Civic leader John Wesley Mack was born on January 6, 1937, in Kingstree, South Carolina, to Abram Mack, a Methodist minister, and Ruth Wynita, a school teacher. Shortly after he was born, Mack’s family moved to Darlington, South Carolina. Mack attended North Carolina A&T State University, where he earned his B.S. degree in applied sociology in 1958. As a student, Mack was the head of the college’s NAACP student chapter. The following year, Mack was married to Harriett Johnson, an elementary school teacher he met through his college roommate; the couple went on to have three children together.
In 1960, Mack co-founded and became vice-chairman of the Commission on Appeal for Human Rights, an organization that incorporated members of Atlanta University, Morehouse, and Spelman Colleges, including such noted figures as Marion Wright Edelman, Julian Bond, and Reverend Otis Marsh. That same year, the students held sit-ins at Rich’s Department Store. During this time, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested. 1960 was also the year that Mack obtained his M.A. degree in social work from Clark Atlanta University.
Shortly afterward, Mack and his family moved to Oxnard, California, as part of a social work fellowship established for him at Camarillo Hospital by his mentor Whitney Young. In 1964, upon completing his work at the Camarillo Hospital, Mack moved to Flint, Michigan, where a year later he became Executive Director of the Flint Urban League. It was in Flint that Mack focused on fair housing and voter registration issues.
In 1969, Mack became President of the Los Angeles Urban League, where he would serve until his retirement in 2005; the longest tenure of anyone in this position. With Mack as president, the Los Angeles Urban League became one of the country’s most successful non-profit organizations, generating an annual budget of $25 million while promoting issues of employment, education and economic development.
In 1977, Mack became co-founder and co-chair of the Los Angeles Black Leadership Coalition on Education, and in the early 1980s, he was appointed vice president of the United Way Corporation of Council Executives. In the late 1990s, Mack served as a Fellow in Residence at Harvard University, where he led a study group entitled “The Future of Urban America: Finding Solutions Through Strategic Partnership and Policy Advocacy.” In 2005, Mack was appointed President of the Board of Police Commissioners of the Los Angeles Police Department by Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa; he held this position for two consecutive years before being elected to the office of Vice President in 2007. Over the years Mack has been awarded by numerous different institutions, including Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Black Women of Achievement, Operation Hope, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the California Afro American Museum.
There are so many people who are sick of drama, tired of flaky friends, and just fed up with folks in general. I’m not sure if this pent-up anger is from unresolved conflicts that have been brewing all year, or the result of cumulative devaluation but either way, it seems clear that we could use some straight talk about another common mistake: Avoiding Conflict.
Conflict Is Inevitable
Life is full of intellectual, interpersonal, political, and downright petty conflicts. While many may feel comfortable with intellectual conflicts, they struggle to effectively resolve everyday conflicts. Their discomfort in resolving conflict extends across a wide spectrum and includes people who have more power (like your boss at work) and people who have less power (like your children) within your circle of influence. I believe this results directly from the fact that we all have life experience and few of us ever probably ever learned how to resolve interpersonal conflicts in ways that don’t harm our relationships with others.
And, if you’re a minority, the dynamics of racism & sexism mean that in addition to the common conflicts that others may experience, you may also experience disrespect and daily aggression. Let me be perfectly clear; it’s okay to feel angry when people behave badly (even if their behavior is unintentional). Anger, annoyance, and frustration are normal responses to persistent sexism and racism in the workplace. In fact, if you receive subtle daily reminders that you’re different and imply that you only belong in the ivory tower in a supporting role, it’s okay to feel mad about it.
The problem occurs when others respond to conflicts in one of two extreme ways: 1) fighting every battle or 2) avoiding conflict altogether. The problem with fighting every battle is that you will quickly alienate yourself from everyone else. The problem with avoiding conflict is that when you push anger down, it grows, deepens, and expands. This can put you at risk of publicly exploding when triggered by a minor incident, developing stress-related illness, and/or sucking up so much of your energy that you have nothing left.
That said, expressing anger is tricky because we live in a world where there are few socially acceptable forms of communicating anger in the workplace (this is especially true for African Americans in particular). Any expression of anger tends to be interpreted through the frames of race and gender. Even the smallest expression of anger from an African American male or female can result in their being labeled as “threatening” or “unprofessional.” And for women, communicating frustration quickly got them labeled as “emotional,” “out of control,” and/or “a bitch.”
Conflict in your professional life is inevitable, so it’s critically important for all of us to learn when and how to express our feelings in ways that are effective and professionally appropriate. If you’re a minority, you’re likely to have more conflict AND to have your responses interpreted through particular frames, so you have to be extra skilled at conflict resolution. The good news is that learning how to engage in healthy conflict will allow you to express your feelings, retain your integrity, and minimize negative consequences to your professional relationships.
Here are the three questions I use when conflicts arise:
- Should I push back or should I pull back?
- What will I gain, and what will I lose?
- What’s the most effective way to push back?
There are no right or wrong answers here. Sometimes pushing back makes sense; other times it’s better to pull back and then work it out in the gym. Either way, anger is energy so it has to come out of your body. In other words, don’t confuse “pulling back” with “standing down.” Pulling back simply means releasing the angry energy in an indirect way because the costs of expressing it outweigh the benefits.
For the times when you decide to push back, here are some good tricks:
- State your observation of the problematic behavior
- Describe how it makes you feel
- Make your needs explicit
- Clearly request what you want
We can choose to push back or pull back on a case-by-case basis (as opposed to always pushing back or always pulling back as our default strategy). There are a wide variety of possible responses to any conflict and each response has a different set of costs and benefits associated with it. When we let off the steam in small increments, it doesn’t build up or put us in danger of exploding. Once you think about your feelings (when you _____, I feel ______, I need _____, and I want you to _____), you can quickly and easily express yourself in a way that is honest, clear, professional, and opens the space for real communication and conflict resolution.
I’m sure you’ve heard the generic advice “pick your battles.” This week, I want to encourage you to rethink the idea of what a “battle” consists. That will reshape your concept of whether or not things will have to wait until conflicts reach the stage of “battle!” Instead, recognize that conflict is a normal outcome of people working together. As a result, begin to imagine yourself as a professional who is comfortable, confident, and capable of resolving conflicts in your day-to-day life.
I hope this week brings you the ability to assert yourself on a regular basis, the courage to express your feelings in ways that let off emotional steam incrementally, and the deep sense of empowerment that comes from engaging in healthy conflicts that strengthen our professional relationships.
Snapchat took over our phones by storm a few years ago and has had an unprecedented affect on the dating norms of our generation. Ghosting has become a ubiquitous conversation topic during Sunday brunch; nearly all of my girlfriends and many of my clients (I’m a professional matchmaker) have experienced this phenomenon.
For the lucky few who have yet to experience it, ghosting happens when a couple goes out on several dates, text daily and then one day — seemingly out of nowhere — that potential boyfriend abruptly stops texting, calling and making any contact via social media. All contact ceases. The woman is left perplexed and seeks my guidance to discuss what to do, what went wrong and how to ensure that kind of cruel and unusual punishment will never happen again. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you deal with being ghosted:
1. Get closure.
It is important to give this dud one last shot to explain. Maybe he was sent on a special trip for his job for the past week that banned any kind of phone usage. Or maybe, his grandmother passed away. Or, his brother’s friend’s uncle’s cousin needed a kidney transplant.
In times of a ghosting situation, it is best to give this guy the benefit of the doubt without jumping to conclusions. When we surveyed our eligible bachelors on how they would like a woman to react when they suspect that they have been ghosted, the majority of men suggested texting him a quick non-judgmental, “Hey! Is everything OK?”
2. Allow him to repent.
Allow him two days to get himself together and realize that his behavior was distasteful and relationship ending. If he wants to continue developing a relationship with you, make it clear that you have standards of treatment. This, however, does not mean instructing the guy to text you five times a day with two phone calls a week and three Skype calls a month.
If he has dated in the past century, he knows basic etiquette for courting communication, and if he doesn’t, run because he is either seriously socially challenged or not ready for a mature relationship. If he truly was bonked down with some major family, work, friend issue, you can give him a pass with the right kind of repentance. This is where the big gesture comes into play.
The big gesture depends on you. What does he need to do for you to feel comfortable continuing to date him? Must he come to your apartment window with a boom box on his shoulder begging for you to go back to him? Must he send you flowers to make up for his disappearing act? Does a simple, “I’m sorry” text do the job?
Does he need to pull a Beiber and write a song about missing more than just your body? You be the judge of it darling. He can only have you if you want him back. But remember: If you accept crumbs, you’ll end up in a crumby relationship. Why would you accept crumbs when you can have a whole, luscious cupcake?
3. Be honest with yourself.
Although being ghosted seemingly comes out of nowhere, women tend to put their blinders on when they meet a new man who they think has an iota of potential. Many women — especially during the holiday season — yearn for a Christmas tree boyfriend and are willing to subconsciously overlook a variety of red flags. He may have brought you out on several dates, but did you really feel like he was your soulmate?
You must come to terms with the reality of the majority of ghosting situations. This man’s way of dealing with an issue was dropping off the face of the universe and halting contact with you. Is this really the kind of man you want to be the father of your children? Do you want to be married to a man who bolts when things get tough or uncertain? I’m going to go out on a whim and say no way
Communication is the foundation of any relationship, especially a romantic relationship. If you didn’t feel comfortable reaching out to this man during the ghosting period — or if you did and got no response — your discomfort in the matter speaks volumes. Let it be your guide.
Although I encourage the woman to allow the man to generally be the initiator of conversation via text, after a certain amount of time spent with the man, the woman should also feel free to initiate without the fear of seeming desperate or needy. Healthy communication is vital to the longevity of a relationship. There is a fine line between playing hard to get and being a douchebag.
4. Mourn his death.
Although this may seem a bit extreme, I am a firm believer that women should simply have the mindset that he was just not that into you. Although this may sound a bit delusional, the latter way of thinking (highly publicized from the blockbuster book and movie) puts a negative spin on things.
You are fabulous honey, of course he’s into you. It is important to understand that ghosting is not a testament to how gorgeous, witty and lovely you are. Instead, this guy is simply not right for the fierce woman you are. In other words, he just died. I encourage a full-blown funeral for this man, complete with a cremation ceremony for the vintage bracelet he gave you on your fourth date (your fireplace will do) to allow his spirit to rest in peace.
Of course, we do not actually want to wish this guy any harm, but it is vital to also ghost him out of your life. Delete his number, unfollow him on Instagram, unfriend him on Facebook and stop including him in your group Snapchats. May he and his entire social media persona rest in peace.
5. Build a bridge, and get over it.
You deserve better. Every woman deserves a man who is excited to contact her no matter how busy work or life gets. You deserve a man who will treasure his interactions with you and will look forward to your texts as much as you look forward to his. You deserve a man who incorporates you into his daily life with no prompting or plotting on your part. Own the fact that you are a fabulous vixen who has the ability to bring any man to his knees.
Mope, then cope. Be the star of your own life, go out with your girlfriends and find a man who would rather cuddle by the fireplace then disappear in six seconds.
This article was originally published on Matchmakers In The City.
Many of you may have been able to make a strategic plan for the summer without difficulty, but it was the development of a support system that may have left you confused. The frustrations seem to all boil down to three questions:
1) What types of support groups exist?
2) How do I figure out which type of support group is right for me?
3) If I were just more motivated and disciplined then I wouldn’t need a group, so how can I change myself?
Because having a support system is critical to actually executing your summer plan, I want to dedicate this Monday’s blog to the many different kinds of groups and what makes them either flounder or flourish as support systems.
You may be wondering, “Why do you need a support group?”, “Can’t you just motivate yourself?”, or “There are so many people who would love to be in your position.” In short, many are advised to shut up & be happy. Because shaming moves people into action, that may actually work for a week or two, but true needs have a way of resurfacing. So instead of taking the tough-guy, ignore-your-needs, shut-up-and-be-happy approach, I want to suggest the opposite. In other words, I believe that embracing your needs will help you to develop a support system that will move you from occasional shame-induced action towards a healthy, consistent, and sustainable routine.
While it should go without saying, it’s OK to have needs. In fact, if you wait until you are perfectly motivated, flawlessly self-disciplined, free from anxiety, utterly fearless, intellectually energized, and emotionally resolved to get stuff done, you may never begin! Instead, release yourself from the idea that having needs means there’s something wrong with you. It’s OK if you need support and accountability. It’s OK if you’re not productive in isolation. It’s OK if you need community, feedback, a safe space to take risks, and a group of people who genuinely celebrate your accomplishments. It’s OK because meeting your needs for community, support and accountability will not only increase your productivity but also your enjoyment.
What do YOU need?
If you can accept the fact that you don’t have to change who you are in order to be productive, then I want you to dig just a little deeper by asking yourself: What do I need to maximize my productivity this summer? Different people have different needs. For example, some people need to physically be around other people while working, while other people need an accountability partner to answer to. Some people need solitude and the kind of support that is silent, while others need regular cheerleading from their peers. Some need quantitative accounting of their progress, while others need substantive feedback from those who are working towards the same goal. Some people need additional coaching. It’s even okay if you need all of these things at different times! The important thing is to identify what you need without judgment or shame. Knowing what you truly need to maximize your productivity is what will allow you to construct a support system that is effective for YOU.
Connect with a group that meets your needs
Once you have identified your basic needs, start to imagine the best way to get them met. I’m going to describe a few different types of groups that illustrate the importance of letting your needs guide your selection of an appropriate group. It’s really quite simple: Support groups flourish when everyone’s needs are being met and flounder when they don’t meet the primary needs of members.
The most common form of a traditional group that comes to mind is a small number of people who commit to a specific period of time to meet face-to-face, once-a-month, for the purpose of reading, critiquing, and providing substantive feedback on each other’s work. This requires a time commitment to show up and engage during the meeting time. Such groups tend to work well if a participant’s primary need is substantive feedback and if members are able to provide that for one another. This structure is less effective when participants have other more pressing needs (support or ongoing accountability) and/or the feedback is the sort that could be obtained, instead, more efficiently from a professional.
If your primary need is to have a committed group of people to answer to each week, then an accountability group may be worth trying. Here is an example: four people can agree to meet once a week during the summer (either face-to-face or by conference call). The groups meet for exactly one hour per week and each person gets 15 minutes to discuss the following items: 1) my goals for last week were _______, 2) I did/did not meet them, 3) if I didn’t meet them, it’s because of _______ and 4) my goals for next week are _______. Developing a daily routine tends to bring up people’s stuff, and the group helps to support one another by identifying the limiting beliefs and behaviors that hold members back from productivity. Instead the focus is on the process and moving projects forward so they can get into the hands of people with subject matter expertise (not group members). This structure works well when the participants’ primary needs are accountability, support, community, and peer mentoring. It is, however, ineffective when individuals cannot sustain the weekly commitment to the group.
Online Writing Groups
There are a variety of online writing groups that are designed to provide support, accountability, and tracking progress over time. Some are free and some cost money, but essentially the structure is the same. Participants commit to a period of productivity, check in each day or each week, track their progress over time and engage in discussion with other participants. This support system works well for people who need daily support and encouragement, feel isolated in some way, and/or find electronic relationships are genuinely satisfying and significant enough to elicit the feeling of accountability. This support structure is less suitable for people who need face-to-face contact and interaction in order to feel a tangible sense of accountability and community.
It may be the case that you have a variety of needs but your schedule disallows you from committing to any kind of group for the summer. Or alternatively, you have no idea what you need, and you would like to work with a professional to figure it out. There are a variety of life coaches out there who will consult with you weekly (for fees ranging from $75-$150 per hour) to increase your awareness of what’s holding you back and help you to develop and implement strategies to move you forward. Coaches work well for people who either aren’t clear what their needs are or need more personalized and intense accountability than a group can provide. Of course, this doesn’t work for everybody, but it may be worth a shot.
Remember, you can use all of these mechanisms at once! I know that if left to my own devices, I will not get certain things done. I’ll be productive in other ways, though. I have come to accept the fact that I need community, support, and accountability, and instead of judging myself negatively for having those needs, I embrace them, create mechanisms to meet them, and find that participating in these types of supportive systems brings me increased productivity and tremendous joy. You may have different (or fewer) needs than I do, but the key to having a productive, fulfilling, and enjoyable summer is to ask yourself: What do I need, and where can I find it?
I hope this week brings you the clarity to identify your needs, the freedom to embrace them, and the creativity to connect with mechanisms of support that will allow you to maximize your productivity this summer and develop a sustainable daily routine.