Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Managing This Crisis with Truth: Right is of not Sex - Truth is of not Color

Frederick Douglas' motto in his antislavery newspaper, "The North Star", was "Right is of not sex -- Truth is of not color"

“... And Aren't I a Woman”

Sojourner Truth

by John Manuel Kennedy

Founder of the Center for Human Development
The Plow of the Sea Inc.

"It is time to change many things in this country, especially one, that four power or the fifth wheel of the "super-ultras" and how they are profiting from the misery of other people through their bastard propaganda; it is altogether a new form of slavery. These idiots are enslaving our mere democracy and with it our freedom and rights"



In times of crises and extreme uncertainty, whether be economic or psychological, or both, like incidentally the world in which we are living by now, in these, the last years, of the first decade of the 21st century. These are the days in where those sad and deceitful “Macro, Medium and Mini-Madoffs” are all shown by the media at the global stage as if they were a parade of a group of capriciously painted cows. Today, when the news agencies are competing on how to make us sicker and, sicker, by reading to us, word by word, and presenting speechless but eloquent images and videos, over the already ubiquitous High Definition Television, or HDTV, about the bloodiest and most brutal assassinations all beyond our imagination. Thanks, to those cameras now we can watch the unbelievable reality of today’s world from our couch and yes, we still eating, without hesitance though, our chip potatoes and, the children their cheerios, all the while at our screens we can watch how somebody is getting kill somewhere. It is all part of the probability of the epoch in which we are living, it does not seen bizarre anymore, we can say it is natural that these events could or would happen; "[do] you know? from movies to reality or from reality to movies, and now we have the "added-value" of those video games as well, and therefore, everything for some people appears to be possible", a guy was explaining to me the other day, he was trying to make sense of our present violent days.

Yes, “These are the days my friends,” and the news are running on steroids and, within 360 degrees of the same facts, written in the same way, gesticulated in the same manner, salivated by four or five seemingly important mouthpieces, and of course, there is not doubt about all of it. Madoff acted “alone” or, the suspect was the criminal and, this is very important because now we know that we were not the victims. YouTube's cutest dancing dog needs to be beating-up by [y]our own video, “send your videos and win a T-shirt: ha-ha; wait...wait, we need to interrupt this program for giving you the latest breaking [you] news….” And thus, it is everyday. Does all of this, or part of it, help us to live better? What do you think? Perhaps?

The agents of the press make the millions, they become celebrities by supporting those people who are able to pay them more in cash. In contrast, they are trying very hard to convince us that they are [all] the professional independent voices of our nation, the faces of the best journalism ever; when in reality, what they really... really are, only the puppets of the worst kind of individuals, as Bloomberg put it in one time, of "those who can move" and pay and do what they want with the lives of the other people and the systems created precisely for improving and protecting the people. Yes, correct, of those who are selling even the debts or our debts at a global level, the debts and dreams of all of the Americans, and by the way, making a lot of money by doing it.

“Change” is what we are all looking for, a "change" in which everyone, or a least the majority, could believe in; but it is hard to change anything in a positive way when there are so many interests over other sort of interests, which are based evenly on motives of yet another interested parties who care less about the well-being of others, well they do care in their own special "way or move"; as for example, those people who not only implemented the system of slavery but they had the idiocy to fight against its abolition. Today good, positive and sound “change” must be geared to all people of all the nations of the world, as I have stated before, in time of chaos and lack of stamina to overcome shortcomings and injustices, or when one feel lack of courage to face what is wrong, we should or could look towards the actions and lives of those leaders, that evenly facing abominable systems, indescribable pain and hardships, had the valor and integrity to distinguish the time when and the way of how to fight for what is was right. Some of them were risking their well-beings by doing it and, sometimes evenly they lost their own families in that long meanwhile. Some of them were imprisoned, humiliated, ripped of their jobs, reputations and belongings and, many times some of them lost their own lives. However, they managed to change those unjustified policies, doctrines and practices by opposing to them with reason, while others remained silence because they were terrorized or intimidated or both.

If we use terror to terrify what really are we? if we torture the torturers, aren't we torturers as well? -- Yes, we need to defend ourselves, but we need to look into the "roots", the original causes of these conflicts; it is just very easy to hate, to blame, to point fingers, to destroys homes and lives, by using all sorts of gadgets, like espionage on citizens, so called domestic intelligence, or other means. I tell you this... yes I do, probably, it was the way in which the west was won, and the way used by some people in the United States to enslave other people, The "move" to stolen the lands of the original peoples of America, and the way some groups decided to brake into other governments in the world for creating puppet democracies, perhaps this was more successful than the "audacity" done in Vietnam and/or Iraq, because instead of invasion and persecution, they used persuasion, sabotage and again "intelligence".

Well, now that you use Google maps and social "Wikipedias", "twitters", "Facebooks" and "Myspaces", now that everyone is considered a suspect, a potential terrorist, I hope you can "see", "think", "feel" and "act" accordingly, because this is not the way, shape, form or reason, why many people came to America in the first place. I won't talk about the Africans, because, the majority of them were obliged, forced to came here, and also I won't talk about the original peoples of America, because they were here before all of us, 25,000 years ago, but now they live in "reservations" because many of them, preferred to honor their ancestry, something that was not and it is not very well accepted by the powers that were and are, incidentally the same ones who just took these lands, to sell in good price over the next foreclosure.

The hate has been managed a little bit, America in one point were the laughing stock of the world during the previous administration, and now we have a new president. His ancestry and background in the White House has epitomized again this country, as a country made of people who strive for liberty, equality and justice for all, the land of the brave and the free. Perhaps, "I am a savage...but this I know... everything is connected", and therefore now, we need to reconnect with people in the very especial ways America was able to do it before, in a past not too far from this, with the blues, Jazz and Rock.

America again, leading the people to the greatest good for all, but not creating a culture in which everybody is or can be rewarded to become an informant or a 911 operator; or a bastard noisy spy, who just make money on the misery of those who are having an affair on the streets and in secret living their fantasies or escaping their demons; or from those who are as blatant as, Thomas Paine, who can state clearly what needs to be said, written and done. Remember, Paine was English and what he stated in those times in favor of the independence of United States were in direct opposition to his King and Kingdom, the most powerful empire on earth at that epoch.

I am telling you, yes, I do, I beg your pardon, for my lack of touch, but also I am exposing, though never imposing my ideas to none. What is wrong is wrong, no matter whom you think you really are. How many missiles you have or how many nuclear weapons you can fire at once, it does not matter that your enemies are all the way wrong up to the end of the times; of course, terrorism is very wrong, extremely wrong and unacceptable, but in spite of all the aggravations, highly likelihoods of risk and uncertainty, within and architecture of choice, you cannot become what you, by law and by decent, diligent and well-intentioned effort, and moreover by reason, try to eradicate in the first place; read this word, "eradicate", again, that is the solution not only to terrorism but also for poverty and other maladies, at least we did it with the bubonic fever, didn't we. Eradication, it does not mean annihilation, that is different, because in that annihilation we are killing our own culture too, we are giving out our freedoms, justice, and our way of life, our own way of being us, just by doing the same or worst things that they [the terrorists or other seemingly extremists of both sides of the spectrum, left and right] were, or are able to do to us. Take a look what has happened in Iraq. It is all horrible and it is all wrong...

The most significant phrase that President Obama has uttered, I heard it lately, when he stated in a conference press, "I am only the president of United States", now that it is all that we need to do preemptively, looking for improving continuously our mainland, with creativity, like Thomas Alva Edison, or Tesla, Steve Wozniak, but please not trying to emulate people like Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or Bloomberg, these people are obviously motivated by greed and power [We also need to take all them out of any Philanthropic capacity, they really do not understand nothing about it, because they feed from a schema of things that need few at the top and the rest at the bottom.]

We need people that inspire us, like Charles Lindbergh, Neil Armstrong, Benjamin Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Cassius Clay, Martin Luther King Jr, Louis Armstrong, Abraham Lincoln, et al. Those and others are the real and eternal Americans, they had improved our lives in many ways, they made diligent efforts to put up with the obstacles that they faced in their lives and, they did it without interest [you can read credit or Buffett in here] and for the well being of others, and we are all grateful that they did all this because thanks to them we are better off today, this is tangible and we can feel it; there are many others, unknown heroes that every day deliver their care to make our children laugh and grow, like those grandparents, and those parents who in turn, everyday need to go to work to face the "Madoffs" of their times, the "Gates", the "Buffets", the "Bloombergs" and many other miserable type of "Bottom-liners" and assholes like the aforementioned, that unfortunately, it seems so, will be always around us. These are people "that can move and make moves", they just are dedicated to profit from, well sucking is the appropriate action verb, and the substantive, is exploitation, of the most "weaker links" in this blindly unjust market place, same market that so far has failed dramatically to bring the American Dream to its constituencies, now merely debtors, this within US and also over the rest of the world.

Now, again what is intelligence? Change to where we were in one point and them continue together growing, not an alignment or alienation, but a civilization of peace, with people who are working together as individuals with their own mind, not as ants or zombies without any discernment. Working or making efforts to improve their lives in the most humane way. This is possible and it is fair and over all this is the real American Way. "E Pluribus Unum".

Therefore, this paper is about one of those individuals, in reality, I wrote this paper circa 1998, when I was facing tremendous stress and somehow some of my colleagues told me, “well, aren’t you like Sojourner Truth, yet?” Up to that day, I had never heard about her, so this paper is the account of my search over who the real Sojourner Truth was and; and more importantly still, how she could provide me with examples on how to deal and manage positive change for my organization and elsewhere, facing a terrible crisis and a lot of stress.


Before I present my ideas to the reader, I would like to explain part of the process that took place in the creation of this document. I guess that this process is worth to be mentioned because it illuminates areas that otherwise would remain unperceived or lost.

The situation that propel the writing of this paper were complex and very challenging, so I did want to recreate another real scenario but much worst that the one I was experiencing at that moment. On one hand, I wanted to understand how the content of this research could be important not only for myself but also for other managers and on the other hand, how its elaboration would fit the interest and taste of many readers as possible, because I thought that managing change in positive ways was everybody's task, a task for people in their organizations, at their homes, churches, and schools, whether students or teachers, workers or administrators, churchgoers, atheists or reverends, managing change in our lives and helping others to reach better status, that is [the true] America and this global adventure all about.

I was focusing on many apparent successful personalities, in the world of business, such as Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs and even Marc Andreessen, all of them young living billionaires in this current digital age. Suddenly, I noticed an intense pain, I understood that some of my neurons were clogging in my brain around mainly two issues.

First, what the world excellence means for most of us, rational beings, and second, what excellence means in a world who needs more human services than those that are purported nowadays, more and more by automated computers alone? I knew well then that the aforementioned figureheads should be disregarded from the content of this paper, but my headache did not end just there.

My quest for that example of a “critical situation-magic solution” started with the word “excellence”. Facing a great degree of uncertainty a manager must execute the right things, and all famous managers are know to be excellent and that excellence is founded on the timely decisions that they could take no matter how big the opposition or the trouble is, once they study the many shapes and forms of the events and their consequences they hedge into action with unequivocally determination and dexterity. As Coretta Scott King wrote about the thoughts of Martin Luther King Jr.:

I want you to be in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity. I want you to be important, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
(Krass, 1998, p. 7)

When I read the lines that appear above, I remembered those people that have somehow influenced me the most. Some, as my mother, my father, my teachers, to all these fine people I have met them personally, but still others that I did not, such as Simón Bolívar or Mary Wollstonecraft, for example. In one way or another, I appreciate all these Human Beings because of their services to their particular societies. Like Bolívar and Wollstonecraft, there are others who did not work only for themselves or for the good of their families alone; they sacrificed their own lives for the well-being and betterment of other people. These are the real managers of change in our history. Through their efforts and ideals, the nations have improved the quality of life that they can offer to their constituencies. They have given example of altruism... of real love, compassion, and true excellence.

How easily then I was able to select the “role model”, again suddenly, but this time in contrast, my headache just disappeared ...bluff! Vanished, it was completely gone. It was a neuronal alignment, I imagined all my neurons forming exotic fractal designs with their dendrites and I saw in my thoughts two names: Mohandas K. Gandhi or Sojourner Truth.

I decided, at last! for Sojourner Truth because, for one thing, I knew Gandhi since I read about his life in the Reader's Digest when I was a ten year-old boy and also later on, I watched the movie; while from Sojourner Truth, I did not know nothing about, even more importantly the events surrounding segregation, slavery and especially those issues of race and gender were and are somehow important to me. Even though, in America these issues have been improved over the years, but obviously there is still a need to do more about them. Sojourner Truth was an active and positive agent of these causes, Woman Rights and Abolition of Slavery, when people would have been imprisoned, lynched or evenly killed for only participate in one of these events or uttered words in favor of these causes.

A System That Influenced Sojourner Truth

Therefore, I wanted to perform a psychosocial on Sojourner, i.e., I wanted to know how was her childhood and early adulthood; what was the cause or event or situation that propelled her success. In addition, I did want to understand which personal beliefs helped her through those tough and challenging times, did somebody help her?

Not too far away from where I am writing this paper, precisely in town that must be called Hurley, in New York, Sojourner Truth was born, yes it was around 200 hundred years ago, yes in the year of our Lord of 1797. She was born to see the light as a slave. She was considered a property, a commodity...a thing that can be bought or sold. She was named Isabella by her parents James and Elizabeth Baumfree who in turn were the property of the Colonel Hardenbergh. [46 year later she change her name to Sojourner Truth.] As commodity she was sold many times under different circumstances.

Slavery, what can I tell you? It was an old system, very well established and profitable, by the time Isabella arrived to this “new world” full of old tricks. Since 1626, Dutch settlers began importing slaves from Africa, (they were the first in doing so) to work in their farms. The British continued the “tradition” and by 1723 the Africans made up about the 15% of the entire New York population. Of course as you see slave were a very important part of that economy, if we can called that way.

Isabella Change Forever after her mother told her and her younger brother, “My children there is God ... He lives in the sky. ... When you are beaten, or cruelly treated, or fall into trouble, you must ask help of him, and he will always hear and help you” (Krass, 1998, P. 23). The mother assured them that they were under God's protection. Isabella would survive many atrocities because she had developed strong self-confidence and beliefs. She faced successfully all kind of adversities because she was convinced that God was safeguarding her at all times.

I think, the event that started Sojourner to think that she would be free one day was when she witnessed the pain when she witnessed the pain that her mother experienced when the slave traders took her children away from her. She would understand that something was very wrong about all of that.

Isabella also would be sold and so was separated from her mother when she was only 11 year-old and then her “master” became John Nealy, he also bought her brother, but nobody wanted her father because he was crippled, therefore she was separated from her both parents at that time.

Isabella, who spoke Dutch, did not understand the language of her new mistress, English, so she usually was cruelly beaten. Sojourner would describe her life with this family as a hell.

She always would have a strong Dutch accent, but she was fluent in English. She, as a female slave, would work in the fields and in the home. This factor would make physically strong. She was considered a reliable worker when she reached her teens. Isabella was a tall woman who could work as hard as any man in the field, and as efficiently as any woman for the chores at home.

She married with an old slave name Thomas with whom she never became too close yet they had a number of children together. Her first child was Diana, and after the next 12 years, Isabella gave birth to four more children: Elizabeth, Hannah, Peter, and Sophie. They learned the same lesson that Sojourner learned from her mother: Never steal, never lie, and always obey your master.

Year after year, she would juggle her duties in the field, planting corn, chopping wood, and hauling buckets of water for the family that owned her at the time [the Dumonts] with her nursing and caring responsibilities as a mother.

On July 4, 1827 slaves in New York celebrated “Freedom Day”, it was the day that the legislature had decreed that al slaves over the age of 28 would be free. Sojourner was free due that she was bought by a Quaker family who would set her free because they did not believe in slavery; nevertheless, all her children except Sophie were slaves. She was one of the first black American women in the United States who won a lawsuit. After this incident, I believe she would understand that she had a mission, and the power to carry on this mission. fro this brief biography we can understand that Sojourner Truth's life was affected by the slavery system, but her values and strong determination would make her dreams can true. The Van Wageners were her mentors; they set her free, and helped her by giving her their spiritual and material support.

The Mission of Sojourner Truth and Her Leadership Qualities

There are many types of organizations; mostly we can divide them in profit and no-profit. Sojourner Truth fits in the organization chart as founder and CEO of a non-profit organization. So let us explore how this it is so.

Peter Drucker (1995) wrote, “For the ultimate test is not the beauty of the mission statement. The ultimate test is action.” One word that could describe Sojourner Truth is precisely: “action”. From the early stages of her life until her very last days. She always was building up her character. She was recognizing the “holes” in those systems of her time.

Peter Senge
(1993) explains that leading organizations concentrate in both, generative learning and adaptive learning; by generative learning, he meant the natural impulse of human beings to learn, it involves creativity. In contrast, adaptive learning is about coping. (pp. 7-9)

Sojourner Truth, learned to cope with her situation, she worked hard as few people would, and she learned English. Although she could not read or write, she published her experiences as a slave by narrating them to one of her friends.

The organization that she adapted to in the first place was the slavery system, and then based on her own experiences she realized that women were also deprived of their rights as slaves were in those times. She decided to connect with leaders of the women's rights movement to aid their causes. Therefore, she ended liberating herself and she even decided to fight for the rights of women.

Because of her purpose and her commitment and most importantly her achievements in spite of all the adversities that she faced in her life, it is my understanding, that Sojourner Truth is the Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the Board of the Human Rights movement at least in America.

I have the pleasure to write that she was considered an electrifying public speaker that she was a successful fundraiser for organizations that helped African Americans, and supported the Women's Rights movement. She encouraged and supported President Lincoln during the Civil War.

In many ways, I feel that the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was her mission statement, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude... should exist within the United States nor any place subject to its jurisdiction.” (Krass, 19880).

Peter Drucker was the first to realize the importance of focusing in the means of production instead of the ends. Sojourner Truth realized this concept too. She did what she did because she had a firm conviction that slavery was wrong. Somehow, she was able to focus on those people who were suffering that unjust system.

The anti-slavery activist accomplished her goals by focusing in the means ...the people. She understood the importance of motivating and encouraging people that were interested in fighting the injustices therein in slavery and the lack of human rights. In this way, Sojourner seemed to just follow the dictum of Peter Drucker about commitment; let us imagine living 30 years as slave, and more than 50 years working for the liberation of slaves and for the women's rights. She was obviously committed all her life to her mission.

Drucker (1995) also mentioned the need to establish concrete action goals (pp. 4-5). Sojourner stated that she had received her mission from God himself/herself, so she thought that she possessed God's vision, a vision that she wanted and shed did follow till her final days and with all her energy. Hence her assurance to plan and implement her goals and objective; for example, first she wanted to be free, and then she wanted her sons to be free, next she wanted women to be able to vote. Thereupon, she wanted equal rights and better opportunities of employment for women and African-Americans. At that pint, she understood the importance of hospitals and health care for African-Americans.

Sojourner ended up meeting two presidents in the White House, Lincoln and Grant. People that were inspired by her speeches wrote poems in her name, in fact they still doing this nowadays but with more frequency. She published her book in 1850, “The narrative of Sojourner Truth,” she was 53 years old by then. She accomplished all these by, as Drucker stated, setting concrete action-goals. “Non-profit institutions exist for their mission. They exist to make a difference in the society and in the life of the individual. They exist for the sake of their mission, and this must never be forgotten.” (Op. cit., p. 45)

The Northampton Association of Education and The Industry
and Freedmen's Hospital were the two first institutions that addressed the needs of poor people funded by the Federal Government of United States. Sojourner Truth joined both organizations, because she had understood their mission, she wanted to make a difference and she did it indeed.

Thus, when Peter Senge (1995) talks about that leaders are designers and the teachers who have the skills to build a shared vision (pp. 8-13) he seems to be talking about Sojourner Truth. In addition in “The Fifth Discipline: A shift of Mind,” Senge (1997) presents the idea that a “system thinking” is the ability to think in the wholes, the capacity to recognize connections: Sojourner indeed had this discipline since she understood completely that slavery was only the beginning for improving the civil rights in United States. She was able to see the big picture in the fabric of the society in which she lived.

Lessons Learned From Sojourner Truth
The most I like about Sojourner is her attitude, because she would strongly challenge adversaries. I remember reading her debate over the “Weak Sex”. She would stand up with her six feet tall frame and with her deep voice and strong Dutch accented English would say:

“Where is so much racket, there must be something out of killer. That 'something' was the domination of women and blacks by white men,” the turning to the then minister who has states previously that women were took weak to deserve equal rights she responded, “How could that be? Nobody had ever helped me into carriage, or ever carried me over a mud puddle, or even given me the best place anywhere,” and pulling her arm she voice louder but without screaming at the audience, “And aren't I a women? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have planted and plowed and gathered into barns, and no man could head me. And aren't I a women?” (Krass, 1998, p 17)

The plenty of things that we can learn and emulate from Sojourner, even her name is 'singular', but what personally I like the most about her is her commitment and her ability to work with people with different background, education, economic status, race and gender. Therefore, looking the life of Sojourner Truth, we can discover how our perceptions influenced the way we think, feel and behave with others or towards others and how this awareness can facilitate and improve our lives, at work, at home, and within our communities. As I described before, I was interested in discovering what some people would do when they face a crisis and high degree of uncertainty with the end to improve my managerial practice. Sojourner has given many incentives and ideas, I found one of the most important tools, her ability to strategies, i.e., strategy management. He approach towards people in power and her alliances confirms that she was able to influence people because she knew how to use different approaches, what we called the business-level and corporate-level approaches for instance.

Strategic management is the most delicate detail for the success of an organization, in other words, formulating and implementing start with the most fundamental purpose of the organization, i.e., the mission. Who can doubt about what was the mission of Sojourner Truth?

Equally important is the application of the traditional SWOT analysis, this shall help managers-leaders to formulate effective strategies by avoiding weaknesses, neutralizing treats, and exploiting strengths and opportunities.

In closing, the concepts of turbulence and uncertainty have assisted me to understand somehow how Sojourner throughout her strong beliefs, purpose and perseverance was able to manage both of them. She was able to anticipate problems, and skip barriers and/or obstacles in her way, this is particularly important for all managers of positive change. Sojourner it is an example that is set of stone, an example that could help us all to face and overcome or even better avoid, if we just could, the crises and calamities that we, now, do not have other choice but change. Thank Sojourner your courage is an standard [that] I must follow.

Partially review by JMK on 08-11-09

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