#2017#


I stand amazed at the love, kindness, and generosity the universe bestowed on me this year. The victories were tremendous. Except for a few notable setbacks, I was watched over, cared for, and loved, unlike any other year in recent times. Given all that happened to me in 2015, I spent 2016 recovering and rebuilding my life. I am humbled at the way things came full circle this year, a very fitting culmination of the past two.

I’m so grateful for the life. I will affirm, things are only getting started. When I look back on the memories, it’s hard not to write down a few of the favorite ones; women’s March in Manhattan, successful aneurysm repair surgery and six month follow up report, two 5k events for charity, first helicopter ride, started a business, invested in the stock market, visited three countries and 20+ cities, first book collaboration, acquired a platform to bring my message to the world, Jill Scott in concert, a new hobby (painting), Elephant Nature Park, live taping of a talk show, OWO, the stranger who paid my bill, mobster museum, Downton Abbey exhibition, Ancestry DNA, Magazine Contributing Writer, Suzy visiting, met Deon, ship inspection, Capitol Hill, and recently secured a new job, with an almost 50% increase in salary…… the list goes on.

In a few short hours, a brand new year will be knocking on our doors. What are you most excited about? What plans do you have, that’s destined to set your soul on fire? I’m looking forward to projects already in the works, books to come forward, the first of many public speaking engagements, countries to visit, people to meet, and the love I will experience. Friends, if you only remember a few words from this post, please take with you the following; do not fear failure, but fear being in the same place next year, as you are now. Please know the best is yet to come. Don’t rely on anyone or anything to validate you. Finally, if you stumble (and we all do), make it a part of the dance.

Wishing you and your loved ones, the very best 2018 has to offer!

Ten years from now, make sure you can say that you chose your life, and didn’t settle for it”

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

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ขอบคุณสำหรับความทรงจำที่ประเทศไทย!


Typical Day At Elephant Nature Park

A week ago, I was saying teary goodbyes to a group of like-minded folks. We volunteered for a week, supporting a cause, greater than any of us. We cleaned elephant poo from their enclosures, built walkways, went on to cement our initials in the freshly poured concrete, bathe them (so much fun!) prepared food and fed them, unloaded multiple fruit trucks, collected firewood to build fires when they were cold, and cried while listening to the stories of their rescue. The week was topped off, when we sat in the presence of Pioneer and Elephant Whisperer, Lek, as she detailed the work she has been involved in. It was an emotional time; exchanging warm hugs, thank you’s, email addresses and phone numbers, vowing to see one another again in the coming years. We all recognized the path we had just traveled. No one wanted to leave. Our time at Elephant Nature Park had changed us, individually and collectively.

When I told people I was embarking on a solo trip to Thailand, more than 8K miles away, to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary for a week, I got two distinct reactions; the looks of complete dismay and fear (their own), when they asked “You are going by yourself?!” “But why?” And of course, the free-spirited, open-minded ones who gleefully exclaimed: “Omg that is absolutely amazing! Safe travels, and take care of yourself!” I had always wanted to do a volunteer vacation, and after much research, and preparation, I found myself jetting off on the 32-hour journey to the mountains of Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand.

One of the self-discoveries I made earlier this year, is that Elephants are my spirit animal. My wish to get to know these gentle giants was fueled even more, when I came across a heated discussion on social media. Someone posted a photo of themselves riding an elephant, and the “PETA” folks came at her, hard. I decided to go to place where I could learn, grow, and help in this awareness. When you visit a circus, ride an elephant, see them painting or begging in the streets, you could never imagine the cruel process, they must endure, in order to be ready to for what you see.

A little education. Not long after an elephant (in captivity) cow gives birth, the babies are taken away. The mother doesn’t get to raise them. Elephants are very sociable animals, and live in groups. They take care of one another; have excellent memories, and experience joy, sadness, and grief. They even cry real tears. Soon, the elephant must go through a week-long Phajan, aka, Elephant Crushing phase, which is intended to break its spirit, and eventually force it to do the will of the trainers. Babies have been known to step on their trunks, and kill themselves, as sometimes the treatment is too much for them. We watched five minutes of a heart wrenching documentary, and within seconds I was a puddle of mush. I will update the post, when I remember the name. I wept through the entire thing.

An elephant can live up to 80-100 years old. They often have multiple owners, and will work for, five, six or more decades. A lucky few are rescued by an organization like Elephant Nature Park. Lek, has been interviewed many times by major news networks, and received multiple awards for her work in their rescue and rehabilitation. The sanctuary allows them live the rest of their lives, free to wander, and do as they please.

I spent a great deal of time researching the facility, as not all sanctuaries are created equal. Some still allow tourists to ride elephants, and other forms of industry. Elephant Nature Park is completely saddle off, and as of next year, tourists and volunteers will no longer be able to touch them. A fact which made the time there, even more memorable, to be a part of the last set of volunteers, allowed to intimately interact with them in this way.

I cannot begin to encapsulate the emotions and experiences. Breakfast is at 7 every morning, and one day, I woke early to enjoy the last bit of sunrise. I sat down on the balcony to breathe in the fresh mountain air. Moments later, a few feet below, at least four elephants, and their mahouts strolled leisurely by. Where else could I go and have this type of heart stopping experience?! I will forever treasure my time and experiences there.

I want to share a brief story of one of the “eles”, whose care I will be following, as her story affected me deeply. Her name is Dalah. She was rescued a few months ago, from an owner who force bred her, Basically, she was chained to was chained up, and bull elephants tried to get her pregnant. In the process, she suffered a dislocated elbow, torn ligaments, and was being treated for abscesses. The owners would finally agree to release her, but for a price. She now walks very slowly, with a noticeable limp, and uses her trunk to help take the pressure off her injured leg. The project was in the midst of building a therapy pool, to help with her recovery.

Derek, Lek’s husband, was guarded, when our group asked if she was going to make it. We all hoped she did. She was on large daily doses of Tramadol, light therapy, and massages. She spent most of her time in the enclosure to prevent her injuries from getting worse. Dipor, another elephant and friend, visits her very often, to check on her well-being. The park suspected she might pregnant, but it couldn’t be confirmed for a little while longer. All in all, she was holding on, despite everything. I remember whispering to this beautiful creature, the words” I’m so sorry”. She had every reason not to trust humans, but she remains as loving as ever.

Nothing could have prepared me for this most beautiful of experiences. I went in with no expectations or preconceptions. A week later, I left with phenomenal new friends, a humbled heart, and a profound sense of gratitude for what I witnessed, and been a part of. Furthermore, my hope was renewed by the people working hard every single day, to give rescued elephants, the life they should be living. Despite, the cruelties they have suffered, some do live the rest of their lives in peace.

So what can we do? Well, if you love animals, please do not support this type of industry. Once the need for riding, painting, street begging etc is no longer paid for by tourists, then the industry eventually go out of practice. I understand people must make a living, and in their minds, feeding their families comes first. However, they existed before this practice. Education is the key here. Through Lek, many businesses are slowly turning huge corners. However, there is so much work to be done. If you are not moved by anything in this post, then seek that which sets your soul on fire!

While elephants are the main reasons people visit the sanctuary, there are more than four hundred dogs up for adoption, as many cats, some rescued horses, pigs, water buffaloes etc. I found joy in watching elephant families interact, babies stealing bananas (their favorite food), the cat who sat on my lap for hours, the village school we visited, and whose many industries we supported. The children, some as young as three, who performed for us during our last dinner hour. Once my time at the sanctuary was over, the land of smiles would continue to deliver, over and over; from the world-renowned temples I walked through, visiting the Golden Triangle, crossing into the Thailand/Myanmar border, spending time the Akka Hill Tribe, and so much more! For more info about the projects, visit Elephant Nature Park

Come next year, I will be back into the volunteer vacation habit. Mama Africa has been calling my name for a very long time, it’s about time I answered.

I sincerely hope you make the most of what’s left of 2017. This past year has been so favorable and kind to me, it has succeeded in wiping out a disastrous 2016. Euphoric feelings have often enveloped my entire being, as an abundant universe reminded me, that I am loved and worthy. True happiness can only come from within. I know the reasons behind my smile. I’m putting the finishing touches to several noteworthy projects, due to be released next year, and couldn’t be more excited!

My prayer is for each of us to find joy in life. To understand what Atticus meant when he said these profound, yet simple words “Don’t give up now. Chances are your best kiss, your hardest laugh, and your greatest day, are still yet to come”

See you in a few weeks.

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#praisereport#


Photo: Pexels

If you follow my blog, you will know in late 2015, I was diagnosed with a Carotid Aneurysm. Last Thursday, a little over 6 months’ post op, I had a follow up MRA, then an  appointment with the Surgeon. The wait was about 20 minutes, but it seemed to have gone on forever. Now, this time after post op, is very critical. There are two outcomes; another follow-up surgery is needed, or you are healing properly, in which case, then it’s another MRI/A in about a year. Other than the Anesthesiologist who woke me up in March, after my 3.5-hour procedure with the words “Wake up Miss Williams. Your surgery was a success”, I’ve never heard sweater words, except when the Surgeon said to me last week “Your MRA looks great. You are healing in the manner we hope….” His words trailed off, as the burden lifted.

Today, I simply want to say again THANK YOU VERY MUCH. The thoughtful souls who organized prayer vigils and fasts for me. Carried out prayer chains. The office staff at my former employer, in the 305, who gathered at the time I was supposed to be wheeled into surgery, to pray for me. The ones who followed up to see how I am doing; you each have contributed to my life, in ways I can only hope, that I spend the rest of it, being grateful and paying it forward. And when I forget to do so, the minute I remember, I would correct my actions immediately. If I didn’t reach out to let you know of these developments, hopefully, you know me well enough to know, that I meant nothing by doing so. I thought long and hard, before telling anyone to begin with. I generally handle my trials, the only way I know how; with my God given strength, as much grace as I can muster, and the knowledge that if I was brought to it, HE will help me get through it. I just felt this was too much for my tired shoulders, at the time. I have no doubt, at some point or another, each of us, will need nothing short of a huge miracle to change the trajectory of our lives!

I have always had a great respect and reverence for life, but since March, it has been amplified, something akin to a steroidal influence! I no longer wonder and worry about experiences I should have, places I want to visit, and things I welcome into my life. I make better choices in my relationships, and jobs/careers I pursue. I KNOW things can change in a minute. All I have is now. I will try not to worry about the scan I need to have in a year, if and when I come to this bridge, I will cross it. Friends, if this post does nothing else for you, I would hope you at least realize, that if you haven’t started walking in your identity, and living your best life, then, what are you waiting for?!

 

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

#reblog#


Greetings Friends!

I follow several bloggers here at WP, sometimes a post resonates deeply with me, that I feel compelled to share. If you are still struggling to come to terms with who you are, take a few minutes to read the message below. I was there a few years ago.

I’m working on securing a platform to educate, inspire, and motivate. I hope to bring my message to millions. Its going to be an exciting few months!

Photo Credit: lbryan (Bigstock) Around the time I turned 40, I became acutely aware of the passage of time. Imagine that. So, I’ve spent much of the past year trying to make the most of it. For instance, several weeks ago, I was planning to take advantage of a gorgeous weekend by camping out in…

via The Life-Altering Decision to Love Your Limitations — UnTangledUnTangled

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

The Powers Of Heaven.


Dear Readers,

I hope this post finds you well. I remain grateful for your support and visits. The growth I have experienced through this platform has been tremendous.

At some point in our lives, each of us, regardless of our belief system, must call upon a higher power to intervene on our behalf. The circumstances are usually extenuating. We are driven to ask for protection, strength, guidance, and deliverance, either for ourselves or loved ones. Permit me to share one such experience today. In late 2015, I shared with you my diagnosis. Part of the reason for being in USA, was to have this looked into. I had to seek other medical opinions, and give myself the best chance for coming out okay.

My type of aneurysm is caused by three things: smoking, family history of aneurysms, and uncontrolled high blood pressure. I don’t smoke, and there is no family history, anywhere. All the specialists I saw agreed the diagnosis was caused by untreated high blood pressure. In the two years leading up to my diagnosis, I somehow made it through the most emotionally charged, and incredibly stressful time in my life, to date. My blood pressure spiraled out of control. I often visited the GP; saw different doctors, who didn’t see it fit to put me on medication, until it was too late. The reason? After several tests, the high blood pressure was caused by the stress. Hindsight is indeed foresight; I should have insisted they put me on something. However, all I could think of during this time, was avoiding a nervous breakdown. I came close. I never thought it would come to this. I’m here now.

Back to the issue at hand. The diagnosis is life threatening, the surgery incredibly high risk. I consulted two different neurosurgeons here, and had more imaging. The advice was the same; due to your age, the location, and size of the aneurysm, I should have the procedure. Sooner or later I would need to. For months, I weighed the risks of waiting and watching, versus surgery. The younger I was when I had the procedure, the better my chances were in the long-term. If the aneurysm did rupture, it could result in death, profound handicap, or minimal disability. Furthermore, there was also a chance it wouldn’t rupture for years. However, as the years passed, the chance of a rupture increases. There was no telling what would happen.

Less than a month ago, I decided to go for it. I was encouraged by the fact that, the surgeon I chose, was well-known and highly skilled. The hospital is ranked in the top ten in the USA. People from all over the country, and the world, chose this facility for the procedure I needed (balloon assisted coiling). I needed divine intervention more than ever. I’ve never doubted my family and friends love for me. Wouldn’t you know, they had people (some of them strangers) in more than seven countries praying for me? Talk about eternal gratitude.

I once worked for a medical practice in Florida. I remained in touch with them, and even closer with one particularly kind, loving, and gentle soul. Two weeks before my procedure, while at a retreat, she asked for a special prayer chain to be carried out on my behalf. She didn’t stop there; at the exact time, I was supposed to be heading into surgery, she arranged for the doctors and the entire office staff to come together to offer up even more prayers. With so many cries going up on my behalf, I truly felt I would be taken care of. If you’re one of the many who cared enough to pray for my well-being, THANK YOU. To those who followed up, and is still following up to see how I’m getting on, again THANK YOU. For the rest of my life, I will not forget your simple acts of kindness!

I remember looking at my family one last time before being wheeled into the operating room. I could see the fear in their eyes. It’s not hard to imagine what was reflected in mine. However, we all hoped the prayers would be heard. Hours later, the Anesthesiologist woke me up and stated: “Wake up, wake up Miss Williams, your surgery was a success”. I’ve never heard sweeter words! An overnight stay in the ICU, is the status quo for this type of surgery. My mom and sister stayed with me the entire time. I was discharged the next day. Recovery is what it is. My mum took two weeks off work to take care of me post op. I didn’t want for anything! Today, certain physical activities are limited. I’ll need periodic MRI’s, which will eventually be faded out. The Surgeon has assured me, that in a few months I should be back to normal. It’s more than I can ask for, considering the circumstances.

I realize I am one of the blessed and lucky ones. Aneurysms are often asymptomatic. In my case, it was discovered while investigating something else. When aneurysms rupture, the majority of people die. Others suffer life changing cognitive and physical disabilities. The extremely lucky few have few handicaps. A friend told me “Your work on earth isn’t completed yet” She is right. A large number of people prayed for me. God listened, and answered.

My dear readers and followers, I know sometimes it seems you’ll never get through a particular trial. The road you’ve been asked to travel is long and hard. Please don’t give up. I’ve been there, often enough. There is hope and help available. I’ll be celebrating another earth strong day next week. Two years ago, I made the decision to live my truth. Subconsciously, I must have seen this test coming. Every minute counts. I have a million and one reasons to celebrate life, love, happiness, and everything in between. There is no doubt, each and every future accomplishment will be memorialized.

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile” Unknown.

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan

 

#Whenwerise#


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Photo: Your Beautiful Life

A year ago this week, I was living in the UK, driving to work, when I collided with a cyclist. It was the most horrible experience one can have. I was in a state. The events seem to be happening to someone else, as I looked on. I remember getting out of my car, which was parked in the middle of the street, walking over to the cyclist, asking if he was okay, and falling apart. I just couldn’t handle it. A small crowd had already gathered. While we waited for the police to arrive, the cyclist and I talked for a bit. HE was trying to console me, even joking about the situation, in an effort to find some humor. He was a kind man. The majority of British people are. Thankfully, he didn’t need to be hospitalized. Cyclists/car drivers incidents in Bristol are alarming.

Where am I going with this, you wonder? Well, I will get to that. As I sat on the cold pavement waiting, a lovely, kind, and compassionate lady, Theresa, who was on her way to work, and saw the entire incident, came over to comfort me. As we spoke, she gently rubbed my shoulders. Thinking about the incident now, moves me to tears. One kind stranger, helping another. I apologized for keeping her from going about her business, to which she replied “It’s okay my dear. Please don’t worry about it.” She would later share that she did have a meeting to attend, but she felt like she was needed there. I was floored.

Amidst all the mayhem, I had forgotten to take my jacket out of the car, and was only reminded how cold it was, when yet another kind stranger, came up to me, and asked if she could buy me a cup of tea. I looked into her gentle features; the concern on her face was unmistakable. At my nod of consent, she walked away to the nearest café shop. All I could utter upon her return was a “Thank you”. She smiled warmly at me, wished me all the best, and told me she had to be off to work. My attitude was one of immense gratitude.

Present day: I’m in the NYC at this time. Public transportation is the way forward. A few months ago, I was on the select bus; one stop away from my place of abode. As passengers boarded the bus, I heard a young lady, a few rows behind me, pleading with the passenger next to her, to call emergency services. I have medical training, so of course my antennas went up. She was in acute physical distress. I got up from my seat and approached her. The passenger by this time, had moved ahead to tell the driver of the medical emergency. She was sweating profusely, vomiting, and had a “glazed” look in her eyes.

I asked the normal questions; name, date, where she was, etc. She was lucid and aware of her surroundings. I spoke to her in soothing tones, asked her to hang in there, as help was on the way. I assured her that I would stay with her until EMS arrived. By this time, another young lady, who later identified herself as a nurse, had joined us. I briefly checked towards the driver’s seat, and was stunned to see the bus was empty! All the passengers had vacated, and got on their way. New York is the best city in the world; it can also be a harsh at times! I didn’t have time to process anything else.

The nurse and I stayed with the ill passenger until rescue came. We kept talking to her in an effort to keep her calm and reassured. We told her the medical professionals in the hospital would take good care of her, and she will be okay. I offered her the tissues I was holding to mop the sweat off her face. I asked her for the phone number to a family member. The person who answered was ever so grateful that someone reached out to let her know a family member was ill. After EMS departed, I called the family member again to let her know where she was being taken. I thought about this young lady over the next several days. I hoped she was okay, and that her medical issues were sorted out on time.

I share this story for two reasons; the incident left an indelible impression on me, and we have a responsibility to pay it forward. Earlier in the year, strangers recognized I was in a bad way, and because of their kindness, a burden was made lighter. Months later, a situation offered me the opportunity, to be of comfort to someone one else.  At home later that night, I thought about the young woman, nurse, and the bus driver, all whose paths crossed with mine. I was never happier to be in the right place at the right time.

We all want better for ourselves, and hopefully the same for others. Paying it forward results in mutually shared joy, and keeps the flame of hope burning in people. Creating ripples of kindness helps to make the world, “a better place, for you, me, and the entire human race”. Life is a continuum. Sometimes it’s not about you or me. Life can deal shitty hands at times. Yet, we often find ourselves s in a position to save someone or vice versa. We are able to learn the mechanics of reciprocity, when stand together and rise.

 

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan

Obama, Thank You!


Video : You tube

Obama’s last day in office was yesterday. Last week, I tuned in to watch his final address to the nation. Cried like a damn baby. A grown woman. I couldn’t help it. I suspect I wasn’t alone. Regardless of how anyone feels about him personally, he loves his family. The tribute to Michelle, Sasha, and Malia, was emotional, heartfelt, and loving. # relationshipgoals#

I wanted to use this forum, to thank the man, who has led America for the past eight years.  A man globally respected. One who never lost his cool, or stoop to the level, of those who attacked him and his family. A man who has brought about change, and helped so many believe “Yes, You Can”. I can’t begin to list his accomplishments. The accolades are many. THANK YOU VERY MUCH, MR. PRESIDENT.

Thank you isn’t nearly enough. I’m ever so grateful, I lived to witness history. Below is Obama’s final letter to the nation.

My fellow Americans,

It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers — and found grace in a Charleston church.

I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’

Yes, we can.”

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

I Am Me.


learning-how-to-speak-my-truth(Photo Credit : veganyogalife)

In the recent past, I’ve discovered, and fell in love with a few authors. They give new meaning to the word FABULOUS.  I’m drawn to the ways in which they express themselves. Raw. Unapologetic. Authentic. Below is another piece from the incomparable Janne Robinson. I see so much of myself in the words and phrases below. I make no apologies for how I feel. You shouldn’t either.

If you’re either easily offended or prudish, with all the kindness and respect I can convey here, it’s best if you carry on, now.

This is for the women who don’t give a f**k. The women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. The women who drink too much whisky, stay up too late and have sex like they mean it. The women who know they aren’t sluts because they enjoy sex, but human beings with a healthy sexual appetite. The women who will ask you for what they need in bed.

This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. The ones who wear “night make up” in the morning or don’t own mascara.

The women who know their worth, who plant their feet and roar in their brilliance. The women who aren’t afraid to tell a man to get the f**k out of her heart if he doesn’t honour her heart. This is for the women who rock combat boots with frilly skirts.

The women who swear like truck drivers. The women who hold the people who harass or wrong them with fierce accountability. The women who flip gender norms and false limitations the bird and live to run successful companies giving “the man” a run for his name. The ones who don’t find their success a compliment just because they have a vagina.

Women like Gloria Steinem who, when she was told, “We want a writer, not a woman. Go home,” kept writing anyway. This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. For the women who open doors for men and are confident enough to have doors opened for them.

Who use “no” to be in service for themselves. Who don’t give a damn about pleasing the world, and do sweetly as they wish. For the superheroes—the single moms who work three jobs to make it. I salute your resilient, cape-flapping, ambitious selves.

This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. The women who know how to be busy and know how to plant their feet in the earth and get grounded. These are the women I want around me.

Whoever you are. However you choose to express your truth. Live it. Love it. Celebrate who you are!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan

No Man Is Free….


A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling is detained by law enforcement near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Yesterday, in a city I called home for more than a decade, news outlets showed footage of a black man, lying on his back in the street, hands in the air. He was trying to explain to police, the situation unfolding around him. Police showed up, to investigate reports of a suicidal person with a “gun”, and saw a black Behavioral Therapist with his white autistic patient, who was holding a toy truck. He was out walking with his client. Despite the volatile situation, the therapist can be heard trying to calm his patient, to prevent the situation from becoming even more dangerous.

The autistic man is sitting on the ground, a few inches away from the black man. One cop discharged his firearm, and shot the black man in his leg, multiple times. Coincidentally, the one who “posed” a threat by holding the toy truck / which looked like a “gun” wasn’t harmed. The therapist was then handcuffed, and left bleeding on the sidewalk for more than 20 minutes, before being taken to the hospital. When the victim asked why he was shot, the cop allegedly responded “I don’t know”. Current mantra states; do as you’re told, keep your hands up, obey police orders, and you won’t get shot. The cop and his superior’s excuse? He was aiming for the “armed” autistic man, but missed. Mind you, the cop is a SWAT member. Laughable!

I cannot begin to write about the number of incidents of racial profiling in America. I’ve also watched reports of a few brave cops in NY, who have spoken out about the pressure to make arrests. All in the name of quotas.  It’s not uncommon for them to go into the vulnerable communities, and literally hunt for people to arrest. Cops know they can easily pull over a minority for a license plate infarction etc. It wouldn’t be right for me to write this post, without mentioning that Hispanics are also facing this issue, although, to much lesser extent.

Here are the FACTS: African Americans are 30% more likely to be pulled over than whites. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three time more likely to be searched. In 2015, African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rates of whites. They are also arrested at more than twice the rates of whites. They are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses, and sentences are 10% longer when arrested for the same crime. The list goes on.

In stark contrast, people have shared their experiences, and videos of what is considered white privilege. I’m equally astounded by the restraint showed by law enforcement when arresting a white person, in comparison to people of color. In one incident, a police pulled over a white motorist, and saw he had a shot-gun in his car. Nothing came of it. The police and the motorist, ended up having a long chat. He was sent on his way. No ticket, no arrest, no checking to see if he had a permit to carry his gun.

In the past few weeks, the televised brutal and horrific murder of Alton Sterling and Philande Castile, brought about huge demonstrations, and clashes with police. There have also been instances of multiple police officers getting shot and killed, by men who reportedly got tired of police killing black men. Using violence to fight violence never solves any problems. I also know not every police officer is crooked. There are good men with integrity risking their lives each day, for our safety.

I’m beyond horrified at the state the country is in. Men, women, children have fallen at the hands of police. I started sharing my feelings on Facebook, showing my support to end racism in the police force. I tend to stay away from political posts on social media.  I don’t waste time arguing about religion and politics. There is no need. I’m not sure if it was the culture shock of being absent from the country for more than six years, or being exposed to the graphic images of men dying, but I made my feelings known.

For the most part, some folks have been supportive. Others have stayed silent. Very silent. The same silent types have voiced their opinions on the killings of the police officers. Is one life more important or precious than the other? I can’t tell you how much this worries me. Maybe it shouldn’t. I mentally filed this observation away. If I dwell on it too much, it can develop into unwanted feelings. One uninformed and uneducated person, in another country, with no links or experience to the situation in America, decided she was offended by my status, and took to airing her views. A few have also stated that it isn’t happening in their country, so why protest. I need to take a closer look at my friends list! Obviously, they’re suffering from the #notinmybackyardsyndrome#

Race relations in America is a very emotive issue. Tensions have never been higher. Police have always killed black men. The only difference now, is that cameras are rolling. Anyone who denies that racism exists in America, and especially in the police force, is part of the problem, not the solution. Closet racists perhaps. It’s easy to recognize them, and their thinly disguised racist remarks, “Well, he should comply with orders”, “He had lengthy criminal record”. “Let’s wait for all the facts to come out”..

I’m in NY at this time. I’m not keen on driving (besides public transport isn’t too bad). I simply don’t want to give the police any opportunity to meet their quotas, or become another “driving while black” statistic. Multiple black women have died in police custody. I’m not saying this will happen to me, but the people who died didn’t think it would happen to them either. I’ve never really felt at home/settled in America, if I am honest. The current situation just adds to my growing unease. However, I find myself here now, and I will make the best of it.

I simply want to state here, as I’ve done on social media, that the world is watching. Racism has no place in the police force. It’s time for law enforcement to be held to a higher standard, and stop killing black and other minorities. We need a more thorough vetting and training process for policemen, including rigorous psychological assessments. The most powerful nation in the world, and this is the example we set.

I’ve been encouraged by people peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate against the obvious injustices facing minorities in America. Back in my beloved city of Bristol, crowds marched to show their support. I say thank you. For taking a stand and showing the rest of the world that you won’t stay silent. For doing more than lip service, as minorities are being slaughtered on America’s streets. I too, will find a march in my local area, and take part. If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything.

I’m not saying everyone should be out marching, or doing what they can to end racism in any form. I would never ask that of anyone. I often wonder though, if black cops were out systematically killing Caucasians, how would society handle this? Would we just stand by shake our heads, and helplessly mutter:” This isn’t right…Something needs to be done..Blah blah..”. I don’t think so.

MLK’s words ring through now, more than ever: “No man is free, until all men are free everywhere”.

Until the next post,

 

Best,

 

Juan.

#yourownhero#


I often find treasures online worth holding onto. And, in this instance, share. In a world filled with people who don’t keep their word, pretend to be something they’re not, and judge carelessly, I find this quote very uplifting! Sometimes, you, my dear followers, subscribers, and readers, have to be your own hero.

uk.pinterest.comUntil the next post,

Love and Light,

Juan