by Ken Kemp
A couple of weeks back, FLITE Board Chair Tara Whitehead Stotland contacted a small group of close friends. She was prompted by a corporate memo. That memo encouraged employees to prepare to recognize Juneteenth – the holiday that celebrates Emancipation Day, acknowledging the official end of enslavement in the USA.
But this year, the annual holiday feels different. This June 19, (2020), the official day, our nation is in turmoil. A pandemic has put us in virtual isolation for some two months. The murder of George Floyd triggered massive protests across the country – mostly peaceful but some violent and destructive. While there is reason to celebrate freedom, there is a new awareness that not all of us are entirely free. In a new and powerful way, folks across the country recognize our need to address the issue of race.
Tara wrote to her friends:
“I have been very upset about the events of the last week (and frankly the ongoing problem of racism) which has driven me in to prayer and reflection rather than to twitter and Facebook. We have had a lot of family discussions, but like the pandemic has defined a major shift in the world, I hope the events of the last week can become another driver of change in the US.”
She invited a conversation.
“Let’s pull together the Power of 6 to help me think through something we can do locally. What can Six Passionate Working Mothers who love Dallas do to drive Love, Hope and Unity into our Community?”
The women called in for a virtual confab. Included in the circle of friends were two women with an exceptionally dynamic perspective.
Adiana identifies as a creative catalyst. Her values are rooted in passion, professionalism, and a strong work ethic. She is a model, talented singer-songwriter and almost a graduate of the Berklee School of Music. Her voice filled the gallery for both of our FLITE Art of Freedom events. She’s also a political activist now living in Hollywood, California – right near Hollywood and Vine.
On Monday, June 1, 2020, Adiana joined in protest of the murder of George Floyd. In the fray, she and her boyfriend were both hit by rubber bullets as, in a cloud of tear gas, they escaped an advancing line of police officers all in full riot gear.
Here’s how Tara introduced Adiana: “Adiana, Angela’s daughter, will be joining our call as well. She marched in LA this week and I understand he was hit by some police pellets. So, she’s seen some live action! She is passionate about this cause and represents the younger generation that can help drive change. We welcome her with open arms to help us think through how we can make an impact!”
You can hear her twelve minute account in my interview with her here.
Also invited was Gina Grant. This extraordinary woman is the Creator, Founder and Executive producer of Women that Soar. Gina, Tara and Angela have been friends and collaborators for many years.
Tara knew that Gina would make an exceptional contribution to the conversation with this digitally gathered collection of women. And she did. A short time afterward, I had the honor of interviewing her by telephone. We talked about the Flite meeting and her perspective on the current crisis for three quarters of an hour. I understood why Tara wanted her on the line.
We discussed a wide range of issues. The women came together as Moms. They talked about the way in which this crisis has affected families. Some were engaged in protests - at considerable risk. Gina shared openly about the fears of every African American mother that her child, her son, just might be caught in a situation in which they might find themselves as targets –with their life on the line. The group was deeply moved as she shared “The Talk” she gave her sons over and over – in an effort to protect and prevent calamity.
We covered other issues as well. Gina worked for years representing high level professional athletes as a communications director and public relations manager. I suspected she would have an opinion about the Kaepernick protest – and she did. She talked about how she understood his purpose, admired his courage and grieved over the reaction of so many in America who missed his point entirely. We talked about her commitment to God, and how it has anchored her – as a mother, a professional, a community leader and friend.
Here’s an eight minute summary, in her own words.
Flite’s mission is to care for the marginalized, to give voice to the voiceless and to empower those who feel powerless. This moment of national, yes, global crisis has mobilized us all to engage; to listen; to learn from one another and to care.
As the women emerged from their open, honest conversation, everyone agreed: it was a start. A good start.
But this, too: the conversation and the engagement must continue. We Americans are known for our short attention span.
This time, we will not let it go.