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I live in a small suburban town outside of Seattle called Edgewood. I live a couple of feet away from where City Hall is, and where the chief of police is for the city. One day I decided that I would send him an email and say I want to meet to have a conversation. Nothing terrible, I just want to exchange some information. I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. I thought I would get an automated email or his assistant would email me back. I was sure it would say something like, "We're not accepting any inquiries at this time,” and chalk my email up to a message from some angry black man who wants to come to protest. With all of that into consideration, I was very strategic in what I said. I don't remember it word for word, but I was careful. I wanted it to be empathetic, welcoming, and encouraging at the same time.
A couple of days later, the chief of police himself responded to the email. It threw me off. I thought, "Oh, my gosh, this worked." Long story short, we sat down, we ended up meeting, we ended up talking, I took a picture with him, and I posted it on my Facebook and my Instagram. I don't know what it feels like for anything to go viral. But man, like thousands of people, ended up seeing this picture. That moment went viral on a small scale, so much so that a radio station up in Seattle reached out to me and I ended up being in a guest interview about the conversation I had with the chief of police in my small town.
Today, he and I are really good friends. He's an older white gentleman, and because of our relationship and conversation, he has a different perspective as it relates to racism. I have a different perspective in terms of how I view police officers.
It was a transformative experience for both of us. All the while people were raging and protesting and being destructive, in distress, sorrow, and anger, not everyone, but we know some of that was going on. While people were arguing back and forth on social media, I'm like, "Man, if we can just sit down and have civil, loving conversations with one another, we really can figure this thing out." It was defining. I was able to have a conversation with another man who was just trying to make it through life just like me. And now there is a sense of safety in me that I didn’t have before, that I don't have to worry about police brutality, at least in my area, because of this unexpected relationship we established.
He cares for me, he had the opportunity to meet my kids, and that was a beautiful thing all within itself. He cares about me and people who look like me, not that he didn't before, but even more now. He heard and really took in a perspective that he's never experienced before firsthand, and it helped us both. I feel safe. I don't have to worry about police brutality based on racism, at least in my area, because I know there is someone who's watching over everyone. He understands that his duty is to everyone. Our relationship will be a staple in my life forever. A touchstone. A standard I hope to see everywhere someday.
I'm a proud Texas boy, but my family and I have been here in Seattle for three years. I'm in vocational ministry, which means I'm a faith leader. I lead a small Christian private school as the principal, which keeps me very busy. But also I'm a part of a church staff as well, so I serve one organization. I help with children's ministry in that space.
On top of that, I preach, I teach, and do a lot of work on my own related to diversity, equity, inclusion, just some of the stuff I do on the side. Nothing I get paid for. These are just things that I'm passionate about, so I may make some touchpoints in the community with a few folks at the church to work around racial reconciliation.
Pre-pandemic, things were smooth sailing. At least in the work that I do, particularly on the school side of things, we had plans, we had goals set, projected what the next year was going to look like, and did not have the slightest idea about COVID-19. And when the SIP order came, all our plans just went south and then went left. It was hard. My background isn't in education. A lot of my background is still ministry, and in logistics, supply chain, and things like that. It was my first year as a head-of-school, so by early 2020, I was just getting comfortable and confident. When COVID hit, I was like, "Man, I just got comfortable being a school administrator and built up some confidence and worked through my insecurities that I had stepped into that role. Now I have to deal with leading a school through a pandemic?" It was hard. That's the only word to name that time, hard.
But my team and I put our heads together. We had five days, not even a whole week, to pivot. The governor of Washington was like, "Yeah, you got X amount of days to do everything you need to do, and then everybody needs to go remote." Remember, just like with many places; we have never done any of this before. So with us being a smaller school, fewer resources, we had to conjure up some stuff and get creative. Again, it was hard.
I won't say post-pandemic, but while we're still in the middle of this thing, I'm thankful right now because we got through a lot of the hard stuff. And the hard stuff is what will prepare us for whatever may be next on the other side of this. It has made us stronger, and most definitely, it has made us wiser and smarter. Most definitely, it has given us the ability to be even more adaptable. I can say that I feel like I picked up some of those skills as well. I feel more equipped to handle adversity and to lead people through something unexpected and challenging. It's one thing to be in it, but it's another thing when you're the leader, and you're at the helm of the ship, and everybody's looking at you like, "What are we going to do about this?"
Now that I've worked through some of that, and honestly still working through it, because we're still in a pandemic, things have gotten a lot smoother - and I can say that with confidence, and I'm grateful for that.
Like many people, I think being in the pandemic is what triggered me to say, "I need to take better care of myself." I can't say that I was the best at taking care of myself before COVID. Shame on me for that. Not that I didn't have things in place, but elevating my routine to intentionally putting things in place and saying, "I need to take care of myself." My practices evolved during the pandemic, and most definitely coming into this year.
I began with looking at my body, soul, spirit, and took a holistic approach.
In terms of my body, I was like, "Man, I need to start exercising." So I went to the chiropractor, and I let them make some adjustments. He said, "You're a young man, you need to exercise more." So I committed, you know what, I'm going to exercise more. Now I do that about once or twice a week. I go to the gym, which I don't like to do, but I do it, and I put the work in.
In terms of soul, which entails my emotions, my heart, mind, all those I integrated into my reading list. I was already a big reader, but I found that it is very therapeutic for me to sit down with a book in a quiet space, well, not always quiet because I've got three kids, but it's quiet as it can be, and just read. I also sit down and I read my Bible more. Not that I didn't read a lot before COVID, but lately, I've been reading it a lot more because that helps sustain my faith. It keeps my mind off all the troubles and helps me work through the traumas and things like that.
At one point, I sat down, and I wrote myself a series of questions. The first question was, what makes me feel good? And if I'm not doing something that's making me feel good, or if I'm involved in something that's making me feel bad all the time, which can have a direct impact on my mental health, I reconsider if it should be involved in my routine or free time.
My next question was, what makes me feel good aesthetically? From that answer, I changed all my skincare and things like that. I changed a lot of that stuff because I'm African American, so I had to use different products, which made me feel good because those particular products work with my skin’s chemistry.
And then I asked, what feeds my soul? What am I watching? What am I listening to? What am I using as educational resources? Do I need to be listening to this person right now? Maybe, maybe not. What deepens my spirituality was another question I asked myself. And what's best for my family? Then, what aligns with my values and my goals? Before COVID, I never sat down and wrote myself a series of questions to ask myself. These questions weren’t for anybody else. These questions are for me and how I'm taking care of myself.
And now that's the filter that I run everything through. So as I came into this year, I run my choices through those filters. And from there, I discover that there are things I can let go to let in other things more aligned. It doesn't mean what I’m letting go of is bad. Maybe it’s just taking up too much of my time and keeping me stressed out, distracted, or drained. That leads to when I'm coming home from work, and I don't want to play with my kids. Or this particular thing is triggering me in a certain way and on and on.
Deep in this pandemic, I was forced to have courage. I feel it’s called upon just going to the grocery store. My wife and I have to have courage to maintain a sense of peace, knowing that our children are at school masked or not. We have to have the courage to say we still have to work, so we have to send my seven-month-old daughter to childcare where babies can't wear masks. The pandemic itself has activated more courage in me just because basic life has become riskier.
I am inspired by everyone doing the same, knowing that we are caring for each other by caring for ourselves; that takes courage. Acts of caring, even on the smallest scale, can take courage. I see the intention there, and it’s comforting. This time has not been easy, I’ve had to have a lot of hard conversations, and we’ve all been through so much, but I look to the kids at our school and my own and how they’ve been so brave and adapted more gracefully than a lot of adults, and I know how to keep going and growing and doing more.