T H E AWA R E N E S S T I E S ™ O F F I C I A L M A G A Z I N E F O R C A U S E S
A UNIVERSE WITHIN
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH PHOTOGRAPHER
IN HIDING WITH HOPE
MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
THE POWER OF INSTINCT
TAL IT LIKE IT IS
WHAT TIES US
COCO DE BRUYCKER
HEAL THE WOMB HEAL THE WORLD
THE SOURCE EDITION W H E R E
A W A R E N E S S
B E G I N S
SUICIDE IS A PREVENTABLE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. YO U C A N BE T H E O N E TO START THE CO N V ERSAT IO N . H F T D.O R G
THE SOURCE EDITION
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.
06 FIRST DAY FEARS
70 HEAL THE WOMB HEAL THE WORLD
132 CHANGING VIEWS
08 IN HIDING WITH HOPE
MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
78 COMMON SENSE
136 LEADING YOURSELF
20 A UNIVERSE WITHIN
82 FINDING KAM
138 SAFETY & ISOLATION
32 THE POWER OF INSTINCT
92 EYE OF THE HURRICANE
PAUL S. ROGERS
142 WHAT TIES US
38 WHAT’S YOUR WHY
96 CHRONICALLY CAPABLE
146 KIDS AGAINST PLASTIC
42 THE AWAKENING
100 ALL IN FOR EMILY
150 MY DREAM
46 WITHOUT LIMITATIONS
104 BAILEY’S BEGINNING
152 TEAM DIMA GLOBAL
52 CLASSROOM CHAMPIONS
112 THE ORIGIN
156 CREATOR’S CALLING
56 TAL IT LIKE IT IS
116 THE NAKED TRUTH
120 GREEN MEANS GO
162 SAFE WATER SLIGHT
SARAH & EMILY FRANCATI
66 THE SECRET SOURCE
COCO DE BRUYCKER
AMY MEEK/TANITH HARDING
DIMATHALIA RIZK/TANITH HARDING
JEFF GOMEZ/AALIA LANIUS
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Always aware. Always free.
AWARENOW / THE OUTSIDE EDITION
MAY THE SOURCE
BE WITH YOU.
In ‘The Source Edition’, we dial into the very heart of the matter - the heart of awareness. We explore where it begins and where it takes us, fueled by our need for change, desire to survive, and commitment to grow and get better. Mentally, spiritually and physically, we seek it out on a personal, societal and global scale.
In looking at when and when we began, what have we achieved in four years to this very day? For Awareness Ties and AwareNow Magazine, it is 26 causes, 35 global ambassadors, 33 monthly columnists and over 400 personal stories and exclusive interviews to inform and inspire a global audience of over 16 million readers with our Official Partner, Issuu.
Allié and I founded Awareness Ties at almost the same time we found each other. In an unlikely union four years to this day with vows exchanged in commitment to love and support one another, we married. Crazy to think that prior to the Loving vs. Virginia case only 54 years ago our union would have been illegal, as interracial marriages were banned.
We knew that together we could do and be more to support something bigger than ourselves. With the support of so many, we believe awareness made & actions taken will make sustainable change a reality.
The source of AwareNow resonates in the heart and hopes of so many… in you. Thank you. You matter more than you know.
Editor In Chief & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties
Allié is a Taurus. She 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 original 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 & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties
Jack is a Gemini. He 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.
AWARENOW / THE OUTSIDE EDITION
…emotions, good or bad, are meant to be felt. CORI LEVINSON
AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
PERSONAL STORY BY CORI LEVINSON
FIRST DAY FEARS
HOPES OF INCLUSION AND KINDNESS FOR RICKI Ricki’s first day of school is a hard day, for him and for his parents. Ricki has CP. His mother, Cori Levinson, has hope. She has hope for inclusion and kindness to greet her son each day, as she validates his many feelings along the way.
Let’s be honest, not every 1st day of school pic is sunshine and rainbows…
1st day of school and drop-off everyday after is not fun...for Ricki or us. Even after weeks of prep and assurance, the separation anxiety is overwhelmingly scary.
The important thing to remember is emotions, good or bad, are meant to be felt. Instead of telling Ricki he was fine and not to cry or be scared, we honor his feelings and try to give him things to look forward to so it isn’t as scary. The good news is he settles down once he’s in and typically has a good time.
We are so proud of him and are thrilled he will be accompanied by 11 other peers this year - some new, others familiar friends from last year. We pray for Ricki to find true belonging, that inclusion means more than proximity, to be kind and find kindness, to try new things, to advocate for himself, and shine bright like he always does!
Even when it’s scary...you got this, kid! ∎
Follow Ricki’s story on Instagram: @a.rabbits.tale
AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Nothing is like it was before… Nothing. MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 8
AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
IN HIDING WITH HOPE
A YOUNG FEMALE AFGHAN REPORTER’S PLEA FOR HELP Forced into hiding after being ordered off air by the Taliban at gunpoint, Mehr Mursal Amiri, 24, was ordered 'to go home, remain there and never return' after militant Islamists burst into Afghanistan's National TV network RTA's studios in Kabul, as female news anchors are now banned from the air. She was also berated for wearing make-up and refusing to wear a hijab. Mehr, who is in her final year of a law degree, says, “Everything has changed and for the worse. Democracy is over and the future is very dark, particularly for women in my country.” We spoke from her place in hiding. What follows is the full, unfiltered and unedited conversation. A known and trusted news anchor, beloved by Afghans, Mehr is young enough to be my daughter. Her heart and hope mirroring my own make her a daughter by virtue. - Allié M.
Allié: Hello. Hi, it's Allié. How are you?
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. Hope you are doing well. Thank you for your contact.
Allié: I'm so glad that we could connect and your story... First of all, how are you doing? How are you?
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. I just can't say... I am in one piece. Frankly, I'm alive, but we don't know what will happen next.
Allié: Does this all seem just so surreal for this to just happen? Things seemed to be going well, and then all of a sudden... How are you feeling right now?
“…since the Taliban took control of the Kabul, I'm changing my address everyday.”
Mehr: Allié, I'm very afraid. Things are very scary and disappointed here. We don't know what will happen next. We don't know we will be alive or not. We are just... for me, since the Taliban took control of the Kabul, I'm changing my address everyday. I'm going to my friends and family houses. So Taliban wouldn't be able to find me here in Kabul. Nothing is like it was before. Nothing.
Allié: So, everyone is pretty much just living in fear. Has everyone just taken to staying to their homes? How could you describe the scene what's happening there?
Mehr: Allié, since the control of the Taliban... First, no one was mentally ready for something like that. Because in the last several months, many of the women and children, they just strayed from their province. They came to Kabul. Everyone was thinking like, "Okay, Kabul would be the safest place for us because according to the promises of NATO and the Americans and the Taliban, they were not supposed to enter Kabul. So, everyone was like feeling good. Everyone was getting to their job. Everything was very normal for us because I thought... we thought that they would not come to Kabul. But when they entered Kabul, suddenly everyone was shocked. No one was ready for something like that. And suddenly.... no one is completely clear schools, universities, they just blow up. And it doesn't feel... it doesn't seem like we are really living here... (inaudible) to go outside, to meet our friends, to do our job... to fight for our freedom, but now everything has just stopped. 9
AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I was one of the persons who was talking always against the Taliban… MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 10 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
They told me cover my face… “Go to your home and don't come back.”
Allié: Oh my goodness... So, let's talk about you personally. Tell us about what's happened with you. People know you. They know your face. They know your name and the work that you've done to share news. Explain that day, when you were told that you were no longer able to do that.
Mehr: Allié, I'm just 24-years-old, and I'm studying law. So the first thing that I taught, I was like, oh my God, they will stop me from studying. I can't go to university. I just left my university because I'm not safe. And I can't go out. And my university is actually blocked. No one is going to university. Five years, I'm working as a media presenter in Afghanistan. And I had every day a 3-hour live show for tv networks. I'm a live tv presenter, actually. People know me very well, as you say. Before the Taliban, I was one of the people in the media who was very... talking about... always against the Taliban, actually. I was one of the persons who was talking always against the Taliban... about how they kill people, how they took the children, how they stop the woman from getting into a job when they had control over Afghanistan. But what I am seeing now... it seemed like what I always heard about talking about from my mother, from my father, from family members, and what we are seeing in the videos and in the stories. It seemed like that... They are not changed. Though their leaders always say that they will not go to… people. They will not stop female journalists to do their job, but they did. They took control of the Kabul. The day after that, I went to do my job. I went to National TV of Afghanistan which I work there. I have a daily show there, but I just got to the gate. The first thing I heard from the Taliban fighters... they were armed. They told me to cover your face. I have a job. They told me cover your face. When I covered my face, I told them that I have a problem. I have to enter. They told me like, "You're not allowed to go to the TV. This is our TV now. We will have our own presenters. We don't need you. Go to your home and don't come back.”
Allié: Oh my gosh. I just, I can't imagine.
Mehr: Allié, you won't believe. Allié, this studio... that we had a show everyday there, the studio that we bought, this studio that we had a program every day for the people of Afghanistan... Now, it looks completely like a mosque. It's completely like a mosque. They prey inside this studio. They are armed inside this studio. They have their own presenter that doesn't look like a presenter... doesn't look like a journalist who don't know even anything about the media, but they are talking about every day and everything. When they took control of the National TV, of Afghanistan, the first thing that they did... they stopped all our broadcasts and they just published Holy Quran for that two or three days there. Not only me, Allié, not our female presenters... Even our male colleagues, everyone was afraid. No one was going to the office... My team, which we were working for the RTA, currently . No one is going to office. No one.
Allié: So all news, whether delivered or presented by a female or a male is now in complete control of the Taliban...
Mehr: It's control of the Taliban. Yes. We don't have actually any news on the tv because no one is going to... the tv team is not working. We're off. It says the system... everything is under their control. No one has dared to report. No one is there to create news, to write the news.. No one is there to present the news. It's like, everything is gone. They have some, two or three Mano presenters sitting there talking, I don't know what they are talking. They were talking in Pashto and we don't even understand what they are talking. Their language... their accent is like completely different from what we see from Pashtun people in Afghanistan. 11 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
This situation is getting worse by the day. MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 12 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: So they pretty much just managed to just shut everything down and keep everyone in the dark.
Mehr: Yes. Yes. It's completely like that.
Allié: So, a couple of questions… I mean, again, because this was not expected, like you're saying... people are coming to Kabul thinking that, you know, this is going to be where we can be safe and figure things out. And for this to happen... Two questions. What is the biggest fear for you, for yourself? And then also, what is the biggest fear for your country right now?
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. The biggest fear for me is my life, because I don't know if I will be safe or not. I told you I wasn't gonna go to the media of Afghanistan. The job was very optional for me. If I liked, I would work the job. If I didn't like, I had the shows... No one was there to tell me you should work a job. And there is like hundreds and thousands of my pictures in the social media and everywhere and everywhere that I don't have a job. And I'm very cool on the pictures. Don't accept that. I was one of the person who always talked against the Taliban, which now I'm targeted for that. They are searching for me because my friends, me and my colleagues, everyone we will hide because we know they are searching for me. Who sent me? Taliban have killed a family member of an editor I think, yeah. He was an editor… They killed his family member because they were searching for him. They couldn't find him. So to kill off his family members. I'm afraid because currently I've had to... I left my house, but my mother I'm a father... I'm the youngest member of my family, my siblings, they are at home, and I'm afraid. What if something happens to them? If you know what, Taliban's tolerance... (just give me one second) And you know what Allié, Taliban, they're not the only threat right now for me, because it's not guaranteed for me that they will keep me alive or not. I will be alive or not. What about the prisoners that the Taliban recently released for the different provinces of Afghanistan? They released thousands of the prisoners, the criminals, who are now in the streets, who are now in the other provinces. They will kill us. What about our own people in cultural city, like Kabul in Afghanistan. What is the people enter into our homes at night? What if the people and the groups that are against the Taliban in Afghanistan... that are working against Taliban in Afghanistan. What if they kill me, just to show the world... to say that they are not changed? We are targeted by many groups right now. Actually, we don't know who to trust. Trust me. The only thing that comes to my mind right now is who to trust. Do you know when that day the Taliban took the control of the city, the capital, the Kabul. When the entered to the National TV of Afghanistan, through our television, they announced that this is an Islam country after this, when we saw the video, one of our colleagues from the social media department was with them. I saw him. When I saw him, I was shocked that he was my colleague. We talked, we worked together, but he was one of their members... Since that day, I don't know. Even, I don't know how to trust my colleagues. I don't know who is with them. I don't know who's working for them.
Allié: So for you, for yourself, what do you... You will then just go, continue to change your address daily and find refuge with friends and family and just try to stay one step ahead... Is that the plan?
Mehr: Allié, to be honest, I don't know what to do. Trust me, because I can't go out of my home because as the Taliban says, no one is allowed to go without their mahram outside of the city. So I have my brother. My brother is 17 years old. I can't go with him out because they know he's my brother. He's hiding with me. We both are hiding because we can't go out of our home. People knew me very well. Even, trust me, even if I covered my face, they know me by my voice, my sound, the way I speak. If I just talk to one person for the one minute, they will notice that this is me. Having three hours live show in TV for the last five years. So people knew me very well. Even if I talk, even if I talk, around the street or with someone who just watched my program for four or five days, they will notice this is me. We can't go out. We can't talk with anyone. We can't go even to the hospital, if we need anything. The only thing I have to do is to stay home in a place that no one could find me, turn off my phones, turn off my local contact, my local SIM cards... And just be... hide. Trust me. And even if I need something where I am, even if I need something when we are hungry... we want to eat something, we want to have... we need some medicine or something because I'm not in my home. I'm somewhere. Oh, I don't have anyone to tell to bring me that. I can't see my mom and my dad, because I don't know... what if track my my mom and my dad and they track our phone calls and they track them, to find us. We are just completely in a room, locked like a prison. I have no way out, nowhere to go outside. And I don't have any idea what to do. 13 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We have been banned from our job. We have been banned from being as a fighter for women in Afghanistan. MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 14 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: For anyone who, for everyone, rather for everyone who hears your words, who hears your stories in the situation that you're in, what is it that you want them to know? What is it... what can we do? What do you want people to know? What do you want to say to the world?
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. The very first thing that I want to know for everyone is to believe us. Talibans are not changed. They are completely not changed. But we hear from their leaders... on other countries. And what they tweet on social media is completely different from what we see on the ground and from what we hear and what we see from their fighters here in Afghanistan. They don't even know their leaders. They don't even accept what their leaders say. They are checking for the people's houses.
They're checking. They are going to every part of the Kabul. They are checking the houses to find the people that they are targeted for them... the people who talk against them always, and for the people like me as a female, like me, who is one of the very limited girls in Afghanistan who is, frankly, in this situation is talking about what's really going on in Afghanistan.
“They are not changed.
They are the same people. They’re the same Taliban they were in 1990.”
They are not changed. They are the same people. They are the same Taliban they were in 1990. The situation is getting worse day by day. I believe that after September and after August, when the Americans and the NATA and the other security forces leave Afghanistan, it will be much harder for the Afghan people to live here and much harder because they will show their real face in that time.
Allié: In this darkest of times right now, we have to trust. We have to hope that there is light to be found. As you look around the situation, and at your life, I know there's so much uncertainty. There's nothing but uncertainty. Where do you see any light? Where do you see hope? You have to close your eyes at night and have some hope. Where do you find that?
Mehr: Allié, since the last five and six days, I haven't slept. Trust me. I fully mistrust. I'm very disappointed. I can't sleep. I can't sleep because I'm afraid. What if they come to the place that I am right now for checking? What if they come to see who is there living? What if someone, the people who are living in this area, what if they, they just, someone just noticed that this is me and they say to the Taliban, "Ok. She's living here. What if they come here? I can't sleep. And the only hope, the only hope that I have right now for me and for my colleagues that we are in the same situation is to leave Afghanistan. And we don't know actually how.
We applied for the US Visa. We applied for UK Visa. We applied for the Canada Visa. We applied for... As many emails that we receive that we have been told that they will help you... No one is responding. Trust me. No one is responding. We are not getting any email, any text, any phone call from it. The only thing that we receive is auto message... is the auto message from the emails that we received, your emails. No, nothing more. No one is responding. It's not only about me. From my colleagues who are still in Afghanistan from my colleagues, that especially if I'm the National TV of Afghanistan that we have been banned from the media. We have been banned from our job. We have been banned from being as a fighter for women in Afghanistan. No one of us has received any email or any help still in Afghanistan. 15 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
It's not only the matter of the females in Afghanistan. The boys, the new generation, no one accepts the Taliban the way they are. MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 16 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Everyone thought that they will be changed. Everyone thought that the people will be safe. This is not the truth.”
Allié: I wish I had words. I wish I had words of hope... We have to trust it's there. We have to hope that your story and your message does not fall on deaf ears. I can't thank you enough for sharing what you have about what your reality is. And so often we're shown a different version and to hear it, your voice, your words, the reality of it is... I can't thank you enough for helping all of us become more aware now. It is with this awareness... awareness that your story and your words are providing that can provide some sort of hope and that we all can work together to have you heard... and to have you safe, as you deserve to be.
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. Thank you so much for contacting me. Thank you for real because this is what the reality is. I did not know that the supposed Taliban... Everyone thought that they will be changed. Everyone thought that the people will be safe. This is not the truth. They are not changed. Thousands of people are around the Kabul airport right now. And they are just waiting to leave Afghanistan, because they don't see hope here. We don't see any hope here. We don't know that we will be alive or not. Because even if they kill us, this is something very normal to Taliban. They did it before. They killed people, and they just simply go and just leave a tweet. And it has nothing to do with them. The case was closed. Killing people are this much easy for them right now.
Allié: I am sending you so much love and so much light right now. We will do everything to share your story, to share your words, to seek out hope to seek out help. Know that you are not alone. Even though it may seem very much the case, you are not alone.
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. I'm not doing this actually for myself. I'm afraid because of my colleagues. I'm afraid because of not even females, I'm afraid because of the young boys in Afghanistan. When you see their faces, they are afraid. They don't see any hope for years. It's not only the matter of the females in Afghanistan. The boys, the new generation, no one accepts the Taliban the way they are.
Allié banks are completely closed in Afghanistan. Since they took control of the Kabul... Thousands of people have been displaced. They come to the Kabul. They thought it would be the safest place. And it would be the place that people will help them. Currently, no one has money because everyone, every people that who had thought, who had money in Afghanistan, their money is in banks. Banks are closed. No one has any... We can't go outside. We can't buy anything. We don't have money. And I'm not telling you about myself, but for the poor people of Afghanistan, the poor people who was living in Kabul, they don't have money. They don't have anything to eat. What about people who have been displaced to Kabul? They left their houses. They left everything behind just to be safe. And now they are not safe. No one is helping them. No one is giving food for them. No one is reaching for them.
Allié: And this is where people need to wake up. This is where people need to see. This is not a political issue. This is not an issue about borders. This is an issue of humanity. This is what ties us all together, that we all live and breathe and hope to continue doing that. And there's no reason why we shouldn't... We shouldn't have to be scared of the fact that that might not be the reality of it. It's not acceptable. It's not okay. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, it's not acceptable. Know that, again, you are not alone. Please tell me the proper way to say your name too. I do not want to say it incorrectly.
Mehr: Mehr Mursal Amiri. If you want me, I can send you my full name and my TV. Complete message.
17 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
…we have always believed in free media and we worked for that. MEHR MURSAL AMIRI
AFGHAN REPORTER & LAW STUDENT 18 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
IN HIDING WITH HOPE
Exclusive Interview with Mehr Mursal Amiri
“I believe that the only way to solve this problem…is only the media.”
Allié: Yes, please do that. And then also if you would send me... I need people to see you. If you could send any photos, high res photos, anything that you have. I want people to hear you and see you. I need people to hear your voice and your words. And I will do... Jack and I with what we do with our magazine... we will do as much as we can. We will share this with as many as we can. And just know you are not alone. And I know you don't know the answer, we don't either, but we will be there with you to try to find it.
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. Thank you so much. Thank you for your help and for your support. Trust me. We have always believed in media, and we have all we believed in free media and we worked for that. I believe that the only way to solve this problem for the Afghan females and for Afghan journalists is only the media that they can do something for us right now.
Allié: Well, we will certainly, we will certainly do all that we can and ask that others join us in that. So, your story has not fallen on deaf ears. Your story is one that will be told and it will be seen. And please know that I'm only just a message away. Okay?
Mehr: Yeah, sure.
Allié: Hey, I'm gonna... Yeah, if you want to send that over to me... Again, I'm sending so much love and so much light for you. And just know that we're going to do everything that we can to support you and to help you.
Mehr: Thank you, Allié. Thank you so much. I really appreciate what you're doing for me and for the female people and females in Afghanistan and for the people of Afghanistan, actually, for the new generation. Everyone is just lost in their hopes, and everyone feels like this is the end of the story for us, actually.
Allié: You know, here's the thing, the story will go on and it will only go on because of people like you, because of your voice who will continue to tell it and to share it. And for us who will support you in that in amplify, in any and every way that we can. So, thank you and keep faith, keep hope. And again, you are not alone... Thank you so much, sending so much love. Be safe.
Mehr: Thanks so much. Thank you. Have a beautiful day. Thank you. Thank you. Bye. ∎ 19 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
…the shining universes are hidden in the eyes of children. ABDULLAH AYDEMIR
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 20 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ABDULLAH AYDEMIR
A UNIVERSE WITHIN
BEAUTY WITHIN THE EYES OF THE BEHELD
Abdullah Aydemir, a photographer based in Istanbul, believes that the whole universe can be hidden in the eyes of children. In his collection, ‘Eyes of Istanbul’, he shares images unable to be defined, as no number of words (no matter how eloquent) could ever describe them. Within the eyes of the often impoverished children he meets as he walks the streets of Istanbul, universes are found that can’t be bound by unfortunate circumstances or any number of missed chances.
Allié: It’s been said that ‘a picture says a thousand words’. When it comes to your work, I disagree. With ‘Eyes of Istanbul’, each photo speaks a thousand chapters or volumes perhaps. What inspired you to take these photos? What is it that you want people to see?
Abdullah: Thank you very much for your nice thoughts, Allié. Despite all the difficult conditions of life, the shining universes are hidden in the eyes of those children.
Allié: When it comes to you as an artist, Abdullah, was photography your first love? Or were you passionate about another art form before this?
Abdullah: I have been interested in fine arts since my childhood. I had pencil drawing and sculpture work. My passion for photography was added later.
Allié: Eager to hear more about this project. When did it begin? How many photos have you taken? Where was the very first shot taken?
Abdullah: When it first started, I didn't think of it as a project. Because I love people, I wanted to step into their world. For about 10 years, I have started photographing people, old and young but usually children, who I come across on the streets of Istanbul. This turned into the ‘Eyes of Istanbul’ project over time.
Allié: As an artist, what is the source of your inspiration for your photography?
Abdullah: My main inspiration is to connect with people and leave a mark on the way from the eye to the heart.
Allié: These photos are beyond captivating. Almost ethereal, they elicit an instant emotional response that is hard to define. What can you tell us about these children?
Abdullah: The children in the photos are usually the children of refugee families fleeing the war. They may be in misery and poverty, but somehow they manage to be happy despite everything. Whenever I meet them on the streets, they welcome me in a positive way. I hope all the children are happy.
Allié: In the eyes of children, there is much we can learn. What lessons have you personally learned?
Abdullah: I learned hope, love and innocence in those eyes. ∎
Connect with Abdullah and follow his work on Instagram
21 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 22 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
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Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 24 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
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Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 27 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 28 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 29 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 30 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Because I love people, I wanted to step into their world. ABDULLAH AYDEMIR
Photo Credit: @abdllhaydmr_photos 31 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Instinct has been an important part of my life, even before I lost my eyesight. ADAM MORSE
AWARD WINNING DIRECTOR & ADVOCATE FOR INCLUSION Photo Credit: Julia Varvara 32 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY ADAM MORSE
THE POWER OF INSTINCT
WHEN LOVE OF FILM & FOOTBALL BLINDLY INTERSECT When both the talent in front of the camera and behind it are blind, the power of instinct is beautifully captured with the direction of Adam Morse who was chosen by Puma to direct their commercial supporting Cécifoot France. The blind football team will be competing in Tokyo during the 2020 Paralympics, where the world will watch and see instinct incarnate.
Allié: As an award winning director, Adam, you’ve directed a number of projects in your career. This particular fiftysecond commercial for Puma was special. Blind players in France led by a blind director from London to produce a commercial that speaks to the spirit of blind athletes as it pertains to ‘instinct’ and its power was phenomenal. With a love for both film and football, can you speak to the importance of instinct both in film and on the field?
Adam: Instinct has been an important part of my life, even before I lost my eyesight. As an artist, writing stories, acting in shows, it’s always something that you’re very reliant on when making creative choices. I found myself leaning on the power of my own instincts much more after I went blind. Of course, there are always challenges in life where you have to try and overcome them. For me, I always found that whether it was a situation where I was just having some fun with my friends or trying to make a pass where I might not see where my teammate is moving, but from hearing the sound of his voice and being connected to the other player, you can make educated guesses, which is another way of describing your instincts. I’ve always found instinct to be such a key part of my life in all aspects professionally and personally. Working on this film for Puma was a great way for me to exercise that sense and try to translate the experience of trusting your instincts.
THE POWER OF INSTINCT BY ADAM MORSE
BEHIND THE SCENES FEATURETTE WITH ADAM MORSE SHOOTING THE COMMERCIAL FOR THE PUMA CECIFOOT TEAM
33 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: Set the stage for us, Adam. Replay how this project came together. Logistically speaking, there were a lot of obstacles from time to translation. Please share details about the scene and what you overcame as a director to see this through.
Adam: Yes, it was extremely difficult to make this film. As it is with any production, you’re up against time. You’re at the mercy of how much there is to spend, and that dictates the amount of time that you have to do your job. The tighter the schedule, the more stressful the work is, but I’ve always found myself rising to those types of challenges of extreme pressure and tight schedules.
The French Cécifoot team is very special and super impressive and Puma was generous enough to finance this - to showcase these amazing players and their beautiful new jerseys with the braille and the design for the Paralympics where they’re going to be wearing them as they compete in Tokyo. Because blind football is a niche sport, I’m not sure what the size of the audience is, but it’s not big. I had basically less than a day to deliver this, which is an insane ask, but somehow I managed to pull it off. Obviously, there’s the choreography of what I wanted the players to do, and luckily because I play the game and I know the sport very well because it’s my biggest passion outside of film, I was able to basically become a coach for the day and talk them through the different sequences of plays that I’d imaged and choreographed. Then I walked them through each beat of the story that I wanted to shoot. I had my shot list prepared, and I knew what I wanted to capture, but I couldn’t just tell these guys “do this”, “go here”, “do that” because I can’t point around a pitch and have them see where I want them to go and what I want them to do. I had to literally walk them through it - play by play. So, that took half the day. Plus, they don’t speak English. It was all through a translator. So, everything took twice as long because of the language barrier. The next thing you know, we’ve got to be out of the location in a few hours, and we hadn’t even started rolling the camera on the main action yet. By some miracle, I was able to power through 40+ camera set ups in half a day. Luckily, it all came together in the end. We were able to tell the story and show the magic of what these incredible men are able to do.
Photo Credit: Julia Varvara 34 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“I was told ‘no’ so many times.
I had to believe in myself blindly.
I had to have such blind belief that
I could make films and that I would eventually be in a position to do that.”
Allié: Less than a minute long, this commercial is a powerful piece that makes a strong statement, as all of your work does. Your short film, ‘The Window’, won ‘Best Short Film’ at the London Independent Film Festival. Your full length film, ‘Lucid’, won ‘Best Picture’ at the Gold Movie Awards, where you were honored as ‘Best Director’ with Billy Zane named ‘Best Actor’. Of all cinematic formats, what is your favorite length to shoot and why?
Adam: Thank you for bringing up those accolades. I’ve definitely found that the most rewarding format is feature length purely because the commitment required is so much bigger. As a result, so is the satisfaction at the end when you step back and you see the work that you’ve created. You really do experience the breadth of the journey, appreciating each scene and remembering what happened that day and all the struggles along the way. It makes you really appreciate how much it takes to deliver a feature film. It’s usually 2 years of your life, from concept to script development, pitching, actual production, prints for photography, then another year in post production, marketing & celebrating at festivals. It’s a real journey when you make a feature film. I think that’s what makes working in that format so special. It really is a whole chapter of your life making one movie.
Although, I do love the short form format as well. The bite size film, the short form, is extremely accessible in this day and age because of people’s attention spans shortening. I have a love for all formats, but I have to say making feature films is without a doubt my favorite.
Allié: For those who are visually impaired, what advice do you have for making it in a visual industry such as film?
Adam: I suppose the only advice I would give to visually impaired filmmakers and artists would be the same advice I would give to any filmmaker which is try not to be too precious about your work, your talent, your ego if you have one. It’s definitely the first major lesson that I had to learn when I was starting my career trying to get my first piece of work made. It’s the most competitive industry in the world. There are countless other people out there all doing the same thing. A lot of them are just as skilled as you are. A lot of the time it’s luck, timing, and mostly personal relationships.
The business truly is driven by nepotism. That’s not me being cynical saying that; it’s just a fact. I think filmmakers need to be aware of it, and be prepared to play the game. Get out there. You need to be a good communicator to be a good film director. You can use that same quality when building your network, making contacts, and cultivating those relationships to put you in a position where you are able to have backing. You need support from not just artistic collaborators but financiers and all the people that are going to help you on your way to becoming a filmmaker. To summarize, have thick skin, be prepared for rejection and get ready to pick yourself back up again. Don’t quit. Perseverance is everything. I was told ‘no’ so many times. I had to believe in myself blindly. I had to have such blind belief that I could make films and that I would eventually be in a position to do that. Letting ‘no’ go in one ear and out the other, you need tunnel vision on your dream and realizing it. 35 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I chose to keep my disability a secret because I wasn’t quite sure of what that would mean… ADAM MORSE
AWARD WINNING DIRECTOR & ADVOCATE FOR INCLUSION Photo Credit: Julia Varvara 36 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“…I had to do it to be able to prove it to myself and everyone else.”
Allié: As you work to change the mindset of not just the industry but the world in regard to their outlook on disability. Explain how replacing the reference ‘disabled’ to ‘differently-abled’ can help to shift the narrative.
Adam: That’s something I’ve been very passionate about doing. When I came out of the blind closet, it was a very pivotal time for me personally and professionally because so many people in my life weren’t aware of my condition. I chose to keep my disability a secret because I wasn’t quite sure of what that would mean, if people were going to label me as such. I’ve always been someone who studies language a lot, not only in trying to write stories but in trying to communicate with others. I feel like there are always associations attached to different words. Of course, when you brandish someone ‘disabled’, that has a very dangerous connotation and is potentially harmful to that person’s impression of themselves and the impression society has on that person. It’s all programming at the end of the day. If you start telling everyone that this person is disabled, they are going to subconsciously interpret that as ‘capable of less’ and that they are disadvantaged in a way that they can’t do the work. For myself, I know that I can deliver quality work because I’ve done it, and I had to do it to be able to prove it to myself and everyone else. After I made ‘Lucid’, that’s when I made the decision to open up about my condition and speak publicly so that I could be that reference point for other ‘differently-abled’ artists who have a different process but are still able to deliver at a high level.
Allié: Thank you for your time and this conversation. Thank you for helping us all become a bit more aware now. Thank you, Adam.
Adam: It’s my pleasure and thank you for doing what you do. I’m a big believer in AwareNow and the messages and stories you share. It’s really important. I want to do everything I can to help this community and do whatever I can to inspire people and change the stigma.
Allié: And this is how it begins. One story at a time. Thank you, Adam, for sharing yours. ∎
Follow Adam Morse on Instagram: @themorseforce
37 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Our ‘why’ is our motivating factor. NATALIE ASATRYAN
YOGA INSTRUCTOR & EDUCATION ADVOCATE Photo Credit: Julian Dahl 38 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘THE WHY OF IT’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY NATALIE ASATRYAN
WHAT’S YOUR WHY
LOOKING BACK TO FIND WHERE YOU’RE AT It's nearing the end of summer break for me and I'm currently in the process of finishing my summer work for the start of my junior year. One of the books I’m writing an essay on for my AP Biology class is called “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin. In this book, Shubin spends a good deal of effort describing the importance of learning our part to help us better understand our present and prepare for our future. I've had quite some time to reflect on this concept as I've been working on my essay. In his book, Shubin discusses history in terms of the 3.5 billion years it took to form every part of the human body. I've decided to look at this from a broader perspective.
Why do we look back on our past?
The answer is the first word of the question - ‘why’.
“Our “why” is so important and yet so easily overlooked.”
We want to know why we do the things we do. Understanding why we’re doing something is what helps us decide if it's worth spending time on in the present. Why am I working so hard on my summer work instead of being at the beach? It's so I can pass my AP exams in May and earn my college credits. Our ‘why’ is our motivating factor.
But sometimes it's the opposite. Sometimes we question ourselves on why we keep going with a certain behavior that's not beneficial to us. Why do I check my phone in the middle of homework assignments? Because it's a habit. Once I've evaluated the reasoning behind my behavior and its lack of benefit to me, I can take active steps to break said habit and become more efficient with my time. Our ‘why’ is so important and yet so easily overlooked.
That's why I'm thrilled that with this month's issue, I get a chance to look back on my why and remind myself of the reason I do what I do.
I figured I should give a quick rundown of what I do before I get to why I do it. Unfortunately, you guys don't live inside my brain so I can't just assume you know what I'm talking about…
I'm a yoga teacher, and I'm 16. I started teaching when I was 12. All of my classes are donation bases which means people can give as much or as little as they want and 100% of the money goes to support charities. I've worked with organizations such as the American Red Cross, Red Nose Day, the Unstoppable Foundation, and Children of Armenia Fund. I hope to talk more about each of these charities and the causes I'm passionate about sometime in the future. I'm beyond grateful that here I have a platform to discuss such important topics. But that’s for another time. Back to the ‘why’.
39 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“…a life of service is the best kind to live.”
I remember being 12 and getting an email from my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) instructor saying that I had passed my exam and earned my certificate. After some celebration, I realized that I could now teach at a studio and charge for my classes. I am very fortunate that as a kid and teenager, I don't have to work and make money for my family. It is such an incredible blessing and I remind myself every day how lucky I am and how grateful I should be.
So with that in mind, why would I charge for classes?
What would I do with the money? Other people would need it a lot more than me.
And that's where it started.
I come from a home that has always valued giving back. My incredible mom has always said “a life of service is the best kind of life to live.'' I remember when I was around 7 or 8, before the idea of teaching yoga had even surfaced in my very imaginative young mind, my mom had introduced me to the Unstoppable Foundation. We made a pledge with them to raise money to build a school in Kenya. At 7, and still at 16, it was so shocking to me that there are kids that wake up everyday and don’t go to school. Not because they choose not to, but because they spend their day collecting water or because their village doesn't even have a school. Being able to say that I was baffled by that fact is one of my biggest blessings. I love school. I love learning new things. And even on days when it's hard and I have a lot to get done, I remind myself that school is going to open so many doors for me and give me so many opportunities. Those kids deserve those same opportunities. They deserve those same chances and those same odds. And that's something that 12 year old Natalie, fresh out of YTT, decided she wanted to help change.
Looking back on my history is so humbling. My family came to this country so I could chase my dreams. I wasn't even a concept when they moved here, yet they were already thinking of my future. I have been so blessed and it wouldn't be right if I didn't use my blessings to help others. I was put on this planet to serve. To help as many people as possible feel the true warmth of humanity. We all were. We’re all here to help, we all just go about it in different ways. Some people sell their paintings to help the polar bears. Some sing to plant trees. Some run to help fund the search for cures. And some of us teach yoga to help bring education to kids in Africa.
So there you have it. That's my why.
Now, I have to get back to my biology essay, and I'll leave you with some time to think.
What's your why? ∎
Yoga Instructor & Education Advocate
www.awarenessties.us/natalie-asatryan Natalie Asatryan has been teaching yoga since the age of 12 and is passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga with people of all ages and inspiring them to take what they love and use it to make a difference. Through the funds she receives from her donation based classes, Natalie supports various charities such as the American Red Cross, Red Nose Day, the Unstoppable Foundation, and Children of Armenia Fund. Two time global youth award winner, Natalie works to empower those around her to step out of their comfort zones and change the world.
40 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
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Spirituality is not about visiting temples or going to church… KANDYMAKU BUSINTANA
INDIGENOUS ACTIVIST FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, KOGI TRIBE 42 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIE WITH KANDYMAKU BUSINTANA
REMINDERS FROM THE KOGI TRIBE: PART 1 I am Kandymaku Busintana.
I belong to the millenary tribes of the heart of the spirit of the world. I believe that our main goal as millenary tribes is to remind and encourage humanity to remember that bond and commitment they have to nature. We’re not here to teach you anything. Rather, we are here to remind you about the logical order that belongs to and is part of this conscious awakening. While we were left in this location called ‘the heart of this period of the world’, for us to be able to fulfill this mission of strengthening the spirit that comes from the physical awakening is now done.
I believe that people are very aware and already know what we must do is come in and organize that information that people already count with. People are already aware of the rivers that are dried up. Snow is running out as well. Forests are dying. That physical action is known already. So, now what do we do to organize that knowledge? How can we support organizing the next actions that are going to be taken from us?
“…what I mean by ‘spiritual’ is not a ceremony, rituals or things of that sort, but rather from spirituality…”
We know that order needs to happen from the spirit, not from a physical realm or a physical aspect, because the world was created from spirit to begin with. Recovering and restoring rivers and forests has to be done from a spiritual aspect. And what I mean by ‘spiritual’ is not a ceremony, rituals or things of that sort, but rather from spirituality… spiritual knowledge that we millenary tribes hold and still keep alive to this day.
Spirituality is not about visiting temples or going to church or doing these actions that you might confuse with spirituality. Rather, spirituality is a lifestyle.
We also must understand that this ‘order’ is given to us through our earth. She is the one that is going to implicate us all. How can we get in touch more with our spirituality? We cannot replace important and sacred spaces that belong to earth and use them for human actions. We have forgotten that she visited these places. We need to give them the acknowledgement they truly deserve. That’s why there’s so much imbalance on earth that we see these days.
The calling we make for an awakening conscious is that we have to already understand that spirituality is more so about a lifestyle, and we have to continue viewing it that way. 43 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Physical actions coming from governments and states are not going to do anything to help us organize and restore balance into humanity. We believe those actions are only going to bring more chaos and more disorder into what’s already going on here. The biggest project on reforestation going on in the planet are the ones that are causing the big heating that we see on earth nowadays, because we are planting trees without even understanding how that ecosystem works and what works better for that place specifically.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding on what true spirituality really is.” We see that there is a lot of consciousness awakening happening from a place of fear. We have lots of fear instilled in us because we are not doing it from a logical order. We are looking for communications, means and ways that we can share this message because we are looking to create a more of a revolution that understands this spirituality that has come from earth. There’s a lot of misunderstanding on what true spirituality really is. We are looking to change the speech and give it another shape… ∎ Translation by Gabriela Correa
The Kogi (/ˈkoʊɡi/ KOH-gee), or Cogui, or Kágaba, meaning "jaguar" in the Kogi language, are an indigenous ethnic group that live in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in northern Colombia. Their culture has continued since the Pre-Columbian era.
The Kogi base their lifestyles on their belief in "Aluna" or "The Great Mother," their creator figure, who they believe is the force behind nature. The Kogi understand the Earth to be a living being, and see humanity as its "children." They say that our actions of exploitation, devastation, and plundering for resources is weakening "The Great Mother" and leading to our destruction.
Like many other indigenous tribes, the Kogi people honor a holy mountain which they call "Gonawindua," otherwise known as Pico Cristóbal Colón. They believe that this mountain is "The Heart of the World" and they are the "Elder Brothers" who care for it. They also say that the outside civilization is the "Younger Brothers" who were sent away from The Heart of the World long ago.
44 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We see that there is
a lot of consciousness awakening happening… KANDYMAKU BUSINTANA
INDIGENOUS ACTIVIST FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, KOGI TRIBE 45 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
When you accept yourself you don’t need to be accepted anymore. SARAH TALBI
ARTIST, MOM & VIDEO CREATOR 46 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SARAH TALBI
LIFE WITHOUT ARMS & WITHOUT LIMITS Sarah requires no armor, or arms for that matter, to protect the beautiful light she shares with the world. Born without arms, Sarah does everything with her feet. On Instagram and Youtube, she shares moments of her life as a woman and mom without arms. Stunning inside and out, Sarah invites others to see life through her lens, and experience her version of being a human.
Allié: Let’s start this conversation with a confession. I’ve become a bit addicted to your Instagram. So much love and light shared there! Speaking of love… “I love dancing crazy for the love of music and moves and also cause I’m blessed having legs and feet.” This you share in a video of yourself dancing, finishing your post with these words: “Enjoy your life always.” An important lesson for us all to count our blessings. Of all the things in your life that you are thankful for, Sarah, what are you most grateful for?
Sarah: I think to have eyes. I’m just talking about me - not my role of being a mother. I’m very grateful to be a mother, but let’s talk about my own human being. Yeah, I don’t have arms, but I have so many other things that really work good. So, why not use this potential to do things, like painting. If I didn’t have eyes, I couldn’t paint. So, I think my life would be very sad without enjoying landscapes and the beautiful sky. For me, it’s my main inspiration to paint. So yeah. I think to have eyes and to have legs to dance.
FEATURING SARAH TALBI
47 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I think we never stop discovering ourselves. SARAH TALBI
ARTIST, MOM & VIDEO CREATOR 48 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“It was absolutely terrible for me… to listen to her cries and not be able to just take her.”
Allié: Being a mom is not always easy. In fact sometimes, it’s really hard. For you as a mother with no arms, what has been most difficult?
Sarah: When my baby was a baby… She’s 3 now. So, she’s not a baby anymore. But when she was born, what was really difficult for me was when she was crying in her bed. I needed someone to take her from the bed. It was absolutely terrible for me… to listen to her cries and not be able to just take her… to ask her father to take her and give her to me. He is the father, so of course when he took his baby he would cuddle. I was like, “No, no, no… Just give her to me.” He said, “Yes, but just wait.” But I couldn’t wait. This two seconds were for me an eternity. It was very difficult. This frustration was very difficult at the beginning. When my baby was 4 or 5 months old, I remember she was really crying in her bed. I just wanted to take her, but it was impossible. Her father was busy. I don’t remember what he was doing. I was just looking at her, and I started crying because I really wanted to take her but it was not possible. I had to wait for her father to come in. My baby just looked at me. She stopped crying for a few seconds… because I think she didn’t know that adults also could cry. She just looked at me for a few seconds. Then she started to cry again after. Those few seconds made my think, “Oh my God. I’m crying. My baby is looking at me crying. This for me was the beginning of me saying “Okay, now you have to stop this frustration, because your baby is understanding that you are suffering.”
49 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
ARTIST, MOM & VIDEO CREATOR 50 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“… you have to love yourself, unconditionally.”
Allié: In addition to being a mom, you are also an artist. You do amazing things with your feet that I could never do with my hands. Let’s take your painting for instance. When did you fall in love with the art of painting?
Sarah: It was really only 5 years ago. I think we never stop discovering ourselves. Usually, we think that everything is done during childhood. If you like something when you are a child, you will be a painter when you are an adult. It’s not true. You are still a child. You are still looking for yourself. So, it was when I was an adult that I discovered drawing with pencil. I discovered it accidentally. I began drawing, then I decided to go to a class that was in my city for adults. I started drawing, and this teacher told me, “Yes, you have something. Why not try to paint?” I said, “Ok… Maybe I can do that.” And I fell in love with watercolor. I discovered this painting was not like oil or acrylic. It was water, and I think that water is very difficult to control. It teaches you not to control everything. Don’t try to control it. When you do watercolor, water tells you, “You cannot control me.” You just try to do your best. It might not be exactly what you want, and it’s okay. I just fell in love with watercolor. It is not the same with oil, because oil is really controlled. You have to control everything. Since the first time I started painting, I never stopped.
Allié: One of my favorite hashtags I’ve seen you use is #LifeWithoutLimitations. It seems you do indeed live your life this way without any self imposed limitations. As for society in general, do you find limitations there? How accessible is the world for you?
Sarah: Yes, #LifeWithoutLimitations is a beautiful hashtag, but I think that in real life limitation is to know your limitation, to know where you can accept and to not suffer from the limitation. This is what, for me, it means. It doesn’t mean that there are not limitations. Of course, there are. But if you accept them they are not anymore a limitation. Of course, there are many things I can’t do… like opening a door when I’m outside and I have to push the door. You need an arm. You need a hand. So, of course, I can ask for someone to help me, and it’s okay to ask for help. It’s my limitation, and it's not a frustration… to not be able to open something or to need to ask for help because I accept it. My main frustration like I said was when I became a mom. This was very difficult because I don’t have any problem to put someone between myself and my disability… but I had a problem to put someone between me and my baby.
Allié: A wise woman once said, “When you accept yourself you don’t need to be accepted anymore.” This wise woman was you in a post you made alongside a photo of yourself raising a glass with your foot. You share yourself with such confidence and self acceptance. So many struggle with that. What advice would you give to those trying to find a way to accept themselves?
Sarah: To accept yourself, you have to love yourself - unconditionally. It may seem very narcissistic to say that, but it’s true. Love is the secret. Self-love is also the secret. To love yourself, you have to do things that you love because you will be proud of yourself. So, I paint, and when I paint, I’m proud of me. When I’m proud of me, I love myself. I travel. I love traveling. So, when I travel, I like myself too. So, put yourself in a situation where you will love yourself. And once you love yourself, you will accept yourself. You will not need to be accepted or loved by anyone… What is difficult in that? It seems difficult, yes, to love yourself, but it’s not. Society told us that it is, but it’s absolutely not. When I see my child, for her, life is so easy. Everything is easy. She’s just enjoying her life. She doesn’t ask herself all the questions that as an adult we do. Life is easy. So, let’s be a child and life will be easy. There’s so much we can learn from each other. Sometimes people will ask me why I am smiling. I say, I’m smiling because I’m talking to you, because you make me smile. This is an exchange. When I’m alone, I’m not smiling to myself. ∎
Follow Sarah on Instagram:
51 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Time is one of the best resources we can give to them. LEX GILLETTE
BLIND PARALYMPIC ATHLETE, 4X PARALYMPIC MEDALIST, 4X WORLD CHAMPION & KEYNOTE SPEAKER 52 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘NO NEED FOR SIGHT WHEN YOU HAVE VISION’ BY LEX GILLETTE
MENTORING CHAMPIONS IN THE MAKING
Since 2014, I’ve had the privilege of being a mentor for Classroom Champions, an organization whose mission is to educate students nationwide on the importance of pertinent life skills such as goal setting, perseverance, courage, and healthy living. Each month, I record a 3–5-minute video focusing on the topic for that month, and I speak on how that particular skill is incorporated in my own life. At the end of each video, I give my students a challenge, which gives them the chance to implement that skill into their own lives. That video is then made available to the classrooms around the country that I have been assigned to. My students will then send me anything from video responses, PowerPoints, to essays, outlining the work that they did to apply the monthly theme to their lives. Classroom Champions lasts for the duration of the school year, and as you can imagine, those final days of school make it really tough to say good-bye to the students.
Toward the latter part of the school year, some classes are fortunate enough to receive an in-person visit from their mentor, and in 2018, I was the lucky guy who got to visit my students who attend Oak Grove Elementary in Medford, Oregon. These classroom visits are so exciting and full of energy. After exchanging videos and having live Skype calls during the school year, meeting in person brings the mentor-student relationship full circle. As soon as you walk in the door, it feels as though you’re simply catching up with old friends. This classroom visit was nothing short of amazing.
We recapped the importance of a healthy lifestyle. You know, making sure their diet is full of fruits and veggies, drinking enough water throughout the day, and getting a good night’s rest. We also discussed the importance of perseverance and courage. These two things assist in facing life’s challenges. It’s a wonderful thing when you realize that the kiddos actually understand the lesson, have a strong idea of how to recognize a challenge and know what skill to tap into in overcoming that challenge. As an athlete mentor, that’s when you know you’ve done your job. It’s a satisfying feeling.
“Although taking a shot in the dark speaks to our ability to take risks, in this case he was literally talking about shooting baskets.”
Our time together wasn’t all about goal setting, teamwork, and other lessons. We even went outside and had a little fun. I got excited when one of the students said “Lex! Let’s take a shot in the dark.” He obviously had checked out my TEDx talk. I mentioned a small basketball hoop in that speech, the same hoop that helped me to shift my thinking and view on life. Although taking a shot in the dark speaks to our ability to take risks, in this case he was literally talking about shooting baskets.
One of the students handed me the basketball. I could feel everyone’s presence as they waited patiently for me to shoot. A young voice yelled “Right here Lex. I’m standing directly under the basket. The place erupted when I sunk the free-throw. Although we weren’t specifically focusing on teamwork at that moment, the kiddos got a chance to see the benefits of working together in real time. That is a day I’ll never forget. 53 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
CLASSROOM CHAMPION LEX GILLETTE VISITS BROWN ELEMENTARY
SEE HOW LEX & THE KIDS SPENT THE DAY
“Help them see that they have what it takes to be a champion.”
This is the thing. Our youth will one day become athletes, teachers, doctors, scientists, and more. Our young ones need mentors, dedicated people who will take the time to educate them on the skills that will put them in the best position to succeed in life. Time is one of the best resources we can give to them. We must give them freedom to imagine, to create. It’s imperative that we work with them as they face difficult times. We have to let them know that they have what it takes inside to be successful. We must do these things with the understanding that someday they will occupy our communities. We have the responsibility of teaching them now so that they will improve our communities and our world.
I hate to be harsh and blunt, but at the end of the day it’s not all about you. At some point we will phase out but doing what we can now to build up our youth will ensure our communities continue to thrive. Work with them. Be patient. Help them navigate challenges. Congratulate them when they do good things. Help them see that they have what it takes to be a champion. ∎ LEX GILLETTE
4x Paralympic Medalist, 4x World Champion & Keynote Speaker www.awarenessties.us/lex-gillette 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.
54 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
WE FLY AWARENESSTIES.US
I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. TAL ANDERSON
ACTOR, MODEL, PRODUCER & WRITER Photo Credit: Ronnie Smith 56 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TAL ANDERSON
TAL IT LIKE IT IS
TAL ANDERSON & HER TRUTH
Tal Anderson is a Los Angeles-based film and television actor, known for her recurring co-star role as Sid in the Sony Pictures/Netflix original series Atypical. Most recently, she starred in ‘My Sister, Harper’, an extremely powerful and emotional short film about a young woman with autism and the unbreakable bond with her sister that’s revealed in the hard decisions made by her family. Autsitic and fantastic, Tal Anderson brings so much to the screen with authenticity and integrity.
Allié: Incredibly talented, Tal, you are an actor, model, producer, writer and editor. The truth is that you are amazing in front of the camera and behind it. You wear many hats on and off the stage. Which one is your favorite?
Tal: I definitely consider myself an actor above everything else, but I did go to film school, and all of the things I do in the industry – writing, editing, acting, and filmmaking, are all important to me, though. I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, and these are all just different ways to be part of telling a story from my perspective.
TAL IT LIKE IT IS
FEATURING TAL ANDERSON
57 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
…I stubbornly want to be able to accomplish things myself. TAL ANDERSON
ACTOR, MODEL, PRODUCER & WRITER Atypical/Behind-The-Scenes 58 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Sam’s whole college experience was very relatable and authentic for me.”
Allié: You are of course known for your role as Sid in Atypical, alongside Sam, played by Keir Gilchrist.
Out of all of the personal challenges and growth that Sam went through on the show, which were you personally most able to relate to and why?
Tal: First of all, Keir is an amazing actor, and his portrayal of Sam really made me feel seen in a lot of ways. I think for me, though, the thing I was most able to relate to was going to college. Like Sam, I want to succeed and I want to do things the right way. Sam struggles with asking for help and with change, and I totally relate to that because I stubbornly want to be able to accomplish things myself. The difficulty with change for me is more a difficulty with new things. But I have found that as soon as I can make new situations, people, or routines, more familiar to me --- the better chance I have of overcoming my anxiety about them.
A lot of what Sam experienced at Denton with teachers and classes, and organization, I also experienced in college. Sam is way more social than me, though, so I was even more challenged at school than he was with socialization. But in general, Sam’s whole college experience was very relatable and authentic for me.
Atypical/Behind-The-Scenes 59 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
This job is not easy, and it’s not a job for people who want instant results. TAL ANDERSON
ACTOR, MODEL, PRODUCER & WRITER Photo Credit: Ronnie Smith 60 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: Characters with disabilities are played by actors with and without disabilities. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a person with Autism playing a character with Autism? And what has been the biggest challenge in general for you in the film industry?
“The biggest challenge for me in general in the film industry, I think, has nothing to do with me being autistic.”
Tal: The biggest challenge I have faced playing an autistic character is trying to authentically play the character in her own truth, and that can sometimes be hard because the character may have experiences totally different than mine. I have auditioned for a couple of roles for non-speaking autistic characters, and although I was non-speaking until four years old, I haven’t had those experiences as an adult. I just want to portray those characters authentically and respectfully, and I’m always concerned that I won’t do that properly.
The biggest challenge for me in general in the film industry, I think, has nothing to do with me being autistic, actually. I feel like my biggest challenge is the same as any actor trying to be successful in Hollywood. This job is not easy, and it’s not a job for people who want instant results. I mean, first of all, it’s like a different planet, and when you get here you are the outsider until you have been here, and networked with people and started to work and make connections. Secondly, you have to be okay with like a 98% rejection rate. I audition a LOT, and most of what I audition for, I don’t book, and it’s like that for all actors. It’s just part of the job, and it’s just the way it is. The third thing is just getting used to ups and downs and getting to the point where you realize that the time you spend training and auditioning, and preparing is the majority of your responsibility as an actor, and being on set is kind of like the bonus. You definitely have to love what you are doing and never give up.
ATYPICAL | SEASON 4 | SID
FEATURING TAL ANDERSON
61 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Since I, myself, am autistic, I don’t know the pressure a sibling feels, but I assume that it is a lot like what a parent who is responsible for a child would feel. TAL ANDERSON
ACTOR, MODEL, PRODUCER & WRITER Photo Credit: Ronnie Smith 62 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Personally, while doing this film, the strongest emotion I felt was joy.”
Allié: Recognized as an AwareNow Official Selection, ‘My Sister, Harper’ is a brilliant short film you recently starred in that provides a look at life through the lens of a family member of a young adult with Autism. In 6 minutes and 11 seconds, nearly every emotion is seen and felt. What emotion did this film make you feel the most? What rang most true for you?
Tal: Like Charlotte, the older sister in the film, the director, Lucy Hirschfeld, has a younger brother who is autistic. The film in my opinion is so authentic, because we don’t often see autism through the eyes of a neurotypical sibling. Since I, myself, am autistic, I don’t know the pressure a sibling feels, but I assume that it is a lot like what a parent who is responsible for a child would feel.
Personally, while doing this film, the strongest emotion I felt was joy. Charlotte grew up and left the family, and Harper rarely got to see her, so when she gets the chance to stay the weekend with Charlotte, Harper feels nothing but excitement, happiness, and love. I think what makes the film so interesting is the contrast between Charlotte’s heavy guilt and anxiety, and Harper’s complete trust and joy.
I think what rings most true for me personally is that feeling of love and trust. She trusts that Charlotte is doing what is best for her and never suspects otherwise. This is how I feel with my parents. I don’t question their advice or when they have concerns for me, because I trust them 100%, and I know that they are looking out for my happiness and well-being. I appreciate the film because at the end when Charlotte sees Harper’s love of film, and her ability and creativity – she realizes in that moment that Harper is capable of so much more than maybe people have realized. My parents have supported my dreams 100%, and without them, and that support – I wouldn’t be here living and achieving my dreams.
MY SISTER, HARPER
SHORT FILLM BY LUCY HIRSCHFELD
63 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Well, there are definitely things in the works… TAL ANDERSON
ACTOR, MODEL, PRODUCER & WRITER Photo Credit: Liza Robinson 64 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: The topic brought up in 'My Sister, Harper' regarding the long-term care and housing of autistic adults is a complicated and gut-wrenching decision that many families must consider in real life. What would you like to say to the caregivers having to make these tough decisions?
Tal: This is a really difficult and scary question for me, because I am still learning to be independent myself, to be honest. But, for caregivers this must be so hard. I’m not sure how to answer this question really, but I guess I would tell caregivers to try to make sure that there is someone around for that person who they know, trust and love, whether that is a cousin or even a family friend, because having someone you trust and who loves you can decrease anxiety so much.
Allié: What’s next for Tal Anderson? If we were to sit down 5 years from now, tell me what’s happened.
Tal: Well, there are definitely things in the works. For instance, I will be recurring on a new series for Amazon Prime Video. It is still untitled and unannounced, but hopefully will come out soon. Hmm… but my fantasy for the future would be that I --- wrote a TV pilot and pitched it to Netflix, and it was picked up. In addition to producing it, I will be in a series regular role, and may even direct an episode or two! ∎
Learn more about Tal Anderson:
Follow her on Instagram:
65 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
What is it that actually changes the world? NICK BOTTINI
AUTHOR, SPEAKER & COACH 66 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘MUSIC FOR MENTAL WEALTH’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY NICK BOTTINI
THE SECRET SOURCE
THE POWER OF HEADING UPSTREAM
Hello AwareNow reader. The very fact that you’re reading this article probably means that you’re someone who is already pretty open-minded. It also means you’re probably fairly empathetic. You may even already be actively engaged in taking specific actions that take a stand not only for that which is ‘right’ but more importantly, for that which is true. So, this month, rather than spending too many valuable column inches on preaching to the choir, or extolling the virtues of raising your ‘level’ of awareness I thought, with your permission, I might endeavor to give you an experience of something that has proven to be truly life-changing for me. I’d also go one step further than that – my promise to you is that if you take the concepts in this article to heart and experiment with the exercise I will give you below, it will completely transform your world. This has been my own experience, and it also has proven to be the experience of the countless music industry and creative clients I’ve coached one-to-one.
So this all begs the question – what is it that has us up-level our life?
Or, if we’re feeling a little more altruistic – what is it that actually changes the world?
What is the difference that really makes the difference when it comes to going from merely tolerating life, or feeling like a victim, or looking ‘out there’ and hoping that an unjust situation would change, to truly precipitating, embodying or becoming that change right now?
Well, if you were to look at the countless articles, videos and products that spring up in the information age, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s a tool, a trick, or a hack. And as a result of this cultural conditioning this is what people end up googling for – hence why copywriters get taught to write stuff like this: ‘The 7 Steps to a Happier, Healthier You’, or ‘The 5 Ways to Explode Your Business in 2022’, or, in my industry, ‘The 3 Essential Tips to Giving Your Best Performance Ever’. These headlines build intrigue, and they seem simple, practical and accessible. They also appeal to our craving for instant gratification. But there’s one frequently-overlooked issue with all this which I specifically examine in my book Just Play: The Simple Truth Behind Musical Excellence:
‘There is a tacit assumption that the ‘outputs’ of high performers (states of mind, methods, practice regimes, or decisions, etc) can be adopted as ‘inputs’ with which we can reliably duplicate high-level results. This belief comes about because we like to think the mind functions like a machine. This is why it’s so common to hear computer analogies like ‘reprogramming’ the mind, or flow ‘hacking’, implying that it is possible for our mental ‘software’ to be worked around or changed at will. But while there may appear to be similarities, as we shall see, fundamentally the two are not alike. The power of the mind lies in exactly that which distinguishes us from machines – in the very fact that we are alive.’ 67 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
This is why you see so many entrepreneurs trying to follow ‘proven’ strategies that don’t really fit them (and that actually end up working against them) or performers who try to ‘model’ their heroes but whose performances end up feeling like a poor imitation. In the post-Napster music industry this oversight is causing music professionals a lot of frustration, because very often the strategies they are trying to ‘hack’ were born of a music industry that no longer exists. If their thinking is stuck twenty years in the past, so too will their business model be. If their expectations of social media reach are based on the attitudes, platforms and algorithms of five years ago then they’ll be disappointed, and distracted from what matters most today – right now. What’s missing from this whole reverse-engineering approach, of course, is insight. Vitality. Intuition. Alignment with reality. Or, as Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson famously put it, ‘We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom.’ And, as a result, it’s as if people have forgotten to trust their own ability to think for themselves and they end up deferring everything to the so-called experts.
So what’s the alternative to this societal addiction to the ‘how to’?
I would suggest that the answer lies in a shift of attention and that instead of reaching outside yourself for the ‘received wisdom’ of others, this is more about (metaphorically) turning 180 degrees and listening to (and trusting) that more intuitive, organic side to the mind. Some thinkers have called this the subconscious. In the 1960s scientists used to refer to this as the creative right brain. Musicians sometimes call this their inner voice. Others might call it intuition, the beginner’s mind or pure awareness. But without wanting to go too deeply metaphysical (at least for now), suffice it to say that if you get quiet and listen inwards to what your intuitive side is telling you, all sorts of guidance is being constantly broadcast for you, or rather through you. A bit like your own ultra-personalised Leadership FM radio station. But then again this isn’t news to you. We’ve all had times where we’ve just instinctively known what to do and we’ve done something that we felt insightfully called to do. Reaching out to someone in need. Taking a stand. Embarking on a seemingly impossible project. Questioning a widely held assumption. Breaking from the crowd in service of something greater than yourself. This is an experience that all leaders know well.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (paraphrasing an old teaching fable) once described this change of focus like this: ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’ I would offer that rather than his words being solely about fighting for an outer cause as an activist, the same also holds true on the inside for our own ‘stream’ of consciousness. We can always pay greater attention to the source of the ideas. So the issue isn’t that you don’t have access to this inner source of leadership because you’ve experienced it at various points throughout your life. The issue is that you don’t always do what you know to do. This is about choosing an inner stance of alignment with your higher self – what you might call integrity – but not integrity in the traditional moral or normative sense (i.e. what is right or wrong by society’s standards). Rather, a state of being whole and complete and living how you already know to live. What you may have heard people sometimes refer to as staying ‘true to yourself’. So for right now – here’s a simple exercise that I have started giving to my clients that helps them start to notice the power of integrity and to spot the places where their life could shift if they were more in alignment. I ask them these questions (you may want to discuss these with a family member, a friend or a coach or therapist):
What is something that you said you would do, but have not done yet?
What is something that you already know to do, that if you did it, would improve the quality of your life, or the life of others? What is something that you stand for but that you do not yet fully embody in your actions? Who are you being? If you take the time to reflect on these and even write down your or share your answers, you may notice an inner urge to align more closely with your higher self. 68 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“…return to the source –
to your true self by stripping away the beliefs that no longer serve you.”
Earlier I asked you what the alternative was to the ‘how to’ addiction. And the answer, as far as I can tell at least, is to return to the source – to your true self by stripping away the beliefs that no longer serve you. Integrity as defined here is a crucially important factor for improving all performance, because the more alignment we have between who we already know to be and who we are actually being, the more we drop the pretense, we abate our fears and we live as nature intended. So, do please take the time to get quiet and meditate or reflect on these questions and if you’re curious to take a deeper dive into what you uncover please feel free to drop me a message at email@example.com. There are some further resources that I will freely share with anyone who requests them and, if there’s sufficient demand for it I may even write a future piece on integrity to develop this thread further.
But for now I’d like to leave you with this quote from Adyashanti:
‘Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.’
Author, Speaker & Coach www.awarenessties.us/nick-bottini Nick Bottini is the author of the number one bestseller Just Play: The Simple Truth Behind Musical Excellence which was endorsed by Grammy winners, music industry professionals and mental health experts. Nick is also a speaker and transformational coach to the music industry and for over ten years has worked with musicians at all levels from competition winners, child prodigies, entrepreneurs, conservatoire students, sports people, to aspiring professional musicians and international rock stars. For more info about Music For Mental Wealth visit: musicformentalwealth.com
69 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I truly believe that everything is orchestrated in divine order… EMMA VANIER
FOUNDER OF AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY 70 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH EMMA VANIER
HEAL THE WOMB HEAL THE WORLD
HEALING STARTS WITHIN WHERE LIFE ITSELF BEGINS The womb is the most dynamic and sensitive ecosystem on the planet and requires consistency, nurturing and love to sustain life and humanity. If we heal the womb, can we heal the world? Emma Vanier, Founder of Awake Your Inner Body, believes it's a good place to start, and start she has. Where there is a will (and a wand) there’s a way…
Allié: Before we talk about where you are and where you’re going, Emma, let’s talk about where you were when the idea of Awake Your Inner Body was formed. What path led you to this one?
Emma: When I moved in my mid-twenties from Montreal to New York City, I was living an exuberant/unhealthy lifestyle. I felt I needed some changes. So, I went on a life changing road trip from San Francisco to San Diego that absolutely made me reconnect and fall in love with nature. I felt a shift in me after this experience and something told me it was about time to make some changes: So, I decided to move from the East Coast to the West Coast, where I settled in California not long after. Once I found my home, I really started to immerse myself into nature and look for ways to connect deeper with my inner energy, so I started reading a lot.
I remember the first book I read was Guru Jagat's book, INVINCIBLE LIVING: THE POWER OF YOGA, which introduced me to Kundalini Yoga and led me to enroll in yoga teacher training at the RAMA institute. I would like to take a moment in order to thank Guru Jagat for her support, honor her for all her wisdom, all the hard work she did for the conscious community and all the great things she was doing to empower women. I wish her a very peaceful journey into the next realm. I currently practice with Krishna Kaur, who is the god mother to my son.
I truly believe that everything is orchestrated in divine order: During the training, I received devastating news that deeply shocked me. This period was extremely challenging emotionally. However, the Divine placed me exactly where I needed to be at this precise moment of my life. It kept me grounded and balanced during these difficult times. With my Kundalini yoga practice, I started adding other forms of self-care rituals like drinking smoothies with super ingredients, exercising in nature, not consuming any toxic substances like alcohol, sound bowl vibration ritual, etc…
“I believe that the ways to heal yourself are found within.”
I began to realize how vital the energy we hold inside our body influences who we are and how we feel. We hold so much power within! It is so important to awaken our energy and our intuition. I believe that the ways to heal yourself are found within. But the road to healing requires an awakening of your energy. You can achieve this awakening by being consistent, committed and by practicing. Only by committing to a purpose can we see real changes over time. Practicing Kundalini yoga awakened me to find my true purpose and made me want to embody my higher self. I always wondered what my purpose in life was: How could I make a difference and help future generations, specifically women? I wondered if we can heal our Mother Earth considering that the mental health of the planet is intrinsically connected to ours. 71 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We hold so much
power within… EMMA VANIER
FOUNDER OF AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY 72 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“I felt more feminine than ever…”
Emma: (continued) This is how AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY came to life - a profound desire to help people awaken their inner power, connect to the divine within them, live consciously by acknowledging that they are one with Mother Earth through creating a life of purpose, incorporating healthy habits at all levels and daily rituals.
AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY offers women and men an array of the healthiest tools to help lead a balanced lifestyle. My journey to womb healing really started when I wanted to get pregnant. I felt an urge to make room for new clear energy in order to conceive my first child. I then discovered the incredible superpower of the woman's womb. The womb is a marvelous space with the unique power to create life- it’s so fascinating when you dive into it!
I started looking into incorporating womb rituals before getting pregnant and got introduced to an ancient Indonesian wand named Secret Ceres that has been used by women for centuries to revitalize their vagina and promote overall health. It is crafted according to Ayurvedic principles and is handmade from pure and natural ingredients known for their powerful healing properties such as womb cleansing. A few months after incorporating the Secret Ceres wand into myself care rituals, I became pregnant with my first child, precious Lukas who will soon turn 9 months.
I felt more feminine than ever, I got to realize how much power women's bodies hold - to be able to give life is simply magnificent. I really connected to my divine feminine when I created life in my womb, it shed light on how special we are as women.
Experiencing childbirth firsthand was a reminder of how precious life truly is, how vital it is that as women we turn to natural ways of self-care, to honor our wombs, to create sacred spaces to discuss and explore ourselves and most of all - to love ourselves unconditionally.
My intention is really to support women all around the globe and to offer them ways to reconnect deeper. It became a mission of mine to empower women to embrace and celebrate their feminine power, to honor their role as creators and to understand the importance of healing our wombs. Through AYIB's, we now offer the Secret Ceres wand, that we also referred to as the ‘’magic wand’’ for women to experience womb healing.
Allié: While it may not be a ‘magic’ wand, it does maintain magical properties. Please share the secrets behind the Secret Ceres. Tell the story of its ancient origin and the benefits of this feminine wand.
Emma: Secret Ceres is an ancestral self-care ritual that was developed in the kingdom of Indonesia for the royal concubines of the king. It has since been passed down from generation to generation. It truly is an honor for me to be sharing this wisdom with women in search of healing.
Secret Ceres contains in its DNA the vital elements that exist in nature. It is made of selected minerals, herbal extracts and wild growing botanicals that work in synergy. The ingredients in Secret Ceres are packed with benefits, Secret Ceres is a wand that can be inserted vaginally but also used externally on the skin. Secret Ceres helps in balancing the vaginal flora, eliminating unpleasant odors, tightening the vagina, regulating the menstrual cycle and reducing menstrual and menopausal symptoms. The five main reasons why women love Secret Ceres so much are:
1- Tightens & cleanses the vagina
2- Rejuvenates sexual organs
3- Helps fight infection by balancing vaginal PH
4- Redefines skin complexion
5- Increase natural lubrication When applied on the skin, Secret Ceres can help with acne, blemishes, hyper-pigmentation, eczema, dermatitis, rashes, allergic skin reactions, fungal infections, cuts, wounds, insect bites, cold sores, stretch marks and scars.
73 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Secret Ceres is an ancestral self-care ritual that was developed in the kingdom of Indonesia… EMMA VANIER
FOUNDER OF AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY 74 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: More than a product, it’s a practice. You present the Secret Ceres, along with the rituals that support it. Please share the importance of these rituals and an example of one.
Emma: I’ve come to find that one of the most effective ways we awaken our inner bodies is by transforming the small things in our lives with intention. It all starts with small changes. Simple things like appreciating the ocean after a morning jog or doing meditation at sunrise. I like to start my day with Turmeric tonic and warm water. I take time reading ingredient labels and choosing products that I know will nourish me. But Kundalini yoga and Secret Ceres are part of my ultimate self-care rituals.
When doing my Secret Ceres ritual, I clear my space of all energy. I light a candle and I create a focal point of intention in my mind to allow the power of prayer. I get into a comfortable position with my eyes closed and I breathe with intention. I always set a clear intention which I want to see manifest through the infinite power of my womb and the creative force of the Sacral Chakra.
I insert the wand vaginally for 90 seconds and I visualize how the minerals and herbs nurture the intention that I planted in my fertile flora and I focus on an image of my desired manifestation while maintaining a smooth and steady breathing. When the 90 seconds are complete, I open my eyes and remove the wand. I place one hand on my heart and one hand on my womb and imagine a beautiful light moving from my womb and flowing into all parts of my body.
I always close the ritual with an expression of gratitude and then return back into awareness. After this ritual, I always feel so at peace and powerful. I really wish to share the magic of this ritual with other women.
Allié: Stigmas around women's health are all too common in most societies. Hidden behind silence are topics that deserve to be and need to be discussed. I will admit that while I am a woman, I can’t comfortably say ‘vagina’. And I have one. Emma, how do we transform uncomfortable taboos into comfortable topics?
Emma: The vagina is one of the most misconceived parts of the female body.
“…instead of honoring the vagina as a sacred sanctuary of love and light, many women foster pain and shame instead because of society.”
It is subjected to so much controversy from pleasure, pain, shame, desire and repulsion while our womb is the portal from which you, me and the whole humanity came from. Unfortunately, instead of honoring the vagina as a sacred sanctuary of love and light, many women foster pain and shame instead because of society.
It is part of AYIB’s mission to invite every woman to honor herself and open up the conversation around the vagina. It can start with a very close group of trustworthy friends or family members. The more you talk about it, the more you come to realize that the vagina is a body part that should be celebrated.
It is time to embrace the sacredness of the vagina and take care of it:
The Secret Ceres wand helps to protect and ease the vagina from many hassles ranging from bacterial vaginosis, menstrual cycle pain, itchiness and menopausal phases.
The Secret Ceres wand was key for me after giving birth, it helped me speed the healing process of the vagina and tighten it, I highly recommend women to try it for their postpartum recovery. It is really is the perfect tool for healing and honoring the vagina through all its phases. It is time for every woman to start making the conversation about the vagina a normal one, while sharing the tools that heal and protect the sacredness we possess. 75 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I really wish to share the magic of this ritual with other women. EMMA VANIER
FOUNDER OF AWAKE YOUR INNER BODY 76 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“They see Earth as a breathing nurturing mother figure and all living beings as her children.”
Allié: In your mission to honor Mother Earth, a portion of proceeds from Awake Your Inner Body is donated to indigenous tribes around the world. Indigenous people believe that Mother Earth is a living being and humanity is her child. In the time you spent with members of the Kogi tribe, what is one lesson you learned that you’d like to share.
Emma: The Kogi Tribe taught me that happiness can be found everywhere and in the simplest places we take for granted, like admiring nature, plants and other natural elements. They are viewed as gifts that we should be grateful and thankful for.
The Kogi lifestyle’s foundation lays on the belief that ‘’The Great Mother’’ is the force behind nature. They see Earth as a breathing nurturing mother figure and all living beings as her children.
They say that our destructive behaviors, the way we deplete the Earth by exploiting her resources are weakening ‘’The Great Mother'’ and are leading us to our self-destruction.
The tribe members are working relentlessly to help prolong and protect life on Earth. They can bring harmony to the spirit, mind and body through profound connection with Mother Nature. They hold the Feminine as absolutely sacred and are honoring women through different rituals.
The Kogi tribe is teaching us to live in simplicity and be grateful for what we have and go make it a personal mission to protect Mother Earth. ∎
To learn more about the Secret Ceres, visit Awake Your Inner Body:
77 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Students are often taught the who, what, when, where, but not why. LUKE GIALANELLA
FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF GOVLEARN 78 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘GOVLEARN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY LUKE GIALANELLA
QUESTIONING THE SENSIBILITY OF COMMON CORE CURRICULUM The title of this issue of AwareNow Magazine is “The Source.” So, what is the source of awareness. What is (or where is) the origin of movements? I believe that all movements begin not in a boardroom, or at a campaign rally, but in the classroom.
Education is the origin of knowledge, and therefore, tends to be the origin of belief. Children learn about concepts or facts in the classroom, and as they grow older, they develop their own beliefs as influenced by their studies and their families.
Awareness itself is a complicated word. Does it simply mean knowledge about a particular issue, or does it need to be associated with a strong opinion or concern about that issue? If the case is the former, my belief still stands. Knowledge most commonly originates in a classroom, be it in elementary school or at law school.
However, passion for change is something that is earned, not learned. One must seek out information themselves, or experience issues first-hand, to be motivated to work hard to raise awareness or to make it their own mission to make change.
“…there are many key issues that are left out, which can lead to a general lack of awareness or passion in society.”
Let’s talk about knowledge. If one only learns from what they are taught at school, they are incredibly limited. They will learn about the core subjects: English, mathematics, and science. They may also learn about history. However, there are many key issues that are left out, which can lead to a general lack of awareness or passion in society.
The first is one I am incredibly passionate about myself: government and civics. There is an absurd lack of civic education in elementary, middle, and even high school in the United States. This is the result of the strict Common Core curriculums implemented in all 50 states that dictate which topics are required to be taught in public schools. Civics is not one of these topics.
I have done my own work to help combat this issue, and have launched a MoveOn petition to raise awareness on the issue, and hopefully introduce legislation adding civics to the national education standards. I would greatly appreciate if you could sign this petition (www.awarenow.us/petition/govlearn) and join the movement.
79 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“If awareness starts as a child and in the classroom, if the education they are receiving is not all-encompassing, their understanding of the world and of global issues will also not be complete.”
The second is philosophy & ethics. Students are often taught the who, what, when, where, but not why. The ideologies and beliefs held by key historical figures, and those that pioneered them, are incredibly important to study in history, and even in classes such as English, science, and math. Learning about the history behind mathematical/scientific concepts can help provide a fuller image to students on the background of what they are learning.
So, how does all of this relate to this issue’s theme regarding ‘where awareness starts’? If awareness starts as a child and in the classroom, if the education they are receiving is not all-encompassing, their understanding of the world and of global issues will also not be complete. Therefore, it is much more unlikely that they will start a movement or participate in political or social campaigns.
Education is one of the most important issues facing the world today, as it is a starting point for the world’s future leaders. I am proud to work with AwareNow to raise awareness on Education as a part of the Table of Causes, and look forward to continuing to push those in power to help reform our education system. ∎
The lack of civics and government education in elementary and middle schools can lead to a general lack of knowledge of civic structures and processes in the United States. In order to combat this, the United States must implement civic education as part of the curriculums of elementary and middle schools in all 50 states.
Do you agree?
If so, please sign the GOVLEARN petition here: www.awarenow.us/petition/govlearn
Founder & President of GOVLEARN www.awarenessties.us/luke-gialanella Luke Gialanella Founder & President of GOVLEARN Luke Gialanella founded GOVLEARN when he was 11 years old, in the summer after the 2016 presidential election. Finding that there was a lack of substantive civics education for elementary and middle schoolers, he went on a mission to correct that. Creating a website and YouTube channel, Luke is obviously extremely passionate about government and politics and has participated in many mock governments, Model UN, and debate programs outside of school.
80 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Ultimately, I’m just sharing my emotions on paper. KAM REDLAWSK
ARTIST, WRITER, SPEAKER AND ADVOCATE 82 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH KAM REDLAWSK
ACCESSIBILITY THROUGH ARTISTRY Kam Redlawsk is a disabled industrial designer, artist, advocate, traveler, writer and speaker. She’s also a Korean American adoptee. She has been an advocate for the rare disease and disability community for 14 years: using art, writing, travels and tools that connect us as humans. She has lived with a very rare muscle-wasting condition called GNE Myopathy for over 20 years. Kam’s story can be found in her work and words shared with incredible artistry and inspiring authenticity.
Allié: It’s easy to get lost in your work, Kam, finding deep layers and dramatic edges in the details. Bold and beautiful, your artwork is steeped in purpose, sharing stories and messages with meaning. When you begin each piece, does it start with a personal story you want to share or a public statement you want to make?
Kam: When I start, it is definitely coming from something that is going on in my life. It could be just general emotions, or it could be something specific that sparked it. But usually when I start a drawing I very much visualize it in my head first. Then I’m trying to search for those lines and draw it out to try to communicate. In turn, because I share it publicly, it is a public statement in a way. A lot of artists share their art and they don’t share much more beyond that, but I want people to know what it’s about. Even when I share what something might specifically be about, which is normally about the emotions related to a progressive disease and my experience with that, people always inherently bring their own situation, their own experience, or their own struggles into the narrative of my drawing, which I really love because that is what art is supposed to be. It is the intention of the artist, but at the same time art is so wonderful because it can be translated differently by so many different people in a way that speaks to them. Ultimately, I’m just sharing my emotions on paper. I visualize it in my head, then it comes out, and I share it.
FEATURING KAM REDLAWSK
83 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
For me, I would say home isn’t really a place.
It’s exploration for me. KAM REDLAWSK
ARTIST, WRITER, SPEAKER AND ADVOCATE 84 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“I’m an artist. I don’t want to lose the ability to draw, but I’ve also learned that there are other ways to create.”
Allié: Being diagnosed with an extremely rare, progressive and incurable (at this time) condition, you have endured losses but found wins within them. Please describe what you’ve lost and what you’ve gained with GNE Myopathy?
Kam: With GNE, I’ve been living with it for about 22 years now, and it’s hard to say because there’s just so much loss associated with it. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the different experiences others have such as a spinal cord injury where it’s instant. There’s some great things about it where I’m able to hold on to some physical attributes longer, but the other side of it is that I’m continuously experiencing loss and a form of grief because you’re losing these things. I used to drive… and cooking. I love cooking for people. You are just forced to say goodbye to these things, and it can be really difficult in terms of dealing with loss. But I think with everything there’s always two sides. There have also been a lot of gains. I won’t say which one is better, but it’s definitely contributed to who I am. The core of me is the same, but I’ve just been given so much more perspective and different lenses. Also, a lot of people just do the one thing that I like, and they just stick with that, but me… I’m kind of forced and pushed to explore other things to match the current form that I’m in - in terms of what I can do and what I can’t do. That’s how illustrations started. I started blogging about it. I was an advocate more in terms of the disease level and organization level. Then I realized that people don’t really respond to these names or nonprofit names, they respond to a story. That’s when I started drawing, and that’s something I’m kind of losing now which is kind of sad. I’m an artist. I don’t want to lose the ability to draw, but I’ve also learned that there are other ways to create. We don't have to just draw, we’re creative in so many ways. I started writing. I know when I can’t draw one day, I’ll still be able to be creative, and I think that’s what is really important. What I’ve learned from this is that there is always something new around the corner that we can push ourselves to do that will greatly enhance who we are as a person.
Allié: Born in Korea, adopted and raised in Detroit, you now live and work in Los Angeles. If ‘home’ was a place, where would that be? If ‘home’ was a person, who would that be?
Kam: If home was a place, I would say I’m more of a wanderer. I’ve never really had one place. I think every experience or location or person that we’re with contributes to the general tapestry of our life. For me, I would say home isn’t really a place. It’s exploration for me. That’s when I feel the most alive, and my disability doesn’t affect any of that. To explore is to have endless wonder in the confines of your mind looking at the world and seeing new things.
If home was a person, I could say my husband, but I think a lot of people look externally. I say my husband because he’s such an intricate part of my day to day life, but I also think a lot of people look externally for home or fulfillment or whatever it is. I think it really needs to start with you. You are in essence the home of your life, and you know yourself more than anyone else does. That’s another attribute that’s come from being a little less mobile. You think more. I’m forced to confront more of who I am than the average person. In knowing yourself more, I think you’re able to interact with the world better. So, I would say, home should be yourself in essence. You should really understand and have pride in who you are. You should see the aspects of yourself that other people don’t get to see. Push that forward rather than what everyone else says about you. 85 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘HOW IT FEELS II’
86 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“I really love stories. I think that’s the key to people and humanity; it’s our stories. ”
Allié: It seems your wanderlust has not been restricted by your wheelchair, Kam. You’ve gone and seen more of the world than many do in an entire lifetime. What is it about travel that you love most? Of all the places you’ve gone to, where would you like to go back to again? And why?
Kam: What I love most about travel is it forces you to think about someone else's life and see their life. Usually when we look at imagery of a culture across the world, we think it’s so distant from us, but when you go and see they have the same daily activities as you do. They are the exact same person, except they have privy to different experiences or perspectives than maybe I haven’t had in my location in the United States. I really like being forced to see what other people see. That’s a form of exploration. I like being mobile, which is interesting for someone who is immobile. In a recent post, I shared where I’ve never waited to be invited to have access to someplace. I’ve been doing road trips for years. Me and my husband, we just go. We’ll go, and we’ll just figure it out. We’ll figure out how we can make this work. Times when it didn’t work adds to my repertoire of understanding why access is so important.
Exploration for me is the biggest thing. It’s why I love travelling so much… being able to see different things, being able to hear the stories behind weird art installations that I’ll find in the middle of the desert. I really love stories. I think that’s the key to people and humanity; it’s our stories.
I definitely want to go back to Korea and Japan. I’m from Korea. So, I’ve been there twice. I just connect more with the Asian cultures. I loved Europe and I want to do more of South America, but I think next on the list is going back to Korea and Japan. And Thailand. I really loved Thailand. We were only there a few days.
Allié: Nature has a way to nurture so many and in so many ways. Please describe your connection with nature and its impact on you both personally and professionally as an artist.
Kam: I’m a designer and artist. So, I think nature is one of the greatest designers of all. Everything is bouncing off of a previous thing. Everything has to adapt to one another, whether it’s plants or animals. They all have to coincide.
When I came to California, I discovered Joshua Tree. When I saw the desert for the first time, I felt so connected to it. It resembled a lot of how I felt through a lot of my life. When I was an adoptee and being different in a different culture and society that was all white, when I was in my early 20’s going through the diagnosis stages of my disease, and in general just going through the progression of my disease, I felt very different or isolated sometimes. Nature is quiet. It allows you to think and really look at what you’re looking at. Often times, we’re consumed and distracted, we’re online, there’s a million things we have to do when we’re at home. For me, I’m just going, and I’m gonna roll. I’m gonna look at some freaking beautiful nature and just have quiet conversations with myself. I think that’s where a lot of my thoughts come to fruition. It’s when I’m in nature… or on a road trip.
87 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
…nature is one of the greatest designers of all. KAM REDLAWSK
ARTIST, WRITER, SPEAKER AND ADVOCATE 88 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Allié: If I were to assume your favorite color, I would guess it is red. However, guesses and assumptions aside, what is your favorite shade? What is it about the hue that resonates with you?
Kam: Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve always liked black and white, just because it’s so graphic. They’re polar opposite. It’s strange because when I was younger, I dressed to blend in. So, I would dress in very neutral clothes. I didn’t like sticking out. I still don’t. It just happens to be that I do because I’ve decided to be an advocate. I thought the message was important to share, but I prefer not to stick out. So, it’s weird for me to have red hair, and it just happened one day. I was like everyone else who thinks “I can’t carry out color like that. I’m not cool enough to do that.” Then you realize… you are whatever you do. No one ever comes and says, “Oh, you’ve got red hair. That’s crazy. That doesn’t match you.” It ends up being a conversation point where people feel comfortable enough to come up to me because they want to compliment me on my hair. They’ll say things like, “Oh, I could never dye my hair like that.” I say, “Yes, you can, because I thought the same thing.” We can do whatever we want to do.
Red, cherry-bomb or reddish-pink is definitely a constant color that comes up in my art now. So, I’ve kind of embraced it. I never used to be into red or pink, because I thought it was too ‘girly’ and I was more of a tomboy. I really like the sharp contrast when juxtaposed against black and white.
Allié: As a talented artist, writer and speaker, Kam, you’ve inspired so many with your work. To those who feel lost within their disability seeking to find hope for their future, what one piece of advice would you share?
“Overall, you are a person that is worth having access to life, being included in life.”
Kam: I would say reevaluate what rules you are trying to abide by. I learned about ableism over the last couple years. You don’t realize. And that’s not blaming society. It’s saying that society has been a victim of it and disabled people have been a victim of it. We’ve internalized the idea that there’s something wrong with disabled people. Yes, I can’t walk. Yes, I have trouble transferring to the bathroom. Yes, I need help with things, but there’s so many other things I can do. This is completely normal, whether you know about ableism or not. When you have an injury or become disabled, of course you are going to go through the natural process of accepting this new life, but what also hinders us is we’re also thinking it’s the end of the world, because we’ve been told it is the end of the world when we’re disabled. That’s where it’s really important to have conversations with yourself and ask, “Who am I judging myself against?” What rules do you create in this world? That liberated me in so many ways. I don’t pretend to perfectly deal with or accept my disability. It’s constantly changing. I have difficulties and difficult days. Overall, you are a person that is worth having access to life, being included in life. Yes, may not always be asked. You just have to push yourself. Once more people see you, you realize the importance of why things need to change. ∎ Learn more about Kam & see her artwork:
89 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘BETTER DAYS AHEAD’
90 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
You no longer have any power over me. PAUL S. ROGERS
TRANSFORMATION EXPERT, AWARENESS HELLRAISER & PUBLIC SPEAKER 92 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘RELEASE THE GENIE’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY PAUL S. ROGERS
EYE OF THE HURRICANE
R E C O V E R I N G F R O M C P T S D I N D E E P E R WAT E R S Genie Fact: A Genie known who let the dogs out.
Where my awareness begins is actually just a few days ago on Sunday 8 August 2021. My mind had drawn a protective thick, impenetrable ink black curtain physically, mentally and emotionally over anything close to the accident site. This is how, with awareness, I pushed that curtain aside to reveal the light contained behind.
For those of you unfamiliar with my story, on the 19th of March in 2018, my family and our white husky malamute were driving back home from picking up my 2 year-old son from daycare. We passed over an unmanned railway crossing when a train struck the car. It annihilated us and the car.
We were to wake up 10 days later. The physical injuries I sustained were a fractured neck, back and smashed skull. I couldn’t walk or talk. Since then, it's been a journey of recovery with CPTSD.
This was only my third visit to my house in over 3 years, located 5 minutes from the accident site. Buoyed by feeling stronger with a new nutrition products line I had discovered, and without warning, I asked my wife if she could please drive me to the accident site.
I put my earbuds in and turned my music up to maximum. I closed my eyes on the way to the site. I knew, if I opened them, I would change my mind and turn back. I only opened my eyes when I passed the point where the dark curtain had erased all memory of what lay beyond. I wanted to see what would happen next.
We turned into the side road leading to the railway crossing. My first huge surprise; it was nothing like I thought and remembered. For example, the track was a single dirt track rather than asphalt. I thought it was a winding road which eventually meandered its way around to the railway track. It was not the case. It is a short sharp bend on to the railway track. I asked my wife to pull the car over into the side and I got out.
“I refused to turn back… I knew I had crossed over to where my world had ended."
By this time, my legs had completely gone. My whole body was racked with terror and pain. I refused to turn back, put one foot in front of the other, pushing physically, mentally and emotionally forward, with my music still blaring in my ears. I knew I had crossed over to where my world had ended.
I stopped at the edge of the railway track. From the picture, you will see nothing other than a straight uninteresting railway track with a crossing and a small stop sign which, I was told, is an addition since the accident.
93 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
If you can hold fear in the palm of you hand, this is where awareness begins. PAUL S. ROGERS
TRANSFORMATION EXPERT, AWARENESS HELLRAISER & PUBLIC SPEAKER 94 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
My mind had lost its ability to think of my next actions, so I surrendered control to my body for direction. The first thing that happened was that I bent down and kneeled on the crossing looking straight up at the track in the direction of where the train would have come from, as a predator would view its prey.
In this moment, there was amazing peace and serenity. My vision was razor sharp and everything seemed full of vibrance, energy and colour. The nerves, pains, noises and stresses of the world seem very distant, almost dreamlike. It felt like I was in the eye in a hurricane, only observing the destruction and damages on its outskirts. The place itself seemed wholly unremarkable just an ordinary railway track. That, in itself, is a blessing. The awareness was that I was entirely powering the hurricane with the energy I had given it. I then turned and imagined looking out of the passenger car window with the train barrel down on the helpless car. No anger, no remorse. Just nothing.
When I stood I said these following words: “Thank you. You no longer have any power over me.” I repeated this phrase a few times more. I sent everything within my field of vision love, gratitude and thanks.
My wife joined me at the railway track. She confessed that she was very scared for me and didn't know how I would react. That made two of us! I was then able to walk up and down the track and found a pink hearted stone which I have kept. This stone for me is not a reminder of the destruction but something tangible I have brought back from behind the curtain. If you can hold fear in the palm of you hand, this is where awareness begins and the healing and light starts.
Despite how difficult and challenging facing a fear can be, the reward is great for pushing against what dark veil you have drawn in your mind, which becomes more forceful as you approach the centre. When you reach the centre, the reward, peace and light is greater than you could imagine. This doesn’t mean all my worries have gone away and I have been instantly healed.
Instead, what it has done is allowed me to move into deeper waters and see what beforehand had kept me blinded. That heavy dark ink curtain has been drawn aside by new awareness. Light and love. ∎
PAUL S. ROGERS
Transformation Expert, Awareness Hellraiser & Public Speaker www.awarenessties.us/paul-rogers 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”, Director at Core Mentors Association (Not for profit) & Best-selling author. His journey from corporate to Kitesurfer to teacher on first nations reserve to today. Paul’s goal is to inspire others to find their true purpose and passion.
95 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Removing disability as a barrier requires education on the employer-front. HANNAH OLSON
FOUNDER & CEO OF CHRONICALLY CAPABLE 96 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH OLSON
EMPOWERMENT THROUGH EMPLOYMENT No one should ever have to decide between their health and their work ambitions. Now, they don’t have to. The team at Chronically Capable is committed to changing the workplace for good. Disabled, female and LGBTQ owned, Chronically Capable was founded by Hannah Olson who serves as the CEO. A bridge has been built to infinite possibilities for equality when it comes to hiring. For those looking to work and those looking to hire, Chronically Capable serves both with ingenuity and integrity.
Allié: You had to leave your dream job due to the aggressive treatment schedule you required for Lyme disease. While many would lose hope, you opted to create hope not only for yourself but first and foremost for others. You started Chronically Capable. Where did you start? Where are you now? And where are you headed?
“…we have become the largest global community of chronically ill and disabled applicants with more than 60,000 members in 152 countries worldwide.”
Hannah: I founded this business after my own personal experience navigating the traditional workplace while living with an invisible disability. I saw first-hand the obstacles disabled individuals face in the typical workplace environment, and how difficult it is to find jobs uniquely fit for each individual’s circumstances. From that point on, I became determined to build the first tech-forward employment solution for leading businesses and organizations to hire top disabled talent at scale.
We launched Chronically Capable in February 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. Since launching less than two years ago, we have become the largest global community of chronically ill and disabled applicants with more than 60,000 members in 152 countries worldwide. Most importantly, we’ve placed thousands of job seekers into meaningful careers and begun to change the mindsets of major organizations. As we continue to grow, we’re excited about expanding our technology and the rate at which we’re placing job seekers into positions. COVID really ignited the conversation about disability inclusion and moving beyond the pandemic, we hope to be at the forefront, helping businesses across the country to take the lead in rolling out digital-first, remote workplace plans that are inclusive of all Americans.
Allié: When it comes to the term ‘disability’, it is often invisible and paired with a need for ‘accessibility’. It’s not just access to care or resources that’s needed. It’s access to jobs. Of the more than 133 million Americans who suffer from a chronic illness, many are highly qualified. Yet, despite their education, talent and ability, they have difficulty securing work. How do we remove disability as a barrier to employment?
Hannah: Removing disability as a barrier requires education on the employer-front. Not only is there a huge lack of awareness, but hiring managers often have bias towards people with illnesses and disabilities while making hiring decisions. That’s why our approach at Chronically Capable has been to really start a movement around disability inclusion. We need to change perceptions and show the unique capabilities and expertise that this community brings to workplaces. We have structured Chronically Capable not just as a job board, but as a hub for employers to educate and interact with the chronic illness and disability community. 97 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“The future of work is inclusive and we’re on the forefront of this movement.”
Allié: For employers who view a disability as a liability, what would you share with them?
Hannah: Despite articles on the advantages that people with disabilities can offer employers, too many companies hold themselves back when it comes to hiring people with disabilities. They see hiring people with disabilities as being “the right thing to do” but do not see it as part of a talent strategy that will benefit the company and outweigh what they see as the potential expenses and risk. This type of mindset puts companies at a disadvantage when it comes to sourcing and leveraging the talent they need in today’s job market. Disability inclusion is an OPPORTUNITY not a chore. Hiring people with disabilities and illnesses is good for people—and it’s good for companies. Having inclusive, accessible, and flexible workplaces are the key to helping everyone work better. Disability and chronic illness inclusion offers us a significant opportunity to strengthen our businesses and our economy. Employees with disabilities offer tangible benefits, including increased innovation, improved productivity and a better work environment.
Allié: For job seekers who have been turned away because of a chronic illness or disability, when they turn to Chronically Capable, what will you provide?
Hannah: We are curating a safe space for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to find and connect with employers who are truly committed to inclusion. We don’t work with every organization that knocks on our door. Instead, we work with the organizations who are ready to roll up their sleeves and tackle these issues head on.
On the community front, at Chronically Capable, job seekers can connect and network with like-minded individuals who have had similar experiences (both negative and positive). Our community is one that uplifts individuals to be their true selves at work. Nobody should ever have to decide between their health and their career, period.
Allié: Let’s speak for a moment about logo love. I love the Chronically Capable logo. Clever for sure with the one ‘c’ facing connected to and facing the other ‘c’, but even more clever is the infinity symbol that they create. This spoke to me. As someone who lives with a chronic condition, Multiple Sclerosis, because it’s incurable, it is my infinite reality. I found my condition mirrored in your logo with infinite possibilities - as opposed to probabilities. How does ‘infinite’ personally relate to you, Hannah, and the work that you do?
Hannah: Thank you for the kind words! Let me touch upon the name first. With the name Chronically Capable, we wanted to highlight the unique capabilities of the chronically ill and disabled community and show that despite health challenges, everyone is capable of finding meaningful work. This is very important to our team because the word “chronic” usually has such a negative connotation. We wanted to flip the meaning of the word and remove the stigma to empower our community.
On the logo front, we are trying to highlight the infinite possibilities and capabilities of our community. For me, as someone who has lost so much due to my illness, the idea of having infinite opportunities is beyond powerful. I know that we have just scratched the surface here and I can’t wait to see all that we will do with Chronically Capable. The future of work is inclusive and we’re on the forefront of this movement. I have the best job in the world. ∎ Learn more about Chronically Capable:
98 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
She is going to change our lives for the better. SARAH FRANCATI
EMILY’S SISTER & ADVOCATE FOR DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS 100 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SARAH & EMILY FRANCATI
ALL IN FOR EMILY
A S I S T E R LY B O N D N O T T O B E B R O K E N Cooking up fun on TikTok, YouTube, in the car and in the kitchen, Sarah cares for and creates with her sister, Emily, who has down syndrome and a desire to be a social media star. Through videos sharing their smiles and laughter of life behind the lens, Emily and Sarah (with her girlfriend, Cindy) are sharing their life to show sisterly bonds can’t be disrupted by disability.
Allié: Sisterhood is a sacred bond to be protected, defended and enjoyed. And ‘enjoy’ you do with your story on display for us to watch along the way. Sarah, please share the story of the bond you have with Emily - what you’ve been through together and where you’re going together.
Sarah: Oh, goodness. Well, it goes all the way back to when Emily was born! When Emily was born no one knew she had down syndrome. My mother refused to have any testing done during the pregnancy. It took my family by complete surprise. Emily’s birth eventually sent my mother into a deep and dark depression. I was 10-years-old when Emily was born and the first thing that I said was “Mama, it's going to be okay. She is going to change our lives for the better.” It’s 15 years later, and Emily is my purpose, my sunshine in human form, and my very best friend. Throughout Emily’s life she has faced constant discrimination. However, no matter how much hate we receive, Emily always responds with a smile. She has the biggest and most forgiving heart in this world. Instead of retaliating and responding to the hate with more hate; I have learned (from Emily) that the best way to react is with love and education. Emily has made me a kinder and better person. She has taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life; which is forgiveness. People truly have no idea how brilliant she is. However, we hope that we are educating more and more people everyday with our videos. To show people all of Emily’s abilities and how you should NEVER judge someone by how they look. We want to keep educating people and spreading awareness about Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. This is OUR purpose.
101 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“My favorite thing to do with Sarah is spend time with her. I love how she takes care of me & loves me so much.”
Sarah: (continued) more hate, I have learned (from Emily) that the best way to react is with love and education. Emily has made me a kinder and better person. She has taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life, which is forgiveness. People truly have no idea how brilliant she is. However, we hope that we are educating more and more people everyday with our videos, to show people all of Emily’s abilities and how you should NEVER judge someone by how they look. We want to keep educating people and spreading awareness about down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. This is OUR purpose.
Allié: Emily, you and Sarah spend a lot of time together. What is your favorite thing to do together?
Emily: My favorite thing to do with Sarah is spend time with her. I love how she takes care of me & loves me so much.
Allié: So, 2.1 million followers. Nice! That’s a lot, Sarah. What is it about TikTok that makes it a perfect stage for you to share your world? What is it that you want your audience to take away from the videos you share?
Sarah: I think TikTok is an amazing place to share our story because it is SUPER easy to use and the whole WORLD has access to TikTok. We want our story to reach further than just the USA. We want this to be a global movement of education and support for people with developmental disabilities. It is also AMAZING meeting people from all over the world. Everyone who follows us is family. We are one HUGE family. We have made so many friendships through this app. It has been such a HUGE blessing. The biggest thing we want from people when they watch our videos is to SMILE and learn something new about down syndrome. There is SO much negative content out there today and all we want is to post funny, silly and light hearted content. :)
Allié: As you seek to not only rock out TikTok, but YouTube as well, ‘Cooking with Sarah & Emily’ was the first YouTube video I checked out on and fell in love with. Sarah, will this be a series people can tune into? But before you answer that, Emily, what’s your favorite thing to cook with Sarah?
Emily: My favorite thing to cook with Sarah is spaghetti and meatballs!!!
Sarah: Thank you so much for watching! We would LOVE to make it a series. That would be SO FUN! Emily is quite the chef actually.
Allié: When it comes to what we see and hear online, this isn’t a duo. This is a trio. Sarah, your girlfriend, Cindy, plays a part. Tell us about one of your favorite moments with the three of you.
Sarah: Oh my goodness! There are so many moments. Cindy is such a beautiful and genuine human with such a kind soul. Her relationship with Emily is so special. They are the BEST of friends. I think one of my favorite moments was when all three of us were sitting on the couch looking at old pictures of us then Emily says, “I love these memories. I love you two being girlfriends together. But when you get married, can you build me a house?” Cindy and I laughed SO HARD!!!
Allié: Sarah, for those caring for siblings with disabilities, it’s not always easy. Those times when it’s not, what advice would you like to give?
Sarah: My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath, maybe take some space alone for a second and then revisit the situation that is causing stress. It's not helpful for myself or Emily when I'm angry and in a bad mood. In fact, it only escalates the situation. So BREATHE! Take a step back and re visit when you're ready. I promise the situation will diffuse and be handled much quicker on both ends. ∎ Catch an episode of ‘Cooking With Sarah & Emily’: https://youtu.be/oSsKgPUGQ1w (Be sure to subscribe to catch more episodes.)
102 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We want this to be a global movement of education
and support for people with developmental disabilities. SARAH FRANCATI
EMILY’S SISTER & ADVOCATE FOR DOWN SYNDROME AWARENESS 103 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Do not be afraid.
Lean into it. THOMAESA BAILEY
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL AT U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 104 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THOMAESA BALIEY
FROM PIZZA TO POLITICS
Born and raised in Georgia, Thomaesa Bailey went from the Dairy Capital to Capitol Hill. She went from serving people at Pizza Hut to serving all Americans in the House of Representatives. Her path from pizza to politics wasn’t an easy one, but paths worth taking seldom are. Grateful for her journey, Thomaesa shares her story to elevate others.
Allié: Your journey has been a long one, Thomaesa. Let’s start at the very beginning in Georgia. Please tell us about your childhood - the good, the bad and something funny too.
Thomaesa: I was born in Milledgeville, Georgia but my hometown is Eatonton, Georgia, which is right next door. Eatonton, like many very small towns in the south, has a hospital that doesn’t have a maternity ward. So, babies have to be born in neighboring cities. I lived in Eatonton until I was two. My father was very abusive to my mother, and when I was two years old she decided she’d had enough and left him and Eatonton. My mother tells a story of me witnessing a fight between her and my father. She says I was screaming and pulling my hair out. Seeing that and other issues made her pack up and move away to Newnan, Georgia where we had family. In Newnan, it was just me and my mom for a long time. We lived with different relatives and in a small apartment for a while until she was able to get a house. Growing up, my mother was always at work. I’ve never known her to have any less than 3 jobs. She’s worked at a place that makes wheels, at a sandwich shop, at a convenience store, and other places to pay all the bills. The byproduct of that is that she was hardly ever around. When she was around, she was usually asleep
FIRST JOB: PIZZA HUT
105 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
CURRENT JOB: U.S. CONGRESS
I loved my father, simply because he was my father. THOMAESA BAILEY
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL AT U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 106 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Thomaesa: (continued) because she was tired from working. I was an only child at the time, so I spent a lot of time alone. As for my father, other than my mother telling me her truth about what happened between them, she never said anything bad about him. But my earliest memories of him are talking to him through glass at what I think was a county jail, and going to see him in correctional facilities. I never knew what he was in for, but I can remember vividly my mother taking me to several different places to see him and then crying all the way home after every trip. I loved my father, simply because he was my father, and it hurt not having him around.
The BEST part of my childhood, though, was spending summers with my grandmother and all my cousins back in Eatonton. Eatonton is extremely rural. It’s basically a town in the middle of cow pastures. There are cows and bales of hay in rolling fields beside the road. So, when I was little we did things like jump from one bale of hay to the next. Once I jumped, but missed the hay by an inch and hit the ground. Another time, we had to run from a bull that we thought was about to get out of the gate. We used to walk up the street past a cow farm, and everytime we’d go, we’d say don’t wear red because we knew a bull was grazing there sometimes. We walked past the gate one day, and the bull was right there staring at us. He started scraping the ground with his hoof and breathing heavily. He looked like he was about to charge us, so we took off running! We were so scared.
At 13, I went to live permanently with my grandmother in Eatonton, and that’s where I lived until I graduated from high school. I started working at the Pizza Hut in Eatonton when I was in high school.
Allié: Some know what they want to be when they’re a child. Others still don’t know when they’re adults. Did you always want to be an attorney? When did you commit to this path and why?
Thomaesa: I told my dad when I was about five that I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn’t really know what I was saying. It was in college at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia that I knew I wanted to help people and be a resource for the Black community. As I said, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house and then lived with her permanently. We didn’t always have the best living situation. We didn’t always have enough money. We experienced housing insecurity. We experienced food insecurity.
When I went to college (the first one in my family), I went with the idea that I would do something to make my grandmother’s life better. She’d always believed in my intelligence and my ability, so I wanted to make her proud and give her the things she never had. I wanted to help people and make the world a better place, so I got involved with the MU Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter, and helped build houses for people in the community.
I went to grad school to be a social worker and that’s where I learned about policy/advocacy. We were assigned to go to the state Capitol and track a bill. That’s when I discovered where the rules were made. I found out that there were rooms where people, typically people who didn’t look like me or have my life experiences, were making the rules that the rest of us have to live by. I also found that there were people there representing certain groups. I learned that there were opportunities to advocate on behalf of people who couldn’t advocate for themselves, and change the law in ways that would benefit them. That’s when I knew policy work was what I wanted to do.
I committed to policy first. That’s my first love. I realized the powerful impact that policy has in people’s lives. For example, federal law prohibits convicted felons from living in public housing or getting public benefits like food stamps (TANF). My father was a convicted felon, so when he got out of prison, he couldn’t get a place even in public housing. He wasn’t supposed to get food stamps. So, if I could change the law, I could have helped my father. I could have changed his life.
Going to law school was the result of research. I asked people who I really respect what would be the best path to take if I wanted to do policy work. They suggested law school because I could do policy work, and I’d have a professional degree that I could use to be a legal resource for people who need it. 107 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I feel like my whole life has been struggle coupled with triumph. THOMAESA BAILEY
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL AT U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 108 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“The greatest tragedy in my life led to my greatest triumph.”
Allié: Your climb to Capitol Hill wasn’t an easy one. What was your hardest struggle? And how did you overcome it?
Thomaesa: I feel like my whole life has been struggle coupled with triumph. I experienced being poor, but I’ve been able to build a life for myself. I got the job at Pizza Hut because we needed the money. I needed to help my grandmother. I went to work and bought things for myself to take the burden off of her.
I experienced great love with a man who encouraged me to go to college. He is the reason I went to college, but I also experienced domestic violence and financial abuse in that relationship. We fought all throughout my time in college. Not only that, but my father was murdered when I was a sophomore in college. We’d barely spent any time together, then he was gone forever. Despite all the hardships, I thrived in college.
I graduated summa cum laude in May of 2012, which was one of my greatest accomplishments. Shortly after, tragedy struck again. My grandmother, who I adore and is my everything, died in July of 2012.
One of my greatest struggles came in October 2015 when I had a life threatening miscarrage. I had an ectopic pregnancy and my tube ruptured while I was at work. I had to be revived in the ambulance. I had several surgeries to stop the bleeding and the doctors didn’t know if I was going to make it. My husband, now my ex-husband (my boyfriend from college and I had got married) and I were so happy because It was our first pregnancy, but sadly we lost the baby. I had also just started law school that August, and now I had to be out for weeks. The dean told me to leave school and start over the next year.
So there I was, in the hospital. I’d lost my baby and I almost died. I had to quit school and start over again. But if none of that had ever happened, I probably wouldn’t be working in Congress right now.
In August 2015, I started law school as a JD/Master of Public Administration dual degree student. When I lost my baby, I had to quit, and I couldn’t start back as a first year law student until the following fall of 2016. BUT, I could start taking my MPA classes in Spring of 2016. That semester, I was in PMAP 8111 with professor Carolyn Bourdeaux. I was a good student. She appreciated that, and we stayed in touch after I left her class. In 2018, she ran for Congress. I helped with her campaign. I phone-banked for her. I visited churches with her on the campaign trail. She lost in 2018, but she ran again in 2020 and WON! She asked me to come work with her, and now I’m in DC. The greatest tragedy in my life led to my greatest triumph. Now, I get to live my dream.
Allié: At times when your climb seemed too steep, what was it that kept you climbing?
Thomaesa: I get power from thinking about my ancestors. I think about Black people and all that we’ve gone through in America. We’ve been enslaved, murdered, unjustly imprisoned, discriminated against, lynched - you name it. We have survived unspeakable atrocities, and we continue to thrive, push through, and move the culture. I’m especially inspired by my foremothers, the strong, beautiful black woman who came before me. My great grandmother, Ernestine, who endured terrible domestic violence. She was shot twice on two separate occasions by her husband. It got so bad that she left, leaving behind her five children. My grandmother, Bobbie Sue, who battled cancer for decades. She was diagnosed in 1988, and she was always in and out of the hospital going to chemo. I would sit with her during her appointments, and her spirits were never down. She just kept pushing. My mother, who worked day and night to keep a roof over our head. She’s where I get my work ethic from.
If these ladies can do it, and if Black people can overcome all that we have, I know I can. 109 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I’m my ancestors’ wildest dreams. THOMAESA BAILEY
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL AT U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 110 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Sometimes people who come from the background that I come from battle with imposter syndrome, but we can’t let that hold us back.”
Allié: Of all your accomplishments in life, which one are you most proud of?
Thomaesa: I am most proud of making my grandmother proud. She’s not physically here to see it, but I know that this is the life she wanted for me. She spoke my success into existence, and I have made it a reality.
I’m my ancestors’ wildest dreams. Using my God given gift of intelligence, I made it out of my hometown, and I’ve done incredible things.
I’ve influenced policy at the state and federal level. I’ve fought for criminal justice reform. I’ve helped change the rules for foster care in Georgia. Most importantly, I've gotten other people involved in the political process. I’ve shown people how politics affects their lives and inspired them to vote and express their opinions about political issues. When you can encourage people who feel like they’ve been locked out of their government to get involved that is extraordinary. People power works! So, the more people who get involved the better off we all are.
Allié: If you could offer just one piece of advice to those seeking success in their career, what would it be?
Thomaesa: My one piece of advice would be - You deserve to be in whatever room you’re in. I come from more than humble beginnings. Sometimes people who come from the background that I come from battle with imposter syndrome, but we can’t let that hold us back. I’m a girl who grew up playing in cow fields. I lived in a trailer. My father was not around. I grew up poor. Now I walk the halls of Congress. I advise a United States Congresswoman on policy and legal issues.
If you come from humble beginnings and now find yourself in an incredible place that you never thought you’d be you deserve to be there. Do not be afraid. Lean into it. You deserve it. You wouldn’t be there, if you weren’t supposed to be there. You earned it. Now go out there and crush it. You got this!
Allié: If you could order just one topping on your pizza, what would it be?
(For myself, it would be tomato, but I’m ‘different’ that way.)
Thomaesa: Mushrooms!! I feel like mushrooms get a bad rep. They have a PR problem. People hate mushrooms for some reason, and I don’t get that. They're fungus, and I guess people don’t like fungus, but I think mushrooms are great! I would encourage everyone to eat more of them. ∎
111 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
There is no lock without a key. ARIYA
ARTIST & AWARENESS TIES OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR FOR LGBTQ+ AWARENESS 112 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘DIRECTION DECODED’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY ARIYA
A B E G I N N I N G O F P E R S O N A L AWA R E N E S S In the journey of life we all experience many challenges and issues in different ways.
For some of us it creates chaos, confusion, feeling lost or depression.
In my journey as a gay man who was born in Iran and got HIV in his 20’s, I wasn’t an exception. I have experienced many of those issues that built up against me to destroy the real image that I couldn't accept or live with.
Having to battle with myself helped me a lot. I got to know myself better through those challenges, surrender to myself and become closer to who I truly am. It wasn't easy or comfortable, but it was worth it. It took over 10 years to become open to myself and see me as I am.
Awareness begins with having a sense of surrendering to all that is happening for me. When I just stop thinking and start realizing that there must be a reason that this is happening to me, I find there is always a deeper meaning in every issue.
“Without experiencing challenges, we don’t get the tools that we need for our journey.”
When I heard that I was HIV positive, that was the moment I felt my life was ending and there was no hope for me to make my dreams come true. There were strong emotional reactions where I viewed myself as a big problem or a big mistake. I felt cursed in my life and that this was my punishment. It took a lot of time to feel different about it. But life doesn’t go as planned. It goes in the way it should when we are ready to experience it. So when things go wrong or not in a way we want, the universe has another plan for us, to teach us a bigger lesson and to make us even stronger. Without experiencing challenges, we don’t get the tools that we need for our journey. Every challenge and issue has face provides us with many tools to help us to go further down our path.
We are living in a world where we all have the ability of choice. It is up to us how to react with the right choice, as we are guided. By becoming aware of ourselves, noticing that nothing is a coincidence, we all have a purpose in this life and a role to play.
So, what should I do when I have an issue? What should I do when the circumstance takes me out of my comfort zone and the issue scares me and makes me question my capacity to handle it?
By ‘accepting’ it, we allow ourselves to find an easy way to handle it. We give ourselves space to see and understand the different aspects of the issue. We gain a better perspective of the message. I can receive it as a sign sent to help me find where this is taking me and why I’m attracting this into my life. There is no space for blaming someone or something. It was meant to happen and we always have the ability to make the choice of how to react to it.
I believe whatever happens to us is because we are ready to experience it, it happens because of our growth and the issues we overcome to create a new skin and remove the old one. That’s why it’s painful. That’s why it takes us out of our comfort zone, because without leaving our comfort zone which is our old skin we are not able to expand our life and grow into it. 113 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
A caterpillar has no idea it will transform into a butterfly. It goes with the flow of life. It trusts the process. Maybe for a caterpillar, being in the cocoon is an issue, chaos or a problem. We don't know, but it goes through it and becomes a butterfly. It’s rewarded for its being patience, acceptance, and trust for the journey.
An issue is a cause to start thinking differently for a new effect. This cause is a catalyst for finding a solution, to make you aware of your tools needed for your own cocoon, to prepare yourself and become the butterfly you were designed to be. In a way, it puts you in a survival mode and takes you to the level of awareness that you were not willing to step into with your old skin.
It took me more than ten years to accept who I am as a gay person who is HIV positive. It was my issue. It was my problem. It was my weakness. It was all the reason that I couldn’t feel good enough or feel loved enough by myself or others. During those years, I faced so many challenges that my mind created escapes from my reality by denying who I am, accepting alternate versions of myself but never my real self, putting different masks on and wearing many fake skins, to cover up my true self. I showed myself in a way that felt acceptable for me and for others, as I attempted to to fit myself into different situations - none of which were aligned with who I truly was. It was the creativity of my mind that made my ego happy by playing different roles. I was an actor who played many roles in the story of my life. I was suffering from the person who wasn’t me. I was still a caterpillar who had no idea I was in my cocoon, designed to transform into a butterfly.
It happened because I started to ‘surrender’ to whatever was happening for me. I started to accept that I needed to stay in that cocoon for a while to see where this goes. I was discovering my lights and exploring my shadows in there. I was drawing patterns on my butterfly wings with the beauty of my imperfection in combination with my vulnerability that made me who I am. I started to find the beauty of my presence, the beauty of being true and accepting. It is the most precious feeling that we are all able to experience. It is always aligned with our true self.
Living with issues and challenges does not need to be a ‘scary’ thing. It’s a necessary thing that happens to help us accept and see the beauty of ourselves within. We must first find it inside. Only then can we see it outside.
For some of us, it is painful. For some, it is sad. And for some it is a nightmare. But again,we have a choice. We can choose to believe that we are a caterpillar for the rest of our lives, or we can choose to trust that this transformation will make a beautiful being out of us that was meant to be. We can choose to look at it from different dimensions. We can choose to find beauty and lessons in it, and take the necessary actions. There is always a solution for every situation. There is no lock without a key. Just by becoming aware, we make a key for the lock.
When problems and chaos arise, these are of our own creation. Our soul wants to grow and our higher self is trying to create something that is in alignment with our capacity for transformation. It knows we can fix it and grow from it. Just be aware that is happening ‘for' us, not ‘to’ us. These are all lessons we should take from this life, in order to be ready for something greater… something that shows the power of creation and greatness of our humanity.
Becoming aware and an observer life is the answer to any issue. When we make our mind calm and let the soul lead us outside the box that the mind creates, we find ease and comfort and become aligned with the cause, effect and reason of it all. It is up to us, living in mind’s framework or spirit’s freedom is always our choice. ∎
Artist & Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for LGBTQ+ Awareness www.awarenessties.us/ariya I am a creative intuitive artist sharing the universe I see and experience beyond the boundaries of our planet. My creations come from inner awareness 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.
114 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
…we are forced to remove these veils and reveal our true identity our ‘naked truth’. CHARLOTTE ALEXANDRA
FOUNDER & CEO OF CULTUROSITY Photo Credit: Hale Photography 116 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘FEARLESS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY CHARLOTTE ALEXANDRA
THE NAKED TRUTH
IT’S TIME TO BARE YOUR SOUL
In a time where misinformation is spreading faster than a virus, people are finding it hard to keep it real. Feeling forced to hide their true identity in order to fit into a world of illusions and facades we see in the media.
Covering up our inner truth under layers of veils (ego, insecurities and fears), we one day find the load gets to heavy, and we are forced to remove these veils and reveal our true identity - our ‘naked truth’.
When you speak your truth, your inner voice can be heard by others and they can truly connect and be inspired by your story - a beautiful story in which you reveal your real passions and where you’re brave enough to stand up for what you believe in and become the person you are destined to be.
I am Charlotte Alexandra, producer & journalist.
One of my biggest passions has always been discovering the truth. At a very young age I was extremely curious about what was really going on in the world we live in, and I had a deep desire to travel and investigate. I remember clearly, at the age of 12, it was during a classroom presentation about the topic ‘What will I be when I grow up?’ I said enthusiastically that I wanted to become an international news anchor or journalist so that I could discover the truth about the world. Suddenly the whole class, including the teachers, burst out in laughter. “That’s impossible,” they said. “You can’t do that. Why not get a normal job…like normal people?!” The thing was… I didn’t want to be ‘normal’. I wanted to be ‘me’. Yet the whole concept of being myself had been ridiculed as something that is not ‘normal’.
117 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
This is just one small example of how our society tries to make us believe its not ok to be ourselves when that couldn’t be further from reality. The real truth is there is so much beauty to be found in being yourself, as we know true beauty isn’t only skin deep. It’s when you bare your heart and soul by sharing your stories of your triumphs as well as your struggles that you connect with your radiant source of inner power and therefore connect with others.
Celebrities and public figures have always been a huge source of inspiration to the masses, but due to misleading stories in the media we are not always aware of their true identities behind the veils of image and illusions. Eleven11 Media in collaboration with Awareness Ties is proud to announce we have developed a new talk show. Every week we will invite entrepreneurs, celebrities and public figures to reveal their true identity by getting ‘naked’ and baring their souls, inspiring people around the world to be their true selves and showcase their inner beauty. Coming soon, we are proud to introduce ‘The Naked Truth.
Far too often, we are presented with a veil of illusion—distorting our vision to see the truth behind some of the worlds biggest headlines. Therefore, we have created a platform for our guests to amend the biggest misconceptions about their image & personal life by sharing their true stories.
Guests will be confronted with their biggest public misconceptions (from tabloids, gossip magazines & social media).
They will be asked to get ‘naked’ and bare their souls by discussing the fake news and exposing their inner truths.
Step 3 :
After the misconceptions are addressed, guests will answer a sequence of soul searching questions in the form of headlines of their own creation.
Join us for ‘The Naked Truth’ where clothes are optional, but honesty is required. ∎
Founder & CEO of Culturosity www.awarenessties.us/charlotte-alexandra Charlotte Alexandra, founder & CEO of Culturosity is a business mentor, empowerment coach & serial entrepreneur with a passion for Media. She is on a mission to help You unlock your fullest potential! Helping people around the globe expand, grow, connect and to build a business they are proud of, a life they love and a mindset that will take them places. After kickstarting her career in Marketing + Advertising following a journalism & communications degree, she decided to launch Eleven11 Media Networks. Creating a platform for likeminded creatives to collaborate on spreading a positive message through media. Her work as both an entrepreneur and a media coach has provided her with an international network of inspirational and influential associates ranging from entrepreneurs, business leaders, public speakers & celebrities - uniting and combining their talents to make to world a better place.
118 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
INNER BODY SECRET CERES IS A WELLNESS WAND DESIGNED
FOR WOMEN TO NOURISH AND HEAL THE BODY.
U S E C O D E A WA R E N O W 1 0 F O R A 1 0 % D I S C O U N T
I wanted to be more bold. THI NGUYEN
NONPROFIT CONSULTANT, ENTREPRENEUR & PHILANTHROPIST 120 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘GO GREEN DRESS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY THI NGUYEN
GREEN MEANS GO
THE ORIGIN OF GOGREENDRESS And go I did with my green dress, but where did it all begin?
What is the meaning of the GoGreenDress?
What does it stand for?
Where did you get your green dress?
Do you have multiple dresses?
These are some of the questions I get when people see my images of the GoGreenDress. The curiosity of my fans made me realize it is a story worth sharing.
If you know me, you will know that I take pleasure in a good deal and love finding the hidden gems. I enjoy thrift shopping, consignment shopping and estate sales. I truly believe that one person's trash can be another's treasure. By shopping for second hand goods, I am saving money but more importantly I am helping the environment.
On one of my shopping trips I stumbled across a beautiful emerald green dress that caught my eye. Uncertain of what it was I pulled it off the rack and instantly fell in love with the color. It was a dress made by Topshop and although the front of the dress isn't what I would normally wear, the color was exquisite so I had to try it on. Best part, it was in my size with a price tag of $19.99! The dress is made with 100% silk and although the front of the design was not to my liking I purchased the dress and did some simple hand alterations.
“…I decided to take this dress on a few little trips to Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park and Havasupai Falls.”
Initially, I intended on wearing this dress to an event and absolutely loved how it flowed, especially how light it was. Prior to doing so I decided to take this dress on a few little trips to Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park and Havasupai Falls. At first we took fun 'fashion' photos and then I started wanting to take more scenic photos. Wow! Not only did the dress pop against the natural backdrop but it made you want to pay close attention to the surrounding area. It finally dawned on me when I took the dress to hike Havasupai Falls that this dress can become a symbol, a representation of something greater than myself. It can become a movement. 121 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 122 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 123 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 124 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Be Bold. Stay Beautiful. Explore…”
I started taking the dress with me on all of my backpacking trips, travels and hiking adventures. I would share photos of myself in these remote, exotic and picturesque locations and share my thoughts about the surrounding area, time or provide suggestions on location. It begins to catch the attention of friends, family and complete strangers. Perhaps it was the dress, maybe the beautiful scenery or a bit of both but from there the GoGreenDress began its endless journey around the world.
To be honest the adventures of the GoGreenDress could not have come at a better time. There I was in a rocky long distance relationship of 3 1/2 years, my business was slowing down and I had just returned from my international travels longing for more adventure. I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and wanted to get into my zen. I wanted to trek into the forest and just take it all in; let nature slowdown my mind and get back to being in the moment. During these moments of solitude, it dawned on me that traveling as a single female you have to be more cautious and more aware. But you should never let these feelings stop you from exploring.
I wanted to be more bold on my trips and adventurous with my treks. I decided to do Havasupai Falls and Mt. Whitney as they were both driving distance with the dress. These treks are very strenuous especially when you are packing your gear and food. I wanted to showcase the beauty of nature with my dress and bring the outside element combined with me in a flowing garment. It seems when you have a girl in a dress posing in desolated locations, people pay attention. I wanted to share these landscapes with the world and remind women that you too can conquer these treks and to Be Bold. Stay Beautiful. Explore! Thus the birth of the movement of the GoGreenDress adventures continued.
Honestly, I couldn't believe how beautiful some of these photos came out. And to think, it was taken on my Samsung phone (I started with the Samsung Galaxy S5)!
My initial goal was to encourage other females to take treks and continue exploring. Additionally, I wanted to share the natural beauty of the world outside, the world less traveled and showcase it through my shared images. I wanted to take people on a virtual journey of exploration, of color, sound and sight. As I continue, the GoGreenDress has become much more. It is now a space to share my thoughts on current issues and topics that impact the environment and humanity, my travels around the world, a reminder to my audience to be kind to others especially to yourself and a carefully curated picture book of all these special memories. I use this space to open up to my audience and hopefully provide some inspiration.
Standing here staring at the sunset over this vast beautiful sight before me, I hope these photos will ignite a sense of adventure in your souls and spark a little curiosity about the world outside. Perhaps we can all share our own beautiful dress images to flood social media with positively beautiful images in our flowing garments. If you would like to learn more, please follow along my adventures at GoGreenDress on Instagram. On a side note, yes I now have more then one dress, but for years it was and still is my first green dress from my consignment find. ∎ No matter what you are going through just remember: "The beauty of change is that it can bring unexpected adventures. Even the most desolate place can be breathtaking." ~Thi-ism~
Follow Thi on Instagram: @gogreendress THI NGUYEN
Nonprofit Consultant, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist www.awarenessties.us/thi Thi Nguyen brings with her over 2 decades of non profit experience as a participant, advisor, board member, consultant, volunteer and research and development specialist. Her expertise combining technology to further advance the vision and mission for philanthropic causes has allowed her to serve as a trusted partner with many notable organizations large and small. Thi has experience working with organizations focusing on combating various global issues such as: human sex trafficking, homelessness, poverty, fair wages, global warming, malnutrition, gender equality, humanitarian assistance and human rights. She's currently developing an app to connect individuals and corporations to assist nonprofits in furthering their vision and mission.
125 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 126 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 127 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 128 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 129 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
@gogreendress 130 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Jay is and has always been very much aware of his abilities and the amazing limits to which he can push his body… CRAIG GRAHAM
PERSONAL TRAINER & FOUNDER OF ALT MOVEMENT 132 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘ALT MOVEMENT’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY CRAIG GRAHAM
ONE FACE PLANT AT A TIME The scene seemed to play out in slow motion.
I watched as the jaws of those around me hung open wide, faltering in their decision to take action or not as Jay, a client of mine with Cerebral Palsy lost his footing and face planted the floor in front of us.
I was running one of my outdoor strength and conditioning classes as usual, which is predominantly made up of nondisabled people, and had invited Jay to come along and join in. I’d been working with Jay for a while now and so I knew the limits of his CP as well as his attitude to life in general, so it was no surprise to me that after taking a mouthful of dirt, he jumped back up with a huge smile on his face and continued the workout, none the wiser to the worried faces around him.
“…people no longer hesitate if he falls and no one is surprised when he even wins…”
Over the next few days, adulation flowed in for Jay.
Clients were in admiration of his resilience, they couldn’t tell me enough how amazed they were at his ability to not only participate in the session but embrace it and be completely unfazed by his fall. Jaws no longer hang wide when Jay comes to the class, people no longer hesitate if he falls and no one is surprised when he even wins the workout.
Often as non-disabled people, we have preconceived notions about the ability of those with disabilities or health conditions. It often takes an encounter like this to challenge and destroy the boundaries that we have wrongly created, however good our intentions may have been.
Jay is and has always been very much aware of his abilities and the amazing limits to which he can push his body, as are most people with a disability or health issue. He can challenge himself and he can bounce back if at first he fails, just like we all can and so it would be wrong of us to limit his potential out of our own fear.
133 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“…the emphasis needs to be placed on ‘alternative’ ways of doing things rather than not doing them at all.”
Undoubtedly, in many areas of life, there are adaptations and alterations that may need to be made so that people with disabilities or health issues are able to live uninhibited. However, the emphasis needs to be placed on ‘alternative’ ways of doing things rather than not doing them at all. People with disabilities are often excluded or unable to be included in activities simply because of lack of understanding and knowledge of their capabilities.
World-wide there are around 220 million young people living with a disability.
With education and openness, we can make sure that they are not bounded by the limitations that have been placed upon them. Often the best place to start is by having a conversation. By listening and engaging in dialogue we can begin to understand how and when alternative ways of doing things need to be developed and by educating ourselves on more disabilities, we can in turn become aware of their true potential. ∎
Personal Trainer & Founder of Alt Movement www.awarenessties.us/craig-graham Craig is a Personal Trainer based in the UK, as well as the founder and creator of Alt Movement, which aims to provide individuals with disabilities alternative and adaptive ways of exercising.
134 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
It's harder to lead myself than it is to lead others. DESMOND CLARK
SPEAKER, AUTHOR & FORMER NFL PLAYER 136 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘PRINCIPLES OF WINNING’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY DESMOND CLARK
WOULD YOU LOOK UP TO YOU It's harder to lead myself than it is to lead others.
We judge others by their actions, what are they doing. From this perspective, we can coach, train, and counsel others effectively in our own minds. If they do better, we've done a good job of influencing them to do so. That's leadership, correct?
I find, sometimes I, and I will go out on a limb to say we, struggle to heed our own advice. I can be the motivating factor and inspire others to go to the gym, finish the challenge, and focus on overcoming the obstacle. But, I sometimes struggle to do this for myself.
Human nature allows us to look at others more objectively than we do ourselves.
For them, it's about the actions. Based solely on observations. When assessing ourselves, we resort to a more subjective criterion and it shifts our perspective. We look at our intent, our own feelings, and our own beliefs. This allows us to justify our actions or lack of.
What works for me in times of not leading myself in the way I would lead others or simply match the accountability standards I set for others, is to eliminate all considerations outside of my actions.
At the end of the day, your actions are what really matter.
Ask yourself, would you look up to you as someone to follow based on your actions? ∎
Speaker, Author & Former NFL Player www.awarenessties.us/desmondclark Empowering sales professionals and leaders with ‘Principles of Winning’ to create a standard of excellence, Desmond Clark is a former star NFL Tight End, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author, Speaker, and Inspirational Business Coach. During his 12 year tenure in the NFL, he played with the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and 8 years with the Chicago Bears, retiring as the second leading Tight End in Bears history for catches, yards, and touchdowns behind only Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. Before entering into the NFL, Desmond set Wake Forest University receiving records and finished his college career as all-time leading receiver in Atlantic Coast Conference history and a degree in communications. For more information about the ‘Principles of Winning’ group coaching course call 863.581.5161 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
137 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Ever since I can remember, I’ve avoided people… JONATHAN KOHANSKI
OPEN WATER SWIMMER, PHOTOGRAPHER & MS WARRIOR
138 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
PERSONAL STORY BY JONATHAN KOHANSKI
SAFETY & ISOLATION
T H E WA L L S W E B U I L D T O P R O T E C T O U R S E LV E S Ever since I can remember, I’ve avoided people, I was the “shy” kid. As an adult I’m the one at the party who migrates to the room with the least amount of people, or I slowly shrank into the corner in a feeble attempt to avoid conversation and interaction.
I don’t know where it all started exactly, the anxiety of interacting with people and what I can only describe as a fear of being judged regarding anything and everything. From my earliest memories, I avoided anything in front of people, even eating, it really perplexes me, but it’s still present to varying degrees decades later.
School was never a bright spot in my life, I disliked the quiet, sterile environment of school, it was stifling and boring. More often than not, I was more interested in looking out the windows watching cars driving by or birds flying through the sky and my grades clearly reflected this. Report cards, progress reports, and teachers surely didn’t know how to address what was described in phrases such as “needs to apply himself” “has more potential”, or the comparison to my sister who brilliantly applied herself throughout her life in everything she’s done.
Being compared to someone else throughout your youth, regardless of who it is, sends a message that who you are isn’t good enough. That success doesn’t come from finding your own strengths and applying those, but by emulating somebody else’s, regardless of whether those methods fit or not. This pressure to succeed based on conforming with the standard model of education can, and is, so destructive to those that don’t learn in the “traditional” manner. It was this lack of understanding that ultimately set me on my own course. I needed to find my own way through it, how I learned, what I was “good” at and how to make something of myself that translated to some level of success.
The walls we build to protect ourselves from external influences also prevents our light from illuminating the dark recesses of a world that so desperately needs it. A lack of support and encouragement as a child can lead to a litany of problems such as self-confidence, being able to recognize your own accomplishments, and trusting people are honest with encouraging feedback. If I wasn’t good enough then, what makes me good enough now? Even now as I receive positive feedback on writing and photography, I question my own abilities.
Am I just lucky, as I so often tell myself, or is there really something there? ∎
Open Water Swimmer, Photographer & MS Warrior
www.awarenessties.us/jonathan-kohanski Hi, I'm Jonathan, I'm a wanderer of sorts, looking to further enrich lives and share experiences that show we are all capable of truly amazing feats that push my own boundaries and can many times turn heads. I'm a sucker for raw and real stories and attempt to share my own, with all the good and bad through that same lens. I'm always open to finding my next adventure that will help me to continue writing the stories that can help others overcome their own demons. I'm a lover of the water and spend a lot of my free time in it, whether it be swimming, body-boarding, or taking photographs while in it. I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 25 and it has changed the course of my life, not just in a physical sense, but also in my perspective of life, what is valuable to me and worthy of my time. We all have our struggles and triumphs, I'm here to share mine and maybe, help others through theirs.
139 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Am I just lucky, as I so often tell myself, or is there really something there? JONATHAN KOHANSKI
OPEN WATER SWIMMER, PHOTOGRAPHER & MS WARRIOR
140 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Am I innocent though? COCO DE BRUYCKER
ACTRESS, VOICEOVER ARTIST & AWARENESS TIES AMBASSADOR FOR DISABILITY
142 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘ACCORDING TO COCO’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY COCO DE BRUYCKER
WHAT TIES US
WHERE AWARENESS BEGINS
We are honored to present Coco de Bruycker’s inaugural article in her exclusive column, ‘According To Coco’, where she shares her thoughts and feelings in singular style as she explores different views and vantage points on issues.
If you took me out on a date, first thing you should probably know about me is: I’m terribly good at feeling guilty. You know what guilt feels like? This hot hand that grabs you by the neck after you made a mistake you didn’t know you could make. That’s what guilt feels like to me. But how does that tie to awareness? Every mistake I felt most sorry for I made because I wasn’t aware. In 2018 I was part of Bombshell, a very progressive LGBTQ+ show (now streaming on Amazon Prime, if you want to check it out, we got a penis mascot, too!), anyway… I promoted the show on social media as the “first show starring a gay trans lead”.
Little did I know… that my reference was actually incorrect. Instead, more properly, I could have said “trans person” or “starring gay trans people in the leading role”. Only a day later I noticed my mistake. And I felt, guess what, guilty as hell. I did not know. I had not been aware.
Same issue, different story: Black Lives Matter.
When George Floyd was killed in front of shaking cell phone cameras, I wrote an article on my mistakes and experience of racism “growing up as a white chick in Germany”. I hadn’t been aware racism was officially still a thing in the modern United States of America.
“The fact that my black friend still clutches the steering wheel in panic whenever a police car passes us was not on the record…”
Back in Germany they had pretty much taught us that the US had its messiah Martin Luther King in the 60s and everything was better. The fact that my black friend still clutches the steering wheel in panic whenever a police car passes us was not on the record, at least not according to authors of German lecture books for high school kids. I felt guilty as hell. “Pardon me, I wasn’t aware.” That’s a phrase always on the tip of my tongue——trying to make up for my past, young ignorance, and the one yet to come.
However: Is it ignorance anyway? I have a growth mindset. Always on the look out for knowledge and human selfoptimization. Is it ignorant of me to not-know-the-things-I-don’t-know? Or would you actually forgive me because I did not know better but I am intending to be better? Where does ignorance end… where does Awareness begin? “Coco, I don’t know how to say this…” An opening line (no, not from my date trying to dump me) from my best friend. She told me how uncomfortable I made her feel: I had made it a thing to comment under each photo my friends share on social media #blackexcellence if they wear anything black——because they look super-damn-sexy wearing black clothes. It’s like our thing. Black is THE color. Like, the one and only wardrobe choice you’ll always be chic with… I started using the hashtag to push black content and amplify that Black Lives Do Matter whilst covering it up as a stupid repeating inside joke between friends. 143 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“Fact is, I do not know.
But I am willing to learn.”
You can find my comments on both my black and white friends because, as I said, anyone looks super-damn-sexy in black. In this case my friend didn’t know about my secret joke and explained to me that she feels conflicted. She has a white mama and a black papa. Being “mixed” would bring identity issues along. The BLM movement has a personal, unique meaning to people of mixed race. Please, I shouldn’t take it personally.
No, I was enlightened.
I wasn’t aware I forgot to let her in on my secret joke-paired-social-justice-movement. We cleared it. “This is why I love you so much,” my friend finally said. “You come from such an innocent place.”
Am I innocent, though?
I made a mistake by not letting her in on it. I felt a little guilty. Warm, not hot-as-hell-guilty this time. But guilty enough to wonder if I was ignorant or innocent at all. Fact is, I do not know. But I am willing to learn. And I think that is the point. The cross road between ignorance and awareness: dialogue and my hunger to be a better person that I was yesterday. I do care. I feel better now. I made peace with me feeling guilty all the time trying to be the perfect (nontrans) person I can possibly be.
I’m at peace with the fact I will make more mistakes.
As long as I keep up the dialogue with you, that’s how awareness ties us together… today and forever.
Now, please grab my hot hand, metaphorically, and let’s go together, hon. ∎
COCO DE BRUYCKER
Actress, Voiceover Artist & Awareness Ties Ambassador for Disability
www.awarenessties.us/coco Coco de Bruycker is a German-born, US-trained actress and voiceover artist with the desire to express what we all feel but no one dares to say. As a thespian at heart, took on stage at just seven years old, where she discovered her “eagerness to play” (German: spiel wut) as director Philip Barth put it.
144 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
SUICIDE IS A PREVENTABLE MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. YO U C A N BE T H E O N E TO START THE CO N V ERSAT IO N . H F T D.O R G
CO-FOUNDER OF KIDS AGAINST PLASTIC 146 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘GLOBAL GOOD’ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SERIES BY TANITH HARDING
KIDS AGAINST PLASTIC
MEET YOUTH SOCIAL ACTION ADVOCATE AMY MEEK Five years ago Amy Meek along with her sister Ella launched their charity Kids Against Plastic, a youth social action project focused on educating others about the devastating effects of plastic pollution and committing to action to clean up the planet. Since then she has given talks including a TEDx talk in 2018, spoken to MPs in Parliament and created ‘Plastic Clever’ a campaign to stem the global use of single use plastics. She, along with her sister, has played a critical part in parliament, businesses and schools signing up to the campaign. She joins me today.
Tanith: Amy you and your sister Ella launched Kids Against Plastic five years ago when you were just 12 years old, what inspired you to create a social action charity at such a young age?
Amy: When we first set out I was 12 and my sister was 10. We definitely didn't go into it with the idea that we were going to launch a charity and still be going five and a half years later. My sister and I were being homeschooled, and as part of this curriculum we were studying the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It was through these that we came across this issue of plastic pollution and since this was 2016, we hadn't really heard of it before. It wasn't a hot topic like it is today. We were really shocked that despite us being people who love the environment, and trying to be eco conscious our own habits were having negative impacts on the environment and wildlife. What was really resonating for us, particularly as young children, was the fact that this wasn't an issue that was going to go away anytime soon. Plastic lasts hundreds of years on the planet and so this is going to be an issue that we were going to inherit from our parents and our children are probably going to inherit from us. If we didn't do something right now who was to say that someone else would? Also would that someone else take the action that we knew we needed to see to tackle plastic pollution. That's how Kids Against Plastic began with that passion and that want to try and make a positive difference.
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“We set ourselves the goal of 100,000 pieces because it's one for every animal killed by plastic in the oceans every year.”
Tanith: Through Kids Against Plastic you are educating others about plastic pollution but you are also committed to personal action, picking up plastic litter yourselves - how much have you picked up between you and how do you keep track of it?
Amy: Since we started our charity we've been counting the litter we pick up. We set ourselves the goal of 100,000 pieces because it's one for every animal killed by plastic in the oceans every year. This figure, especially for my younger sister, was a really striking fact and quite shocking. It's taken us five and a half years but we're on around 95,000. We started by counting into the bag to keep track, which definitely improved our mental arithmetic, but a few years ago we worked with the mapping agency ESRI to develop an app. It’s called Be Plastic Clever and runs alongside our Plastic Clever campaign. The app can be used by anyone to log litter they pick up and it shows different categories, different brands and gives you a total of how much you've collected. It's been a massively useful tool to log our litter picks and see them on the map. It’s a super easy tool for you to see what types of plastic are prominent in your local area, but also on a global scale and other people picking up litter. Whilst 95,000 pieces is a lot, it’s dwarfed by the scale of plastic pollution as a whole as we're never going to pick up plastic at the rate it's currently going in. Around 12 million tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean every year. You can't pick that up as an individual family at the same rate that it's being consumed and thrown away, which is why the map has been useful for education as well. Looking at the hotspots to see how we go about reducing the cigarette butts found in this area or the cups and lids from a local fast food chain.
Tanith: I hear you are expanding your Plastic Clever Schools Scheme later this year what are you hopes and ambitions for this project?
Amy: The Plastic Clever Schools scheme has been running since 2019, it's a branch of the larger Plastic Clever campaign we're running. It’s about tackling four items of plastic as a first step towards tackling plastic pollution. This is so plastic reduction doesn't seem unachievable, which on face value it is, because how can you cut all plastic from your life when you start looking at it? The idea of Plastic Clever is taking the really simple step of reducing four items; bottles, bags, straws and cups and lids. They sound insignificant but these items are still being found in the top 10 of ocean plastic pollutants, sometimes even out numbering things like fishing line. They're really prominent in the ocean, despite the fact they're mainly used on land and that's why it's important we reduce them.
Since we began in 2019, we've had around 1100 schools register and take part which is exciting. We thought, as we are from Nottingham, we would do something locally to help primary schools reduce plastic usage. In 2018 Damien Hinds, who was Education Secretary, set schools the target of eliminating unnecessary single use plastics by 2022. We're now in mid to late 2021 and the government have done little to help schools reach this target. They’ve been left to their own devices, which is hard with COVID thrown in. Both of my parents are teachers so we know first hand how difficult it's been, so we thought we'd run the Plastic Clever Schools Nottinghamshire Challenge, running from September to December this year. It’s a really positive challenge to help schools lead the way in tackling plastic pollution and to show how students and teachers can work together to make a really positive impact on the environment in school. The aim is to create a blueprint which can be used by different counties around the UK to adopt a similar Plastic Clever Schools scheme in their local area.
Using this bespoke map we've put on our website with every school in the UK already loaded, we can easily help different areas get involved in this challenge. It's going to be a big task but we're hoping with some positivity and healthy competition, it can be a really powerful way to help in tackling plastic. 148 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Tanith: It has never been more important for people to take responsibility for plastic pollution, what are your top tips for people wanting to reduce waste?
Amy: It’s something that everyone needs to get involved in, young people are taking the initiative because we can't afford not to. We don't see action being taken by those in power. We've decided to step up and do our bit and I think that, with sustainability especially, there seems to be this outlook that you need to be Greta Thunberg to be involved, you need to dedicate your life to it or be really extreme in your actions. It doesn't have to be like that, sustainability is something for everyone. That's why we came up with the idea of Plastic Clever. My main tips would be starting small and finding ways to fit sustainability into your everyday life. Whether it’s plastic bottle you can avoid by using a reusable bottle and save money at the same time. Small things like that are easy to implement, but make a big difference because in the UK an average person uses over 100 plastic bottles a year. Imagine the impact that cutting a plastic bottle from your life would have. It’s super powerful and super positive.
Tanith: Aside from Kids Against Plastic you are on the verge of launching Yes! A youth empowerment scheme, what is your ambition for this and do you have anything else in the pipeline?
Amy: Through Kids Against Plastic we learned the importance of youth involvement in issues, whether it's plastic pollution or the other massive issues facing our planet, like climate crisis, gender equality or racial justice. Youth involvement is so powerful and important. From my personal experience being involved in activism, the skills that I've developed through campaigning, I'd never have done in a classroom. Public speaking and writing for a purpose are hugely important skills for later life, that seem to be forgotten in the education system. If we put together YES!, a youth empowerment scheme, it would help young people to develop these important skills themselves. It could be really powerful and help more young people get involved in activism. It can seem quite daunting getting involved and making a difference, but actually if we can help give young people with the skills and confidence to do so, then it can make a positive difference. I’m going to launch it in the near future with three or more levels which develop different skills in activism including public speaking, writing and video making. They will get progressively more advanced throughout the levels so that by the end of it a young person could leave feeling really confident in themselves and hopefully running their own campaign or cause as well. ∎
Learn more about Kids Against Plastic
@kidsagainstplastic TANITH HARDING
Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global www.awarenessties.us/tanith-harding Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.
149 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I do not dream of
happy endings… LORI BUTIERRIES
AUTHOR, NAVY VETERAN & MOTHER OF 2 WITH SPECIAL NEEDS 150 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘SCARRED NOT BROKEN’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY LORI BUTIERRIES
WHAT I DREAM AND DREAM NOT I do not dream of happy endings
or a love that’s all consuming
of healthy children without disabilities
or a life that others would find approving.
I dream of helping…
wiping tears from someone's face
sharing words of comfort and a warm embrace
making someone laugh or feel understood
or being a shoulder to lean on when life isn't good.
My dreams are simple, like me.
I want to make a positive difference in the world by sharing my experiences or by being kind, because kindness costs nothing, but ironically every time I give, I gain. That's a dream in which I want to invest because then everyone wins.
And when dreams like that become a reality, awareness begins. ∎
Author, Navy Veteran & Mother of 2 with Special Needs www.awarenessties.us/lori-butierries Lori Butierries is a full-time caregiver to two children with special needs, one child being terminally ill and physically disabled. Lori uses her life experiences and the medical knowledge she gained while serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy to help others facing similar hardships. Lori focuses primarily on advocating for and educating others about the special needs, mental health, and veterans communities. Her long-term goal is to reduce the stigma associated with disability by talking about it with people of all ages, thus minimizing the fear and the mystery attributed to the unknown in this regard.
151 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Volunteering has changed my life... DIMATHALIA RIZK
FOUNDER OF TEAM DIMA GLOBAL 152 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘GLOBAL GOOD’ EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SERIES BY TANITH HARDING
TEAM DIMA GLOBAL
M E E T S O C I A L E N T R E P R E N E U R D I M AT H A L I A R I Z K Dimathalia Rizk is a Social Entrepreneur, Human Rights activist and Founder of TEAM DIMA Global a community organisation that inspires young people to build sustainable projects and run educational and health programmes for underprivileged children all around the world. She also creates Bracelets for Change made by herself, and young people in different parts of the world who not only learn vital skills during their knit and chat classes, but can use their time during mentorship programmes to learn and be a part of the change.
Tanith: Dimathalia you have been involved in so many global projects to build and support communities! Where did it all start for you?
Dimathalia: I was 17 and my teachers said there’s a Borneo project and it’s the first time our school was going to be involved. We had to fundraise £4,000 each, and I remember 75 people turning up to assembly and only seven people managing to make £4,000, including myself and my twin. In order to make that money I couldn't just ask Mum, you had to prove that you are capable to go to the other side of the world and work on these projects. The fundraising was difficult at times because people would ask if they were just paying for my holiday, and then you had to explain to them exactly where the money was going.
153 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
"Be prepared to get your hands dirty because it will literally take you out of your comfort zone…”
Dimathalia: (continued) We were going to be building a kindergarten and educational centre in Borneo. We’d never done anything like that before - I thought you needed a degree to do these things. I didn’t know what to expect. I was so driven, we had updates from the organisation about what the money would do. We did all sorts of things to raise funds and, when I started making bracelets, my mum said I should sell them so I sold them for £1 each and made my first £100. After 18 months, we end up in Malaysia, and you get to see it for yourself and work on the projects. You get your hands dirty, I even had to chop my hair off when I came back because I was mixing cement and all sorts of things. We couldn’t speak the same language so we were just smiling. It was an extraordinary experience. I never thought we could actually help people. Malaysia was a turning point for me. I came back and thought I've got to do something like this, it’s where it all started for me.
Tanith: At the age of 17 working with your twin sister, Mary, you turned your talent for creating beautiful bracelets into TEAM DIMA Global Bracelets for Change. Talk me through the concept and what it has achieved to date?
Dimathalia: When I started TEAM DIMA Global I just wanted to fundraise. I studied politics and international relations at university because I wanted to know what was going on in the world, why different parts were poorer than others, and obviously got my answers. I created Bracelets for Change for fundraising but after Malaysia realised we could use them for other projects as well, such as Ecuador, South Korea, Lebanon, India and other parts of the world.
I started getting support from celebrities like John Claude Van Damme, Miss USA and Love Island. People would wear the bracelet so that other people would buy them and the money would go directly into the projects. Everyone asks, does all the money go into the projects and yes 100%. I realised that people really liked the bracelets so we did pop ups in London during Christmas. We had a lot of support from Australia too, lovely people in different parts of the world would buy them online. Now we get kids, for example in Kenya, and teach classes where they learn to make the bracelets, and at the same time talk about social issues like sex education. We get both boys and girls and the teachers involved too. It's an educational programme as well as a sustainable programme where kids learn a skill and then they can sell their work in local markets so that they don't have to do crazy things to obtain money for things they need like period pads or food.
Tanith: TEAM DIMA Global’s mission is to inspire young people to volunteer and become agents for change! How does it work and how can young people get involved?
Dimathalia: Volunteering has changed my life so there's so much I can say to young people that want to volunteer and become agents of change. They can get involved with TEAM DIMA Global, we have small global groups in different parts of the world where we have a youth ambassador. They can connect and if there's fundraising, a visit, or a campaign that we're leading, they can be involved. There are a lot of young people who are really passionate and want to find ways that they can help, but they don't actually know how. It reminds me of when I thought that you needed a degree or some professional experience to volunteer when you don’t. I think the most important thing is to look for organisations that you sympathise with their messages, mission and campaigns. Be prepared to get your hands dirty because it will literally take you out of your comfort zone and change your life completely. When I go on projects my back could be aching but I don't care, I want to help out and make that change. Social media and online platforms are massive so you can find organisations to help, even if it's not a big organisation. There are lots of small charities that are looking for people to be volunteers and give their time to help, like us, so connect. 154 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Tanith: You have travelled the world volunteering, building schools and supporting communities that really need help. Which of your campaigns touched you the most and why?
Dimathalia: Every country I've been to and done a project or campaign. In Ecuador, we had to build a toilet in the Amazon rainforest and I thought that people didn't live there. They do, there’s a kitchen, a community and I didn't know about that. For them to see the work we were doing and how happy they were working with us that's the most incredible thing. That touched me. In South Korea I worked with orphans and these kids can't be in foster homes because there's this stigma about kids being adopted because they don't have the same blood as the parents. That was shocking to me. In India I was working in the slums and It's so different to how you see it in your textbooks. I cried so much, that was one of the most shocking trips for me because I didn't know what I was expecting. Seeing it in real life. I couldn’t believe that people actually lived like this in different countries. In Lebanon the kids were so clever and can all speak English. Kenya really touches me, we have kids turn up the office and say thank you so much for the food, or we get their exam results, and we know that we’ve helped the kids pass those exams because of that bit of food. Our food programme is amazing, I feel very grateful that I get to do this and every place that I've been touches me in different ways.
Tanith: I know you have other projects in the works including a project called ‘It’s Normal’ tackling period poverty, tell us about the project and other plans you have for the future?
Dimathalia: The project is a collaboration between TDG and the Kichwa community. I want the community to be involved as much as possible. Creating sanitary products is not an easy task, but it is one of the most challenging topics in Africa. Specifically in Kenya menstruation is linked to cultural taboos, and there's a stigma that comes with it. With this misinformation spreading for many generations. We want to make a change in the community, and supporting health education and lobbying for girls is my number one priority. We advocate for girls to stay in school and complete their education. So we're trying to create is an extended space for these girls, step up production, provide pad machines and teaching the women. Giving them an education so that they can create those period pads, so they have availability of period pants, and they don't have to use dirty cloths, feathers or newspaper and they will have a wash space. it's a very embarrassing experience from what the girls have told us, so this is our plan for now, this is how we're trying to bring awareness to the community and bring the people together so they know how important this issue is for girls. We want to educate the boys so they can help their sisters and mothers. So that's where we're at with. ∎
Connect with Dimathalia via email: email@example.com
Follow on Instagram: @teamdimaglobal & @omgsumandak
Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global www.awarenessties.us/tanith-harding Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.
155 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We depend on the connection… CHIEF OGIMAA
ANISHINAABE KNOWLEDGE KEEPER, CHIEF OF FOOTHILLS OJIBWAY ON TURTLE ISLAND 156 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘FROM THE BEGINNING TO NOW’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY CHIEF OGIMAA
FROM THE BEGINNING TO NOW: LESSON 9 Once again, I’m talking to you from here on what we used to call Kânata, it became Canada. It was one part of this world we call Turtle Island (this includes North America) the Anishinaabe people always maintain the connection to Turtle Island, in spirit. What I mean by that is there are spiritual ties, spiritual connection, in my leadership. People call me Ogimaa (Acha-Kooh-waay)…. which means ‘leader of the sky’. I maintain that, because it has to do with the Spirit. That’s how we had our connection to the beginning of the creation, for this part of the world, Turtle Island.
It is time for a reminder… what we do to nature we do to ourselves.
We are part of everything. We must remind ourselves and the people of this world, of the need to pay attention. Creator has put us in this world, and different parts of these islands, but we are one. As humans we are the same (doesn’t matter what the skin color). We are the environment, the children, and the next generations.
God created humans, and Creator gave the responsibility for the women to create a human, all over the world. We're being brought here by the women. We were children, at one point, and we all came to our mothers, and those mothers, created a human being. Same for everybody all over the world. Nobody was created by a machine.
Creator gave us all the responsibilities. And… we’re given everything that we need. If we don't pay attention only to ourselves, we will do really well… we are part of the environment. What we do for the environment, we are doing for ourselves.
“We are part of the land…”
We are spiritual, so is everything in the environment.
We are part of the land… Mother Earth, the whole world… She needs us. Take care of her… the way we used to take care of her, and appreciate the environment that we were given everything that works together as God gave us, so there’s everything that we need. We need the world…
Therefore, all the mothers, all the women, all the children have to be respected, otherwise there would be no life to continue on… if we don't respect this spiritual creation and the creation that the mother is giving us.
Just like the world is in different islands… There are trees growing, actually there's a bunch of trees. There’s grass growing and flowers. Actually, there's all kinds of flowers. And there's people. Actually, there's all kinds of people, millions of people. We depend on the connection… about the spirit. God is intended to be a big part of us… the environment, part of everything, that he has created. 157 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We inherited all of that which makes us humans… we have this world and different parts of the island. And this case for myself, I was put in this part of the world, and I appreciate everything surrounding me. But I can see, I can see my purpose. I can see that sense of belonging. Everything belongs… Everything was put nicely in an order. I’m looking at poplar trees… They take care of oxygen, that’s part of that creation. At this time we must be aware of that…
There are fires and floods, earthquakes and big storms. We must remember… we must take care of Mother Earth, all the women and all the children .
It is about us….we are one. ∎
Respectfully recorded and submitted by Kathy Kiss
OGIMAA (ACHA-KOOH-WAAY), JIM
Anishinaabe Knowledge Keeper, Chief of Foothills Ojibway on Turtle Island www.awarenessties.us/ogimaa I am Ogimaa (Acha-Kooh-waay), I begin with words from my own language to say hi to everybody. My identity… which is… because God put me in this part of the world is my Annishinaabe language and name. That means “leader” for people and environment here. So I am not saying I am the leader of Turtle Island but that’s what that means. It is an individual’s name, which is a spirit name that we carry on from our traditional culture and lineage in this part of the world. We were put here on this Turtle. This Turtle Island is massive.
158 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
What we do to nature,
we do to ourselves… CHIEF OGIMAA
ANISHINAABE KNOWLEDGE KEEPER, CHIEF OF FOOTHILLS OJIBWAY ON TURTLE ISLAND 159 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
We need to save ourselves by collectively reconciling… JEFF GOMEZ
CEO OF STARLIGHT RUNNER 160 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘UNSUGARCOATED’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY AALIA LANIUS
F E AT U R I N G F I L M P R O D U C E R J E F F G O M E Z
O N T H E ‘ M O D A L I T Y O F R E C O N C I L I AT I O N ’ In Ep 55 of UNSUGARCOATED with Aalia, your favorite host sits down with Starlight Runner CEO, Jeff Gomez, a film and TV producer who overcame disability and a hard scrap childhood (12:35) to work on some of the biggest franchises from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony, Mattel, and Nickelodeon. They share a tragically honest conversation about bullying, abuse, and the power of storytelling to provide escape and growth to both victims and perpetrators(14:00). Gomez tells Aalia how transmedia— storytelling across platforms like film, TV, books, and even toys— is pushing Hollywood to listen to its viewers and create the content that is meaningful to them(19:21). Gomez works to ensure that at the heart of these juggernaut franchises is storytelling that creates what he calls a “Modality of Reconciliation.”(23:00) Gomez shares how his modality of reconciliation applies to his anti-bullying work in schools, as well, creating stories and spaces of empathy(26:01)where victims can heal and bullies can grow(15:17). You won’t want to miss this conversation with an unlikely Hollywood heavy-weight, all about empathy, overcoming,(34:58) and the power of UNSUGARCOATED storytelling.
For more information on UNSUGARCOATED Media or your award-winning host, go to www.UnsugarcoatedMedia.com and stay connected with Aalia on IG: @aalia_unsugarcoated and on Clubhouse @aalia_lanius
Novelist, Speaker, Podcast Host & Social Entrepreneur www.awarenessties.us/aalialanius Aalia Lanius is the Founder and President of Unsugarcoated Media, a 501(c)(3) media organization. Dedicated to helping survivors of trauma lead mentally healthier lives, Lanius' focus is creating media and events that empower, educate, heal, and inspire another the way it has for her. Lanius is also a multiple award-winning American novelist, social entrepreneur, and advocate with over 20 years of sharing her personal experiences with audiences of all age groups and diverse backgrounds. Executive Producer and host of the awardnominated seasonal podcast show, “Unsugarcoated with Aalia”, a visual and audio experience that features conversations intended to bring value and amplify voices that create more empathy and understanding of one another.
161 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
Whatever the reason for our blind spot,
the majority of us, myself included, definitely have it. MARY DAVID
ACTRESS, SPOKEN WORD ARTIST, ACTIVIST & LAWYER 162 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
‘REFLECTIONS’ EXCLUSIVE COLUMN BY MARY DAVID
SAFE WATER SLIGHT
A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT IN OUR BLIND SPOT There are some human rights issues that you’re used to seeing splashed across the covers of magazines, making headlines, filling documentaries and taking center stage in nonfiction bestsellers. Access to safe drinking water is rarely, if ever, among them. Perhaps it is because we cannot imagine a life without water. Or maybe just the opposite we forget how much we rely on it that we overlook its necessity to our existence. And then there’s the possibility that we have no idea how common of a problem it is - that in fact one quarter of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water.1 But even if we do know, the problem feels so archaic, abstract and removed from the challenges most of us face that we usually look for something more concrete, relatable (and likely more “exciting”) to fill our headspace.
Whatever the reason for our blind spot, the majority of us, myself included, definitely have it. When there have been so many technological advances worldwide and we know that iPhone usage has extended to many rural and seemingly isolated parts of the globe, I often forget how many children, women, and families continue to be further impoverished as we advance. Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this challenge, as they are the ones primarily tasked with collecting water and forgo school to meet the need.2 Cumulatively, women and girls lose 200 million hours a day in productivity fetching water3 that they could have directed towards their education, mental well being, and personal development. And even when they are able to attend school, almost half of the schools in the world do not have access to hand-washing stations with soap and water.4 Imagine your child going back to school in a Covid world with that kind of reality. It makes sense then that, although morally reprehensible, every two minutes, a child dies from a water-related disease.5
One of the hardest things to come to terms with is how preventable these consequences and burdens seem. When so many of us are able to take outrageously long showers, do not monitor our water consumption, and have multiple sources of clean water within one household, why hasn’t there been a more efficient, successful global effort to ensure that the 785 million people without access to safe water get it?
It is about the most disempowered people who have already experienced the greatest losses cumulatively on the planet being systematically denied one of the most basic necessities on earth.
Unlike other human rights violations, this is one that can be successfully addressed through research, structural implementations and infrastructure. This should give us hope, because the solutions are so much more concrete and measurable than those of many other societal dilemmas. Collectively, we need to do a much better job shedding light on these realities and putting pressure on our governments and institutional organizations to act. We also must incentivize tech companies and the private sector to research and implement solutions to problems like the water crisis. There are a few companies and governments who are taking a more proactive approach through a range of techniques from utilizing atmospheric water to transporting glaciers, but much more work can and should be done in this space. Part of how we get there is by humanizing the problem - remembering this is not just about some nebulous, dry concept. This is about millions of people daily and unnecessarily dying from disease, children who are being denied the right to education, parents who are unable to keep their families safe (children under five years old living in countries experiencing protracted conflict are 20 times more likely to die from causes linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence6). It is about the most disempowered people who have already experienced the greatest losses cumulatively on the planet being systematically denied one of the most basic necessities on earth. 163 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
“…every two minutes, a child dies from a water-related disease.”
For anyone who needs more utilitarian reasons to rally the cry, the water crisis will catch up with us one way or another. Whether it be through the combined effect of overpopulation, the American propensity for excess and lack of concern for environmental impacts or just one of these contributing factors, the looming water crisis encompasses a shortage of natural resources in our own backyards. The economic gains in addressing this human rights violation are also important to note. Universal access to water and sanitation would generate $18.5 billion in profits, with a $4 economic return on every $1 invested due to “lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”7 Those funds could be diverted into new markets and more consumers of goods and services. The possibilities for success on all sides are as vast as the certainties of harm if we do nothing.
These realities are grim, but the hopeful thing that can and should push us forward is that there is so much left to salvage if we act now. The ways to contribute range from researching and educating ourselves and others on the scope of the problem and what needs to be changed, sharing about these issues widely on social media, creating content that raises awareness and promotes research, contacting international organizations and contributing to their ongoing campaigns that highlight water inequities, and donating to organizations that are empowering people through clean water access like water.org. If you do take any of these steps, I’d love to hear about it. Count me alongside you in this fight for basic human rights. Even if we reach the goal of universal water access just two minutes sooner because of our collective effort, another life will be spared, another child given a chance to succeed. For that alone, it is worth it. ∎
Actress, Spoken Word Artist, Activist & Lawyer www.awarenessties.us/marydavid Mary is a storyteller and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual trauma. Drawing from experiences of overcomers of trauma and her own journey from victim to survivor, Mary creates powerful narratives and highlights pivotal realities through television and film, legal advocacy, and beyond. As a United Nations Advisor on Women and Children’s Issues, Mary defended the rights of domestic violence victims and disenfranchised populations before the United Nations General Assembly. She also handled nearly 2,000 criminal cases as a prosecutor in Baltimore City, including numerous cases of assault and sex crimes. When not creating art, Mary promotes the advancement of women and ending gender-based violence as Communications Director of UN Women’s Los Angeles chapter.
164 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
WATER’S OTHER NAME
By: Mary David
The power I contain and bestow
on all who embrace me
cannot be found anywhere else
My touch is one that
emboldens the frail
the fiercest of gladiators
That is why, across the globe,
everyone searches for me
I do not discriminate
But my gifts are so divine
that the mighty hoard me for themselves,
afraid to share even a breadcrumb
of what I have to offer
The beauty that buds,
Blossoms in my wake
so very healing
that those who possess me
refuse to let me go
Desperate for more growth that they cannot find apart from me,
those who have met me
hold me captive
releasing me only to mingle with those they deem worthy
Anyone else, they feel, would be a waste of my riches.
But this is how I know
they do not love me
They use me
as a means to an end
to soothe their own aches
taking and taking
as if I am only meant to be a bandaid
instead of the panacea
that those who truly appreciate me experience
I am not found everywhere
but I am grounded in abundance
and would flourish
if hoarders in the halls of power
let me trickle
to the dying places
Oh the brilliance that would
part the clouds
if those who were so obliviously reliant on me
would invite strangers to their dinner table
Instead, the same family surrounds me at mealtime
gulping me down like medicine
instead of savoring me with reverence
Swelling with health, fortune, resilience,
they sometimes carelessly toss me aside
for something less satisfying
while their cousins beg forlornly with pleading eyes
through the window
No one takes notice
as the crowd outside grows from longing
until the cries of forgotten hearts
hits so high a decibel
that the windows break
and the dinner table shatters
In the end, selfishness killed them all.
You thought I was speaking of water
but what if I told you
my name was compassion?
What if I told you
we are the same thing?
165 AWARENOW / THE SOURCE EDITION
I am aware now.
THROUGH THESE STORIES WE SHARED
I AM AWARE NOW.
R E A D , L I S T E N & WAT C H
T h e M a g a z i n e , T h e P o d c a s t & T h e Ta l k S h o w
In ‘The Source Edition’, we dial into the very heart of the matter - the heart of awareness. We explore where it begins and where it takes u...
Published on Aug 25, 2021
In ‘The Source Edition’, we dial into the very heart of the matter - the heart of awareness. We explore where it begins and where it takes u...