Forgiveness One Story At A Time

-forgiveness one story at a time - how do we forgive racial tension

How Do We Forgive?

The countdown has begun. My feet will touch African soil in the country of Rwanda on December 29th. I already know that this will be a transformative experience as I meet with both victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide when neighbors committed the worst atrocities against one another. More than one million people were slaughtered with crude weapons of war in a ninety-day period.

Somehow, they found the power to forgive. They found a way to heal and to move forward together. There is no more ethnic recognition of Tutsis and Hutus. They are now one Rwanda. How did this happen? At the core of their forgiveness was the ability for victims to share their stories of grief, trauma, and devastation while the perpetrators listened. The road to this point is revealed in the video, “As We Forgive.” It is required viewing for my study group of fourteen students and citizens traveling under the auspices of George Mason University.

Forgiveness grows when we share our stories

“What project do you want to pursue?” Al Fuertes, my professor, inquired. Without hesitation, I said “I want to talk with storytellers and artists, women especially, who have found a sense of identity when all has been ripped away: husbands, children, parents, lovers, and friends. How do they tell their new stories of resilience?”

All of us face loss and disappointment. Some have faced the unbearable. How do we keep putting one foot in front of the other under the most adverse circumstances? I work with organizations where one co-worker cannot forgive another. I work with teams that are divided because of unresolved racial tension. But, in Rwanda, forgiveness has occurred one story at a time. When we look at our own lives, who needs to forgive us and to whom do we need to extend the olive branch? Have you calculated the cost of remaining stuck in your hurt story? I would love to read your responses. I will share my learning journey through this blog while gaining insight into the power of healing and forgiveness in Rwanda.

Forgive: The new practice and mantra for Black Men | Kosmos Quarterly

Forgive Kosmos Quarterly Article

By Ulysses ‘Butch’ Slaughter and Tamara S. Hamilton

At the fragile age of 12, Ulysses Slaughter listened as his mother Clarice was shot to death by his father Ulysses Grant Slaughter Sr. Emerging from his bedroom, he watched as life flowed out of his mother. Stepping over her body that day was the first act in his amazing odyssey toward forgiveness.

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FIVE EXPERIENCED SPEAKERS SHOW THE WAY

banner graphic from:speakermagazine.com

BY TAMARA SMILEY HAMILTON, MA
This Article by Tamara Smiley Hamilton is an Excerpted from Speaker Magazine – National Speakers Association (Banner Graphic Credit: NSA Speaker Magazine)

When six of seven global finalists advance to the coveted circle of Accredited Speaker and your name is not called, you are grateful for a dimly lit ballroom.

These were the words I wrote in my journal the night I did not receive the designation as an Accredited Speaker (AS) from Toastmasters International. The feeling was unfamiliar, because most things I want in life and truly prepare for, I achieve. For this endeavor, I was not prepared emotionally, nor was I at the depth of my craft. I underestimated the magnitude of what I was pursuing.

Perhaps I am not alone in misjudging the rigor of becoming an Accredited Speaker. What I do know is that I grew exponentially as a speaker because of the journey. And the journey continues.

Some people think Toastmasters is only for the beginning speaker. For many, including some very accomplished NSA members, it is a road worth traveling. Come along and see for yourself.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW? WHOM DO YOU KNOW?

Toastmasters International is the world’s leading leadership development and communications organization, with 350,000 members in 142 countries. NSA founder Cavett Robert, CSP, CPAE, was a Toastmaster and was crowned the 1942 World Champion of Public Speaking.

Many NSA members are accomplished Toastmasters. The ideas in this article come from five who have achieved one or both of the highest designations or awards a Toastmaster can achieve: Accredited Speaker and World Champion of Public Speaking.

  • Darren LaCroix, CSP, won the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking and earned Accredited Speaker in 2016. He is the first NSA member to hold the CSP and the AS designations along with the World Championship of Public Speaking.
  • Rochelle Rice, MA, CSP, NSA board member, is the only woman in the world to hold both the CSP and the AS designations.
  • Sheryl Roush earned Accredited Speaker in 1993 and is a global ambassador for Toastmasters.
  • Ed Tate, CSP, is the 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking.
  • Peter Barron Stark, CSP, earned the Accredited Speaker in 1990.

All are devoted NSA members, and all know a secret: Toastmasters is not a club solely for rookies. It’s a powerhouse for practice. “There is enormous opportunity from participating in both organizations,” says Rice, who says the AS designation has played a huge role in building her business.

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In the Light | Kosmos Advising Editor, Tamara Hamilton & Kosmos LIVE Podcast

Unlearning with Tamara S Hamilton

On Unlearning…

“What do we need to unlearn– about people, about reconciliation, about what we think we know for sure? Unlearning is a pilgrimage into our own inner landscape to see where we might need to prune our assumptions and clear a less treacherous path through this complex time. What might we unlearn in community, in communication and in solidarity with others? This idea is very fluid, but also holds the potential to shift mindsets and to open new vistas.” – Tamara Hamilton

Tamara Smiley Hamilton MA, is a professional speaker dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless. She is the CEO of Audacious Coaching LLC and facilitates workplace conversations on conflict, race and implicit bias.

Tamara has taught courses in race relations at Loyola Marymount University and served as assistant dean of students at Occidental College. From 1985-91, she lived with her family in the Rhineland Phalz region of Germany to experience life as an immigrant. That experience helped shape her as a citizen of the world, a dream her father espoused since the day she was born in segregated Montgomery, Alabama.

A lifelong learner, she is a graduate of Scripps College, Howard University and the University of Southern California. In 2017, she returned to higher education to study race, conflict and peace at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. She is the 2017 recipient of the James H. Laue Scholarship Endowment in recognition of her contributions to human and civil rights.

Her coming of age story, Diary of a Watts Princess: A Memoir of Hopes and Dreams, is published in Kosmos Journal. And her recent podcast with Valerie Brown is linked below.

KOSMOS LIVE PODCAST SERIES Unlearning Together with Tamara Hamilton
Episode 1 | Valerie Brown on Pilgrimage

Diversity and Inclusion Speaker, Tamara S. Hamilton is Advising Editor of Kosmos Quarterly

Kosmos Quarterly Debut

The inaugural edition of the new Kosmos Quarterly debuts June 15: Unlearning Together

Kosmos Journal Summer cover of bees in the hive, calls to mind community and collective work. Honeycomb is said to symbolize the heart chakra and life’s sweetness. Deeply woven into the ecosystem, bees are essential pollinators and remind us that we too can be agents of cross-fertilization and transformation!

The inaugural edition is a vibrant snapshot of where we stand at a pivotal moment in the human experiment. What do we care about most deeply, and what habits, views, and assumptions are we ready to release? How do we balance our grief for the world with authentic, effective action?

Coach and Professional Speaker on Diversity and Inclusion, Tamara S. Hamilton Is One of Circle of Advising Editors

Tamara Advising EditorKosmos advising editors work as networkers, writers, and ambassadors for Kosmos and the Kosmos Quarterly edition they serve. This intentional group of culture hackers, healers, activists and artists have come together for 100 days to cross-pollinate ideas and share the fruits of their practices with subscribers. Tamara brings her extensive knowledge and heart-felt passion for diversity and inclusion awareness and training.

For 100 days, the Editorial Circle has made Kosmos an important part of their heart-centered activism and personal journey. The Summer Edition of Kosmos Quarterly is the result!

Contributors, include: Drew Dellinger, Helen Titchen Beeth, Alnoor Ladha, Pamela Boyce Simms, Charles Eisenstein, Orland Bishop, Bill Plotkin, and many others.


Subscribe to Kosmos Quarterly

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Telling Our Stories of Conflict and Accord

Diary of a WATSS Princess Tamara Smiley Hamilton

Our stories matter.

When I found the courage to tell my story, I had no idea where it would lead me. Reflecting on my life opened doors to memory and magic. Details returned about lessons learned and how I came into awareness of not only myself but also how I wanted to show up in the world.  Our past is an invitation to our future, if we pause to take a look.

What started as a project in a memoir writing class three years ago is now the lead article in the digital edition of Kosmos, a journal of transformation. My story now has global exposure to an audience of peace seekers, to an audience seeking to change the world for good.

My story focuses on conflict but ends with a message of hope. Where does your story begin?

Continue Reading →

CEOs: Avoid Elephants on Parade

Avoid Elephants on Parade I spent the majority of my career in the people business: helping executives to grow, to manage change, or to manage high stakes conflict. A commonly used phrase was “the elephant in the room.” Either someone was brave enough to acknowledge there was an “elephant” in the room or some people tried not to see the “elephant” at all. The “elephant” was the uncomfortable, the issue that, if not addressed skillfully, could blow up around the board table or in the conference room.

My job as a skilled facilitator who was often called upon to not only support executives and managers to see the “elephant” but to also help them smell it, touch it, name it, and reframe it. In essence, it was to ease executives from an avoidance perspective to having the skills and courage to do something about “the elephant.” Many times, the “elephant” highlighted an area of diversity. Diversity of thought, perspective, experience, and/or values. When layered with diversity of race, gender, role, status, sexual orientation and, sometimes, location–since a teleworking culture was evolving–things could get complicated.

In today’s workplace, “elephants” are parading everywhere we turn. We are bumping up against divides that require leadership at the highest level, the CEO, to be aware of the cultural shifts, more cognizant of how people are showing up to work. A recent Harvard Business Review survey (https://hbr.org/2017/10/a-survey-of-how-1000-ceos-spend-their-day-reveals-what-makes-leaders-successful) of 1000 CEOs revealed that a significant part of their day is spent alone or with one other person. This number varies by industry but the point is this: the wise CEO may want to really know the temperature of employee morale to prevent a virus of negativity permeating the organization. Elephants are big. To control them from taking up too much space and sucking all of the air out of the workplace, the CEO may need to become the organizational doctor and check on the well-being of employees.

The best parade for elephants is in the circus.

Diversity and Inclusion: The Village of Dangling Threads

Diversity & Inclusion: The Village of Dangling Threads
By Tamara Smiley Hamilton

Some call it the law of attraction. Some call it faith. Some call it hope. Whatever we call It, somewhere there has to be the belief that each of us can make this a better world. The time for fear has run its course. The waiting that someone else will step up is gone. We are living in such fragile times that each of us needs to attract the energy to reach across lines of differences and finally see the “other.” Why? Some might actually ask that question. When they do, the rest of us need to embrace the energy that launches the question, because at least there is an opportunity for engagement. There is an opportunity to sew up a gaping rip.

All of us embrace or reject differences in our own way and style. Some of us give benign smiles but don’t speak. Others lend a helping hand but won’t expose a heart. Some make noble speeches and proclaim: “My best friend is Black.” Or, announce I have the Koran on my bookshelf of sacred books. We wear various badges of honor to keep us from being like them. But who are they? Who are the ones dividing us from the vision of peace and harmony some of us expected to see in our lifetime, especially if you saw the fires despair that defined the sixties, and all that came before. Tulsa in 1921. Now Charlotte and Charlottesville, Berkeley and Washington State sound like remixes of nightmares we had shoved under the bed.

We are in a season where to call is not for arms, but for hearts.

Hearts open us up to hear each other’s stories. Hearts open us up to embrace a new food that comes with a grandma story. Hearts help us see mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and families that make up the human village. There is an African proverb that says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” I offer that it will take a village to save the values, the hopes, and the dreams we so delicately place in our children for safekeeping.

What can each of us do now?

We see the seams unraveling.

We feel the smoldering conflict of values.

We see the threads dangling at the hemline of our nation.

Does anyone have a needle and thread???

Are we standing by letting the cords rip?

 

It’s not too late to consider: What is one small step to reach across lines of difference so that we can sing at least one song in harmony? Perhaps the song has a simple refrain: “I SEE you and you matter to me.”

Tamara S. Hamilton is an experienced and sought-after speaker on diversity and inclusion whose wise words lift the spirit, hug what hurts, and models hope and resilience. She is an eloquent and heart-centered communicator. Contact Tamara for consultations, speaking at your event, group facilitation or coaching.

Stay inspired with Tamara’s 7 Steps to Building Bridges.

See It to Believe – From ToastMaster to Accredited Speaker Finalist

tamara s hamilton accredited speaker finalist

A year ago I attended my first Toastmasters International Convention and launched a dream to become an Accredited Speaker. I had read about the program over my nine-year membership. Every year I looked at the requirements and thought it was out of reach for me. At best, I could aspire to be a district officer and a DTM, very noble and service-filled aspirations. I could not see myself as an Accredited Speaker, the highest designation for a Toastmaster.

The only woman in the world

But everything changed when I saw Rochelle Rice present a brilliant four-minute speech at the National Speakers Association’s annual meeting in July 2016, just a month before the Toastmasters Convention. It was the introduction that grabbed my imagination. “And now, Rochelle Rice, the only woman in the world to hold the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) from NSA and the Accredited Speakers Program!.” The only woman in the world rang in my ears. Only?

But everything changed when I saw Rochelle Rice present a brilliant four-minute speech at the National Speakers Association’s annual meeting in July 2016, just a month before the Toastmasters Convention. It was the introduction that grabbed my imagination. “And now, Rochelle Rice, the only woman in the world to hold the CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) from NSA and the Accredited Speakers Program!.” The only woman in the world rang in my ears. Only?

Little did I know that they were no black women holding the Accredited Speaker designation — period. That realization came when I sat on the edge of my seat watching the smiling faces of all sixty-seven accredited speakers. I kept looking for me. I wasn’t there after three repetitions. I guess she did not submit a photo, I concluded. In that moment, I decided to become the only Black woman in the world to do both. (My third application to the CSP will be submitted on Jan.2018)

My Vision as an Accredited Speaker Is Clear

Rochelle and Sheryl Roush (author of The Heart of Toastmaster) were larger than life on the stage and on the jumbotrons. I was whisked away in a vision of being on that big stage. Afterward, I asked a stranger to take my picture in front of the Accredited Speaker logo on the big screen. In that moment, I could see me clearer. During the business meeting, I introduced myself to Sheryl Roush and told her of my vision of being an accredited speaker. “I will help you!” She beamed. My knees buckled.
Foaming at the Mouth

In my hotel room that night, I read the requirements with new eyes. I had a vision. My picture became my screen saver to empower my confidence. I now had to get paid engagements! I did what I knew how to do best. I asked for help and it came. I began collecting checks. Next, I hired a videographer, Andrew Rougier-Chapman (a Toastmaster), to get a professional video. Fairfax County Health Department paid me $100 to do a presentation on bullying and implicit bias. Last week, I had professional photos done. Now I am studying Rochelle and Sheryl’s wardrobe so I can be appropriately dressed for the biggest day of my life: August 26th!

I now dream of being in the crowd of accredited speakers when they join the stage at the end to welcome the inductee!

My call to action:

  1. Have a vision
  2. See it daily
  3. Ask for help
  4. Tell yourself the story you want to live!
  5. Keep a gratitude journal
  6. Speak the vision in 5-7 minutes as often as you can!

When we came back to our Toastmaster GUTS meeting. Bob Snyder did an evaluation of a speech. In his introduction, he said: “Tamara belongs on the big stage!” I kept his words in my heart.

Before Age Twelve: Reflecting on My Socialization around Race, Part 1

Race Pride Socialization around Race

Today an article came across my desk about raising race conscious children. I clicked on it because my six-year-old grandson is sitting across from me playing video games. As a grandmother, I am committed to him being equipped to live in a diverse and complex world. As I read through tips and stories, advice and commentaries, I paused to think about my own socialization around race. It influences who I am today.

“No one is better than you.” Those words were branded on my young mind as one of my earliest memories about race. My parents never said White people will try to make you feel they are superior, but it was what they meant. Around the dinner table or while ease dropping, I heard adults talk about Dr. King with sheer adoration mixed with sadness, always fearing for his life. My conversations with my father stand out vividly because he always seemed like it was urgent for me to get certain lessons from him. From the age of seven to eleven, I worked with him to earn extra spending money above my allowance. He cleaned an office building on Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles. While I emptied ash trays and dusted the desks, he vacuumed the floors and emptied the trash cans, always exhorting over his shoulder some lesson for that day.

He drilled me on what ifs. “What if someone stole your wallet, what would you have left? “My education” was the proper answer. He cherished education and migrated his small family to Los Angeles so that I would avoid a Jim Crow life in Montgomery. Later in life I learned I was one of 3.5 million African Americans who left the South between WWII and 1970. It was 1957 and I was almost five when we settled in our new land of opportunity—the place where education was free.

He would tell me that most people were good, including White people but he quickly followed up that there were “some mighty bad White people, too.” He urged me to treat people well and to become a citizen of the world. He told me White people respected education and I needed to get all I could.

He sought out opportunities for me to be with White people because there were none in our neighborhood around Central Avenue (the Black Hollywood of LA) and 23rd Street. The only differences I saw were the Mexicans who sold buckets of oranges from door to door for fifty cents a bucket. My mother was always ready to accept a bucket and hand over a fifty-cent piece. There was little eye contact from either party, just genuine politeness. The Japanese people did not live in our neighborhood but were there every day trimming hedges and manicuring lawns. As kids, we thought that’s what they do. I did not know all had lost homes and businesses during WWII, during the internment period. Eddie and Tony, the Koreans, owned the small grocery store on 25th Street where I bought comic books and the magazines with all of the pop song lyrics. They called me “Little Girl.” Frank drove the Helm’s Bakery truck a few days a week and he was the only White man I would see regularly in person other than on television and in stores.

Television was a trip. If a Black person appeared on television the phones blew up with: “Hurry! There’s a colored person on channel 2.” You knew to call all friends and neighbors. It showed how invisible we were and how powerful the medium was. To see ourselves on television was nothing short of a miracle. It dominated the playground news for the next day.
I first came face to face with differences when my father sent me to the Hollywoodland Camp for Girls. There was a sea of blonde hair, freckles, and braces. I don’t remember feeling different until it was time for bed and all the girls where brushing their flowing hair and I as putting mine up in pink sponge rollers. They asked if it hurt and I said no. I asked if the braces hurt, and they said sometimes. Many had acne and pimples and spent a ritualistic evening with Noxzema and Clearasil. I had clear smooth skin that they seemed to admire. I made some friends for just the week we were there. Once we came back to the real world, I never heard from them or thought of them again. I think we instinctively knew we were in an artificial land at camp.

Hair was an issue, though. I wanted to swim every day and was good at it. Back home the summer was not complete without a daily trip to Twenty Second Street Playground where there was a nice size pool. When I left for camp, my mother’s parting words were probably: “You better not get your hair wet.” Once coarse black hair was wet, nothing could tame it but a hot straightening comb. I was not of the age to use one and was totally dependent on my mother to tame my wooly and unruly hair once it was wet. I often wondered what it would feel like to a Breck Girl who could get her hair wet and shake it off.

I am grateful I grew up with race pride that did not have to demean another group for me to feel worthy. My parents dreamed of a world where my friends would represent the real world. If only they could see me now.

~~~
*Years later when my husband and I bought our first home from a Korean family, we discovered a covenant in the documents: illegal to sell to Negroes and Indians.

To be continued…