Years ago, I sat on a bench in a neighborhood park watching my toddler play in the sandbox. A young woman sat down next to me and commented on how adorable my sweetie was. No better way to get a young mother talking than that. So after trading a few more comments on my two-year old, I asked her if she lived near the park like me. Her answer startled me, “I’m officially homeless as of 8 am this morning.”
I turned and stared at her. “I called the police to tell them that my boyfriend was threatening me with a gun. They came immediately, but instead of arresting him, they told me to leave the apartment because I was agitating him.” Smiling at my confusion, she showed me a black-and-blue mark on her arm and said, “How do you think I got this?” Then she said that the police advised her she to never go back because they couldn’t guarantee her safety. “It’s my apartment, under my name, I furnished it and pay the rent! I should at least be able to get my clothes. ” I couldn’t think of anything to say as she wandered off muttering, “I need to find a shelter somewhere.”
The Systemic Diversity and Inclusive group gladly presents the recent interview with Deborah Levine, The Editor-in-Chief at the American Diversity Report and a member of the group. The interview was moderated by one of our own, Pamela Teagarden, a leader in her own right, and one of our own who has continuously provided unparalleled leadership to the group. Deborah is well endowed with a wealth of diversity and corporate experience. She is an expert in deciphering the framework for meaningful diversity and inclusion and inventor of a cognitive technology for dealing with unconscious bias. While making the case for infusion of competing perspectives, she can guide us to find common ground that fosters effective diversity and inclusion while advocating for the planning of strategic business priorities with emotional intelligence and smart decision making. Without further delay, please watch this remarkable lady and how she shared her work on systemic diversity…
In the 1990s, I made my first trip to Bermuda in fifteen years. My family, once the mainstay of Bermuda Jews, were long gone from the island. The first whiff of salty sea air hasn’t changed but the airport is a jumble of construction. A short jog across the tarmac should end in a hushed wait for the appearance of a customs agent, sitting patiently on the dark wood furniture of the terminal’s old-fashioned waiting room. Today, official greeters wave us through a temporary cordoned maze to a terminal with a second story, a food court, and customs agents encased in glass booths. An electronically-enhanced steel band strikes an earnest rendition of “Island in the Sun” where a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth once hung.
No PR firm could have rocketed the new Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar onto the national scene as quickly as her comments on Israel, Jews, and pay-offs. Congress’ debate on how to censure her use of centuries old stereotypes ended with a general denouncement of hate groups, but she remained front and center. I saw Congress’ official response to Omar’s words as a wishy-washy, no-brainer attempt to avoid a statement regarding Israelis and Palestinians. They should be able to do more than echo the Month Python joke, “Run Away! Run Away!”
“I can’t be that old!” I muttered when I saw the latest cover of my Harvard alumni magazine. It commemorated the year 1969, fifty years ago, with the phrase “Time of Turmoil”. The article explains how “The images of that time remain vivid for those who lived through it…” They’re more than vivid for me. The campus turned into Protest Alley and tear gas rose up from the streets. There were Civil Rights marches and demonstrations and students demanding African-American studies. There was a blossoming Women’s Liberation Movement as the women’s college Radcliffe merged with Harvard. Today’s activists use similar strategies of marches, signs, and slogans, but with an internet megaphone.
The day of the Bigger the Better came to an epic crash when Amazon pulled out of a deal to build its new headquarters in Queens, a borough outside of New York City. The huge investment was going to result in 25,000 new jobs and millions, if not billions, in new tax revenue to support schools, housing, and infrastructure. But the $3 billion dollars in tax breaks was controversial and local objections meant that Amazon activated its ‘Run Away’ mode.
Like anyone who’s spent years working in Manhattan, I know that New Yorkers’ protests can be loud, insistent, and downright aggressive. That’s why Frank Sinatra sang about New York, “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” Was Amazon unprepared or just annoyed by the New York normal? Its abrupt exit shocked New Yorkers and prompted NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to say, “Amazon couldn’t handle the heat” and the debacle was an “abuse of corporate power.” The incident prompted political diatribes, tweets, and cartoons galore, but little understanding of the key issues at stake.
The recent kerfuffle involving Chinese graduate students speaking in their native language during a break at Duke University underscores our growing hostility towards internationals. The head of a master’s program urged the students to speak and practice English 100%. Even if it’s just private conversations in Chinese, she worried that they’d be overheard and discriminated against for not speaking English. As the controversy exploded, she stepped down as program head while Duke reassured its international students that they were valued.
International students make up 14% of Duke’s class of 2021 and are a substantial revenue source for the university’s revenue, like many of our higher education institutions. It’s not surprising that Duke respects these students’ contribution to their ongoing existence. The university chose not to buy into the current fear and loathing of anything foreign that generates suspicion, dislike, and even violence. There is little to be gained in allowing the negative trends to overcome common sense and the common good.
The partial shutdown that President Trump and two branches of government agreed to lift temporarily left thousands of families with no income, with many forced to work without a paycheck, relying on reimbursement in the vague future. Their unemployment and indentured servitude has put a spotlight on their need for the basics of survival. The idea of these families going hungry has affected all of us and the impact is growing. It’s impressive that people are helping them with donations, restaurants are serving free meals, and food pantries are gearing up for waves of new clients. Let’s hope that the generosity and humanity currently on display remains alive and well after the resolution of the shutdown.
Of the top stories summing up 2018 and predictions for 2019, few mentioned the escalating rate of suicide. Adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, the highest rate recorded in 28 years. Yet, despite about 129 suicides per day across the country, the topic remains in the shadows.
You may think that Tennessee is an exception, but we have twice as many suicides than homicides. With a suicide rate well above the national average, suicide is the tenth cause of death in our state. Tennessee averages one suicide every eight hours. And the situation continually worsens. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network reports that suicide deaths have steadily increased over the last 35 years since they’ve been monitoring suicide.
We struggle to resist the temptation minute to minute this time of year. It begins with Halloween candy and proceeds to Thanksgiving dinner, exploding with holiday eating extravaganzas with the year’s tastiest foods. By the New Year, the scale shows our over-indulgence. It’s no coincidence that 12% of gym members join in January.
Maybe this year we’ll wake up to the fact that 30 million Americans suffer from the obesity-related disease of diabetes. Did you know that the ten states with the highest rates of type 2 diabetes are here in the South?