How the NonIndictment Against Darren Wilson Affected this White American ~ Karen Fleshman

November 24th, 2014 was a turning point for me. I was driving when the news came that the Grand Jury in Ferguson Missouri announced no indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for killing 18 year-old Michael Brown.

I was stunned that the violent end of Michael Brown’s life was unworthy of a trial. I had to pull over to collect my thoughts.

I thought about Michael Brown’s family and friends and all the people who had protested by their side. All the young Black men and women who I mentor and how this announcement would make them feel. All the young People of Color in our country and their parents and how their parents would explain what happened to their kids. How to explain what happened to my kids. Later I was deeply moved reading Ta-Nehisi Coates and my friend Carvell Wallace describe how they handled November 24th as fathers.

I thought of the irony of celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 2014. What Doctor King would think if he saw the mess we are in. On November 22nd, 2014 twelve year-old Tamir Rice was shot dead by two police officers in Cleveland Ohio. On November 23rd, 2012, 17 year-old Jordan Daviswas shot dead by Michael Dunn in Jacksonville Florida because he was playing music too loudly. Last night gunmen opened fire on Black Lives Matter protestors in Minneapolis, who are demonstrating against the police shooting of 24 year-old Jamar Clark on November 22nd, 2015. 

As the days went by, I thought about my responsibility and voice and how to use it. As a White American, I am part of and a beneficiary of the culture of systemic racism in our country. I grew up in one of the least diverse parts of the country. As an adult, I have lived in Texas, New York City, and California and made a career of reaching out to People of Color, first as an immigrant community organizer, later to encourage young adults to enroll in job training.

Over the course of my career I have built relationships with hundreds of People of Color. They have been my friends, colleagues, supervisors, mentors, and mentees. They have taught me what it is like to be a Person of Color in our country. To face each day as a battle to preserve your self-worth against a continuous onslaught. To feel like you have to be twice as good for half as much and yet still vulnerable at any moment to aggressions small and large. The comment from a colleague about how you were hired because of your race not your qualifications. The rejection on a dating site because “I don’t date n-words.” The feeling of terror during any interaction with law enforcement that could turn violent or even fatal. I cannot imagine how it must feel to not feel protected by- in fact, to be scared of attacks by – the officers whose sworn duty it is to protect you.

I realized on November 24th 2014 that I needed to change direction. Up until then, I had dedicated myself to helping People of Color change- to attain employment authorization, or become US citizens, or attain corporate careers.

From that evening on, I shifted focus- to helping White people change. To learn how to listen to People of Color. To develop authentic relationships with People of Color.

To understand our role in perpetuating systemic racism and to stop.

I began monthly posts about race on LinkedIn a few days later. The post I wrote after Charleston went viral and Huffington Post invited me to blog on there. Through LinkedIn I met Dr. Verenice Gutierrez and Dr. Dionne Wright Poultonwho are both experienced racial equity trainers and we launched trispectives, a diversity and inclusion training consulting group. We did a successful panel and workshop at General Assembly in San Francisco this fall and are getting booked into 2016.

Meanwhile it feels like each day we hit a new low in race relations in my lifetime. As I look around I see many well-intentioned White people who are as sad as I am about this but don’t know how to get started making it better.

I want to write a guidebook for us, well-intentioned White people. The process of becoming an ally and advocate for racial equity is long and does not happen after reading one post or attending a workshop.I have an outline for a book I have been working on for some time.  I will also crowdsource recommendations from people of color and weave them into the book, asking “What do you most wish White people would do differently?”

Today I launched a Kickstarter campaign that will allow me to focus in 2016 on researching and writing the book, getting it published, and speaking about it. 

Thanks for reading my post, I hope you find it inspiring.

How did the non-indictment of Darren Wilson affect you? 

Karen Fleshman is a Bay Area-based diversity and inclusion strategist, race educator, and connector. With her trispectives partners she consults with companies to help them achieve their business goals by becoming more inclusive. She is also a writer and public speaker. Karen developed cultural competency skills as a community organizer, public official, attorney, and non-profit professional. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas, and New York Law School, Karen is admitted to practice law in New York.


This Curvy Yogi Is The Most Inspiring Human You’ll See All Day ~ Alison Caporimo

Meet Valerie Sagun, a 28-year-old yogi from San Jose, California.

Meet Valerie Sagun, a 28-year-old yogi from San Jose, California.

Valerie Sagun / Via

Sagun has been practicing hatha yoga for the past four years. Hatha is a set of physical exercises, known as asanas, that are designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones.

Sagun started her Instagram Big Gal Yoga a year and a half ago.

Sagun started her Instagram Big Gal Yoga a year and a half ago.

Valerie Sagun / Via

“At first, I only did Tumblr,” Sagun tells BuzzFeed Life. “But when I got to 10,000 followers and people asked me to join Instagram, I decided to go for it.”

And her photos are fly AF.

And her photos are fly AF.

Valerie Sagun / Via

Crow pose? More like queen pose.

To start, her yoga wardrobe is TO DIE FOR.

To start, her yoga wardrobe is TO DIE FOR.

Valerie Sagun / Via

“It can be hard for bigger women to find good leggings,” she says. But, let’s face it, she looks flawless. Sagun swears by her favorite brands Rainbeau Curves and Fractal 9 for comfy, colorful athletic wear.

And her confidence is contagious.

And her confidence is contagious.

Valerie Sagun / Via

“I’ve never really felt self-conscious about my body during yoga classes,” Sagun says. “For me, yoga is all about the mind and positive thinking. I get anxiety and depression, and practicing has helped me through that.”

She’s always down to try new things.

She's always down to try new things.

Valerie Sagun / Via

Like using a yoga wheel. “It helps to open your back a lot more during stretches,” Sagun says.

And pushing herself is the only way she knows how.

And pushing herself is the only way she knows how.

Valerie Sagun / Via

“Acro yoga was one thing, especially as a bigger-bodied person, that I was scared and doubtful to try,” Sagun writes on her Instagram. “But it was so fun to practice.”

Sagun loves yoga so much that she’s currently trying to become a teacher.

Sagun loves yoga so much that she's currently trying to become a teacher.

Valerie Sagun / Via

She started a GoFundMe to help raise money for tuition at 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona.

“By being a curvy woman of color, I get to show a lot of underrepresented people that they are capable of anything,” she says.

"By being a curvy woman of color, I get to show a lot of underrepresented people that they are capable of anything," she says.

Valerie Sagun / Via

“We need more diversity so that, one day, diversity just becomes something normal that happens everywhere.”

"We need more diversity so that, one day, diversity just becomes something normal that happens everywhere."

Valerie Sagun / Via

“Everyone who is interested in yoga should feel comfortable practicing it,” she says.

Introducing Our Newest Writer – Carol A.!!!

Joining us from the West Coast, Carol is a lover of all things film. She enjoys experiencing the vitality of life through road trips, music, and great food. We look forward to Carol’s contributions on Minus The Box.

Carol Alexander grew up in Culver City, CA—the Heart of Screenland, and recently earned her BA in Film at UC Berkeley. Growing up, she used writing to develop her voice and overcome shyness, later becoming a tour guide to broaden her public speaking abilities and expression.

While looking for ways to create art and change, she has traveled the world through music, founded a chapter of a professional co-ed cinema fraternity on her campus, found love with helping others, and made lifelong friendships along the way. She has become a published poet who has written several screenplays and short stories. Whether experiencing stress, melancholy, or happiness, she maintains a love for music, food, Stan Lee comics, film, long road trips, and will try almost anything once.

Carol currently lives in Los Angeles volunteering for WriteGirl LA, and working with all things film.

Introducing Our Newest Writer – Khassidy Nguyen!!

Joining us from the great state of California, Khassidy will be revitalizing our VitaSoul segment. As an avid learner and explorer she is constantly pursuing her dream of becoming a pediatrician. We look forward to Khassidy’s contributions on Minus The Box.

Khassidy lives in California and is currently a junior in High School. She signed up to be a VitaSoul volunteer because she’s always wanted to improve her writing skills! She hopes to major in Biology or Marketing and eventually become a pediatrician. She likes reading, watching TV, and traveling with her family.

Wanderlust Wednesday – U.S. National Parks

Yesterday was Earth Day, an occasion in which we celebrate everything that Nature has to provide. We express gratitude for the beauty, resources, and infinite wonder that is Nature. Here are some of America’s National Treasures and some cool ways to celebrate Earth Day.

Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which day events worldwide are held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network,[1] and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.[2]


Here are 6 ways to celebrate Earth Day:

  1. Be car-free. Walk or bike to school — not only is it good for the body, it’s good for the environment too!
  2. Make a bird feeder or house. Use a milk carton, a large water orsoda bottle, or a pine cone.
  3. Create recycling bins. Cut out pictures of plastic bottles, paper, and aluminum cans and glue them to the bins. Practice sorting together!
  4. Make positive promises. Fill a journal with resolutions for how your family can help the earth. Decorate it with photographs, poems, and pictures.
  5. Grow something. Plant a seed, sprout, flower, or tree in a pot, garden, or backyard.
  6. Spread the love. Make and decorate Earth Day cards using recycled materials. Include an Earth Day celebration tip, and send them to friends and family.



Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Yosemite National Park, California
New Orleans Jazz Historical Park, Louisiana
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia
Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Alagnak Wild River, Alaska
Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Wanderlust Wednesday – Best Views From Around The World

Ohh could I use an infusion of warm weather right about now. This crazy winter weather has got us all wishing for the slightest visit from spring. But no such luck. Well pictures will have to do. Here are some of the best views from around the world. Enjoy!

CANYON RANCH LENOX Lenox, Massachusetts
MIRAVAL TUCSON Tucson, Arizona
POST RANCH INN, BIG SUR Big Sur, California

Wanderlust Wednesday – Best Yoga and Spa Retreats

In the brutal hight of winter, it is nice to daydream. Here are some of the best retreats from around the world. Enjoy!


YOGAWORKS RETREATS Amansala, Tulum, Mexico
MIRAVAL RESORT & SPA Tucson, Arizona
CAL-A-VIE Vista, California
ESCAPE TO SHAPE Various Locations


Fresh Face Friday – Nicholas Freeman

Nicholas Freeman is an amazing photographer who is working to explore the boundaries of human and animalistic beauty through his work on “Primal.” Be sure to check out his website and his Kickstarter page  Enjoy!

As always, if you or someone you know would like to be featured on “Fresh Face Friday” just send me an email at



1) Name: Nicholas Freeman

2) Website Address:

3) Title/Position or Mediums you work in:

I am a freelance photographer working mostly in digital medium, although when I started out I shot on film. I am trying to find my way back to film and developing the prints myself again.

4) Links to/Examples of your work:

See Below

5) Brief biography:

I am an LA native, born in Torrance and raised in Santa Monica. I got my first camera when I was a senior in high school and fell in love with photography. Up until that point I had tried my hand at everything: painting, sculpting, sketching, but nothing held my interest like photography. I plunged head first into this new love and reached out to others in the community, despite my lack of confidence in myself at that age. I soon found myself with an apprenticeship with a well-known fashion and celebrity photographer from France, who taught me how the industry works. At this point in my life I am just emerging from that state, developing my self as an artist, and venturing further into the challenging world of the self-employed.


1) What does wholehearted and mindful living mean to you?

I believe that wholehearted and mindful living means following your dreams, living life to its fullest, and being true to yourself while still being aware of other people’s wants, needs, and boundaries.

2) How do you practice wholehearted and mindful living?

At this point I am living more wholeheartedly than mindfully. I am following my dreams and being true to who I am. I am venturing out to work on my own projects. I am trying to work the way I want for the people I want. I am living, for the most part, in a way that makes me happy. But I stay conscious of those around me and I do my best to treat everyone and everything with respect. But, I do feel that I have room to grow. I think that that is true of everyone.

3) What or who inspires you?

I think inspiration is more broad than loving just one or two artists. Inspiration can come from the smallest things: wind in trees, sunsets, by losing yourself in a moment and feeling at peace. As far as people go, I am inspired by anyone who is brave enough to go their own way and do their own thing despite what the cultural norm is.

4) Answer this quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one, wild, and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver

I wish I had the answer to this question. But, to be honest, I am happy that I don’t. Sticking to a plan for the sake of “because I said so” can make you miss out on the unexpected opportunities that come your way. So, for now, I am content to live my life one step at a time.

5) What words of wisdom would you offer to your younger self?

I would tell my younger self: “Don’t put so much value and waste so much energy being concerned about what other’s think of you.” That is something I have been learning and practicing recently. In the end, we only have to live with our own feelings and thoughts. Your feelings and thoughts of yourself are what’s important; no one should be able to affect you more than yourself. But, that being said, I may not be the person I am today if I had heard and followed that advice, and I am happy and comfortable with who I am now, even if I wasn’t then.


1) What is “Primal” and what inspired you to create it?

Primal is a fine art photo series exploring and celebrating the human body through the juxtaposition of people and animals. I was inspired to create this project for a couple of reasons. The most direct reason came in two parts. First, I have always been fascinated with faces and figures. Even when I was painting and sculpting, my focus was on the human form. And second, I grew up in a big city with very little access to nature. I had a fascination with animals as a kid (and still do) so instead of watching cartoons I spent my Saturday mornings watching the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. The combination of these interests and photography was inevitable.

2) While working on “Primal,” what insights have you gained regarding the relationship between natural and human beauty?

The biggest insight I have gained is that I am not alone in my appreciation of wild things. At first, I was timid approaching people for this project, but I found that I was greeted with enthusiasm and genuine excitement. I feel like people have a longing to reconnect, or connect for the first time, with nature. You can see the PRIMAL Kickstarter here, and hopefully reconnect with the wild yourself.

3) What is your creative process?

My creative process is very much like my life. I don’t like to plan too far ahead. I like to let things occur and unfold naturally. That is not to say that I don’t prepare and take precautions. I just don’t let my plans become so rigid that I can’t recognize the unforeseen developments and options that may be better than what I had originally envisioned.

4) How have you dealt with the challenges of being an artist?

Like any artist, I experience many challenges. The two biggest are finance and self-doubt. The term “starving artist” is, sadly, very accurate. It is often a struggle to line finances up and I often find myself living project to project. Self-doubt is something that I have dealt with for as long as I can remember. I think it will be a constant in my life, but I am learning to recognize those inner thoughts as just thoughts and not facts and to continue on anyway. I don’t ignore these thoughts, but I also don’t let them control me like they once did.

5) What do you hope is the impact and meaning of your work?

I want my work to affect people, to make them feel. But, I don’t have any illusions that my work will bring about big changes, but if I can connect with people, to pull a feeling or thought out of them for even a moment, then I’ll feel like I have accomplished my goal. I like people to find their own meaning in my work rather than forcing them to feel one way about it. Certain pieces have specific meanings to me, but I try to keep that private. The beauty of art is that everyone brings their own life experiences and emotions to how they see it. Stamping my feelings on a piece limits how others can connect with it.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman
Photo Credit: Nicholas Freeman

Wanderlust Wednesday: Wanderlust Festival

While preparing for this post I made an unexpected yet pleasant discovery, the Wanderlust Festival!

The website describes the festival as “Wanderlust Festival is the largest celebration of its kind in the world: a 4-day celebration of yoga, music, and nature. Bringing together thousands of people from myriad backgrounds to experience adventure and transformation, Wanderlust provides the opportunity to bring your yoga practice to new heights, to enjoy the freedom of live music and to follow your spirit of adventure in spectacular outdoor settings, all the while creating community with like-minded seekers.”  Sounds like fun!  How exciting that something like this available to people across the globe for FREE!!

My wanderlust lead me to this site and I hope your wanderlust leads you to something as equally awesome.

Here is the website: Wanderlust Festival

The remaining festivals will be held in the following cities:

June 20 – June 23, 2013
Stratton Mountain
Bondville, VT, USA
July 4 – July 7, 2013
Copper Mountain Resort
Copper, CO, USA
July 18 – July 21, 2013
Squaw Valley
North Lake Tahoe, CA, USA
August 1 – August 4, 2013
Whistler Resort
Whistler, BC, Canada
August 23 – August 25, 2013
Mont-Tremblant, QC, CAN

The organization also hosts one day “In The City” events. Still to come:

June 9, 2013
Pier 63 – Hudson River Park
New York City, NY, USA
June 30, 2013
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica, CA, USA


OMG!! This festival seems like so much fun! If you happen to attend, please share your thoughts and photos of the event.