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Washington D.C.

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In the pause: Chapter 3 of the Breaking Bread Podcast is live

In Chapter 3 of the Breaking Bread Podcast, Mina receives an opportunity from an unlikely source. Listen here:

In the pause: The doors of this country stay open

To my friends who are immigrants and to my friends who are Muslim, please know that there are many people (myself included) who stand and will continue to stand in solidarity with you and your families. I will march with you, fight for you, donate money to the ACLU Nationwide for you, and volunteer my time, talents, and efforts to make this country safe for you. The doors of this country stay open, as they were to my grandparents and to the ancestors of everyone else I know who calls America home. On my walk around my D.C. neighborhood with Phineas today, I saw signs of welcoming, acceptance, love, and resistance everywhere. I wanted to share these with you so that you know you are not alone, not now, not ever. We are here, and we’re not going anywhere.

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In the pause: Mr. Trump, let me use my design thinking experience to help with Mexico

I wrote this letter to Donald Trump. And then I sent it to every senator and congress person I admire and respect since I don’t have any voting representation as a D.C. resident. I figured it can’t hurt and it might help. I understand that this will likely fall on deaf ears. I write it not for any recognition but because I think we can and must do better than a wall and a 20% tax. Mexico is our dear friend, neighbor, and second largest trading partner. If this relationship falls apart, it could very well be a lynchpin to our economy and society. The consequences are literally painful to me, and I can’t just watch it happen without saying something, without trying to do something right now. I have too many friends living in Mexico and living here in the U.S. who are from Mexican descent. I posted this on Facebook and was roundly criticized for writing this letter by a few people. I stand by the suggestion that design thinking can save this relationship before it’s too late.

“Dear Mr. Trump,
As a fellow Penn alum, I’m hoping that I can help with the U.S. relationship with Mexico. I know that there are people who want you to build a wall, but I have a cheaper, more effective solution. I hope you’ll be open to hearing it.

What we need to do in Mexico, as in many areas of policy, is to discover root causes and treat them. Building a wall on the border with Mexico, while it may look like progress, is not. It is a bandaid that treats the symptom; what we need to do is work with Mexico to treat what’s ailing that nation and its economy.

As a business woman, product developer, and someone who believes and works in the design thinking space, what we need is a discovery process. Why are people from Mexico coming to the U.S. illegally? And then to go a step further, what would it take for them to want to stay in Mexico? That latter question is the difficult one to answer, but I promise you that it holds rich rewards. While we may assume that we know all of the answers to why people come to the U.S. illegally, I have often found that a design thinking project uncovers reasons we never even imagined were possible. The only way to get that learning is to sit down and listen to people. Ask open-ended and high-quality questions, and then let them tell you about their lives and what’s painful for them. Then, heal those pain points through collaborative efforts.

In this case with Mexico, we’d not only save money and develop a better solution, we’d also improve the lives of countless people. And isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all want a world that’s peaceful and prosperous? Don’t we all want to leave this planet a better place than we found it? Isn’t that the very basis of humanity and the purpose of life? I’d like to think that you share this belief, and that your advisors do as well. I can help.

I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do this project for free. I don’t need a dime. I’ll donate all my time, efforts, and talents. I’ll quit my job tomorrow and do this if given the chance.

Thanks for your consideration,
Christa Avampato”

In the pause: A shout out of thanks and gratitude to the men who supported the Women’s March

Thank you to all of the men, and especially my male friends, who supported the women’s marches all over the world. I’m grateful for all of the efforts you made to support the marches in a myriad of ways—for being at the marches, for taking care of kids so the women in your life could march, and for every text and social media message of support. It is all appreciated more than you know. I’m lucky to have you in my life. Thank you for being on this journey, for courageously standing up for women (especially in situations when men are saying and doing things that are disrespectful), and for raising your voices with ours. The world needs more of you.

In the pause: 26,034 steps for women everywhere – the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

I walked 26,034 steps at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. yesterday. Now multiply that by the minimum estimate of 500,000 people who attended the march. That gets us to 13,017,000,000 steps by D.C. marchers, which equates to circling the entire globe 198 times. And that’s just in D.C. Now amplify that by the 4 million people in 600+ cities all over the world who were marching with us and we get 104,136,000,000. That’s 1,584 times around the Earth. We literally wrapped the world in freedom, justice, and equality. This march was not about putting America first. This march was about putting people, all people, first. We lifted our voices and moved our feet without a single moment of violence or insecurity, and with hardly any security. This was a peaceful, uplifting, and hopeful day in all of these cities and towns in which we showed the whole world what democracy looks like. This is what concerned, committed individuals can do when we band together with love, respect, and courage.

And somewhere in that crowd are all of the future leaders of our countries, of our future. Somewhere in that crowd is the first woman who will be President of the United States. The first Latina and Latino Presidents. The second black President. The first LGBTQ President. The first Jewish and Muslim Presidents. The people who will lead our country through nonprofit organizations and as leaders in for-profit companies.

My friends, that crowd that you are all a part of is the future. That is where we are and where we’re going. Don’t lose heart. Don’t be silent. Don’t shut down or become numb. Don’t turn away or run away from the difficult days and nights ahead. Every day, I want to wake up in a world that looks like yesterday. That joy and passion will drive out the hate that may have won the electoral college but did not win the hearts of the majority of this nation.

We are the majority. And on the long and winding road of history, the majority eventually always wins. Always. We may go through horrendous times. We may have to descend into deep valleys to make the climb toward the highest peaks, but let it be known by everyone everywhere that no single person will ever stand in our way on the path of progress.

In the pause: January 21, 2017, will be remembered as the day we gave an additional meaning to boots on the ground

January 21, 2017, will be remembered as the day we gave an additional meaning to boots on the ground. This is the day that people, women and men, all races, all creeds, from all over the world came together, organized, and marched for equity, justice, freedom, and health. This is the day we took to the streets together for women’s rights, which are after all human rights, and vowed to one another that we will not stop until these rights are secured for all and forever. That is the goal I am dedicated to and I will use every breath and step I have remaining to turn it from a dream into a reality.

In the pause: Chapter 2 of the Breaking Bread Podcast

If I have to live through four year of this new administration, then I’m turing it into art. It’s the only way I can bear it. In this chapter of the Breaking Bread Podcast, Mina meets her nemesis in Trumpville for the first time and her resistance is born.

In the pause: The kind of women the world needs now

“Please hear me, Girl. The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things. The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.” ~Ann Voskamp, author

I’m marching on Saturday to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with women all over the world, and the noble men who know that women’s rights are human rights, to send one loud and persistent message: we will not be ignored. We have earned our seat at every table, over and over and over again. We will not be reduced, diminished, or belittled. We will not allow ourselves to be objects. We do not have a price. We will be recognized for our hearts, our minds, and our spirits. We will be seen and heard and we will not back down regardless of the criticism we may face or the source of that criticism. We will give our time, attention, energy, and love to those who are deserving of it. Don’t get it twisted: January 21st is a commencement, not a culmination.

Wonder: Breaking Bread with Chopped Champion and Executive Chef Demetrio Zavala

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a competitor on the Food Network show Chopped? Wonder no more. Today is my first installment of the “Behind the Scenes” segments for the Breaking Bread Podcast and I’m talking to Chef Demetrio Zavala, Executive Chef at DC’s Lincoln, Declaration, and Teddy and the Bull Bar. He became a Chopped Champion in October 2016. Chef Demetrio tells me what it’s like to be on Chopped. We talked about his love for his work, his business, his team, and most of all, his guests. I visited him at Lincoln to give you a full sense of the fun and festive atmosphere that he creates in all of his restaurants. Let’s listen in…

Wonder: Into the belly of the beast

As someone who has had both primary and secondary PTSD, I am well-acquainted with the intensity of the fight or flight response. I have been under the thumb of narcissists more times than I care to remember. I understand the impulse to run. Goodness knows I’ve done my fair share of running (like hell, might I add) to seek safety. Last night I had a little (okay, enormous) breakdown. My impulse in that moment was to run, anywhere really, and never look back.

My therapist, Brian, and I worked on this impulse for many years. We still work on it. (Sorry, Brian.) Sometimes running as far and fast and right now is the right thing to do. I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of the time I think running is the best option. (Or at least is has been for me.) And sometimes, every once in a very great while, there is nowhere to run. Brian taught me in these instances that we have to fight, and fight, and fight, and never give up on the ideals we believe in. He was the first to explain to me that my fierce sense of justice is a wonderful thing. And that it’s also an enormous pain in the ass because there will be some things, like narcissism, that I cannot help but stamp out until they are gone so that no one else will ever have to be subjected to them.

I write to you now from the belly of the beast, a meer mile from the Capitol building, less than two miles from the White House. And the belly of the beast is where the battles are fought and where the wars are won. If we are to stamp out injustice in our beautiful country and for all of the people who call it home, then it must be done here at the root. And here I am so it’s time to suit up and soldier on.

The opportunity is here. The time is now. And there are people who are counting on all of us to stand with them in solidarity and support. Failing them would mean failing everyone. Their future is our future. Their rights are everyone’s rights and everyone’s responsibility. Mine. Yours. And theirs. No matter what these four years hold, I’m going to be just fine in every respect because I grew up poor and scrappy and hungry and uncertain. I know how to live on next to nothing because I’ve been doing that for most of my life. It is now my job, and my honor, to stand up for others who are not as fortunate as I am now (I know their pain all too well) and who will be so grossly impacted by what’s ahead.

And I will. I can’t do anything but. If I ran now, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself anyway, anywhere, so best to take a deep breath, have a big glass of water (hydration’s important, people), and do the tough work of making sure that this atrocity never happens again.

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