Generating ideas, connections, and action

Miriam Persley's blog

Creating Space A Labor Of Love

Creating Space is by far one of my most favorite LLC events. So as you can imagine, it’s getting harder to rein in the excitement with only a few weeks left to go.


As I reflect on why this event is one of my favorites, it  really starts with all of you. Creating Space is where we are able to connect face-to-face and deepen our connections. We  learn about your current work and how we are all influencing the leadership development field and together continue to expand our collective knowledge. These are three days of genuine connection building. I have fond memories of many deep conversations that I keep circling back to in the many phases of my own work. I’ve had expansive conversations on networks, leadership development, and equity. I’ve heard and shared stories of the challenges of balancing self-care and the urgency of community needs on the field.  I reflect back on what I learn from many of you in Baltimore, Oakland, and Detroit and am continuously sustained by the commitment and dedication all of you have to continue to transform our society.

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Exploring Non-Traditional Leadership with Jah'Shams Abdul-Mu'min

This Creating Space XII will focus around non-traditional leadership. Some of you have already started asking: what does that even mean? Personally, I assumed it was the antithesis of “traditional leader”, but what that actually means or more accurately, what that role looks like on a daily basis was still unclear to me.


Our CSXII partner, Lisa Leverette from Community Connections in Detroit, immediately invited Jah’Shams Abdul-Mu'min into this conversation. Jah’Shams brings years of experience in the leadership development field researching non-traditional leadership. Although he is based in South Central Los Angeles and works at the Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College, he has traveled the world researching cultures and their leadership models. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk more with Jah’Shams about his findings and to be able to share these with you. His answers to our burning questions are below.


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The Victims of Systemic Oppression

As a nation, we’ve witnessed major trauma throughout history. It should not be surprising that years of systemic oppression have not yet disappeared, after all, many see these aggressions daily. But nothing, nothing, could have prepared any of us for the horrifying news of the June 17th shooting in Charleston.  


Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of the victims of the Charleston massacre. We know that restorative healing is greatly needed in South Carolina and throughout the nation as we all witness the unfolding of events and that nothing could ever bring those nine souls back. This is a grisly reminder of how much work we in the social sector and the leadership development field still have to tackle; we have not yet worked ourselves out of a job.


We remember the victims of this racist act of terrorism; Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr., and Reverend Sharonda Singleton.
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Neighborhood Watch: Neighbors Fearing Neighbors, The Effects of Fear And Gentrification

This morning as I was driving to work, listening to National Public Radio’s Forum, I was struck by the divisiveness that emerged while talking about gentrification and San Francisco Supervisors’ vote on a housing moratorium. The podcast is available on their website, but the conversation reminded me of a similar conversation my neighborhood had around the same topic.

The discussion in my street began because my neighborhood in Oakland is seeing the secondary effects of waves of new residents coming into the neighborhood. These new residents, typically after looking for housing in San Francisco where the prices are insurmountable, are flocking to Oakland to remain close to “The City.” Long-time Oakland residents have been feeling the pressure of this housing demand through increases in rent, housing prices, and for some residents of color, clear racial microaggressions (for other examples see here).

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Demystifying LLC’s Webinar Series


The last two months have been a great time for LLC’s Webinar Series all due to having wonderful volunteers from our community who have stepped up and shared their knowledge with all of us. To keep this momentum going, we have been lining up more webinars in the coming weeks, more info on these soon. We have been reflecting on how we can demystify and decentralize the process so more webinars can continue to happen.

Ideally, we like to partner with individuals, organizations, movements, networks, partnerships, etc. that conceive, conduct, and evaluate leadership. To us, leadership is a process of collaboration and we uphold models that create social change through their work. Many programs do not realize that they have much to contribute to the field.

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Walking The Talk

As Americans continue to explore racial disparities, we are seeing an increase of conversations. This month alone, coffee-giant Starbucks wanted to jump into the conversation. Although the execution failed for many reasons (haphazard decision without enough preparation, failure to fund a strong execution, did not plan for their customers’ time constraints, and more[1])  the conversations continue every day.

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Continuing To Commit To Racial Equity



As many of you are aware, in the recent months a growing movement is changing perspectives in many communities. People have taken to the streets, conversations have started not only in the privacy of homes but also through social media about how #BlackLivesMatter. LLC has engaged many of you through our own articles and we are continuing to work with the Racial Equity Leadership Network here in Oakland to dive deeper into these important conversations on how we can all contribute to tearing down and healing from the systems of racism we are all a part of.


Towards my own growth in that work, I am always looking for tools and opportunities to reflect. I was therefore open to read about the work of UC Berkeley’s Department of African American Studies in their most recent publication; “Insurgency: The Black Matter(s) Issue.” This issue is a collaborate composition of 20+ writers submitting their personal stories and perspectives to attempt to encapsulate the complexity that is the Black experience in the United States. In the opening statement “About This Issue,” the department recognized that this publication is highly academic and analytical, and yet it portrays so many perspectives and stories from voices not typically heard in the mass media.

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What The Loss of Michael Brown Means to The Leadership Development Field

Once again, the US finds itself facing a tragedy that is a result of the systemic racism and the implicit bias of those in power. In fact, the names of the victims of racial profiling have piled up so many of them happening after the death of Trayvon Martin. The recurring dehumanization of brown bodies has haunted Americans since before slavery and has devolved and been injected into all aspects of society. And as the divide widens among different groups, there is no doubt that in this moment courageous, collective leadership is needed most.
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How To Avoid Alienating People Through Your Work

This weekend, my husband and I stopped by a well-known grocery store in what is becoming our gentrified neighborhood in Oakland. From the moment we stepped foot through the door, an armed security guard followed us throughout the store and remained within ten feet of us, his arm resting on his gun the entire time. When for a moment I stepped away to grab another item on our list, he followed me and radioed for backup. Although my husband and I remained calm, avoided any sudden movements, and pretended ignore him, I felt angry to be treated so aggressively in what was an unmistakable case of racial profiling. When we left, although angry, I also felt relieved to know that we were able to walk away unharmed in what could have easily escalated into a worse situation had this guard decided to go on a power trip. In the leadership development field not many organizations run stores where there may be armed security guards entrusted with “protecting” their investments, but rather most run programs and interact with their “investments;” developing people and communities; in a much different way. However, this experience made me question the blind spots where programs may inadvertently create traumatic experiences for others.

Most commonly, alienation occurs through language. The use of highly technical jargon or cliquish terms do not welcome multiple experiences. To make programs more inclusive analyze the language used in applications, eligibility requirements, and curriculum. The language used can have many definitions and as a result many unintended impacts. Making materials clear and digestible for multiple audiences is key to keep expanding the positive reach of your engagement. Take the time to create clear definitions as an organization and make these easily accessible all of which will help all of participants understand your intent and may even guide your purpose.

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Making Time For Reflection: Lessons From History

Leaders strive to have a clear vision and purpose in their work. Without it, they risk being distracted, inefficient, and/or ineffective. To build this framework, they need to constantly act intentionally and evaluate themselves, their organizations, community, networks, and movements with this lens. Intentionality means being purposeful and deliberate in action. It is a great metric in the work and yet it can be very hard to make those intentional decisions when the results can be greatly unknown and the work vast.


Recently, I have been really reflecting on the journey towards marriage equality and the intentional and unintentional actions embedded in this long-fought journey. Not out of the blue either, since it’s LGTBQ Pride Month and the media has been promoting some of this history. Recently, PBS’ Independent Lens showcased the documentary “We Were Here,” which tells the story of gay San Franciscans in the 80’s at a time when AIDS was spreading unknowingly throughout the community and the response that many groups had to it and how they were able to fight for their survival against prejudice and social disdain. This, juxtaposed with another Independent Lens documentary, “The New Black,” intersected a different view. “The New Black” follows the fight of the black gay and lesbian community as they fought for equal marriage rights in Maryland in 2012 and how the community’s roots in Christianity as well as racial prejudice intersected around this issue.
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