Monthly Archives: September 2011

SEEing Your Community

I thought of this entry after taking a second to truly look at my surroundings. I realized that I was still able to find new sites and treasurers on a trip I had easily taken more than 50 times.
Upon “discovering” the new objects, places, and colors, I was able to understand spaces, events, and scenery that were once foreign or unexplainable to me. 

It all happened when I was leaving the north side of Chicago to return to school in Urbana- Champaign. Currently surrounded by agricultural landscape, the city view that I thought I knew all to well, came alive.
As I drove down lake shore drive I found myself going slower and slower, observing, appreciating, and seeing the intentionality of the design. I was beginning to see that everything had its place in the city and I longed to stay put so that I could receive all that the clear sky was trying to show me about Chicago.
I’m sure that my urban planner eye was kicking in, but either way, it was not until I truly looked at my surroundings that I understood what was there for me to learn from.
The new views made me feel creative and I wanted nothing more than to find the words to describe what I was experiencing. For me, this experience confirmed that people MUST travel outside of their community to SEE their community, suggest improvements, and ultimately to know more than we already do in order to be builders of the future.  

Leaving Chicago was the only way for me to SEE Chicago. As a planner, I know that I will have amazing opportunities to go into communities and suggest changes. I hope to always remember this experience and find ways to help residents SEE more outside of their community so that they can think of innovative solutions for the problems in their communities.

When did you begin to SEE your community?

Below is a link to the Education for Sustainable Development website. The page provides an activity readers can use to work with residents to SEE the effects of local development.


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“Dont be scared to wear your greatness”, Said Hip-Hop Artist Common

“Dont be scared to wear your greatness”, Said Hip-Hop Artist Common

“Peace” was his first word upon taking center stage. 

Talk about somebody that has something to say. Common, the world renown Hip-Hop artist has an a capella message out of this world. I am not sure if it was because it was my first time hearing him speak for an extended time (about an hour), or if it is because he is such a handsome man, or if it was the crowd’s energy pouring into me, but Commons address to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (also known simply as Illinois) lit a fire I greatly needed rekindled. 

With the release of his new book “One Day It Will All Make Sense”, Common is making his way across territories to promote a message that encourages people to FIND, BELIEVE, and LIVE their path. Common’s word of the day for the standing room only crowd of mixed- age, ethnicity, income, and educational attainment, at Illinois was GREATNESS. 

Throughout his speech I fought back tears. Common opened the evening with a freestyle about the hot spots on campus and immediately began to talk about the influence Emmett Till had on his life. Although I have known about this tragedy for many years, I felt like I was learning about it for the first time as Common connected the tale of Emmett Till to his life journey. Since the age of 12, Emmett Till has been an omnipresent spirit in Common’s life reminding him, “It’s greatness inside of you”. 

Humorous, passionate, and sincere, Common provided the crowd with uplifting quotes and revealed vulnerable moments from his life that continue to build his greatness. The freestyle flow was an example of how Common could take an experience he had in a few hours (touring the campus community) and formed words, turned sentences, turned lyrics, into a gift that Fighting Illini would never forget. 

Common reminded us that greatness does not exist purely because we do, but instead, we exist to find greatness in what we do and who we are. Focused on the importance of affirmations, “turning obstacles into possibles”, and the famous quote, 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

(Quote source varies- originated by Marianne WIllimson, made famous by Nelson Mandela)

Common’s speech was not a dreamy one, but one that provided tangible solutions for listeners to be “greater than what you think right now”. 

Common stated, “Greatness is contagious; on your path to greatness you will help others become great as well”. Along with this, he admitted that for years, he dimmed his greatness, as not to offend others. THIS IS WHAT STRUCK ME MOST. Probably because I am beginning to see and accept my greatness, but have yet to put it into third gear. I am now inspired to examine my hesitancy. 

One of Common’s motivations to act in greatness and conviction of his path is Kanye West. Common has observed how Kanye West promotes his music and product with so much enthusiasm and belief that he realized, “when you believe in yourself people can smell it on you, and it resonates”. And maybe that is why his speech to a receptive crowd at Illinois on Wednesday September 21, 2011 at Foellinger Hall will resonate with me forever- because HE BELIEVES IN HIS GREATNESS and I do as well. 

Now, I have to believe in mine. 

Hosted by W.O.R.D. (Writers Organizing Realistic Dialect) and IUB (Illini Union Board), Common was a great addition to the repertoire of speakers that have presented at one of the top public Universities in the nation. 



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Scheduling Obstacles

As I embark upon new endeavors, I have tried to prepare an ideal schedule that will help me to stride toward my personal and professional goals. Unable to create an all-inclusive weekly schedule that I am happy with, I found a format by Michael Hyatt that I am thinking about trying out over the next few weeks.
Before I take the time to map out this intricate schedule, I must address the self-imposed barriers that are keeping me from doing so.

  • First things first, being scared that I will not commit to the schedule. In so many words, to commit means to make a pledge or actively display progress toward a goal/ objective in which you agree with.

For example, there have been plenty of tactics and best practices that I have tried over the past few months, but I have yet to execute these tactics to the fullest extent habitually. On so many levels, the lack of consistent implementation is unhealthy, but on a most basic level the inconsistency negatively impacts my self-esteem. Although it does not drag me down totally, I do get irritated that I have not been able to analyze SMART goals that I created for myself. This reality is becoming a hinderance to creating new SMART goals and I am trying to figure out what is keeping me from committing to my life tactics. What I realize is that the more I have had to multi-task (BAD WORD), the less I multi-achieve (GOOD WORD). I am doing a variety of things in one day, but nothing is truly getting completed to my liking or in a way that I feel represents my best quality of work (hence the fewer posts…..)

  • Issue number two, laziness. It is so much easier for me to be “lazy” with some of the more physically consuming tasks (i.e. workout). I am prone to avoid scheduling working out despite a true desire to want to lose weight. 
    Lastly…, well anything else I was going to put actually fits into the two categories listed above.

How has scheduling affected your progress? Do you have a preferred scheduling format?

Below is a link to the article that Michael Hyatt uses to plan his ideal week.


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Healing- Give Yourself a Minute (or Thirty)

Healing- Give Yourself a Minute (or Thirty)

When you bump your knee on the table and say “ouch”, do you give yourself time to rub the injured spot and wait for the pain to go away, or do you quickly walk through the pain, confident that this minor bump is nothing worth acknowledging?
So often we take these moments for granted and forget that our wounds, both emotional and physical, need time to heal. Our wounds need to looked at, pampered, cleaned, and a new band-aid often needs to be applied throughout the day or when too much pressure is placed on the injury. Do you take time to explore your wounds and heal properly?

Of course you are probably thinking that the bump to your knee is no big deal. What happens if you hit that spot 3 more times in the same day. Or if other parts of your body get scraped and bruised throughout the day?
Too often we ignore the physical signs of pain that warn us and let us know “its time to heal”. For many months I have ignored the signs. Wanting to be strong and productive, I have worked diligently to create opportunities for new endeavors and financial gain. But at the most unsuspecting moments I feel pain. I feel pain from the leg/ankle injury from many months before; I also feel pain when thinking about relationships that have turned stale or distant and even the loss of my previous job. Overall, I feel a series of pain from a variety of life occurrences, and eventually I realized that I had been existing in pain.
How many people do you know suffer one hardship after another. They continue to navigate life unhealed and moving forward. But the injury is still there. The injur(ies), physical or mental, manifest as tears, nasty attitudes, illness, and stress.

I am guilty of telling people to “keep it moving”. I am guilty off not rubbing my knee after each scrape and bruise. Recently I needed to heal. I needed to take a day to myself and deal with a lifetime (or a week, or a day) of scrapes and bruises.

I was glad that I did. The next day I felt rejuvenated and ready for the battle of life.

It is true, sometimes you do just have to keep it moving, but when you have a moment or the time to care for yourself. Your wounds. Your thoughts. You should do so.

What prevents you from taking time heal?

Below is a link to a webpage of quotes on healing. Enjoy!


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Success Formula: Felicia Simpson

If you do not have a Felicia on your team, you need one.

Felicia Simpson is a mother, a friend, a full-time employee at a social service agency, and most recently, she is the Founder and Executive Director of A New Me Foundation (ANMF), an organization that provides comprehensive family services for victims and survivors of domestic violence. As a progressive organization, ANMF focuses on the entire family unit to end the cycle of domestic violence that may easily continue when initiatives solely focus on women as victims.

Over the past 6 months I have had the opportunity to work up close and personal with Felicia, one of the most tenacious and dedicated people I have ever met. On a mission to uproot domestic violence, Felicia has devoted the rest her life (time, resources, energy, conversations, actions, and goals) to “breaking the silence” that leads individuals, families, and communities, to suffer a variety of ills. Having initially formed a business relationship, I have grown to admire Felicia and her relentless pursuit of advocacy as it relates to her passions.

Felicia’s networking abilities impress me most. Not only does she make connections with people and organizations from various backgrounds, she finds a way to connect others interest with what she holds near and dear to her heart. This is a skill that many may take for granted, but that through observation, I have watched Felicia and her organization, A New Me Foundation, begin the marathon of a lifetime.

You will never hear Felicia boast, but instead she will factually explain to you that she has been fortunate enough “to have access to minorities in the community whose issues or causes go unnoticed. I refer people and organizations to places with large and small client intake….people gravitate to me as a resource.” Claiming the victory that has already been given to her, Felicia has mentally and emotionally prepared for the uphill battle that comes along with sacrifice and hard work.

When entering a project, partnership, or community, Felicia does the necessary background research that is sure to guarantee the longevity of her platform and life blueprint. I respect that Felicia knows enough about her strengths and weaknesses to decipher when she needs help and when she is the best person for the job. Admittedly she has exceptional multi-tasking skills, reputable work ethic, offers culturally appropriate/relevant options in all that she does, and completes tasks in and orderly and effective manner. As an advocate for domestic violence Felicia says that “it goes beyond day-to-day operations, I go in the trenches and cross all borders”.

Advocacy work and founding an organization with big goals requires strength strategies that keep you focused when the situation seems hopeless. Felicia uses a vision board to stay on track and professes that her plan is bigger than the American Dream. During the launch of ANMF Felicia had to assess all the challenges that would hinder her organization from living up to its purpose. During her first event at a church, when she did not reach her target number of attendees she realized that a church atmosphere may have been an obstacle for her target population.

Her advice for success during a start-up endeavor includes writing down your goals, target dates, and being as specific as possible (i.e. listing resources, locations, etc.). “I have folders for each event and follow-up with networking leads because you never know who knows the person you need to know.” Community assets that she encourages include churches, local businesses, bartering, block clubs, and getting to know your aldermen/ local representative.

With ease, Felicia fluidly transitions crowds and spaces. I have learned more from Felicia about commitment and sacrifice than I have from high-powered CEOs. I am certain that Felicia is a legacy in the making and I am happy to have played a role in the encouragement and action steps that will one day lead to the ANMF Vision:

A New Me Foundation will be the leading model of culturally appropriate, comprehensive services and supports for victims and survivors of domestic violence primarily in the Chicagoland area and abroad.

Felicia is the type of person that you need on your team; she is sure to keep you grounded, laughing, and inspired.

Felicia Simpson’s Success Formula= Tenacity + Advocacy + Organization + Self Awareness

More On Felicia Simpson

SMART goal= Provide direct services that eliminate the need for shelters for victims and survivors of domestic violence (decreased statistics within 3 years)

What is Community Development?- Bringing together stakeholders and residents to develop and create resources that help the community

Upcoming ANMF Events:

September 13, 2011 at 5:30pm ANMF will be participating in the Walk the Course event for domestic violence awareness at the Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Lemont, IL)
September 24, 2011 at 7pm ANMF will be hosting a “Movie Night” Social
October 3, 2011 at noon ANMF will be honoring the kick off of Domestic Violence Awareness Month at the annual rally at the Thompson Center (downtown)
October 6, 2011 ANMF will be attending a “Pour” for Connections for Abused Women and Their Children event held at the Grossinger City Autoplex
October 8, 2011 Felicia will be a panelist at Lucid Life Works & the Red Pump Project’s open forum, geared towards Chicago’s inner-city young adults, surrounding the topic of AIDS and HIV.  Felicia will be answering questions regarding the intersections between HIV/AIDS and domestic violence.
October 15, 2011 Felicia will be the guest speaker at Mt. Carmel Church, 740 East 42nd Street, domestic violence luncheon
October 23, 2011 Felicia will be the guest speaker at the Hey Gural Dinner & Play honoring domestic violence awareness month
October 27, 2011 Felicia will be facilitating a webinar on domestic violence at South Side Help Center
October 27, 2011 ANMF will be hosting a Relationship Forum to honor domestic violence awareness month at The Music Station
October 29, 2011 ANMF and local volunteers will be volunteering at the Pacific Garden Homeless Shelter in Chicago, IL recognizing victims and survivors who have left their homes of violence and now dwell in homeless shelters 

Contact Info:
Felicia T. Simpson
P.O. Box 377722
Chicago, IL 60637

Updates 10/27/2011

During the months of September and October, through ANMF Felicia coordinated and/or took part in 8 different events focused on DV.

– ANMF hosted a “Movie Night”- At the end of each movie, we discussed unhealthy choices, risky behaviors and ways that domestic violence could have been prevented.
– I met with Attorney Lynette Lewis to began the incorporation process for ANMF.  During this time, we went over the goals of ANMF, timeline for incorporation, fees, etc. 
– I was a panelist for a Teen HIV/AIDS Forum with Lucid Life Works organization and sponsors for this included the Red Pump Project and South Side Help Center. At the end of this forum, I was amazed that almost everyone that attended, GOT TESTED and waited for the results.  
-I was the guest speaker at Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, at their annual Domestic Violence Prayer Breakfast.  During this time, I shared my personal testimony of being a victim of domestic violence. After the breakfast was over, a line of women, young and old, shared their powerful testimonies and reached out to me to seek services that ANMF provides.
– I was invited as a guest speaker for the morning service at Temple of Glory International Church, honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  During this time I again shared my testimony, provided the congregation with facts about domestic violence and provided them with resources to use if they are victims and/or know of someone that is and could use ANMF services.
-I spoke briefly with the congregation at Greater Walters A.M.E. Zion Church as they honored Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  I recited a poem with facts about domestic violence to help raise awareness and set up a resource table to get information regarding domestic violence and ANMF services.
– I was the guest speaker at Hey G.U.R.A.L. dinner and play ” When He took Over”.  I talked to the audience about domestic violence, my testimony and ways to take this information back to their homes and communities.  I also set up a resource table to get information regarding domestic violence and ANMF services.  During the intermission of the play, I was the receipent of the Hey G.U.R.A.L Leadership Award for the dedication and commitment I have to help break the silence and reconstruct families, victims and survivors of domestic violence.A former male victim of domestic violence who later became a batterer asked for ANMF services for ways to network on teaching workshops. 
-ANMF annual event honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month: The Relationship Forum.  This forum purpose is to get the community out and discuss ways to improve unhealthy relationships and raise awareness and the importance of educating at a group level, on domestic violence. Proceeds raised from this event will be donated to the Greenhouse Shelter that house battered women and their children.
-ANMF will sponsor 10 volunteers to go to the Pacific Garden Mission homeless shelter as we recognize that domestic violence can cause victims and survivors to become homeless at some point while leaving an abusive relationship or homelessness is the result after a divorce or final breakup from the abusive partner. 
– ANMF will set up an exhibit booth both days of the stage play, “RADIO” at The United Church of Hyde Park.   The writer of the play Baus Antoine is an outstanding vessel in the community that wrote this play in honor of domestic violence and his commitment to raise awareness about domestic violence.



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Blame the Oppressor or the Oppressed?

Blame the Oppressor or the Oppressed?
Over the past few months I have really been thinking about the question posed in the title of this blog entry. My growing involvement in community engagement and business development has led me to think more about the cycle of ills that plague society.
For example, I have blogged a lot about my current journey to financial freedom, even admitting that I just opened my first savings account at 26 years old. Throughout my life loved ones shared general tips with me about money, but never provided the blue print or action steps needed that would force me to do more than what I was doing. The lack of guidance has ultimately led to my financial oppressions (my extreme language for being a poor adult college student at this moment).
But back to being serious, I think that the example I give above is a much more realistic contemporary version of oppression, and I am challenging myself to think about who is to blame for modern-day situations that ultimately keep us oppressed.
Now that I am a 27-year-old adult in the world (i.e. aware, interacting, experiencing), am I still to blame my parents and or loved ones for not making my grown self go to the bank and start a savings account before I was 26? Was it not enough that my parents told me about investing (not in great detail) and introduced me to the idea of paying myself first. In hindsight, they did everything BUT take me to the bank and sign my name on the dotted line. AND, I have had the resources and access to banks, friends with savings accounts, and so forth for over 10 years, which means I knew better 10 years ago.
So, when does the blame transition from the oppressor to the oppressed? oppression is defined as the “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power”. At first glance it would seem that oppression itself implies blame should automatically be placed on the oppressor. But today, in 2011 (internet, tv, books, resource and access), without a clear-cut answer, I want to know when the oppressed are to become responsible for inciting change that shift the dynamics of power.
When is it the responsibility of the oppressed to take charge and do their research, and join the politics, and fight for change regarding whatever is keeping them oppressed? When does the blame shift from the oppressor to the oppressed?
Below is a link to a website that focuses on oppression across the globe. Check it out:

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