Show Me How to Be Courageous: Angela’s Legacy

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Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous The struggle would be difficult, but there was already a hint of victory. In the heavy silence of the jail, I discovered that if I concentrated hard enough, I could hear echoes of slogans being chanted on the other side of the walls. ‘Free Angela Davis.’ ‘Free All Political Prisoners.’ -Angela Davis: An Autobiography, 1974

April 5 is the debut of the documentary film Free Angela and All Political Prisoners.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited that the world can once again be inspired by Angela Davis’s courageous story.

Those who were alive in the 70’s may have forgotten. Those of us who weren’t alive at the time may have have never known.

Indeed, we’ve done a poor job of retelling Angela’s story in our ongoing distribution of American history.

She rarely gets more than a blip in a montage, as if merely showing her face, fro, and fist is enough to convey the gist of her legendary life.

Too many of us, however, aren’t clear about the story beyond these images.

For me, of course, the most resonant theme in her story is courage.

Outside in the open, entangled in my grief and anger was also fear. A plain and simple fear so overwhelming, and so elemental that the only thing I could compare it to was that sense of engulfment I used to feel as a child when I was left alone in the dark. . . . Images of attack kept flashing into my mind, but they were not abstract–they were clear pictures of machine guns breaking out of the darkness, surrounding Helen and me, unleashing fire . . . -AD

Though most of us will never be one of America’s most wanted, Angela’s story can teach us all how to be courageous.

In fact, there’d be no documentary, no story to tell, had Angela not lived courageously in her everyday life, long before the criminal charges or the ensuing manhunt and trial.

One thing I hope Free Angela reveals is that while Angela Davis’s imprisonment and trial is perhaps the more sensational and infamous part of her story, all along, every day of her life, then and now, Angela is a role model for having the courage to think, speak, act, and be revolutionary.

The Courage to Think

I’ve seen the fear in my students . . . the fear of pursuing an education, the fear that it’s not meant for them, not part of their inheritance.

Then there’s the fear of the responsibility that comes with learning.

The fear of what truths may be uncovered if we allow ourselves to follow a thought process through its entire cycle.

As a student and professor of philosophy, Angela Davis embraced the power of thinking . . . of not only learning the thoughts of others, but in having new and original thoughts of one’s own.

She not only had the courage to hold and mold deep thoughts in her mind, she also had the courage to spread them.

The Courage to Speak

We keep silent for fear of exposing our true thoughts.

We keep silent because others have told us we should, told us to keep our thoughts to ourselves.

We’re wordless because we think our words are worthless.

Angela’s example shows us that our words are sometimes the greatest gift we can give to the world, and that we should say what must be said even as others try to silence us.

She shows us that words can save souls, save lives, and stoke revolutionary fires.

The Courage to Act

Nothing in the world made me angrier than inaction, than silence. The refusal or inability to do something, say something when a thing needed doing or saying, was unbearable. The watchers, the head shakers, the back turners made my skin prickle. -AD

Organizing, voting, rallying, marching, visiting, feeding, housing, leading . . .

Some of the greatest words are action verbs.

The beautiful thing about Angela is that she lived among the people, not segregated within her words or intellectual world.

She was a physical presence in the struggle for freedom and justice for all.

She gave her life:

For me revolution was never an interim ‘thing to do’ before settling down; it was no fashionable club with newly minted jargon, or new kind of social life–made thrilling by risk and confrontation, made glamorous by costume. Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime. -AD

The Courage to Be

Angela thought, spoke, and acted while being a black women in a world that says blacks can’t think, that women shouldn’t speak, and that any actions by either group to take control of their lives is an automatic threat to society.

She was proud to be black, and she was empowered in her womanhood even in a society that overtly tried to suppress black pride and women’s empowerment.

That’s revolutionary.

By merely being herself, Angela Davis shows us how to be courageous.

This post is a submission in the Black Bloggers Connect contest.

Get your tickets to the New Orleans Area Screening of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners!

 

 

How Quitting Was the Most Courageous Lesson I Ever Taught

courageous lesson

“Fear keeps your achievements unrealized, hidden from yourself and the world. Love will set them free.” –Ralph Marston

My last 6 posts have partly told the story of what gave me the courage to quit my full-time high school teaching job so that I could write full-time.

To put that story into perspective and hopefully illustrate why I had to leave, I want you to read something I wrote after my first year of teaching.

7 Truths of Teaching and Learning

 

“Are you afraid?”

That’s the question I was asked when first interviewing for the Louisiana Teaching Fellows program. A wonderful principal asked me this because the program recruited teachers for the “toughest inner city schools” in Baton Rouge.

I never even thought to be afraid. Afraid of what? That question could be answered in two ways.

I could potentially be afraid of my self—doubting my abilities, feeling unworthy of the task, etc.

I’m sure, though, she wanted to know if I was afraid of teaching “those kids” who are often perceived as loud, ghetto, uncontrollable, violent, dangerous, and… unteachable.

It never occurred to me to be scared because I was too busy loving. I’m kin to my students. I am my students.

I had tea today with a couple who went through the teaching program with me, so teaching has been on my mind. I hiked a steep learning curve my first year, but here are some truths I’ve picked up along the way from personal experience, fellow teachers, books, and most I already knew from the life I lived before teaching.

1) “Fear keeps [my students’] achievements unrealized, hidden from [everyone]. Love will set them free.”

2) Students sense fear. When they act out in response to our fear of them, it’s probably to inflict pain similar to the pain they feel knowing that someone feared them without even knowing them. Also, they’ll take being feared over being threatened. Society has taught them that those who are feared stand a better chance of survival.

3) Every child is beautiful and BRILLIANT!!! But most importantly, they need to know it, and they need to know that I know it.

4) There’s no such thing as a student who “just doesn’t want to learn.” Students may not want to learn what we want to teach them, but they want to learn something.

5) I must be a student of my students, learning ways to best serve them. Teaching is not about me, so I scale my ego down to size. Teaching is not about my subject, so I dismiss the notion of sacred texts. No book, no curriculum, no standard could ever trump the sacredness of my children’s humanity.

6) I must love my students for who they are right now rather than for who formal education conditions them to be. I mustn’t tell them they can be somebody some day. I must show them they are somebody right now. Even if they have tattoos, gold teeth, or purple hair. Yes, even those things make them special.

7) The world cannot afford to lose out on my students. The world needs each of them to be productive citizens who know, live, and share their value daily.

Teaching and learning is not about fear; it’s about loving.

So, the final question I asked myself before realizing that quitting would be the most courageous lesson I could teach to the students I loved, was this: How can I lecture to my students about going after their dreams, when I’ve never even attempted to go after my own?

Should You Quit Your Job?

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How to Plan Your Life Away Without Even Trying

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wasting time on a plan, hourglassYou’ve been told that the only way to succeed is to have a great plan.

But here’s what they don’t tell you:

Plans have a sinister side.

Your scheme, schemes against you.

Oh, they start simple at first.

They seem helpful, maybe even comforting.

That’s when you let your guard down.

Then your cute little plan starts to grow.

It takes on a life of its own, becomes more complex and more intricate.

And it stretches its long neck farther and farther into the future, devouring your precious moments, eating up all the time that you were meant to savor.

That’s right, your plan has been postponed.

Your dream has been deferred.

There’s a thin line between planning and procrastinating.

 

I’d spent years preparing to make money writing. I checked out stacks of books from the library and read them two or three times. Each book was essentially a step by step guide.

Yet years went by and I still hadn’t accomplished my goal.

Why?

The simple reason is that I kept acquiring information and planning, but I never put a plan into action.

I know the source of my inaction was my fears.

That’s true for most people.

Planning is comfortable because it allows you to feel like you’re making progress without actually having to put yourself on the line.

Yes, planning is a necessary step, but …

 

  1. Our lives often become broken records that get stuck on the same note.
  2. Plans should constantly be revised along the entire journey.

Maybe you try to calculate every step from beginning to end, and refuse to take any further action until your plan is perfect and fail-proof.

Big mistake.

It’s impossible.

You can’t predict the future.

Life is filled with unexpected detours.

You’ll never know if a plan works for you until you try it. The sooner you try it, the sooner you know if it works.

Perfecting a plan today could also be a waste of time because a year from now your goals might be completely different.

So, don’t waste time trying to perfect a blueprint.

How do people plan their lives away without even trying?

You guessed it.

By not trying. By not quickly putting their plan into action.

Get a feasible strategy, and then get to work!

Take courageous action.

Need more encouragement to put your plan into action? Like my Facebook page.

21 Fears that Will Kill Your Dreams if You Let Them!

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fears caution tapeYou’ve got dreams.

I know you do.

Dreams wide like the sky.

Heavy like mountains.

Deep like the tap root of ancient oak trees.

But you’ve got fears too.

Some fears like pesky flies buzzing around your computer screen.

Other fears are murderous stalkers plotting to kill all of your dearest dreams.

But you can defeat them!

Yes, you can.

 

You can confront and eventually conquer even the most menacing fears.

I present to you:

21 of the most dream-threatening fears lurking in your subconscious, waiting for you to decide what you want.

 

How will this list help?

You can throw the first blow at your fears just by identifying them and naming them.

Let’s name these fears and start to squash them!

1. Fear of Being Alone

The pursuit of your dreams will be lonely at times, especially if you dream big.

Many nights working when everyone else is sleeping.

Loved ones who don’t understand your mission.

The possibility that your ideas will get rejected.

But you have to be willing to go it alone sometimes in order to reach a place where you can connect with even more people.

2. Fear of Change

If you’re not already living your dream, then you’ll have to make some changes to make that happen.

That’s not easy, otherwise everyone would do it.

We often fear change because it means admitting the flaws in what we’re currently doing.

What you’re doing now feels easy and comfortable because you’ve probably been doing it all your life.

But doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results . . . that’s just silly.

3. Fear of Conflict

This may come as a HUGE surprise, but . . .

Not everyone wants you to accomplish your goals, so pursuing your dreams might cause conflict, even with friends and family, people you love.

We see this a lot with students who don’t want to upset their parents, so they go off to college and major in something they have no interest in.

Don’t hold it against anyone. Just trust that people who really love you want you to be successful and happy. 

4. Fear of Connection

No one accomplishes their dreams in total isolation. If you push everyone away who’s trying to help, you sabotage your own efforts.

Let go of the foolish mentality that you can and must do everything by yourself.

Not only will connecting with people help with practical stuff, it fuels you and sustains you through the emotional trials of dream chasing.

5. Fear of Criticism

Also known as the fear of what other people might say.

I haven’t done any scientific research, but I bet this is one of the most common fears.

And it’s legitimate, because no matter what you do, people will criticize you. They’ll call you mean names. They’ll slander you.

No matter what.

So you might as well do exactly what you want to do.

6. Fear of Failure

You’ve failed before, right?

You’re still alive, right?

You can still keep going, right?

Failure is not the end of your dreams. It’s a learning experience that can help you re-calibrate your efforts.

If children gave up on walking because they fall when they try, everyone would be crawling all their lives.

Falling down is part of the process, not the end of it.

7. Fear of not being Good Enough

This is for those who believe they don’t deserve to live their dreams. Some people think because they aren’t already superstars that they’re never meant to be superstars.

The secret is, “superstars” are just as flawed as the rest of us.

The truth is, you are enough, right now, just as you are, to live your best life.

No matter what you did or didn’t do in the past, no matter what your current status is, you’re more than good enough.

You’re a divine creation with a unique purpose.

8. Fear of Greatness

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. 
― Marianne Williamson

9. Fear of Incompetence

This is the fear that you will not have the ability to do what you want.

The catch is that you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Too many people never even attempt to go after their dreams because they just assume that they won’t be able to perform.

Don’t forfeit the game before you even start!

10. Fear of being Laughed At

No one really wants to look foolish, but successful people are willing to look foolish.

If the idea that you might make a fool of yourself paralyzes you and keeps you from trying something new, or speaking your mind, or dancing when the music feels good, then you’re basically a slave to fear.

Set yourself free. Be who you want to be. Do what you want to do.

Again, some people will laugh, nervously, secretly wishing they also had the courage to dance on the dance floor of life all by themselves.

Others will be inspired, and get out there and dance with you!

11. Fear of Love

When you’re struggling to love yourself, you might think you’re unworthy of love and admiration from others.

You’re suspicious of anyone who claims to love a flawed human like yourself, so you reject any showing of genuine love.

Work on learning to love yourself unconditionally.

12. Fear of Mistakes

Also known as perfectionism. This is one of the most common fears, and is usually driven by other fears.

For example, you’re afraid to make mistakes because people might laugh at you or it will prove that you’re incompetent.

You know perfection is impossible, yet you keep demanding perfection from yourself.

Stop that.

Just do your best.

Strive for excellence, not perfection.

13. Fear of Pain

Pain is the opposite of comfort. Anything that requires you to leave your comfort zone, your comfy bed or couch, or your cushiony job is potentially painful.

To live your dreams you have to face your fear of pain.

14. Fear of Responsibility

This fear is seen in those who blame everyone and everything but themselves for why they can’t or haven’t achieved their dreams.

It’s a scary look in the mirror to admit that you’re at fault for the condition of your life.

But until you take full responsibility for your life, it’ll never be what you wish it could be.

15. Fear of Being Seen

Do you avoid walking through crowded places or speaking up in a group of people? Perhaps one of your fears is knowing that others can see you, that they might even be watching you.

This fear, like many others, results from low self-esteem. The only reason you don’t want to be seen is that you don’t believe there’s much to see.

If you’re afraid of being seen, you’re probably also afraid of criticism or being laughed at.

Unless your dream is to be a hermit, you have to work on getting comfortable with people looking at you.

16. Fear of Starting Over

If you want to change careers, it might require going back to school, dusting off that resume, brushing up on interview skills, or what have you.

For many people, it’s scary to become a beginner after being a veteran for so long. They’re comforted by the fact that they know exactly what they’re doing, that they’ve acquired seniority, and can see retirement coming.

They don’t want to feel like they’ve wasted all of that time and effort for nothing.

The secret I learned when switching my major, is that you’re never starting over from scratch. There’s no doubt that those experiences you’ve had will always teach you something you can apply in a new situation.

17. Fear of Losing Status

Don’t stay stuck on a job, with a partner, or in a city you’re unhappy with just because you think it makes you look good to have those things.

Don’t be afraid to chase your dream simply because it might mean sacrificing a new car, or sacrificing an expensive social life while you build your new dream life.

Not to say you won’t ever get to see those things again. You just shouldn’t be afraid to put them on hold while you stretch your potential.

18. Fear of Time

I’m guilty of panicking because I’m “running out of time” to accomplish all of my dreams. For some reason I keep placing arbitrary deadlines on my achievements, as if achieving something at 31 will be any less fulfilling than achieving it at 29.

Even when I’m writing, I convince myself that if I don’t have a certain amount of hours to dedicate to it, then I might as well not write anything.

I know! Bogus, right?

Lots of people think they’re too old to go after their dreams now, or they think it’s a lost cause because they can’t possibly make it before it’s “too late.”

In this case I always go back to the fact that not trying guarantees failure. If you act right now, you still have a chance. And don’t self-sabotage by purposely waiting until the last minute.

19. Fear of the Unknown

Pursuing your dream is not a scientific equation that guarantees a precise result if you just follow the formula.

We can’t predict the future with 100% accuracy, so there’s no use in waiting on absolute certainty before you act.

I’m a fan of planning and research, but . . . don’t plan your life away.

Often times you’ll find that it’s the unexpected twists that bring the most joy and actually take you down a path that’s better than you could’ve dreamed.

20. Fear of Vulnerability

I love Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on The Power of Vulnerability. Unless we can accept our imperfections, ask for help when we need it (and realize that we probably need more help than we’d like to believe), trust people, and be honest with ourselves and others, we’ll be fighting against our own destiny.

21. Fear of Waste

I felt this fear most when debating whether to invest in my own professional development.

What if it’s not worth the money? I’d ask my self.

With proper research, these days it’s easy to verify if something’s legit.

Then there’s the fear of wasting time. You’re really wasting time worrying too much about wasting time!

The sooner you act, the sooner you’ll know what works.

You can’t get around the law of having to invest if you want some sort of return, whether in time or money.

Have you felt any of these fears? How’d you overcome them? Tell us all about it in the comments.