Every year I send out a New Year message on something topical and a wish for the future. This year I have already spent multiple days playing around with two different versions on two separate themes. But in the end I have decided that the message I should share with you is one which came out of the amazing 360+ Leadership Collective trip to India in August. That trip defined 2015 for me.
Until this trip I had not, since I left high school, spent so much time on a continuous basis with this age group of students from their particular backgrounds. So while the trip was intended to broaden the perspective of the participating students, it also broadened mine by exposing me to their perspectives of life in America. One perspective became apparent to me when we were preparing for a joint presentation on India’s Independence Day-August 15- with the students at Rishi Valley School, one of India’s best educational institutions. The topic for discussion was the path to Independence in both India and the US. While the Rishi Valley students chose to give an accurate historical perspective, our group decided to question whether Independence in the US and for that matter India or anywhere else, is really achieved for all just because their rulers are no longer foreign.
That perspective is also apparent in this intensely personal, powerful, poignant and ultimately upbeat poem from one of the students on that trip who also articulated that he felt independent when Barrack Obama was elected President. It is an uncomfortable perspective but one which we cannot ignore.
by Jeremiah ‘ Andre’ Garland
Land of the free and home of the brave,
Oops, I meant land of the whites and home of the slaves,
Where a man can be called in for an interview based on his name,
And people hate each other becuz their skin colors aren’t the same,
Where there’s power to the people,
And help to the sick,
Oops, I meant power to the wealthy,
And help to the rich,
Where whites are geniuses,
And black are degenerates,
Where a black boys a peasant,
And a white boys a prince,
Where immigrants are subjected to,
Racist jokes and ridicule,
Where colored people aren’t expected to make it past middle school,
Where a white gangster is confused,
And a black gangsters a criminal,
Where when trying to get a job,
Blonde hair and blue eyes are pivotal,
Where hope is the oxygen that people breathe everyday,
And souls are some times the price that people pay,
To succeed in this jungle,
Where the weak can be forgotten,
Where colored people have risen,
From their old days of picking cotton,
The place where I can be whatever I wanna be,
And there’s no one in the country,
Who can tell me what I’m gonna be,
I can make my own path,
If I focus on what’s in front of me,
Where my futures completely up to me
Like Jeremiah I believe that our future and the one we will create together is completely upto each of us. Jeremiah is looking forward to his which involves going to college next year. I for one will continue to work towards a future which is inclusive, equitable and good for our planet.
My blog on the trip is at https://360plus.org/360/leadership-collective-2015-reflections-by-sridar/ I also encourage you to read the other blogs including Jeremiah’s equally powerful companion piece to the poem at www.360plus.org .
Have a terrific 2016 and having just come from seeing Star Wars- May the Force Awaken in You.