Category Archives: Education

A New Day: Guided by My Desired Feelings…


 Our emotions need to be as educated as our intellect.

It is important to know how to feel, how to respond,

and how to let life in so that in can touch you.

~ Jim Rohn

And, I’m back!

I never really left. I simply took an emotional and intellectual break to dig deeper into what I truly desire in life as it relates to being a citizen of the world, a small business owner, a working professional graduate student, wife, daughter, sister, and friend.

Since the start of 2013, I have been educating my emotions by focusing on my desired feelings. In particular, I have found myself exploring the hopes and dreams of my soul in The Desire Map. What is that you ask?

Everything we do is driven by the desire to feel a certain way.

…We need to make our feelings the heart of the matter.


Based on this idea, The Desire Map is a multimedia guide to what you want the most. In addition to this self-guided exploration, I took a course entitled, “The Business of Being an Artist,” as well as attended a 2-day workshop on Right-Brain Business Planning. The 8 months of contemplating such pursuits was a priceless opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow that resulting in me completing the Jillybeads 4 Justice business plan along with a visual one for inspiration.

Say what…you launched your business without a complete business plan?!

Yes, I did and I’m proud of the fact that I’m no longer part of the 70% of businesses that start without one. From the beginning, this venture has been a leap of faith (see Why I Started a Business) as I use my true and gained gifts to inspire and implement my passions in a tangible way. What’s clear to me now that was more vague then was that if I continued giving my gifts to someone else’s vision of “changing the world” and “making a difference” that I would remain stuck and feeling like a passive citizen. Those that know me would agree that staying in one place or being inactive are not traits that would be used to describe me. And so, I choose to follow my vision and desire feelings as I continue on this journey.

As a result of this personal and professional inquiry, here’s what you can come to expect:

  • Advocacy: I will show support for the causes I believe to be social justice issue and recommend simple while timely ways you too can show your support.
  • Education: I believe when providing a recommendation, it’s also your responsibility to inform. Though cognizant of my bias I choose to use them as my lens in seeing the world.
  • Accessorizing: A new piece bi-weekly (on the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month) that will include the bead’s story, my inspiration for the piece, or highlight my creative practices.

Simply put, I am excited to be on this journey and to share it will you. Tomorrow’s the day of something new—I’ll be sharing the first new piece, so stayed tuned…

CALL 2 ACTION: Inspired to consider your desired feelings?! You should as…

Desire is the engine of creation.
Feelings are your road signs.
Desire mapping is how to get where you want to go.

For more information, go here.


Inspirational Beauty Everywhere | What’s Next for Jillybeads 4 Justice…

Photo Taken by Nikole DeZao

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been almost 3 months since the launch of Jillybeads 4 Justice! Now don’t get me wrong, there were many tasks that went into making such an event a reality. However, in many ways, it was simply the starting line.

Just like the athletes who did and will compete in London, when the whistle blows or the gun fires is truly when the real work begins—everything else was simply preparation. As many of you know, Jillybeads 4 Justice is not what pays the bills (at least not yet). As a result, the work happens in the evenings, during lunch breaks, and on weekends and holidays. For some, that may seem like too much to balance. For me, its easy to put in the extra time after an already long day when it’s created from my heart and passion—the desire to have something to call my own that allows for the intersections of my interests to Advocate, Educate, and Accessorize.

Advocate: to speak or write in support or defense of a person or cause.

Those that know me, know that I’m vocal about the causes I care about. They vary from women’s issues (e.g. Title IX, freedom of choice, empowerment, etc.) to LGBTQ rights and marriage equality to racial and economic justice to education to our Mother Earth. Despite the breadth, there’s a unifying factor—social justice. I’ve been privileged to have the resources to critically analyze my experiences as a Black queer woman living in a perceived “post-racial,” heteronormative, patriarchal U.S. society. I pull a lot from my personal experience, as it’s the best “data” I have at my fingertips.

Yes, Jillybeads 4 Justice is a business. A business that advocates knowing that activism is political and courageously takes a stand for justice. I believe our purpose is to use our voice and networks to advocate for the great work that’s being done in the Bay Area, throughout the country, and beyond the U.S. borders. In order to do so, I believe it takes teamwork with like-minded individuals. Thus, Jillybeads 4 Justice (J4J) will be collaborating with causes and organizations to further support their work while getting the word out about J4J.

You might be thinking, “What will this look like?” The first action will be what we call, Challenge Week. Challenge Week will be a Featured Organization that Jillybeads 4 Justice is showing extra LOVE to during a specified week(s) by doing the following:

  • Donating $5 from each piece sold;
  • Offering free shipping on all custom orders; and
  • Giving Voice to the Cause through a guest post on the J4J blog.

It’s the kind of win-win we  at Jillybeads 4 Justice—a piece of jewelry is sold and great work is supported!

Stay tuned for the first Challenge Week, which will kickoff the launch of our Fall Collection…

Educate: to inform a person or group.

In many ways, education comes before advocacy. I could argue, you have to become knowledgeable—personally and intellectually—about what you care about before taking action. Much of my knowledge has been acquired traditionally through higher education, yet I believe knowledge is everywhere and should come from more than the dominant source. This work is personal. I will always share what I know from my mind and heart while a community of smart, brilliant, thoughtful, and passionate people that’s constantly expanding inspires my work. I also believe its just as much my mission to share the “mic” and give voice to those who are engaged in the work that Jillybeads for Justice supports.

Since launching J4J, I would say I have continued being a perpetual learner. Much can be learned from a book, yet I would say my favorite medium is through travel whatever the means—car, plane, train, or boat. Since April, I’ve had the great fortune to visit numerous cities, 9 states, and Canada through varying means. I enjoy exploring what each city, state, and country has to offer in terms of culture, food, shopping, and recreation while capturing the great moments through photos (See my album of 2012 Summer Inspiration). On many of these adventures, I’ve acquired the beads that will inspire the 2012 Fall & Holiday Collections.

This “live” education reminds me that we all have a role to play. One of these roles is teacher. I have the upmost respect for teachers and educators at every level. This is why I love my “day” job because I, as a member of a team of people, have the privilege of supporting teachers all over the country to conduct teacher-led professional development (lesson study) with high-quality resources. Then we research the impact these resources have on both teacher and student learning. As Deborah Kenny states in her book Born to Rise, “Education is not about developing products. It’s about developing people.” Even though Jillybeads 4 Justice sells a product, the product is simply a means of enacting praxis—a cyclical process of reflection and action. Thus, advocacy informs reflection and often more knowledge. It’s my hope that through this journey I can educate those who support Jillybeads 4 Justice.

Accessorize: to equip the public with high-quality unique handmade jewelry that inspires.

I have many ideas for the 2012 Fall & Holiday Collections floating around in my head. I’ve been inspired by the beauty in every city I’ve passed through or intentionally visited, as well as the many people I’ve met, the knowledge gained, and visions for which I aspire. I’m stoked to see how the beauty that’s been infused into my soul translates into beautiful pieces to wear.

Stay tuned for the results, which will launch in early October with the introduction of the 2012 Fall Collection!!!

~One love~

CALL 2 ACTION: For many the Olympics is over, not so! The 2012 Summer Paralympics Games kick-off this week in London (Wed, August 29—Sun, September 9). For more information, check out: and tune into the channel on YouTube: Show your support for ALL athletes!

Let’s “Occupy” Other Spaces!!!

In a compelling op-ed piece in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof suggests that we Occupy the Classroom.

“Want to close the equality gap? Providing early childhood education would be a great place to start, and it might even pay for itself.”

Let me know your thoughts…

What I Have Learned from a National Model of Praxis: The Core Values of NWP

As I fly back to the Bay Area from the National Writing Project’s (NWP) 2011 Spring Meeting, my mind swims in thoughts about the impact NWP has had on the tens of thousands of teachers we at the national office serve. For these amazing educators and leaders, I write today to show my support and solidarity for the #blog4NWP effort.

Although I was in Washington, D.C. supporting the event as a national staff member, I also co-facilitated a segment of the National Program Leaders meeting to share data I collected for an internal evaluation. The purpose of this collaborative self-study was to learn how participation on a NWP National Program leadership team may contribute to the development of both individual and site leadership capacity. For those unfamiliar with NWP’s work, such an examination is possible due to the central focus of identifying and developing teacher leadership. Sharing the data was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was thrilled to share the powerful and inspiring words of their colleagues I had captured while also moved to tears at the loss I felt by saying, “So long…” to both colleagues and friends. Nonetheless, I left strengthen by the resiliency and commitment by everyone in the room who knows undoubtedly the NWP and its national network MUST continue.

Rewind almost three years ago when I began working at the NWP office as a member of the Research & Evaluation Unit. From the beginning, I knew I would gain valuable research knowledge and skills, yet I never imagined that I would find a place to call my professional home. NWP is simply more than my employer; it has become a place of open dialogue, learning, collaboration, and unconditional support. This explains why it is with deep sadness mixed with frustration and anger that my position has been eliminated effective September 1. Although it would be easy to share the range of emotions I have experienced since hearing the news, I prefer to highlight the impact this powerfully thoughtful and unique organization has had on me. However, more than an individual impact has occurred; it’s Jim Gray’s theories (now the core values of NWP) that has led to 37 years of praxis—a cyclical process of theory, action, and reflection (Freire, 2000)—as a national model of professional development.

Freire’s notion of praxis is grounded in the fight for liberation among the oppressed. He advocates for education as the means to do so and believes engaging in education is a political act. He suggests that critical pedagogy is the best way to work with students as both educator and students are learners. I illuminate these points because our nation’s educators, hands down, fall under the category of oppressed and they often enter the profession to make a difference in the lives of students instead of expectations of a large paycheck. That’s what sets NWP apart, “teachers must be honored for their commitment, knowledge, and creativity” (Gray, 2000, p. xiii). Dating back to kindergarten, I too have had a profound love and respect for my teachers. In fact, the classroom and these caring, loving, and committed adults were my salvation from the dysfunction occurring in my home. Regardless of these feelings for my own teachers and the safe space they provided, it took moving from my public school district to an elite private school for me to see firsthand that teacher knowledge is valued differently.

NWP’s model of professional development does something that is unheard of despite its practicality—puts teachers at the center by valuing the knowledge that each professional holds by providing local, state, regional, and national opportunities for knowledge and skills to be shared through the often overlooked technique of teachers teaching teachers. With teaching and learning from one another central to the model, it’s the leadership capacity cultivated within teachers that truly makes the organization distinct. On the other hand, building such capacity is not simply restricted to those teachers we support in the network. I too have experienced it for myself.

When I was initially hired by NWP, I didn’t have all the necessary skills to acquire the position for which I applied. Nonetheless, they gave me the opportunity to apply the skills I did have while also learning the relevant knowledge and skills so that I could grow into the work and ultimately the position I have today. They believed that I had the capacity to assist in the research and evaluation of the work along with its impact on teachers, students, and education as a whole, but also in my capacity to be a steward of the organization. What’s more, I have discovered there is much to gain in a community of learners rather than in isolation. By being part of such a community, authentic collaboration and camaraderie develops both professionally and personally.

These theories (or NWP core values) I have mentioned above are put into action at the 200+ sites serving all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands through a common set of programmatic activities, which is often referred to as “the Writing Project model,” and includes the summer invitational institute, continuity activities, in-service programs, and partnerships. The invitational summer institute allows teachers from early childhood through university to engage in research, demonstrate a particular practice or approach they have had success with as teachers of writing, reflect upon their practice and desire to keep learning, and participate in peer response groups that provides a community of writers. This “career-altering experience” for many creates a foundation—“the Writing Project model”—of praxis that is exemplified for each of these teachers.

What I continue to find remarkable are two principles that have never changed: 1) teachers of writing must write and 2) there is no one correct way to teach writing. By allowing such freedom in one’s professional development, educators find their voice and often times the capacity to lead whether this be in their own school, district, local community, state, or at a national level. For nearly three years, I have had the pleasure to be part of the national office who provides the continuous support that allows the thousands of diverse educators to come to together and advocate for those who have yet to find their voice (fellow teachers) or don’t have one (students). In my mind, this is what the Spring Meeting is all about. And, in a time when data matters, our work is proven.

One thing I know for certain is that NWP has changed my life and specifically, the way I learn, think, and most importantly, lead. I do one day aspire to become a college or university professor, yet I’m the first to recognize that I don’t nor could I imagine having the courage to do what so many individuals in our network joyously do each and every day—teach in a K-12 classroom. That said, it has truly been a humble experience and honor to support the educators of the NWP network. I will continue to do so even after my position ends for I am and always will be a steward of NWP and its core values. While it’s unclear what my professional future holds, there’s no turning back…it’s now my mission to pay forward what NWP has given me!

Find out more about how NWP Works!


Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th Anniversary ed.). New York: Continuum.

Gray, J. (2000).Teachers at the center: A memoir of the early years of the National Writing Project. Berkeley, CA: National Writing Project.

As Featured on…IOU Sports | It’s Time for a Revolution!

With Black History Month fading in the distance, I recognize that I have been silent for over a month now. Just to be clear though, my silence is not a sign of being un-inspired. In fact, I stand firmly on the shoulders of those courageous individuals that have come before me and have found myself truly observing and listening both externally and internally. Furthermore, I have been on a journey of healing my heart. In doing so, the sleeping giant in me (and I hope in all of us) has been awaken and as an American it’s time I stand up and fight back.

I know it will be of no surprise to my regular readers that I’m standing up and fighting back for social justice, yet it might come as surprise that I’m ready to peacefully revolt. It seems more than ever it’s time for the difficult conversations to happen. I know firsthand that these can be painful; however, I assure you that it’s worth the expanded perspective, learning, and growth that will take place. Remember last month, when I asked you: what is YOUR dream? For you? Your family? Your community? The country? The world?

Sadly, I didn’t hear from anyone. Believe me, I didn’t lose any sleep but in many ways, it’s a great example of our compliancy as Americans as well as activists and advocates. In our expanding global and digital world, many of us are still in isolation and if we can’t share our various hopes and dreams, how and when will get to the challenging topics?

Not having a faint idea on how to start my own revolution, I decided to stand in solidarity with the Wisconsin public workers as part of’s Rally to Save the American Dream at San Francisco’s City Hall this past Saturday, February 25th. It was absolutely invigorating to be in a community where you could feel the power of the people! We were hundreds of concerned citizens standing up and fighting back because what is happening in Wisconsin is happening to all Americans, and the cost is our country’s future. Although I’m inclined to analyze this concept of the American Dream—our national ethos in which freedom includes a promise of the possibility of prosperity and success, the reality is that power, money, and privilege is rearing its ugly head.

Case in point, yesterday, “President Barack Obama signed into law a stopgap spending bill that ends federal funding for several literacy programs at the U.S. Department of Education, part of a planned government-wide reduction of $4 billion. […] The plan originated in the House, where Republican leaders insisted that cuts be part of the deal to keep the government running for two more weeks. Passage of the legislation buys lawmakers and the White House more time to negotiate on a longer-term budget plan for fiscal 2011” (Robelen, 2010).

The above actions by the individuals who are supposed to be representing the people have now put the future of not just education but also my professional home in jeopardy. I am angry. What the heck (feel free to fill in your own word) were they thinking?!? Yet, knowing the power of the written word, I’m choosing my voice instead of my fist. I’m choosing community instead of isolation. I’m choosing love over hate. So, I ask you: will you join me by standing up and fighting back for everything you believe in?!? The time is NOW!

In the meantime, …

I Dream…

I dream of a world that truly provides freedom & justice for all.

I dream of true equity for women where we are no longer exploited for pleasure, power, or profit.

I dream of love being the driving force in education instead of testing.

I dream of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for all regardless of social identity.

I dream of the day the definition of “family” is redefined to be more inclusive.

I Dream…


On a happier note, we have March Madness to look forward to in the weeks to come!


CALL 2 ACTION: With March being Women’s History Month, do something to honor our past since it’s our strength. For more information, check out:

Women’s History Facts

  • Wilma Glodean Rudolph (1940-1994) overcame physical disabilities to become one of the most celebrated athletes of all time. Rudolph participated in her first Olympics at the age of 16. Four years later in Rome, she was the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field.
  • Wild Woman Barbara Jo Rubin made history on February 22, 1969, as the first female jockey to win a horse race.
  • The Girl Scouts was founded on March 12, 1912.
  • December 26, 1974, is the banner day that Little League baseball was opened to girls!
  • On April 26, 1877, 16 year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles from New York to Connecticut as the British were burning Danbury, Connecticut. She earned her nickname, “the female Paul Revere.”
  • International Women’s Day—celebrate! The first International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 1945.


Robelen, E. (2010). Federal literacy aid slashed as part of budget deal. Education Week [online]. Retrieved on March 2, 2011 from