AwareNow: Issue 34: The Adaptive Edition

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3 AWARENOW / THE < TITLE > EDITION CLICK, TAP OR SCAN TO SUBSCRIBE Get the monthly digital edition of AwareNow delivered to your inbox. Always aware. Always free. ON THE COVER:
AwareNow™ is a monthly publication produced by Awareness Ties™ in partnership with Issuu™. Awareness Ties™ is the ‘Official Symbol of Support for Causes’. Our mission is to support causes by elevating awareness and providing sustainable resources for positive social impact. Through our AwareNow Magazine, Podcast & Talk Show, we raise awareness for causes and support for nonprofits one story at a time.
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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
Charles Darwin

As another year comes to a close, another new year of possibilities and hope opens. For all who have and continue to adapt with us, thank you for your support.

For our advisors (featured to the right), our ambassadors & columnists on the next two pages, and for all of you reading AwareNow, we are proud to raise awareness for the causes that tie us all together one story at a time.


Editor In Chief of AwareNow, CEO & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

Allié started her career in performance poetry, then switched gears to wine where she made a name for herself as an online wine personality and content producer. She then focused on content production under her own label The Allié Way™ before marrying the love of her life, Jack, and switching gears yet again to a pursue a higher calling to raise awareness and funds for causes with Awareness Ties™.


Production Manager of AwareNow, President & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

Jack got his start in the Navy before his acting and modeling career. Jack then got into hospitality, focusing on excellence in service and efficiency in operations and management. After establishing himself with years of experience in the F&B industry, he sought to establish something different… something that would allow him to serve others in a greater way. With his wife, Allié, Awareness Ties™ was born.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in AwareNow are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Awareness Ties. Any content provided by our columnists or interviewees is of their opinion and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, political group, organization, company, or individual. In fact, its intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. Its intent is to make you think.

We will no longer ask for permission to change the world, but will ask you to join us as we do. Join the adaptive and inclusive AwareNow Nation: Get to know the Awareness Ties Advisors: Lisa Bowman, Joel Cartner, Eddie Donaldson, Marco Gomez, Maxim Jago, Kerry Martin, Mick McKeown, Thi Nguyen, Kent Speakman & Audrey Vandenbroeck

To all our ambassadors who make a profound statement with their personal story, we appreciate you… Get to know each other them here: Mehr Mursal Amiri Tal Anderson A.J. Andrews Ariya Dr. Nicolas Bazan Thavius Beck Caly Bevier Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan Elizabeth Blake-Thomas Isabella Blake-Thomas Gabrielle Bourne Tri Bourne Coco de Bruycker Arielle Caputo Desmond Clark Mary David Santia Deck Mike Diamond Jessica Frew Sage Gallon Luke Gialanella Lex Gillette Emilie Goldblum Zeeshan Khan Aalia Lanius Legend Fouzia Madhouni Dr. Jenny Martin Kerry Martin Kristen Martin Allié McGuire Sonja Montiel Wendy Morgan Adam Morse Steven Nisbet Eunice Nuna Ogimaa Paul Rogers Sir Bruno Serato Sol Rising Elle Seline Madeline Stuart Dr. Dela Taghipour Jordan Van Hemert Brianni Walker Matthew Walzer Laura ‘Aura’ Westcott Laura Zabo

To all our columnists who raise awarenesss one article at a time, we thank you…

Get to know each of them here:


Natalie Asatryan

Elizabeth Blake-Thomas

Nick Bottini

Providence Bowman

Todd Brown

Coco de Bruycker

Lori Butierries

Olivia Cade

Keely Cat-Wells

Theresa Cheung

Desmond Clark

Meagan Copelin

Lorraine d’Alessio

Ajay Dahiya

Mary David

Mike Diamond

Eddie Donaldson

Luke Gialanella

Lex Gillette

Emilie Goldblum

Craig Graham

Tanith Harding

Burt Kempner

Jonathan Kohanski

Aalia Lanius

Anna Lindwasser

John & Ana Mann

Dr. Jenny Martin

Kerry Martin

Kristen Martin

Sonja Montiel

Thi Nguyễn


Dr. Robert Pace

Paul Rogers

Laura Sharpe

Ned Stranger

Dr. Dela Taghipour

Alexander Taylor

Gustavo Vera

Matthew Walzer

Jacqueline Way

this thing that makes you stand out from the crowd is your superpower.


Anna Gette, aka Tygapuss, is a singer and songwriter based in Germany. Her music can be described as poetic songs in the genres pop rock and alternative rock, influenced by soul with a punk attitude. As an artist, she uses her lyrics to remind others who feel alone that they are not alone in that feeling.

ALLIÉ: “What’s your name? Where are you from?” These are two common questions many ask when first meeting someone. The first question you don’t mind, Anna. It’s the second question that you secretly (now not-so-secretly) hate. Why do you hate when someone asks where you are from?

ANNA: I can understand that the question "Where are you from?" is mostly asked out of curiosity. But it can also trigger the feeling of not belonging. When I grew up as an immigrant child, I really worked hard to learn the German language and to fit in. And every time somebody asked this question, I felt like "Oh, all of the work I put in wasn't enough. My accent must still be there." And I felt ashamed that I couldn't hide the fact that I was a stranger, that I was not from here. This question triggered the feeling of not belonging to the new country again and again. Even today, when someone asks me where I'm from, I feel uncomfortable. To me, it seems as if they don't ask out of interest. To me it feels more like something made them recognize I'm from somewhere else. And that makes me feel quite strange and like an outsider. Actually, I would like to know how a society would grow if we left that question out. Because then

I wasn’t welcome in this new, beautiful world I wanted to belong to so much.
Photo Credit: Youbi Deinas

ALLIÉ: When arriving at an airport, many are greeted with welcome signs. This was not the case for you when you arrived at a German airport as an immigrant. Please share the story of what was written for you.

ANNA: It was 1993 when my family immigrated to Germany. We came from Kazakhstan which had been part of the former Soviet Union and we spoke the Russian language. I was 8 years old and I was really excited about the new Western and modern atmosphere of this German airport. It was the place where I ate my first banana and I was blown away by that sweet, new taste. I felt happy. But when our suitcase came back, there was something written on it with a pen. It was: "Go back, you shitty Russians!" Even as a child I felt what these words meant was that I wasn't welcome in this new, beautiful world I wanted to belong to so much. And I went from happy to sad in one second.

ALLIÉ: Your song ‘Alien Girl’ speaks to how you feel as an immigrant. You pour yourself into lyrics that are saturated with a sense of always being outside looking in. In this song you repeatedly ask this question, “How does it feel to belong?” Love for you to share two stories here. Please tell me about a time when you felt you belonged the least (if that wasn’t the story you just shared). And please tell me about a time when you felt you belonged the most.

ANNA: The time when I felt like I belonged the least was when I was 10 and I already could speak German and talk to the school children. This was a big success for me, because in the beginning I could not understand one word. In that year we moved to another German town and I had to change schools. The teacher asked me to introduce myself to the class, because I was the new one. She told me to say what my name was and where I was from. I said my name is Anna and I'm from Grafenwöhr - that was the German town I lived in before. And I said this, because I didn't want the children to judge me as the Russian kid. I wanted to avoid them seeing me as a stranger. The teacher looked at me and asked, "Are you really sure that you are from Grafenwöhr?" I said, "Yes, I came here from Grafenwöhr." The next day this same teacher came into the class and the first thing she said was: "So, I found out that Anna lied to you yesterday. Of course she is not from here, she is from Kazakhstan." And she said it in a dominant voice, as if I had done something really wrong. The vibe that came from her was like she said, “How dare you say that you are German and you come from here? You are not one of us.” And I had that strange feeling that she didn't like me, because I came here from another country.
This is where I belong. I want to be a professional singer… This is my place.
Photo Credit: Youbi Deinas


ANNA: (continued) The time where I felt I belonged the most was when I was 17 and at a concert of a singer I really loved. I was there before the show at a bar and he and his band were hanging out there, too. I liked him very much, and so I kept walking by, staring at him and the band like a stalker fan, until they could not ignore me and asked me to come over. We talked and I told him that I loved his album and I could sing all of his songs. We had a nice conversation about music. Then the concert started. I stood in the audience and in the middle of the show he said my name into the mic and asked me to come on stage and sing with him. It was a total surprise for me! And when I got on stage and stood there singing one of his songs together with him, this was the first time when I thought… This is where I belong. I want to be a professional singer, have a band and be on stage. This is my place.

ALLIÉ: While you are a solo artist, alone with your mic, does being part of the music industry help you feel connected to other artists? To your audience?

ANNA: I think all of us had one moment when we felt that music has this deep power to connect people. I think every musician knows what I'm talking about. Most musicians I have met were open minded, funny and welcoming. It is like music just connects us right away, no matter where we are from, how old we are or how we look. To me the music scene is like an open and respectful world. It's been a while since I was on stage, but I'm looking forward to getting on stage again! I love the pure energy coming from the audience. In 2017, I stood in the crowd at an Aerosmith concert and I felt like I was bathing in love. I think the most beautiful thing about us humans is that we have the ability to truly feel happy and express this feeling together. And music can take this ability to a higher level.

ALLIÉ: For those trying to find where they fit in this world, what advice do you have, Anna?

ANNA: Usually, the people who don't fit in feel like outsiders. They become the outsider, because there is something that's different about them. They get this message. You are different and that's a flaw, it's a mistake. But I would strongly recommend finding out what it is that makes you different, focus on it and embrace it. Because often this thing that makes you stand out from the crowd is your superpower. So, instead of desperately trying to fit in and be like everybody else, don't first try to fit in. Get to know yourself first. If you focus and embrace what makes you different, it will naturally show you the way to where you belong. It will lead you to the tribe of people that are like you and who understand you on a deeper level. ∎

AwareNow Podcast Exclusive Interview with Anna Gette TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN
“If you focus and embrace what makes you different, it will naturally show you the way to where you belong.”
Follow Tygapuss on Instagram (@tygapuss_official) and learn more about Anna on her site (
These are women who have changed and in many ways defined my life.
Artwork by: Sage Gallon

There is an indescribable richness in being loved by the women in my life.

From my two grandmothers, who shared in raising me when my Mom was sent to live in California when I was two, they poured their hearts into me, nurturing with soft whispers that dried my tears. They taught me what it was to be wanted and special, cooking pumpkin bread because they knew it was my favorite and holding my hand as we went trick-or-treating. I dressed up as Fred Flintstone. “Boy don’t eat all that candy at once,” said with sly grins and big hugs that echo in my memory.

My mother, the strongest person I’ve ever known — a child who had a child. A woman who taught me what sacri fice meant, a woman who taught me the ethic of work and how to believe in myself… words are insuf ficient to pay tribute to my mother.

My brilliant sister Nicole, who I am in constant awe of, my Aunt Gin and Aunt Charlett, who teach me compassion and grace, my Aunt Joyce who always reminds me how important it is to check in on people and let them know they are loved…

Friends and teachers who reared me, taught me and challenged me to do better and be greater… Mrs. Horn, my second grade teacher, Linda Scher my art teacher (who gave me the only formal training I’ve had), Brett Truitt, my high school English teacher. Dr. Pam Allen, Pat Brown and of course, Kim O’Quinn. These are women who have changed and in many ways defined my life.

Debbie Cox, Karla Radford, Christine Ehanno, Amy Zelina, Cheryl Smith, Kim Kirkland, Allié McGuire, Bethann Hardison, Tasha Smith, Tabitha Brown, Angela Bassett, the ladies of Art on the Ave NYC and so many others who built me into the man I am today.

These women gave me a basement that even in the worst times of my life I knew there was a foundation. They gave me light in the darkest times of my life. They taught me love and more importantly, how to give love. ∎

SAGE GALLON is a published & award winning multi-media artist. His paintings, photographs, books, music and films present common themes of our humanity with ingenious artistry and inspiring articulation. Despite the losses he’s endured in his life, the wins he’s gained along the way serve as a light for so many lost in the dark.

SAGE GALLON Multi-Media Artists, Author & Official Ambassador for Homelessness Awareness
Learn more about Sage and see more of his artwork:
I pushed forward and I never looked back.
Photo Credit: Robin Ganter




Angela Rockwood’s life was practically perfect up until one week before 9/11 on September 3, 2001. As a result of a car accident, Angela suffered a broken neck and severed spinal cord. She was diagnosed as a c4 quadriplegic. Positive and determined, Angela began the road to recovery. Today, she is an international model, actress, producer and so much more. Truly, Angela is an artist of adaptation who continues to inspire the world with the boundaries she pushes and the barriers she breaks.

ALLIÉ: Of German-Thai descent, while you were born in Clovis, New Mexico, you grew up in the Philippines, Spain and Guam as the daughter of a military man before modeling at age of 17. Being born of multiple ethnicities and living in different cultures, Angela, ‘diverse’ was not only who you were but what you experienced as well. What was the best and worst part of your upbringing, being who you were and living where you did?

ANGELA: The most beautiful blessing that I can say about my upbringing and the diverse cultures is that I was able to experience and immerse myself in the different cultures, the different foods. Oh my God, the food was amazing…

I’m still that phoenix rising through that fire.
ANGELA Photo Credit: Robin Ganter

“I believe my upbringing gave me the ability to adapt…”

ANGELA: (continued) able to travel in all those areas. The downfall is, for me, I was always the person that admired other kids who grew up in one specific place and knew everybody and grew up with those people. For me, because we traveled to so many different places, I didn't get to stay in one area. I went to three different high schools, and I remember asking my father, “Can I graduate here? Can I make my friends and just settle in and put my roots into the ground?” He was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” But then we would be lifted back up again and traveling to the next destination. And so that was a bummer for me, but I believe my upbringing gave me the ability to adapt – to be a chameleon, to flow, and to mold into the different cultures, scenarios and environments. I think as an adult now that's a tool that I was able to have as a child that I still have now. So, if anything pops up, whether it's dealing with different individuals or being in a difficult scenario, I can just mold right into it.

ALLIÉ: At the age of 22, you moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to finish art school and work with Michelle Bohbot and Bijan. In LA, you turned down a job as a composite sketch artist for the LAPD to accept a modeling job for Bisou Bisou. As opposed to using a canvas, you chose to be a canvas. What inspired this decision?

ANGELA: First of all, being a composite sketch artist for the LAPD would have been a fun job, but being an empath and a person that just takes on people's energy, I don't think it would have been positive for me. The backstory of it all is I actually was mugged. I sketched the person's picture up and they actually busted the individual. So, when the LAPD came to me to offer that job to me, I took it as a sign that I wasn't doing my calling. I needed to go back out into the world and do what it is that I needed to do. I did leave home at 17 to pursue modeling… to make a name for myself and to represent. And so, right then and there, I was like I’ve got to be doing it. That's when I dove back into it. And I started getting back into the industry.

ALLIÉ: On September 3, 2001, your life changed forever. Will you share the story of what happened that day while driving on California’s Interstate 5 Highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles?

ANGELA: Oh my gosh. Yes… So, me and my two bridesmaids, most of you will know her as the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, the Yellow Ranger, Thuy Trang. May she rest in peace. So, we were in San Francisco planning my wedding meeting with my Maid of Honor and it was Labor Day weekend. We were heading back to Los Angeles. My girlfriend Thuy, she called shotgun. So, I was like, alright, I'm 5.9’. I decided to sit in the back seat on the way back to LA. We stopped once for gas and once for snacks. Now, you know that little voice that talks to you in your head, whether it's your angel, your guides, whatever you want to label it as or your intuition or higher self, that little voice was talking to me. I knew each time getting back into the car. I deliberately put my seat belt on, and 3 hours into the drive, I was sleeping. I woke up, and my two girlfriends were chatting it up and the story was juicy. So like any woman, I unfastened my seatbelt, so I could get into the center and start talking about the juiciness. And right at that moment, that's when the car started to drift as we were going around this mountain and there was loose gravel. We went into the little… (Angela does a voice-over mimicking the sounds of the speed bumps on the side of the road as they were being hit by the tires.) She tried to correct the car. She overcorrected, and the car proceeded to fishtail. So, I jumped back into my seat. I didn't put my seat belt on. I put my head down and immediately went into prayer. Praying for my life. The moment the car hit the back of the mountain, the impact pushed me forward. The top of my head hit the back of the seat. It shattered my C4, C5 vertebrae to smithereens, severed my spinal cord instantly, and I was paralyzed.

As cliche as it sounds, you can push through everything.
Photo Credit: Wanthipa Hesly

ANGELA: (continued) When the car flipped 4 or 5 times, I was catapulted out the little triangle window, not the rectangle one. I flew like the angelic goddess that I am, landed on the left side of my head, bled to death, saw the white light, and came back. When I woke up in that hospital, I remember I was laying there, I opened my eyes and I looked up at that ceiling. And it was like deja vu. It was so familiar. I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't move anything from the neck down and the first thought was, oh my God, I'm alive. I survived it. My prayers are answered. The second thought was that I knew it was for a reason. When I was 17 years old, I had a premonition that I was going to be in a horrific car accident. I didn't know I was going to be paralyzed, but I knew I was going to be an accident. So, instantly, I knew this was it. This was the big bang that I'd been waiting for and that little voice... It told me that everything was going to be okay.

Now, mind you, this is like one week before 9/11. I'm on morphine. I'm watching the TV. I thought I died and went to purgatory. And I'm just like, oh my God, what is going on… and this vision just flashed before me. This voice was telling me about all that I was going to do with my life from that point on. So, my father, I had him sit by my bedside and he wrote word for word my vision; I can tell you that I’m living it til this day. The doctor told my father and my exhusband that I had a 3 to 5% chance of moving or feeling anything. I didn't care because I was alive. I picked up my life. I focused on that vision. I pushed forward and I never looked back.

ALLIÉ: From full mobility to no mobility in the matter of moments, what was the hardest part of adapting to a new version of yourself?

ANGELA: Oh my gosh, Allie. So, I was an adrenaline junkie. I was a martial artist. I raced motorcycles. I was an athlete. Before my accident, I was this woman that would run around doing 5 to 6 things at once. I had way too much pride to ask you for help. I'm like, why would I tell you to do it when I could do it faster, better, quicker? So, I remember I was laying there and I looked up, and I just started laughing. And I was like, “You have a sense of humor.” You meaning God… Buddha, Allah, whatever you want to believe in, whatever you want to label the higher power. I knew right there. I was like, “You're going to make me learn this lesson. You're going to make me learn to throw my pride aside and to ask for help.”

So, there I was. I was paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't even lift my arm up to get a drink of water. I had to ask someone to give me a drink of water. So, you learn humility very quickly. That's just my life. I have to ask people for help now, and with that it allows me to be the person that I am and to basically just manifest or do whatever it is I need. Because now it's like I'm a one-woman army of angels with people helping me in the best way possible, if that makes any sense.

ALLIÉ: It makes perfect sense. So, as a model, actress, host and producer, you were not about to let paralysis stand in your way. Rendered a quadriplegic, doctors gave you, as you mentioned, a 3 to 5 % chance of regaining motor skills and feeling below your neck. Physical therapy helped, but it was stem cell therapy that helped even more. Love to hear more about the extra mile you went with a stem cell surgery in Portugal.

ANGELA: So, I was the 3rd American, the 11th patient to Doctor Carlos Lima. May he rest in peace. I left the country. I went to Lisbon, Portugal. At the time, Bush was running the country, and he didn't allow stem cell surgery in the

“You’re going to make me learn to throw my pride aside and to ask for help.”
I feel that I’ve just scratched the surface.
Photo Credit: Malik Daniels

ANGELA: (continued) United States. By the way, I didn't use cells from aborted fetuses. I used my own cells. What the doctors learned is that there's an area, peripheral area between the nasal cavity and the brain that is comprised of olfactory cells, Schwann cells, and all these different cells. Basically, just think of these as neutral cells. So, when you have an injury or damaged area in your body, your brain knows to tell those cells to go to that speci fic area and to repair itself. For some crazy reason, it can't go into the spinal cord. So, the doctors thought, okay, well, why don't we go up, take those cells out and then plant them.

It was a 6.5 hour surgery while I was under. They went up my nasal cavity, they took out the cells, they flipped me over, opened me up, went to my area of injury, cleaned up all the keloid scar tissue and planted the cells. It's not like you're going to wake up and find that it's the magic bullet for walking again, but what they do promise is that you're not going to lose anything more that you already have. And if you do gain anything, it's within 7 months to a year. So, I remember it was about the 7 to 8 month mark, and I was laying on my couch in my living room. My nurse was catheterizing me, and all of a sudden, I felt this urge to go to the bathroom, to pee, to urinate. It's the same feeling when your stomach's full, and I was like, “Oh my God, I feel like I want to push the urine out.

So, I went ahead, and I pushed. My nurse freaked out, and I stopped. She's like, “No! What did you just do?!” So, I did it again. I stopped, and I did it again. I was basically using my Kegel muscles to make the stream of urine go back and forth. I know this is TMI, but this is so huge. When you're not feeling anything and now, you're feeling… it's a huge thing. With the stem cell surgery, I gained strength back. Remember, I was paralyzed from the neck down. I couldn't move or feel anything. Now, I am able to feel all of my upper body like normal with my arms and my chest, my breasts, the right side of my stomach, inside the vagina, my bottom of my buttocks, my right leg, my right big toe. If you squeeze my legs firmly, I can feel them and it's everything. Now, I don't have to rely on someone to feed me. I can actually feed myself. I may not have the dexterity, but I can intertwine and I just adapt. I adapt in the best way I can and at least I have some movement from the stem cell surgery.

Photo Credit: Malik Daniels
I understand that this is just going to make me stronger.
Photo Credit: RS Visual Thing

ALLIÉ: In addition to all you were before, you are now an ambassador for the Reeve Foundation, a board member for Global Mobility, a speaker, manifestation life coach, disability advocate, innovator and entrepreneur. Known for your roles in the television series ‘V.I.P.’ and your reality t.v. series ‘Push Girls’, I’m not sure when you sleep. But when you do sleep, what is your dream for what’s next? With all the success you’ve had in your life, despite the setbacks, what is the next win you seek?

ANGELA: Oh, Allie, my dream… I'm always a dreamer. I'm a Pisces. I'm a manifester. So, whatever I dream, if I see it within my mind, I manifest it. I'm putting myself back out there in the industry as a 47-year-old Asian-American woman, sitting in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down, to show the world that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, every age, and in every vessel. And I'm getting back into the modeling world to really make an impact. As for the fans out there that still continue to this day to ask about Push Girls, I'm not going to create a third season, but it'll be similar to Push Girls.

I want to continue just giving back the way I have been but just on a whole other level. And just giving it my all and just not giving up whatsoever… fully committing and just allowing it to flow to the ultimate. There's a lot. There's a lot on my plate that I can't fully share, but just know that I've been hibernating for a good three years and the passion and fire that's inside of me is just burning and I'm just ready. I'm at the gate ready to just take off. So, that's where I'm at right now.

ALLIÉ: As an adaptive fashion model, you’ve rocked the runway at LA Fashion Week and made magic happen on the World Poker Tour as a member of the Royal Flush Crew. What does it mean to you to be an international icon?

ANGELA: Icon is a huge word. It’s ginormous. International. I mean, humbly I could say yeah with Push Girls we made it to France. We were in Germany. We were seen all over the world. What is it to me to be an international icon? I feel that I’ve just scratched the surface. I feel that where I want to be, I'm not there yet and I'm just getting started. I moved here to the East Coast. I want to take over. I did the West Coast. I'm bicoastal right now. But soon, I'll be going to Thailand. So, when you say international icon, I'm just getting started babe.

ALLIÉ: In this season of giving, I want to share your quote about gifts. “Life is a gift and what we do with our life is our gift back to the world, to others, and to ourselves.” Angela, what gift of yourself and your life are you proudest to give?

ANGELA: I am extremely, humbly grateful and proud to give my essence of who I am within my vessel. I am here to serve the good of mankind. Because like you said, Allié, life is a gift. I've not been given a second or third chance… I've died like five different times. I've crossed over twice. So, the fact that I'm still living, still breathing… I still have my calling. And I've gone through so much in my life… from being molested, to rape, to domestic violence, from emotional

“I’m putting myself back out there in the industry as a 47-year-old Asian-American woman, sitting in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down, to show the world that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, every age, and in every vessel.”

I’m just getting started…

Photo Credit: Malik Daniels


ANGELA: (continued) to physical abuse, to paralysis. You name it, I've probably been through it and I'm still that phoenix rising through that fire. And if it's meeting you on the street or speaking at an engagement, being on a TV show or being your life coach, however I can facilitate my essence and give back to you, that’s my gift to you. I wake up every day to live for others. That's who I am. That is my vessel. That is my essence. And so that is my gift to the world.

ALLIÉ: You seem to be an artist of adaptation, Angela. Beautiful inside and out, you have a light that can’t be hidden behind altered mobility or limited dexterity. You illuminate your truth and radiate your presence before all who see you and know you. For those who feel in the dark, what advice do you have for finding the light within?

ANGELA: My biggest advice for an individual going through the darkest of darkness… Mentally, if you understand that we are here as spiritual beings given this life, this is an actual gift to be living here and to experience and to learn, to grow, to evolve. If we are actually here to become the best versions of ourselves, then ask yourself what if we chose these lessons. Lessons that you're working through or whatever it is you're going through, it's not permanent. It's only temporary. You can get through anything. As cliche as it sounds, you can push through everything.

So, for me, when I'm in my darkest of dark, there are times when I always know within myself that I'm going to get through it. I know that as long as I stay balanced from within and I have my peace of mind, I understand that this is just going to make me stronger. It's all about patience. You definitely have to have the patience.

Visualize this pendulum just swinging. The pendulum swings so far into the negative that when it swings back into the light, it's going to be so powerful and so profound. And no matter how deep in the hole that you are, when you come out of that hole, your light is going to be so bright, so beyond this world that you're going to be able to emanate and shatter anything that gets in your way. You're going to be invincible and a force of nature that's unstoppable. Whenever anything else comes on your path, you're going to get through it because you've been through so much. My advice to anyone is just to stay balanced, stay patient, and understand you will get through it. I like to say we chose it. You chose that. You chose that for your soul. It's a gift for your soul to learn, to grow, to evolve. So, grasp it, embrace it, go through it, learn, and just get ready. You’re going to be phenomenally powerful and unstoppable. ∎

Exclusive Interview with Angela Rockwood TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN Follow Angela on Instagram: @therealangelarockwood

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RAIN PHOENIX is the Founder of LaunchLeft, an alliance of left-of-center artists. An intentional space for art and activism where famed creatives launch new artists. The LaunchLeft ecosystem currently includes a podcast, live production arm, record label and NFT gallery. We work to grow and nurture collaborative projects from production through distribution. Artists span artistic disciplines, but share a commitment to integrity in process, execution and vision. LaunchLeft aspires to inspire a new model for art that places people over pro fit. We are committed to growing our left-of-center community and highlighting unconventional and underrepresented artists who champion culture change.
Steens, Elijah and Isaiah, are two brothers from Orange County, CA, who formed their band in 2021. Growing up in the music and TV production industry, the brothers had a lot of in fluence from early on in their lives. The brothers and Rain talk about growing up with music and how they used it to evolve into their current duo.
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It’s really an act of surrender, which is a great source of power.
Photo Credit: Chris Boulton


In 1999, as a professional motocross athlete, Aaron Baker sustained a career ending spinal cord injury. He fractured cervical vertebrae 4, 5, and 6 rendering him a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chin down. He was given a “one in a million” chance of ever feeding himself again. From the onset of his injury, his focus was on rebuilding and redefining life. Today, he is a recovering quadriplegic husband, father, adventure athlete, author, orator, entrepreneur and ambassador for spinal cord injury.

EDDIE: First off, welcome Aaron to AwareNow. This is my partner Allié, who is an amazing human being. We're grateful to have you here today, because you are definitely an example for any human being that is faced with adversity. Your journey is definitely a very empowering one. We look forward to hearing all about it. It would be good if you could start off by telling us who are you. Not what is your name, but who are you?

AARON: Who am I? Well, I'm called Aaron, but I feel like I am a mirror. A reflection of you and others to show inner strength, spirit, and possibility. Through my adversity and through my struggles, I'm able to re flect that to others and


EDDIE: That's right. It actually can be if you allow it. I think it might be helpful if you tell us a little bit about your accident and your injury and how you found yourself in that. Just tell us about your experience that led you here.

AARON: Sure. Over two decades ago, I was just a young ambitious athlete. I was a professional motorcycle racer and I suffered a traumatic fall. I had a mechanical malfunction and I fell off the motorcycle from a great height, and I impacted the ground breaking my neck which instantaneously paralyzed me from the chin down. I remember the moment vividly. I remember everything leading up to surgery. I awoke a few days later to a grim prognosis. The neurosurgeons gave me a one in a million chance of ever being able to feed myself again. And not long after that I had an even more profound experience where I suffered pneumonia. My lungs filled with fluid, and I flatlined. And that moment has been the foundation for my entire life. Moving forward, it's a vivid experience, profound as I said, one that awoke me to our interconnectedness, the beauty that is life. When I opened my eyes for the second time in my life. I took a breath with great reverence, and gratitude became a mantra. So, I realized that the greatest gifts in my life are time and love. And all I can do with that is share it. So essentially, I built my life on those values.

EDDIE: Wow. That's deep. I mean, I knew, but I didn't know. So, thank you for giving us that explanation. When I hear stories like yours, I'm always jealous because when I suffered my similar life altering experience where I almost died, I kind of took the wrong path. Love wasn't the recipe for me. So, I admire your ability to shift and navigate through that and rebuild. For those of us who have suffered some sort of variation of that, it's not easy. It's tough to muster up the balls to get it done and get through it in a positive light. So, kudos to you for that. You are an example, like I said. Tell us about your family. I mean we like having conversations here, versus just asking questions. I know one thing I see as I observe you on social media and have conversations, your family is really important to you. Tell us about that.

AARON: Absolutely. Time and love. You share it, right? You share it with those you care about. I'm truly blessed to have incredible loving family members surrounding me. And so, my intention is to just show up and be present for them day in and day out to reciprocate that love and generosity, that ferocious support, I want to be that for them. So, I'm a new father. My little girl is turning two. So, I guess I'm well into it. Now, the ‘terrible twos’ are true, she is a wild cat. I'm loving it. I'm loving it every day. I've built my lifestyle, which affords me time with her. I'm able to work from home and then cherish these moments with her, because the cliche is true. It goes fast.

EDDIE: Yeah, it does. It does. I didn't have ‘terrible twos’. Everyone was like brace yourself. I mean it wasn't for me… I got terrible 20s going on. You know what I'm saying? But she’s amazing. But I can understand it, and it does go fast. And having a girl is a whole nother vibe for a dad.

AARON: I love being a girl dad.

EDDIE: Yeah, well. Me too. I got two of them. I love it.

AARON: Yeah.

EDDIE: If you can hone in on one thing, what's your favorite thing to do with your daughter?

AARON: I was actually just paying close attention to that this morning. Here in my office, she'll knock on the door and she'll come in. She'll jump up in my lap and reach for the highlighter pens. Then she'll come over here on top of my stack of important papers. She pulls out the coloring book. We'll sit here together and draw and color. We’ll count things and name things and read. So, these are special moments. I really enjoy that.

ALLIÉ: That's one of the cool things I think about parenthood is just that adaptability that is required in any given moment. I was cutting out snowflakes with our son when he informed me that they were not just ‘snow flakes’. “They are transformer snowflakes, mama.” I said, oh that's right. Let's do that instead. So, adaptation in life, but certainly with parenthood.

AARON: Yeah. She just kind of makes herself present at any given time. I may be in the middle of something important, but I'll just stop and recognize that this is very fleeting. I won't have her this size, this age, this moment... So, I just pause my life and say, “You know what? Come here, honey. Let's do this.”


EDDIE: Yeah. That's great. Art is definitely good. That's interesting you say that. Obviously, I'm in the art business, but that was one of the things that I liked to do the most with my kids too. I mean, I prided myself on bringing them to events, because it's like big badass Eddie's got a daughter. You know, it's kind of cool that little shocking thing to see me carrying my kid. But I really liked creating art with my kids. I still have a box full of art supplies I bought for them 17 years ago, along with all these drawings. They motivate me. Maybe I'll pull them out this holiday season and do a little video or something… So, I know that you're giving back constantly, right. You give back to your family, but you also give back in a lot of other ways too. Tell us about Red Bull's Wings for Life.

AARON: Wings for Life, yes. Wings for Life is Red Bull's charity of choice. It was founded by the founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, and his best friend, Heinz Kinigadner, who's a world champion motorcycle racer. Heinz's son, Hannes, suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury back in 2003, and those two leaders scoured the globe for some type of solution to this injury. Dietrich thought, why is there not a cure for this injury? Because it's just that. It's an injury; it's not a disease or an ailment. It's not genetic. So, he thought, well let's just fund the best world-class science and research and let's push this forward. Let's find a cure. So, he vowed to do that and thus created Wings for Life and has been funding research ever since 2004. I sit on the board of directors with that organization and we are incrementally moving the needle closer and closer in multiple areas of research. Stem cell being a primary area. And I feel like I'm a part of the solution. I want to help make this happen for the future. Hopefully in my lifetime I'll get to just spring up out of this chair and do a cartwheel again, but it's not about me. It's about the next generation, my daughter's generation.

EDDIE: Yeah, you talk a lot in your book about the mind, mindfulness and the mental state of getting through it. Tell us about that. I mean there's a bunch of things that we want to talk about. Allié mentioned… What was it? Toenail polish?

ALLIÉ: Yeah, the painted toes… I'm curious to hear about that.

AARON: The Rebellious Recovery is my book that I just recently published this past summer. I'm very proud of it. It took a lot of hard work for me to dig in and relive a lot of my history. It's a cathartic experience, but I'm proud of what has been produced, the stories that are shared in there, the people that are recognized and a little bit of the process. I touch on this mindset process. I distilled it down into a simple framework and acronym called BASICS, 6 letters that are somehow meaningful to me. And essentially what you're referencing, Allié, is ‘painted toes’. It's a section in the book where early on in my recovery my sister painted my toes with her nail polish – rainbow colors against my will. But it actually served me quite well because it became an exercise for me with visualization. Visualization was a tactic I was familiar with as an athlete. It was something that I practiced, visualizing positive outcomes. Visualizing perfect technique, visualizing winning, and somehow, I instinctively applied the same fundamental principles to visualizing my body. Connecting my brain to my body, my mind to my muscles, using color, using my painted toes. I would visualize blue from my left blue toe up my left leg into my spinal cord up and to my mind. Then red swirling through my spinal cord with yellow and green. I swirled all these colors around with my mind and willfully pushed them through the injury site of my spinal cord, illuminating my body in this kaleidoscope of color. Because otherwise the act of visualizing your electrochemical nervous system is quite ambiguous. It's quite challenging unless you truly know anatomy, unless you really understand the nervous system, which I didn't. But I did understand the color. So, that was the way for me to focus my mind into my body and it was my left blue toe that connected first.

“I swirled all these colors around with my mind and willfully pushed them through the injury site of my spinal cord, illuminating my body in this kaleidoscope of color.”
It’s about not projecting too far with anxiety and not reflecting back too far with depression.
Photo Credit: Chris Boulton

EDDIE: It's amazing.

ALLIÉ: It’s beautiful…when you talk about the mind and the body working as one and finding their way together.

AARON: Yeah. It's like the album cover of Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon. You've got that white light that goes in and then it refracts all the colors on the other side.

EDDIE: Interesting.

AARON: And I'm actually preparing a guidebook. It's a really short guidebook called ‘Painted Toes’, which I'll publish next year. And hopefully that will find its way into the hands of folks that are trying to make that reconnection, in an artful way.

EDDIE: So, speaking of art, we share common ground in the art world with Artists for Trauma. I know that you've been a long-standing board member and a champion of Artists for Trauma for a while. You want to tell us about how that came to be?

AARON: Well, Artists for Trauma, as you know, was founded by our dear friend Laura Sharpe who herself suffered a traumatic experience. And in her redefinition and her rebuilding of life, she came to the realization that she has an opportunity to give back and to make a greater purpose out of her suffering. So, she created Artists for Trauma and at that time, I had recently founded a restorative exercise business in a gym with my mother. So, we had this sacred space where people could come in and exercise and improve the quality of their life. Laura came into the space and we connected. There was an instantaneous kinship. We could relate to each other, sympathize, empathize, and all we wanted to do was share with this community. Right? I had people coming through our doors that were suffering on some level. Laura brought her community of artists and volunteers in, and we created this amazing experience at my facility. And Laura and I just knew that we needed to work more together, to amplify the program, and to engage the community. I've been a part of it ever since 2011 or so.

EDDIE: Yeah, I'm a newbie. But yeah, her story is amazing and some of the work that we do is amazing.

AARON: Absolutely.

EDDIE: We’ve got to get together and figure out some road maps to success and how to integrate everything that we're all doing. Because that's what it's about – proximity, integration and collaboration. And I think that's one thing that we're all here gifted with. We have so many amazing things happening around us that we can utilize to help others. Being of service seems to be a common thread. So, I can appreciate that. Allie, what do you got?

ALLIÉ: Aaron, I'm just so inspired by all the work that you do... You sit on so many different boards, you’re involved in so many different organizations, and yet you seem to do all this good with this incredible serenity about you. And while we all have good days, we all have bad days too. On those hard days, when things seem all too tough, what is it that helps you push through?

AARON: Such a great question, Allie, because believe it or not, today is a hard day. I'm not extremely clear today. I scribble on my whiteboards, I make my notes, I read my books, and you know, I conceptualize my future or try to. But my thoughts and such are not always really clear. I'm not always really strong. My body is still severely impaired and managing a spinal cord injury is my greatest challenge, especially as I age. So, that still has a monopoly on a lot of my bandwidth. I called you out, Eddie, the last time we spoke on the phone because you said, “Man, I'm burning the wick at both ends. I'm running around. I'm busy as heck.” I can completely relate to that. But it's also about as we age, finding that grace. You often hear balance, but it's more like the awareness of giving yourself that space to just be present and allow. It's really an act of surrender, which is a great source of power. It’s about not projecting too far with anxiety and not reflecting back too far with depression. It’s being present. Being peaceful. Being gracious and grateful. That's why in this acronym that I've put together, it's reversed. Turn your attention inward. Surrender to the moment. And then when you inspire, inspire with intention. Commit to the process, and then serve others that's the acronym BASICS. So, I repeat this in a cyclical pattern in my mind to try to just keep moving forward and do it. Do it graciously.


AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Aaron Baker

EDDIE: So, everything you said I did.. It's been a rough couple weeks. November's never fun for me. My dad died on November 11th. I was in the hospital for attempted suicide shortly thereafter on Christmas Eve. So, November 11th through January 7th is usually a very destructive time for me, and surrendering is what I’m doing. I'm heavy 12 stepping right now and surrender is definitely a key portion of my process. So, it's to your point. Don't think too far back, and don't look too far ahead. And sometimes that can seem boring, because we're such producers, right? It's like if I'm not like scratching off the list or like getting a win, I'm like, “Well, what am I doing today?” And sometimes it's okay to just be and accept it as it comes. So, thank you for that reminder. You're a wise young man and I can appreciate that.

AARON: I've done some pretty audacious athletic endeavors like cycling across the country or walking across Death Valley, which are extreme undertakings. But they're quite a bit easier than just the monotony of daily life, because they are very specific targets. They are very focused goals that you can suffer for. But relentless daily mental suffering is much more challenging to manage.

EDDIE: Why don’t you tell us about your motorcycle.

AARON: Yeah, now I have a motorcycle. I spent a good long while being human-powered. In my process of recovery, I did a lot of human-powered things. Now, the motorcycle was reintroduced to my life, 19 years after my spinal cord injury. I do have a Harley. I modified it in a way that allows me to ride it safely enough, so that I can enjoy the wind on my face and the freedom that it gives. There’s enough healthy fear in it that keeps me mindful and respectful. I love it. ALLIÉ: What you just said there, healthy fear. There's something powerful about just that term.

AARON: Yeah, I mean, we naturally are fearful creatures. For our own self-preservation, we're always analyzing risks versus rewards, and I think about the risk versus the reward with this motorcycle. Because I have a lot to lose in terms of my family and my wellbeing, and the risk that I take riding that is quite high. I'm very aware. But what it does for me in my life experience is… again I am that mirror. I am showing my daughter. I am showing others that in the face of this fear I choose love. I choose the adventure. I transform the adversity, and I live wide open. And I try to be mindful of that process. I don't want to be scared and I'm not going to be. Respect it, and then grab the throttle. ∎

“What can I say about Artists For Trauma board member, Wings For Life champion, husband and father Aaron Baker. Aaron is sort of like a superhero in my eyes. If you look at how far he’s come to get where he is today. It’s like he has superpowers. I highly suggest reading his book ‘The Rebellious Recovery’ to get the full story. In addition, follow him on Instagram at @imaaronbaker to watch the magic unfold.” - Eddie Donaldson

At the end of the day, it’s not sight that determines our success…



In this episode of AwareNow Unplugged, we speak with a visually impaired Paralympian. Honored to have a long jump world champion move amongst us. Introducing the amazing Lex Gillette, Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for Disability Awareness.

Here is your chance to get to know Lex. Find out what age he became an adult. Hear how an indoor snowball fight started. Learn what experience everyone should have at least once in their lives. (Warning: The answer is totally profound.)

In this conversation, find out how everything changed when Lex Gillette followed his mantra of “no need for sight when you have vision”. On top of it all, this great man has a great singing voice and breaks into song with an original

I naively believed that my worries about my young daughter would lessen the older she got.


I naively believed that my worries about my young daughter would lessen the older she got. That wasn’t the case. The worries just changed. Instead of me being concerned about broken bones or stranger danger at the playground, I realised the older she got the more serious dangers she could fall prey to.

About a decade ago when my daughter turned 10, the internet began to take off in our lives. Before then I had had a flip phone and printed out my photos at the local drug store. I didn’t need anything more technical than that. I was a theatre director and stay at home mum, so I had no concept of the true power of the internet, especially not of its dark side. I had no concept about how this booming technology could affect my daughter.

She began acting when she was 5 and, until we moved to the states, life seemed pretty simple. I was there to support and guide her, with her 24/7. As she got older we both got phones that enabled us to communicate. She was asked to set up an Instagram page. Her being an actress, I thought this was fun and with her at 14, I felt it was a good idea. I ran her page, monitoring everything, so it felt safe.

It was not until we attended the film festival, Sundance, a few years back, where I was told a dark, true tale. A young 16-year-old girl had been misled by an audition on the internet. She had applied and then been accepted to attend. Once there, she was tricked and taken. Her story was one of human traf ficking, kickstarted by the internet. It sounds like something that could only happen in a movie, but unfortunately it was real life.

“In 2020, 10,583 situations of human trafficking were reported to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline involving 16,658 individual victims. Shocking as these numbers are, they are likely only a fraction of the actual problem.” - Polaris Project (

At that time in my life I had transitioned into a film director, with my daughter now 16. I felt I needed to try and shed some light on the internet lure tactic that some traffickers use, so I wrote and directed my own project. While researching for my film, I learned that traffickers use social media in ways that I was totally unaware of. Not only do they use fake job ads, they can find your location if certain settings are turned on in your apps, as well as target certain phrases one might post to try and “connect” with the vulnerable. And that is only the tip of the iceberg…

“In 2020, online recruitment increased a significant 22%. During the lockdowns, as the proportion of victims from common recruitment sites such as strip clubs (-46%), foster homes (-70%) and schools (-38%) went down drastically, the internet was reported as the top recruitment location for all forms of trafficking. There was a 125% increase in reports of recruitment on Facebook over the previous year and a 95% increase on Instagram.” - Polaris Project (

My child trafficking awareness short film ‘UNSEEN’ tells the story of a normal teen who posts her own photos online. She connects with her friends and tells the world what she is up to, with no idea how detrimental and unsafe this can be. She sees a modeling audition, applies, and is given a casting time to come in. Everything appears real, from the website to the office. Even the people she meets appear legitimate, until a split second later, they aren’t. It might seem over the top and unrealistic, but this is based on true events.


AwareNow Podcast UNSEEN

So what can we do to try and prevent this from happening? We can help to protect our children by being more conscious of what they’re doing online. And it truly comes down to education. We need to be educating our children of the potential dangers lurking online. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and we can’t realistically keep kids off of the internet entirely. So make them known of the lure tactics of traffickers. There are many resources to learn more on child trafficking and human trafficking, even training to become even more involved in prevention and finding a solution.

Making “UNSEEN” was helpful for me, as it truly opened my eyes as a mother. I made the decision to focus the film on the events leading up to being trafficked, as opposed to the often explicit or graphic images once trafficked, so that the film could be used as an educational resource. It is available free online to hopefully be helpful for other parents and children everywhere.

Ask yourself this. Do you know what your child is doing on social media right now? ∎

Inspired by true events, a simple social media mistake leads one girl down a dangerous path, never to be seen again; bringing to light the role technology plays in the facilitation

cked; no explicit or graphic acts

cking Awareness

ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS is a British award-winning storyteller and philanthropist based in Los Angeles, Will You Be My Quarantine? is a Elizabeth’s recent Evie Rose, starring Oscar-nominated actress Terry Moore, is premiering on Christmas Eve 2020. Elizabeth is the founder and resident director of entertainment company Mother & Daughter Entertainment, whose motto is “Making Content That Matters”, putting focus on each project starting a conversation amongst Through MDE, Elizabeth established the MD Foundation Initiative, a campaign to mentor and employ

Starring: Rhyon Nicole Brown (Fox's Empire) and Isabella Blake-Thomas (Disney+ Secret
Feature Story by Elizabeth Blake-Thomas TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN

“Settle down, children. Tonight I’m going to tell you the story of the giraffe and the Tree of Life.”

“What’s a giraffe, grandfather?”

“An animal with a very long neck. Quite beautiful and gentle, they were.”

“Where did they live, grandfather?”

“In a place called Africa, alongside lions and elephants.”

“What’s an elephant, grandfather?”

“A wondrous beast, young ones. Very large but graceful.

Their noses were like a long piece of rope and they had growths like curved spears growing from their faces.”

“Were they the biggest animals that ever lived?”

“No, that honor went to the whales.”

“What are whales, grandfather?”

“Giants of the sea, my beloveds. They could dive practically forever and sang songs of stunning beauty and complexity”

“What happened to them, grandfather?”

“Their homes became impossibly polluted and those who survived were hunted to extinction by humans.”

“What are humans, grandfather?”

A long silence, punctuated by the sound of spinning wheels and meshing gears.

“That’s a story for another time, my sweet, steely darlings. Now switch yourselves off. It’s late.”

“Good night, grandfather.”

45 ‘JUST BURT STORIES’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY BURT KEMPNER EVOLUTION’S END BURT KEMPNER Writer & Producer BURT KEMPNER is a writer-producer who has worked professionally in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. His work has won numerous major awards, and has been seen by groups ranging in size from a national television audience in the United States to a half-dozen Maori chieftains in New Zealand. Spurred by his love for inspiring young people, he started writing children's books in 2015. Learn more about Burt and his books at his website: AwareNow Podcast EVOLUTION’S END Written and Narrated by Burt Kempner TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN
I wanted to tell the truth about what was going on in Afghanistan.


It was 15 months ago that I spoke to Mehr Mursal Amiri for the first time in a conversation concluding with tears. Our first phone call was had while she was in hiding in Afghanistan, just as the Taliban overthrew Kabul. A young, female Afghan reporter with a voice she wanted to share, met by the silence she was forced to keep for her safety and that of her family, Mehr wanted to be seen and heard without filters and without the need to ask for forgiveness for sharing the truth. After all this time, the stage is now hers…

ALLIÉ: Adaptation is a requirement for survival, especially when it comes to a young female journalist in Afghanistan. Take us back, Mehr. You and I spoke just after this day. Take us back to the day when you went to work at the tv station and were sent home by the Taliban, who met you with weapons upon your arrival.

MEHR: I remember exactly it was 15 August when Kabul fell. But before that, I'm going to go back. It was mid-July, and there were rumors in Afghanistan, between people and journalists that the Taliban were coming. The national security guards and all the security forces are leaving. At the same time, the Taliban was targeting journalists. They were killing people. So, it wasn't safe for me. It was mid-July. Me and my family moved to a relative’s house near the National TV of Afghanistan. It was much better for me to go from there to the office. I was going to my work until 14

We can bring change.
are just a few.
are many. We can

MEHR: (continued) National TV of Afghanistan, it was 5:00 in the morning, and I had to go to the Morning Show to present a 3 hour live show there. So, when I tried to go there, there were the guards, the Taliban actually, there in the checkpoint. They said that I can't go inside. They say they have their own presenters. They have their own TV right now. And they don't need female presenters. And they were ordered to not allow any female presenter on National TV of Afghanistan. When I resisted, they put their guns on me, and I had to leave. I had no other way there. So, it was a really bad day for me. Even though we knew Kabul had fallen, I wanted to go to the of fice because I love my work, and I wanted to be there. I wanted to support the people of Afghanistan. I wanted to tell the truth about what was going on in Afghanistan. Because at that time, the media was all under the pressure of the Taliban. On the TV, no one was actually telling what was going on. So, we thought maybe we could do some good. And at the same time, I remember it was the 16th, I guess the same day when the resistance announced its existence in Panjshir. So, I thought maybe there's hope. Maybe we can do better. The president, the leader of the resistance, was already in Panjshir at that time. So, we thought maybe we could change things. We thought maybe the international forces might jump in. They might do some good, they might help us, and they might stay. But it didn't happen, actually.

ALLIÉ: So, to find safety, you went home. But soon your home wasn’t safe. You had to go into hiding. This is when you and I first spoke. As a target of the Taliban, you had to keep moving. If you stood still too long you would be found. While in hiding, what were you most afraid to lose? What were you most hopeful to find?

MEHR: We had to move from our home. We had to move to another address, to another location, to another house to be safe. When I went to the safe house, I thought we could be safe, me and my family, but it didn't happen because of the Taliban. We were targeted by the Taliban… It wasn't safe for me. The worst thing that happened at that time for me is that we had to divide the family. So, me and my brother, we went to a safe house. And the rest of my family, my mother, my father and my other siblings, they went to another safe house. And for many days, I didn't have any contact with them. We didn't talk to each other. We didn't have local SIM card. We were not using the internet at all, just to be sure that we didn't put any one of us in danger. So, at that point I was really afraid. I was afraid for my little brother and sister. And that was so bad for me. The only thing that I wanted to find at that time was the only person that I could trust. It was my uncle, Legend.

On the day that Kabul fell, when I saw the TV, the National TV of Afghanistan, I saw one of my colleagues at the National TV of Afghanistan, and he was celebrating the Taliban. And I was shocked. How could I trust someone in this situation when even my colleagues were working with the Taliban and celebrating? So, the only hope I had at that time was to find my uncle to be safe and to find my family.

ALLIÉ: So, here enters Legend.

MEHR: Yeah.

ALLIÉ: You saw and heard things that most will never see or hear in their lifetime. While trying to escape from Afghanistan, what was the worst thing you saw that gave you the most fear? What was the best thing you saw that gave you the most hope?

MEHR: During the 2 to 3 months when I was in Afghanistan, I saw many of the worst things. I saw the Taliban shooting people, killing people. I saw thousands and hundreds of people trying to escape Afghanistan. And I saw myself and my family in a situation where we had no food. We had no water. We had no money. And we had to go from one place to another. We were surrounded by guards who looked like the Taliban. With their clothes and the way they looked, I thought maybe they were Taliban. They looked exactly like them. I remember I was sick, and I remember I couldn't go to the doctor. For many days, I didn't have any medicine. So, lots of the worst things happened there.

“When I resisted, they put their guns on me, and I had to leave.”
I’ve always believed that the media can change lots of things.

MEHR: (continued) The one thing that scared me the most is the day we left the first safe house… The Taliban had been to our house, they searched our place. They were searching for me and my family. When they couldn't find us, they left an arrest warrant with the neighbors. They went to our house 2 or 3 times. After a month, we received the warrant from one of our neighbors, one of my father's friends. I saw the paper. I saw the Taliban had written lots of things in Pashto. And the one thing that scared me the most was they said that we have to surrender ourselves. And they said after we surrendered and after we served our punishment, I had to marry one of their commanders. It was the worst thing for me. And I can't even tell you how I was feeling at that time.

Because after we lost our country, after we lost our freedom, after me and my family lost our home and were running from the Taliban, something like that… It completely shocked me. I didn't know what to do. And the only thing that came to my mind is that, what if they find me? What if they force me to marry them? What will happen to me? The only thing I had at that time was myself, and I would lose myself to the Taliban. It was really, really scary for me. It was so bad. I can't even tell you in words how it felt to me.

The only thing that gave me hope was the day when I called my uncle, and I told him that we didn't have any place to go. I told him I was scared of the guards who were sent to protect me. I told him that I didn't have contact with my family. I couldn’t talk to them. I didn't know where my brothers were. And I didn't know if they're safe or not. Lots of things were happening. So, he said he would come to Afghanistan.

I remember in September there were many times we tried to enter the Kabul airport. Many attempts were made. We took a bus, we took a van, we were taken by guards that took us to the airport… Many times with a lot of people, we attempted… but it didn't happen for us. I remember it was midnight, and we were in a safe house, maybe 2 or 3 miles away from the airport… and we were told that the last military plane of the United States might take us. So, we hoped that maybe we could leave. But when that plane left and when 1 or 2 hours after that we heard the gunshots, the explosions, and the Taliban celebrating because the U.S. had completely left Afghanistan, it scared me the most.

So, I called my uncle and I said, “I don't know what to do. We can’t live like this.” We were running out of food. We were running out of water. We didn't have any money because banks were closed. It was so terrible and so horrible.
I will do my best to fight for the people who can’t raise their voice in Afghanistan.

MEHR: (continued) Again, he said he would come to Afghanistan. After a few days, when I was in a Logar in a safe house, I saw him from miles away. We couldn't talk. It was so dangerous for him to come near us. But I just saw him for maybe a minute. And that was so nice for me. That gave me hope that someone who could help was near. And it was someone I could trust. Someone that me and my family could trust was there for us.

ALLIÉ: I think I remember speaking with you then. I know I remember speaking with you on one of those nights when it seemed like you were so close to being safe.

MEHR: Oh, yes. I remember before going to Logar, we were in a safe house. I met my family after a few days, actually on that night we were together. And I was just happy that I could see my family, my brother, and my sister. But we were in an apartment in a block.

Suddenly, one of the security guards came and he said that the Taliban were just downstairs, and they had a picture of me and my family. They were searching for us, and somebody in the area told them where we were. The guards shouted and told us to run. We ran through the back doors. I remember my brother, he fell down very hard and he injured his leg. He was bleeding for like 2 to 3 hours. We were constantly on the move and got in a car going towards Logar.

I remember myself falling down on my face very hard. I hurt my face, my chest… And we didn't have a doctor to go to for many days. And then my uncle came. He brought us money, he brought us food and everything. He sent a doctor to treat me so I could get better. Because I was very stressed, I was very weak. We couldn't find enough food or enough water. So, I can't even tell you how it was, Allié. But seeing him… It was the only thing that gave me hope.

ALLIÉ: Thank goodness for Legend. And thank goodness you finally got out of the country. After escaping Afghanistan, you and your family spent time in the UAE. Again, you had to adapt to a different place in a very con fined space. Please share what that experience of ‘in between’ was like.

MEHR: In Abu Dhabi, for the first few months we were in lock down. For our family of 6, we had only 2 rooms. We were in lock down for 2 months, and then after 2 months, we were not allowed to go outside of the camp. I can't explain to you how it felt at that time. It was like a modern prison for us. We were just given food, the same food, and nothing else. Many times, there was lock down because of the food poisoning. The quality of the food was not good, and the people were getting sick. So, locked down, staying in the camp for over 12 months, and not knowing what was going to happen.

I was afraid. We didn't know if they would send us back to Afghanistan to the Taliban, or if they would send us to another country, or if they would separate us. Maybe they would send me to one country and my family to another country. That's what they first told me. They said, “You have to go to another country, and your family will go to a different country.” And I was shocked. After everything we had been through, I was going to lose my family again. And I didn't know when I would be able to see them. It was so horrible for me and for my family.

“Suddenly, one of the security guards came and he said that the Taliban were just downstairs… The guards shouted and told us to run.”

don’t have a country

MEHR: (continued) There were lots of people in the camp. I remember some lost hope completely. Some of them gave up. They went back to Afghanistan. Around 600 to 700 people went back to Afghanistan, because they couldn't bear staying for over a year in the camp. After they went to Afghanistan, they blocked the process. They stopped it so the other people couldn't go back to Afghanistan.

It was really bad. It was really, really bad. We didn't have enough food and water there. They were giving us water only for 1 day. We would receive 2 or 3 bottles of 500 ml water for 1 day for each person, and we couldn't find any more water. Food wasn't good. People were staying in camp and locked down for many days. We couldn't go outside of the camp. Especially for someone like me, it was so terrible. Because a month ago in Afghanistan, I was a successful woman. I was an established journalist. I had a life. I had a country. I had a home. We had everything there. But then, after a month, I had nothing… I had nothing. I only had my family around me. We didn't have a home. We didn't have freedom. I wasn't feeling like the same person I was a month ago, because everything had changed for me and for everyone in Afghanistan. And that's how it was. It was a very difficult period of time for me in my life.

ALLIÉ: It’s been 15 months since you were in hiding in Afghanistan. Now, you are here in the United States. Time to adapt once again… but once a journalist always a journalist. Are you ready to reemerge? Are you ready to once again report on what’s raw and real in this world, Mehr. What is your next? What do you want?

MEHR: Once a journalist, always a journalist. You just said it, Allié. Of course, I will do my work here. I will try my best. I’ll fight for Afghanistan, for my people, and for all those who didn't have the chance I had. Many people I know are still in Afghanistan; they didn't have this chance. So, I will never forget the reason why I'm here in the United States. I’ll never forget why I am not in my home anymore. I don't have a country anymore, and it's all because of the Taliban. So, I will never forget that. I will fight for my rights and for my dignity. I will work for that. And just because I'm in the U.S. and I'm safe and my family safe, I'm not going to stop… I will do my best to fight for the people who can’t raise their voice in Afghanistan. I will fight for the women. The Taliban took away from women the very basic rights they had as human beings. They took away their education. So, I'm going to fight for these women, these people. I'm going to support the resistance. And I'm going to do my best to make a difference, to do at least my part. And I want the same thing from the people of Afghanistan. I want for everyone who is listening to me to support us, to support the resistance, to support Legend Group. Since I'm here, I joined Legend Group. And I'm trying to help the other journalists, I'm trying to help other people who are stuck in Afghanistan, whose lives are in danger. I will try to somehow make a difference and help them to escape. And I ask them to do the same and support us.

ALLIÉ: And support we will, in any and every way that we are able. While you felt very alone these past many months, you were never alone. And you never will be.

MEHR: I know. You have always supported me, Allié. Thank you so much. When I was in trouble, you always texted me. You always asked me how I was feeling. But I was really depressed at that time. And even though I wanted to be back on my work and report, I couldn't because of the stress I was feeling. We didn't know what was going to happen to us next. So, I couldn't do anything there, and I was in distress. But I think this is my chance. I'm here, and I'm going to do my best to support my people, to raise my voice for them, to help them, and do my best for all.

Nobody in Afghanistan accepts the Taliban. Nobody accepts the Taliban in U.S. Nobody. I haven't heard any Congressmen supporting any member of the Taliban. So, the United States, the United Nations, everyone knows them as a terrorist organization. And I'm not going to look the other way… I want to say this to the people of Afghanistan. The Taliban are just a few. We are many. We can do it. We can bring change. I want them to know that people everywhere are supporting them. We are trying our best to do good. And we are going to fight for our rights. We are going to fight for our dignity.

anymore, and it’s all because of the Taliban.”

ALLIÉ: To those still trying to escape from Afghanistan, a home they love now haunted by the Taliban, what advice can you share? What hope can you give?

MEHR: I've always believed in free media. I've always believed that the media can change lots of things. And I've said it before to you too, I remember that. And I still believe. I still believe in free media. I think you, me, all members of the media, we can do good. We can tell the world what is happening in Afghanistan. We can tell the world that the Talibans are the same people who they were in 1990. They haven't changed. They're even worse. And everyone knows that. After everything they did and are doing in Afghanistan, everyone knows what's happening.

So, we'll fight. We'll do our best. And thank you so much, Allié, for everything you’ve done, for this interview, for covering my story, and for letting me have this chance to tell the world what is happening.

ALLIÉ: And thank you, Mehr, for telling your story. You and I both know, as do a number of people, that sometimes all it takes is just one story reaching just one person, that can change everything. And so, we continue to share these stories. We continue to stand in truth together, never alone. Again, thank you, Mehr, for sharing your story, your strength, and your hope. Thank you for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. ∎

AwareNow Podcast ESCAPE FROM AFGHANISTAN Exclusive Interview with Mehr Mursal
Learn more about Awareness Ties Official Ambassador Mehr Mursal Amiri:
It’s knowing you are frightened or have anxious feelings but facing them and choosing not to indulge them.



When dreams reoccur, it is for a very important reason. The dreaming mind is using the power of repetition to get an important point across because for some reason the dreamer is not getting the message.


"This was a reoccurring dream I had for five or six years straight and it’s still very vivid… I'm laying on my bedroom floor looking out into the hallway and I see three forms made of white light that are moving in a human way but reach from ceiling to floor and moving very slowly, I know I am supposed to follow them. There's a skin in sequence, and I end up outside at night. In front of a house I know well, although it looks like it's not been lived in for years. There are holes in walls, paint pieces, no carpet, just old wood. I follow the forms upstairs to a room where they sit at a table like a courtroom or a meeting. They tell me things I can’t grasp or quite understand. At this time I realize they do have faces and arms and clothes. They are dressed somewhat like royalty. They stare at me for what seems like a very long time. I move forward and the “leader” puts his hand on my shoulder... Sometimes this sends me to other places to see random events...

No matter how the dream ended after that, I always woke up with a sense of calm.” - JCM


Lying down in a dream suggests a lack of motivation about something or someone in your waking life. However, the hallway indicates being open to opportunity and exploring the possibility of making a change and taking action. The three lights in human form are a symbol of greater clarity, guidance, insight and understanding or finding an answer or the truth that the dreamer longs for. The number three is important as it is the number of creation, so this dream is calling the dreamer to be creative and think outside the box and to stop repeating negative patterns. They may need to shed old skins or ideas that may be holding them back. Once they do this they will grow in self-belief (houses in dreams are about the ego) and this may not always be easy as they will have to encounter aspects of themselves that they may not feel comfortable with (the holes) but understanding all aspects of their personality, even the negative aspects, will help them understand that personal growth is not about repressing or denying dif ficult emotions and fears but understanding them and choosing to feel positive emotions instead. That is the true strength of character. That is true inner strength. That is true enlightenment. It’s knowing you are frightened or have anxious feelings but facing them and choosing not to indulge them. However, to reach this stage of enlightenment (royalty) the dream is urging the dreamer to not let their self-worth be bound up with how others view them. The faceless forms are about identity.


“In essence, this dream is a love letter to the dreamer encouraging them to look within…”

This dream is calling the dreamer to indulge their creativity and be themselves and not to fear the judgement or be defined by the expectations of others because when they do that they just need to simply trust (hand on shoulder) that everything in their life will flow in the right direction, and that twill be able to cope with anything that life throws at them. In essence, this dream is a love letter to the dreamer encouraging them to look within, understand their feelings and to get their feelings of worth from the inside out because there is much creativity and magic waiting there. Royalty implies power and the dreamer will evolve in their waking life when they wear their own power with pride and don't feel afraid to shine or be noticed (the staring). This is the only fulfilling way forward for the dreamer now.

The reason for the sense of calm is that in the dream the dreamer has moved from contemplation to creativity, faced their fears and shadows and experienced the joy of creative and healthy flow in the process. It's a beautiful dream urging the dreamer to believe in themselves because there is so much that is special about them that deserves to be treated like royalty. Others see that but the dreamer needs to see that as well. ∎

THERESA CHEUNG Dream Expert & Best-Selling Author

THERESA CHEUNG is a best-selling author and dream decoding expert who has been researching and writing about spirituality, astrology, dreams, and the paranormal for the past twenty-five years. With a Master's degree from King's College Cambridge University in Theology and English, and several international best-selling books, including two Sunday Times "top 10 bestsellers", Theresa has over 40 published books and cards on topics of the science of cognition to intuition. Her Dream Dictionary from A to Z (Harper Collins) regularly sits at number 1 on its category's Amazon list, and is regarded as a classic in its field.
Have a dream you’d like decoded? ← Scan, tap or click the code to submit your dream to AwareNow. If selected, it will be published in AwareNow Magazine with Theresa’s analysis.


January 20, 21 & 22 @ New Orleans Jazz Market

The story starts immediately following the death of jazz great, Charlie Parker. “The whole opera is about the dream of Charlie Parker to bridge two worlds (of classical and jazz music)…” writes composer Daniel Schnyder. With the aid of his strong mother Addie, three of his four wives, and his partner in the bebop jazz revolution, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie struggles to calm his demons and write his final masterpiece.

For Tickets Please Visit

The Ranney and Emel Songu Mize Chamber Opera Series

Life goes on in beautiful ways.


Community Relations Manager at accessiBe and United Spinal Association Board Member, Josh Basile is a medical malpractice lawyer and disabilities rights advocate who serves persons with disabilities both in the courtroom and through policy initiatives. As a community leader and changemaker, Josh works tirelessly to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities and to continuously break down existing barriers to access and inclusion.

ALLIÉ: When people think back to being 18, they think of being able to vote, being able to enlist in the military and being able to buy a lottery ticket and maybe even win. At the age of 18 for you, Josh, it was the ability to walk that you lost. Please tell us the story of your trip to the beach that changed your life.

JOSH: I was on an annual family vacation with my family and I was in waist high water. I turned my back to the ocean and a wave picked me up, threw me over my boogie board and slammed me head first against the ocean floor. I


“…we want to include everybody in society in a meaningful way.”

JOSH: (continued) I was unable to move and unable to scream for help. Luckily my friends saw me floating and they pulled me to the shore. My new life started that day.

I woke up 14 days later in the critical unit with a ventilator in my neck. And when you have a ventilator to help you breathe, it takes away your ability to speak. So, my only way to communicate was by blinking once for yes, twice for no. When I did regain my voice about five weeks later. That's the day I became an advocate for life. My every work from that moment on counted. I made sure that it had meaning, purpose… I've been advocating ever since.

ALLIÉ: As they say, life goes on. And on you it went with your disabilities, working to secure accessibilities for one and all. Why was it important for you to not only fight for yourself but for others?

JOSH: Well, power in numbers. If we do things together – our voices, our wheels, our stories – become that much louder and more impactful. Yes, oftentimes when I'm trying to break down barriers, it's something that impacts me but it also impacts my friends, and my community members. It impacts people that I know and care about that also can benefit from it and the thing with disability is that it doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and the truth is, it's not a matter of if, but when, disability will impact you personally or someone you care about, someone you love. And creating more accessibility just makes sense. It's good practice, it's good business, and it's good life –because we want to include everybody in society in a meaningful way.

ALLIÉ: When people think of ‘accessibility’ for people with disabilities, it’s products, services and facilities that usually come to mind. And while physical access is needed and required, it’s digital access that is also needed. With only 3% of websites accessible, how does this impact 15% of the world’s population, 25% in the U.S, living with some kind of disability?

JOSH: Oftentimes, they're just not welcomed in the same way as everyone else to have the same experiences to benefit from the products, services, and experiences that a website is trying to offer to the world and with your unique abilities. You might be stuck on the first page of a website. You might not be able to understand what that picture is saying. You might not be able to be able to truly benefit from everything that it's offering and then you're stuck there. We want to make sure that everybody can go from A to Z to be able to get the information they need, and to get the products they need just like everyone else. Being able to bring accessibility opens the door to opportunity and better futures for the people that are visiting but also the businesses that want to have more customers. No business ever wants to say you know what, we don't want 15% more customers. So, it's a matter of seeing this as an opportunity, a best practice. It's good business and it's also going to help a lot of people.

ALLIÉ: Many fear what they don’t know or understand. When it comes to the digital accessibility gap, most don’t know where to begin, and so they’re afraid to start. Josh, here enters accessiBe, for which you are the Community Relations Manager. How is accessiBe using technology to close the gap?

JOSH: Doing it first and before even using technology, it's raising awareness. It's having the right conversations. It's doing what we're doing here today. If we don't talk about it, we can't learn about it. We can't find out where we're at


we don’t talk about it, we can’t learn about it.”

JOSH: (continued) and do better. So, one of the big things is to know where you're at from a technology standpoint. You can go to and have the ability to enter the URL of your website and scan your site to show you where you're doing great, where you're doing poorly, and where you can improve. When you understand where you can improve or what you need to do, and where you stand, that gives you options and choices.

One of the incredible technologies that they've created is an AI powered solution called an accessWidget. That widget scans your site, finds all the different areas where there are accessibility barriers and helps to fix them to create more accessibility and usability on your site by integrating additional code. It's able to use arti ficial intelligence and software to do the hard work day in and day out.

Then there's also different things that they're doing to bring more accessibility if a business or developers want to create a website from scratch. So, it's understanding there are different approaches to bringing accessibility to your site. But it's finding a company like accessiBe that's really trying to do as much good as possible to make sure customers and businesses of all sizes know that they have somebody that they can turn to for bringing accessibility to their websites.

ALLIÉ: Once we’re aware, we need to act. If we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. All that said, we don’t need to be ‘perfect’; we just need to be better. When it comes to matters of online accessibility and inclusion, for those who know they aren’t perfect, but want to be better, where do they start?

JOSH: It's just doing something today. You have to start somewhere. Your business is a journey. Accessibility is a journey. It's not one of those things that you do. You don’t flip one switch or you check one box and it's done. Accessibility is something that you want to build in over time because you want to include all customers. So, we’ve got to start somewhere. AccessiBe is doing so much to make sure that every business has a choice and that they're scalable solutions to make sure that the 3% of websites on the internet that are accessible can now ramp to 5% to 10% to 25 to 50% someday, all the way to 100%. That will be a different world then.

It's smart business. So often business owners want to do more to bring in more customers. They want to make their customers feel valued. There's no greater way to do that than by bringing accessibility to your business's website. It's important to recognize that people with disabilities are recognized so they come back again and again as repeat customers. People with disabilities come back again and again to accessible websites because they're welcome, they're treated right and they spend their dollars there. And, we're talking about billions of dollars and that’s just in the United States. One in four U.S. adults are living with some form of disability. We're talking about huge numbers here. So simply bringing accessibility to your site helps brand loyalty and helps people get a better experience. Your business is also following the rules and regulations for compliance purposes. I can't emphasize enough to businesses to do it, and to do it now. Start this journey because you need to do it. And, it is going to help you. It’s really a win-win on so many different levels.

Change is never easy. It’s getting outside your comfort zone and doing something different, but then once you finally do it and make that leap, incredible things show up and you're ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner. I think that's part of the accessiBe story… When people finally do bring accessibility to their website, they're not regretting it. They're so grateful that they did, and they wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.



ALLIÉ: Absolutely. And to your point about the widget, I'll go on our site and I'll click the accessWidget open. I'll try out different settings. I’ll experience and explore our own site through someone else’s lens… engaging as others with different degrees of different abilities. It helps us fine tune and improve the user experience. It's such a gift.

JOSH: It gives you choice. It gives you the power to experience the website with your own unique abilities and the truth is with different websites I like to actually create different types of profiles and customizations to better experience that site for what I'm trying to get out of it. It's awesome to have that in your back pocket on your computer screen and to be able to use it. I truly believe that the accessWidget gives me a list of superpowers at my disposal and I just have to turn them on and off.

ALLIÉ: Agreed. It gives you instant perspective. You can literally look at your site through someone else's lens. It's just wild. We’re so thankful for finding accessiBe. Thankful for finding you. We love the work that you're doing, and I love that as soon as you had a disability of your own, you're an instantly and advocate for others with disabilities of their own. That speaks volumes about you, Josh.

JOSH: There's so much life worth living. It’s just a matter of finding purpose and drive. It’s waking up and being able to do good. Luckily, I've been able to find a lot of that. Life goes on in beautiful ways. ∎

AwareNow Podcast
Exclusive Interview with Josh Basile TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN
While I was in Kabul,
was taking me to the kids that Legend Group has adopted.


Jazz Cannon was born in Afghanistan – where life for women meant you were a piece of property, with no rights and no voice, covered yourself in a burqa and were subservient to the men in your family. In her upcoming book, she’ll share the story of how she overcame adversity and went on to flourish with her new life in the United States. In this conversation, we explore the chapters of Jazz Cannon, including her most recent one about a legendary mission to save Afghan orphans and children from the Taliban.

ALLIÉ: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” This is how Charles Dickens begins the famous novel A Tale Of Two Cities. In the novel of your life, Jazz Cannon, I’d like to hear about the best of times and the worst of times, not about two cities, but about one country. You were born there, you left there and you recently went back there. Please share your best memory and your worst memory of Afghanistan.

JAZZ: Allié, I love how you quoted A Tale of Two Cities. “…It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness…” My best times were in my early school years. I was a very smart kid. Always came first or 3rd place in my class. My favorite subject was literature. One time my teacher decided to test my talent. She brought a university book and she asked me to read a page out of the book in front of all the students in the class. I didn’t hesitate and started reading

It was because of my dad that I am where I am today.

JAZZ: (continued) But then, with the change of Government and the Taliban’s first reign in the 90s, my life changed with a blink of an eye. I saw myself fleeing the country with my family with just a bag of clothes. I saw war right before my eyes. My five year old cousin got shot and killed on the street. My uncle was shot and injured. My aunt’s husband went missing and she was left with no home or income with her two children. My father’s life was threatened because he worked for the government. We crossed the border to Pakistan and took refuge temporarily thinking we will be leaving the country to come to the US in a few weeks. Little did we know that our waiting period would be almost a decade before we were able to leave.

In Pakistan, we did not know the language, the people and its culture. So, I found myself being homeschooled by my father. Almost all my teenage life was spent at home studying. I had limited friends and not much physical activity. My parents were keeping me and my siblings safe but that meant being locked down in a two bedroom apartment with limited water supply and constant power outages.

ALLIÉ: Our lives and the courses we follow are often influenced both by people we’ve known all our lives and by people we’ve only just met. I’d like to start with your father. How did he shape your life as a girl growing up?

JAZZ: My dad is my hero. Growing up, of all my siblings, I was the one following him everywhere. I wanted to be like him. He spoke eloquently. I could listen to him for hours. He was always helping people. He was patriotic and loved his country. He believed in democracy. He was for the people, by the people. It was because of my dad that I am where I am today. Despite our immigration, financial hardship, and emotional struggles, he never stopped taking care of our family – in particular our education. He couldn’t afford to pay for our school tuition, but he was also a firm believer that the future of his children was going to be in a western country. We studied Oxford English textbooks at home. He was the principal of our school, the dean, the teacher, the substitute teacher – all in one. His famous words were “English is the language of food.” He was right. Today, I am grateful to be in a position to help those who are going through the same struggle that I did 20 years ago. Trusting that they don’t get to spend a decade of their lives in the wilderness of education like I did.

ALLIÉ: Again, the course of our lives can be influenced by a perfect stranger with a powerful story. Jazz, please share Roya’s story. Let’s start with her pens and go back.

JAZZ: While I was in Kabul, Legend was taking me to the kids that Legend Group has adopted. On my way, I saw this girl on the street. She kept approaching me, asking me to buy a pen. Her face was fully covered with black hijab and I could only see her eyes. She was as tall as I was. She was holding a set of blue ball point pens in her hand. She approached me and asked if I could buy a pen for 10 Afghanis – which is about 11 cents. I asked her why she was

have sent the money that I had to one of Legend’s contacts. He is buying all the pens from her everyday.


Exclusive Interview with Jazz Cannon

JAZZ: (continued) selling these pens on the streets and why wasn’t she at school instead? That’s when she shared a tragic and disturbing story. “We don’t have food to feed us,” she said. She was in 11th grade when the Taliban took over and shortly after that, she was no longer allowed to go to school. And then she burst into tears. I could tell her heart was exploding with pain as she shared her story. Both her mom and dad were working for the government. After the Taliban invasion, they both quit their jobs in fear of losing their lives. Her father was out looking for work everyday. They ran out of their savings real quick which put them in desperate need for jobs. Her father, seeing no other choice, decided to check on his former friends from the government in hopes of getting back to work. Unfortunately, that led him straight to the Taliban. She said that they caught him, and killed him. This news got to their neighbors and the neighbors warned her mother that she needed to hide and that the Taliban were coming for her. She said that her mom didn’t even have the time to mourn her father’s death and focused on packing their clothes to leave the city with her six children. Unfortunately, for the family again, the Taliban entered their home, captured her mother. She said she saw four very angry men with guns. They dragged her mom out of the house and into the front yard. Two of the men used their guns as beating tools and they beat her bloody. Roya was holding on to her five crying young siblings while screaming for help, and begging them to stop beating her mom. They told her that they were coming back for her. Roya saw them tying her mom’s hands with scarves and took her out of the house and dumped her into the trunk of a white vehicle. To this date, Roya never saw her mother again. She does not know if she is dead, or taken as a sex slave. She’s living with her uncle but he can’t afford to keep the kids at school and feed them while taking care of his own family. So Roya and her younger sister are out on the streets everyday selling pens, matches and napkins. She said they are all missing school but there is nothing they can do to help themselves. Since she lives with her uncle, other Taliban have asked her uncle to marry her off to one of the Taliban men. But her uncle has refused this because she’s just a teenager. Roya said that she can only refuse so many times.

Legend Group Foundation is helping her with her education. She attends our school. I have sent the money that I had to one of Legend’s contacts. He is buying all the pens from her everyday. So, it appears that she is selling her pens and is able to attend school. We have a lot of blue pens. We can’t disclose any information about her due to family safety reasons, but we need your support to help young adults such as Roya go back to school.

ALLIÉ: Just as one story can make a difference, one donation can as well. Sure a small donation may not change the world, but it can absolutely change one person’s world. When it comes to the Legend Group Foundation, please share what a small donation can do for a child like Roya in Afghanistan.

JAZZ: For only $35 dollars per month, you can provide a child with their school tuition, books, stationaries, lunch, snacks, uniform, and many more. You will also be in touch with your sponsored child to learn more about them, their progress in school and life in general. Your commitment is life-changing for a child in Afghanistan. ∎

AwareNow Podcast
Learn more about Legend Group Foundation. Support & sponsor a child:
Artwork by: Gustavo Vera



What follows is ‘Good News’, an excerpt from the book ‘Travelers’ by Gustavo Vera.

May you be inspired to find hope in the love and peace that are with us now.

I still remember that day, the disaster was imminent, the families had said goodbye, the lovers had made love wildly the night before, the dreamers did not put limits or restrictions. My friend John tells me that his father, Will, who was always a wine collector, opened his best wine the night before, a Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina.

Probably whoever reads this does not understand it, or thinks "well, everyone has a goodbye night" but this was different. The two great leaders had reached their peak of abuse, watching a newscast was like squeezing a sponge full of blood at a crime scene. The organizations and asylum houses for the orphans and the homeless had closed their doors, they could not cope.

We all waited, with a feeling of emptiness in our bodies, for the moment when the alarm would go off, when the sky would darken. Sitting in a bunker, Will whispered, "I thought we were all brothers, that there were no differences... help us, Lord.”

When the countdown of the clock on the wall came to an end, the old television without a signal backed into a corner rang, a hoarse voice, with a mixture of nervousness and brokenness said "Gentlemen, friends, it's over, it's finally over! Today there is a new opportunity!”

On stage, a man and a woman, two humans, two people who have already suffered and now only looking for hope, they intertwined their hands, their words were like the caress of a flower, their eyes were brighter than the sun because they radiated love and light. In the midst of chaos and hopelessness, the human being demonstrated that violence and intolerance never win the battle, that protecting love and life was our mission, beyond skin color or language, religion or a political economic philosophy. His message was the bomb of hope that we needed.

I send this letter to the past. I still don't know at what point in history someone will receive it, but I hope it serves as a message of union and hope, that love and peace are not the end of the road, but the beginning and the beginning is now.


Architect, Illustrator and Footwear Designer

I'm GUSTAVO VERA, aka "Gusper". I am an architect, illustrator and footwear designer. I suffer from a rare disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta. My mission is to tell the stories that my eyes see and express the lines of my life.
(Extract from the book Travelers’ by Gustavo Vera)





Lo que sigue es 'Buenas noticias', un extracto del libro 'Viajeros' de Gustavo Vera. Que se sientan inspirados para encontrar esperanza en el amor y la paz que están con nosotros ahora.

Aún recuerdo aquel día, el desastre era inminente, las familias se habían despedido, los amantes habían hecho el amor de forma desenfrenada la noche anterior, los soñadores no pusieron límites ni restricciones. Cuenta mi amigo John que su padre, Will, que siempre fue un coleccionista de vinos abrió la noche anterior su mejor vino, un Malbec de la región de Mendoza en Argentina.

Probablemente quien lea esto no lo entienda, o piense “bueno, todos tienen una noche de despedidas” pero esto era distinto. Los dos grandes líderes habían llegado a su punto más alto de abusos, ver un noticiero era como exprimir una esponja llena de sangre en la escena del crimen. Las organizaciones y casas de asilo para los huérfanos y desamparados habían cerrado sus puertas, no se daban abasto.

Todos esperábamos, con una sensación de vacío en el cuerpo, el momento en que la alarma suene, en que el cielo oscureciese. Sentados, en un bunker, Will susurró “Creí que todos éramos hermanos, que no había diferencias… ayúdanos, Señor.”

Cuando el conteo regresivo del reloj en la pared llegaba a su fin, sonó el viejo televisor sin señal arrinconado en una esquina, una voz ronca, con una mezcla de nerviosismo y quebrantamiento dijo “señores, amigos, se acabó, ¡al fin se acabó! ¡Hoy hay una nueva oportunidad!”

En el escenario un hombre y una mujer, dos humanos, dos personas que ya sufrieron y ahora solo buscaban esperanza, entrelazaban sus manos, sus palabras eran como la caricia de una flor, sus ojos eran más brillantes que el sol pues irradiaban amor y luz, en medio del caos y la desesperanza, el ser humano demostró que la violencia y la intolerancia nunca ganan la batalla, que proteger el amor y la vida era nuestra misión, más allá de un color de piel o de un idioma, de una religión o una filosofía político económica. Su mensaje fue la bomba de esperanza que necesitábamos.

Envío esta carta al pasado, aún no se en qué momento de la historia alguien la reciba, pero espero que sirva como un mensaje de unión y esperanza, que el amor y la paz no sean el final del camino, sino el inicio y el inicio es ahora. Att, Rodrigo Ecuador, 25 de noviembre del 2069 (Extracto del libro ‘Viajeros’ de Gustavo Vera.)

GUSTAVO VERA Arquitecto, Ilustrador y Diseñador de Calzado

Soy GUSTAVO VERA, alias "Gusper". Soy arquitecto, ilustrador y diseñador de calzado. Sufro de una rara enfermedad llamada osteogénesis imperfecta. Mi misión es contar las historias que ven mis ojos y expresar las líneas de mi vida.
Photo Credit: Chris Werner


“This is a recap in rhyme that shares the beautiful story of Sebastian & Toby Vera. These words were shared on September 4th, 2022 at Sebastian and Toby’s vow renewal ceremony that took place in San Francisco at Sigmund Stern Grove. On a red eye flight, I put pen to paper to honor one of my dearest friends, Toby, and her soulmate, Sebastian. The love they share is a gift to us all. They love with a love that is more than love. He and she love in a way that inspires.” -

Allow me to tell you a story of a love between he and she. It’s about passion preserved by pen and a life together that came to be.

In high school, they met in a photography class. They instantly clicked, and became friends fast.

Before she left to study abroad, they promised to write each other. He promised to never forget her, for she was like no other.

From pen pals to best friends, they fell in love and began talking life. In the Navy, boot camp gave him strength to ask her to be his wife.

He proposed in Chicago, near by the House of Blues. She said “yes” and they vowed to make it official with “I do”’s.

Before his Middle East deployment, with a civil ceremony they tied the knot. Hand written letters made their love stronger, with no chance of being forgot.

Back from the Navy and seven years since they took their vow, he and she now have a little girl, that brings us to here and now.

Tonight we raise our glasses to Sebastian the husband, and Toby the wife. We celebrate he and she, their friendship, their love and their life. ∎

Photo Credit: Chris Werner

Life is a gift and very fragile, therefore, I live my life as meaningful as I possibly can. Through me, my younger sister lives in my heart.


Artwork by: Cassandra Tang @art_cassandratang



Largely due to a gift I’ve been given by Artists of Trauma to be of service, 2022 has been an amazing year for me. I’ve worked with amazing artists and produced multiple fundraisers. I had the pleasure of being boots on the ground at multiple Danny Wimmer Presents music festivals in my home town of Louisville, KY (accompanied by our founder, Laura Sharpe, and our partner Allie McGuire of AwareNow) and in California. I’ve learned that we are all ‘fellow travelers’ despite the level of trauma, adversity or challenges we have been met with in this human experience. Words cannot explain how each one of the artists featured here have personally inspired me. I’m sure if you take a deeper look at each of them and their stories, you too will be inspired. Thank you Cassandra, Tommy, Richard and Thaniel for doing what you do so well. It’s helped me be a better version of myself.


‘THE WRITING ON THE WALL’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY EDDIE DONALDSON EDDIE DONALDSON GuerillaOne x The Seventh Letter Louisville, Kentucky native Eddie Donaldson moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and became involved with the graffiti movement as an alternative to the turbulent gang activity of his generation. Immersed first as an artist amongst diverse L.A. crews like TCF, AWR, and The Seventh Letter, Donaldson had the vision to develop their homegrown graffiti movement into something beyond the streets. His loyalty and business sensibility transformed the graffiti scene and he evolved into the point person for producing art events and exhibitions that inspire and spread the stylistic of southern California art into the world.
Artwork by: Cassandra Tang @art_cassandratang
Artwork by: Cassandra Tang @art_cassandratang

We are all blessed with gifts from God. Find it, and honor God by using your gift.

Artwork by: Tommy Hollenstein @tommyhollenstein
Artwork by: Tommy Hollenstein @tommyhollenstein
Artwork by: Tommy Hollenstein @tommyhollenstein

“These paintings were forcefully extracted from feelings of isolation and profound change that were brought upon by a global pandemic. I found it very difficult to work during this time, which compounded my lack of motivation.

Through the complexity of notes and tones resonating through my studio from the creativity of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and other jazz giants, and studio visits from friends that so graciously allowed me to paint them, these works were born.”

Artwork by: Richard Bell @dickybell
Artwork by: Richard Bell @dickybell
Artwork by: Richard Bell @dickybell

“In my work I attempt to go beyond my physical limitations, by creating impossible objects that stretch reality. These works are part of a series of works based on Roman and Greek vases. I use these shapes as a way to give shape and form to the free association of the imagery contained in the works.”

Artwork by: Thaniel Lee
Artwork by: Thaniel Lee
Artwork by: Thaniel Lee @thanielionlee
Artwork by: Ariya

What if all these sequences And magical algorithms

Spiraling in my mind And echoing in my heart Do add up

What if we know exactly what it's all about What does that change

I just need to love you This answers

Will always remain The same
ARIYA Artist & Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for LGBTQ+ Awareness
I am a creative intuitive artist sharing the universe I see and experience beyond the boundaries of our planet. My
come from inner
that is heart centered and does not rely on analysis or head-based questions. It is a way of creating that reflects the connection into your emotions and responding to what feels right. This intuitive space is a place of trust that opens doors to my imagination that I would never find by reason and sensory perception.
98 Do not underestimate the hope and strength your adaptation story may bring to somebody else’s life.



Release The Genie Fact:

The Genie had to give up its skydiving hobby. One Grand Canyon is enough.

When I think about the concept of adapting, the tale of The Willow Tree and The Oak Tree springs to mind. In a storm, the supple willow bends and sways with the wind. It will bend but it will not break. By contrast, the oak tree, big and strong, does not move. It does not have the same flexibility, and rather than bending and going with the storm, its only option when it gets too much is to break.

I think all of us have been both the Willow and the Oak in various areas of our life. Much has been made of the analogy for having an open or fixed mindset.

I am a believer that life sends you lessons to learn and master. If they are not learnt, then the same type of lesson will keep repeating until mastered. Not all classrooms have walls. Adaptation is life's great lesson. You may have thought that you were done with education, but education is not done with you. If you want any evidence of this, just sit for a moment and think of how much you have learnt in life since you left school!

I saw a great picture the other day which humorously sums this up and it’s especially relevant as I am turning 50 next year. “It said that I am an 18 year old, with 32 years of experience.”

I recently had a reason to look at my CV. I had to dig it out of storage and I noticed that it was obviously last used and written before my March 2018 accident and life changing Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

It was hard to recognize the person in the CV. It was me but not me today. It was like looking into a mirror but not recognizing your reflection.

One of the things not talked about with a severe TBI is for the loss of self. It is not just a physical injury, it is a lifechanging circumstance. No one can prepare you for the grief for the loss of yourself and the resulting complex crises of identity: a conflict in the desire for the true extent of your new invisible disabilities to be recognized, yet, at the same time, trying to move amongst the uninjured and able-bodied undetected.

The hardest lesson of my adaptation process is the grasp of the mirage-like goal of acceptance. I continue to strive for this goal, which some days seems closer than others. Raising awareness of how dif ficult the actual process of adapting to circumstances outside of your control is, is one of life’s real aha moments. Many of us are on that same journey, and I’m sure would welcome this acknowledgment of being seen.

Once you have wrestled with the adaptation concept, then comes the question of the best time for its application. When does the adapting take place? If you only apply what you have learnt in the good times, then it is only an application of a theory or intellectual understanding. The far more dif ficult path is the application of what you have learnt in the bad times. This is when intellectual thinking gives way to understanding and knowing. Unfortunately, at the very time you don’t feel like working, is actually the time you need to work on yourself the hardest. This is why the adaptation process is so very difficult.



“I discovered, to my surprise, that I had accomplished far more than I thought.”

Nature illustrates this process too. Think of the round smooth pebbles you find on the beach. They didn’t start out this way but rather they are the result of the ocean’s attritional process of throwing jagged rocks together until the edges become smooth.

Back to my CV. Although the person it belonged to was hard to recognise, I took on the task of adapting the narrative, seeing that pre-accident person through my current eyes. I discovered, to my surprise, that I had accomplished far more than I thought. I also found that when it came to the section on personal qualities, I was able to come up with an entirely different set of words. For example creative, collaborative, empathetic, and authentic. These insights were most likely always there, but like the smooth stones, have only been revealed by the continuing adaptation process.

Final thoughts: Do not underestimate the hope and strength your adaptation story may bring to somebody else's life. ∎


Transformation Expert, Awareness Hellraiser & Public Speaker

PAUL S. ROGERS is a keynote public speaking coach, “Adversity to hope, opportunity and prosperity. “ Transformation expert, awareness Hellraiser, life coach, Trauma TBI, CPTSD mentor, train crash and cancer survivor, public speaking coach, Podcast host “Release the Genie” & Best-selling author. His journey has taken him from from corporate leader to kitesurfer to teacher on first nations reserve to today. Paul’s goal is to inspire others to find their true purpose and passion.
AwareNow Podcast



Language holds incredible power over us.



As the dust began to settle, I had to turn off the television and put down my phone, iPad, and other devices. While it sounds a bit like an episode of Blue's Clues (sorry, Joe, I am totally on Team Steve), I headed out to my porch to sit in my thinking chair to reflect on things I have seen or read over the last few months. Sitting overlooking the red, yellow, and orange foliage covering the hills, I began thinking about all the political ads, interviews, and rallies that had ended. Some were invigorating, while others were infuriating. It really struck me in this mid-term cycle how often public figures stood in front of a camera and said what they said. Then it hit me. It is not about truth; it is about winning.

Language holds incredible power over us. It can shape our today and motivate us for tomorrow. Over the last few months, I have discussed various tactics used to manipulate you and me, but today it feels like the language is more polarizing. Maybe it is because of the hyperconnectivity of social media that forces us to be more in tune with the world. Or perhaps if we cannot experience what happened in the past, it does not resonate as strongly. After all, Pulitzer Prize Winner Stacy Schiff said, "Sometimes history blossoms after the fact, and sometimes it evaporates." (1), and well, she is not wrong. But why does it seem that people sitting on the world stage speak in such absolutes? Suddenly it feels like collaboration is off the table. It is my way or the highway. People have used fear and divisive language to attain or maintain power for as long as recorded time, but linguistic devices are being used to suit one's needs instead of trying to solve problems. Pete Buttigieg hit the nail on the head when he said, "The issue becomes when the problem is more useful to you than the solution." (2).

The primary device popping up is Linguistic Intergroup Bias (LIB). Designed to evoke an emotional response LIB anchors the 'Us vs. Them' mentality to stoke fear and anger. As an audience, we are currently in a buyer-beware moment. Because the truth is secondary to winning and finger-pointing is the go-to deflective answer to questions about proposed solutions, it falls on us to understand what is happening and how to react. Our public figures have seemingly devolved into an 'I know you are, but what am I?' response instead of even remotely attempting to work with one another to eliminate a problem. We, as the public, should be informed on how to spot various devices intended to muddy the waters. I know, and I hear you. It is an exhausting task but necessary.

So, what does this have to do with a viral tweet or a report on television? Well, think about it. Often, the language is divisive. We know that social cooperation is complicated, but many politicians and angertainers neglect to exercise their ethical duty to encourage collaboration based on understanding our communities. Instead of promoting cooperation, they use absolutes to divide communities. When public figures bombard us with divisive speech, we become angry, and our hatred for others builds. Hate makes people susceptible to believing everything the ‘Us’ says about ‘Them.’ We become gullible and willing to accept anything our group declares as the truth. It is simple, really. As we become more embittered, our hatred of ‘Them’ grows. We become incredibly susceptible to animosity and are willing to accept any allegation against the ‘Them’ and reject allegations again ‘Us.’ Blinded by hatred, we fall for virtually anything, and politicians know it.


Public figures that want to attain power, stay in control or want more money, utilize LIB more and more. LIB is a systematic asymmetry in how one uses language as a function of the person's social group (s) being described (3). Another way to think about this is we tend to describe the actions of those we regard as one of ‘Us’ quite differently than those we regard as one of ‘Them.’ It turns out that we also describe our group vs. another group with weaponized words. For instance, Jason Stanley explains in his book, How Fascism Works:

"The word criminal has a literal meaning, but it also has a resonant meaning—people who by their nature are insensitive to society's norms, drawn to violate the law by self-interest or malice. We do not generally use the term to describe those who may have inadvertently broken the law or who may have been compelled to violate a law in a desperate circumstance. Someone who runs to catch a bus is not a runner; someone who commits a crime is not a criminal. The word ‘criminal’ attributes a certain type of character to someone. If someone we regard as one of ‘us’ does something bad—for example, steals a chocolate bar—we tend to describe the action concretely. In other words, if my friend steals a chocolate bar, I will characterize what he did as stealing a chocolate bar. On the other hand, if someone we regard as one of ‘them’ does the same thing, we tend to describe the action more abstractly by imputing bad character traits to the person committing it and is much more likely to be described as a thief or a criminal.”

LIB research has shown that we can infer from how someone's actions are being described—abstractly or concretely —whether that person is being categorized as ‘Us" or ‘Them.’ Politicians who describe whole categories of persons as ‘criminals’ are imputing to them permanent character traits that are frightening to most people while simultaneously positioning themselves as our protectors. Such language undermines the democratic process of reasonable decisionmaking, replacing it with fear. A member of ‘Them’ is a criminal, and a member of ‘Us’ only makes mistakes.

This is also true when describing positive actions. If one of ‘Us’ does something positive, we describe the action with good character traits. One of ‘Us’ gave a child a chocolate bar is generous. On the contrary, if one of ‘Them’ provides a child with a chocolate bar, it is often described in concrete terms, like they gave that boy a chocolate bar (4). With that, let’s look at a few recent examples, such as the term ‘riot’ to describe political protests. Dependent on the network or politician we listened to, the Black Lives Matter protests were subtly linked to ‘Us vs. Them.’ FOX used 'riot' three times as much as 'protest,' CNN used 'riot' slightly less than 'protest' while MSNBC used 'riot' far less than 'protest.' So, depending on where you are getting your news, you are subtly programmed to think in a speci fic way affecting your belief system. Describing the protests as riots by criminals is labeling people with a frightening permanent character trait while simultaneously placing these people outside the circle of ‘Us.’ Furthermore, only showing African Americans versus a mix of races involved or primarily white protestors links the labels to a speci fic person or race. As James Baldwin wrote, “when white men rise against oppression, they are heroes: when black men rise, they have reverted to their native savagery” (5).

Another salient example is the ongoing opiate crisis in the U.S. Take a moment and think about the demographics and how the victims of this crisis are described. These people are victims, not criminals. There is no talk of the ‘crisis’ motivated by brutal and terrifying opiate dealers. It is the opposite. Users are ‘victims’ of a ‘public health epidemic.’ Interestingly, the demographics show that 79% of individuals who overdose on opioids are White, 10% are Black, and 8% are Hispanic (6). Most of the individuals are rural whites and displaced white industrial workers. If the majority were Hispanic or Black, would the terminology be different? Would it be a public health crisis that lays waste on victims or a war on drugs that criminals run? The messaging is essential. Any citizen, regardless of race, class, or group with addiction, should be labeled compassionately with the compassion of shared human dignity and equality.

Unfortunately, with more and more consistency, the misrepresentation and weaponization of language through LIB has risen from the 1960s under Nixon to an all-time high under Donald Trump. This type of language destabilizes the process of rational decision-making by labeling and manipulating public perception with division by fear. Demagogic speech affects not only public discourse but has deep-seated effects on perception, judgment, and actions by a population. This divisive fear mongering pulls us away from collaboration.

We can all agree there are noticeable differences in our local, state, and federal communities, but how they are noticed is super important. It is far more common that we begin to see these differences as a call for unity through cooperation, not divisiveness rooted in fear and misunderstanding. More and more public figures voice fear or violence as an option for the public, and when they do so, it permits us to use fear and violence as an option. The more we hear this option, the more we succumb to its influence.


Moreso, negativity is a radioactive substance. The more you are exposed, the more it begins to change us from the inside out. Look no further than the controversial Facebook experiment of 2012. The research was conducted on 689,000 Facebook users for one week without the user's knowledge or consent (that's a whole other can of worms to open at a different time. Oof!). The study examined how people behaved when they were exposed to emotional expressions in their news feeds, both positive and negative. The results were horrifying. The study found that users who had fewer negative stories in their news feeds were less likely to write a negative post (7).

Conversely, and more importantly, the users with fewer positive posts were less likely to write a positive post (8). Continual exposure to negativity creates a negative person, and we become a spreader of the negative contagion. We begin to speak and think in absolutes and finger-point instead of working as a cooperative despite our differences. We become the problem. Before we know it, we begin to victim blame and look at others that are less fortunate than ourselves as the enemy.

When watching, listening, or reading stories on television or social media, it seems we must choose one team or the other. If that were the case, we would be living in a world that Mabel Pines described as ‘cuckoo bananas.’ Often what we read or see is ‘Us’ or ‘Them’. All or none. No other choice. But, when I go for a walk or enter a store in my little town, I can have a pleasant talk with virtually everyone I meet. We may or may not disagree on some things, but we are comfortable with exchanging a smile, saying hello, and even having a conversation.

We all have differences but understanding the importance of living in harmony bene fits everyone. We must recognize that division is true to some degree, but it is amplified by people that need to divide for their own gains. If we cannot see what is projected on us, we succumb to these devices becoming a conduit acting as a superspreader of negativity. Ultimately, we have a choice that needs to be rooted in the reality that is more sociocentric than egocentric. Our communities will only benefit from asking what we can do for others instead of asking others to be more like us. ∎

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.


Awareness Ties Columnist

Todd Brown is a winner of multiple education awards, including the U.S. Congressional Teacher of the Year Award, U.S. Henry Ford Innovator Award, Education Foundation Innovator of the Year, and Air Force Association STEM Teacher of the Year. Dr. Brown is the creator and founder of the Inspire Project and cocreator of Operation Outbreak, which was named the Reimagine Education Award for Best Hybrid Program in the world. He is also an Education Ambassador for the United Nations and an Educational Ambassador of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
“We must recognize that division is true to some degree, but it is amplified by people that need to divide for their own gains.”
Authentic representation on screen is critical for all people.




An artwork portraying the story of Tal Anderson, authentic representation on screen is critical for all people. We deserve to see someone on screen who we can identify with, in order for us to feel seen by the world.

“Growing up as an autistic person, I didn't have any role models who I could identify with, and I never saw anyone on screen who I felt was like me. This is true for all kinds of under-represented people, and all of us exist in the world without a voice to change it, because we've been invisible for so long.

Having representation on screen changes so much. It changes how other people see you in life, and it changes how you view yourself. When you are seen, you feel different about your place in the world, and it gives you a voice to be heard.

After I graduated from college and began my career in Hollywood, I learned how important this was to myself. Acting gave me a voice, and when I had the opportunity to be on screen, be part of a show that promoted diversity and acceptance of all people, and the platform to talk about representation, I learned just how important it was for everyone to see someone on the screen who they recognized.

Authentic representation on screen is critical for all people. We deserve to see someone on screen who we can identify with in order for us to feel seen by the world.”

Tal Anderson Age: 25 Location: USA


Nasheen is a highly passionate designer who smoothly jumps from one creative field to another and can never define herself in one word. She sees the world in colors and shapes and finds beauty in everything, including struggle and failure. Right now, she’s on a journey to achieving self-acceptance and raising awareness with visual storytelling. A firm believer in social equality and inclusivity, Nasheen hopes to use design as a tool to create a sensitive and compassionate world.

Founder of Team Bertho & Official Ambassador for the Human Cause Forming "Team Bertho”, Murshid is a true leader. Believing in the truest essence of teamwork, he works relentlessly side by side with his teammates. Murshid is passionate about collecting human wisdom from every corner possible and spreading it throughout the world.

These are treatable illnesses, if only we could gain access to treatment.


This is a conversation with the Coordinator of the National Shattering Silence Coalition, Jeanne Gore. This is how an all-volunteer lived experience coalition 400 strong saves and improves lives for those with serious mental illnesses or biologically-based no-fault brain disorders.

KERRY: Jeanne, my gratitude to you for taking time out on a Sunday to talk to us about the National Shattering Silence Coalition Nonprofit is helping to save and improve lives. For the past five years, your Coalition has been shattering the silence about our shared humanitarian crisis on behalf of the 8M children (1in 10) and the 14.2M adults (1 in 20) in this country with a diagnosed serious mental illness. These illnesses are biologically based, no-fault serious brain disorders, such as the one I am diagnosed with, bipolar disorder, which affects an organ in my body, the brain. Passion and commitment such as yours always stem from a very personal story. Can you share your story? What motivated you to get involved with the NSSC as its Coordinator, who works with you and what is your mission?

JEANNE: It took 13 years of pushing bureaucratic boulders up mountains only to have them come crashing back down on us to finally gain treatment for my son. During that time, he went missing, I rescued him from a religious cult, he was jailed twice, homeless, beaten up by 7 police of ficers in Burlington VT to within inches of his life, hospitalized 43 times, before I could finally get Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) for him. This unfathomably painful experience, and the knowledge that so many of our children never made it, is what drives me like a dog with a bone to see that our grandchildren and future generations never have to go through this. I will not rest until we have treatment


JEANNE: (continued) Since October 2017, the National Shattering Silence Coalition has been the voices for those living with and dying far too young from serious brain disorders (SBD). Our nonpartisan alliance of family members, individuals suffering from serious brain disorders, professionals in the trenches, and caring people, united to ensure that brain illness, health, and criminal justice systems count those with SBD, and their families in all federal, state, and local policy reforms.

Our mission is to raise awareness and advocate for solutions to the humanitarian crisis faced by people with serious brain disorders commonly referred to as serious mental illnesses. Now 400 members strong, we’ve collectively shattered the silence about a humanitarian crisis, helping to ensure treatment before tragedy, and building a more compassionate and just world through our collaborative advocacy.

KERRY: To drive needed change and save those still here, your organization kicked off a “Still Here” suicide prevention campaign ( on November 19, International Surivors of Suicide Loss Day. To give hope to those still here, a short film was produced sharing stories of loved ones in the coalition who lost someone to suicide, a father who lost his son lost to the criminal justice system after he stabbed him during a psychotic episode as well as my own suicide attempt story albeit I am still here, still fighting and still hoping. You also speak about suicide rates in this country – and at one point, pause the 12 minute film, letting the viewer know, that in those first 11+ seconds, 25 people had attempted to take their life. What were your goals with this suicide prevention docu-series?

JEANNE: We are sharing these stories with hope that people will feel our pain and be moved to donate to the National Shattering Silence Coalition so that we can save and improve lives. People with illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression are at the highest risk of suicide because our healthcare system is designed to fail them.

They are made to wait until they are either a danger to themselves to others before even attempting to access treatment in a system where there simply aren’t enough hospital beds or services in the community to treat them. This is too late. We have lost too many precious son’s and daughters to either to suicide, jail, or homelessness who couldn’t be saved because of this ludicrous, cruel standard. My own son endured over a decade of pain - 43 hospitalizations, jail, homelessness, and on and on, all the while tormented by the horri fic voices in his head… when, if he could have received treatment, a consistent continuum of care, and housing that heals right away, all of it could have been avoided.

KERRY: How does NSSC save lives? What specific solutions does NSSC propose and what actions do you take to keep those with serious brain disorders such as mine from silently slipping away far too soon?

JEANNE: Given that approximately 50% of those with schizophrenia and 40% of those with bipolar disorder also suffer from anosognosia, a neurological condition that robs them of the ability to know they are sick, one of the first actions we took as a Coalition was to write a position statement about the need for AOT, Assisted Outpatient Treatment. AOT is a highly successful, compassionate tool to bring treatment to those who have no awareness of their illness. We have been able to get legislation passed in Maine, Tennessee, Virginia and other states around the country to either allow for AOT or to improve AOT laws.

“People with illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and major depression are at the highest risk of suicide because our healthcare system is designed to fail them.”

JEANNE: (continued) We have campaigns asking members to write and/or call their Congressmen and women asking them to either support or reject legislation that is either beneficial or harmful to those with SBD. Our second position statement in support of repealing the IMD Exclusion was written as ammunition for our current campaign to do just that. We are asking members to write to their representatives to support H.R. 2611, a bill that would repeal the IMD Exclusion, the most blatant discrimination against those with SBD I can think of.

Enacted in 1965, The IMD Exclusion prohibits federal payment under Medicaid for medically necessary treatment for adults in Institutes of Mental Diseases–which are psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. It bars Medicaid enrollees with “mental diseases” from receiving the same level of care that enrollees without severe mental illness receive for other illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

In doing so, the exclusion denies equal protection under the law to the very group of people it is supposed to help. The IMD Exclusion is blatant discrimination against people with serious brain disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. As a result of this law, many psychiatric hospitals and residential treatment centers have closed, while others limit their beds to 16. The need for treatment beds far exceeds this artificial cap. Not only is it unjust, billions of tax dollars are wasted, which the National Shattering Silence Coalition refers to as the #CostOfNotCaring.

We often get involved with writing letters on behalf of one of our members' children who are either incarcerated, homeless, without treatment, asking the powers that be to help. We also try to help members gain access to treatment through our network of advocates, family members, and professionals in the trenches.

Since the inception of the ISMICC Committee in 2017 established as a result of the 21st Centuries Cures Act, we have written to the ISMICC in response to their initial report and attended their meetings open to the public commenting on behalf of NSSC to shatter silence about the fact that our loved ones are still not receiving the treatment they deserve.

We spend a great deal of time, through our blogs, letters to members, meetings, and social media educating our members as to the problems and solutions to this crisis so that they too can advocate for change.


KERRY: For far too long, people with serious brain disorders have been marginalized, misunderstood, discriminated against, and treated with scorn and indifference. They are “still here” but they have suffered injustices, such as being: incarcerated as a direct result of their untreated serious brain disorders, left to decompensate on the streets of America, been denied medically necessary, lifesaving treatment and irretrievably lost gray matter.

Their loved ones have begged for treatment but have been unable to access it or have been forced to stand on the sidelines because of HIPPA laws, unable to intervene once their children turn 18 to supposedly protect their civil rights. It seems to me that unless you have personal or professional experience with serious brain disorders like I do, you may not realize the inequities these individuals face. The mental healthcare system and the laws affecting treatment are more often than not cruel and unjust.

For those who are “still here” but denied the compassionate and just treatment that we all deserve as human beings, what specific solutions does NSSC propose and what actions have you taken to save and improve their lives?

JEANNE: If we are to save those who are currently abandoned by the mental health system, we must acknowledge that mental healthcare as an industry has been misconstrued, underfunded, and at a large disadvantage from neurology and pathology sciences and healthcare systems.

If you do the math, there is a glaring mismatch: $36.55 spent on adults with SBD compared to $478 on those with Alzheimer’s, which is 13 times, or 1,327% more per person. Other brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and autism have been inclined to more empathetic responses from the public. Since Alzheimer’s and autism have been funded and fought for their position at the table of medical sciences to be recognized as structural, biological, and medical brain disorders, it appears they garner more compassionate attitudes and legitimized views from society.

Our solution is, in part, to get these illnesses reclassified as the medical illnesses they are. People with neurological illnesses, under medical standards of care, have access to resources and supportive care that those diagnosed with a ‘mental illness’ do not have access to. Their doctor makes the decisions about what level of care is needed and when it’s needed, not a judge. For decades, the decision to admit a patient with SBD for medical care has been made based on laws requiring dangerousness and the availability of hospital beds, or should I say, lack thereof, rather than medical necessity.

We must also work to reform HIPAA Laws to include family rights and prevent harm that occurs when parents who provide care are shut out of the process. We must work to reform PAIMI whose focus must be on abuse and neglect, its original mission, instead of lobbying to prevent medically needed inpatient and outpatient treatment and supports. I’ve already mentioned the importance of repealing the IMD Exclusion, not just for access to hospital beds, but also to allow for increased reimbursement for inpatient care and all facilities at various levels of care, including access centers and longer term #HousingThatHeals.

Having higher levels of reimbursement will enhance services in all of these levels of care, including more work with psychologists, and multidisciplinary teams so that the models can move away from just a pill and a bed to more comprehensive care. We absolutely do still need many other things, including comprehensive community based care. Repealing the IMD Exclusion would help with both acute care treatment as well as with those who need longer term treatment all along the continuum of care.

We must also end the criminalization of those with SBD’s. Reclassification of these illnesses will go a long way towards achieving this goal because the result of reclassi fication is that people will receive treatment early on in the course of their illness, before they wind up in front of law enforcement.

“We must also end the criminalization of those with serious brain disorders.”

JEANNE: (continued) We must promote, strengthen and see that AOT, FACT, crisis intervention teams, and any other evidence-based pre-incarceration alternatives that permit treatment and care based on treatment standards that focus on the need for treatment and grave disability, not on danger to selves and others. We must also support evidencebased post-incarceration diversion solutions. We must provide both long term and permanent digni fied institutional housing for those who are too ill to live in the community and supportive and independent housing for those who are able to safely live in the community.

Finally, we must do all we can to support funding of programs designed to grow the brain illness workforce and drastically increase the dollars spent on research into causes, better mediations, and cures for these illnesses. Together, we are building a more compassionate and just world where everyone receives the treatment we all as humans deserve. Please imagine a world where:

- Discrimination based on serious brain disorders was no longer socially acceptable or tolerated and the world was as outraged about the injustices faced by people with serious brain disorders as they are about racism, LGBTQ+ discrimination and xenophobia.

- People understood the true nature of serious brain disorders and universally recognized that disorders originating in the brain were not “behavioral” but medical disorders.

- Family members who know their loved ones best were welcomed as part of a person’s treatment team, just as we do for family members of those with dementia, brain injuries and other brain disorders.

- People with serious brain disorders received a full continuum of care at every stage of their illness.

- The determination of whether to receive medical care was based on a doctor’s expertise rather than a judge or the law, or just because there are not enough beds.

- A person with a chronic serious brain disorder would not be denied treatment because of an arbitrary limit on the number of treatment days or lifetime caps. They would be cared for as compassionately and humanely as a person with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

- We spent as much on serious brain disorder research as we do on other serious illnesses.

- Those with serious brain disorders were not criminalized but instead were offered compassionate treatment.

- We provided treatment at the earliest symptom of disease instead of waiting until after a tragedy to intervene.

This is the world we are building on behalf of the 8M children and over 14M adults who cannot build it for themselves. We must all pitch in and build it for them and their loved ones.

KERRY: After 3 suicide attempts, I believe I am still here for a reason. As a mental health and suicide prevention activist, I am obviously a huge supporter not only of your nonprofit but I also SO appreciate you and all of the incredibly hard work that you do to save people like me.

Hopelessness is the leading predictor of suicide. And I’m intimately familiar with how painful it is to feel so incredibly hopeless that you will do anything to make that feeling go away … as each day passes, it seems to get darker and darker and it feels like the light gets further and further away. You feel like you are bringing everyone around you down. And, that they would be better off if you were gone.

I simply cannot thank you enough for giving those still here hope. That word HOPE perhaps seems so nebulous to some, but to those about to swallow a bottle of pills it is quite frankly life saving.

To me, there is nothing more important than saving lives. You have the most important job on the planet. Thank you for stepping up and taking that on my friend.

I will not rest until we have treatment with dignity and compassion or I stop breathing, whichever happens first.


Exclusive Interview with Jeanne Gore


KERRY: (continued) I hope in sharing today others can understand a little more about why it’s so important that for those still here, we simply must give them hope… a reason to stay.

I so hope those reading will pause and take 12 minutes out of their day to further understand the extent to which suicide is a public epidemic in this country. And, how if each and every one of us gives just a little, together we truly can collectively make a difference, both saving and improving lives.

Thank you again for making us more aware and for helping to keep people like me alive. ∎


Jeanne Gore is the Coordinator and Co-Chair of the Steering Committee of the National Shattering Silence Coalition ( ), a US nonpro fi t fi scally sponsored by the Open Collective Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) organization. She is a co-author of "Tomorrow Was Yesterday: Explosive FirstPerson Indictments of the US Mental Health System - Mothers Across the Nation Tell It Like It Is".


To learn more about the ‘Still Here' suicide prevention campaign running until the end of 2022, watch the short but powerful 12-minute documentary, share the film and give your support here:


CEO & Founder of Accelerating Social Good

KERRY MARTIN, CEO & Founder of Accelerating Social Good, (ASG), specializes in collaborating with mental health and suicide prevention nonprofits as well as social causes to catalyze social impact, enabling them to accomplish their missions smarter and faster. Kerry leads a team of lived-experience and social change activists with proven track records in strategic and digital marketing, fundraising, and social cause advocacy. Through their consulting services, pro bono strategic advising, mental health advocacy, and collaborative partnerships, the ASG team is accelerating mental healthcare reform, eradicating stigma, knocking down barriers to equitable access and compassionate treatment, and raising awareness about suicide prevention. By accelerating mental wellness, hope and social good, ASG is collaboratively building a world where children and adults with serious mental illnesses are not let down and where we all can flourish.




I need you to open your eyes.

Open your mind, and your heart.


There is so much going on in the world right now. So many challenges and issues that we’re experiencing. In some ways, it’s beginning to feel like love and kindness are becoming an endangered species of sorts.

Forgive me if I’m scaring you. That’s not my intent.

However, I do want you to realize that with all that is happening on this earth, you have the ability to help create positive change.

This is a time of giving, but so often, we see that people are standing with their hands outstretched, ready to receive.

It’s interesting because when we give and give more, somehow we begin to receive more. Isn’t it funny how that works?

Giving isn’t always about money. Sure, if you’re able and find an opportunity to give funds to a deserving cause, please help out.

But so many times we forget that we can give other things.

Maybe you can purchase a few extra cans of food at the grocery store to donate to a food bank.

Any old clothes in your closet?

Better yet, the clothes might not even be old; you just don’t wear them anymore.

How about taking those to a local organization that provides clothes for those who have none?

How about giving your time to volunteer?

I remember times at church when we would put together toiletry bags for the homeless. There were other moments when we would serve food for those who needed a meal.

You get the point.


And give often.

Give up some of your TV time to help someone else.

Give up some of your social media scroll-time to make some positive change on this planet.

More than any other time, I need you.

“It all begins with our ability and decision to give.”

Give. And I’m sure that you know this is the season of giving. But, if you ask me, every day is a time for giving. We shouldn’t feel the urge to give in these 31 days only. Giving should be a 52 week/365-day thing.

Practice it. Give something every… single… day.

The more resources we provide… the more positivity we give.

The more kindness we exhibit… the more love we express… the better this world becomes. And it all begins with our ability and decision to give. ∎


x Paralympic Medalist, 4x World Champion & Keynote Speaker

LEX GILLETTE has quickly become one of the most sought after keynote speakers on the market. Losing his sight at the age of eight was painful to say the least, but life happens. Things don’t always go your way. You can either stay stuck in frustration because the old way doesn’t work anymore, or you can create a new vision for your life, even if you can’t see how it will happen just yet. His sight was lost, but Lex acquired a renewed vision, a vision that has seen him become the best totally blind long and triple jumper Team USA has ever witnessed.

I was raised to fight for what’s right.



When children start preschool, most parents meet one another in the parking lot while dropping off or picking up their kids. This was not the case for Ella and myself, both of us moms who live in Owosso, Michigan. I work here at home, while she works abroad in the Middle East at the moment. A 31B Military Police Officer for the United States Army, Sergeant Ella-Rae Crittenden, is a wife and a mother of two, being all she can be for her family and her country.

ALLIÉ: First of all, thank you. For your sacrifice in service to this country, thank you. And thank you for your time today here with AwareNow. Let’s start this conversation with what’s most important in our lives - our kids. My son, Forest, met your daughter, Paisley, at preschool. Every day he comes home with something to say about his best friend, Paisley. Please tell us about your daughter.

ELLA: Paisley-Jade is a spunky, strong, loving, brave, and adventurous girl who came into the world fighting and with her own plan. She was born in 2018 with Gastroschisis. It is a condition where her intestines stayed outside of her body. We found out about this at 16 weeks. We made a birth plan with U of M for her to come naturally at about 36 or 37 weeks. She, however, had other plans. Blessing us with her presence at 34 weeks through the ER and a Csection. We lived in the NICU for two months. She hasn’t slowed down since. PJ loves pink, unicorns, Baby Shark, Paw Patrol, and Spider-Man and friends. She loves to paint, dance, and go for rides on Mama’s motorcycle. Her

122 I couldn’t think of a better way than to fight for mine, yours and my children’s freedoms.

I don’t think I did fully prepare for deployment…”

ALLIÉ: Being a mom is hard. What’s harder is being a military mom, especially one deployed overseas away from her kids and husband over the holidays. As a mother, what is most difficult about the time and distance that separates you from your family?

ELLA: I think the hardest thing with being a deployed military mom is time away. Time is already so precious with babies and kiddos because it slips by so fast even when you home. When you’re deployed, it’s not just slipping away. It’s gone! Your time with your babies isn’t yours anymore.

ALLIÉ: It’s hard enough for me to be away from the kids for a weekend. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be away from Paisley and Barrett. How long have you been deployed? And how far away are you?

ELLA: So far I have been gone for 8 months not including the two months of school and training right before. I am approximately 6,954 miles away from home.

ALLIÉ: Not only are you away from your kids. You’re away from your husband, Keith. How do you find ways to feel close being so far away for so long?

ELLA: We FaceTime and text as much as possible. With that ability Keith still keeps me involved in day to day things. Making decisions with the babies, the house, having me pick out our family Christmas pajamas, etc. We also play Truth or Dare. Everyday we text each other a dare for them to attempt that day. Or with a truth or random question to answer in the next 24 hours. Also mail!! I send personalized care package to him and the kiddos. He sends me Amazon packages of my favorite double shot Starbucks drinks, vitamins, or a weighted blanket for my anxiety.

ALLIÉ: How did you prepare yourself for your deployment?

ELLA: Unfortunately, I don’t think I did fully prepare for deployment. Then, I don’t know if I did it right. I distanced myself. I lived as a shadow in my own home. I tried to allow Keith and the babies to create a life without me so that it wasn’t as noticeable that I was gone. It was having Keith step up to be everything I was to the babies. Like for example, Barrett, he is my dude! I love both babies equally but Barrett and I have a strong special bond. I am/was his comfort with his “melt downs”. Well, I had to have Keith become that for Barr since I couldn’t be. I feel as if I had to hand off my mommyhood, my super power, my strength over to Keith so he could provide for our babies.

ALLIÉ: While deployed how do you stay connected to the kids? What technology or platform do you use most?

ELLA: What’s App is the platform I use most and with Paisley it has been the hardest to stay connected. She to my surprise has taken me being gone the hardest. She has bad dreams and wakes up crying for me. And then she refuses to talk to me on the phone. Even sometimes Keith and I try to limit my time on the phone because if she interacts with me there is a high chance she will have nightmares. So I rather that I hurt by not getting to see or talk to them so my babies can enjoy their days and nights.

ALLIÉ: It’s true that there’s no place like home. What comforts are you most looking forward to when you return?

ELLA: There truly is no place like home. But it’s not because of things. It’s because of people. My home is anywhere Keith, Paisley, and Barrett are. You could send me my favorite chair, favorite blankets, coffee mugs, etc. I could never be at home here until my family is here. So, my family of three (four with me)… and maybe some greenery. (lol)

124 My home is anywhere Keith, Paisley, and Barrett are.

AwareNow Podcast


ALLIÉ: Of all the things you could go and be, what was it that drew you to the army?

ELLA: My birth dad inspired me the most even though my birth mom, grandfathers, and uncles served. While growing up I wanted to be just like him. I was raised to fight for what’s right. I couldn’t think of a better way than to fight for mine, yours and my children’s freedoms. I wanted to be a part of the 1%.

ALLIÉ: Of all that you do for your family and your country, what are you proudest of?

ELLA: I am absolutely proud of ME as a mother and wife. I don’t come from the prettiest nor easiest of backgrounds. I didn’t have the best examples of what to do either. However, Keith and I aren’t just love birds. We are also a team in every aspect of our life, especially in parenthood! With doing that, I am better than my birth parents and I’ve overcome a life that was apparently inevitable for me. Everything else is all extra that I wouldn’t have without my team. ∎

Exclusive Interview with Sergeant Ella-Rae Crittenden TAP/SCAN TO LISTEN
There is the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless.


Human rights are rights that come attached for just existing as human beings — they are not granted by any state, though they are often trampled on by them. In truth, every day around the world in a million different ways, human rights are violated. Variables such as where we live, the way we appear, and our financial status determines the degree of those experiences for every human being. Once upon a time, these atrocities went largely unseen, undocumented, and unpunished—then came along the digital age, and with it the opportunity to advance the safeguarding and exercising of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Internet and other communication technologies offer numerous opportunities for promoting the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Online platforms provide a gateway to wider audiences, including traditionally disenfranchised or marginalized communities, and they facilitate the culture of freedom of opinion and expression throughout online spaces, including in otherwise more restrictive countries and societies. In an oppressed country, technology is a lifeline.

In 1945, a group of countries formed the UN to be the peacekeepers of the world. They are said to uphold the ideas put forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document outlines 30 rights and freedoms that every human should enjoy, including the right to freedom of expression and to be free from torture. Today, nearly every country in the world is a member state, including Iran, a country that signed on in 1945 as a founding member of the UN. A country with a regime in power, currently torturing and executing their own citizens for exercising their basic human rights.

How do we help? How do we avoid standing idly by, being only spectators of horrible human behavior? While there is no individual, optimal, one-size-fits-all approach for fostering and protecting human rights, in the digital age, there is the opportunity to be a voice for the voiceless. In observance of International Human Rights Day, I wanted to share some ways we can do so.

Use our platform to speak up and create awareness.

One brave voice is enough to open a channel for others to share their experiences and support human rights. It’s never been easier to create and share content across multiple platforms. Speaking up, sharing ideas, perspective, and creating social digital currency is one of the easiest ways to help others feel supported. Don’t assume your platform isn’t “big enough.” Wise people know that it’s not about the size of your platform, it’s what you do with it.

Volunteer or donate to a global organization.

There are multiple organizations that shape, lead, and carry out the work to protect human rights. As a media executive, I look to collaborate with organizations, businesses and people that seek to empower communities fighting systematic injustice and support human rights for all. It is easy to find something that works for nearly anyone with a simple Google search. It doesn’t have to be something that takes a lot of time and energy, simply a commitment to uphold the rights of others, the same way we want ours upheld.

Be aware of misinformation and tactics to hijack narratives.

In the wrong hands, we know digital tools can spread false or misleading information at scale and target vulnerable and at-risk communities and individuals faster. It is important to fact-check or question information. We’ve also seen certain countries and organizations use targeted internet shutdowns and other tactics to restrict data flow, imposing censorship controls on digital services within national boundaries. This is an attempt to control the narrative.


“I think it’s important to remind society of the power we have as a result of our devices.”

Wield our power in the marketplace.

No differently than any business has the right to decide who it wishes to conduct business or support—so do we as consumers, clients and partners. Strategically, it’s a maneuver intended to take out the financial means of an opponent. Stop filling their bank accounts and they won’t have the means to continue what it is they are doing.

Listen to other’s stories.

One important way we can empower survivors and people facing injustices is by honoring and respecting their stories. Read articles or watch videos to learn about the world's diverse cultures, traditions, and ways of living. There is power in learning someone else’s story, especially if it is vastly different from our own.

Stay connected to social movements.

A great way to stay connected is by being active in digital spaces like Twitter and Instagram. Prominent activists and human rights organizations are happy to share the ways they are making a difference, and usually offer campaigns you can get involved in the digital space. When a social concern is raised through a social movement, it brings about changes in all aspects of society.

I notice that in our folklore, tales that hand down wisdom from one generation to the next, the being with the most power is usually of good nature and cares for humanity. I’d like to think that a collective of us who actively seek to protect human rights, thanks to the digital age, form a virtual hero.

International Human Rights Day is a day to recognize and advocate global human rights. I think it’s important to remind society of the power we have as a result of our devices. The power to stand up for another brings things from the dark into the light and the opportunity to hold perpetrators accountable. For anyone who thinks their effort doesn’t matter, I encourage them with this… Placing one grain of sand on a scale may not do much, but a million grains do. When it comes to human rights, we should be tipping in favor of humanity. ∎


Producer, Award-Winning Writer & Host

AALIA LANIUS is an International Multiple-Award Winning Novelist, Executive Producer, Publisher and host of the award-nominated globally top-rated social good show, UNSUGARCOATED with Aalia. As founder of UNSUGARCOATED Media, a 501(c)(3) media enterprise, Lanius is creating social impact through storytelling while building community, providing education, and ending isolation for trauma survivors. Aalia's role extends to leadership as a creative, and she is considered a thought-leader in approaches to media, believing that artists are pioneers of the human mind with great potential and responsibility to positively in fluence society through proper representation and accountability.




Today, in the United States there are over 22,000,000 million people living with and suffering from serious mental illness – no fault serious brain disorders – with their loved ones suffering alongside them. Through the cracks of a broken healthcare system 1 in 10 CHILDREN and 1 in 20 ADULTS fall, with some never returning. We can no longer stay silent and still while so many suffer. Now is the time to speak out, stand up and together take action.

The National Shattering Silence Coalition (NSSC) Nonprofit united their voices for those with serious brain disorders to tear down the wall of silence and inhumanity killing their loved ones, families and our national soul. Please stay tuned for personal stories of their losses to preventable suicides. Learn what you can do to help ensure no more needlessly and silently slip away but rather receive the compassionate, humane treatment we all deserve.


14,200,000 18,000,000
We need to begin where we haven’t looked yet.



Thinking about this edition of Adaptive in the realm of education, I became curious. I was aware of the increasing terminologies and actions taking place to build more inclusive educational environments. However, aside from the external efforts of creating places of belonging, I wondered about the belief systems that our students and educators have, especially when it comes to understanding the intention of “designing with disability in mind.” So I asked one high school junior in Shanghai and one design professor in California to share their thoughts, beliefs, experiences and actions taking place in their world of education when it comes to this theme.

Professor Bernie Dickson is the Co-Creator and Co-Owner of Mom & Pop Shop. She is also an Adjunct Professor for Graphic Design at Chapman University. Bernie can only live one way. As a wife, parent, teacher and consultant, she leads with empathy and compassion. In the past, she’s experimented with having determination and diligence lead the way of connecting to get to outcomes that she wanted more quickly. However, outcomes were not happening as efficiently as she would have liked. She said, “When I take the more loving, kind and patient approach when connecting with others, I experience further growth personally and in the relationships I am wanting to create.” That connection is the foundation to all the outcomes that she has desired.

Being a mother of two autistic boys, building connection wasn’t easy. When they were first diagnosed as young toddlers, she knew that she had to adapt her life to ensure that they not only felt included, but also, knew that they belonged. There were times when her and her husband tried to have the boys fit into social norms, but only discovered the boys further disconnected from creating relationships. Bernie re flected how her and her husband had an epiphany that they were trying to force their sons into people who they were not.

When they realized this, they changed their therapy style to a “Bottom Up” approach where they met their sons where they were at, and together they would develop connection skills as a family. Empathy took the priority. Shortly after the change in the approach, Bernie noticed that the family was experiencing more joy, more play and more inclusion to one another. Her experience as wife and parent helped her become vigilant in her observations of behaviors coming from others. Applying the “Bottom Up” approach whether it was at the grocery store, parking lot or classroom, she would ask herself, “How can I meet them where they are at?” Her habit of thinking moved from interpreting what behaviors were to investigating behaviors as a way to communicate needs. Bernie sits in the stillness of connection, observing and listening, to get accurate information. Nowadays, in a world where being constantly busy is valued, deciding to be still and slow down the pace takes intention and courage. Now, imagine what her classrooms are like at Chapman University.

“How you do anything is how you do everything. ” - Martha Beck
I hope I can share my experiences to contribute to a wider effort that strives to uphold inclusion and integrity.

As a design professor, Bernie immediately recognized an issue with her college-age students. They were unable to receive critical feedback and engage in discomfort when there was disagreements with their ideas. Initially, responses were almost childlike where college-age students were reactive when things didn’t go their way. Bernie said, “At times what was said in class was so offensive that these comments created an unsafe space for everyone. Without consideration of others, these student were running their lives in silos.” That’s a problem when it comes to teaching future designers how to consider inclusivity and adaptation as future professionals.

Bernie joined forces with Professor Rachelle Chuang at Chapman University to change the script of design. They created a collaborative course called Interdisciplinary Design Investigations that uses Stanford Design School’s text, Creative Acts for Curious People. The specific goal of the course is to bring humanity to the design field, thoughtfully considering “how creative connections can be made using artistic practices, innovation, and research.” On a personal level, Bernie and Rachelle wanted to have their students experience how the process of design is deeply connected to their personal experiences which influences how their design creates connections with others.

Their current project is working with the campus Cross Cultural Center where students are tasked to repaint a mural on the building’s 80-foot long hallway that represents every community member at Chapman University. Being mentored by muralist Damin Lujan, students must consider all ideas, all community members and all possibilities to agree on a collective design.

When it comes to “designing with disability in mind” Bernie believes that we must begin with empathy to understand need, and to challenge perspectives and ideas that have been looked at over and over again. “We need to begin where we haven’t looked at yet,” Bernie says. Raising this challenge through an interdisciplinary approach in any college course is absolutely critical in creating a place of inclusion and belonging for everyone.

Learn more about Bernie Dickson:

To me, “design with disability” means placing yourself in the position of others to maximize understanding and empathy. My first attempt at designing with disability was roughly a year ago, when I met TianBao, one of the strongest, kindest person I’ve ever met. TianBao wasn’t discouraged by the obstacles that life presented him: his infectious, beaming smile followed him wherever he went. My research teammates and I observed and imitated his innovative ways of navigating hallways using a white cane, or feeling different textures on the wall to walk to the bathroom. These methods help TianBao pursue his passions for working out and developing meaningful relationships with his friends. However, as TianBao has told us, the process of adapting was dif ficult and full of trial and error, something that we also realized from walking alongside with TianBao, and also through personally trying his methods of navigation. Our research team asked, “In what ways, then, can we help TiaoBao complete daily tasks ef ficiently?” This question lingered as I dove into a research project analyzing different assistive devices for low vision individuals.

Robert Chong is a high school junior at Shanghai American School – Puxi Campus. I asked him this question:
“What does ‘Design with Disability in Mind’ mean to you when it comes to reconstructing constructs with principals of inclusion and integrity?”


Instead of focusing heavily on the technical aspect of assistive devices like the Microsoft HoloLens, I attempted to structure my analysis around the human aspects of these devices: the weight, the cost of devices, and even the accessibility of devices. My interactions with TianBao reminded me that people with disabilities have nuanced needs, and only can empathy bridge a gap of understanding, and allow us to realize such needs. But not all devices were built with such intentions fully in mind: devices are often too heavy, too awkward, too costly to use in daily life and in public spheres. The solution is to ‘Design with Disability in Mind’. My interactions with TianBao and the research I have conducted encourage me to continue empathizing, keeping an open mind, and spreading awareness about my discoveries. I am extremely grateful to have formed a friendship with TianBao. I hope I can share my experiences to contribute to a wider effort that strives to uphold inclusion and integrity. ∎

Title of research: Comprehensive review of assistive devices for low vision individuals (2022) Team: Robert Miles Chong & Elizabeth “Bibit” Bianchini Connect with Robert Chong via email:


Co-Founder of The Decided Heart Effect

SONJA MONTIEL has served more than twenty-one years in the college admissions profession, having extensive experience in the areas of freshman, transfer, and international admissions. During her time working with thousands of teens and young adults worldwide, she began to witness many societies creating an unhealthy college-bound culture that misguides our young people in their pursuit of living a life of ful fillment. In 2021, Sonja met Hilary Bilbrey to begin something amazing. They created The DH Effect – The Decided Heart Effect with a mission to guide individuals, schools, and organizations to build high-trust relationships and belonging through self-discovery and personal accountability.


Life has never been the same





Hallie Twomey, her husband John, and their son Connor are a family of three, but not by choice. They are ¾ of a family due to the devastating suicide of their son and brother CJ at age 20. A death completely unexpected, CJ’s suicide forced them into a life they were not prepared to live. As CJ’s mother, Hallie carries a burden of guilt surrounding her son’s death which she lifts through a life of advocacy.

ALLIÉ: CJ’s story is hard to hear. I can’t imagine how hard it is to tell. As many times as you’ve shared it, Hallie, I’m sure it never gets easier. For those who have not heard the story of the day you lost your son, please share.

HALLIE: You’re right, it never gets easier but it’s part of the story and talking about it means that CJ is remembered. In April 2010, CJ‘s plans for his future were sort of all over the place. He wasn’t entirely certain what he wanted to do but on the day that he shot himself, he had called me at work and told me that what were solid plans the day before had changed yet again. I didn’t understand what had happened or why so I told him to stay put and that I would come

I feel like I’m living in a constant and perpetual nightmare.
Photo Credit: Spark Media

I just remember John screaming,

HALLIE: (continued) CJ and I stood in the kitchen and basically had what I thought was just an argument like we’ve had before. I couldn’t understand why his plans were changing and he couldn’t explain them enough to make me understand. He stood in the kitchen and said over and over, “I have nothing, I have nothing.” I remember saying to him. “What do you mean you have nothing? You have us, you have your brother, you have friends, you have a girlfriend.” I just didn’t see what ‘nothing’ meant.

He got so upset that he actually banged his fist on the kitchen counter, and it made the counter jump. CJ and I continued to argue back-and-forth and at one point he turned and ran upstairs. I walked to the bottom of our stairs to look up to see if he was coming back down and before my husband and I could even discuss what he was doing, CJ did come running back downstairs. He stopped in front of me and said “You think I’m a failure don’t you?” I clearly remember as if it’s happening right now me rolling my eyes and not responding. I didn’t say, “No I don’t.” I didn’t say, “I love you.” I didn’t say anything. I just rolled my eyes. At that point, he turned to me and said “Failure, I’ll show you failure.” And, he ran out of the house. John and I followed as CJ jumped into his car, which had been parked in the front of our house. He drove his car to the top of our street, which happened to be a dead end. John and I stood looking up the street wondering when he would come back.

I realized at that point that CJ and I had been the ones arguing and that sometimes, John is more of a calming presence than I am, so I started to turn to go back in the house…thinking that perhaps when CJ drove back down the street John and he could talk. I don’t think my feet ever moved. I think my shoulders just moved. The next thing I know CJ came driving down the road fairly fast and stopped directly in front of where John and I stood. The rest is a little bit of a blur filled with sounds and smells and.… I just remember John screaming “Oh my God Hallie, he shot himself.”

John raced over to the car and tried to open the door, but the door was locked. I can still see him using his elbow to break the glass open, reach into the car and unlock it, and then open the door. CJ fell into his arms. I’m not entirely certain of the order of what happened next but because it was a beautiful spring day some of our neighbors were home. Somebody must’ve called the police and somebody must have put us into their car to take us to the hospital.

We got to the hospital not long after CJ had arrived. Almost instantly, an ER doctor came to talk to us. He said that CJ potentially understood what type of weapon to choose based on his military training and where to aim that gun but that he knew he would die. That was April 14, 2010. We said our final goodbye to CJ on April 15, 2010 after choosing to donate his organs. Life has never been the same since. I feel like I’m living in a constant and perpetual nightmare.

ALLIÉ: With a loss like this comes both guilt and grief. To manage both, you chose to not only share your story but share your son, literally. How did ‘Scattering CJ’ begin? And how did it help you heal?

HALLIE: After all these years, I’m still not exactly certain of the date, when ‘Scattering CJ’ was born, but I do know at some point the idea that my larger than life, love to travel, happy, go lucky son couldn’t end up as an urn full of ashes. Dusting his urn became the norm for me, which still to this day seems so ridiculously tragic.

On that day, I just remember thinking there has to be more. I remember thinking that as his mom I wanted to give him one more gift, not really understanding what that gift was, but needing to do something for him. I asked my husband, John, and our only other child Connor, if asking people to take a little bit of CJ’s ashes on their travels and scatter him across this world that he didn’t live long enough to see was weird.

“Oh my God, Hallie, he shot himself.”

I simply want my son back.


HALLIE: (continued) Both of them instantly gave me their blessing. I’m pretty sure they both knew that I was going to do it anyway but knowing that they supported me and didn’t think that I was crazy helped immensely. I wrote a simple Facebook post saying exactly what I just said: that I wanted someone to help me send my son on a journey, to give my beautiful son one last gift. I asked if they would perhaps just take a tiny moment out of their travels and scatter his ashes. I asked them to send me a simple photograph, or some words explaining where and when. I posted that on Facebook hoping that maybe if 50 people responded, it would be a success.

Right around the same time, I had decided to anonymously donate a kidney and was recovering from that without realizing that the Facebook post story had gone viral. A local newspaper picked up a story, which then went to the Associated Press and CNN, and it just took on a life of its own. Fairly quickly we went from 50 offers to 500 offers to 1,500 offers. And, now here we are 12 years later and we’re still receiving offers. At this point, I think we’ve gotten over 22,000 offers. And what’s most amazing is that the Scattering CJ Facebook journey has become a community of people who support one another. People who have their own mental health issues or have family members or friends, who are dealing with issues, and they are supporting one another. They share their stories. They offer phone numbers to one another, and they turned to this page for support. And the scattering became far more than a single picture of words. People actually went out of their way, made plans speci fically, to scatter CJ‘s ashes. We received beautiful poetry, songs and videos of the time they spent with our son. Still after 12 years, it’s not uncommon for me to receive emails or text messages from people who scatter CJ after they’ve returned to the location. They take time out of their lives to continue to let us know that CJ will never be forgotten.

ALLIÉ: Through social media, a worldwide community was formed as CJ’s ashes were spread in over 100 countries by over 1,000 volunteers. Of the locations recorded and the moments shared of CJ’s journeys with those who carried him, cried with him and honored him, can you share a few of your favorite stories?

HALLIE: That’s a hard question only because in all honesty, every single scattering that’s taken place, has meant something to myself and my family. I think over time as this movement has gotten more public, the more unique have risen to the top, but only because they’re just so extravagant. CJ‘s ashes being rocketed into space certainly ranks up there. That is something that we think is pretty amazing and are so honored that we were afforded that opportunity.

AwareNow Podcast


Exclusive Interview with Hallie Twomey

HALLIE: (conintued) Any time the military is involved, anytime we have a soldier or a former military member ask to take part because CJ was only in the military for only a short time – but he was their brother – makes me tear up with such gratitude. His ashes have been flown on military flights over Afghanistan, and returned to us, tucked into an American flag. Anything related to water because he loved the ocean is fantastic, but as I said, even the smallest of gestures, like a mom who runs a daycare in the Midwest, who asked to scatter CJ‘s ashes in her backyard because he would forever be surrounded by laughter and smiles. How is that any less amazing than going into outer space? It will always be a hard question to answer more than anything because I simply want my son back.

ALLIÉ: Scattering CJ had its World Premiere at the Camden International Film Festival in September 2019. The film, produced by Spark Media, does a phenomenal job of capturing the details of your story where the love and the loss are not only seen but deeply felt. This film is a gift with so much to give. What is it that you hope people get from it?

HALLIE: More than anything else, I just want people to walk away from the film motivated and open to talk to their loved ones. I always thought that what I wanted most was for my son to not be forgotten, and that certainly is always ever present for me. But knowing people see this film, and then feel compelled to check in with their loved ones is more humbling than I can describe. Spark Media did a beautiful job of capturing the kindness of complete strangers, and the beautiful and supportive community that has formed over the years as a result of such tragedy. I simply want people to talk, to be more open to talk about mental health, to be more aware. I want people to understand and recognize that the choice my son made should not be a choice for them. I know everyone to truly get the statement that “it’s OK to not be OK.” We really need people to understand that. We need to not be afraid to share openly and honestly about how we’re feeling or to reach out to someone that we care about to check in on how they’re feeling. I can’t help but think that if this film, the Scattering CJ Facebook page or my advocacy work sharing my story changes even one mind, that my son will have not died in vain. I’ve seen the film change lives, and I strongly believe that it will continue to do so. It’s not a graphic film. It doesn’t focus on the dark part of what happened, but instead focuses on kindness, compassion and hope. I worried day in and day out when this film was being made that people would walk away not appreciating what it has to offer. The first time somebody said to me that, although the film is tragic, bittersweet and sad that it’s more hopeful, I think that’s when I knew that this was the right decision. Through this film we can, and will continue to prevent others from falling in my son’s footsteps. ∎

Watch and share the film ‘Scattering CJ’:

“Stories that every parent needs to hear. I can’t imagine losing my son to suicide. I’m going to hug him tighter tonight.”

“Really intimate, making me feel I was sitting in their living rooms. Gave me goosebumps. Captivating, heart wrenching and very very impactful.”

“Gut-wrenching portrayal of those we’ve lost so needlessly to suicide and those left behind. And, at the same time, giving us hope for those still here.”

It’s okay to fall in love again, even with a broken heart.



It's the midnight on December Enough cold and cruel, I'm just being emotional after so long. Although we never believe in, We are people who always underestimate emotions We were never good at expressing our feelings, Expert to hide them under pretentiousness. Then cry at night when alone with the moon. Pretending in the morning, everything's fine. Sometimes I'm just tired of acting dear, Tired of being perfect all the time. We often see people in our surroundings, playing with hearts. We are so scared of that, so we never cherish our feelings. We don't want to break our hearts which were already broken once. We are afraid of getting broken again.

Throughout my life, I convinced people that there is no such thing as fairy tales, But honestly, deep down I still believe in them. And I believe we are part of one of them, One day, it's gonna be some magic and, everything would be alright as we always wanted to be. Might we get the courage to admit that we still need each other?

It's okay to fall in love again Even with a broken heart. It's okay to believe in love again. Life is still beautiful even with all the miseries. And we just need the courage to believe in it.

Follow Asma on Instagram: @trqasma2511


Inclusive Connectivity Integrative Community

Innovative Creativity

OCTOBER 15 2020

OCTOBER 15 TH 2020

This signature ‘Healing Through Art Project’ featured renowned artists RISK and Per Bernal Photography at the California Rehabilitation Institute.

This signature ‘Healing Through Art Project’ featured renowned artists RISK and Per Bernal Photography at the California Rehabilitation Institute.

OCTOBER 15 TH 2020

The industrial looking car simulator was transformed into a motivating and metamorphic piece, further adding to its therapeutic and rehabilitative properties.

This signature ‘Healing Through Art Project’ featured renowned artists RISK and Per Bernal Photography at the California Rehabilitation Institute.

The industrial looking car simulator was transformed into a motivating and metamorphic piece, further adding to its therapeutic and rehabilitative properties.

The industrial looking car simulator was transformed into a motivating and metamorphic piece, further adding to its therapeutic and rehabilitative properties.

Artists for Trauma, where recovery is an art, emphasizes creativity, connectivity, and community through various artistic platforms that intersect with medical science, commerce, and the community.

Artists for Trauma, where recovery is an art, emphasizes creativity, connectivity, and community through various artistic platforms that intersect with medical science, commerce, and the community.

Artists for Trauma, where recovery is an art, emphasizes creativity, connectivity, and community through various artistic platforms that intersect with medical science, commerce, and the community.

Photography Credit: Per Bernal