We hosted our November City Impact Lab breakfast at the Metro Bike Share warehouse where we were given a tour of the facility and even got to ride as yet unreleased e-bikes. Our speakers were Tamika Butler, Principal at Tamika L. Butler Consulting, and Andy Carrasco, Director of Regional Public Affairs at Southern California Gas Company. Here’s a snapshot of what they had to share with us…
I have a three month old son and somebody asked me the other day when I was speaking at another event what I am proudest of. I responded that I am proudest of building an LA that will be better for my son than it is for me. I think that, for me individually, making that change is about three things:
- Be authentic – If you are your authentic self, I think the change you can make is totally world changing. But I think it’s hard for people not just because we live in the world of fake news, but because we live in a world where there are these gold rings we’re supposed to try to chase. For some people, that path works. But I think particularly for people of color, people who come from low-income backgrounds, women, anybody with a disability, queer folks, we too often are thinking about the change we want to make based on what other people want us to do. We feel a lot of pressure to do things differently. I think we have to make that authentic and honest shift from, “What will make other people proud?” to “What will make me happy?” When you can live in your true, authentic self, I think that can take you really far.
- Know who you are and surround yourself with people who validate you – That doesn’t mean surround yourself with people who always tell you what you’re doing is right. There is a difference. Too often, as people who are leading, and I think this is particularly a problem in LA, we wanna be surrounded by people who are like, “Yes. That’s great.” You should be surrounded by people who validate who you are, but don’t always tell you what you’re doing is right. You need people to push you. You need people to make you rise to the occasion. You need people who don’t let you sit in complacency, but you also need people who validate who you are and say to you, “You know what, you’re not happy. Why are you trying to do this thing?”
- Surround yourself with mentors and people who matter – There are so many events you go to where you sit next to someone, chat it up, exchange business cards, never follow up. We’re never going to create the change we want to if we are trying to do it alone. I was a civil rights and employment lawyer for several years, and there was never a case I was going to win if I didn’t surround myself with people who brought different things to the table. Too often, we don’t want to interact and engage with people, especially the community, because we’re afraid of what they’re going to tell us, or that we’re speaking different languages and we’re not going to understand them. When you go into any project or leadership experience, ask yourself if the people around you are truly representative of different fields. Are they gonna bring things to the conversation that you never thought about? The true test isn’t, “Did you bring all the right people to the table?” It’s, “Do all of those people have decision-making power? Have you been honest about the power and the privilege dynamics? Are you willing to realize that maybe the table you’re trying to build isn’t the right table, that there might actually be other tables or chairs or benches or trees or street corners that are the place you really need to be? Are you open to going into those places as your authentic self, but being willing to listen and being willing to push yourself?
I grew up on the East side, beyond beyond Boyle Heights. I was a student at Garfield High School, which was the tipping point for me, in terms of my trajectory toward where I am today. For those of you who watch movies, there was a teacher at Garfield, Jaime Escalante, who taught AP calculus [on whom the movie Stand and Deliver was based]. He was featured in national news because he was able to teach students calculus, and have them all pass the AP test. The AP board questioned the validity of those grades and so tested the students again, even after protests, and they all passed a second time.
I was one of the students. I took AP calculus at Garfield High School, and I also passed. Jaime Escalante made you believe that you could do anything you wanted. He said to us, “I will make you successful if you sign this contract.” He called it his,”Contract for Success.” I’m going to walk you through that contract, because my approach to leadership is taken, to this very day, from it. The contract said three simple things
- Show up – Simple, right? “I can’t teach you calculus and I can’t get you through the AP test if you’re not here” You have to make the commitment that you are going to be there, you are going to open the book, and that you are going to do whatever you need to do to show up.
- Be present – It isn’t enough for you to be there physically. You have to be there in mind too. I needed to be there making sure that I understood the concepts, that I was able to ask questions, that I was able to interact with my fellow students, and with the professor. And he said, “Listen. We all have issues, we all have problems. Whether it’s your tia, or your cousin, your mom, or your neighbor. We all have issues. I can guarantee you, if you leave them at the door, they’ll be waiting for you right as soon as class is over.” Be present, think about the issues at hand, the problems in front of you, and solve them.
- Execute – Do what you say that you’re committed to. Get it done. No excuses. If you did not do the work, then you weren’t allowed in class. You had to go deal with your issue, so that the next day you could participate. We can all say we’re gonna be committed, we can all say we’re gonna show up, but if you don’t do the work, it doesn’t matter.
Our thanks to Metro Bike Share for hosting this City Impact Lab, and we look forward to seeing you all at our next monthly breakfast!