All posts by Terry Howard

© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and story teller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga New Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Shenandoah Valley Hit, Catalyst, The Echo World, founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

Navigating the “touch, no touch” quagmire: Part 2 – by Terry Howard

“Reach out and touch someone and make this a better world if you can.”  ~ Diana Ross

Wow, before the ink was dry on my, “Hug me not Joe Biden,” fundamentally a “don’t touch” (or touch selectively) advisory, in the American Diversity Report, along comes Tiffany Field who has spent decades trying to get people to do just the opposite…. touch one another more.

Okay, I say don’t touch, she says do touch!

So what gives?

Continue reading Navigating the “touch, no touch” quagmire: Part 2 – by Terry Howard

Hug me not Joe: Part 1 – by Terry Howard

Joe hugged!

Joe’s hugging ignited a media firestorm!

Joe as in Joe Biden, former VP who’s tottering on a decision to make a run for president.

Now this narrative less about Biden and more about hugging and the need to both establish and/or reset social norms relative to personal boundaries. More than anything this is a wake-up call on hugging and the issues and questions the behavior raises.

So let’s get started.

Continue reading Hug me not Joe: Part 1 – by Terry Howard

Thou art the outside agitator! – by Terry Howard

In her enormously important book, Going Southern, Deborah Levine takes the inquisitive reader deep into many aspects of life in the South, Southern culture and other things people need to know about we Southern folks.

And she courageously touches on the thorny issue of race as an undeniable part of southern history. Her experiences and mine are about occasionally stepping into racial landmines, reconciliation, contrition and hope.

Here’s one of my recent ones.

Continue reading Thou art the outside agitator! – by Terry Howard

From “I wish” to “I’m glad!” – by Terry Howard

“I wish I’d spent more time with her,” shared “Paul.” His moistened eyes trailed off over my shoulder as he talked about having recently lost of his mother.

For sure, it’s an uncomfortable thought, but I suspect that we all can relate in some way to Paul’s remorse. Replace his “her” with your “her” (or “him”) and put it into a different context – a child off to college, the military, etc., or like Paul, the passing of a loved one – and we can understand the impact of missing those irretrievable moments of opportunity in life.

Okay, think for a few seconds about a “I wish I’d spent more time” situation in your life. Jot it down on a piece of paper. What got in the way of your spending that time? Were there factors within your control? What could you possibly do to avoid that the next time?

Continue reading From “I wish” to “I’m glad!” – by Terry Howard

When Nobody’s Looking: the Northam Moment! – by Terry Howard

Sigh, here we are again folks. Race…America…2019!

Like those meddlesome spring dandelions in the front yard, the specter of race keeps coming up as a slap upside the head reminder of how far we’ve come yet how far we need to go. One step forward, two, three, four, five steps back.

Here’s the latest “what the heck was he thinking” moment; one, I add with disgust, broke in the headlines on the first day of African American History Month in a state where 400 years ago the first slaves were hauled off in chains onto the shores in Virginia.

Continue reading When Nobody’s Looking: the Northam Moment! – by Terry Howard

The Case for Dialogue – by Terry Howard

Should I, or should I not?

At this moment I’m grappling with that question, staring numbly at still another request to accept someone’s request to be their “friend” on Facebook. And here I am again gritting my teeth, vacillating between two options, three actually – accept, decline or ignore – and the potential reactions to any one of them.

Now here’s what’s gnawing at me: Many of those who ask me to join them on Facebook are some great individuals, people I deeply respect and immensely enjoy one-on-one interactions with. Yet my fear stems from this question: “If I ‘accept,’ will it diminish our ability to dialogue?”

Look, maybe I’m part of a vanishing genre of generational dinosaurs who’s hoping against hope that good old-fashioned face-to-face dialogue doesn’t get lost in social media frenzy. Yes dialogue, the art of opening the mouth to a two-way flow of sounds, sentences and syllables through a mosaic of accents and cadences – ideally one person talking, the other listening, and vice versa.

Now to be clear, I’m not talking about yapping on the phone, talking “about,” “over,” “around,” “behind” or “down” to others. Nor am I talking about “trash” talking,” or just plain talking too much. What I am talking about is doing more of what mouths were designed to do (beyond the consumption of food, liquid or an occasional foot) ….. D-I-A-L-O-G-U-I-N-G!

So, what are some contemporary inhibitors to good old fashion dialogue? We’ll get back to that momentarily. But first this anecdote.
Years ago, a power loss occurred in my building as temperatures outside soared into the 100s. Suddenly, laptop screens went black and overhead lights flickered before going completely out. One by one, folks cautiously eased out of their offices and actually talked to each other. Only moments before these same people had been e-mailing each other in, get this, adjacent offices. I mean they’d spent an entire day – eight hours – without actually talking to each other.
Now, the few extroverts were loving every bit of this unscheduled opportunity to talk. The introverts, the majority, were unnerved by being thrust out into the open. Twenty minutes later the lights flickered back on. Like deer caught in headlights, the introverts froze temporarily then darted back into their offices while the extroverts continued to relish the opportunity for an afternoon chat.

This scenario is analogous to how we sometimes act when thrust into the “headlights” of opportunities for face-to-face dialogue. So what are the headlights, those inhibitors to dialogue? Well, two come immediately come to mind for me.

First, in our culture we just don’t have time for each other. Our plates are overrun with things to get done. We’re always seem to be “going somewhere,” on the cellphone, or on the way to a meeting. Restroom breaks, doctor appointments and sit down family dinners seem to inconvenience us. That’s headlight number one.
The second headlight? The fear of the “OMIF” (Open Mouth, Insert Foot) disease, AKA the fear of offending someone. Given the contemporary maze of ethnic, race, gender, religious, language, age differences, awkward moments and slips of tongue are virtually inevitable.

So what do we do? How about deciding between engaging in “proactive” versus “reactive” dialogue.”

Proactive dialogue is driven by genuine curiosity, respect, trust, and personal growth. Reactive dialogue occurs when we are forced by circumstances – unfortunate circumstances in many instances – or damage control to dialogue. If we invest in the first inexpensive choice, the need for the second expensive one becomes highly unlikely.

Wrote Robert Lewis Stevenson: Talk is by far the most accessible of pleasures. It costs nothing in money or profit, it completes our education, forges and fosters friendships and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any condition of health.”

So if I keep getting requests to be Facebook friends and decline or just ignore some of them – and, okay, maybe even yours – don’t take it personally. But I will accept any and all requests for face-to-face dialogue. That you can take to the bank. … And the check won’t bounce.

Valuing the Remnants! – by Terry Howard

The first thing that caught my eye when I entered that carpet store was the separation between the multi-colored, expensive looking carpets lined up vertically on the right wall and, by contrast, the mundane remnants stacked in horizontal piles on the left. Oddly, those images got me thinking about the evidence of societal human separation. It also reminded me of something Oprah Winfrey wrote recently.

Let’s start with Oprah.

Now with the exception of a billion dollars  – like she got it, I don’t – Ms. Winfrey and I have something in common; we both know, as millions do, that the undeniable truth is that our nation has reached a dangerous fraying around the edges, an implosion of our fundamental values and, in the words of Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, we’re dropping verbal litter into the public square. And it seems that there’s no end in sight.

Continue reading Valuing the Remnants! – by Terry Howard

When Bias Comes Knocking – by Terry Howard

During my highly visible role as diversity and inclusion director at two Fortune 500 companies, I wrote internal articles read by people across the globe. I also had to make difficult decisions, sometimes with potentially significant financial consequences, for the organization. Following is a major decision I made and the national fallout in one company. That’s followed by a few responses I received in response to internal articles I wrote. Note that topics of sexual orientation or Islam/Muslims seemed to generate these messages to me:

Continue reading When Bias Comes Knocking – by Terry Howard

First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – by Terry Howard

She knew full well that a lot of my waking hours are spent reading, writing, listening and reminiscing. Knowing that – and, I suspect, on a hunch – she picked up an extra copy of former first lady Michelle Obama’s soon to be best-selling memoir, Becoming.

The “she” I’m referring to here is “Shree,” a regular among our daily conversation crew at a local coffee shop.

Now on this particular Sunday morning, I was halfway through Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts’ excellent review of Becoming when Shree walked in and plopped Michelle’s book down in front of me. She saw the look of jubilation on my face and, Shree being Shree, refused my command to pay for the book and left in a hurry.

Continue reading First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” – by Terry Howard

Dismantling Images of Slavery: Interview with Ken Venable – by Terry Howard

Recently I sat down with Ken Venable inside a coffee shop in Staunton, Virginia, a city recently made famous when the school board – with Venable a member – voted to remove the name of the confederate general Robert E. Lee from the one high school in town.
Now it’s important to cast our conversation against an uncomfortable reminder; that being the complexity of race in small southern towns like Staunton where the specter of race remains ever lurking beneath the distinctive charm of many such towns. Strong feelings on both sides of the contentious debate – “Save the name” versus “The name still hurts” – about the image of Robert E. Lee is a contemporary example.

Here’s our conversation:
Continue reading Dismantling Images of Slavery: Interview with Ken Venable – by Terry Howard