Unmask Me

“You’re still hiding in a mask, you take your fun seriously. No, don’t blow this year’s chance. Tomorrow your mold goes back on.” – Halloween, Dead Kennedys

In the opening of The Madman, Khalil Gibran thanks the thieves who stole his seven masks and revealed to him the sweet kiss of the sun for the first time. I, too, long to be madwoman and yearn to see the light of day, yet I sometimes hide in the darkness cast by my seven masks. By unveiling my masks, I offer them to the thieves in the night so that they may be stolen and I may be set free. They are:

1. The mask of my former selves

2. The mask of desires and that to which I think I aspire

3. The mask of my expectations for myself and others

4. The mask of fear of the unknown

5. The mask of shame and guilt

6. The mask of perfection and control

7. The maskless mask, or the illusion of not wearing a mask

From Revolutionary to Visionary

In my activism, I have transformed from a revolutionary, to an evolutionary, to a visionary.

As a revolutionary, I was reactive. My focus was on destroying unjust hegemony.

As an evolutionary, I was complacent. My focus was on going with the natural flow.

As a visionary, I am proactive. My focus is on creating the world of my dreams.

Perhaps the next step will be for me to effectively integrate all three paradigms of activism, easily moving among them as called for by the situation.

The Social+ Boutique is Now Open!

The Social+ Boutique is now open!

 

 

 

 

 

Social+ builds upon the idea of being carbon neutral. People who are Social Positive (Social+) aim to have a net positive social impact by considering the environmental and human impact of everyday decisions and interactions, being actively involved in the community, and expressing kindness and compassion toward others on a daily basis. By pledging to be Social+, you can demonstrate your commitment to positive social change and provide opportunities for increased awareness and discussion with others.

The Social+ Boutique features clothing and other items that you can use to publicly declare your commitment to positive social change. It is a simple way to share a highly complex and very important message AND to remind yourself of the importance of living Social+!

How are you living Social+? Please share your story with us! On Twitter, use #socialpositive to share your everyday decisions and actions that result in a net positive social impact. Send us your picture wearing your Social+ shirt along with a story about how you choose to live Social+ and we may feature you on The Activist’s Muse! Through social media, we can inspire each other to be more aware of, and intentional about, making a difference.

Class, Cherries, and Cooperation

While I strongly prefer to eat in season and support local farmers, more often that I care to admit I purchase off season from the supermarket to indulge in what de Tocqueville might have referred to as the American need for bodily comfort. At the end of last summer, I purchased some cherries at my local grocery store a few weeks after the local season had passed.

I almost placed a cherry into my mouth when I noticed that there was a long, black hair wrapped around its stem.  After a short moment of disgust, I felt a strong sense of connection to the people who work so hard to plant and harvest the food we (middle class Americans) eat. Too often, we take for granted the accessibility of a variety of relatively inexpensive food without considering where it comes from. America is still dependent on slavery and miserable working conditions, even though much (but certainly not all) of it takes place outside of our borders. The economic system, and its commercial branch with which we interact on a daily basis, is designed to pit those who have a genuine need to minimize expenses against those who are truly destitute by limiting our options and manipulating the truth.

And why? It should be unnecessary in a world where global cooperation is possible. Cooperation that leads to sharing, rather than commoditizing, hoarding, and overconsumption. Cooperation that leads to harmony, rather than discord. Cooperation that leads to environmental reverence, rather than degradation. Cooperation that leads to love and peace, rather than hatred and war.

Political Ambidexterity

When I was a little girl, I was ambidextrous. My mother advised to me choose a hand. Not knowing which to pick, I asked her what her preference was. She told me that everyone in my family was right handed. My choice to conform to this only confirms that I made the right choice for my life at that time.

I often wonder how my life would be different if I had chosen my left hand instead, or if I were not presented with the mandate of choosing and was able to remain ambidextrous. I actually think it served me well, as using my left brain has prevented me from being too ‘out there’ as to relate to other people and the ‘real’ world entirely. I love that I am at once rational and insanely creative.

So often, we are put in a position of having to choose sides. Election time is once such instance when we are presented with this opportunity to align with something greater than ourselves by veering to the left or to the right.

While we may need to choose in the polling booth, we do not need to pick a side in our daily lives. We can be politically and socially ambidextrous. Being ambidextrous doesn’t mean choosing our left or our right hand; it means consistently using everything that we’ve got. We can still take a stand, but it is one that is in a position to see and appreciate the entire landscape. Political ambidexterity gives us the freedom to explore ideas and re-create the world together.

L3: Appreciate Beauty

Ben was my one true love. He was 36 years old when I met him; I was only 11. I never imagined that I could love someone so unconditionally and completely. A lot of other people didn’t like Ben and they didn’t understand why I was so taken with him. He was older and had a scruffy appearance. But to me, Ben was my entire world and I loved everything about him.

Ben was a lesson horse at a local stable where I attended camp and hung out after school and on weekends during my middle school years. I met him on my first day at camp and, though I hated camp at first and wanted to quit, I fell in love with both Ben and summer camp by the end of that first week.

Ben’s age was obvious; his ribs and other bones protruded from his skinny, but sturdy, frame and his movements were slow but steady. But to me, he was the most loving, gentle, kind being I had ever known. I was only able to see Ben’s beauty: his silky, long mane and tail, his fuzzy brown fur, the stubbly whiskers on his chin, and his enormous size and strength all impressed me. Ben got more attention and tenderlovingcare than any other horse in Allentown at that time.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had chosen to only see Ben’s physical challenges. By seeing Ben for who he truly was, a beautiful and graceful older gentleman, I learned about the true meaning of life and was transformed.

We are all perfectly imperfect. Horses, people, trees, and rocks alike share this characteristic. Imperfections are reminders of our humanity and a call to find and appreciate true beauty.

It is easy to become frustrated with other people. They don’t always understand us or do what we think they ought to do. Focusing on other people’s flaws may bring temporary relief when we are feeling hurt or disappointed, but doing so further damages our relationships and make us feel even more miserable in the long run. All people are beautiful human beings who happen to have flaws. This can be hard to remember when someone is really pissing you off; if we try, we can remember and recognize the strengths and virtues that person has to offer. Strive to understand their point of view and help them to see yours as well.

On a daily basis, recognize the voluminous beauty that surrounds you. When you see a field of dandelion, appreciate the beautiful color and healing qualities of this herb; don’t think of it as a noxious weed. Seize every possible opportunity to appreciate beauty, if only for a fleeting moment. Cumulative moments of joy make a big difference in our lives.

Leadership brings with it overwhelming responsibility. Take the time to discover, appreciate, and celebrate the beauty in the people, situations, places, and systems in your life. Take nothing for granted and seek positivity – the lesson, the light, the love, the good – in everyone and everything. Use your influence and resources to illuminate these beautiful ideas, things, and people so that others may be nourished by the beauty in them as well.

Structuralizing Possibility

On one hand, articulating a theory excludes 99.9999% of the possibilities. Representing reality in a specific form intellectually negates the possibility of conflicting interpretations.

On the other hand, articulating a theory opens up new intellectual possibilities by reimagining the way reality is understood. This may lead to additional theories, and greater understanding, that may not have been possible without the introduction of the catalytic idea.

The key, then, is to not become attached to our representations but to see them as part of an expansive, evolutionary process.

More Found Poems and an Essay

A few years ago, I took a few classes at Northampton Community College to prepare for the mostly online Ph.D. program at Eastern University. In my creative writing class, I wrote a few poems. I also wrote an essay about the joys and frustrations of publishing Ashley and Tiana.

Children of Haiti

Children of Haiti

how can it be?

I don’t understand why my

dreaming about you does not change the

reality of your daily life.

Nothing changes,

only my heart grows stronger

for I know that one day I will visit

Haiti and we will be together.

A family at last.

I can hardly wait to meet you.

Time is the only boundary and

I promise to be there as soon as I can.

For My Children

Every time I eat blueberries

I am reminded of your hunger.

When I turn on the faucet to wash my hands

I think of your lack of clean water.

When I turn up the heat in my wintery home

I think of the heat you can not escape.

When I walk my baby nephew down the street

I think of your safety.

When I drive in my car to work

I think of your desperation.

When I lay in bed at night

I think of your discomfort.

When I take a yoga class

I think of your fragile health.

When I take a shower and dab on perfume

I think of your ability to stay clean.

When I walk inside the school where I work

I think of how much you will learn here.

When I snuggle up with the cats

I think of how much you will love each other.

When I clean your empty room

I think of how much it will mean to you.

When I bake cookies and go to the beach

I think of how much fun we will have.

When I think of my desire to have a family

I know it is me who is desperate to love you.

Learning to Enjoy My Self-Pubishing Voyage

“Buy One Copy…Get One Free for a Friend!”  She told me I was selling myself short.  Maybe she was right, but…

I told the organizer of the Queens Health and Book Fair that I had over 300 copies of my book at home and that I would rather have them in the hands of children.  Sweet children, laughing with delight as they paged through Ashley and Tiana and absorbed its many important lessons.  Among many who are pimping out literature of all kinds, my book softly requests, “please read me, please?”

So today I am at the Brooklyn Book Festival.  My favorite author, Edwidge Danticat, is here and she was honored with an award last night.  I feel honored to be here, even if I only sell four books like I did in Queens yesterday.

This is my third book fair this year so I know what to expect.  People will walk by as if I am invisible.  They might slow down a bit, to try to figure out what my table is all about, but as soon as I notice them they freak out at being realized and move away as quickly as possible.  At least I’m not alone.  It seems like the other 50 vendors are facing the same challenge: people who like to read, but don’t want to have books sold to them.

Oops…maybe today will be different.  I just made a sale.  She’s a 7th grade student who is also a poet.  The first ten minutes of the Brooklyn Book Festival are going well!

As I was saying, it seems that most people who attend book fairs just want to breeze through without taking the time to talk with the authors and learn about new books and the writing process.

But this isn’t my only challenge as a new self-published author.

I did everything the experts advised: the published writers, public relations specialists, marketing maniacs, and others who share the tricks of the trade for free.  I got an ISBN.  I had teachers proofread my copy.  I registered on over 50 social networking sites.  I worked, worked, worked, worked, worked on marketing the book.

Sure that it would be a success, I ordered 350 copies for the Harlem Book Fair.  I sold three.  I was sure when I held my book signing in New York that lots of people wold show up: family, friends, the media, people who love books.  No one came.  No one.  Not one person.  Two days later I held a book signing in Easton.  Surely, the place would be packed.  “I’ll be there,” “congratulations,” “good luck,” they all told me.  And some of them did come…about 15.

So I still have over 300 books to sell or give away.  In retrospect, I feel grateful for every single time I have sold a book.  My heart fills with joy when I think of people reading the book.

Except for voyagerfan.  Voyagerfan won a free copy of Ashley and Tiana on Goodreads, a social networking site for people who love books can list their personal libraries and books they plan to read in the future in addition to reviews of books that have been read.

His review was scathing.  Not only did he give me just one out of five stars, he went on and on and on in his review about the incorrect grammar (most of which was intentional), typos (I couldn’t find any), and the fact that I didn’t use, “real dashes” (oh well).

My self-esteem plummeted.  I enlisted my family and close friends, my army of supporters.  How could this man do me so wrong?

Man?  “That’s the problem,” my sister said. “How old is he, anyway?”

I hadn’t thought of that.  Clearly voyagerfan is not a member of my target market of 8- to 17-year-old girls.  My self-esteem rebounded.

Up and down and up and down.  Self-publishing this book has been like a roller coaster  one of those that goes upside down a few times.  From now on, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Obamacare Omits

When I left my full time job to focus on The Fruition Coalition full time, I was shocked to be denied health insurance by several providers. I was denied due to three pre-existing conditions: a mental health diagnosis, a high BMI, and a vascular malformation in my brain.

I think this situation is an unintended consequence of the recent federal health care reform law. A few years ago, I shopped my health insurance plan (as an individual) and was not denied coverage at that time. I believe this is a reaction to the new regulations facing health insurance companies.

I was eligible to purchase a Guaranteed Issue plan, but that would have cost me over $700 per month. My other option was to remain uninsured for six months and then apply for PA Fair Care, which costs just under $300 per month. I chose the latter out of financial necessity.

I am now uninsured and will be through the end of this calendar year. Every time I get a cut, bump into something, get behind the wheel of my car, or walk across the street I hold my breath and hope that I am not injured to the extent that medical attention is required.

Unlike those who criticize this new law, I think it is a step in the right direction. I don’t think additional regulations are the answer to our insurance and healthcare crisis; we need total and complete reform. A single payer system would improve the quality of our healthcare system and equalize access to it, saving costs – and lives – over time. Healthcare policy should also be aligned with other federal policy. We should subsidize sustainable agriculture instead of factory farming, and renewable energy instead of fracking and oil. In fact, if companies are not prevented from destroying our planet – and the health of people thereof — through policy, they should be taxed for doing so as both a reparation and as a disincentive.

In the meantime, I pray for our good health.

Changemaker Chat: Angela Giacchetti

Marketing and communications strategist Angela Giacchetti is passionate about empowering people and working for social justice. A specialist in branding and positioning, cause marketing, and strategic communication, Angela independently speaks and teaches. She also works as Associate for Pipeline Fellowship and consultant to Three Furies. Follow her on Twitter @AGiacchetti.

 

How did you first become interested in social change?

Some folks have an “ah-ha” moment that they can articulate. I don’t. As long as I can remember, I have been exploding with questions about the world and feeling unsatisfied with the status quo.

Perhaps it comes from my not-so-unique family background. I was raised by a single mom who cleaned other people’s houses to keep our electricity on. However, I think I also come from enough privilege that I felt audacious and empowered to fight.

How do you define social justice?

Justice is not charity, salvation, sympathy, or paternalism. It’s about empathy and most importantly, survival. I don’t work on social justice issues because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I do it because my life depends on it.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

The most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced was speaking on the Planned Parenthood Truth Tour in Englewood NJ. I got to share my personal story as a former patient to a large crowd alongside my elected officials. Although it was a delight to give voice to the patient perspective, it was my big brother that made the day. There was a lively counter-protest going on. When I was at the microphone, they were screaming very hateful things. One of my older brothers was in the crowd supporting me and pulled the counter-protest organizers aside to tell them I was his sister. While I was amplifying the voices of others, he was amplifying my voice. It was so touching to see my activism make my family stronger, and to see it click for my brother that the personal is political.

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

I am Pro-Choice Co-Chair of WIN.NYC (Women’s Information Network of New York City) and love the group of women I get to work with. It’s interesting to see how powerful meaningful connections with others can be in terms of social change. Don’t underestimate your personal relationships.

What is your vision for a better world?

One of the things I feel strongly about is defining equality. We need to get specific on how we are making strides for equity and justice. Let’s not simply toss around the words “justice”, “equality”, and “social good”. In my vision for a better world, we are able to define what we are exactly changing, how we are working to make progress, and how we are measuring that impact.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m working on approaching change through varied channels–political and social activism, direct service, leadership and mentorship, and even business. My work at Pipeline Fellowship has taught me that there are many ways to make change. We train women philanthropists to become angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. Each participant commits to invest in a woman-led for-profit social venture at the end of the training.