Element Five https://www.elementfive.com Branding + Strategy + Purpose Tue, 24 Oct 2017 04:05:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 Leading with Empathy https://www.elementfive.com/leading-with-empathy/ https://www.elementfive.com/leading-with-empathy/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:01:50 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2643 On September 13th we hosted this lunch and learn event at our office: Leading with Empathy: The Way Forward for Modern Changemakers Leading from the heart is the true path forward for creating change. Sustaining empathy as we lead requires attention. Awareness of how you engage is your superpower. Learn a framework for leading through crisis […]]]>

On September 13th we hosted this lunch and learn event at our office:

Leading with Empathy: The Way Forward for Modern Changemakers

Leading from the heart is the true path forward for creating change. Sustaining empathy as we lead requires attention. Awareness of how you engage is your superpower. Learn a framework for leading through crisis and difficult situations. In a fast-paced and competitive world, a wise leader recognizes sustaining self in the face of conflict is not a luxury but a key to thriving.

Workshop lead by: Shannon Weber, MSW

Shannon Weber starts revolutions. She teaches others to thrive at the intersection of empathy & resilience. A serial social entrepreneur, Shannon led the launch of four thriving public health initiatives:

HIVEonline.orgPleasePrEPMe.orgPleasePrEPMe.global, and GettingtoZeroSF.org.

As founder of LoveYou2.org
, she’s on a mission to change the world one love note at a time.

You can see the replay here, please enjoy and share it. Also, give us feedback – we are always trying to keep improving this Meetup:

 

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How Going to Prison Helped us Find Purpose https://www.elementfive.com/going-prison-helped-us-find-purpose/ https://www.elementfive.com/going-prison-helped-us-find-purpose/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 05:04:41 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2253 “Hostages will not be recognized for bargaining purposes.”Wait, what?! I was sitting there reading the release forms and guidelines that I was asked to sign, and came across this line and at that moment, I wondered just what I had gotten myself into. You see, I had recently agreed to visit the The Last Mile’s (TLM) program […]]]>

“Hostages will not be recognized for bargaining purposes.”Wait, what?!

I was sitting there reading the release forms and guidelines that I was asked to sign, and came across this line and at that moment, I wondered just what I had gotten myself into. You see, I had recently agreed to visit the The Last Mile’s (TLM) program at San Quentin State Prison. They teach coding skills to incarcerated individuals in an effort to help reduce recidivism. I loved the idea of their work and though, at the time I didn’t have the intention of doing that work myself, I agreed to visit the guys as a volunteer mentor. Now, after reading the guidelines and warnings, I was a little nervous about the prospect. Scratch that – I was borderline shook! Still, I made a commitment and was determined to fulfill it. I mean, it was only four hours, right? What could go possibly happen in four hours?

What does it sound like when change happens?

In this case, it sounded like a giant metal door slamming behind me, as we wrapped up that first visit back in April 2016. It got me reflecting on my morning. It was nothing like I expected or experienced before. The guys? They were a lot like the guys I grew up around and they had accomplished so much under circumstances I couldn’t come close to imagining. Honestly, I was blown away by them all. At the end of that first visit, a few of them asked me what I thought of it all and if I would come back. I said, “I’ll come back if you guys and TLM see value in it”. That was 14 months ago and in that time I think I may have maybe missed a handful of the biweekly mentor visits and only because I was traveling. You see what I realized that day, was that there were human beings in front of me, desperate to learn, on a difficult and amazing journey of forgiveness and redemption and I could actually help them – if only in a small way. More importantly, over the next year, I would realize just how much they could teach me in return.

Generosity is really a gift to yourself

I am telling you all this, not to “humble brag” about all the good work I have done. No, I want to share what I learned and gained from this experience: when you start from a posture of generosity, the return on what you give is multiples of what you put out.

You see right around when TLM came into my life, I was really struggling with my business. I was doing well enough financially, but honestly was having doubts. It was a grind as a solo entrepreneur and after doing the math, I realized I could probably go work for someone else, clock out at 6PM and go home worry free for about the same money. So I asked myself: “Why exactly am I doing this?!”

“when you start from a posture of generosity, the return on what you give is multiples of what you put out”

At around the same time I was actively seeking ways to start becoming more active again working around social justice issues (something that was always important to me and that I simply “ran out of time” for over the years). My experience with TLM was profound, I was giving my time and knowledge to the guys and they were giving me something in return, they were teaching me humility, gratitude, forgiveness, generosity, steadfastness and so much more – they gave me purpose again. It wasn’t the huge change I chased (and never quite saw) when I was young, out protesting to change the world. It was small incremental changes in one person that you could see right in front of you in real time. I wanted more of this in my life and wondered if it were possible to do both things – support my family and make a positive impact in the world. I made the decision shortly after the first few visits inside that I was going to somehow merge that part of my life with my business, that what I was truly missing in my work was purpose. I also knew if I couldn’t combine them, that one would always slip for the other – for it to work it required perfect balance. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I knew it was what I had to do.

Enter B Corp

I had learned about B Corps a few years earlier and though I loved the idea, the prospect of taking on the assessment requirements, plus the legal formation work seemed way too daunting. But after spending a few months with the guys in TLM, I redefined what was possible for myself and decided to take it on. After all, they were learning to become full stack developers without access to the internet and by writing their code in notebooks when they didn’t have access to the computer lab. They did this all the time, often not knowing when (or if) they were going to get out of prison. It put things into perspective for me and made me check myself every time I thought I was “too busy” or something was “too hard”. Without learning from their examples, I might have never gotten to this point and I am so thankful to them all for those lessons.

About a year later, here we are – proudly announcing that we have been certified as a B Corp. Our specific social benefit is to provide 5% of our billable hours to pro bono services and volunteer work for nonprofits working in the spaces of social justice and economic equality. One part of that for me is to teach graphic design to a small group of the guys within the TLM program.

Personally, I am more in love with what I do for a living and proud of what Element Five has become than ever before. By embracing this process we not only codified our mission for working to support causes we believe in, but it made us better at what we do – raising the bar for us and our clients.

As we continue down this path, we aim to keep leveling up around that purpose, but also to act as an example and guide to our peers so they can join us in this B Corp movement – you can see our official B Labs profile here.

And, if you are in the Bay Area, come celebrate on June 16th, 2017 as we “Relaunch” Element Five officially as a B Corp, details are here.

 

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The Elements Meetup #3: Branding Building w/E5 https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-3-branding-building-we5/ https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-3-branding-building-we5/#respond Wed, 22 Feb 2017 18:27:16 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2196 A Self Guided Workshop for Startups and Small Businesses Element Five presented their new Branding Basics Workshop. This workshop was designed to help early-stage startups and small businesses think about and establish their brand’s foundation even (and especially) if they can’t afford to invest in engaging with an agency right now. In the workshop, you […]]]>

A Self Guided Workshop for Startups and Small Businesses

Element Five presented their new Branding Basics Workshop. This workshop was designed to help early-stage startups and small businesses think about and establish their brand’s foundation even (and especially) if they can’t afford to invest in engaging with an agency right now.

In the workshop, you will learn:

• What a brand is and isn’t (hint: it isn’t a logo or a tagline)

• Why it is important (from connecting with customers to attracting investors)

• Self–Guided techniques to help you and your team better explore and define your brand

• Examples and hints on how to have and maintain a living brand

All that attended will received E5’s FREE Branding Toolkit.

Here is the replay of the event:

To access the toolkit sign up here:

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The Winter Solstice, Light and Hope https://www.elementfive.com/winter-solstice-light-hope/ https://www.elementfive.com/winter-solstice-light-hope/#respond Thu, 22 Dec 2016 18:14:46 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2158 The day after the winter solstice – I love this day! The idea that we have experienced our darkest days and that from here on out things will get brighter always fills me with such hope and joy. And, I need that hope – this year more than any other year of my life. I mean, […]]]>

The day after the winter solstice – I love this day! The idea that we have experienced our darkest days and that from here on out things will get brighter always fills me with such hope and joy. And, I need that hope – this year more than any other year of my life. I mean, as years go, it has been a real fucking doozy in terms of darkness!

 

Despite all the violence, hatred, misinformation, willful ignorance and the sheer death and destruction that increased the world over. Despite the loss of so many beautiful souls who shined their light through the darkness for so many of us. Despite the rise to power of some of the most sinister people and policies we have seen in our lifetime – I still remain hopeful…

 

How? Why? Because, this very same year, I have also witnessed and experienced immeasurable acts of love, kindness, generosity, sacrifice, dedication and compassion. I have seen, up close and personally and experienced what the process of forgiveness and redemption is and looks like. I have been privileged to know and meet so many light bringers; beautiful, passionate, selfless human beings that act as beacons for all of us while they fight (often with great personal risk and sacrifice) to bring and shine more light into our dark world.

 

Most importantly, I myself have better learned and understood in this past year that we all have the potential and opportunity to bring more light to this world; that the smallest flicker of light brings immense hope, even in the face of an infinite magnitude of darkness. And, that your light combined with others can create a movement that can always outshine the darkness. Is there a risk? Most certainly, but the risk of inaction is much greater – especially to the most vulnerable amongst us. So, if you are a person of any sort of conscience at all, I hope you will consider, and accept as I have, that it is your duty to pick up a torch, to be that flicker, no matter how small; because now more than ever we need your light.

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The Elements Meetup #2: w/The Last Mile https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-2-wthe-last-mile/ https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-2-wthe-last-mile/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 17:29:13 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2149 This is one we were super proud to bring to you all. This is an amazing organization that is making a difference and personally has changed my life and perspective profoundly. Thanks to Natrina, well…for being Natrina and to Aly for sharing so openly with us – your both amazing! Check out the replay here: Overview […]]]>

This is one we were super proud to bring to you all. This is an amazing organization that is making a difference and personally has changed my life and perspective profoundly. Thanks to Natrina, well…for being Natrina and to Aly for sharing so openly with us – your both amazing!

Check out the replay here:

Overview

The problem of incarceration in America is a daunting one:

• The US contains 5% of the world population while making up 25% of the world’s incarcerated

• Since the 1970s our prison population has grown 700%

• Prison spending for state and federal institutions is nearly $48 BILLION a year

• The recidivism rate in the U.S. is over 60%

The Last Mile (TLM) was created to provide programs that result in successful reentry and reduce recidivism. In 2014, TLM launched the first computer coding curriculum in a United States prison (Code.7370), in partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and CalPIA. The men learn HTML, JavaScript, CSS, and Python. In addition to these front end skills, the curriculum has expanded to include web and logo design, data visualization and UX/UI. In August of this year, TLM launched their Joint Venture, “The Last Mile Works” allowing select graduates from Code.7370 to earn employment and get real world experience on projects from the outside.

Join Natrina Gandana, TLM’s Program Manager and Aly Tamboura, a recently returned citizen and graduate, to learn about their amazing work and the newly launched joint venture program. See how you can support their work and/or work with the talented TLM Works team on your next project.

The Elements Meetup features a series of events, workshops and speakers focused on work, life and doing good for others (plus, the art of balancing it all),  join the Meetup or sign up to get notification of our events.

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The Elements Meetup #1: w/The Bend Law Group https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-1-wthe-bend-law-group/ https://www.elementfive.com/elements-meetup-1-wthe-bend-law-group/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 17:21:47 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2123 It took us awhile to get these up, so #1 and #2 are coming back to back (sorry, we are still working out this A/V stuff!). On that note, the audio and video are not perfect, but since the content is extremely generous and very useful, we are sharing it anyway. Oh, and we PROMISE to get […]]]>

It took us awhile to get these up, so #1 and #2 are coming back to back (sorry, we are still working out this A/V stuff!). On that note, the audio and video are not perfect, but since the content is extremely generous and very useful, we are sharing it anyway. Oh, and we PROMISE to get better at it. Thanks to Doug and Alex for this and everything else you do for us – we couldn’t do what we do without BLG!

Overview

When forming your startup or small business, there is a seemingly endless array of options when it comes to legal structures, but which one should you to choose? Key factors to consider include corporate formalities, taxes, investors, management, and even things like your company’s social purpose. The right choice may help protect your personal assets and/or even save you thousands of dollars a year in taxes.

Watch and learn about your options, some potential pros and cons for each and a Q&A with Doug Bend and Alex King from Bend Law Firm.

Doug Bend is the founder of Bend Law Group, PC, a law firm focused on advising small businesses and startups. His guidance and expertise has been featured in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Fox Business, MSN, Inc., and Forbes. Alex King advises companies, investors, and individuals on a wide range of business transactions with a focus on corporate and partnership law. Alex is also a Business Advisor for Pacific Community Ventures, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting small business growth and job creation in low-income communities.

Check out the replay here:

The Elements Meetup features a series of events, workshops and speakers focused on work, life and doing good for others (plus, the art of balancing it all),  join the Meetup or sign up to get notification of our events.

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Walking on the Knife’s Edge https://www.elementfive.com/walking-knifes-edge/ https://www.elementfive.com/walking-knifes-edge/#respond Thu, 27 Oct 2016 18:10:12 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2091 I had a friend, teacher and mentor once; let’s call him “Ray”. I met Ray when I was about 24, he was a First Nation artist that taught me silver and gold smithing, wood and stone carving, some bead and leatherwork, how to make ceremonial pipes and a whole bunch of other things over the […]]]>

walking-knife-edgeI had a friend, teacher and mentor once; let’s call him “Ray”. I met Ray when I was about 24, he was a First Nation artist that taught me silver and gold smithing, wood and stone carving, some bead and leatherwork, how to make ceremonial pipes and a whole bunch of other things over the course of about six years. If you asked Ray himself if he was an artist, he would always reply, “I make some things…” – in his mind he had no time for all the bullshit that came with that label, he only had time to work. He was no shaman or guru or anything like that either (in fact, he would scoff at anyone calling themselves one). Truth be told, Ray was a colorful and flawed character and a bit of a bar fly. He drank Budweiser, smoked Marlboro Reds and shot pool and he did so in the afternoon while his partner was at her office job (him doing most of his work early in the mornings). That said, he was a special man and was very knowledgeable about his as well as others’ histories and cultures. He taught me a lot about things I had never seen or thought of before: culture, history, symbols from all over the world, different spiritual practices, fasting – heck, he even took me into a sweat lodge a few times.

In his work, he explored things like the “Ghost Dance” (a movement of spiritual dance that was considered so threatening to the U.S. Army at the time that some say it lead to the 1890 Massacre at Wounded Knee). He traveled all over the place and visited with many other tribes. As soon as he landed with a new tribe, he would seek out the eldest living member and spend as much time with them as he could. Through those visits he identified recurring numbers of significance throughout different tribal cultures that he documented and explored through his work. He saw the numbers and many symbols as threads of ancient knowledge that cropped up in every part of the world (if you went back far enough). He was obsessed with what his people lost, not for his sake or for their sake, but for our sake – humanity’s sake. He believed that there was knowledge among the First Nations of the world that could save the lot of us if he could just uncover, decode it and get it out there to the masses – like I said, even with his flaws, he was a very special man.

Ray wasn’t looking for students or followers, but if you caught him at the right time, he would drop some spiritual and esoteric knowledge on you – especially when we were “making things” together. One such gem, that I am only now beginning to really understand, is something he would recount when he was talking about a person’s destiny:

“Being on your true path is like walking on the edge of a knife’s blade…”

By which he meant – it is really fucking difficult! Now if you happened to be complaining about or making any sort of excuse that involved other people in regards to your calling or work, he would add “…and when you are walking the path the others will throw stones at you to knock you off the knife’s edge.”

I never did, but if you asked him who the “others” were, he would say enemies, both human and not (call them parts of the spirit realm) that are conspiring to stunt humankind – any force that was intent on stopping us from becoming who we should truly be. He would get animated at this point and say, “Hell, even the people you love; your friends and family too – they’ll throw stones. If people aren’t on their true path they can’t stand to see someone else walk theirs – it’s just nature!” The thing about the knife’s edge is that as you get close to the end (which I have come to understand, isn’t an end per se, but a truer version of the path you started on), the path becomes thinner, sharper and more dangerous, before it becomes easier and natural for you. And worse yet, you may have to start back at the beginning after you fall off – so there is a lot at stake.

The “true path” can be lots of things. Steven Pressfield would say, the only way to even find your true path is to be your true self because only you as your true self can walk your true path. Ray’s path and my path (true or not) ran parallel for those years. I think we both may have made the mistake of thinking we were on the same path and when it turned out we weren’t our kinship dissolved – a fact that still makes me deeply sad to this day. You see, he had gotten sick a few years before we met and viewed me as the one to finish his path for him. The only problem is, it wasn’t my path – mine might be similar in many ways, but it wasn’t his. He never really forgave me for that. Your path is yours alone and walking on your true path can only be done by you and that can be very lonely – especially at the most difficult points.

Ray is no longer with us and twenty years after I first met him, I am still on my knife’s edge (falling from time to time and starting over, but still on it). Many of the tools he taught me to use have collected dust and have been moved from place to place over the years, sometimes without even coming out of their boxes from one place/city to the next. Still, I am realizing that all the things he did teach me were crucial for me to learn in order to know myself and to follow my path. Who knows, I may end up unpacking some of those tools again someday – they may still be part of my path. The one thing Ray never told me, but I suspect he knew on some level, was that, though walking your true path is like walking on the edge of a knife’s blade, you are also in a fog so dense you can’t even see your feet. It is hard to know what is next to you or ahead of you and what to expect. It is why Ray and I mistook our parallel travel as being the same path. But you can be certain of one thing: every thing you have learned, every hard lesson, every skill, every friend and/or enemy you made, every ounce of love and heartbreak and grief you have felt has lead you to this moment on this knife’s edge that belongs only to you. And, it will be enough for you to, eventually, walk it to its “conclusion” – if you are steadfast in your work, patience and most of all your belief.

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Stop Working at that Job You Hate! https://www.elementfive.com/stop-working-job-hate/ https://www.elementfive.com/stop-working-job-hate/#respond Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:29:48 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=2026 You hear it all the time. You see the inspirational memes in your timeline and feeds. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or “Follow your PASSION” with some icon of a heart or freaking smiley face – but all they make you want to do is track down […]]]>

You hear it all the time. You see the inspirational memes in your timeline and feeds. “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” or “Follow your PASSION” with some icon of a heart or freaking smiley face – but all they make you want to do is track down that happy person in the meme and, I don’t know, maybe punch them in the face. I mean, don’t get me wrong…I get it. I even agree with it to a point, but I also know first hand how hard it is – and that’s if you are already starting from a certain level of privilege and with some dumb luck on your side. The truth is, for most of us anyway, what we love or are passionate about probably won’t pay the bills.

What I want to do is take this from a different angle. Forget about turning your hobby or childhood dream into a billion dollar company for a minute and think about your current profession. Are you happy? Is it “OK”? Or, do you fucking hate every second of every minute of every god damn day?! If that last one speaks most to you, then this post is for you. I have been there. I did it all through my twenties – showed up every day (mostly hung-over) to a job I hated working, for people that didn’t value, appreciate or deserve me, with coworkers that were as unhappy and miserable as I was (or more so). And every day we were there we lost a piece of ourselves we would never get back and fell deeper in to the hole we so desperately wanted out of…

Now, let me recognize something, some people are perfectly happy working a 9-5 and then keeping the things they love for their time off. I have a friend that once said to me that he wanted his epitaph to read, “He hated his job, but he was still better at it than most”. For him, work was a means to an end. He worked so that he could do things he loved in his spare time, like travel, art and theatre. If that makes you happy, if that is who you are, then do it. This post probably isn’t for you. But if not…

You have to do something and you need to start now!

I am not trying to dictate what you should do with your life, and for some people it will be much harder than others, but at the risk of sounding cliché, life is too short! Your misery is destroying you, and probably not only you, but the people in your life that you love and hold dearly. Let me really punctuate this, it is not going to be easy – anyone who tells you it is, is a liar, trying to sell you something, or both. Also, for full disclosure and in recognition of just how hard it is, I didn’t do what I am now going to invite you to do. I was too weak (and probably a little lazy) at the time. I didn’t “do something about it” – the industry I worked in did. It was dying a slow and long overdue death, shrinking from its own inability to change and grow and it left me no choice but to change and grow out of it or no longer be able to feed myself.

So what can you do?

First off, don’t go into your boss’ office and punch them in the face or silently walk off the job flipping everyone off on your way out the door – that is definitely not cool and won’t make your life better. The reality is, you probably need to be strong and keep your 9-5, 11-7 or whatever the case might be. Leverage it to make something better for yourself. If that troubles you, remember there are plenty of people out there who would love to have your job, no matter how miserable it and you are. What if you don’t have a job right now? Well, then keep looking in your current field, but take some time for the following concrete activities toward something better:

  1. STOP WATCHING TV!: No really, STOP! And that goes for reading the sports page, fantasy football, drinking at your “local” or any other escape activity you currently engage in. Instead, use that time to come up with a plan and to work on and learn new skills to make that plan happen. You can enroll in a community college or, even better, there are tons of cheap and free resources online to learn just about anything. Oh, and BTW, you aren’t too old, so while you are giving up TV, give up using excuses like these too – you can do this!
  2. DO IT LIKE A BOSS!: You may want to get a better job, but might need to step up and make yourself one. Look at ALL the possibilities and don’t rule out starting a small business. You can even do it part time. Yes, you have a 9-5–what about your 6-11? What about your 4am-7am? Can you do freelance, sales, something during that time to start tipping the scales from your crappy job to your own gig?
  3. GIVE, AND THE REST WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF: So, you learned some new skills, but since you don’t have any “real world” experience, nobody will hire you? Volunteer! Find a cause you love and pour your new skill into a project to help that cause. Help a friend or neighbor out with your new skill. You will make connections, build a portfolio of that “real world” experience to show potential employers, and best of all, you will be doing something good and productive in your spare time. On a side note: I can’t provide empirical evidence of this, but if you ask anyone who has done it, the giving of yourself to others always comes back to you somehow. Don’t believe me, just try it…you’ll see.
  4. WORK, WORK, WORK AND WORK SOME MORE: I know you are tired. I know when you get home from work you just want to kick off your shoes, crack a beer and watch the game. I get it. But if you do that, nothing will get better. In fact from my experience, things will just get worse. This is going to be hard – if you read this far, you might be where I was in 2002 – tired, miserable and just feeling stuck. Get into the practice of trying new things, balance what you like and have a knack for with what there is a REAL demand for in the world. Finding something you love will help, using the people that depend on you as inspiration can give you the drive. You are going to have to dig deep.
  5. BELIEVE IN YOU: I know, I know–it sounds a little like one of those inspirational memes I was cracking on at the beginning of this post. I say this, because I know that when I was in that place, it was partially due to decisions I made or stubbornness, some from laziness, but mainly because I believed I deserved to be where I was. I didn’t think I was smart enough/good enough/capable enough. I thought other people had the background, connections, education that I didn’t – that I didn’t stand a chance. But once I started really doing it, I realized they didn’t have anything I couldn’t work hard to overcome or surpass. So, what I am saying is you are good enough and you do deserve it – so go get it and start now!

This post is dedicated to B.M., who made a miserable, dark place a little brighter, made me laugh even when I was spitting mad and was always there for other people–even when it wasn’t good for him. I am sorry you didn’t get out in time brother and am so sorry that I didn’t do more, earlier to try to help you get out­–you were definitely more than good enough and deserved better!

Still don’t know where to start? Need some help coming up with ideas or resources? Shoot me a note–I will be glad to try to help point you in the right direction.

 

 

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The Indelible Marks on Humanity https://www.elementfive.com/the-indelible-marks-on-humanity/ https://www.elementfive.com/the-indelible-marks-on-humanity/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 01:44:07 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=1851 As we all continue to process the horrible attacks on Beirut, Paris, Iraq and Nigeria, many politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for us to reconsider taking any more refugees from war-torn Syria. Some are even suggesting we send back the ones that are already here. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump has gone as […]]]>

badges-fbAs we all continue to process the horrible attacks on Beirut, Paris, Iraq and Nigeria, many politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for us to reconsider taking any more refugees from war-torn Syria. Some are even suggesting we send back the ones that are already here. Presidential candidate, Donald Trump has gone as far as saying that Muslims in the U.S. should have to register into a central database and possibly have “special identification”.

Now, I see where this is going…I get where Mr. Trump is coming from and, just in case he wins, by Jingo, I want to help! As a graphic designer, marketer and one of the “good” Arabs/Muslims, I want to offer three things:

  • Clear and recognizable design concepts for the new marks we will be wearing under Mr. Trump’s benevolent rule
  • A collection of colors and designs to start to handle the complexities of the populations we are dealing with and to provide clarity, a key if you will, for “regular” U.S. citizens to know who and what they are dealing with in a single glance
  • A way for Muslims to quickly say “Hey, I am Muslim and it is cool if you are watching me–I get it”. A way for Non-Muslims from the “Middle East” to say, “I know I look a lot like a Muslim, but I am not. You can still watch me, but really, I promise, I am definitely not Muslim”. And finally, a way for other brown people with names that don’t easily roll off the American tongue, to say “Really, WTF– not even close. Please read a fucking book!”. You know, but politely and with a colorful, “voluntarily” worn badge

A couple of Notes:

1) You will notice I used circles. I thought the use of triangles would be just a little too unpleasant and might actually force us to face the gravity and historical context of what is being proposed.

2) This is only a small sampling of the complexity and diversity of the Arab and Muslim World, but it is meant to be a start. I will let our fearless leaders continue this work for which I am only a humble and patriotic servant…

Let’s start with Muslims in general, shall we?

Muslims: This one is pretty self-explanatory crescent moon…star…green–most of us have seen this in some form or another. Now, I thought long and hard about whether I should make separate ones for Sunni and Shia (and the multitude of sub-sects), but in the end, I figured it would be confusing to the average American. Plus, a Muslim is a Muslim, right? I like this one, because I think it will set off the color of my eyes well:)

Now, more Muslims, but with a twist

Turks: Once the center of one of the largest Islamic empires, the Turks now bridge two worlds in many ways (Europe and the Middle East). The Turkish language is distinct from Arabic. According to the CIA factbook, 99.8% of Turks are Muslims. Though it should be noted that there are definitely minorities in the country that are Christian and even Jewish. The Turks are generally considered to be friends to the West, but you can’t be too careful…

Circassians/Chechnyan’s: Ethnic minorities in the Middle East originally from the Caucus Mountains–don’t let their White (ish) complexion fool you. Behind the funny hats, accordions and beautiful cultural dance, they are still Muslims. That said, they are well known for being exceptionally loyal to the countries in which they reside. You can find most of the ones in the U.S. in my hometown of Paterson, NJ.

Kurds: Yes, mostly Muslim, but ethnically and culturally quite different from their neighbors, they have certainly been persecuted over the years and are largely viewed as strong allies in our “war on terror”, but once they get here, we should probably keep an eye on them just the same, right Mr. Trump?

Amazighs (aka Berbers): This refers the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa prior to Arab conquest. They have a distinct language that belongs to the Afro-asiatic family, though most speak Arabic as well–just don’t call them Arabs! They fall into this group because they are mostly Muslims, but there was a significant Jewish population in North Africa until the 1960’s, there are also some Christians as well. Still, worth monitoring them all–don’t you think?

Atheists Muslims: These are folks that were born to Muslim families, but don’t believe in God. Still, they are probably communists or socialists or something, so we should definitely watch them.

Christians…really?!

Arab Christians: I know that some of the Republican candidates (Jeb Bush for example) said they would be happy to take Syrian Christian refugees that passed a religious test, but I wonder if they realize the word “God” in Arabic is “Allah”–even for Christians. Since so many of these politicians are concerned about worshippers of Allah, I thought it prudent to include them in these designations. This symbol is the Aramaic word for God, the language spoken by Jesus himself, pronounced “Allaha” (a little too close for comfort, right?). Plus, this is really for their own protection–after all, they wouldn’t want to be mistaken as Muslims…

Assyrians: Not to be confused with Syrians. They live mostly in Iraq, but can be found throughout the region and now have a significant diaspora. They typically speak Aramaic as their first language and Arabic second. They are almost exclusively Christian. Again, please, try to resist the urge of calling them Arabs. You might recognize them from the news stories where Daesh (aka ISIS) was destroying their cultural artifacts and historical sites.

Armenians: These are Christians who were literally persecuted for their faith (some scholars put the number of victims of the Armenian Genocide at 1.5 million); some have lived in the Middle East for millennia and you will find many that speak Arabic and have come to the U.S. over the years to escape various periods of persecution. Pro Tip: Look for ‘ian” or “yan” at the end of their surname (e.g. Kardashian)–it’s always a dead giveaway. Well, that and their new badge of course…

The Other Others

Sikhs: Though not Muslims or Arabs at all, they have often taken the brunt of Islamaphobic backlash since 9/11, because of the mistaken assumption that Muslims wear turbans (Thanks Walt Disney). This badge should clear things up, right?

Hindus: Again, same as above. It seems that those that are so certain that their ideals and way of life are the correct ones have never actually taken the time to learn about any others…oh well, badge ‘em!

Druze: They are definitely Arabic speaking and definitely not Muslims. They self-identify as Unitarians; their faith is monotheistic, incorporating elements from several different traditions including Christianity and Hinduism. Like the Circassians, they too are very loyal to the countries they call home–they also rock some interesting headwear. Syria, has the largest population by far (nearly 800,000 in 2011), so there is a good chance they could be among those seeking refuge right now.

And then there is this…

There is one group that might be trickier than the rest. The Arab world historically has always had a Jewish population. There is a significant Syrian Jewish population living in Brooklyn for instance. It is hard to say how to deal with them. After all, I mean they aren’t Muslims, but they speak Arabic, eat hummus–they probably dance debka at their weddings. It really shows what a slippery slope this can be…I’ll leave this one in the capable hands of Mr. Trump and his inner circle…he-hem…I mean trusted advisors…I am sure that his innate American Exceptionalism will give him the right answers!

I hope this helps get us started down the road of sorting people according to their place in our country. The Muslims are a good start, but as you can see there is so much more to the story when talking about the region. Even this little primer is only the tip of the iceberg. But, I am sure our politicians in their infinite wisdom will continue to build on these designations. Though, it might get confusing, maybe they should consider some sort of a numerical system? I’ll just leave that to them…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

– Martin Niemöller

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Show Up Every Day https://www.elementfive.com/show-up-every-day/ https://www.elementfive.com/show-up-every-day/#respond Thu, 05 Nov 2015 22:34:39 +0000 https://www.elementfive.com/?p=1806 There I was sitting in the small dark theatre on a random Wednesday with my eyes welling up as I fought the streams trying to push their way out. It was a one woman performance called “Oh My Sweet Land” written by Amir Nizar Zuabi meant to help humanize the millions of refugees displaced by the war […]]]>

show-up-every-dayThere I was sitting in the small dark theatre on a random Wednesday with my eyes welling up as I fought the streams trying to push their way out. It was a one woman performance called “Oh My Sweet Land” written by Amir Nizar Zuabi meant to help humanize the millions of refugees displaced by the war in Syria. This reading was being shown to raise money for IRC, an amazing organization that supports refugees here and abroad. I wasn’t even sure I was going make it to the event that morning and now, here I was, fighting back tears and grateful for the experience.

I use the word “random”, but that’s not really the right word. I was there because I was feeling disconnected. You see, when you are half one thing and half something else (in my case half Syrian and half Hungarian American) you are always in flux. In one moment you are one thing and in another something else-you are both and neither at the same time. The performer of the play, Nora El Samahy put it perfectly after the reading when she described playing the main character that happens to be half Syrian and half German: it’s like having one foot in each world, both part of you, but neither of which you feel fully comfortable claiming. There is part of you that always feels like a bit of an imposter–she understands this well being half Egyptian and so do I. So, I showed up this time…this “random” time to get more connected to my Syrian half and it was just what I needed.

Now to the folks at Golden Thread Productions, there was nothing random about this night or any of the other nights (and days) they produce plays. You see, whether I was there or not, they were always there. Time and time again-planning, writing, directing, rehearsing for almost 20 years now–all so that I could cry in the theatre this night. All so, they could connect with me (and the others that showed up) and to tell this story that so desperately needed telling–to present a perspective that isn’t being portrayed in the news or in mainstream media.

That is the key, isn’t it? Starting with an idea, a cause, a mission you truly believe in (Simon Sinek calls it your “Why”?) and then showing up every day to work on and further it. Sometimes, especially at first, no one will show up (not even randomly), but over time, if you stay true to it and keep perfecting your craft, you will find others like you, the word will spread and before you know it, you will have made a real impact. This stands true in activism, art, business or whatever you choose as your cause–your “Why”.

It is easy to get discouraged in the beginning–especially nowadays. We are inundated and obsessed with the “overnight successes”. We hear about the rags to riches entrepreneurs and we see things go viral on the web out of “nowhere”. It is rare that anyone talks about all the hours/days/months/years that went into these seemingly instant successes. No one talks about all the times that nobody showed up or they failed or, about the 20 years of work that goes into one night–one moment.

The “random” and powerful experience I had (just when I most needed it) happened, not because of chance or whim–it wasn’t random at all. It happened because the creators of that experience care enough to show up every time–whether I do or not. They know that if they show up each and every time–even when it isn’t “perfect” or they don’t quite “feel like it”, that there is a chance to connect–a chance to create a moment like the one I had. For them, and anyone who does important work that they believe in, those are the moments they live for and trust will happen with enough work and patience. They learn over time that when they show up time and time again, their family of believers will grow. And, that they will tell others that may tell even more and their cause will be furthered–no matter what it is.

Do yourself a favor and find out what it is you believe in. Use that as your guide–your plan and then show up. Show up every day. Work hard. Try. Fail. Show up again and again and again….

See each time for what it is–a chance to grow/learn/connect. See each as a possibility to create that perfect “random” experience that can potentially change everything for one person, one place or who knows, maybe even for all of us everywhere.

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