And through the pain of living
And through advancing age,
A soul begins its journey
Toward freeing from the cage
Not through death, though looming
Not through heaven’s call,
But through earthly expression
Like rain as whispers fall
A voice to those among us
Most restless at our core,
For years afraid to listen
But now it does implore
To paint for sake of meaning
Through brush or word or song,
A comfort in the madness
A right for all who’ve wronged
And maybe through the darkness
Of politics and war,
The faintest light will shimmer
Reminding that there’s more
~ Leana Delle
Sunday, October 13, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number forty of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Julia Craice
“Being treated with kindness disarmed me.”
This quote, from my most recent podcast guest, gave me pause for thought. You mean, kindness works? But our reaction to hate-mongers has traditionally been the opposite. For Angela King, a former white supremacist, kindness was exactly what she needed to inspire change.
This was, by far, the most informative and thought-provoking interview I’ve done to date. Given this country’s recent rash of mass murders, some connected to white supremacy, I was grateful for just a glimpse into what makes this group tick and how we can potentially inspire change, as well. Knowledge, after all, is power.
Angela was recruited into violent extremism at the young age of fifteen. Socially awkward, she struggled with her weight and became an easy target for being bullied – until she’d had enough, that is, and an affinity for violence emerged. Raised around “old-fashioned, armchair racism,” and having feelings of insecurity, made her an easy target to become radicalized by a local group of neo-Nazi skinheads and their leaders. During our conversation, she made it clear that individuals don’t just wake up one day and decide they hate everyone who doesn’t look like them.
“I was searching for key human needs: acceptance, belonging, a place where I felt like I was important, and a place where I felt like I had something important to do.”
Eventually, those “important things to do” landed Angela in prison where she served a three-year sentence. It’s there that she became exposed to the very people that she’d claimed to hate. She expected the same or worse in return. They proved her wrong.
“They absolutely changed my life forever. It can be a kind word, an act of compassion, that can change everything.”
Life After Hate offers both kindness and compassion. Its cofounders met at The Summit Against Violent Extremism in Dublin, and within months, they’d formed their non-profit. That occurred in 2011, and members continue to speak their personal narratives for change. As an organization, they also offer advice, do research and outreach, develop trainings, and assist with the disengagement process, among a long list of other things.
“Ultimately our mission is to inspire other human beings to a place of compassion and forgiveness, just in the very same way that happened for each of us.”
So, how can the community at large help the cause?
“If we all just gave each other a break and went out of our way to be kind and compassionate, especially to the people that we feel don’t deserve it, that’s a huge start right there. For Life After Hate, we need what all non-profits need, and that’s resources, and also people spreading the word.”
And what if we’re concerned about violent extremism reaching a child, student, or community member?
“If someone is out there flirting with the idea of getting involved in these groups, give them our name. Tell them to read a little bit about our stories. We take a no judgment approach, because we’ve been there, and we know what it’s like to feel like we need something. We’re here to listen.”
I said it in the interview, and I’ll say it again: This is an organization that we all need to get behind and support.
Thank you to Angela and to all members of Life After Hate for the important work you do!
You can hear Angela’s riveting interview on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or by clicking HERE.
And then it came
A darker hour
Not, by far, my darkest
But swept it did
Rendering me helpless
What once was faith
What once believed
Cast my vision downward
And locked within
A private hell
Nothing drew me forward
You won’t, you swore,
You can’t not hear
Me calling from within
I am your spirit
And your spark
Rising through the din
To the girl,
The woman now,
Who knows the meaning of
And always choosing love
Do not forget
I’m breathing for your lungs
And then one day
Through breath and light
Renewal had begun
~ Leana Delle
Sunday, October 6, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number thirty-nine of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Corinne Kutz
“I’m a bit of a tomboy who wears lipstick.”
And a talented one, at that!
Susie Lang grew up on a farm in South Australia with four brothers. Her escape? The family camera that, thankfully, the boys had no interest in using. She’s been taking pictures since, but it’s her most recent project on Instagram that drew my attention and made me want her on my podcast.
Susie photographs women over 60, illuminating their beauty and capturing their strengths and vulnerabilities in a way that takes age right out of the picture. She has an amazing eye and a stunning collection that just keeps growing.
I’ve always been a firm believer that women grow more beautiful with age (a lot to do with self-assurance and freedom of expression), so I couldn’t wait to know more about her work. For example, what inspired her to focus on this often underserved and underrepresented demographic?
“I didn’t want to be invisible at 60, so that was my inspiration, and what I found was that a lot of women feel the same. I often say, what is most individual is the most universal, so if I’m feeling something, then you can bet your bottom dollar that someone else is feeling similar.”
She says she started shooting the Easter Sunday Bonnet Parade in NYC about 10 years ago, and it’s there that she handed out flyers to inspiring women. Some were receptive; others were not. Those that followed through found that they loved being photographed by another woman. “Kindred spirits” as it were, and Susie felt the same.
“What I’ve noticed in women 60 plus is that if I can pay attention to another woman, then it’s what I call my art of connection. I can tap into the fact that we are really beautiful, and stunning, and striking. It just takes someone to connect with that in each woman.”
I also couldn’t help but wonder if there were any particular themes that emerged with these women. Any similarities.
“There’s a lot of sadness. It’s hard aging when children grow up and leave home. They’re often widowed or divorced or on their own, and the commonality feels like we all want to be connected on some level. We want to be noticed.”
A poignant observation, both from the heart and through the lens.
“I just really feel that it’s been one of the biggest learning curves for me, this project. But actually, it’s through connection with the other women that I’ve been enabled to see who I am and who I’m becoming. It’s a real gift.”
Exactly what I’ve found with Girlfriend, We Need To Talk. Being able to talk to phenomenal women, those like Susie Lang, is shaping my future self in ways that can only bring increasing authenticity and joy. We are definitely a sisterhood, and we can’t help but enrich each others lives through heartfelt efforts to connect.
Thank you, Susie. I’m sure glad I connected with you!
You can listen to Susie’s interview on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or by clicking HERE.
If I could take your pain away
I’d blend the perfect balm,
Mixing in contentment
Adding peace and calm
I’d take a tiny spoonful
With all it held within,
Apply it to your broken heart
So healing could begin
At first you’d feel a lightness
As all your burdens lift,
Something that’s been missing
In all you’re dealing with
This followed by sensations
The long forgotten kind,
An absence of all worry
A meditative mind
I’d seat you by the ocean
To look out at the world,
Where eyes had once been clouded
Where lines had once been curled
And there we’d sit together
Reveling in peace,
And knowing sweet release
~ Leana Delle
Sunday, September 29, 2019
2019 Sunday Poetry Challenge – Number thirty-eight of fifty-two
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez