Learn how cultivating trust and community allowed Health Initiative to be effective partners in the region.
Dr. Sriram Shamasunder and his organization, HEAL Initiative, stood in solidarity with Navajo healthcare workers as they fought a COVID outbreak through the spring and summer.
This past summer, when the Navajo Nation was the site of one of the country’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, Dr. Sriram Shamasunder was at Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility in Arizona, caring for a Navajo elder in the respiratory care unit. When he was young, the patient had worked in the uranium mines on Navajo land, and he had spent decades drinking water contaminated with the radioactive element. He had poor baseline lung function, and now he had COVID-19. His family could not be there to comfort him. He was isolated and scared.
On harried rounds in the overwhelmed medical center, it was very difficult to be fully present. “I was moving fast. I was wearing goggles, a face shield, an N95 mask,” Shamasunder recalls. He couldn’t speak to the miner in his own language, and he wasn’t intimately familiar with the contours of the man’s life on the reservation. There was a gulf between them that Shamasunder, as his doctor, struggled to cross.
But Shamasunder had not come into the room alone. He was accompanied by Navajo nurses from the local community. “They would just lean over in his ear and speak to him in his own language,” Shamasunder says, “‘I won’t let you go.’ ‘I am from your community, and I’m here to stand with you.’ To bridge that gap is just so powerful.”
Signs encourage safety in the Navajo Nation. Photo credit: UCSF
I think there was a question all of us sat with. What does it mean to lead a purposeful, committed life? What does that look like?
What made HEAL so effective? It may have had something to do with the way HEAL responds to the problem Shamasunder has spent his entire career thinking about: How can the best care be delivered across the human boundaries of language, culture, gender, and religion that arise in our global community? After the technical training of medical school, can young health professionals be trained in the ineffable part of the practice, in leadership, advocacy, and justice?
How can they learn to show up in their full presence?
In May, a disheartening thread of stories about COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation was circulating. Per-capita infection rates soared. Congress had approved $8 billion in coronavirus relief for tribes around the country, but the money did not arrive as committed. It was a cruel echo of the disinvestment that had left the Navajo Nation — an area larger than West Virginia — with just 13 grocery stores and only some 20 ICU beds.
In the wake of this progress, UCSF is compiling a report on the efforts of HEAL and the volunteers in Navajo Nation. Shamasunder’s own reflections, unsurprisingly, have so far taken the form of notes and sketches of new poems that address the work of the health professionals in their full presence, affirming their spirit of partnership and solidarity. He wants to make sure the opportunity to explore those elements of the summer’s efforts is not overlooked — by the medical community, or by HEAL.
And the world must change.
This fall has seen COVID-19 case counts rise around the globe, and the Navajo Nation has not been exempt. In late October, with a surge in New Mexico taking hospitals in Albuquerque beyond their bed capacity, the reservation’s command-control structure re-engaged in planning for case management and potential patient transfers to hospitals all over Arizona and New Mexico. Just this week, after announcing that 34 Navajo communities have “uncontrolled spread” of the disease, the nation’s leadership instituted a three-week lockdown restricting nonessential activities. Shamasunder is trying to coordinate another team of nurses to travel down to Arizona and New Mexico to help. If he is needed, there is no question that he would return to the desert.
🤎 I love this image, especially because not only does he embody hate, I am reminded hate is born of fear and fragmentation, threading in and out of our existence on this plane. Somehow, we, this country, allowed him to be celebrated after decades of his darkness…his evil energy. May he always be a reminder for what we don’t want to be and stay diligent against these dark forces. May he be dissolved, and fade from our public platforms and consciousness. May those who supported him be awakened to his destructive energies and dark heart. May their eyes be opened. And may they want to unite with all of us to be one people, to know what is true, justified, equal…for all beings…especially the oppressed and marginalized. Let us, together, be reminded of what it means to reside in the heart of democracy and fix what has been broken since this country was born.
And then, may we heal.
From Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States:
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple of times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again. And to make progress we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
Alluding to scripture, he added: “This is the time to heal in America.”
From the Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris, the first woman, a woman of color, Black and Southern Asian woman, to be elected to this office.
“Protecting our democracy takes struggle. It takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it. And there is progress. Because we, the people, have the power to build a better future.”
We The People
For those who voted, again, for the current president, please answer, ‘Why’? What did he do for you? During a pandemic? Employment? Opportunity? Fairness? Equality? Or, is it deeper? Fear? Nationalism? Culture? Bias? Concerns over race? Majorities? Disinformation? Social media platforms?
May we heal. And unite. Not half of us…all of us. We. The. People.
W.E.B. Du Bois:
Strive for that greatness of spirit that measure life not by its disappointments, but by its possibilities.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
The collective heart of humankind’s suffering.
The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another and all involved in one another.
Today, we celebrate our democracy, our common humanity, and a glass ceiling shattered once and for all.
With nearly 160 million votes cast, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won a decisive victory. They received more than 75 million votes, a greater number than any ticket in history, with a remarkable breadth of support from across the nation.
And they shattered several glass ceilings—it will be a joy to watch Vice President-elect Kamala inspire generations of future leaders and active citizens!
Across the Collective, we have seen so many give so much over these past four years, using a range of tools to fight for justice, equality, and our democracy. I am thankful and full of admiration.
We now have the opportunity to work for the systemic solutions we know we need—solutions that can remake the calcified systems in our country, from immigration and education to race and reconciliation, criminal justice and climate. And it will require each of us to bring spirit of ingenuity and hard work to support and accelerate America’s rebuilding and renewal.
We will let out the breath we have been holding in for so long. As celebratory as we feel, we also know that much work lies ahead—the work of healing the wounds and repairing the breaches.
So, we will get to work, and usher in the America we know is possible.
With relief and gratitude,
Laurene, Emerson Collective
Empathy + Sympahty = Compassion
We are a progressive being.
There is nothing at a standstill in nature.
Only God is motionless for (S)He was, is and will be the same yesterday,
today and tomorrow,
and yet, is ever moving.
I will never understand how 70,000,000+ people could vote for him again. Never. Perhaps, maybe, hopefully, some will evolve to understand his destructive and immoral behaviors. He has shown us who he is for decades. Some of us (me) gave him no mind. And then, he was elected to serve. He did not serve. He lied. He divided. And he hated. Hate is born of fear. What was feared?
Perhaps, we have always been this divided, but the ugly part was given platform and verbalized. Democracy, we have learned, is not passive, but active. We can not simply turn out the vote every two, or four years.
We must edify and protect the marginalized and oppressed. The government serves us, we don’t serve it.
A true democracy is messy and necessary. And it requires ‘good trouble.’
Now, let’s work to balance the scales and bring Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate in Georgia. The shadow president, Senator Mitch McConnell, will continue to strangle democracy and refuse to move policy forward if we do not achieve balance. Please donate or volunteer:
James Martin, SJ:
It is, and always has been, possible to speak respectfully about someone with whom you disagree. Here’s how: “Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
Krista Tippett, journalist and author:
What is the story of “us”? How do we learn it, how do we tell it, and how to shift it, across dehumanizing divides, in enduring ways?
Padraig O’ Tuama, poet:
In all the waiting of your week — for results from elections, for different news, for finality, for certitude — the work of the past is calling for attention. A new future will only be built on courageous moments, and those are happening now, and now and now. In the waiting, we are with you, considering history, paradise and conflict, considering how these patterns of time are inviting us to new actions.
What do you notice about how you behave in times of conflict? Do you tend toward avoidance? Or compromise? Or collaboration? Or competition? Or accommodation?
This poem describes a conflict between neighbors: a tree hangs over a fence. The owners love this tree; their neighbors don’t. Somebody responds directly, somebody else avoids, a chainsaw appears. Suddenly this conflict becomes a parable for all conflicts, illustrating how deep they can go and how often they cannot be resolved with a question about what to do.
‘Conflict is not two sides, but many sides.
What is the definition of love between conflict?’
Will we learn how to listen to each other again; we are not enemies–we are merely opponents. We have more in common than we know, or perhaps, are willing to admit. .d
“Let this be the anthem that leads us to polls.”
Laurene Powell Jobs, Emerson Collective
- September 18: National Black Voter Day
- September 22: National Voter Registration Day
- September 29: First Presidential Debate
- October 5: Voter Education Week
- October 7: Vice Presidential Debate
- October 15: Second Presidential Debate
- October 22: Third Presidential Debate
- October 24: Vote Early Day
- November 3: Election Day
The primaries are over. Conventions went virtual. Ballots are being printed as we speak. Election season is in full swing. This election will be the most consequential of our time, so below you’ll find 10 simple steps and resources to make sure you’re ready to flex your constitutional muscle. And if you can vote early, please do.
National Association of Secretaries of State
When We All Vote
The Washington Post
Power The Polls
We The Action
Time to Vote
This moment is testing all of us—our teams, families, and communities—in new ways. And we wanted to share some wellness resources in case they are helpful in the days and weeks ahead.
Below are tools for crisis support and intervention, managing anxiety, mindfulness and movement, ways to share art and stories, support for children and teens, and resources in Spanish.
We hope they are useful, and we will continue to look for ways to support one another during this challenging time.
The Emerson Collective Team
Crisis Support and Intervention
Crisis Text Line
Text SHARE to 741741 to reach a crisis counselor, 24/7, for free, confidential support.
Crisis Text Line counselors are available to connect about anxiety related to the novel coronavirus, isolation, students’ concerns about school, financial stress, and other concerns.
Managing Anxiety and Stress Related to the Coronavirus
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Tips on stress and coping, with specialized advice for parents, responders, and people who have been released from quarantine.
Avoiding Misinformation on COVID-19
News Literacy Project
How to spot—and avoid spreading—misinformation, and identify reliable sources of information.
Mindfulness and Movement
Meditations for Focus, Stress, Sleep—and Even Handwashing
The Headspace app is offering a free set of meditation, sleep, and movement exercises, “Weathering the Storm,” specific to this time; a free suite of tools and guided meditations for business and employees, and free Headspace Plus accounts for providers who work in public health settings.
Dance Classes At Home
Join ODC’s teachers and community online while the physical studio doors are closed. Sign up for a live-streamed class or follow along with a Fusion Light class from Rhythm & Motion.
Exercising during a Pandemic
Expert advice on getting exercise at home or while maintaining social distancing.
Sharing Art and Stories, Spreading Joy
A Daily Story to Lift Your Spirits
StoryCorps is putting some of the most heartwarming stories from their collection in a daily newsletter. Sign up for reminders of heart, humanity, and generosity from everyday people.
Virtual Museum Visits
Google Arts & Culture
Key pieces from the collections of 2,500 museums worldwide, including special online exhibits.
Supporting Children and Teenagers
For many excellent resources for supporting school-age children while their schools are closed, please see Resources for Remote Learning.
Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus
Child Mind Institute
Guidance for parents of young and school-age children on talking to them about coronavirus.
Teens Facing a New Normal
Strategies for teens to protect their mental health while facing a (temporary) new normal.
Recursos en Español
Maneje la Ansiedad y el Estrés
Centros para el control y la prevención de enfermedades (CDC)
Consejos sobre estrés y afrontamiento, con consejos especializados para padres, personal de auxilio y personas que han sido liberadas de la cuarentena.
Cómo Hablar con los Niños sobre el Coronavirus
Child Mind Institute
Guía para padres de niños pequeños y en edad escolar sobre cómo hablarles sobre el coronavirus.
Volunteer to Support Others
And if you’re looking for a way to serve others—during this difficult time, and beyond it—consider training as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. The training can be done from home, and teaches the skills of reflective listening, collaborative problem solving, and crisis management.
We will continue to update this list of resources. Feel free to share this with your loved ones, friends, and networks as we all navigate this difficult time together.
Emerson Collective initial launch partner for new NowThis division
NowThis, the millennial social video media outlet that’s part of Group Nine Media, will announce today the launch of NowThis Impact, a new editorial division that covers social issues and is underwritten by non-profits.
Why it matters: Underwriting editorial content is becoming a bigger trend as more philanthropy and non-profit money floods into journalism.
Details: Emerson Collective, a social change organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, will serve as the company’s launch partner.
- NowThis is looking to announce additional underwriters in coming months.
- It will work with issue experts to form content partnerships around certain issues that contain specific calls to action.
- The new product aims to meet the content appetites of NowThis’ audience of progressive and civically-minded millennials.
Be smart: It’s not the first time Group Nine has dabbled in “call-to-action” media/journalism. Its animal franchise, The Dodo, has in the past directed its audience to adoption resources.
Disclosure: Emerson Collective is an investor in Axios.
A C T I V E L I S T E N I N G
How To Listen To People You Disagree With
Early last year, Amanda Ripley had a revelation: she wasn’t a great listener. “It was hugely disturbing, because it’s my job,” she says. Ripley is a journalist who writes for The Atlantic and The Washington Post. She was studying conflict as a way to understand political polarization. Through her research, she realized that one key to understanding – and sometimes even resolving – conflict is whether the parties involved feel heard or not.
Most people aren’t great listeners – including doctors and bosses and all kinds of people whose job requires listening. As Ripley sees it, journalists are conditioned to over-simplify polarizing topics or complex characters so that readers can more easily understand the reporting. But in doing so, journalists flatten incredibly complicated, nuanced topics and leave people more entrenched than ever. Ripley wrote about this revelation in a viral piece last year, Complicating the Narratives.
Now, Ripley, an Emerson Collective Senior Fellow, is working with the Solutions Journalism Network to train journalists on how to conduct better interviews, particularly about polarizing subjects. Ripley’s work is part of a larger movement to bridge political and cultural divides and revive healthy democractic debate in the U.S.
Ripley recently spoke with Patrick D’Arcy, Emerson Collective’s Director of Fellowships and Portfolio Communications, about the broader implications of her research on conflict and the essential, overlooked role of listening in a healthy democracy – and the Thanksgiving dinner table.
People will put up with a lot of difference if they feel heard. People will open up to different ideas and opinions.
“What do you want to understand? Conversation techniques, interview questions, and stellar story examples born from a conflict mediation training — for journalists”
Senator Cory Booker:
“This is a moral moment. The moral vandal that’s in the White House right now, he may win this day, but he will not win our nation. We are America. We’re going to find a way to regroup, heal, [and] be the moral nation that I know we are.”
“Never stop being a prisoner of hope.”
“The president’s defense team arguing for what is basically unlimited presidential power is chilling. Even if they get away with it – which they probably will – it’s important to remember that we the voters are the ultimate judge and jury. We’ll deliver our judgement in November.”
Philosopher/author Martha Nussbaum:
“To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control.”
David G. Bradley, the chairman and owner of Atlantic Media, is announcing this morning that he is selling a majority stake in The Atlantic to Emerson Collective, an organization led by philanthropist and investor Laurene Powell Jobs. Bradley will retain a minority stake in The Atlantic and will continue as chairman and operating partner for at least three to five years. In a letter to his staff, Bradley wrote that Emerson Collective will most likely assume full ownership of The Atlantic within five years.
Bradley, who bought The Atlantic in 1999 for $10 million from Mortimer Zuckerman, is credited with transforming the Boston-based monthly magazine of politics, arts, and letters into a profitable digital-journalism and live-events company of global reach, even while continuing to publish The Atlantic’s award-winning print magazine, which was born four years before the Civil War. “Against the odds, The Atlantic is prospering,” Bradley wrote in his memo. “While I will stay at the helm some years, the most consequential decision of my career now is behind me: Who next will take stewardship of this 160-year-old national treasure? To me, the answer, in the form of Laurene, feels incomparably right.”
In his statement, Bradley said that Powell Jobs will most likely visit the Washington and New York offices of The Atlantic in September. Bradley closed his note to the staff by saying, “What I loved about Laurene from the first is that her confidence was forged on a different coast.” He added, “And, if anything, her ambition is greater than my own.” Making reference to the generally bleak commercial forecast for journalism in the United States, he wrote, “Let’s make it our work to prove the wisdom of our era wrong. And when my time comes to leave, that would be a happy note on which to say ‘good-bye.’”
︶⁀°• •° ⁀︶
In one soul, in your soul, there are resources for the world.
A LETTER FROM LAURENE POWELL JOBS
With those startling words, Ralph Waldo Emerson enlarged our conception of the value of a human life. I read his simple declaration about the reach of human capability as a statement of fact: there really is within each of us the potential to improve the world around us. But Emerson’s line is not only a description, it is also an imperative: while all of us possess this transformative potential, too many of us don’t get the chance to fulfill it — which means that we all have work to do.
At Emerson Collective, this is what drives us every day. If we’ve helped someone transcend the limits of circumstance and chart a new course for themselves and their families, we know we’re fulfilling our mission. Like our namesake, we believe deeply in self-reliance; but we recognize that the road to self-reliance sometimes leads through reliance on others. We trust that hard work and determination can make anything possible, but opportunities for hard work and determination must be found and even created.
For people trapped in the quagmire of poverty and disenfranchisement, a strong will to overcome the odds is rarely sufficient to beat them. For the 22 percent of children born into poor neighborhoods in the U.S., hard work will not likely be enough to overcome the obstacles they will face, including those that remain invisible to outsiders. For students in challenging environments—where schools are chronically short of funds, where advanced classes in high school are non-existent, where expectations are often low and mentors are few—force of will alone cannot ensure a college education and a bright future. And for families forced into the shadows by a dysfunctional immigration system, perseverance cannot secure legal status and equal rights.
Qualities of character, in other words, must be supplemented and supported by policies and inspirations. These lives, these communities, are gardens of promise, but they need water in order to flourish.
Many years ago, I visited a nearby high school where students were working to defy the odds and do something very difficult: to become the first in their families to earn a college degree. They had the same dreams and talents as students from neighboring communities, but faced far more daunting obstacles. As the first to apply to college, the first to attend and to graduate, and the first to embark on a professional career, they faced, at every stage, uncharted territory.
It takes a unique brand of boldness to envision—and pursue—a future so different from the world that surrounds you. These students possessed courage and drive, but lacked the gateways to achieve their dreams—this struck me as a great injustice. It inspired me to launch a program called College Track—which has, to date, guided and supported thousands of students on their quest to earn college degrees, most of whom are the first in their family to reach this pivotal milestone.
Today in the United States, with few exceptions, where a person is born determines how far he or she can go in life. Among developed countries, the U.S. ranks second to last in economic and social mobility. This is shameful. It wasn’t always this way—and it doesn’t have to stay this way. This is not how we want our country to work.
This imperative underpins both the moral and practical mission of our work at Emerson Collective: we are idealists with our feet on the ground. Students can’t become self-reliant adults unless we give them an excellent education and a pathway cleared of obstacles. Immigrants can’t contribute their fullest to our communities, can’t live open and free and productive lives, unless they are liberated from the fear of detention and deportation. Complex systemic failures require flexible approaches, new models, and improved public policy. Every day with new ideas, true numbers, and smart practices, we at Emerson Collective do our part to advance these solutions. We do so in partnership with innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and organizations — with the broad community of concern and solidarity that we seek to foster.
Our basic belief, as Emerson taught, is that we are doubly obligated: we must rely on ourselves and we must rely on each other. By helping individuals to achieve their dreams, we unleash the full force of the world’s most powerful resource: human potential.
Laurene Powell Jobs