James Peters had known me for all of five minutes before he opened up about the death of his father, his own unemployment, homelessness and drug addiction. His honesty was startling and powerful. He spoke with conviction, unashamed of his reality and that left me inspired.
Click here to listen to James tell his story.
I interviewed James for the "On the Block" series for Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. The series is a platform to amplify the voices of city residents. These stories cover a wide range of topics from remembering a time when kids could play outside to inequity in education. When I approached James, I had no idea that he was homeless or the tragedy he had experienced in losing his father. He did not have to tell me that but, because he did, I hope that he can be an example for all of us to accept who we are.
Call it unabashed optimism, call it ignorant hope or call it whatever you like. In my opinion, we are a bit more human when we can embrace the good and the bad of our lives.
Click here to read other stories I have written about people experiencing homelessness.
If there is one topic I love discussing regardless of the time, day or weather, it is news. Being asked what is going on in the world is an absolute compliment for this news junkie, although I admit that my responses typically consist of troubling news of human rights abuses and unrest. Sorry, these are the things I read about and reporting them is part of my mission. I get why people do not like reading this kind of news, there seems to be a strict focus on the negative.
However, during the summer and fall of 2015, I had the pleasure of following an uplifting story of democracy in Myanmar. The National League for Democracy political party won power in November elections, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. The election was praised as the first open contest in the country in 25 years. A win for democracy and a headline that I was happy to inform my friends about.
However, a recent column Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times revealed that I, like so many other international news observers, had simplified the political situation in Myanmar and believed that one election would turn around long-standing problems. In Kristof's column, "Myanmar's Peace Winner and Crimes Against Humanity," he details the plight of the Rohingya, the country's Muslim minority who are abused and kept in camps.
Kristof reports that Aung San Suu Kyi, along with President Obama, show little interest in ending the abuse of the Rohingya, who are under-fed and lack basic medical care.
I was stunned when I read this. Not only was I shocked that a Nobel Peace Prize winner would ignore the situation of the Rohingya, but I was troubled to see that U.S. leaders were doing the same. Articles, such as this, that challenge the narrative of what we believe are especially important to read as our worldview becomes ever-more globalized because we realize just how complicated the world is and our obligation to help our global neighbors.
Kristof is known for doing this kind of work. He offers readers a powerful reminder that international audiences should not over-simplify politics in another part of the world. Society and politics are just as complex and convoluted on the other side of the world as they are in our local capitols. Kristof's journalism challenges us to think a bit more deeply about the world around us. I am not just saying this in a shameful attempt to butter him up because I applied for his 2016 Win-a-Trip contest. I mean it. Journalism should always challenge us to think deeper.
So, click the link to the article about the country you know nothing about. Spend five minutes away from social media or some aspiring journalist's blog and dive into a different world. You just might be challenged to think about a country, culture or group of people differently. And that would not be the worst way to spend our time, would it?
A chance to see the world from the perspective of a 6-foot-2, aspiring human rights journalist. Will include lessons learned and reflections.