Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Some New Year's Eve Thoughts

Folks, we have some amazing interviews coming up. We have a young man who has weathered the storm. We have a young lady who has been through the ringer and has persevered. Amazing stories to read, simply amazing.

As we approach the New Year, ever so closely, let's be mindful that there are many people out there who are in need of some assistance from us. Not everyone will be celebrating the new year, some will have their lives turned up side down. Let's be on the look out for people who may be down and out and may need a helping hand. So, as we celebrate, take an extra moment out of your time to reach out.

Also, be very careful. Carry little cash as possible and be very safe. Safety is the number one key. The holidays can be deceiving. While everyone is having a good time, there are some who will prey on holiday goers. Do not be deceived.

Institute the buddy system. Have someone with you every step of the way during your celebration. Do not be caught up in the "hype" and get lost or find yourself in dangerous situations. Those of us who have been hurt traumatically and those who face difficult odds sometimes look for affection and love in many places. This is the time to be diligent about your safety. Rely on your family and friends to be there for you this holiday season.

I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a very special Happy New Year. Thanks as always for reading.

Til next time...

Monday, December 29, 2008

You Can Do Better! Why Settle?

We can do better. Why settle?

Now, some would ask, "Why settle for less?"

Well, we find ourselves in situations where we are so in love or so into someone and they seem like the right person, but find out that this may not be true. Sometimes we are so interested in the one we love that we forget our own standards. We forget what morals and values we learned when we were growing up. Or did we forget? Some of us have not forgotten, it's what we see and what we saw as a child.

I learned in biology/pre-med that most of our values, characteristics, etc. are learned before the age of 7. We are who we are because of what we learned before that age. Since we were so impressionable, some of us have learned some interesting things. I want to take you back in the day when I was a child. This will help to explain why I have accepted things and in certain instances have settled. I even settle today for some things, but tonight, I am excited about my options and my strength to not settle and want better. What do I mean?

Well, I grew up in a pretty violent household. My mother took her frustrations out on us as children. Honestly, I thought that everyone grew up in a household where beatings were normal. I was mentioning to a friend tonight that my mother used to "whip" me badly and then take me in the bathroom and then apologise. Wow, I was definitely confused. I mean, why beat me if an apology was forthcoming? It confused me. My mother went through so many emotional spurts. She was in a turbulent relationship with my father and when he was in prison, she went through a turbulent relationship with friends. I mean, do not get me wrong. She had great relationships, but I often saw arguments, fun, dancing, fighting, etc. Life was great for her, she thought. She was a young person. She was only 30 when she died. I can relate, I am near her age now. I still have childhood tendencies, lol. I do.

Growing up with all of these influences around you will certainly shape your world as you grow. After my mother was killed, I was influenced by my grandmother and peers mostly, but it was almost too late. I was heavily influenced by my childhood. First, I was molested several times, once horrifically. Something I would never wish on a child. Today, I look back on these times and I am so glad to be alive. There is space for rehabilitation and true rebuilding of your life.

In some parts of my life, I have settled for mediocrity though. I have settled for things that I know I do not approve of. But, it's difficult, right? It's just so damn difficult. Let's take my weight for instance. I did not grow up eating healthy food. We grew up eating the soul food and other food that is simply listed in the worst food category -- fried chicken on a consistent basis. I mean, my diet is not good at all. I rarely exercise now. At least when I was on the tennis team, I exercised regularly. I feel like Oprah. I have got to come clean about that. I am definitely not perfect and I want to make that clear.

We have to work to get better. We can do better. We have to hold ourselves more accountable. It's necessary to preserve our lives. I would love to have more years on earth to be a positive force. But, that starts with making decisions right now that enhance our lives. No matter what, we must aim. As I continue to blog, I will reveal my plan. Please stick with me. You will see. With you and me working together, accountability will creep in our lives and hold steady.

You know, when I blog, I am not just talking to you. I am talking about the things that I have gone through in life and what I am going through right now. Life can be difficult sometimes, especially for those of us who've suffered tragedy. We have to fight that much harder in order to survive and push ourselves to do better.

Believe me, I am down on myself sometimes and I cannot hide that. I want to be honest on this blogsite because life is a journey. It's the only route we have in order to be born and then move on to the next level. Remember, birth - growth - maturity - decline - death? That's the physical journey, but even in decline, we can grow. We can define this timeline for ourselves.

So, we are in this journey together. And no matter what, we must press on.

I cannot help but think about my Godsister tonight and her battle with her ex-boyfriend who killed her. She fought to the end. Evident by her bruises, her nails with blood under them, her hands and her face -- she fought. She wanted to live. We cannot wait until death is staring us in the face to make a change. Tiffany was at her last stand for survival and she lost the physical battle. However, her battle is not hers alone. It is the battle of all of ours. We must work hard to avoid last ditch efforts to stay alive. Let's give ourselves options.

Why settle for hurt? Why settle for pain? It does not feel good at all. Why settle for someone who does not value the goodness in us? Why settle for someone who does not support us positively? We can make that change. We can do better.

Reach out. We cannot expect someone to reach us. We have to help. Let's reach out for some assistance to get our lives on a positive track. I am committed. The ball is in your court.

Why settle? We can do much better.

Til next time.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

For One Night - Dodging Disaster - What's Your Next Step?

Last night, I was headed to the Giant, a grocery store chain, to get a few grocery items when I witnessed a couple walking down the street arguing. I passed them, but pulled aside to look in my rear view mirror. I saw them going back in forth at each other with what seemed like verbal abuse. There were some jerks, pulls and the male actually raised his fist as if we was going to hit the female. That's when I turned around and headed back in my car.

I followed them safely at a distance. After watching the male continuously threaten the female, I stopped my vehicle and from a distance asked if the female was okay. She seemed afraid to answer so I called the police. After seeing two police cars about a block away, I decided to drive down to the police officers and bring them back to the altercation.

When we arrived, he was boarding a bus and she was outside the bus, dropping her coins on the ground -- mostly pennies.

The police officer stopped the bus and asked the female (probably 17 years of age) if she was okay. She said that she was alright and did not want to press charges. She seemed scared. The male even came to the front of the bus and asked me, "What are you? The good samaritan?"

Although I did not answer, I felt good in that one moment. His perception was on target. He could see in my actions that I was truly concerned about this young lady's welfare and safety.

The officer let the bus continue and asked the young lady if she needed a ride to the subway station. She declined. I then proceeded to tell her about my mother and brother and Tiffany Gates, my Godsister. She thanked me. I told her that somebody cares about you. I told her that there are signs in a relationship when someone loves you and does not love you. Giving you flowers and showing how much they care could be signs of love. But, walking down the street being threatened is not a sign of love. That is a sign that someone would hurt you. I told her that she deserves better than that. I told her that she has a choice. She should not be chosen. She has a choice. But, it is up to her to choose or be chosen. I wished her success. That was the end of our conversation.

The officer said that the community often sees the police as enemies. I agreed. I told the officer that I view him as a brother or father, etc. He has family too.

What frightened me about last night was what could have happened. All I could think about was my mother and brother being pulled down the street before she was killed in 1984. No one did anything. No one tried to help. The police were far behind in being contacted. At least that's what I thought. It was another day in the neighbourhood. "Just another walk in the park."

I was literally scared for the young lady's life last night. It is so hard to see that kind of violence and not help. I do realise that helping could certainly put me in harm's way, but saving someone is more important to me. For instance, several years ago there was an accident on my street.

A van crashed head-on into a lamp post leaving the vehicle smoking and fluid was everywhere. The van was severely mangled in the front. I heard children crying and screaming. No one would go near the van because they feared the van would blow up. Well, I ran instinctively to rescue the children I heard. I went to the driver's side and the woman driving was unconscious. I then went to the passenger side and the door was jammed and mangled. I then went to the rear doors and tried to get them open. Someone came over and helped by this time. We finally got the doors open and pulled the children and woman to safety, away from the van.

The little girl in my arms was in terrible shape. There was glass in her eye and her hip bone was outside of her skin. She was in shock. I could recognize it easily. I spoke to her calmly and she answered back. After going to the hospital with her and seeing her cared for, I felt good about the situation. Now, I do not consider myself a vigilante or good samaritan or anything, but there are these times in life we must act. A child screaming is a good reason to go to the rescue. With a bit of calculated risk about our own safety, we must act. But, in this case, it was either I wanted to save them and risk being blown up or not save them and risk being on earth in regret. I could not be left in fear. My concern was too deep.

We will not be able to save everyone, but if it is in your power, you must save someone given your experience and training. If you are a great swimmer and someone is drowning in a pool, you should jump in and save them provided you can get the victim to safety, circumstances may play a major role though, so evaluate first.

There are ways we can act in domestic violence cases. Go to Mildred Muhammad, the D.C. Sniper's ex-wife helps us with things that we can do to protect ourselves and deal with cases like the one above with the young lady needing help. One thing is true though, we have to want help.

Find that strength in you. Find that ounce of hope and cling to it. There is someone out there reading this post today that knows what I am talking about. Cling to that hope and work on that strength inside you. You will find it will grow. Even if it is a secret that you are strong inside, find that strength and do not tell anyone you do not trust completely. Go to Mildred's site and work your way to safety.

There are people out here who care. We are concerned for your welfare.

And if you are safe, God bless you. You are like me. Strong enough to be a survivor. I have found enough strength in me to help you in any way that I can.

According to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, there were over 12,500 domestic related calls to 911 in the first half of 2007.

For the second half of 2008, last night, I made one of those calls.

I slept better last night. Thanks for reading.

Til next time...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why Wait for the New Year to Make Changes? Nothing's Promised to You.

It's a great day once again. Christmas has nearly settled down and we are about to enter a new year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am usually in another country during this time. However, I will be in the U.S. for New Year. I am in a toss up between a few major cities, but I am definitely not going to be caught in New York dead or alive. It's just too crowded for me. I love New York, but not on New Years. I would rather my new year be one that I can use for reflection and planning. So, what are you going to do for the new year? What are you planning for the next year(s)?

Well, I am geared up. I do not like to plan new year resolutions. I believe that if you want to make changes, you have to make them right away or plan for the change. It's great to start at new year, but you will find yourself having to wait days to make changes that you need to make right away and continue the momentum through the new year. That's what I am doing.

I have already made some meaningful decisions in my life. One of them is to work harder and smarter. I need to consolidate the projects that I have, get rid of some and recommit to others.

I am too busy and I realise this. I also need to take time for myself -- productive time.

I read this article on Mr. Obama this morning. His workout plan is simply marvelous. His determination is admirable. He started his plan at 22 years of age at Columbia University. He started jogging 3 miles a day and has used his physical exercise plan to enhance his mental state. He feels good about himself.

Now, I have had some trouble exercising. I am trying to get myself motivated to do this exercise thing. I tried one day a couple of weeks ago with a personal trainer to get motivated, but after that, I was not enthused anymore. I know my physical health is important so I have to get in shape.

Hey, how about now? Let's do this together. If we are going to get in shape, we have to do it now. Forget waiting until the new year!

Okay, I am making some changes.

First, it starts with going to bed early in order to get up early. This is going to be hard for me since I work well at night and through the night. So, I will have to get a good nap if I want to stay up late. But, a good start would be to go to bed early through the weekdays. That's a good compromise.

On Sundays through Thursdays, I will go to bed by 10:00 p.m. I will get up no later than 5:00 a.m., leave a post on this blogspot by 7:00 a.m. That's how I will hold myself accountable.

So, I think this is enough for now. I will increase this to actually getting out of the house to excercise. I will start jogging first because that is the easiest thing to do. For one hour, I will jog, at least five days a week with an increase to 6 in due time.

I have my plan. Now it's time to work the plan.

I will let you know what happens.

Silly me, I am off tonight, it's Saturday night, lol.

How about a test run for tomorrow? Great, I will be in touch.

Join me, will you?

Til next time...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day in Scotland

Every year for the past four years I have travelled to Scotland for Christmas and New Year. But, there was another day added to my celebration list. Boxing Day? I also celebrated Boxing Day in Scotland on the 26th of December. Actually, Boxing Day was more fun than Christmas and New Year. To me, it was when families came together and celebrated the day after Christmas. It was wonderful to meet up with so many of my "brother", Tommy's family in Scotland. Today, I received a traditional Boxing Day call from Scotland. There was a queue of family members waiting to speak to me on the telephone. I was in tears. I miss Scotland in the winter. So, what is boxing day? Add my meaning and you will have a complete idea of what Boxing Day is. I actually celebrated Boxing Day today by helping a friend out and giving a gift to someone who is in need.

What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a day the higher classes gave gifts to the lower classes. Before or on December 25th people of similar class would exchange gifts to celebrate the Christmas season. Gifts were not exchanged with the lower class until the next day called Boxing Day. It is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.

Why is the holiday named Boxing Day?

The holiday is named Boxing Day because the tradition of giving gifts of cash, food, clothing and other goods to the less fortunate were placed into boxes for easier transportation. The goods were distributed based on the family needs and their services to the giver.

Who celebrates Boxing Day?

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, and other Commonwealth Countries celebrate Boxing Day on December 26th.

Purpose of Teaching the Origin and History of Boxing Day

Boxing Day officially began in England in the middle of the 19 century under the rule of Queen Victoria. However, many adults and children do not know the true meaning of Boxing Day and its reasons for celebrating. It was a day to thank the community for all their effort throughout the years. The maids, drivers and other service workers were thanked with gifts of food, money, clothing, and other goods. It is important to teach students how they can contribute to society and to understand not all families are able to provide for their families all of the time.

As well, the discussion on the origin and history of Boxing Day can open dialogue about less fortunate individuals in the community and how the students can make a difference. Students may do a viable proposal on how their class or a group of students can provide a service or gift to other families or students in the community who are less fortunate.

Lastly, Americans do not celebrate Boxing Day but the slaves were given their goods on December 26th for the Masters to show their appreciation. Most slaves were given a few days off to celebrate the holiday season with their families. This is a great discussion on how the season of Christmas brought all class levels together and for a quick moment. Students could write a report on how they would feel celebrating Christmas with their Masters and why Masters even bothered to share the holiday season with their slaves.

Allow the dialogue on Boxing Day open other discussions on students feeling singled out or less fortunate than other students in the school or community.

Til next time...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day Post - Remembering Our Loved Ones - Both Victims and Offenders

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Today is a wonderful day. I started it with family early this morning. Watching my nephew and nieces open their gifts was a reminder of the joy I felt when I was a child opening my gifts. I can remember the excitement.

So many children and families will not feel that way this Christmas. Let us think of them and how important it is to give in this holiday season. I am not talking about monetary or physical gifts. I am referring to the kind of gifts that impress upon someone else’s heart. The gift of love and compassion are great gifts this holiday season and beyond.

First though, I want to thank Jason Robinson again for his interview. What courage. What resolve and resilience to be able to tell his story. He is to be commended. Thank you Jason and Happy Holidays.

Our family is remembering my mother – Jacqueline Kellibrew, brother - Anthony Cephas, grandfathers – Jack Mitchell and George Short, stepfather - Michael Ray, cousin - Jason Ford (cousin who died on the battle field at 21), Aunt Bernice, Margaret and a host of others. My heart goes out to Jason Robinson’s family for the loss of his sister.

These days are tough. They are even tougher ahead of us, but we are given the awesome power of strength. That strength is truly in the struggle of survival. What would life be like without struggle? We would not appreciate our successes. Success is more enjoyable when you have earned it. The struggle offers memories.

Today, I am definitely struggling with our losses. It’s hard. It’s tough. My heart aches, but I know that there is a better day. I know that if I hold on to my faith and belief in the goodness that lies before me, every single moment of every single day will be an easier step for me.

Two days ago I saw this man reach into a garbage can and pull out a cup. He looked in the cup and saw that there wasn’t anything in it, so he threw it back. He was moving rather briskly, but I was able to get out of the car and yell for him to come back. I realized he was probably hungry and at the least thirsty. It bothered me.

I asked him did he want something to eat, he was very much obliged. I took him into the carry out at 14th and P Streets NW and told him to get whatever he wanted. He ordered a burger, fries and a soda. It was quite an awkward moment for both of us, but we were in this together.

I decided to take the first leap and ask him how difficult it was for him on the streets and were the streets his permament home? He said that he was just out of federal prison for serving a life-sentence of thirty years. I asked him was he going to check into a shelter or something like that.

He told me that he did not trust those places and that he was better off on the street. He said that 14th Street offered him a better variety of food and clothes in the trash cans rather than Southeast D.C. He said that everything he had on was from the trash cans, even the DC cap he had on his head that looked like he just bought it from an athletic store or shop. He felt safer. He was amazed at how much 14th Street had changed since being in prison. Our conversation continued.

I asked him what he thought about violent criminals being on a registry. He had been in prison for murder and to my amazement, he said that violent criminals definitely need to be on a registry because violent criminals could loose control at anytime. Well, he thought that their safety was an issue in the community. I guess he was talking about himself. He was talking from experience, I thought.

I gave him my number and twenty dollars and told him to call me if anything happened to him. Now, I know giving your number out can be dangerous, but my intention is to be a resource for him – a hotline. If he calls me I will be able to direct him to more appropriate resources. I would not suggest meeting him in a particular place or anything of the sort. That is dangerous. I am hoping he calls actually. I want to direct him to some special places.

Victims are directly impacted by their offenders, but offenders often times are the victim. I know that we separate them in our society, but sometimes there is a fine line between them both. I could be victim, which I am, and could be so disrupted mentally that I might commit a crime against another person. I then become the offender. This supports my position that we need to rehabilitate and educate offenders and victims. We must work to get everyone on the same page in our society where we all care about each other and safety of one another. Yeah, it seems like a remarkable and unattainable task, but who ever said we could not work toward it.

That’s the goodness I am talking about. We must think in the affirmative and be very positive about the change that we can influence. Let’s work together this holiday season to not only remember our loved ones, but prevent the tragic loss of those who are around us.

The website of my foundation, the William Kellibrew Foundation will be up soon. I am eager to help provide direct services to victims and offenders. My compassion leads me to help both. My heart and soul leads me to help both.

You see, I have a thirty year old brother, DaVone Kellibrew, who is serving 97 years in prison – convicted of 18 felony counts. He was convicted of all but, murder. The offense so heinous that it had me questioning his sanity. I know how he grew up. We grew up in the house with him, I know him. I know his circumstances and they were difficult. It was simply hard for him to break the cycle of violence. He did not understand how he was affected and he acted out. Now, I was not there during his crimes. I only know that he was convicted of them. I also know that he is appealing his sentence. I stand beside him. But my heart goes out to the young lady and her family for such a heinous crime against her. No one should ever have to suffer such a tragedy. We must work to prevent this from happening and we must also work with the victims to cope.

Victims often become Offenders.

Til next time…

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Murder of a Sister Ignites a Call to Action

Death has a way of moving us. It is not understood and often misunderstood. But, it's what we do after seeing death that really matters. One thing for certain, death is inevitable. We must face it one way or another. All these questions and the issue of death, especially murder has knocked on our next guest's door. He remembers the day his sister was killed and he will never forget. How does he cope? What is he doing? Well, let's get into our next interview. Jason Robinson is a young man with a mission. He is making his way through life as a pioneer in his family. Let's get into it.

Kellibrew: Thank you so much for agreeing to tell your story on my blogspot. First, it takes a lot of patience to talk about tragedy, I definitely know this. But, you have broken through an amazing silence to tell us your story. So, can you tell our readers what you are doing right now in life and where you are from?

Jason: I was born in Brooklyn, New York. I grew up in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Right now, I am a teacher for Alexandria City Public Schools. I am also a freelance writer.

Kellibrew: You have been following the Sleep Outs that we have been having in Washington, D.C. on behalf of victims of crime and violence. Thank you for your support. This issue hits home with you. What happened a few years ago that traumatized you?

Jason: When I was sixteen years old, my sister was shot and murdered. Her boyfriend shot her with my father’s gun. He hid at our house for a while, came in, and shot her in the head. I was present at the house when this happened. I was taking care of my sister’s son, who was five months old at the time. This event has been with me since then. I am 27 years old now.

Kellibrew: Have you had therapy or have you sought any professional assistance to deal with your sister’s death?

Jason: I haven’t sought therapy or professional assistance to deal with my sister’s death. I believe I should. I tried for years to put it out of my mind. I am finally dealing with it now. I am praying….and crying. I think professional assistance would help.

Kellibrew: I totolly agree with you. Therapy is the reason I am here today. It gave me a chance to exhale. It gave me a chance to get things out in the open. So, I would really recommend therapy. You can call 1.800.FYI.CALL. This the National Center for Victims of Crimes. They will recommend you to several different groups who can get you started on your track to therapeutic recovery. For instance, you can join the group, Survivors of Homicide Victims. You can join others who share what you have suffered. What has it been like for you since your sister was killed?

Jason: Since my sister was killed, my life drastically changed. As I said earlier, my sister had a son who was five months old when she was murdered. After she was killed, I became a single parent. I became the guardian for her son. This added an amount of responsibility to my life at a young age.

I often think about my sister. I dream about her. Lately, the event of her death has been at the forefront of my mind. I would like to do something to help fight this issue.

Kellibrew: What were some signs during your sister’s relationship that were evident that something was wrong? Or were there signs?

Jason: I believe that there were signs that something was wrong in the relationship. Shortly before she was killed, she and her boyfriend used to “play fight,” similar to wrestling. I saw how this could escalate. I could just feel that something was wrong.

Kellibrew: What do you remember most about your sister that keeps her memory close to you today?

Jason: The thing I remember most are the events that occurred the day she was killed. She was in my father’s room making up his bed. Sometimes I reenact the events in my head that lead up to her being shot. I wish I could have stopped it. I wish I could have done something. I wish she would not have been hurt.

Kellibrew: I know life has been difficult, but how did you cope? How do you cope now?

Jason: Life has been difficult. I cope by being active in the fight against violence against women. I work with organizations. I write articles for magazines. I strive to bring awareness of the issue and resources available to women.

Kellibrew: You have had some amazing success in school and in your professional career. You even have a book either out or about to come out and perhaps two, right?

Jason: Yes, I have had success in school. I always did well in school. I think the fact that my family was a low-income family further motivated me to do well.
I have Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from the University of Michigan. I also have a Master of Arts Degree in Teaching (Education) from Hampton University. I published a book of poems entitled, The Image of Love.

Kellibrew: What keeps you going in terms of your success?

Jason: There is a motto I live by: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do, and what I ought to do, by the grace of God I will do.”
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, I have a dream. I have to follow my dreams.

Kellibrew: I know you get down sometimes about your sister, but how do you turn things around in a positive manner, because you just keep going?

Jason: Activism helps me. It makes me feel better to know that I could keep the same thing from happening to someone else.
I pray. Also, I plan to have my own memorial service for my sister. I am going to go visit her grave site.

Kellibrew: What is that one sentence or paragraph that you can give to someone that has and is suffering from what you have suffered?

Jason: God is in control. He knows what is best for all of us.

Kellibrew: Do you have anything that you really want to talk about during this interview that we may have missed?

Jason: Another thing that keeps this issue at the forefront of my mind is the fact that I have another relative in an abusive relationship. She has been in this relationship for many years. I have tried to help her. I hate to see women dealing with this. It has to stop!

Kellibrew: Thank you very much for your courage once again. I really appreciate you doing this interview. I wish you all the best as you continue your success. Also, thanks for being a reader.

Jason: You’re welcome. Thanks for taking the time to interview me. Thanks for all that you do.

Til next time...

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood." says Sean Covey

When I read this chapter on seeking to understand, then to be understood, I had to definitely stop in my tracks. It opens up with a powerful statement...

"Before I can walk in another's shoes. I must first remove my own shoes."

I hadn't heard it quite like this before although I support this wholeheartedly. I will even take it a step further. No one wears the same size shoe, lol. Even though we may essentially wear the size of someone else's shoe, like a 10 or size 6 1/2, we are all different. Our feet are shaped differently and are different sizes even if by one centimeter or millimeter. Well, where am I going with this? Stay with me.

Have you had a friend who just simply will not let you get a word out when you are telling them a story that is important to you. You just want to stop telling the story altogether. I remember telling someone a story and they totally started to interrupt me and I never finished. I have also been in situations where I have cut people off. Boy, I got mine back, (smile). I actually talk a lot, but try to listen as much as possible. So, I am also learning from this lesson that I am giving to you.

We have often heard from our friends, "I know how you feel." "I know exactly what you are going through."

What if we don't know? We often generalize feelings so much that we think that our feelings can match someone else's feelings. Well, this is hard. Just as no two finger prints are alike, the same goes for feelings. It would be great to feel the same as someone else, but that would make us all the same. We would not be different. So, even if you remove your shoes, it would be difficult to put someone else's on, especially when it does not fit. Food for thought, huh?

So, let's accept that people are different. What I do agree with Covey on is that it is definitely better to listen first, rather than talk first. So, listen first, talk second. I agree. It gives you a great perspective on where people are in their feelings, etc.

Let's get you some tools going.

Covey lists five poor listening styles.

1) Spacing out

2) Pretend listening

3) Selective listening

4) Word listening

5) Self-centered listening

Spacing out - someone's talking and you are just out of it. You are in "la-la" land.

Pretend listening - making small comments or gestures showing that you are listening, but almost don't have a clue as to the conversation. The other person thinks you are listening.

Selective listening - only clue into what you want to hear. Sometimes you take the conversation in a whole new direction right in the middle of their sentence.

Word listening - we do not look or listen to the gestures and body language when someone else is talking. We simply take words out of context. We do not pair the two. You can learn a lot from gestures and body language.

Self-centered listening - it's all about your view point. You rarely get the other person's point.

Covey says, stop mimicking and start mirroring.

Mimicking is - Repeating words

Using the same words

Cold or indifferent

However, mirroring is - repeating meaning

Using your own words

Warm and caring

Well, what can we do better to listen? This is so important when we are trying to be there for our friends, family and others.

Eye contact is certainly something that I do a lot of. When I feel my eyes drifting, I immediately focus again. I find myself in situations where someone is going on and on, but I refocus and try to let them complete their thought by interjecting with a follow-up question. The question has to be related though. That way, they know you are listening and they get to talk again.

Take a look at other people's interactions. You will see yourself more and more as you observe others. You will see the things that you simply despise and you will see some things you do well in terms of communication.

Evaluate your listening skills by using the five poor listening skills.

I remember telling my family that I was molested when I was 6. They believed me and that was the greatest thing for me. My grandmother was more hurt than I was. That validated me or let's say, I felt validated. I do not want to know where I could have been if I had not felt validated. That would have been a double scar for me. So, take some time to listen to folks. They may have something to tell that you want to hear, but you have to be listening in order to do that.

Coming up! A young man fights internally for understanding of his sister's murder. He still hurts today, but he is courageous and wants to talk about it. His interview and more when we come back on Wednesday.

Thanks for tuning in.

Til next time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mildred Muhammad - Up Close and Personal

Today, we are meeting with Mildred Muhammad. What I love about my good friend Mildred is that she is absolutely a humble woman. You would think a woman like her would never be able to help others. We almost expect that in our society. After trauma, many people turn to violence as the answer. But, Mildred took that energy and made an example out of her life. She is strong, vibrant and quite charismatic. She is raising her children and is about helping her community, especially through her knowledge in domestic violence. My interview with Mildred starts now.

Kellibrew: First and foremost, thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to dialogue with you. We have been dialoguing for about a month now and it just seems like yesterday my god-sister Tiffany Gates, just died. You immediately reached out to me and that really put a lot of things in perspective for me. There were many who reached out to me and my family and I appreciate them all. What made you reach out to me? I mean, you have been through so much yourself and you are such a busy person.

Muhammad: Thank you William for this opportunity to share information as well. I have my yahoo alert set on ‘domestic violence’ stories which I receive and read daily. There are some people I reach out to, just to thank them for having the courage to speak up. To encourage them and let them know they are not alone. That’s the most important concern for me is not having that feeling of being alone. And with all I’ve been through, I know that others may feel that way too. It’s important that those going through an abusive situation know that they are not alone. I reached out to you for the same reason. Your story touched my heart so much. I was so sorry to read about your immediate family and then your special friend. I wanted you to know that you are not alone, and all that you’ve done and are doing, I’m sure your mother is very proud of you.

Kellibrew: Thanks again. Those are really warm words and I appreciate them. You were definitely right. I did need somebody there and you have helped me tremendously. It’s so good to know there are people out there willing to reach outside of themselves to help another person. I am sure readers would like to know what you are doing right now. You are leading an organisation, right? Can you tell us about your organisation and what is your role in the community?

Muhammad: Yes, that is correct. My organization is After The Trauma. We assist victims and survivors of domestic violence through counseling and referrals so they can find their way out of their situation and stabilize where they are now. You can visit the website, to browse the programs we offer. I speak locally and nationally on my story in particular and domestic violence in general at conferences, seminars, and workshops. My story is about the domestic violence most people don’t pay attention to. And that is verbal, mental, spiritual, economic, stalking and emotional. 20% of domestic violence is physical. 80% is not. 75% of victims that leave are killed. 25% of victims that leave survive, but barely.

Kellibrew: That’s some great information. Readers, please go to the website. You will learn so much. You know, Mildred, we really clicked from the very beginning, but I must admit, I was so anxious to meet you because the D.C. Sniper case simply jolted the D.C. area, the nation, and the world. My friends from overseas still talk about this case today. They were concerned for my safety and the safety of everyone in our area. I cannot imagine being in the situation you were in. You obviously lived in a world of fear for years. Your story is so much like my mother’s. As you know, she was killed along with my brother by her ex-boyfriend. We lived with this killer for 7 months, but unbelievably, you were married to John Allen Muhammad for over 12 years. How on God’s green earth did you ever survive as long as you did? Also, during one of our previous conversations you mentioned that death for you was almost eminent. Can you take us back to a point when you were absolutely concerned for your life and your children’s lives?

Muhammad: Let me say that for the 23 days John had this area in a grip, everyone walked in the shoes of a victim and survivor of domestic violence. Remember the fear you felt on a daily basis? Not knowing if you were going to live or die that day? That is EXACTLY how we feel. It takes time to get over that kind of fear. I lived under that kind of fear from September 1999 to October 24, 2002. As I’m answering this question, I remember that fear and how much I wanted someone to help and believe me, but no one did. It is so painful to go through that and no one understands. Others look at you like you are crazy. Which is the fuel I burn when I think of helping others who may find themselves in this situation. This is not a job for me…this is my passion, my life. I will continue in the work until I die. I believe this is where God wants me to be. I’ve accepted that and will continue to do all I can not to turn women away.

I survived by listening to my spirit. By believing that God was going to bring me through because everyone I’d gone to for help, turned their backs on me because I didn’t have the physical scars to prove that I was a victim of domestic violence. My children and I were the first victims. And yet, we have received no compensation from any agency to help us get back on our feet. That I still find difficult to accept. How many women are walking around in a domestic violence situation and need help but are unable to receive it because they can’t prove the abuse without the scars. People blamed me for the shootings. They said that me and my children were not victims, I should have stayed on the west coast and then the people on the east coast would be alive. They said had I stayed with him, then he would have only killed me.

The shootings were [part of] a very detailed plan to kill me. Innocent people died because John didn’t want my murder to come back on him. My heart goes out to the victims’ families. I am so sorry for their loss. The police are now saying the random shootings was a cover for my death. He would come in as the grieving father to get custody of our children and walk away with the $100,000 compensation they were giving the victims’ families at that time. Again, me or my children have not been compensated for our victimization.

I was concerned for my life in 1999 when John and I separated. His behavior became irrational. He said to me, “You have become my enemy and as my enemy I will kill you.” John is a man of his word. He is not an idle talker. He says what he means, and he means what he says. I knew that it would be a matter of time for him to bring that into fruition.

Kellibrew: Wow. I am so glad you made it through. Your story is powerful for those who are going through similar trauma. It takes a remarkable person to struggle and get through what you have been through. We both know how much it takes to rebuild our lives as victims and now survivors. Essentially, you were living with the enemy. What was the defining point or moment for you? When did you know to leave or were you absolutely forced to leave?

Muhammad: My defining point was when he said, “You have become my enemy and as my enemy I will kill you.” John’s personal motto was/is never leave an enemy behind. After I received my lifetime restraining order in February 2000, we established weekend child visitation to occur every other weekend so he could see our children. It was just until we went to court to establish a parenting plan of who would legally have the children. The weekend of March 22, 2000, was his weekend. A friend of ours picked up the children and they were to be brought back on that Monday because it was my Mom’s birthday. To make a long story short, he didn’t bring them home. My son told me later that they boarded a plane that night and headed for Antigua. I would also find out that he emptied our bank accounts. He left me and my mother penniless. It would be 18 months before I saw my children again. That’s a long time to go without knowing where your children are.

Kellibrew: What heartache for a mother. I am sure mothers out there can identify. There was another child involved in this situation, a young man by the name of Lee Boyd Malvo. This young man was also convicted of charges stemming from the killings. Had you ever met Lee Boyd Malvo?

Muhammad: I have never met Lee Malvo. The first time I've seen him was at his trial when I testified on his behalf because my children asked me to help him. They stated that if it had not been for Daddy, Lee would not be there.

Kellibrew: Thank you for sharing. That took a lot of courage and compassion. Who was he and why did he have an affinity to John Allen Muhammad? How much influence did John have over this young man?

Muhammad: What most people don't know is Lee and my son were best friends. When John kidnapped them and took them to Antigua, they met Lee. He became a part of their family and was considered the 'big brother'. When their dad would leave them in Antigua to come back to the states to find me, he left Lee in charge to care for them until he returned. John had the same influence over Lee as a father would have over this own son.

Kellibrew: When you lived with John, did he seem like he could be manipulative and how were you convinced of this, if so?

Muhammad: John's behavior changed when he returned from the Gulf War in 1991. Before this, he did not have these behaviors. He was not debriefed nor did he receive counseling when he returned.

Kellibrew: This is an issue. Here we are on the dawn of a war, the war in Iraq. We also have the war in Afghanistan and the war on terror. These wars have a tremendous impact on our soldiers and soldiers’ families. The effect of these wars may spawn other violence such as John’s case. God bless our soldiers who are defending us and we need to make sure that they are taken care of when they come back home. They have seen so much and have been exposed to violence that some of us will never witness. Counseling should be absolutely mandatory or required. It is important to talk about what they experienced. Counseling may be able to prevent some of the issues that stem from stress suffered from the war. Some of our readers are in relationships now where danger is eminent and it is so hard to get out. My heart goes out to those individuals. What do you recommend these individuals do to try to get out of the relationships? Is there a step-by-step process?

Muhammad: You have to have a plan to leave. Click on this link: It will take you directly to a comprehensive safety plan. Do not take this plan home for the abuser to see. If you don’t work outside your home, print it out, complete and give it to someone you trust to hold. Modify it as often as you need. In step 8, there is a list of items you should put away. Again, give these items to someone you trust. Don’t tell everyone what you are doing. You don’t know who the abuser knows. Once you have your plan in place, you will know when to leave. If you are not in a position to plan and feel you have to leave now…that’s a difficult position to be in. Not impossible, just difficult. If you have good friends and family to stay with, that is a blessing. Get to them as soon as you can and call the police. If you are financially stable on your own, check into a hotel or motel, call the police for help and an advocate will be assigned to you. This safety plan is very thorough. It’s a fill in the blank. As you complete it, it will come together for you. Above all, stop reacting and start acting. Call the police for help. Try to think clearly when making decisions that will alter you whole life. This is a life altering experience. You will never be the same again.

Kellibrew: I think it is so important to be cognizant of who your choice for dates are. There are ways to know if a person is not right for you and that they might be abusive down the road. What are some of the signs that we should look for in order to detect violent behavior, early, before the cycle begins or continues?

Muhammad: The signs are so different. And once the person is found out, they change their behavior. There are many sites that offer this information. One of the ways I can advise someone to do is to watch the behavior of the person you are involved with. The Bible says to recognize the spirits when they come. So that means to be watchful. When your gut tells you something is wrong…something is wrong. Do not ignore your instincts. God gave all of us ways to recognize those situations in our lives that will cause problems. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we don’t. That’s why we often times say, I should have listened to my first mind. That is your spirit warning you that there is a problem.

Kellibrew: What can people do to protect their family members out there who may be getting abused? And what can strangers do as well when they see violence occurring in their environment?

Muhammad: There is only one question that should be asked when you know someone is being abused, whether you know them or not. That question is ‘how can I help’. Do not play the hero. And do not assume you know what the victim wants to do. That is an empowering question. You may be the only one that has asked the victim what he/she wants to do. Others have been telling her/him what they should or shouldn’t do. Often when that is the case, she will not contact you again because now you have become a part of the problem. You are not listening. You sound just like the abuser.
If you are not able to help or want to [help] after finding out the information, then give that person resource information. The list attached is things you should and should not say to victims and survivors.

Kellibrew: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about the issue of violence that we may have missed?

Muhammad: Thank you so much for this opportunity. I hope what we’ve said will assist someone who finds themselves in this situation. After The Trauma is here to help. I know this is a terrible economic time we are in. Imagine for a minute what it feels like for a victim or survivor. After The Trauma is a 501©3 organization. All donations are tax deductible. Please donate $5.00 or more to assist us with helping the very people that need it so much. You will receive a receipt upon the completion of your donation. The link is provided for your convenience, Society has forgotten us and no one really wants to hear about this issue. Domestic violence does not have a religion, financial or educational status, race, creed, culture. It can happen to anyone at any time, men, women and children.

I’ve written a survivor’s journal that can be purchased from my site. The link is As the former wife of John Allen Muhammad, I've felt no one could handle my 'emotions'. I knew I had to get them outside of myself to heal. I began journaling and found more emotions I didn't realize existed. I couldn't tell anyone because I felt ashamed, guilty, and thought no one would believe me anyway. But...writing them down gave me the opportunity to truly focus on my pain and how these emotions were affecting my everyday living.

My book is being published and will be released October 2009 by Simon and Schuster. The title is “Scared Silent”. There are many errors out there about this situation. My book will correct those errors and shed more light on the entire situation.
Thank you again for this opportunity.

Kellibrew: Mildred, you are so welcome as always. I cannot thank you enough for agreeing to tell your story on my blogspot. There is somebody out there who needs this uplift and information you have shared. There are so many young woman who share Tiffany Gates' fear out there. There are so many Mildred Muhammads out there. Tiffany may be gone from earth, God bless her soul, but You have a choice while you are alive. I am buying my sister, and another friend, and me, our survival journal right now. Thanks Mildred.

Well, there you have it. This concludes my interview with Mildred and don’t worry, I know she will be back. I have also written an article for her monthly newsletter. If you want to be plugged in, don’t forget to go to her website You will find a wealth of information geared to save your life or someone else’s. I added the list of things to say and not to say to victims per Mildred’s request. You will find them below.

Til next time.


T How can I help you?
T What can I do for you?
T I’m sorry.
T What happened is not your fault.
T I believe you.
T Your case is important/unique.
T Are you safe?
T Do you have any concerns about your safety?
T Who else have your spoken to?
T Would you like a referral for further victim assistance?
T Can I make any calls for you?
T Do you need anything else?
T If you do, contact me at....
T I know this is one more interruption in your life.
T If you have a serious problem or crisis, dial 911.
T You are not going crazy.
T I can’t imagine, but...
T I can’t possibly understand what you are going through, but I’m going to try and help you.
T I don’t know, but I’ll find out.
T How are you doing?
T Let’s see if we can figure out your most important needs right now.
T I’m glad you called.


T I know how you feel.
T I understand what you’re going through.
T Why???
T Why were you....didn’t you...?
T Your case reminds me of another victim I dealt with...
T As a general rule of thumb...
T It’s God’s will (or any religious platitude).
T Move on, put it behind you.
T You need to get over it/ get on with your life.
T I can promise you that will happen for sure.
T If I were in your shoes....
T You’re so strong...
T You’re so lucky...

T At least you weren’t hurt.
T You should forgive.
T Time heals all wounds.
T Why didn’t you.....?
T It could be worse.
T What you need is.....
T Get over it. Get on with your life.
T You’re not the only victim I’m trying to help.
T Offenders aren’t really bad people...
T The poor defendant had a really tough childhood....
T Nothing at all.
T Avoid using generalizations.
T Avoid comparisons with other victims or cases.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mildred Muhammad - Sunday Morning, Simply Amazing

Join us tomorrow morning for a very special guest. A great friend and confidante, Mildred Muhammad. Her interview is ready for you to read. This will be great Sunday morning or afternoon reading. You will have the day to reflect.

Today, is kind of hectic, but I will blog in the afternoon. I have a homegoing service to attend. I have to sing as well, so early preparation today.

Til next time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Right Side of the Bed - Attitude

Well, I definitely woke up on the right side of the bed this morning. In fact, with my new self-esteem tool kit I rarely get up with a negative attitude. I usually start my day off excited. I am excited about what the day may hold and I am thankful for being well rested. The moment I get up, I turn on the computer and start to read messages and get myself ready to meet and greet the world. But, I wasn't always like that. There were certainly days that I could not even get up. Before I go into today's blog, I want to mention some upcoming and exciting things happening with the blogspot.

Mildred Muhammad, ex-wife of the D.C. Sniper, John Allen Muhammad will be with us soon. We will go deep into the mind of a woman who was married to John for over 12 years. After killing 10 people, he was set to kill Mildred. Mildred still carries the permanent protection/restraining order daily. John has tried to escape at least three times.

How did she survive and what is she doing today? All these and more questions will be answered in an interview soon to be posted. (Info on John Allen Muhammad at bottom)

Also, we are getting booked with great interviews. There is a line-up of five interviews already. You will not believe these stories. Some sound right out of a movie. You never know who you are talking to sometimes. People have been through some tragic experiences and have come out of it. Some are still in it. I want to make sure that we get the stories out there so that others can see that they are not alone.

If you would like to tell your story, please let me know by contacting
Be a part of the Conversation.

So, where was I? Yeah, attitude.

Websters on-line dictionary defines attitude as:

1. A position of the body or manner of carrying oneself: stood in a graceful attitude. See Synonyms at posture.
a. A state of mind or a feeling; disposition: had a positive attitude about work.
b. An arrogant or hostile state of mind or disposition.
3. The orientation of an aircraft's axes relative to a reference line or plane, such as the horizon.
4. The orientation of a spacecraft relative to its direction of motion.
5. A position similar to an arabesque in which a ballet dancer stands on one leg with the other raised either in front or in back and bent at the knee

Wow!!! This is absolutely great. I like all of these definitions for attitude. There is a lot to think about when we mention attitude.

In the first definition it talks about the body or manner of carrying oneself. The moment you awaken, it is you who decides the body or manner in which you will carry yourself. You define you, simple. You can also be arrogant or hostile as in definition 2.b.

Now, I really like 3. The orientation of an aircraft's axes... This is deep. What do I mean?

Well, if you think about it, it talks about an horizon. I see this horizon as other people, things, etc. Our attitude affects everything we do and how we do it. People, places and things are out there and as we approach them, we have to decide how we approach them. Depending on your approach, something will transpire. For instance, if you yell at someone, they may yell back at you -- agressive approach begets an agressive approach.

I will not harp on this subject because you get what I am talking about. But, I will mention that image is everything and attitude makes up that image. Market yourself in a way that you will be positively remembered. You see, you will develop champions -- people who believe in you. They will spread the good word about you or they will spread the bad word about you. Which one do you want spread about you? Certainly food for thought.

As I promised, this is information about the D.C. Sniper case.

Til next time...

John Allen Muhammad (b. December 31, 1960) is a spree killer from the United States. With his younger partner, Lee Boyd Malvo, he carried out the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks, killing 10 people. Muhammad and Malvo were arrested in connection with the attacks on October 24, 2002, following tips from alert citizens. Born John Allen Williams, Mohammad converted to Islam in 1987 and later changed his surname.[1] Drawings by Malvo describe the killing spree as part of a "jihad" (holy war).[2] At Muhammad's trial, the prosecutor claimed that the rampage was part of a plot to kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his children, but the judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support this argument.[3]
His trial for one of the murders (the murder of Dean Harold Meyers in Prince William County, Virginia) began in October 2003, and the following month, he was found guilty of capital murder. Four months later he was sentenced to death. While awaiting execution in Virginia, in August 2005, he was extradited to Maryland to face some of the charges there, for which he was convicted of six counts of first-degree murder on May 30, 2006. Upon completion of the trial activity in Maryland, it was planned that he next be returned to Virginia's death row unless some agreement is reached with another state or the District of Columbia seeking to try him. As of October 2006, he has not been tried on additional charges in other Virginia jurisdictions, and faces potential trials in three other states and the District of Columbia involving other deaths and serious woundings. As of September 2008, the various trials brought against him were apparently all completed. Some appeals had been made and rejected, but others remained pending.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sentenced - Families Are Footing the Bill for Violent Offenders

Families are being sentenced along with their convicted family members. What do I mean?

Well, my brother, a few months ago was sentenced to 97 years in prison. He has to pay $25 a month to the Victims Assistance Fund. I know I mentioned this before, but I had to reiterate this.

Violent offenders commit crimes and then have to pay the fine, but many like my brother, at times, have only earned $7 in one month. That is not enough to pay the fine monthly and is really not easy to live on in jail. So, we send money monthly for canteen, etc. When violent offenders commit crimes and are sentenced, families pay for the crime. This is something to think about for potential offenders. The cycle of violence has to stop.

What are your thoughts on this? Anyone else in this situation like to comment?

Certainly food for thought.

I will talk to you later.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Successful Stand Out/Vigil for Victims -- Next Sleep Outs

The vigil at the US Capitol went well. Aside from all of the new construction work at the Capitol for the inauguration things went well. It was nice to be out there in the rain and standing for something. It was certainly my first time demonstrating on Capitol Hill. Now, there was a blooper. I do apologise for this. I reserved the West Lawn of the Capitol thinking it was directly across from the US Supreme Court. I was wrong. We were supposed to demonstrate near the Christmas Tree from Montana. So, my apologies again. I hope no body got lost.

There was a great discussion though, between a US Capitol police officer and those who came out. He gave his opinion on what he thought about the registry for violent offenders. He really believed in it and also thought that something has to be done about the violence. He mentioned that he has to deal with so many youth problems and violent offenders on his job. He said that the problem is prevalent in our community. It was also good to speak with him because we were building a relationship between all stakeholders in our community. I believe that we have to work closely with police officers or law enforcement. Remember, they are our family members too. Their safety is important as they protect us. Thanks officer!

Today's blog -- short. Obviously, a million things are happening and I am excited about today's line-up. I am meeting a couple of Executive Directors of not-for-profits who are doing excellent work in the community. Kudos to them. So, I am excited about meeting them. This will help me to prepare for my Foundation as well as continue to network. Remember, "network for networth" and also remember that "networth" is not just dollars/money.

The next vigil/stand out will be at the US Supreme Court and then the White House. Then, we are finished. I may be taking the message on the road. That means, Chicago and perhaps New York. I will definitely let you know. The Supreme Court will be on next Tuesday and the White House the following Tuesday. We will announce times/places by tomorrow. Hopefully, you will attend.

As always, thank you for reading. I have some inspiration for you later on today. It will be a part of the second half of this blog.

Til next time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Interview with Jacqueline Ellis - A Survivor

As I promised. Jacqueline is with us today. As I mentioned before, Jacqueline has told me her story in bits and pieces, but after reading her responses, I definitely had tears in my eyes. I was so sad to read some of the things that she had to go through and I was also glad that she has her life right now. So many people out there need to hear these stories. Somebody out there needs uplifting. This is a remarkable young lady. I suspect she will be a great star one day. So, here is my interview with Jacqueline.

Kellibrew: Welcome Jacqueline to my blogspot. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to tell us your story of tragedy to triumph. Yours, like so many other stories, need to be heard. So many people out there lack the strength and determination to push forward through tough relationships and abusive situations. I like to have these conversations to show them that there is a way out. So, Thank you for sharing. Tell me, you have told me somewhat about your story and I was simply amazed that you are alive. You have been through a difficult time as a child. What happened that day with your mother getting hit with a hammer? I am sure that was difficult to see.

Jacqueline: I was 11 or 12 years old, I just remember having to commute during my 6th grade year. My mother's family told her to leave or he will kill you and your children. My mother pregnant with my youngest sister and we came back to his home to get the rest of our belongings. I didn't care where we were going just being out of that situation was all I cared about. I just did not want my mother to hurt anymore and so [us] leaving and living in a shelter was the next move for my family and I. I think my stepfather could sense that this was it and I remember him being drunk as usual. He sent me downstairs for some water and before I could make it up the last set of stairs, I heard a loud thud. He was standing there laughing and my mother was lying on the floor bleeding from her head. Her eyes were closed,she was unresponsive at that point. I had never felt so alone in the world. She lay there lifeless, very pregnant as my middle sister sat on the steps, she had to be about 5 years old. I remember my stepfather chuckling in the hallway telling me "She's fine." and [me] yelling at him calling him the devil and [that] he killed my mother. He eventually picked [her] up from the pool of blood she [had] been lying in and gave her smelling salts. He was now in panic mode and was sweating and trying to revive her. She eventually came to but her face was unrecognizable.

Kellibrew: It really breaks my heart that women and individuals overall have to go through the abuse that your mother suffered, and not to mention your own. Your childhood was a difficult one too. What happened to you as a child that scarred you for life?

Jacqueline:I remember not knowing who my father was and asking my stepfather if I could call him daddy. It was right after my dance performance and he and my mother attended, of course, he was drunk. I just wanted to be normal or at least pretend to be, so once we got him I asked him if I could call him daddy. I remember my mother was downstairs and he called me closer to him. He said sure..."Let me show you what daddy's do". I stood there more paralyzed with shock then fear as he proceeded to put his hands down my panties. I was also molested by 2 uncles in my mother family.

I have been raped twice and have dated some men who have either used and abused me sexually. Not all of my relationships were bad, some great but because of my history, I became involved with men who were had there own issues be it sexual or just a lack of regard with interacting with there female counterparts. I know that most of my history has shaped where I have been in my life and where I am still going, good and bad...hopefully more good. I have since forgiven them all, but the memory still lingers. My stepfather killed himself once he knew my mother was not coming back, I forgive him because I know he was suffering too. As for my uncle's I am sure God will have the final say, I just pray that they are able to recognize the error in [their] actions.

Kellibrew: You could be so many places, doing so many negative things. What keeps you motivated to keep striving in life? Tell me, how do you do it?

Jacqueline: God, he is the reason I am here. I did have some pitfalls and even attempted suicide at 14. I missed a year of school because I spent it in the phyciatric ward. I remember once I was released I told God I would make the best of the life I had been given. I have a young son now and he is even more reason to push everyday. I continue to give back by volunteering in areas where victims and survivors can benefit from my story.

Kellibrew: Right, you do have a child, how old is he and what do you teach him since you have dealt with the trials and tribulations of turbulent relationships? What does he learn from you?

Jacqueline: My son is only 15 months old and even though he is a baby there is always room for correction. Between he and my nephew I do my best to let them know how to interact with the opposite sex. Even though my son is young he sometimes plays rough with little girls. He already knows the word "gentle and nice" when I correct him as he plays with any little girl. Service, compassion, faith, respect, love among a host of other things will be reinforced daily in my household. I think for young children boys and girls alike need to have a safe enviorment and constant unconditional love reinforced daily. Abuse comes in so many forms and being aware and educated defiantly helps break the cycle.

Kellibrew: I know this is difficult to talk about, but I wanted to acknowledge your role in the late Tiffany Gates' life, my God-sister and friend. She was one of your best confidantes. I remember you being devastated to hear the news. Watching you react to her death made it real that day for me. I was literally in shock. I could not believe it. I said, "Not our Tiffany!" You had to recently do her make-up and basically reconstruct her face because of the damage done by her killer. First tell us, how did you get yourself to do the make-up? It was probably one of the hardest things you ever had to do. Also, how has it been dealing with your best friend's death?

Jacqueline: I loved her so much and for so long, 18 years and still to this day. I had knots in my stomach when I knew I had to do her makeup. As friends we had all made our funeral requests in advance and so being her friend I had to honor the part I knew I had. That is what you do for the people you love, It was my last chance to talk to her, be with take care of her and pamper her one last time. I am not going to lie she looked like she had really struggled and just having to see her that close in the condition she was in broke my heart. There was no going back, she was gone and I really miss her everyday. I tell her I am sorry for what happened to her, I am sorry I did not get a chance to hug and kiss her before I left that Wednesday. I have had some trouble sleeping a couple of nightmares but I continue to ask God to keep me. I worry a little more about one of my best friend who is actually your sister. I worry that she may leave me early too and I askGod to watch over my loved ones constantly. I find that because of my issues with death, it plays a big part in my day to day life.

Kellibrew: What's next? In terms of coping with Tiffany's death and having gone through so much yourself, what are your next steps in life? What's your passion and what are you doing to fulfill your passion?

Jacqueline: My passion has always been the arts, it has always been my release from the craziness of this world. I plan to continue my efforts to raise awareness for victims and survivors. There is still a song in my heart so eventually returning to the stage is in my future. "Never Forget" I am adopting that for my own personal motto. Never forget Tiffany, myself, friends, family, the struggle, the triumph. I feel if you never forget you have no excuse but to press on.

Kellibrew: I want to thank you so much for sharing. Believe me, I know how difficult it is. I simply wanted to bring you on the blogspot today because someone has gone through and continues to go through what you have already experienced. Thank God you and your mother got through. I know that by being here today, someone was tapped with some support and strength to make a change today. They see a wonderful young lady who bounced back and stood resilient against the odds. Thank you Jacqueline as always for your time, energy and kindrid spirit. I hope I can get you on sometime in the future to continue our dialogue and get an update. I am sure our readers would love to keep up with you.

Jacqueline: Thank you and I love you. I pray that someone reads this and [are] moved to take action, be it in there own life or someone elses.

Kellibrew: That wraps up our interview with Jacqueline. Be inspired out there. I am excited about our next guest. I will give you the scoop in the next blog. For now, be safe and Happy Holidays, by the way.

Til next time.

Interview with Survivor Later Today - Today, Have the End Goal in Mind

Good morning. It is a great morning. We have some exciting things happening today. First, I have a holiday party to go to. A midday drink never hurts. Later today, we will be having our first guest. She is a very good friend of mine and is one of my sister's best friends. We were talking the other day and she just revealed that so much had transpired in her life as a child. I did not know she suffered so much trauma. Her life story is one of life or death. She has brushed up against death a few times. I am grateful for her strength to even talk about it. But, I do not want to give you to much information. She will join us today.

On another note, we are holding a Candle Light vigil today at the Capitol from 3 - 5 p.m. We will be on the First Street side of the Capitol, right across from the Supreme Court of the United States. We will show our solidarity today for the victims of violence. Hope to see you there.

Now, I would like to leave you this morning with a bit of inspiration. As I mentioned before, I am usually inspiring myself by writing too.

Having the End Goal in Mind

We can never think about this enough. Everything we do has an outcome to it. Our every step on earth is about an outcome. So, why not plan for it?

Planning on the planning end will help to eliminate planning on the execution end. Less planning during execution will give you time to just roll out your plan and implement. But, you have to set the goal and be steadfast in order to achieve it. Also, productivity matters. You will need to set your goal and then go for it. Easier said than done right? Well, having a goal is "half the battle". If you continually think about and put effort into the goal you have, there is a huge possibility that you will achieve it. But, having the end goal in your head gives you the opportunity to see it accomplished. Today, do not go about your day aimlessly. Think about the few things you would like to accomplish and order your own steps. Stay on task and on path.

At the end of the day, take a look back and feel good about your day. You have accomplished what you set out to do. Now, do not try to add things on today's list that can only be handled tomorrow. What do I mean?

Your daily list is your daily list, not your weekly list. Adding things to your daily list can confuse and overwhelm you. So "keep it simple stupid or silly" (KISS) is what I use sometimes to keep me on task. However, do remember to plan for tomorrow at some point today. Only accomplish today what you can reasonably accomplish.

Thanks for reading.

Til next time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tribute to Tiffany Gates - Also, Reactive or Proactive -- Which One Are You?

Last night was absolutely wonderful. Tiffany Gates was remembered and honored. Her mother, Vanessa and our family were honored by Tony and Robert who throw these annual Holiday Fundraising parties. This party was at the Takoma Station Tavern and in its fourth year. There was a band, people everywhere, food, a silent auction and a good time. The atmosphere was great. Tony and Robert gave gift cards to Vanessa and gave Manyka, my sister, and me a chance to greet the audience in between remarkable and ear-soothing sets of Holiday selections.

It feels so good to get out in the public and talk about the issue of violence. Our message was loud and clear. We were there to remind people of the horrible tragedies that struck Tiffany Gates and our mother and brother. Robert also honored Veronica Williams, murdered in Baltimore on the same day as Tiffany, 28 November. Robert and Tony honored Veronica's family and also raised money to send dolls to South Africa for underpriviliged children. This is an annual fundraiser and I will definitely be supporting this effort annually. What a world we live in. There are some wonderful people out there. Keep it up folks. Let's continue to spread the peace.

Secondly, today. There are some amazing interviews coming up. We will be arranging some interviews with people who have survived horrible circumstances. So, gear up. We are going to be talking about the issues. That's what having a conversation with Kellibrew is all about. Our first interview will start tomorrow. We will interview a young lady who will tell you about her past. She will tell you how her life hung in the balance while her mother lye on the ground in a pool of blood, left permanently disfigured. What an amazing story for two women. One of them will be with us tomorrow.

By having these conversations, we will be able to delve into the lives of victims and those who are truly survivors working to turn their lives around, rebuilding for the future.

Finally, I want to leave you with some inspiration. I am reading this book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey.

In Part II - Habit 1 - Be Proactive "I am the force." Covey writes about reactive and proactive language. That's what I want to focus on. Let's list the language used for both.

Reactive Language -- Proactive Language

I'll try -- I'll do it
That's just the way I am -- I can do better than that
There's nothing I can do -- Let's look at all our options
I have to -- I choose to
I can't -- There's gotta be a way
You ruined my day -- I'm not going to let your bad mood rub off on me

Covey says, "Listen to your language."

Kellibrew - This is so essential if we are going to conquer or complete our goals. I really like this book because it really teaches us about the basics to building and strengthening our self-esteem. I found two copies just sitting around in the house, probably from my nephew who got them as a gift. I decided to pick one up and read it and look what I am doing now, telling you about it. Wow. I love to pass along useful information.

Anyway, Covey also says, "It pays to be proactive"

I totally agree. He says that proactive poeple are a different breed. Covey and I think alike. Covey tells you how resilient proactive people are and I reiterate the importance with my opinion and brief anecdotes to help you connect.

Proactive people:

Covey -Are not easily offended
Kellibrew - We have to learn not to take things personally. Remember that saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me." That's true. What can someone really say that can truly hurt you. Yeah, at the beginning it hurts, but you will eventually loose that feeling and bounce back. You have to feel good about yourself -- who you are and then you will find it very easy to take criticism. Sometimes I tell the person that they hurt my feelings and that always gets a really nice reaction. Then they are apologetic, most of the time. But, even if they were not. No worries. I know who I am and most importantly, maybe they are right. So, that's something that I may be able to change. So, I thank them for pointing my faults out. I would rather stop the faults now than continue them in front of more people. That's the positive way of looking at it.

Covey-Take responsibility for their choices
Kellibrew - I am learning to do this more and more. I try to immediately say that I am responsible and that I am sorry for my behaviour if I know I was wrong. Sometimes it has to be pointed out to me, but I eventually come around. We have choices in life to make and we do nothing without a choice. Even when I was staring down the barrel of a gun, I had a choice. I chose to beg for my life. My mother decided to yell and my brother decided to say nothing before they died. I always look back on that horrible day and thank God for my decision to want to stay alive. Maybe that was the difference between life and death.

Covey-Think before they act
Kellibrew - How many times have we regretted things we have done. We look back, even if for one second and say to ourselves, "S&@^, I wish I hadn't done that." I know I have said that about my whole teenage and young adult life. There were some good things, but for the most part, I made some stupid and dumn decisions. When I think about where I am today, I am so happy that I changed my life and started to make great choices. For instance, at 15, I went with my friend "J" (named changed for privacy) to steal a car. It was my first time. I just wanted to be around the crowd and be accepted. Besides, I was tired of walking everywhere (chuckling). Anyway, we stole the car and later that night we were blocked in by police on three sides. We all jumped out. I ran in the same direction as J, but the driver, Mike, ran a different way. J and me got away, but unfortunately for Mike, he was caught. He did not give our names up and had to take the fall, but that taught me a huge lesson. I never did that again. I could have simply ruined my life at that point. Thinking before acting is not as simple as it is stated. There are tools to thinking. We will not go over them today, but remember that you have to arm yourself with information to help you think before you act. By the way, J will never see the outside of a prison again. He is serving life in prison and Mike, I believe is in a similar situation. Another one of our close friends is dead.

Covey-Bounce back when something bad happens
Kellibrew - Recently, as you know, Tiffany Gates, my God-sister was murdered -- stabbed to death in absolute cold blood and rage. Naturally, we were devastated. I, for one second, almost lost control. But, I said, what good what that do anyone. So, within two days, I held a teleconference with family and friends. I changed my status on Facebook, to "William is hurting right now due to the death of his sister." I got amazing responses immediately. People, friends, strangers reached out. It was a level of support that was totally missing from my childhood experience. I was determined to not let Tiffany's death define who I was at the time. I had to take everything I learned about leadership and resilience and turn it on. I bounced back. Now, I still hurt, but I am channeling my energy and helping to channel everyone elses energy I come in contact with.

Covey-Always find a way to make it happen
Kellibrew - I am not sure who said this first, but I use it. "There are three kinds of people in life. Those who watch what happens, those who make things happen and those who do not know what happened." Choose one. Sometimes one of these choose you. Well, if anything is going to happen the way that we want it to happen, we have to take control and find a way. You may not succeed, but you will at least know the outcome rather than wait on an outcome. Make things happen. You have the power. We have the power.

Covey-Focus on things they can do something about, and don't worry about things they can't change
Kellibrew - I always remember the passage, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Now, you may not believe in God, but as we discussed in an earlier post, there is another force on earth beside your own and that force is moving with or without you. So replace God with that force outside of yourself. The passage is self-explanatory. I really like the last part though. It takes discernment to capture the wisdom to know the difference between the things you can and cannot change.

Covey's book is a national bestseller and has sold over 2 million copies. If I were you, I would certainly pick it up. There are some basics or fundamentals to rebuilding your life. One of the basics is feeling good about you. I am feeling better and better about myself as every day passes. Yeah, sometimes I get down on myself, but I surround myself with people who remind me to keep my head up and stay strong. It gets difficult sometimes, but together, we can do it.

I wish you the best as you continue your journey through life.

Til next time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Today is One of Those Days

Today is definitely one of those days. I am up and eager to get things done, but cannot move to do them. Have you ever felt that way? Well, I feel that way today. I usually blog earlier, but today I got up and did some laundry, typed some emails and worked on a couple of documents. Knowing me, I can definitely do more. But, the day is still ahead of us. It is 1:42 p.m. and counting. At least in Los Angeles it is about 10:42. That makes me feel good.

Why is it that we feel this way sometimes? Why is it that we cannot motivate ourselves to get up and do the work we know we need to do? I canceled an appointment I had today as well. I have my reason, but that's neither here nor there. I still have to find out how to get motivated. So, here we go. Let's work on this. How do we get motivated?

1) This is definitely a start. Finding something that is easy to do to get started helps. For instance, I decided to start by blogging. This way, I can get all of the things that are clouding my head out and on paper (blog). This will give me a chance to clear my head and focus on other things that I have to do. Also, this is something that I have elected to do daily, consistently. That is one of the things about blogs. They have to be consistent if you are going to keep an audience. Keeping them short will also keep people reading. So, do something easy and that will start your day going and get your thoughts out on paper so that your head is clear.

2) Think of other priorities. List the priorities and get them done. We cannot afford to let precious time go by without conquering as much as we can. Get your list of things to do together and then tackle them one by one. Now, many people try to tackle a lot of tasks or at least list them on the same daily task list. That's a "no-no". Only list what you can accomplish today. Listing everything else will overwhelm you and will not give you a sense of satisfaction once you complete some things on the list. After completing your daily list, you will feel like you accomplished a lot. So, make a list of what you reasonably have to get done today and then list them by priorities.

3) Take a Nap! If you feel tired. Get some sleep. When I am tired, I just fall out. Why? We have to re-energise ourselves. We are more productive when we awaken. You will definitely feel the difference. For instance, it's about time for my nap right now. So, I will not be typing that much longer. So, close your eyes wherever you are and get some rest. Your body will thank you. Now, watch your belongings, secure what you have around you, especially in public. I have been known to sleep on the train station floor waiting for a train in another country.

I hope this blog helped you as much as it helped me. I am about to make my list right now. There just might be three things on there after writing this blog.

Don't forget about the candlelight vigil at Capitol Hill on Tuesday between 3 - 5 p.m. on the Front West Lawn of the Capitol across from the Supreme Court on First Street. Look for the peace signs.

Until next time.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Few More Thoughts -- Death Surrounds Us But Resolve Helps Us Accomplish Goals

Two days ago, my third cousin, Tony, died playing Playstation 3. He was attending university in Durham, North Carolina. Now, as you know, we just had Tiffany's death just three weeks ago. I have been asked to sing at his funeral service as well. Of course, I am definitely up to it. But, anyone looking in on our family would question our resolve.

Last night, I was pretty sad and hurt about his death. He was 20 years old and had a future ahead of him. He was on the dean's list for three years. He was well on his way. We do not know the cause of his death, but it hurts nonetheless. It leaves me questioning my own actions, goals, and aspirations.

Now more than ever is the time to act. As you see, we are not promised today and definitely not promised tomorrow. We have to act now if we are to affect any part of this world. I am more diligent this morning and I have accomplished so much this morning in terms of preparing for today's meetings and future career choices.

However, before I say anything else, I must tell you that I am definitely grieving. I want to continue to grieve through my writing because I know I have to get it out. Losses are hard to deal with, but acknowledging the loss is a part of coping. I know.

Today, I want you to think. I want you to think about what your goals are. I want you to think about what you will do today that will get you one more step closer to your goal or goals. Let's buckle down together and get what we need done.

Remember, goals are SMART. Your goals should be S-specific, M-measurable, A-attainable, R-reasonable, and T-time framed. If you do not have these elements in achieving your goals then you will be tampering with success. Later, I will go in depth about the SMART goals because I think it is important to talk about them.

Thanks again for reading.

Let's talk soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Peace -- the Answer

Tonight, my heart goes out to the young child -- 5 years-old. He was shot in the shoulder here in D.C. -- fighting for his life. I know that there are children and victims who are fighting out there. My prayers and hopes are with you. My prayers are also with those who offend. Please. Be your brother's keeper. Violence is not the way to go brothers and sisters. We are family. We are friends. We are loved ones. The very person you are harming is the one you should protect. I have seen "six degrees of separation" at work. Just look your victim in the eye. Once you do. You will find that they really do want to live. They really do want to survive. Save yourself. I have been there. I have done wrong against the society. Send me a message my brother and sister out there. Do not give up on yourself. I look forward to hearing from you.

Til next time.

Why a Registry for Violent Offenders?

As we (Robert Maxwell and I) develop the first draft of the "Victims Protection Act" or "Victims/Survivors Bill" we are mindful of the immense challenge to passing this through Congress. Let me give you a little history first. This will give you an idea where I am going with this.

Two weeks before Tiffany Gates' (my God-sister, god-sister) murder I saw a special biography on Oprah Winfrey. The special highlighted Oprah's success in supporting legislation to create a sex-offender registry. It was called the Oprah Bill and passed through Congress with the signing into law by former president Bill Clinton. It was called the Megan Law or Child Protection Act of 1993. After seeing this, I was excited. I jumped up off of the couch and a light bulb came on in my head. I said, "We need a violent offender registry!" So, I looked it up. There wasn't a violent offender registry. I was shocked. I was surprised. Most of all, I was hurt. I was hurt that so many violent offenders who get out of prison and commit the same crimes or more heinous ones are able to escape the accountability of the society or community only to hurt us. With a registry, at least we can identify them and protect ourselves from future harm. Of course, all violent offenders are not harmful to the community once they are rehabilitated, but we still have to protect ourselves, offenders included.

There are a few reasons why I think a registry should be conducted, administered, whatever. Here we go.

1) Give our community a choice. Let us decide if we want to get in a relationship with someone with violent tendencies. My mother and brother was murdered after she met her killer who was released after 11 1/2 years in prison for murder. Had she known that, she could have protected herself before falling in love with him and him being obsessed with her. He killed our family. He shot her and my 12 years-old brother right in front of me. I know I keep saying it, but I cannot get away from the fact that it happened. Tiffany's killer had violent tendencies too. I know Tiffany would have looked him up in the beginning because my sister, Manyka, was vigilant about looking up people on the sex-offenders registry. She is adamant about protecting her children and she would have done the same thing for Tiffany. So, let's give a choice to our community. Offenders have a choice. They hide their violent past and only reveal it through action. This action is often through violent means. You do not have to tell me. I know first hand and so does my family and friends.

Example: We need to shine the light on violent offenders. You see, entertainers, politicians and people in the lime-light are often seen in the news having been charged with crimes. PDiddy, Martha Stewart and a host of other entertainers' lives are seen through a microscope. If their lives can be viewed through a lense, so should these individuals. Their offenses are permanently etched in the minds of those who watch television or for those inundated by news flashes. Isn't this a registry? It is not a formal registry, but a registry nonetheless. Not only that, you can google or Yahoo! search their names and get information about their indictments and charges. Violent offenders under the radar has to change. Their acts have to be brought to the forefront.

Another thing, when violent offenders offenses are documented and sent out through a media advisory in the community. If I catalogued each one of those cases, I could start a registry. So, why not make it a federal registry?

Accountability to the public is key.

"Accountability to the community encourages accountability within the individual." Kellibrew

We have to feel a sense of self worth and that can happen through building meaningful relationships within the community. It has helped me tremendously to get back on track.

Simple, we need a violent offenders registry.

2) Victims often have to change their behaviour while offenders continue the same pattern of abuse and violence. I support mandatory counseling. Someone said to me the other day that violent offenders do have to go through therapy. Well, some are obviously skipping the therapy and perhaps once they attend therapy sessions they are not rehabilitated. Violent offenders are often released and most recommit crimes. Within the registry, there should be a column that reads, "Mandatory Counseling". The duration or length of their counseling should be evident and public. As a community, we should be aware of the violent offender rebuilding their lives. Victims are often in the public rebuilding their lives. They should be too. What is there to hide? Let's be honest and upfront with each other.

I am accepting other suggestions for this registry. If you have any, make a comment. This is an inclusive process. We need all of the help we can get.

Thanks for reading.

Til later.