Nine Events of Instruction

Have you ever been in a training where you feel a little bit like Charlie Brown when he is in his classroom? Where your attention everywhere BUT on the topic at hand? 

Maybe what the presenter said was disconnected with your own reality (a la The Office)?

Or, maybe, just maybe, you jumped into a lecture that was above your head, your pay grade, or understanding? (this video has always been a favorite–glad I have the chance to throw it in here!)

You have been in those situations. We all have been. As a trainer, I like to cue up a lesson to make sure that the stage is set, learners are ready, and that they know what the point of the instruction is. In order to cue up a lesson, I remind myself of the first three, of nine, events of instruction. 

Robert Gagne famously (ok, “famously” in certain circles) outlined nine events that codify learning and instruction. The events simplified and explained what was thought to be “good instruction”.  

Let’s look at the first three:

  1. Gain attention to ground the lesson and to motivate learners
  2. Describe the learning goal and what will be accomplished by the lesson and how it relates to work/tasks/desired outcomes
  3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge

It should only take a few minutes to move through all three of the primers. For example, by asking about a problem and how the participants view that problem, you can easily accomplish number one and three. By drawing on the past experiences of participants you can touch on point number three.

I recently wrote training materials for health care workers who were being asked to switch up the treatments that their patients were taking. The activity below was meant to build empathy for the patients, describe a bit of what we’d be learning, and help the participants to consider how medications were currently being prescribed and the challenges patients face…


Activity

·      This activity is intended to inspire an empathetic response among participants to the challenges that their patients may face with adherence to their medications.

Say:

·      As we mentioned in the beginning, we are going to give you opportunities to try to put yourselves in the shoes of your patients.

·      Let us do a short demonstration now to start our discussion on adherence. This demonstration will help us to start thinking about some of the reasons for poor adherence.

Do:

·      Ask for three participants to volunteer for this demonstration.

·      Each of the three demonstrations will be slightly different. Please read the instructions before facilitating the activity.

·      Demonstration One:

·      Hand the first participant volunteer two bowls. One bowl should be empty. The second bowl should have 50 or so small candies in it.

·      Tell the participant that he or she has exactly 30 seconds to transfer exactly 30 candies, one-by-one, from the full bowl to the empty bowl. The participant should aim to put the 30th candy in the bowl at the 30-second mark.

·      Do not count down the time or indicate in any way that time is passing.

·      At the end of the 30 seconds, stop the participant and ask the participant to count how many candies were transferred to the empty bowl.

·      Ask the participant:

·      How might this demonstration be like taking ARVs?

Answer:

·      ARVs are taken at specific intervals

·      A specific number

·      Regulated, etc.

·      How did it feel to not understand why you were doing this task? Did you think that this activity might be pointless?

·      How might patients feel about taking ARVs when they feel perfectly healthy?

·      Demonstration Two:

·      Hand the second participant volunteer the same two bowls. One bowl should be empty. This time, the second bowl should only have 20 or so candies in it.

·      Tell the participant that he or she has exactly 30 seconds to transfer exactly 30 candies, one-by-one, from the full bowl to the empty bowl.

·      Do not count down the time or indicate in any way that time is passing.

·      At the end of the 30 seconds, ask the participant to count how many candies were transferred to the empty bowl.

·      Ask the participant:

·      How did it feel to be unsuccessful with such a simple task?

·      How did it feel when you knew you did not have the 30 candies that I asked you to move?

·      How might this demonstration relate to patient challenges with ARVs?

·      Demonstration Three:

·      Hand the third participant volunteer one empty bowl. This time, you, the facilitator, should hold the second bowl with 50 or so candies in it.

·      Tell the participant that he or she has exactly 30 seconds to transfer exactly 30 candies from the full bowl to the empty bowl.

·      This time, though, the participant must ask you for three candies at a time. You must hand the participant three candies and he or she will deposit them one-by-one into the empty bowl. Feel free to delay the hand off, give two instead of three, and otherwise make the activity more challenging.

·      Do not count down the time or indicate in any way that time is passing.

·      At the end of the 30 seconds, ask the participant to count how many candies were transferred to the empty bowl.

·      Ask the participant:

·      How might this demonstration be like taking ARVs?

·      How did it feel to know that you had to ask for candies often enough that it kept you from reaching your objective?

·      How might this demonstration relate to how clinics and patients interact?

Answer:

·      Clinics do not always work according to the schedule or needs of the patient.

Ask:

·      Why do you think we did this activity?

·      Do you think that we, as providers, are aware of all of the challenges that patients have with adherence?

·      What are some of the challenges we highlighted in this activity?

Answer:

·      Keeping to a schedule

·      Stock-outs

·      Conflicts between clinic and patient need, etc.

Say:

·      In many cases, patients may not understand why they are taking their medications, just as in the first demonstration. Plus, the idea of taking drugs while still well is a new idea that many people do not understand.

·      We also know that health systems are not always in sync with what a patient may need in terms of clinic hours or amounts of medication that they can be prescribed at a time, and so on.


As you can see, this brief activity, designed to take no more than five minutes or so, accomplishes the first three principles of good instruction. The participants are grounded, ready to learn, captivated by the exercise and they are linking what they are seeing to past experiences with patient adherence and, finally, they get a sense of what the lesson will be about. 

I often write curricula that other people will deliver. I often get push back around activities and cue-up questions as trainers sometimes want to rush to “get to the point”. These segues and lead-ins cannot be viewed as simply nice-to-have or superfluous. When learners can’t connect to new or unfamiliar content, the new concepts will become “slippery” and not stick. The next thing you know, you are Charlie Browns teacher. 

What are some of your favorite cue-up activities or questions?

PS: You can find the entire OPTIMIZE curriculum on the ICAP website. 

Love as a Force for Social Justice

Poverty. Death. Illness. Repression. Injustice.  These are the issues of global health. It is what we confront, among a laundry list of others, as a part of our daily work and as a part of our mission.

Behind all of that is such beauty and joy and resilience…it is breathtaking at times!  I remember being at a hospital in Sierra Leone during the Ebola epidemic. A child who was orphaned due to Ebola had been admitted. She had been found after being alone for god knows how long.  She had illness on top of illness; she was skin and bones.

Everything about what happened next, though, was a story of community and care. I saw a nurse at the hospital draw his own blood to donate to her. Two women unofficially adopted her and ensured that she was fed, diapered, clothed.  She steadily made progress that some would call miraculous.  And right before I left, the sign of her true recovery was that she led the ward, providers, visitors, and patients alike, in a jubilant dance party!

The love behind each and every action in this story is motivating. From the community health worker who found her and overcame his fear to bring her to the hospital. To the hospital workers who stayed in their roles when so many others fled out of fear.  To the nurse who donated his blood. To the women who gave of their time and resources.

The great Ann Firth Murray at Stamford University is renowned for her work in global health, in particular, she was the founder of the Global Fund for Women.  In her long career, she has born witness to tremendous suffering and injustice.  She developed a course called Love as a Force for Social Justice as a means of investigating how love can be a tool that can be used towards the elimination of violence (elimination of violence against women is a critical element of her body of work).  I highly recommend it as a morale boost and an anti-burn-out tool.  You can read an interview with her about the course here.

In the course, she explores several nonviolent movements, from Gandhi’s Salt March to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, in order to demonstrate how love and commitment can be transformational. She also brings in neuroscience, biology, and psychology to make her points (the science-minded side of me was pleased to see that!).

In our work, we often talk about human rights, empathy, accompaniment, commitment, humility….but we rarely talk about love as a force for change.  It’s seen as weak, at worst, and perhaps out of place at best.

Martin Luther King, Jr, once not-so-famously said that “justice is love in calculation. Justice is love working against anything that stands against love. Standing beside love is always justice.”  Cornel West said, more famously, “justice is what love looks like in public”.So, with love being so foundational to so many social movements and so intrinsically tied with justice, maybe it is time for a small change that would allow a tsunami of changes to come.

What type of leader are you?

I often teach leadership and management courses and, inevitably, there are folks in my courses who believe that leadership skills are innate. Either you’ve got what it takes or you don’t.

I could not disagree more.

If you break down what it takes to be a good leader and/or manager, it comes down to a collection of tasks and skills that can be cultivated and improved upon over time. Yes, there will be some that will come more easily than others. I also firmly believe that, as leaders, we can build teams to compensate for our areas in need of growth. No one person is going to excel at everything, but by being mindful about creating teams with diversity of skill, thought process, and experience, we can build a team of leaders. 

A colleague recently shared this article with me… The Three Leadership Types in a Nimble Organization.  What stands out to me in this article is the notion that leadership and the opportunity for leadership can and must come from all levels within an organization. 

I couldn’t agree more.

My take away, though, is to take these three archetypes into consideration as I build future teams for every global health team must be nimble and prepared for just about any twist or turn that our changing world throws at them. 

Would you like to bring leadership and management training to your team or organization? If so, please reach out and let’s make it happen!

 

Bending the Arc

It is a dreary day today in Seattle — which makes for a great day to snuggle on the couch and watch an inspiring movie. 

What movie you ask? Bending the Arc!

Bending the Arc tells the story of Partners In Health, where I’ve worked for a total of about 6 years. It is an inspiring story, for sure, about how a bunch of ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in global health. For me, it feels a bit like watching a family movie — I spot friends and coworkers and memorable spots I’ve worked. 

Give a watch… and watch through the credits for one of the sweetest moments of the film.

 

 

Public health is activism

A while back, I worked on developing a training for ICAP at Columbia University on training on the optimization of HIV treatments. Meaning, simply, that HIV treatment has to be effective, simple to take, and affordable. 

We created a series of trainings for health care workers on new HIV medications. Check it out here if you are curious! Over the course of the development of the materials, more information was coming out about risk to fetal development when pregnant women take the medication. We developed updated materials specifically about the use of the drug during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period. You can find those here if you want to get granular. 

So, why is this important? Well, due to the risk, there was a moratorium in some countries on the use of the new drug in all women of childbearing potential. Some countries decided to offer the drug only to women who are on effective birth control. You can imagine that in some countries that equates to a very very few women who would be eligible. All men were eligible. But. Wait. Didn’t I just write that this drug was easier to tolerate, more effective, and more affordable. Yes. Yes, I did.

As you can imagine, this has caused a lot of consternation and, luckily, activism, too. Treatment protocols like this are linked to sexism, for sure, but even wider systematic failures to women related to the Global Gag rule which has disallowed organizations to use US funds for abortion services. You can read more about the effects of the Global Gag rule on this new drug here

What is always remarkable to me is how people come together in solidarity to shine light on injustices and, hopefully, to change them. Women living with HIV came together in Kigali when this was happening and wrote a statement together that says, powerfully, “We, the women living with HIV at this meeting, conclude that blanket exclusions that deny women equitable access to this optimal HIV treatment are not warranted or justified.” Each woman, they wrote, is not just “a vessel for a baby, but an individual in her own right, who deserves access to the very best evidence-based treatment available and the right to be adequately informed to make a choice that she feels is best for her.”

As the story unfolded and as more data was collected and more voices were raised, the World Health Organization changed its tune and now recommends the new drug as a first- or second-line treatment in all populations. Critically, women are given the necessary information and, finally, allowed to make an informed decision with their doctors. 

Stories like this, especially when I have even a teeny tiny part in them, are completely buoying to me. This work can be hard and tiring and I can feel like Sisyphus more than I wish. But, then. There are wins and those wins motivate me to work towards the next win. 

What keeps you going in this work?

The power of deep work

If you’re like me, it is tremendously challenging to carve out time for so-called “deep work” while at work. Deep work almost seems mythical and elusive to me, at times. In one particularly intense role, I would “save” my challenging work and work that required deep thinking or problem solving for the weekends when I could have some quiet time. Not ideal at all. At other times, I do my very best to set myself up for deep work by closing my email and turning off notifications (all those chat notifications!!) on my computer and phone. In particularly busy periods where I’ve had several contracts I was working on simultaneously, I used online tools to block certain websites, mostly websites where I can waste a lot of time, in order to limit my temptation for distraction.  When I can get into that mode, it seems nearly magical. The ability to think. Just think. Seems like a rarely offered gift

In my work as a curriculum designer, I like to think through an exercise and imagine how it would play out in a training setting. I think about how people will move around a room or virtual space. I think about what materials I might want and if the use of those materials would be feasible and not too cumbersome for the facilitator. I do all of that thinking before I even put my fingers on a keyboard to write out instructions that match my vision. 

The evidence is abundantly clear that we are more effective, more productive, and less stressed out if we have the ability to single-task (as opposed to multitask).  How can we make it happen?

Mark Twain once wrote that “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” For me, if I am going to tackle something that requires deep thinking, my motivation, energy, and ability to pay attention are all at their height at the start of my work day.  If at all possible, I try to schedule my intense work for the morning hours. Luckily, I have a fair amount of control over my schedule and when I take meetings and how I structure my day. When I have found myself at the will of others or in particularly meeting-heavy roles, I have found that communicating about what I need to accomplish  and how I will best accomplish it (ie: quiet time in the morning) is usually well accepted and understood. My coworkers are usually amenable to rescheduling or shuffling the day around. I know I can forget that I also can say “no” to meetings. It seems nearly radical and even more radical in a remote environment when we may instinctually want to “prove” that we are at work and doing what we should be doing.  Yet, we have to be careful to not mistake busyness, in the form of being in pointless meetings and responding instantly to group chats, to being productive.

As a manager, I have also tried to give the gift of deep work to my team. In my last role, I blocked off Friday afternoons as quiet time. It was meant to be meeting-free time where we did not expect immediate responses to queries or requests. Plus, we were all working way more than we should have been, so this also gave permission for my team to leave before the official end of the work day if they were able to. 

What are your tips for deep work? How do you make it happen in your busy life? Do you work virtually? How do you manage to keep focused when household distractions abound (no judgement, I frequently do dishes and fold laundry while in meetings!)? Would love to hear from you!

Book Report: Giving

In 2007, former United States President Bill Clinton published Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World to give us a mandate for how to think about our charitable giving and how to make sure that we, every day people, contribute to big impacts. 

If you’d like, watch this 15 minute interview with Clinton about the book which gives a quick summary of the highlights. 

Clinton writes about folks from Paul Farmer to your neighbor and highlights how everyone can make a difference with their time, money, expertise, and energy. It is a simple guide to making thoughtful decisions about your own contributions and can be an even more useful guide for organizations that seek out donations. 

I liked that this book made giving in every sense something that seems achievable and doable. He encourages us to start now even if we have limited time, money, or skills to contribute for it is our collective actions that will spur great change.

Is this book worth reading? If you work for a non-profit on the fundraising team, yes! For others, it does read as a promotional book for Clinton, the Clinton foundation, and a few of his other friends. If you want a series of feel-good vignettes, read on! I read this around the time that I read With Charity for All: The Terrible Truth of Charitable Failure which, in combination, gives a balanced perspective on the need for wise decision making and prudence in giving. 

 

I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

A speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivered April 1968, Mason Temple, Memphis, Tennessee

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It’s always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself.” But I wouldn’t stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember — I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Now we’re going to march again, and we’ve got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be — and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we’d just go on singing “Over my head I see freedom in the air.” And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, “Take ’em off,” and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, “We Shall Overcome.” And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham. Now we’ve got to go on in Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us when we go out Monday.

Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.1 And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he’s been to jail for struggling; he’s been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he’s still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit. But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say,

“God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? — Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town — downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something that we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an “insurance-in.”

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base….

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that “One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony.” And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather to organize a “Jericho Road Improvement Association.” That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles — or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

“Dear Dr. King,

I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

“While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.”

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

Book Report: The Tipping Point

Perhaps this is less of a book report and more of my musings on Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book The Tipping Point

The premise of the book is that there are “the moment(s) of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point” and those moments can create widespread social changes that can become part of our everyday.

So, why is this more my musing than an actual review? Well. We are living in a pandemic. All evidence points to the efficacy of masks. They work. They are widely available. They are slightly uncomfortable, but, hey, so are belts and high heels.

We have the “connectors”, who Gladwell’s notes as necessary for a trend to stick. We have celebrity after celebrity sharing pictures of themselves masked. The paparazzi must be terribly bored because they, too, are snapping mask pictures. 

We have the “mavens”, who we rely on, according to Gladwell, for information about masks and the efficacy of them. In my state, our governor made early pleas for mask wearing, shared pictures of himself in his mask, and made masks widely available. 

And yet, the mask has not “stuck” everywhere. Not only have they not stuck, they’ve been actively opposed. 

We strive to get to the tipping point of this omicron-fueled surge of COVID. Masks are certainly a tool in our toolbox. In using them, we could get to the tipping point of the epidemic. Same with vaccines. They are a tool in the toolbox. The conditions are right. But, as of this writing, not nearly enough people have gotten vaccinated to get us to the tipping point of COVID. I want the tipping points of masks and vaccines to lead to the tipping point of COVID.

So. What gives? Of course, the powerful voices on the anti-mask side of things have their own connectors and mavens. Does this mean we are at a standstill? Is history, from the 1919 flu where this exact same thing played out (minus vaccines), repeating itself? 

What do you think Malcolm Gladwell would say about this push and pull as we get to our tipping point?

 

Goodbye 2021, Hello 2022!

What a year it was… for me and surely for all of you! I look back on 2021 with great professional satisfaction.

My work with Partners In Health on the Massachusetts Community Tracing Collaborative, a COVID contact tracing project, was a massive undertaking, to say the least. We build a COVID-19 contact tracing program in a matter of weeks. I had the responsibility of training contact tracers and case investigators who made more than 3 million phone calls to those diagnosed with COVID and their close contacts. We built a call-center, trained thousands of people, all while COVID guidance was ever evolving. I also started a well-received peer support program within our COVID response. Our team of peer supporters reached out to their colleagues who need support, run wellness activities, and proactively insert wellness activities into the every-day. 

This role allowed me to grow tremendously professionally, strengthen my skills, and build entirely new ones. Much of my growth had to do with the sheer scale of our work. I’ve never onboarded so many people at once, sometimes 1000! I’ve never supervised such a big team, coming in at about 75 at the height. Other components of my role were completely new to me. Never have I ever supervised an entirely virtual team. While contact tracing is the backbone and a foundation of public health, I’ve also only been involved with contact tracing peripherally with my work as an HIV counselor. This work has also strengthened my core beliefs in public health as a tool for social justice. It has also reinforced my own supervisory practices around team building, trust, and goal setting and in this case re-setting, re-setting, and re-setting a million times over. 

My work at Partners In Health was meant to be a three-month contract that ended up being a 20-month job. As such, I accepted a few other contracts over the course of the year, too. 

I worked with ICAP to build a training for clinical providers on event-driven PrEP. I loved working on this contract as it brought me back to my HIV prevention roots and, amazingly, the training materials are the first of their kind. 

I also worked with the ICAP Kenya team on building a set of training materials for community health volunteers on cancer. I worked with a broad group of folks from the Ministry of Health and several NGOs and cancer alliances. It was so very gratifying to have a final product that the varied stakeholders all found useful, valuable, and reflective of their own objectives.

In the summer of 2021, I worked with the CDC’s immunization team to host a series of trainings on leadership and management. It was a wonderful and timely project as the team was exceptionally busy with COVID and transitioning their teams to virtual work — both of which require exceptional leadership and management skills. 

I also love working with former colleagues… and 2021 brought that opportunity to me not once but twice! I worked with a former colleague who is now at Combined Jewish Philanthropies to create a few professional development workshops. I am currently supporting Girls LEAP to build out new training materials for them on violence prevention and self defense. 

And now, looking into 2022! 

I look at 2022 with a lot of optimism and hope for what comes next. In fact, as I think back to my first post here, in January of 2018, I have the same level of excitement. Now, that excitement is matched by a tremendous satisfaction in doing what I love and HOW I love to do it. 

What do YOU have going on in your world? Please reach out if you would like to work together. I am open to new opportunities and contracts.