Announcing the Black Friday Scholarship Fund

Fall 06 007
What do we do to to recognize the birthday of our late son? It’s a question my family and I have been asking and answering for 7 years. Thanksgiving always provides an opportunity to express gratitude for his life and the Christmas season offers an excuse to lay a pine blanket on his grave. These are paltry remembrances. This year, his birthday falls on Black Friday and coincidences with #BlackoutBlackFriday and #NotOneDime, boycotts for racial justice. I didn’t plan this timing, but today on Gabe’s 31st birthday, I’m excited to announce a new project that will honor his life and support some of his highest goals related to racial justice.

Jeff and I are launching a memorial scholarship fund for economically challenged youth, with an emphasis on African American boys. For me, this work goes hand in hand with the mental health, suicide prevention, and neurofibromatosis work I’ve done since his death in 2008.  So, our scholarship will be unique in that it will also set aside funds to provide mental health and/or other support services to scholarship recipients.

What we’ve been doing

For several years,  Jeff and I have partnered with Compassion International to support a young man who is growing up in Tanzania, the country of Gabe’s paternal lineage. We’re committed to seeing this partnership through until Jeremia is grown. This year, we’re also partnering with Generation Hope to provide financial support to a teen parent who is working to finish her college education. We’ve also been supporting the work of Aslan Youth Ministries and Westside Christian Academy, organizations run by people we know and respect who tirelessly devote themselves to bettering the lives of economically challenged youth at the Jersey Shore and beyond.

Westside especially has a place in our hearts. Gabe volunteered there when he was in high school and the school’s director, the Rev. Elmer Jackson, was his sponsor when he was inducted into the National Honor Society at Long Branch High School. In his letter of support, Rev. Jackson said, “Gabe is one of the finest young men that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His work ethic is inspiring. Our organization and students (who actually stand up and cheer, if they get the chance, when Gabe arrives) are the better because of him.”

What we plan to do

All our efforts—from mental health and suicide prevention activism to supporting neurofibromatosis research to providing financial support for the educational goals of economically challenged parents and children—are done in honor of Gabe. So, it makes sense to consolidate these activities into one unified effort.

Why a special focus on African American boys, aside from the fact that their educational prospects are especially compromised? As Gabe’s college friend Dave Woo said in an email, “Nothing would better honor Gabe’s memory and his commitment to justice and education than a memorial scholarship for African American boys. He was always acutely aware of his position as an African American man at a predominantly white institution like Wheaton College. Although he never intended to become a spokesperson for his race, he willingly engaged his peers on issues of race and challenged them to question their assumptions.”

How we’ll get there

Over the next year, we will work through the legalities of launching this fund. Our goal is to officially launch on November 27, 2016, Gabe’s next birthday. I also envision an annual Black Friday Birthday campaign to grow the fund. (How much better would that be than just laying a blanket of pine on his grave?)

For now, we are unofficially launching with a memorial donation to Westside Christian Academy. I’m also opening a savings account to pay for the establishment of the scholarship fund. Special thanks to Dave and Grace Woo for the first donation to this fund! If you’d like to support our efforts, I invite you to make a memorial donation to any one of the organizations I’ve linked to in this post. Please let me know if you do! Or, email me through the contact form for more information about how to help us launch the scholarship. I’d love to hear from some of Gabe’s friends, especially those who contacted me in the months after his death to share how he inspired their passion for racial justice. On that note, I’ll end with this challenge from Gabe.

For Chris

 

Yo, I been here too long in compromising silence;

sitting here, all sick to hear

of all the war and violence.

 

Blood has been shed, just to get some oil;

more blood was shed right here on my own soil.

 

I can’t forget watching them doing it;

mad tears, two towers and the plane that flew

into it.

 

With snipers on TV and snipers in vid games;

snipers in school cause kids callin’ kids names.

 

From pervert minds to our children’s eyes,

blood and sex don’t bother kids; they too desensitized.

 

As movies and music just get worse and worse,

our social condition just gets hurt and hurt.

 

They say they copy life from how it seems,

but with nudity and cursing,

innocence has become a dream.

 

Before they’re ready, kids get their maturity;

only 12 years old, with 10 years of purity.

 

I see young minds corrupted every day;

you see me every night on my knees

to pray.

 

Look, I got no problem with media that’s graphic;

just don’t sell “R” movies to a

pre-teen demographic.

 

We need to become one unified nation;

kids minds are important;

they need preservation.

 

You need to be careful, even just a little B;

don’t rap about just anything ’cause you got

ability.

 

Anyone can flow about bitches and hoes,

but I try to spit knowledge so the

public knows.

 

I want you walk away like, “That ain’t right”;

I want you go home and not sleep at

night.

 

I’m not just another rapper spittin’ his own

praises;

I’m concerned with the children

and seeing how they’re raising.

 

People pushed too far, yeah, you  got

what you want;

you’ll soon be on your face prostrate

before God.

 

[© GGS 9/11/03, all rights reserved.]

Please note: Due to the wonderful response this post received from friends and family, it has been updated to invite gifts to establish the scholarship fund.

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Emotional Intelligence for Everyday Leadership @TheHighCalling

Saxman 1

Some leaders seem to instinctively understand people: what motivates them, what frustrates them, what inspires them. Other leaders don’t. They are blind to the emotional landscape around them. These leaders lack what is commonly known as “emotional intelligence.” EI can be defined as “the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions.” The concept has a long history, but was popularized in the 1990s by psychologists Peter Salovey,John D. Mayer, and Daniel Goleman.

The director of Seattle Pacific University’s Brain Center for Applied Learning Research, John Medina, Ph.D., prefers a more scientifically verifiable concept called Theory of Mind.  He describes ToM as a gadget in the brain that allows a person to do two things: 1) peer inside someone else’s psychological interiors and understand the rewards and punishment systems inside those interiors; and 2) understand that the rewards and punishments that motivate that person are not same as the rewards and punishments that motivate oneself.

Medina says that having “terrific” ToM is what people mean when they talk about emotional intelligence. “If you’ve got really good Theory of Mind, you can make a terrific manager, because you can understand your emotional landscape all around you very, very quickly. If you have very poor Theory of Mind, you’re an emotional blunt instrument. You just bang around inside people’s hearts and make them mad and make them happy and inadvertently you do both and you have no idea how you do it, because it’s random, because you don’t see anything, because you’re an emotional idiot,” he said. (Note: This kind of forthright talk typifies the Medina Grump Factor, which is how Dr. Medina and others describe his commitment to rigorous scientific methodology.)

Whatever one calls the intuitive ability to read and respond well to others, nurturing this characteristic can help leaders create and foster cohesive, productive teams. After all what leader wants to be an “emotional idiot”? …

Read the whole thing at The High Calling.

Which Is the Better Story @Image Journal’s Good Letters blog

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox Studios.

“There’s a scene early in Ang Lee’s majestic Life of Pi film in which the main character watches everything he loves die. Pi is floating in a vast, murky sea as the ship carrying his family and their zoo animals recedes into the distance and sinks. His arms are stretched out wide and his whole body seems to reach for them as they slip away.

This is the moment when I forgot I was wearing 3-D glasses and felt as if I was in the water with Pi, losing everything I love. I’m not sure I would have reacted as viscerally as I did to the scene if it had not been produced in 3-D. As it was, I sat in my seat and wept.”

Read my whole [spoiler alert!] review at Good Letters. It’s my first appearance at the Image blog and I’m honored to see my byline there.

When Storms Come @Faith&Leadership

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: Bay Head, South Pt. Beach

Bayhead, New Jersey

Like a thrill ride gone terribly wrong, Hurricane Sandy barreled through my beloved Jersey Shore last month. Except during college and a six-year sojourn in California, this area has always been home, the place where I grew up and where I have lived for most of my life.

When the storm was over, the terrain upon which my memories live had been torn asunder. Friends have asked how I’m dealing with the destruction. My home wasn’t damaged, but I have been through so many deadly storms in the last decade that they’ve been worried for me.

The loss of wealth, health, ministry, community and, most impossibly, the loss of my firstborn child to suicide have left me vulnerable, they think.

But I’ve become adept at responding effectively and efficiently to trauma. So much so that I sometimes think I should work in disaster response. …

Read the rest of this gratitude reflection at Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership site. It’s my first article there and I’m honored to see my byline at the website of such an esteemed institution.

A New Kind of Heroine @TheHighCalling

Katherine Sarafian (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar.

The protaganist of Disney/Pixar’s newest feature film “Brave” is an unlikely heroine. The Scottish princess confronts and overcomes what she views as a constricted future for her life, but she also learns that her own unfettered dreams can be both limiting and dangerous. The film’s producer Katherine Sarafian identifies with the character and says working on “Brave” taught her to more fully integrate the diverse components of her own life. Sarafian has been withPixar since 1994 and has done production work on blockbusters from “Toy Story” and “A Bug’s Life” to “Monsters, Inc.” and “The Incredibles.” She has also served as director of marketing for the studio. The High Calling talked to Sarafian about what it’s like to work for a company that is notorious for its habit of changing course mid-project, how “Brave’s” protaganist Mirada inspired her, and how her faith informs her work.

Read the interview at TheHighCalling.