Monday, October 14, 2013

UnExpert Update!


Hi friends…I wouldn’t quite say I’ve had writer’s block since my last update…(maybe I’m in denial). The truth is that I was insanely busy teaching summer school, traveling every weekend, getting involved with my church, and enjoying the company of my friends and family.  All that said, I’m so happy to be back with UnExpert updates and I sincerely appreciate all of the love and support you have shown me as a reader of this blog. It’s been a year since I started this blog on a whim and it’s been such a great experience to share my thoughts with all of you.  


With that being said, I leave you with the words that I wrote in my first post about this blog. I feel like I’ve stayed true to this sentiment:

I am not an expert on anything I am talking about. My intent is to show that I’m just like you. I often ask questions that don’t have simple answers. I do my best to make a point with these writings, and if anything hope that people can connect. I gathered the bravery to share these because I realized that perhaps I don’t have to be an expert. I don’t have the voice of some of the most witty and profound writers that I love, but I’ve got my own voice. Take a look and read around…and yes, leave a comment if you feel so moved. Even if you are the only one! J

Yours in UnExpertness,

Brandon 




Metamorphosis in America pt 1 – The Frustration


I’m starting a new series of blog posts which aim to address the following questions:
  1. Do things really need to get any worse in our country before we start to see real change?
  2. What are the conditions that can cause a collective whole to create societal change?
  3. What are some examples of progressive change happening in America?


All that said…I’ll start with how I’m feeling now about the topic of change in America…FRUSTRATED.

Over the summer I had the pleasure of teaching third and sixth grade students more about the Civil Rights movement. While doing that, I also educated myself quite a bit.

I’ve always had a breadth of knowledge about different experiences and stories of the Civil Rights movement; At the same time, having learned about the Civil Rights Movement with a “breadth-of-stories” approach, I think I missed out in learning the specificity of adversity, contributions and admirable character traits which shape so many of the narratives of this time. It sort of all got lumped together in – things were really bad, and these people did great things so you can have a great life.

Through teaching the specific story of the lunch-counter sit-ins to my students, I learned more about the strategic efforts that went into enacting the change those particular participants in the movement wanted to see. I was amazed by the sense of dedication, passion and resilience that those participants possessed, and also impressed by the results of their efforts.  When I saw The Butler movie that recently came out, I let out a quick/small burst of excitement when I saw the Woolworth’s restaurant because I actually knew what this was about and could speak to the efforts those college students placed in arranging the sit-ins and having to deal with pepper  being thrown at them, being spat on, having ketchup and hot coffee poured over them all for a greater purpose.

I begin this post with a lens of the Civil Rights movement for many reasons.  The Civil Rights movement is a movement loaded with rich history, amazing leadership and unsung heroes. The collective whole brought about a change to a society which was in dire need of change.  In my opinion…my country is still in DIRE NEED OF CHANGE.  I want to be a part of a movement that causes change. The only problem is…I DON’T KNOW HOW OR WHAT TO DO TO CAUSE CHANGE? And I should clarify…there has been a lot of positive change and progress that has been made for several causes. Gay marriage is a great example of people rallying together for a cause and creating some results. The changes I want to see have more to do with gun violence, racial profiling, and unfair legislation and systemic racism which keeps blacks and other persons of color disenfranchised.

 Despite the apathetic and complacent attitudes usually associated towards racial socio-political affairs, there are plenty of people who want to enact change in our society. I  think there are a good number of people who may share my feeling of wanting to help change the landscape regarding these issues, but usually get caught up trying to tackle the following hurdles:


  • I don’t know who the enemy is – so unlike during the times of the 1960’s Civil Rights era, there doesn’t seem to be a clear antagonist or singular piece of legislation that could/can magically make things better for the plight of the racially oppressed or countless gun violence victims living in America.  It appears that the “enemy” has taken on a stealth persona caught up in bureaucratic red tape. Not to mention all of the people that believe we live in a post-racial society, and/or those who avidly seek to maintain/protect our current gun laws. This feeling of a nebulous/invisible enemy is troubling and unsettling for someone who wants to see change.  Regardless of the enemy’s visibility factor, the outcomes and repercussions of the “enemy’s” presence is very visible and has had real dire consequences on our communities and lives. 

  • What is our Approach? In the event that there are clear and precise targets to go after that will change the systems of racial oppression and gun violence, the question then becomes, what is the approach change agents should use to catalyze and sustain the desired results? This was often something that was debated during the 1960’s Civil Rights movement. I personally can’t see a “by any means necessary” in tow with a gun in hand as the most reasonable way to address gun violence. As ridiculous as that sounds, I use it to illustrate the point in that a strategic approach is one that can capture people’s attention, rally support and create change.  The approach to the Civil Rights movement has often been studied and revered for its keen approach in creating the results it sought to garner. If there is indeed going to be change regarding systems of racial oppression and gun violence, what does it look like to create that change?

  • Immediacy of Results : The last hurdle that I feel like blows out my candle to create change is the immediacy of results. Even if there were to be a clear target to suitably approach to create change…how long would it take for real change to take place and what would be the long-term sustainability of that change? I often question the immediacy factor because as someone who grew up in the “microwave” generation, I expect to see things must faster.  There’s a “fruits of my labor/return on investment” mentality that I can’t help to shake. As a teacher that works at a school in crisis, I constantly am wrestling with the education reform approach taken to address the school’s needs and wondering about the results we’ll see. Sure, some of the kids test scores have gone up, but many of the students are significantly behind academically, and let’s not even begin to talk about the social-emotional pieces which need to be addressed. Will gun violence really be reduced because of new gun laws? Will racial oppression just find a new way to mask itself into the fabric of society if other systemic pillars are challenged and destabilized?  How do we champion the progress made with Obama and yet recognize the journey ahead with Trayvon Martin?


I’m not an expert, but I’m open to suggestions and ways I can educate myself. I take a risk in sharing this because I could come off extremely ignorant to current movements/organizations that are trying to address the issues I mentioned. Either way, I believe this country is in dire need of change. I will exchange looking ignorant for a way to look involved in creating change. Yes I’m a teacher…and I don’t discount the work I’m doing to bring about positive changes in the lives of young people… I’m seeking an additional affiliation though. I want to be a part of an urgent macro-level change movement that reduces gun violence and helps uplift racially oppressed people economically and socially. I know it may sound lofty…but if Dr. King can dream….why can’t I?

Please listen to the words in the video below which really capture my sentiment. 

Facing Fears


Much to my parents’ dismay, I actually like Halloween.  Since college, I’ve been going to themed haunted houses (I should clarify, not “real” haunted houses, but ones that a production company and actors create) and I even started watching American Horror Story.  What I like most about haunted houses is that I am insanely terrified, but yet I manage to press my way through the house, look my fear in the eye and actually deal with it. I get a rush while going through the house, and the thrilling sense of relief and excitement I get afterwards makes me feel brave and fearless.


Though haunted houses do not represent the fears that we encounter in life outside of a spooky themed house, they provide a great model of how to conquer and face emotional and sometimes psychological phobic fears.

Fear of failure, love, rejection, loneliness, the truth….all of these things would fall into the emotional fears section. Usually unmet expectations drive this fear, and while these aren’t the gripping fears that startle you when you turn a dark corner, they can keep you up in the night or cause anxiety. I had been dealing with an emotional fear when I started this blog a year ago, and I’m proud to say that I’ve faced that fear, dealt with it, and have come out for the better because of it. It’s really not as scary anymore.

Then you have your psychological phobic fears…some people are afraid of cats, spiders, small spaces, the dark, clowns, etc. Don’t be too quick to dismiss these as trivial things that just apply during Halloween. These fears are real and can affect people’s everyday life. I have a friend who has a hard time going on elevators…and it’s not a joke. I’m startled/scared of pigeons that get to close to me, mainly because I don’t want to be pooped on or touched by a pigeon. I imagine that if a day ever comes where I do get pooped on by a bird, that it will force me to deal with that fear and keep it moving…though I’m TOTALLY OK living with my fear of getting pooped on by a bird for the rest of my life – i.e. I don’t ever need to experience that.
 
That’s the thing about fears…once you face them…they really aren’t fears anymore. They can’t control you. I can’t wait until my annual haunted house outing with my friends next week.  Perhaps there will be a room full of flying pigeons in it…Here’s to facing fears!


27 Things I've Learned About Myself. The Good...the Bad & the Random


Over the summer, I got to celebrate my 27th birthday with loved ones. I love birthdays because they are the only day that everyone gets to feel special and be celebrated just because of who they are.

When you’re a kid, a lot of the focus on your birthday revolves around what you want as far as material things like toys, bikes, parties etc. But as I’ve gotten older, when people ask, “what do you want for your birthday?”, I usually struggle in coming up with an answer because a lot of the things I want are less tangible and just have to play out over time (that or the things I want are ridiculously expensive or unrealistic. “Do you think you could pay off this credit card for me? “ “How about a trip to Greece, South Africa and Paris for my birthday? Most folks aren’t doing that.)

Anywho, one of the great things about getting older is that you reflect on where you are in your life and then compare it to where you thought you would be and where you want to go. I had always heard that you get to know yourself better with age, and I know that I still have SOOO much more to learn. Usually with milestone ages, there’s a lot of fanfare, accouterments, and unquestioned respect and appreciation people receive simply for reaching that age. But what about all the interim and random ages that go under recognized? This year I turned 27…what’s so special about 27? Besides that movie 27 dresses, I really couldn’t think of a time when 27 got a lot of props….so I decided that a list of 27 things that I’ve learned about myself was most appropriate.  With that said…in no particular order…here it is:

  1. Somehow, some kind of way I have developed a habit of procrastination. I have managed it well and sometimes do my best work under pressure. I will deal with this all of my life and accept it as the way it is.
  2. I am a very generous person, and I like that about myself
  3. I love being organized, but it is very hard for me to stay organized.
  4. I am sensitive
  5. I have cleverly crafted using guilt to get things. I’ve used it in a way that some people don’t realize that I’m even using it. I aim not to do that & have fully disclosed it with close friends so they can call me out on it
  6. I make a lot of weird noises and sounds when no one is around, I actually find it to be a weird form of release
  7. I am an introverted extrovert, read up on it more here if you care to: http://www.cvtips.com/career-choice/best-careers-and-skills-for-introverted-extroverts.html
  8. I am a forgiving person
  9. I am comfortable with being the center of attention or a leader, but it is not something I seek out intentionally
  10. All my friends are witty and I appreciate that form of humor
  11. When I commit to a task, job, or role I am extremely dedicated and passionate
  12.  I have gotten more crass as I’ve gotten older…and I’m sort of okay with that, lol
  13. I appreciate small thoughtful gestures over large grand gestures
  14. I hold on to what people say sometimes more than what they do
  15. I am genuinely authentic and polite
  16. At my worst I am condescending, snide and dramatic
  17. I really enjoy adventure and physical activities, despite never seeing myself as an athlete growing up
  18. I enjoy giving compliments
  19. I feel like I hear, process and am connected to music more intensely than most people
  20. I am creative
  21. All of my close friends are influencers in my life. They teach me new things and help make me a better person
  22. I have a lot of self-motivation and drive
  23. My favorite foods are French fries, lime popsicles, raspberries and pizza
  24. Every time I try to bulk up by increasing my food/caloric intake, I see most of the weight gain in my stomach. I will have to work out some day or just accept my thin frame
  25. My family makes me feel extremely loved and that has helped me feel comfortable expressing love to friends and romantic partners
  26. I like my full name: Brandon Christopher Byrd.
  27. I would read a list of facts about a person I cared about too, so thank you for reading