June 4, 2020 – Tianamen Square to LaFayette Square

Today is June 4, National Cheese Day, an homage to fromage all day long! (So…I guess…that means…you know…it is also a day to cut the fromage?)

Tianamen Square to Lafayette Square

Today is also the 31st anniversary of what is known in China as the June Fourth Incident. Here in the U.S. we know it as the Tianamen Square Massacre.

At this moment we have a stand off between Federal forces and protesters in LaFayette Square in Washington, DC. Frankly, it is a bit difficult to tell the two apart. Take a look at the two pictures below. The first is Tianamen Square. Your clue is that this is now an iconic photo from that standoff which you’ve likely seen before. Of course, if more mature leadership doesn’t prevail in the White House, the second, from just outside LaFayette Square, could also become iconic.

Source: Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/126732527; Photo by Jeff Widener
Source: Retrieved from Bloomberg.com, June 4, 2020

As the protests at Tianamen Square were building in the Spring of 1989 I was getting ready for summer camp. In June I was at camp. No, not as a camper but as the director of the summer youth camping program. It was a Quaker camp and, as Quakers tend to be, we were very conscious of what was happening in the world, even while we were retreating from it at summer camp. Of course, in 1989 we didn’t have Smartphones nor did we have much access to the internet so we couldn’t stay connected 24/7/365. We did, however, have access to the daily news. We followed the protests and standoff in China with grave interest. Our interest turned to horror as the massacre began on June 4th.

It touched all of us – directors, counselors, staff, and youth. To process what we had witnessed, we decided to have an activity in which counselors and youth together would create posters and artwork to symbolized our care and concern for the protesters and solidarity with them.

I wonder…would any of us then ever have believed we’d be at a place today, in 2020, when we are holding our breath and hoping we don’t have our own LaFayette Square massacre? I wonder, too, what will we remember and memoralize about this day on future June Fourths?


View the Webinar: Tenacity, Humility, and Collaborative Leadership

On June 2nd I joined Liz Weaver for a conversation in a Tamarack Institute webinar. If you were not able to be a part of the webinar live (it was over subscribed!), you can still view it here. Be sure to check out the other webinar resources from Tamarack Institute. Co-CEOs Liz Weaver, Paul Born, and their staff have been terrific partners with Tenacious Change LLC over the past few years and I feel honored to have been able to do this webinar with them. I love their work and their thinking! If you haven’t met them before, now is the time!


stories of covid-19

Hope Crenshaw, PhD leads Teen Health Mississippi in Jackson. On March 13 & 14, as the country was beginning to go into “lockdown” because of COVID-19, I was with Hope, her Board of Directors, and staff in Jackson and we were working on a new strategy plan for the organization. As we met we had no idea how severely COVID-19 would impact everyone and everything.

One of the things that leaders do in the midst in crisis is consider how their mission fits with the need of the moment. As Hope and her team saw COVID-19 roll into Mississippi they began to think about the needs of the youth they serve and develop a plan to help.

They quickly recognized that the impact of the pandemic on youth was not a priority for planners. Yet they knew that closures would mean that many youth would lose their seasonal and part-time jobs. For these young people the jobs meant they could save for college, help out their family, or even just simply eat. Though Teen Health Mississippi is an organization with the mission to provide youth with full, complete, and honest sex education, they knew the lack of income might also put some young people at sexual risk.

In response Teen Health Mississippi started the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for youth. Their goal is to award at least $100,000 in emergency relief to Mississippi youth. To date they have received nearly 4,000 applications for help and they’ve awarded over $7,000 in assistance to 125 of the neediest youth. As they consider the applications, here is what they are learning about the youth who are applying:

  • 63% are experiencing food insecurty
  • 41% are experiencing homelessess
  • 32% lack the proper technology for distance learning to stay in school

I know the needs are great at this time everywhere. You may already be doing a lot in your community to help meet the needs created by COVID-19 and to help right the wrongs of racial injustice. Still, I ask that you consider helping Teen Health Mississippi if you are able. In 2020 the State of Mississippi remains the poorest of these United States. For this reason, their need may be even greater than the rest of the country.

I have had the honor of working with Hope, her staff, and her board for over 2 years now. I know them very well. I can recommend them and this cause to you without reservation. Clemencia and I are planning to make a contribution to this fund to help them get to their $100,000 goal. It won’t be as much as we’d like to do, but it will be something and it will help. Thank you for your consideration.

To learn more about Teen Health Mississippi, visit its website, of course, but also learn more about the fund:


A clarification

A few weeks back I invited you and other readers to this blog with the promise that it would not be a partisan space. It may not always seem that way because I have been pretty outspoken, especially in the midst of the protests, against the presidency of Donald Trump. Let me explain: I do not consider criticizing Trump to be a partisan act, even though he identifies as a Republican (well, at least right now…he has changed his party affiliation five times since 1987).

There is a big difference in speaking out against the presidency of Trump and against or for any political party. History is going to report that Trump was not a Republican but a self-absorbed demogogue who would align himself with any party so long as he thought there was a personal benefit. He’d be a Democrat today if he thought it would have a greater benefit to him.

The realization that Trump is not a Republican is a fact that many Republicans are coming to, such as those in the Lincoln Project and Republicans Voters Against Trump, which launched its first national ad last week.

Why do I speak harshly about Trump at all? Why not just ignore him? Well, I’ve tried doing that. Unfortunately my conscience won’t let me. The line I use to describe my consultancy, Tenacious Change LLC, is this: Animating people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. This is a mission anchored in a clear ethical and moral understanding of our purpose in this world. It is to work for the greater good of all and that also requires us to stand for the greater good. To do anything less is to live an incongruent, divided life. Therefore, when I see the lawlessness of the president and the harm that is being done to so many by Trump, it is no longer ethical or moral for me to remain silent.

I mentioned in a blog last week that I have a diverse group of friends and, yes, that means politically as well. In my circle of friends, colleagues, clients, and collaborators most identify as either Republicans or Democrats but some have different political leanings from these. I hold ideas and viewpoints in common with each of them and I care about each person. I must confess though that I care a bit more for my Republican friends at this moment because I believe many of them are suffering deeply over Trump.

To be clear, when I write about Trump, I’m not writing about all Republicans. I know the differences among the Republicans. I know there are those who are just as appalled and disgusted by Trump as I am. I know there are those who follow him because he is an accomplished liar and they’ve been truly deceived into following. I know there are those who mistakenly yet truly believe he represents Republican values. I know there are those which are merely his “toadies” and who are following him to get whatever promises he has made to them. I know there are those who feign followership because they know they can use his inexperience and incompetence to their advantage.

I also know all of this may seem like splitting hairs to some of my readers. However, I can see a clear distinction and will do my best to continue to make that distinction in this space.


Chickenman – Episode 48

Uh, oh, Chickenman struggles to regain his memory after a big bump on the head. Even worse, the Police Commissioner is trying to help him. If it seems that only Ms. Helfinger has a clue about anyting in this series, you are right.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, and keep justice, peace, and health in your heart.

Tom

%d bloggers like this: