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
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.
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.
Some days I wonder, who am I supposed to be?
To answer this question, I used to reflect frequently on my past, as I was taught at an early age that one's previous experiences are meant to provide a gateway to one's future.
I have also realized that looking back too often, can prevent one from moving forward.
This photo was taken during the last months that I was a Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. I have chosen to make this photo my first post because , to me it represents my inner dilemma while I was there , and the current transition that I am making now. To explain, my inner dilemma was an issue of identity. While I was there, I had many people out of good intention, try to mold me into who they thought I should be. I felt many times, that my voice was silenced. My role required me to dim my light in order to conform to everyone else's idea of a leader. In this submission, I learned a great deal about myself. I learned how to be humble, how to observe, and how to love. I realized that in order to change any situation you must change yourself. Everything is dictated by a reaction. Find the "right" way to react and you will receive the "right" response. It was necessary for my light to be dimmed in order for this invaluable lesson to be learned.
The other side of the inner dilemma was a yearning to be free. If you know anything about Author Toni Morrison, you would know that she writes frequently on the freedom of owning your own identity. In order to utilize all of the gifts that God has given me, I had to learn patience and timing. It just so happened that the timing to explore all of my talents began with my dismissal from the Academy. This was the gateway to my current transition. Diamonds are only formed in an environment with unbearable pressure and extreme heat.
I am extremely grateful for all of my experiences, but I am most grateful for freedom. The freedom to explore, encourage, change , to tell our stories, and to most importantly be myself. I am allowed to shine through struggle, so that you may find the strength to do the same.
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.