrate his or her alchemy one thing is for certain, their ability will be admired as well as despised. One group’s savior and provider is another group’s enemy and terrorists given the horde temperament that so dominantly exists. All Self Masters must accept the terms of the position meaning they must be prepared for ostracism and crucifixion. With the above statement being a crucial aspect of the Self Master’s reality, they must not only empower themselves but look for and create opportunities to empower others. The power they cultivated for themselves also resides in everyone else, but only a few will fulfill and are ready to fulfill such a potential. Just a cadre of Self Masters can produce grandiose change, change of epic proportions. This is what I mean by “Community Empowerment Through Self Mastery”.
By Diop Adisa
In the very very early stages of my life I witnessed my parents serve as mentors, coaches and in some cases parents to a variety of young people. By no means did my parents aggressively look for opportunities to play such roles in life, but by no means did they shy away from their responsibility to their community as critical thinking African American trail blazers. My mother argues that my father’s trek and aura is the main culprit for creating such an environment. To some degree she is right. Wherever my father goes he tends to attract very peculiar individuals who have consistently possessed a youthful and or alternative perspective. But my mother in her own way is still immersed in youth stewardship. Provided with the unique parents me and my older sister so fortunately received, we were birthed into an environment which allowed us to study the development of other young people from different backgrounds. Reflecting on the developmental process these young people underwent during my childhood, I have come to embrace a significant insight in regards to development. Communication, commitment, and execution are essential milestones on the road to becoming a productive person. In order to matriculate through society and build influential relationships, one has to be able to effectively communicate. Masters of articulation have mastered the transferability of ideas and concepts as well as the ability to filter experiences through introspection and retrospection. Being able to express the outside world experiences amalgamated with your inner world interpretation of them is invaluable. Commitment equals flexibility. Committing and fulfilling your commitments is crucial to personal development and relationship development. I’ve seen far too often people of all ages struggle to wrap their hands around the lessons offered by commitment. Many people view commitment as being synonymous with inflexibility. If I commit to doing this, then it will impact my ability to do this and this. The above statement is a dominant mindset which complicates an individual’s progress through the lessons provided by commitment. In actuality commitment creates flexibility. Through the strong relationships built from honoring commitments, you place yourself in a position to encounter a vast amount of opportunities. Having access to a variety of opportunities allows you to chose from a selection of many different paths. Lastly, execution in my opinion is the most important. Being able to effectively complete the task you set out to do sounds relatively simple but many never approach mastery of execution. Combining the three pillars for success in your daily life will result in you becoming a successful person. Communicate clearly when you make commitments and strive to execute effectively.
By Menelik Diop Adisa
The life of a community activist is attached and entangled with the desired change they unreasonably fight for. This entanglement not only includes the life of one activist but also the lives and passions of change agents across the globe who fight to manifest the same reality. The word entanglement is very important when we attempt to “measure” the impact made by change agents. Far to often change is only recognized when it appears to be grandiose. A common theme communicated to activists from their surrounding worlds has been the “we need massive change” theme. I argue that all change is massive irregardless of who and how many recognize the change that is taking place. Quantum physics and its principle of entanglement demonstrates the inner-connectivity that exist and pervades over life as we know it. This relatively new insights has birthed a body of worked focused on investigating the theory of a holographic universe and its inter-connective implications. This same inner-connectivity therefore also applies to change and change agents. If measurement of change is possible, then it should be done under the microscope of inner-connectivity. We are all actors on the same stage with the opportunity to define our respective roles to some degree. In rare cases a group of creative and courageous people combine their skills, talents and experiences together creating a potent and captivating synergy. The discipline of such a cadre will bring forth change that will echo forward into the future for centuries to come. Grandiose change is birthed by a discipline cadre. Do not feel discouraged change agents if your future desired state seems to be deserts away. The journey in the end is the the most rewarding treasure. True understanding will not be arrived at by simply being a true bibliophage. Generative thinking and living occupy the spirit of social activism. Spend less time attempting to measure impact and more time generating impact. Build your cadre and chart your path.
By Diop Adisa
Last Wednesday while home from IU on winter break, I was asked to moderate the KI EcoCenter’s book discussion. The current book being reviewed is The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice. .
The authors’ focus on developing and implementing strategies that directly confront the increasing high dropout rates, low test scores, lack of funding, and other dilemmas faced in the urban public educational environment. The authors argue many public urban schools are looked upon as failing, when in actuality they are not failing but doing exactly what they are designed to do. When education is looked at as being systematically manipulated in order to divide groups of people into to categories that are either designed to succeed the students or fail the students, we begin to develop a clearer vision of what is taking place in our communities. At one point in the first chapter of the book it reads that “at some point we must come to grips with the fact that we are not a nation of opportunity for all, but a nation built upon grand narratives of opportunity for all”. The text goes on to suggest that any type of educational reform needs to develop a relationship with the communities directly affected which includes community organizations that are already striving to better the conditions of their people. Lastly, one of the key concepts provided by the text is the idea that urban educators need to be culturally educated in order to effectively reach and teach the students they encounter everyday.
The reason this particular book and its concept of critical pedagogy is so critical to the KI EcoCenter is because it is viewing and trying to confront the same adacities that the Kheprw Institute (commonly known as KI) is trying to address, just with a different approach. It is very refreshing and uplifting to come across another mind that is visibly working, even if only through thought, to change what is to what should be.