Prepping to and for Innovate.

On somewhat short notice I find myself prepping to go to IBM Innovate this year.  I’m excited about it – we’re going to talk about the very compelling devops case study around how IBM Service Engage was developed.

As a run up to our presentation, we’re hoested a webinar on the Tivoli User Community called IBM Service Engage: The Criterion Collection.  Those of you who remember DVDs will remember that the criterion collection always shows the director’s cut of the movie with an option to watch it with director’s commentary on.  So we did something similar with Service Engage – doing a director and developer-tour of the site with the architect and the developers as they talk about the proccess of developing and deploying (and re-developing, and re-deploying production code as many as 20 times per day) the site. If you missed it, not to worry. The replay and slides can be found at the Tivoli User Community.

IBM Innovate itself is in Orlando.  aka Mickey Mouse Vahallah. Aka the hall of the mountain mouse.  I haven’t set foot on a disney property in 30+ years.  I have some photos around my house of the last visit- when I was actually  the same age my daughter is now.  There is not one single one where I’m actually smiling.  I’m always making that stressed out face that sensitive children make when they’re overstimulated and tuned in to the mounting adult tension around them.

Those of you who remember the run up to Pulse remember that I took my daughter and my mother with me to Las Vegas.  The natural question is whether they’ll be joining me in Orlando. Nope.  Given the fact that I got overwhelmed by Disney World while I was still sitting at my desk making the reservations for my room, I’m thinking it’s better for me to be a little more relaxed during the Chloe-meets-Disney-meltdown I’ll inevitably have to deal with during “go-live” trip where I take her.  Me encountering Disneyworld crowds at the same time she encounters the princesses in real life will make for some wrought memories, and I’m hoping for at least one happy picture when we go.

But check out what they sent me in the run up to my arrival.  It’s this thing called a MagicBand.  It’ll be my room key, my food pass, and theoretically if I was planning on going into the park itself, it would serve as a fast track pass as well.

wpid-img_20140521_094913.jpg

Well made and well packaged wearable tech can melt even the most cynical heart- and I knew this before it even showed up because I was actively tracking the package as it shipped.  So maybe this won’t be as traumatic as I assumed when I heard you had to book your shuttle from the airport in time to let them ship you customized luggage tags.

What am I up to at Innovate, you may ask?  Two things.  Expo Ped duty almost the entire time showing off IBM Service Engage version “Charlie.”  This will be a little less fancied up than our presence at Pulse, with no massage chairs to look forward to.  But the upside to this expo is that I get to wear jeans and a properly-sized “Think” t-shirt.  As long as my jeans aren’t ripped, I get to wear whatever else I want.   After years of bursting into tears at the site of my fleece Expo vest, not having to wear one is a massage in and of itself.

Ironically, though, as soon as I decided to staff the ped at Innovate, a speaking opportunity fell in my lap.  I’ll be co-presenting the IBM Service Engage devops case with Chuck Brant.  At 8:00am. On Wednesday. Not a typo- 8:00 in the A.M.  So you’re really a hero if you show up and will be in my good graces forever.  Details on the presentation can be found here: https://www-950.ibm.com/events/global/innovate/agenda/preview.html?sessionid=ICD-2432 .

I’ll be livetweeting the general sessions as well, so you can follow me @lizzrest if you want to check out what I have to say about that.

Wish me luck not getting overwhelmed at the World Headquarters of Mouse, Inc!

Social Media Flame Out Part II- What I learned.

The sharp eyed will notice that even the reasonably well composed tweets from Part I  had a particular aspect to them – the “.” in front of the “@” removed all filters from the tweets.  So instead of just blasting CVS I was blasting to all of my followers + CVS.  This was actually intentional, because that is what I had seen done when people I admire on Twitter attempt to take down some offending part of The Man that has transgressed over their line in the sand.  Make no mistake – I had that “on blast” as they say.  Unashamedly so.  A kind soul DM’ed me to inform me that I was doing that thing with the “.” and pissing off my followers.  He reminded me to breathe, and at that point I realized that not only was I out there wild and uncontrolled on the internet I was effectively doing it wrong.

The ridiculousness of that moment  grounded me more completely than any response from CVS could have.  I didn’t accept right away that the battle was over – it took a few minutes of nervous-flutter clicking and half-seriously debating a complete retweet of all of them before I cleared the field in defeat, tweeted a funny picture about “Punk Being Dad” and vowed to not interact with Twitter for the rest of the day.

It was also here I remembered I’d been up periodically with a sick child the past three nights, that sleep deprivation and various feelings were probably contributing to the fact I was that aggravated.  I decided to chuck the rest of the day as completely as I could and went to bed.

Two hours later I woke up with a start much like Dorothy did when her house landed in Oz. A sample of my internal monologue:

“That happened,” I thought to myself.  “I made an ass of myself on that level in front of the world.  This is why everyone hates social media! This is the end of me.  I’m going to go on Twitter and there’s going to be a  mocking hashtag of this event.  My phone’s voicemail is going to be full.  I bet someone at Gawker is preparing an expose article on how diabolically stupid I have been.  No one will be talking about US Airways after this one.”

Lesson One: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going notice what you do.

Including the tweet from one of my co-workers, there were precisely four responses to my Scorched Earth Tweet Freakout of 2014.

1) @grizfisher favorited my response to his tweet.

2) A friend of mine responded with an emoticon to my later apologies.

3) The kind soul with the DM.

The tweets, though annoying, were about .001% of what was happening on twitter alone at that point.  I lost precisely 1% of my followers which takes me back to the point I was over the weekend.  It’s not that I don’t love that 1% and regret their loss, but it’s hardly the end of the world.

Everyone’s heard of things going viral – effectively what happens when your stupidity (or brilliance, the knife cuts both ways) hatches and grows wings.  But there’s an extraordinary intersection of luck that contributes to that.  You most likely have to be messing with the actual twitter account of a name brand business.  It has to be sincerely offensive to at least one person, which was unlikely in the case of CVS.  While my time on the internet has taught me that there is someone out there who will argue for anything and anyone at any time, militantly Pro-CVS twitter followers are  going to be few and far between. I got lucky that whoever that was yesterday was out getting lunch when my time on their screen came up.  And then finally, what you’re sharing  needs to be actually be interesting enough to retweet and draw attention to.  Your odds of becoming the next sensation are small.

But, lesson two is remarkably similar to lesson one.

Lesson Two: On social media, only the people who actually know you are going to notice what you do.

I have managed up until this point in my life to fly reasonably below the radar with my ability to fly off the handle under circumstances of extreme provocation.  You have to basically  live in my home or be my boss for an extended period of time before something like that will happen.  And even then you’re pretty likely to agree with me in my own assessment of what went wrong.  However.  NOW PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS.  I have no ability to erase that whole episode and again, only people that I deal with in the real world are going to have noticed it.  The Venn diagram of oops, while overlapping not terribly with the world’s major media outlets, overlaps amazingly well with people I’d rather not have got involved.

As we are only about 48 hours post-event I cannot say for sure whether this will have harmed anyone’s long-term impression of me enough to hurt my employability.  I sincerely hope not, but there’s always a stray chance.  I cannot say for sure, because I don’t read minds, whether I have altered anyone’s long term impression of me enough to sincerely change whether they’d want to do business with me.  Again, I sincerely hope not.  As that which is done cannot be undone unless you were using gmail, there’ll be that chance for quite a while.  I will sit with that.

In the interim, let me reiterate what I said here:

Lesson Three: There are good people out there who don’t know you, and they’re watching out for you.

I trash talk the level of discourse on twitter at least once a day.  Yet the truth is that the Kind Soul who tweeted me directly and told me to knock it off could have not done it.  It was time out of his day, I was complete stranger, and there we were.  But he did it anyway.  That brings me  to why I’m not swearing off social media completely and forever.  Yesterday, someone looked out for me.  Today, I looked out for someone else- in a different way but still as part of a community.  For the moment I find the give and take of that process more valuable to me as a person – and in the long term to my brand – than total isolation.

P.S. I’m still waiting for a response from CVS.  When it comes I imagine it will sound something like, “Well, now, I bet that hurt.”

Social Media Flame Out Part I – Self Immolation

I can say honestly that I didn’t head into this episode with the intention of having a learning experience.  Or a quasi-journalistic one.  But in retrospect it’s embarrassing, and what else can you do except keep an embarrassing incident alive by dissecting it?

The Backstory

It should surprise none of my European readers (otherwise known as my in-laws)  that there are still  deeply profitable corporate loopholes the US’ health system.  One of them is prescription drugs.  As it happens, my prescription drug plan is owned and operated by one of the larger pharmacy chains, a place called CVS.  The obvious conflict of interest between making money on selling drugs and making money deciding what drugs should be dispensed and when should bother EVERYONE, but it doesn’t.

CVS’ power base is in the Eastern US.  It would make sense for someone selecting a drug plan in, say, Endicott, NY to think that there was nothing wrong with having to go pick up the odd prescription there, as they’re healthy thriving mini-grocery stores in that part of the country.  Outside of that corridor, they are something completely different.  About 10 years ago CVS purchased a local pharmacy chain called “Eckert’s” and as far as I can tell, promptly forgot about the entire group of them existed.  The result is that Texas’ CVS locations are wretched places, filled with foul smells and disorganization and desperately incompetent people.

To further complicate the situation, the way you refill  a prescription here is that the pharmacy sends a request via FAX to your doctor..  Most doctors won’t deal directly with a patient request for a new script, with the rationalization that the pharmacy probably knows best when they last a request for the same drug.  It’s part of a control system, and it also saves the doctor. having to chat with their patients every time they need a refill.

I have been fighting with the local CVS pharmacy for TWO YEARS to change the erroneous fax number they have for my doctor in their system.  TWO YEARS.

It has come to the point where I actively delay getting prescriptions.  I don’t have the time or energy to get angry with CVS for not having faxed a prescription when it was requested and not coming to the phone when I call them to explain why they didn’t do it and could they please pretend to do it again?  This fight has devolved several times into my calling the general manager of the store and complaining about  the head of the pharmacy department.  In short, please believe me when I say that I have paid my debt following the traditional means of complaining about a business.  Still the number is unchanged.

The Event

Tuesday I took my daughter to the doctor and discovered she had strep throat and a nasty ear infection.  There’s something about officially being diagnosed with being that sick that makes a child look as though they’re about to keel over.  It was in that vulnerable state that I brought her with me – as a solo parent I have no choice in these situations-  to pick up her antibiotic.

In retrospect a lot of what happened on this particular visit is not strictly the fault of CVS.  My daughter was wearing a princess costume and tiara that drew a lot of attention.  There was an acutely mentally ill man in the waiting area picking up a script.  My daughter kept lifting up the skirt of her dress and the intersection of glances between the three of us scared the living hell out of me.

In the backdrop, however, there was as always, a generalized chaos and the smell of body odor combined with unkempt bathroom wafting all over the pharmacy area.  The employees were busy arguing over something I never quite got the gist of but involved a diagnosis code and a problem because one was missing.  And we were waiting.  Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for these antibiotics and another script I had been foolish enough to think I could request and get in the same trip.

The mentally ill man got up and said what I think was, “Are you the lop-eared rabbit?” to me and I snapped.  Not at him, but at a combination of my daughter for her skirt antics and at the world as a whole and CVS in particular for just BEING there and serving as the pot and the broth for this shit stew I was stuck in.

Our drugs became ready.  We paid- NO I DON’T HAVE A CVS EXTRA CARE CARD- and we left.

Where Social Media gets involved.

My general policy when it comes to anger and my social media properties is the following.

1. Rant openly to your friends on Facebook. Show no mercy. Be creative.

2. Rant directly towards corporations on Twitter- without swearing – when provoked.

3.  If possible wait an hour to cool down before #2.  Does not apply to Airlines.

4.  Mop up the negative karma generated by #2 and #3 by taking the time to praise good customer service when it happens.  Applies double to Airlines.

You can tell here that I’m still operating under the fallacy that Facebook is private and Twitter is public, but in general I’m able to keep my dignity by following these rules.

Not so much here.   By the time I settled down into my chair to start working for the day I had, to paraphrase Ron White, “Spiraled into a dimension of pissed off I have never before been to in my life.”  I still knew I couldn’t swear personally,  as my twitter account is publicly  linked to my employment.  So I went a slightly different direction, which I’m going to call “Scorched Earth and Retweeting Swears”

I begin by establishing my Bona Fides:

At This point you can tell that I’m still pretty organized about the whole thing. Read: I’ve announced the format of my rant and I’m sticking to it.

Because who doesn’t want a HIPAA violation pointed out on the internet?

Things slide out of hand beginning with my attempt to blame others for my attack of bourgeois paranoia over the mentally ill man picking up his meds and talking to me.

At that point my rage at both the store and myself blinded me and I forgot exactly how long I had been dealing with this incompetence.  The time got cut in half because in that moment there had never been a point in my natural life where I had not been fighting with CVS nor would there ever again be a time when I wasn’t.  I was the F-16 and the fighter pilot of time’s air force.

And now we build to the crescendo, where their total lack of answer to what at that point had been a pretty square rant drove me to suspect – correctly that I was talking to a brick wall.

And trust me this is where anyone following this at all would have lost any sympathy..  Because what I did then was search “CVS sucks” and retweet every single universally applicable tweet with that phrase in it dating back to 2008. I have no idea how many tweets this actually was and while I’m not above dissecting my bad behavior I’m not self-actualized enough to know the facts in that exact a detail.

And then we hit my favorite moment in any internet argument that I’m not a part of: CAPSCAPSCAPS.

And then I waited. On CVS. Again. Nothing.  Not so much as a disdainful referral to another account.  Not so much as a burp..

So I again, further alienating anyone who had until that point hung on out of some distant memory of when I used to tweet anything of value,  repeated the search with”CVS blows” and retweeted the same volume and history of tweets.

Oy.

So in Part II, I apologize and we discuss this as a learning experience.

Lizards, Snakes and Crocodiles: Reptilian Behavior and the Business Ecosystem

Perhaps it’s just one of the hazards of paying attention, but there’s been a real streak of crappy dude-bro behavior percolating through my twitter feed this week. Racism. Sexual Harassment. Violence. Sometimes a swirl of all three.  Each piece of it has taken one more bit of my hope for humanity.  But each one of them has two common elements- each situation involves a reptilian brain and presents a study in how an ecosystem handles a predator who’s gotten out of hand.

Don Sterling is a lizard. One of those scaly dry ones that creep around your lounge chair in Cancun and lurk at the opening of their nest by the hot tub. Your hard earned leisure time crosses paths with his alpha-lizard domain, and up until this weekend it was either avoid the hot tub altogether or accept that you were relaxing right on top of his lair.

Tom Preston-Warner is a snake. I’m not sure whether his wife was one by birth or if she just learned how to speak Parsel-tongue while trotting around in boots cobbled out of his molted skin. It doesn’t really matter. Github has snake-eggs in lurking in its pipes, poisonous ones that you might never actually see, but are hatching and thriving right where you wash your face and hands. According to urban legend, there might even be one in your toilet bowl right now. But who wants to jettison Github in their day-to-day life when it happens to be where it’s at? More specifically, can you even get your code out of there once it’s in?

Gurbaksh Chahal is a crocodile. Strictly speaking that’s also a lizard, but far more frightening, as it’s strong enough to kill people and housepets and slither away. There was TAPE on this motherfucker. Actual video tape of him actually beating the hell out of his girlfriend in an argument they both acknowledge happened. He’s had felony charges pending on him since August. But the board of Radium was paralyzed into doing nothing until this weekend, when they were evidently shocked  to discover that there an admitted crocodile in their midst and they fired him.

Here’s the kicker: We only know about these reptiles because one fluke or another caused a reversal in the food chain. For each one of these guys there are 100s, possibly even 1000s that we never see. Why do businesses abide reptiles? Because as with any food chain, disruption incurs chaos, especially when it comes from below.   A visual reminder of how rare this actually is can be seen here.  For those who don’t remember it, it’s the video of a lion pride being thwarted in eating a tiny antelope by, well, pretty much the entire inhabitants of a pond.

Barring nature tipping the scales over on itself, the question of whether forcibly  removing one of the predators from the pond will cause greater harm than good – financially, morally, or otherwise – is always weighing one  side of the scale heavier than we want to believe. In each one of these organizations, in addition to what is undoubtedly hundreds of bruised people, there are hundreds of employed people who don’t want to lose their jobs.

This weekend’s urging of the Clippers’ players to boycott or otherwise break with their contracts would have resulted in their being fired. There was no, “I won’t work for a lizard” clause in any of their contracts. The lizard only got evicted from underneath the spa because bigger predators – read the Clippers’ sponsors, inspired by the collective fury of the NBA’s players and fans – figured out his nest was a threat to their young. Even now, as impressed as we all are with Adam Silver, there are still murmurs about whether getting rid of Don Sterling was too big of a disruption to the ecosystem during the Clippers’ playoff season. There’s also no small amount of fear about whether the lizard will come back.

Mother nature abhors chaos, and so does any ecosystem, no matter how brutish. It will always act to protect the status quo, however it has to. Github’s complete nonpology as a result of their silly internal investigation is a prime example. And it’s awful. Julie Ann Horvath was by most accounts exactly the kind of woman you want working in an entrepreneurial environment, a follower of the “just make awesome stuff and gender doesn’t matter” philosophy that women in tech have been fed for decades.  I’m paraphrasing – It’s not just awful, it’s scary, and it was discussed here in eloquent detail here.  Even after all of that, though, who truly wants to see Github disappear? Can you gut an organization to its  foundation, which is what would most likely have to happen to truly clear out its evident cultural problems, and expect it to regenerate the way you want?

And then finally we come back to Mr. Chahal, as unrepentant a reptile possible, still threatening women (https://twitter.com/karaswisher in now-deleted tweets.), still blaming others for the fact that he got fired, (same convo, now deleted) and still gaslighting everything in a 20 ft radius of his slimy tail. How does business handle it when the predator at the head of the board is shameless as well as reptilian? You get what happened at Radium, where everyone was held in stasis as the public waited for what everyone knew was the right thing to be done . And again, like Don Sterling, it’s not 100% certain he’s really gone. It’s unclear whether Chahal still has a majority stake in the company, and whether he still stands to profit mightily if the business does recover from his firing and goes on to do an IPO.

So…it’s depressing. There will always be reptiles. There will always be unrepentent predators in the workplace. Maybe today shouldn’t be about wringing our hands but more about examining two things – the food chain itself and the brave men and women who fought against it in these three instances. The more we support the fighters – those who don’t go quietly and don’t accept the pecking order as it always has been- the more there will be. And the system will have no choice – no matter how long the arc- to change. So here is to them. And to us, the warm blooded mammals of the world.

IBM Design Camp: An Adventure in Sketchnoting

This one was just awesome.I spent last week at IBM Design Camp with the development and PLM teams for IBM Service Engage.  I’ve been dying to go since the IBM Design center opened in Austin.  An age and a half ago I wrote my master’s report on Agile Development Methodologies and User Centered Design, so I’m giddy to see them in action, working together.

Dress patternOne of my personal projects this year is developing my Sketchnoting skills. I’m a big notetaker in general, but there are always doodles.  Without guidance I tend to either draw eyes or pyramids. Neither of these – however delicately drawn – really help maintain my attention span. So sktechnoting would seem to be a natural fit if I actually want to listen to what I’m sitting through.  I bought a Pogo stylus for my iPad,  but I’ve been struggling to get going with it, largely out of a sense of feeling…I don’t know. Outclassed by the blank sheet of paper?  I got into a Sketchnoting course at SXSWi, though, which gave me a boost of confidence and some practice.  Design Camp was the first real world test.

I think I captured that element of surprise well.  Since the secret sauce of Design Camp is still…secret, I’m just going to share my favorite sketches, not the full notes from the class.  I am now really a believer in the power of Sketchnotes, though. Not only was I interested enough to go back through my notes and add things, but the sketching warmed me up to do the design exercises…which I can’t share either.*

Presented here, with commentary, are the disembodied sketches.  I’m going to mess with the slideshow as best I can to get it to slow down, but in case I fail…read fast or hover at the bottom to pause it.

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* Okay, not kidding. I put an emoticon in here and it actually placed big cheery yellow happy face instead of the standard colon + parenthesis.  There is nothing worse than a fully realized emoticon in the middle of a page of sketches.  Just tacky.

Millennial Impulsivity: How to Stop Hating and Engage for the Long Term

A few weeks ago I published did a post about intergenerational politics, specifically between boomers and millennials.  Things have evolved since then, so the time has come to reheat it a bit.

First, the New York Times broke with their streak of millennial shade throwing and published a more-scientifically backed article than mine about how each generation pretty much hates their grandkids’ wok ethic, dating back to ancient Rome.  You can read that one at your leisure here.

Second, I spent the better part of 5 days at South By Southwest Interactive trying to suss out more substantive data on millennial engagement than I’d been able to track down.  And by data, maybe I’m using the wrong word.  Something less quantitative and more qualitatively concrete, non prescriptive and non-outsider based.

There were a couple of false starts.  One, never take the time to go to a session headlined by an actress who is promoting a movie.  When people are passionate about things they’re not actually there to talk about, things go down a rathole fast.  Two, pretty much anyone who starts up with millennials in the third person is probably about to read from the existing Media-Vs.-Millennial script.  I’ve already discussed why it is I find that unproductive to the work of building a community.

I have started to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a guidebook as to how to engage a millennial audience.  No panel, no book, etc. is ever going to overcome the “outside advice” obstacle.  However, the third panel, “Do you even know how to engage a millennial” – lead by Brian Reich of Little M Media and Kari Dunn Saratovsky of KDS Strategies– had a point of view that was a great deal more nuanced and on-point than I’d seen thus far.

I’ve struggled with trying to “blogify” the collected points from this panel for weeks.  Time and events wait for no man, so  I’m giving up that struggle and just presenting them  – and my thoughts – in blended bullet form.

  •  Too often we place labels on this generation, when in fact they came of age in a time of incredible change. Accelerated change has had a huge impact on this generation, more so than others.  Examples being experience of events like 9/11, Katrina, and the 2008 election at a young age.
  • Most diverse generation – 43% are people of color.  A very large percentage of those are Hispanic.
  • Also an extraordinary age range, creates number of cohorts. Younger ones graduating college, older ones married with kids
  • Why is it that everyone loves to hate millennials? Because they make organizations work hard for limited time, limited dollars and limited attention spans
  • The extent to which a millennial will get excited about a product is directly related to the genuineness and directness of experience
  • Millennials are not going to take your word for it that this is a great product or important news event. [It’s going to take more than generational print]

Who do millennials really trust? The short answer is “not that many people.”  Innately they  trust their closest circle of family and friends. They trust people they have never met but have credentials.  Latter trust is almost a red herring for those who do communication – that trust is fleeting. Won’t take much to undermine it.  This is the first part of why we struggle to sell to millennials.  There’s an excellent radar for the genuine with this group, and the act of selling  struggles with authenticity.

  • Second part of why we struggle to sell to millennials – delayed purchases.  Graduating 10k dollars in debt, underemployed means that they are not doing the normal “coming of age” purchases, such as homes and cars.
  • Very careful about large ticket items. It’s not just the economy…need to reach a threshold of genuine.
  • Not going to see an ad and impulse buy
  • Need to be able to act on fact finding impulses right away, need direct impact of time, energy and dollars

First, it’s key to note that the demand for on demand is not exclusive to millennials- we have all been transformed by amazon.com style buying expectations.  No longer are we willing to sit and wonder what out catalogue purchases are “really” going to look like when they eventually  show up.  We expect to be able to scope them out from every angle, read customer reviews, and then click a single button and know that it’ll be sitting at our door stop within 48 hours.

Impulsivity, however, comes in two forms.  There’s the impulse to buy, and the impulse to act.  There’s no such thing as a product without a website – even if the product doesn’t yet fully exist.  Beta sites – where you can learn everything there is to know about a product and then join a waiting list to get it when it comes out – abound.  We need to know everything immediately.  We need to be coaxed into buying.  This distinction is key when we think about how to harness impusivity.  We use the need to know as the opening gambit to create a relationship between consumer and brand.  And we continue to delivery on that promise as we work to seal the deal.

  • First touch, expect to spark a relationship, don’t expect purchases.
  • The purchase is getting engaged and getting married – lot more work to create a relationship. No one night stands  Take opportune moments to advance relationships. May be in for a relationship that will take time

Probably the best metaphor of the panel involved molecules.  Molecules, full of energy, have a tendency to bounce off each other. The call to action here is that we hardness the energy of these molecules bumping off each other into a cause.

The short of how you engage a millennial: Recognize that they are cause and idea driven, vs. being driven by institution.   Your product [or services] needs to lay out a clear relationship between purpose and action –  Here is how you take action, get involved and stay involved.  No narrative that starts and stops with purchase will be viable.

 

We Are the Ones We’ve Been Taught Not to Wait For: On Shanesha Taylor and Caring Communities.

I have been distraught for Shanesha Taylor since I first saw her mug shot. I feel as though there is such a thin and unfair line between her situation and mine. This quote, especially, hits very hard:
“Many single parents learn early to keep their heads down, their challenges quiet, their desperate moments secret. We are taught that work must take precedence over everything else, that self-reliance may have to come at the expense of a sound mind or safety for our children. “

beyond baby mamas

Image

Last week, a black single mother dominated the national news cycle. In her mug shot, plastered above many a think-piece headline, Shanesha Taylor’s tear-soaked cheeks and emptied eyes were offered to the world as a kind of apology, a kind of explanation, a kind of platform. The reading and viewing public was all too happy to fill in the blanks. At first, she spoke to us only through the police who arrested her for leaving her sons, ages 2 and 6 months, in a hot car with the windows cracked in Scottsdale, Arizona. She left them for approximately 45 minutes, while she interviewed for a job. According to Sgt. Mark Clark of the Scottsdale Police: “She said she was homeless, she needed the job. Obviously, not getting the job. So it’s just a sad situation.”

This got the wheels of the commentariat grinding. Black single mothers are popular grist for…

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