I'm back. I'm back to writing, I'm back to performing, I'm back to speaking, I'm back to doing.
I apologize for leaving you. It was longer than I intended. Words are powerful. It matters what we say. When my words started attracting a following, and interest from businesses and academics, I wanted to make sure that those influenced by my words were being led down a path of light.
I am human, and flawed and I wanted to make sure that the systems that we are working to redesign and rebuild are built in a way that reflects the God that I know. The God that loves, that listens , that accepts everyone for who they are and motivates them to be better. I didn't want to contribute to the systems that worship a God that exploits, causes pain, or that creates separation and division among people. This doesn't mean that we are going to shy away from highlighting the effects of ill gained or abused power. Bad leaders and systems have given us racism at West Point, toxic corporate culture, policy that doesn't serve people, war crimes in Rwanda, water poisoning in Flint, disparities in our educational system, media that obscures the truth and sells conflict, and a justice system that profits off of those who are vulnerable. The effects of bad leadership and systems are many. I have written about these issues previously on this blog. These were just a few examples and I hope you get the point, so let's move on.
I didn't want to build a system that is not accessible, but I also understand the need for us to be able to compensate those who contribute to us fairly. Balance is a tight rope to walk. It's hard and I am just like you. I am deeply flawed. I am human. I was created that way and I have accepted that. I am learning to not be crippled by shame, fear, or worry. I want so badly for us to succeed and I do have a slight fear of failure... I don't want to let any of you down.
Running Poetic Change is a huge responsibility. It first started as the answer to my own healing; My medication to trauma and abandonment; my therapist when doctors dismissed my pain ; my way to communicate to a God that had seemed so distant and at times a myth. It has evolved to include so many awesome people from military officers, to academics , to great business leaders, urban planners, activists, politicians, lawyers, a domestic and global community . I have you to thank for that.
No matter what your title , job, or how much power you acquire, eventually we will hit a point where we realize we are not God. We are human, we don't know all the answers, we hurt, and have caused hurt, and want to do better. Humans want love and to love. Poetic Change speaks to that. We speak to collectively keeping ourselves in check , distributing power, and redesigning spaces and systems that need help with balance. Individually we will fail, but collectively we will succeed . The God in me sees and needs the God in you to help create profitable, successful, inclusive, and equitable systems that reflect the love that we all desire.
Those who have contributed to this journey, on faith, and who I still owe, I thank you. To my many managers and team members who allowed me the flexibility to explore different business models with the safety of having a full time job to fall back on, I thank you. I'm thankful to all of the lawyers who have provided legal council in these matters and in the matters of civil rights . Your expertise has been more valuable than most of what I have learned in a classroom. I'm also thankful to my academic counselors and coaches. They stopped me from comparing myself to others, and to instead focus on getting the most out of this journey every single day.
My life is full because of people, not because of accomplishments or credentials. And because my life is fulfilled in this way, I will take my time, and do my best to put people first. I am thankful to my husband for helping me to keep my heart open. Life is full of much trouble, I read that in the bible somewhere. ( Job 14).. and that trouble can easily harden one's heart. It happened to me. And I was set free through love.
It is this need to work on myself. This need to get to a spot where I could breathe and digest all that I have learned about how this world works, the realization of who really has power, the keys to gaining it and the process to shift the results of this human experience to reflect more of the God that I know , the God of love and ethics and understanding, that this has taken so long. But I'm back. We're Back and We're ready to let you in again. .. Stay tuned for updates. Love you all. I haven't forgotten about you. Everything in time. Here's to Poetic Change! I'm excited to show you all that I have been working on. :-)
This post is not my story. I tend to have many conversations with people. Some want to give voice to their experiences. Poetic Change exists to shed light on many realities in order to educate, and inspire a broader understanding of humanity. My hope is that this will also inspire those who continue to read this blog to become more self aware. I can't change you , and I can't change others. All I can do is help you change yourself. These are universal rules for all environments. Do you want to get better? Do you want us to grow? These types of stories are tools to help us do so. Change starts with us.
In Tirzah Johnson's own words -
"This has been bothering me for a while.
About a year ago, I was at a party where a girl asked why blacks were being shot by police officers so often. She suggested it was because the people were less educated.
I thought about it and said calmly, “I guess it’s all about perception.”
She gave me a blank look and asked what I meant. “Well, let’s see, how did you benchmark my intelligence? What did you think I was like when I walked into this party and introduced myself to each of you 2 hours ago?”
She got quiet, so I continued, “You knew nothing about me, who I am or where I came from but you knew enough to discern that I was black and that you could ask me this question, right? Guess what you also didn’t know … that I have a degree. I’m here just like you, and I don’t wear a collar that says educated … If a policeman passes the quick judgment to shoot first and ask questions later, it doesn’t matter how educated we are.”
She was a little taken back by it … but I felt I was being honest and the conversation has stuck with me. Even if people think that blacks are more or less educated, that shouldn’t determine the value of our lives.
But you know perception is 9/10 of the law.
My parents’ car broke down two months ago.
I went and picked up my mom while my dad waited for the tow truck. We were on the way back to him and he called saying the police had completely surrounded his car with their guns drawn. I was damn near in tears and my mom kept telling me to calm down.
That fear is real and it hasn’t gone anywhere. I thank God everyday that he’s not a hashtag.
Anyone who knows my father (or how crazy I am about him) knows he is all about the community, doing the right thing, and being involved in shaping the next generation. The definition of phenomenal. In their eyes, they saw a black man, sitting in a car in the dark. I say this to remind you, it is not just the troublemakers, drug dealers, and thugs. These are friends, family members, and neighbors at risk. I don’t hate the police. I just wish that I didn’t have to fear them taking away the people I love without cause.
So to all my friends who believe this is a joke, feel like the black community is overreacting, or believe it is just the ‘thugs.’ There’s much more to the story. This is real, beyond real for me and my family, but it CAN change."
*This post was first published on Tirzah's blog , FLOMM. A link to the original article can be found here
'My friends are DOPE. .... and one leads a DOPE movement. Shantae J Edwards, is a life coach , mentor, and passion pusher. She's also a spoken word poet, but don't tell her that I told you. As one of my mentors and friends, she is the only person who sends me weekly inspirational texts to remind me of my own power and worth. What a great person, right? Many , Including myself, struggle with feeling worthy or good enough. I sometimes struggle with feeling loved or valued. We are human and we all have our flaws. It is because of people like Shantae that I have learned to not be so hard on myself and to care less of what people think of me. What really matters is what I think of me.
Sometimes, it can be hard being content with how I am. I used to think that my worth was tied to others perception and opinions of me. Love was conditional. It was purchased through my actions , work and ability to produce. It was dependent on my accomplishments, or how attractive I was, the athletic feats I could accomplish, how much money I made, or how great my academic grades were. This was a very meritocratic way of thinking about love, worth , and Identity. It caused me to continuously over extend and be in draining situations. When I came to the realization that my mere existence is enough, that by being here and alive I have purpose and my presence has altered reality just by living, I was freed from fear. I became more independent. Fear can be paralyzing. I found that I constantly feared failure. I feared letting others down so much so, that I neglected my own needs. ( My fiance' and group of close friends are still working with me on boundaries, self care, and planning... it's hard.... this is a whole 'nother blog post.)
Realizing your worth is the first step to freedom and gaining power ( empowerment). When we realize that we are enough. It changes the game and shifts perspective. Don't let others price your life.
Some will say Jesus already paid that price, others will allude to the historic end of slavery and expansion of the free market being road ways to freedom. What ever helps you realize that you are in control of your worth, and your mattering in this small world, I'm for it.
You Matter. You are Matter, dynamic pieces of creation that are necessary to life. So live, be free, and know that You. Are. Enough.
If you are in need of more inspiration, watch this dynamic Tedx Talk by my friend , passion pusher, and leader of #IAMDOPE, Shantae J Edwards.
Click the video below and visit her at www.thepassionpusher.com and
twitter at twitter.com/theshantaej
I woke up to a call from my dad reciting "Invictcus" by William Ernest Hensley and poetry by Robert Frost to encourage me to not let life happen to me, I need to happen to it.
He reminded me of the stories of a young Muhammad Ali who no one believed in, and wanted to shut up. He spoke of Abraham Lincoln who was committed to an insane asylum and of Walt Disney who was denied from multiple opportunities. My Dad has attended the Pacific Institute, a prestigious global consultancy that helps talented people realize their potential. He spoke of self talk, and reminded me of my Uncle who was the first governor of the Bahamas and friends of George Washington Carver and Booker T Washington. He told me of my family's ties to Tuskegee University, and reminded me of the skills that I have learned from my ancestors, their decedents , and my family of revolutionary and intelligent black people. Yes! I'm special. I remember.
You all don't know this, but I have cried after meeting with admissions counselors from various Massachusetts universities who have looked at my high school record, my college record, the work that I have done, and have told me that while I have done some amazing things, that they aren't sure that I'd be a great fit because of my commitment level. Basically some schools either wanted me to drop Poetic Change, labeled me a "privileged black girl " who has wasted great opportunities and now has to face the consequences of life, or want to take credit for my work that didn't include them. I've also been rejected from multiple business accelerators and incubators, mostly because I wasn't properly prepared with sustainable revenue models other than word of mouth referrals, and training that required me to teach it. Many of these accelerators are geared for technology companies that want to scale. Some can't grasp that I am focusing on impact first, then profits. If I build a great product with great results, the profits will come without much marketing or need for a sales team. Those that rejected me can't see that these referrals sustain me........ But, ya'll know that my network runs deep.
Now, for those who remember my crusade to graduate from Harvard, it is still going on. Cambridge/ Boston is expensive and so is Harvard. Finding the balance between adulting, creating a sustainable business, and student life is overwhelmingly challenging. It requires a new level of self discipline that I am learning. The financial burden of classes is a reason I chose to be employed part-time at Harvard Law. By working in the technology department at Harvard after a certain amount of time, I am granted free and reduced classes. I am determined to graduate with little to no student debt.
This plan was going well until I was informed a month ago of a restructuring that would force myself and a few of my co-workers to compete for one available full-time position. This presented another dilemma. I love my part-time job and the people, but could I commit full-time? I mean Poetic Change has paying clients, we are doing great work, we are very close to being able to afford hiring our first employees. Would full time employment at a demanding job jeopardize this progress? Also, by not taking it, am I jeopardizing my personal growth, well being , and education? This struggle is real. Currently, I have interviewed and I think I got the job, but our HR department is on vacation, so they have yet to inform us. We are all waiting.
In the meantime, I've been working to make Poetic Change more profitable and sustainable. A constant theme in my life has been that when I rely on other entities for my well-being by investing my time and work for them, I am let down. My leadership means well and does what they can to protect me, but at the end of the day this economy is unstable. When budgets get cut, so do people. My journey into entrepreneurship has been a solution for survival and protection for myself , family, and my talented friends.
So back to this morning.....................................................................
After I got off of the surprise phone call with my dad, I received another call from a university that is interested in me and my work, and a third one from a number with no caller id.
Normally I don't answer calls with no caller Id, but I did, and it was a call from London- Mass Challenge UK ( a business accelerator) to remind me that I only had 1 hour to submit the application for Poetic Change ( I thought I had already done so.) My computer was in my car. After rushing to put on decent clothes to retrieve it ( we park on the streets here in Boston) , I logged in and was able to fill in the last company evaluation and projection form. It's now done and submitted. I am grateful for organizations with great accountability systems and the spirit (intuition) nudging me to answer that call. All of this happened before 10 am. What a way to wake up! Got me feeling like Riley.
This reminds me of a quote from one of my mentors,
" I know you trust God, but do you trust you?"
Trust is an action, and by trusting we must move and follow that which we trust. I'm getting better at trusting me, and moving with out apology. I can't control life, but I can control how much I plan, prepare, and react. Poetic Change is here. Dreaming is no longer necessary. It's time to wake up, reach, and be great.
Do you trust you? The world is yours. Create opportunity.
On a separate and unrelated note,
Everyone should raise their fist against injustice. It seems the only people who are offended by the fist, have similar views as these neo-nazis.
Let's not forget that if it wasn't for the strength of the U.S. Army during WWII, raising their mighty fist of justice against injustice, these supremacists would have caused much more pain.
This lady is so brave and strong.
Be like her.
I perceive this photograph to mean that General Dempsey supports a black political cause. He should be reminded of UCMJ policies.
This picture would be ok if he were not uniform! I've never heard of the rocket cheer or the army strong pose. What are they teaching people up at West Point? Keep politics and political correctness out of our army. How will his soldiers perceive him?
This will only divide us. You think a General would know better.
- ---(Disclaimer: This is satire).
I deleted the first article that I wrote about this. It was too much, a bit unnecessary ,and I am tired.
I will do my best to focus on solutions rather than problems. I will only mention problems as a means to lead to solutions and nothing more. I will admit that I do hold a bit of resentment from my West Point Experience. I was hurt deeply by it and am still healing from it. I will try to not let my pain bleed into this situation. So are ya'll ready? Here we go.
Here's what I know:
We are witnessing change. West Point is innovating. Its policies are changing, and it is actively working to change its demographic to produce officers who are as diverse as their soldiers.
Change is uncomfortable, hard, and people will fight it.
West Point's Class of 2016 is scheduled to graduate in approximately two weeks. Some cadets and faculty are doing their best to prevent all but one of the black women in this class from graduating. 16 out of the 17 Black Women in a class of approx 1200 cadets are under investigation and may be kicked out of the army over a picture of themselves holding the "army strong" pose. This pose requires one to raise their fist and is commonly done by the cadet corps during football games and army victories.
Some cadets and faculty members are resisting this necessary change. In an act of rebellion and fear, cadets who are rumored to have been influenced by LTC Daniel Gade, a current professor and member of the chain of command to some of the women under investigation, used a gullible , patriotic, vulnerable veteran by the name ofJohn Burk as a tool to promote their bigoted agenda to prevent a more inclusive , empathetic, innovative, and culturally aware army from forming.
Fear of retaliation? Yea, because his credible sources are liars, who have also broken multiple UCMJ codes and disrespected their chain of commands.
This gesture of a fist is done during every football game, during march on, and during the army strong song. It symbolizes strength and unity, nothing more, and nothing less.
"The problem is not with our strong 16 ladies. No, the problem is instead with the cowards who go behind the backs of their peers , don't follow the rules, and don't show their face. Once they gain the courage to stop hiding, they will see that the people who they are really afraid of is themselves."
Why would members of the West Point community turn on their own?
I would like to believe that all are given a fair shot at life. I would like to say that when our founding fathers wrote "all men are created equal" in our constitution, they meant it. I really would want to fall in love with this inclusive rhetoric of equal worth. But the truth and the sad reality is that in 2016, even after the life and death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. , and after electing our first black president, there is still much work to do here in America. I am saddened that these strong 16 black women who have turned down top colleges to instead join the army, some deploying before even becoming a cadet at West Point, accepted an abnormal and regimented college experience in an effort to become the best leaders that they can for America's sons and daughter, are treated this way.
Why single these amazing women out? Accept that they are not white, nor male. These women cannot change that, and were not recruited to West Point because of those qualities. Instead, I urge every member of the West Point community to embrace one another. You share the common bond of being army strong and making it through a tough institution , while overcoming struggles that are unique to your identities. Our identities and individual culture are what we should collectively embrace and celebrate. Innovation comes from having diverse talent. This competitiveness is what makes America great. Let's continue to improve our army by getting rid of the bigotry and attachment to tradition. I have full faith in these women. They, despite the hate, will make our army great, again.
To gain more insight into what it is like to attend West Point as a black woman. Read these personal narratives from West Point graduates, Mary Tobin, and Lela Victora. For Mary's note, click here. For Lela's perspective, click here.
As Michael Jackson would say, it's time to look at that man in the mirror.
Change is here. Embrace it , or leave
who have tripped you,
that hurt you
and being able to react
in a way that is sourced in love.
Those, who have tripped you
obstacles that hurt you
have made you learn
to escape death
by loving your self
life can hurt.
I am thankful for
love notes. That remind me of
so many gifts.
I am thankful for
those who use words
Movements are rooted in love,
Are guided by the requests of praying mothers, united by the melody
In our African roots.
We are living proof of the power of the village,
Of the collective voice that speaks healing into our open wounds.
Wounds left by generational trauma, passed down pain, and denial of the slaves as human beings
Our narratives , when validated, are freeing.
I serve he who is all seeing and knowing a
seed does not become a tree without the dirt needed to create an environment for growth.
Struggle shapes my character. It in the base of my resolve to do better, to be better.
I am the fruit,
A product from those trees strong enough to withstand the storms.
I am royal,
which is why my roses have thorns-
To protect the beauty of my people,
To keep the playing field equal
Our strength comes from our struggle.
We are a resilient people, whom God took the time to paint and add extra clay to protect us from the rays of the sunlight.
We are diamond.
That reflects the light of creator, The prism that shapes visions.
We are more powerful than we see.
To God be the glory
I dream of the possibilities. I pray for the opportunities for us
To find our lights and let them shine.
We are children of the divine.
Who are being polished and buffed by life
Which is rough as coal.
But it is through our example that we invoke change.
It is through our words that we add meaning to our names.
We cannot stay the same.
We must learn, and grow, and do.
From Black twitter, to Black Wall Street, to the Congressional Black Caucus,
Individual atoms pressed together under pressure and fused with friction,
Create an immovable solid.
We are each other’s foundation
And we cannot progress without you.
Poem by K. Kylila Bullard Copyright 2015 Poetic Change
Written permission by Kylila , who is the Author of this poem and Founder of Poetic Change, is required for all reproduction, reference, and publishing of any intellectual property found on this website.
We are witnessing The New American Renaissance (similar to the one in Harlem)
Remember when I asked how much more?
Well.... I think he's had enough.
We are owning and rewriting our narrative.
This is what pain does,...
it creates powerful art.
It burns what is useless and selfish.
It creates resilience.
This is true black privilege.
This is what it means to be black when it's time to be black.
Like dust... we rise. We Fly. Black butterfly.
and "We gon' be Alright"... I hear you Kendrick.
Check out Kendrick Lamar's Breathtaking Grammy Performance, Here.
The monster in me,
I cannot escape myself.
These strong feelings of intense joy, anger, guilt, responsibility.
I am sensitive to my surroundings,
and those people who frequent my domicile.
Intensity pushes work.
It yields an abundance of stress. Wondering when will I be good enough?
Justifying when , where , and how I rest.
The monster in me,
reminds me that I am human.
that I need help,
that life is a struggle to maintain balance.
To conquer the world, we must first conquer ourselves.
The monster in me,
can sometimes sound like the harsh words of disapproval,
the disempowerment of women,
the self righteous zealot , the grudge holding racist, or that annoying troll.
The monster in me,
is a generational trauma that has deep roots in my ethnicity.
It was watered in broken homes. It was fed through addiction .
It was tricked into believing what is slavery, was freedom.
fights to influence the good part of me.
The monster in me,
can sometimes hurt those I love.
Because hurt people hurt people, and we are all recovering.
And in our recovery
we may need silence.
we may need acceptance and patience.
We may need a God who doesn't resemble
the monster in me.
- K. Kylila Bullard
Please do not reproduce with out written, or an emailed approval from the author ( Kylila Bullard of Poetic Change) of this poem.
Recently, I have taken interest in learning how to code............. Why?
Because Coding is AWESOME!
So awesome, that it allows one a greater depth of freedom, and I LOVE FREEDOM!!
Can you tell that I'm pumped up to acquire this new skill? :-) Good.
The most important tool that we have is our story. There is power in telling our truths, because it creates connection. Your voice matters. In fact, it matters so much that our founding fathers wrote extensive provisions to protect it in our Constitution of the U.S. In fact our entire government structure runs on the voice ( vote) of those who make themselves loud enough. Think about it, our very first amendment protects our freedom of speech.
Why? Because it is the source of our power.
We should not be afraid to speak, even if it makes others uncomfortable, because as a human and an American, we have those rights.
It is unconstitutional to have our voices suppressed, but it keeps happening. Don't believe me?
Look at the charges justified by the Patriot Act and brought to the family of Michael Brown, and the countless other families who have lost loved ones due to excessive police force. But yet, the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church are allowed to make direct hate filled threats, under the guise of the freedom of speech.
Voting Rights Act Timeline:
I have always said that I love the ideals , principles, and values by which the United States was founded. I do not love the inequality as to how these freedoms and rights have been historically applied. It wasn't until 1787 that black and poor people voices were recognized under the 3/5 compromise. Many interpreted this act to mean that one male black or poor person 's voice was the equivalent to three-fifths of that of a wealthy white male . It was not until August, 18, 1920 that wealthy white women's voices were acknowledged through voting. 50 years ago, in 1965, a black person's voice, and story was finally counted as of equal importance to their fellow Americans. However there still exists great barriers to even being qualified to vote. 1965 is also when our country began a rapid stride toward progress and equality through beginning to break down the socio-economic and political barriers that were the foundation pillars of oppression.
Our power is in our ability to not only tell our stories, but to be heard. The great equalizer and amplifier is the tool of technology. Today we are equipped with tools that our ancestors would have killed for. Imagine what more Fredrick Douglas, Marcus Garvey, Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King, Jr would have done if they had the organizational tool of Black Twitter, or were able to amplify their voice through the internet.
We have a responsibility, in the name of freedom, equality , and accountability to become educated about both histories, ( Our personal stories, and the greater communities in which we live) to learn what is missing. Then we must amplify our voices. We must speak, un-apologetically. It is not only your constitutional right, but your responsibility as a citizen .
Now do you understand why I am so excited to learn how to code?
To sum it up.... .FREEDOM!
I will no longer have to ask for permission, or wait to have someone else speak for me.
Through coding, we can create anything that we want.
Oh, and guess what?
I'm not the only one who has figured out that technology is the next tool to be used in our arsenal of progress and civil liberties. ..........................................................................
....... So have most code schools.
A friend from General Assembly- a startup code school- sent me a list of scholarships for those who have been historically under served.
Yes, Military Veterans, are included too!
Check out these opportunities and grab you a slice from the freedom pie. :-)
Ok, I'm done lol.
But really , check it out.
and Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Black Girls Code
Free resources for anyone
There I was...... Sitting in Harvard Square, listening to the guitar of a street performer while rewarding myself with a $2.00 cup of frozen yogurt for completing the day's goals. An older gentleman wheeling an oxygen tank and amp sat next to me. He started a conversation about my shirt that read "Wicked Smaht" ( really smart)- SN I saw the shirt in the Harvard Coop ( school bookstore) thought that it was funny and bought it. ... don't judge, lol.
This gentleman wanted me to acknowledge that he is smart as well, which I did . We agreed that intelligence is a relative concept because there is much to be learned from everyone. Intrigued that I was open to listening to his ideas, he began explaining his life, his study of classism, his dissection of Plato's republic and other philosophers ideas of the perfect society ( showed him Jake's blog on the Peaceful Republic) , his educational background, his love of art, and how he eventually became homeless. Intrigued, I asked if I could videotape him, and he happily agreed.
Below is the first of many videos that I recorded.
Disclaimer: Harmonica Tom contributed to this video in his personal capacity. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of Poetic Change or any affiliates.
Now, I did my best to research Harmonica Tom, and to check the validity of all that he stated. While I could not find evidence of his academic records from 30-40 years ago, I was able to find some of his homeless activism work. If you are interested to find out more about Harmonica's Tom past, you may check these sources :
And the Homeless People Network , which is an online organization that was founded by Harmonica Tom http://hpn.asu.edu/.
I don't care as much about one's past as I do about one's present and future. I'm am thankful that Harmonica Tom decided to open up to me, and I look forward to many more conversations.
Also, if you have any information to add to this series on Harmonica Tom, please email me at Kylila@poeticchange.org
Members of Poetic Change have noticed a problem, that there are too many leaders who under utilize the talent that is present on their teams. Conformity and uniformity has its benefits. But an environment that is too rigid, is not conducive for innovation. Innovation is born from diversity - diverse talents, different ways of thinking, and diverse people. When a leader does not know how to properly lead and embrace a diverse team, that leader will not receive their full investment from their human capital.
Our Poetic Change Agents set out to change this dynamic in a creative and entertaining way. Our first solution is to bring awareness to the under utilization of talent, and then discuss solutions with our fellow Americans. Our first prototyping of this idea was conducted in Washington D.C. - the home to many Poetic Change Agents. One of our Agents- Ian Tran of Michigan has a background in sustainability and leadership development. He also is a classical violinist with an amazing ear for music and a heart for fusion.
Below are highlights from our first Creative Leadership Pop-up Concerts.
What is StartingBloc? It is a Fellowship for Change Leaders.
To find out more about it please visit their site.
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. "-Alice Walker
Rape is not a result of sexual desire. Rape is used as a tool to dehumanize, to cause one to submit, and to give the attacker a sense of superiority and power over the victim. Rape is also used as a tool to silence, through shame and guilt.
During the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994, an estimated 800,000 people lost their lives and an estimated 250,000-500,000 women were raped during this three month massacre.
Survivors , activists, and lawyers knew the power that existed in their voices. They refused to give that power away. These Change Makers decided to no longer be manipulated by rapists, so they took their attackers to court.
When women speak, culture changes.
When women speak, nations improve.
When women speak, dignity is restored.
In 1997 , for the first time ever, rape was successfully prosecuted as a war crime and an act of genocide. This decision to prosecute rape as a war crime, advanced the "world's legal treatment of rape and sexual violence," as reported by the New York Times and provided the first international definition of rape as "a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive."
"The Uncondemned" is a film that documents this historic journey. It has gained global support, and has started many necessary conversations among those who have the power to change culture.
You have the power to change culture. If you don't know how, you can start by speaking, by becoming educated, and by giving charitably to the causes that you care about.
You also have the chance to become part of our global movement to end rape culture. We definitely need your help to accomplish such a great feat. Any success that is lasting and pure is accomplished as a collective.
Click the button to
Another great workshop was taught by Benjamin Patton, the grandson of General George S. Patton. Having earned a degree in Developmental Psychology, he has dedicated his life to helping veterans heal, express, and find community through the art of film making. His workshop was a mini version of the four day camps that he runs at various military bases. We, a group of strangers, were given the task to create a short film that communicates an emotion or character trait. In less than 4 hours, we were able to successfully complete this task, learn new skills and gain new friends. More information on his work and research can be found at iwastherefilms.org/
I am forever grateful for this opportunity to attend this awesome and inspiring event. There were times where I was almost brought to tears ( shhhh.... don't tell anyone :-) ) due to the overwhelming passion that was felt for helping and healing. I get so motivated when I meet people who have overcome tremendous pain, to add a bit more beauty to the world. The brightest lights shine in darkness. It is even better to be among a thriving community of people who have chosen to shine their lights in order to facilitate a space that nurtures those who have given so much. We are only as great as the lives that we are able to touch. I thank this experience for that reminder. #SelflessService
I am an expert at the failed execution of great ideas. The journey of building a business around an abstract passion is intimidating, stressful, and thrilling. At times people do not see my vision or , do to insecurities, try to protect me from pain that they have experienced as a result of their failed attempts at following their dreams. I wish when I was a child that I was taught to value that pain, revel in the grind, welcome question, and allow a forum for conflict, as these are what lead to growth.
A wise poet once told me that a seed needs to be covered in dirt to create an environment in which it can grow. I took that to mean that when we try out our innovative business ideas and receive some backlash, we must be doing something right. Success is not dictated by intelligence alone. Most times it is achieved by those that have the perseverance, grit, and passion to work through the pain until success is reached.
When beginning this journey of turning my story ( overcoming trauma and abuse) , creative talents ( poetry, acting, directing, writing, dancing, singing) and skills ( digital media, web design, theater tech, computer troubleshooting, photography, coding) into an educational and entertaining business that contributes to society through inspiring cross-cultural communication , I assumed that it was going to be hard but I did not imagine that at times, it would require that I drain my bank account, work multiple jobs, and even change how I approach my education. Thankfully I am not in major debt, and I have been able to maintain good credit. Still all of the success that I have achieved so far, has been a result of failure.
Failure to live up to the extremely high expectations of my parents, led me to research positive psychology for my own mental health. Due to a slight stuttering problem that I have had since a child, I have failed at being the best speaker, so I felt forced to express myself through writing and memorization, which led to developing talents as a published poet, and a professional spoken word artist. Failure to quickly adjust to another culture, led to my curiosity in sociology. Failure to achieve in a strict academic environment, led to a creation of alternative learning techniques. The most recent failure has been to find a job that values me, as much as I value it. So I have begun to create my own by creating a business that caters to the good in people.
It is through failure that I have found the motivation to succeed. It is by failure that I have been made to define me. We are our most valuable asset, and we must choose to believe that we will reach success, even when we are surrounded by failure.
Treasure the good times, and learn from the bad. Only fail in areas that are necessary. It's all a part of the process.
See you at the top!
- Katherine Kylila Bullard
Founder of PoeticChange.org
It is hard for teachers to teach students that they do not understand. It is even harder for students to connect with their academics in an environment that does not support them.
For us to be able to pull the best out of our students, we have to inspire a genuine interest in their academic success. This is done best by presenting the material in a manner that is relatable to the student. We must account for culture, and work with their talents and interests in order to better facilitate retained learning. We must allow students to be themselves, and encourage them to find ways to uniquely contribute to the greater society. We must teach students to be resilient, that in our quest to become better in anything, we will make mistakes. Learning from those mistakes will lead to greater success. Students must have grit and persevere.
Our primary and secondary education systems should implement curriculum that is meant to cultivate the growth of the whole person. Youth become the adults that run our society. Teaching them to appreciate their uniqueness , and taking away the fear of failure, will lead to not only a better academic experience but a better society.
Below is a glimpse into my personal diary. Sometimes I write myself letters.
This is one that I felt I should publish.
THE STRENGTH IN VULNERABILITY
This past year, I have explored the strength in vulnerability.
The strength that I am talking about , exists when we are brought to an uncomfortable point in which we have a choice to either have the courage to look at ourselves, and allow others to see our flaws, or to choose to allow fear to force us to masquerade behind a strong persona, thereby not finding the solutions to our problems.
In order to develop and grow as a person, in order to progress on our life journey, we must be able to create avenues that allow us to accomplish our goals. This is done by finding solutions to the problems that hold us back.
Most times WE are our greatest problem. In order to learn what we need to do to solve a problem, we must first be able to identify and explore it, locating the bad, so that we may nurture the good.
By doing this necessary self-assessment / re centering process, I am learning to conquer my struggle of being vulnerable.
Vulnerability requires sympathy, empathy, and transparency. We have to account for and validate feeling. The loss in the ability to feel is a consequence of being too strong ( desensitized), and a side effect of experiencing trauma or abuse. The less that we feel, the more we lose ourselves.
To grow , evolve, and heal, we need validation, community, and love. The only way to conquer ourselves is to be open to the outpouring of validation, community, and love. Those three attributes are our strength. The act of perfecting our flaws by receiving those attributes is the strength in vulnerability.
I have learned that making known my weakness and personal failure will keep me humble and allow my light to be used to fuel others' flames, while keeping mine burning with progress.
It is also important to view struggle as a cause for opportunity and not an excuse for personal failure.
Life is a balancing act .
We must not dwell in tragedy or triumph. We must always continue to move, progress, and learn.
We must not become so used to being vulnerable that we become weak and drain those who gather to lift us up as a member of the community. This will inhibit progress by incubating hate and bitterness.
We must also not be so strong that we become arrogant, proud, or intimidating. This will only create isolation.
It is easy to become comfortable at the extremes. The discomfort that is necessary to remain self aware and forward focused is achieved when we balance our lives in a manner that fulfills the needs of our souls.
The act of moving, in any fashion ( walking, running, driving etc.) takes work, and is uncomfortable, but it is a necessary action if you want to arrive at your destination.
I encourage you to continue to join me on my journey and thank you for letting me walk with you on yours.
See you at the top!
- K. Kylila Bullard
( Please do not reproduce, copy, plagiarize, reprint, or publish, with out giving credit to Kylila and Poetic Change. )
Kylila can be reached at Kylila@poeticchange.org
Or on social media :
Recently, I have been questioned and cautioned by both people who care, and those who are just curious about why I make so much about my life, public. They warn of giving ammo to "the Haters", "Dream Killers" or those who simply allow their own insecurities to create obstacles for those who are trying to do what they have been unsuccessful at.
I believe that our lives are testimonies. We live to tell the story of Glory. Better yet, we are the story. Everyone experiences both good and bad in their lives. More commonly we are uncomfortable with our current stage in life and ourselves. Most times we tend to focus on the negative, on what we can improve, and what we are not doing due to procrastination, forgetfulness, stress, or just laziness. We see our flaws as weakness, and we don't like to talk about them.
The reasons that we don't like talking about our flaws, or our not-so glorious moments in life is our fear of pain, of vulnerability. We lack the trust that all things are meant to work out for our good. We forget that it is because of the bad that we grow. Most importantly we forget that our imperfections make us human.
I admit that I have been hurt deeply by those who knew the most about me. I have also realized that these deep moments of pain, sparked the greatest feats of triumph in my life, and have shaped the positive aspects of my character. Those who are the most compassionate, are so because they have been hurt. Those who are the most giving, know what it is like to not have. The best people, the best leaders , and the best mentors are those who are able to relate. Many times this ability comes from an uncomfortable and ugly place, a place that was only healed by Love. Sometimes the solution was learning to self-love, or found in external love.
Even so, those who know and follow my story don't want to see me in pain due to the information that I have shared while I am still in a vulnerable state. They are cautious about the evilness of people, and don't want my spirit to be broken. They forget that I am protected because my joy and happiness are rooted in Love. People can only see Love through Truth. Truth comes from being transparent and vulnerable. Strength comes from the ability to overcome pain.
In wrestling with this warning of the need to self protect, I began browsing Facebook to take a break from focusing on my own life, by virtually celebrating the lives of others. One of my Facebook friend's post, answered why I felt that I needed to tell others everything, both good and bad, when asked a question, even if the reason for the interview was ill-willed and maliciously noisy. This answer was a reference to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. It states:But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Strength comes from weakness. The strongest are those who realize that they need help, who get over their fear of failure and embrace their flaws to change them.Most times people become inspired as they find imperfections in others lives that they can relate to. Absolute Truth is Freedom, and Freedom is a state of mind. No one will look up to, or is inspired by the rich kid that has always been rich and gains more wealth from inheritance, with no concept of ever being poor. No one cares about those who appear perfect, in fact we dislike them, because something in our spirit recalls that perfection is just a facade. Appearing to be perfect , to anyone, is overrated and unnecessary.
Everything that happens in our lives has a purpose, the bad qualifies the good, and the good is the cause of Glory.
I pledge to always to be a truth teller, and a truth seeker, no matter what the cost. No skeletons in my closet.
It's a matter of Integrity.
For those who do not know,
Second Lieutenant Emily Perez was a major factor as to why I chose to go to West Point.
Emily's life and legacy is so big that she manages to inspire and empower people to believe in themselves, most with out ever having a personal encounter.
She is the epitome of a leader.
While a cadet, she rose to the rank of Command Sergeant Major, which is second in charge of the Cadet Corps. Emily became the first African American and Hispanic Woman to hold this position. She was also Captain of the Track Team, and a Sociology major.
Her legacy was my motivation when times became tough. It also was a reason for why I stayed as long as I did.
While at the Academy, Cadets are frequently encouraged to research and model one's self after a successful leader.
I adopted 2LT Emily Perez's leadership model as I hoped to be the rock-star cadet and later officer that she was. What I took from her philosophy can be summed up in a quote by Maya Angelou that explains that
"People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel."
It was also echoed by one of the greatest Soldiers that I have ever encountered . His name is Command Sergeant Major (Ret.) Burnett and his philosophy was simple,
" You have to care that much".
True leaders care. True leaders love to serve. They sacrifice. They endure. They overcome, and in doing so they inspire.
Below is a poetry tribute that was created by my friend, fellow poet, and Marine, Latino A2J.
"Love the life you live, and live the life that you have."- Poetic Change
Age does not dictate maturity.
Maturity does not dictate wisdom.
Wisdom is divine and is a gift, just like Today. They are presents that are present in the same space.
We are born, with a purpose called light.
Lights shine brightest in the areas that are the most dark.
We experience darkness when we allow our purpose to be diminished by limits,
When we allow others control over our existence.
That is not living;
it is being.
Seeing is not believing.
It is dreaming; it is action.
Freedom is fueled by light, by passion, by living the purpose of your own life
Unashamed. No need to explain.
Only God can judge. We must live above
The limits placed on our existence.
Our challenge is to be free.
Only then will we defeat the enemy........
All Rights Reserved| Copyright Kylila Bullard Poetic Change 2014
The Story of Michelle Tatom- Logistics Specialist in the US Navy :
As I got to my hotel room I took a glance in the mirror and this realization came over me that I've gone off course of myself by going along with others definition of my life.
I've let myself bullied into silence.
There I was, with every breath suffocating and not understanding WTF was going on.
There I was, gasping for air battling my inner self to control anger, pain, anxiety, love, tears, wickedness that I've lost sight of the teachings of my upbringing.
I was raised to believe in the greatness of one's individuality, that I shall bow to no one but God and to not let anyone control my own destiny. So those words of Eleanor Roosevelt resonate in my mind, " You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You are able to say to yourself I've lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along".
So there I was, still looking in the mirror, emotional and I felt embraced by this energy that I can't explain, but like a new found comfort and drive, I slowly felt that knot around my throat dissolve.
All of the things that didn't make sense, now do. I've lost sight of what I've accomplished and lost faith in myself, the Lord and my dreams.
Now ,that girl within me is singing to God again and asking for forgiveness that I've lost faith in him and given power to my life to mortals.
There, [In my hotel room] I was thinking how the hell did I let my life not be my own? How is it that the written chapters of [my life] that I haven't even lived is being publicized as verified facts?
This I blame to absurdity and the waste of the mind.
For the first time I laughed and realized that if I was of no significance ( to others) then why all the trouble?
So, I shall channel the energy of my ancestors and all those who have fought, died, been beaten, and have been humiliated so I can have the liberties I have today. With reaffirmation I've come to find in myself, I will never give up.
Commited to innovative leadership and institutional change
My name is Kylila (Ka-lee-la) which means beloved. I am one who loves, or at least tries to. I have had many titles, Poet, Photographer, Videographer, Writer, Cadet, Private, Athlete, Leader, Director, etc. I have learned that the greatest successes are born from the most tremendous trials. Everyone has beauty in their life story.