Our support for community challenges

COVID-19 Racial Injustice

Report date
July 2020
Learning Log

What surprises me now is how quickly time passes. It seems it was just yesterday when I was chosen as a Bush Foundation 2019 fellow.
First, there are so many things that have stood out to me / surprised me about my leadership development. During the first year, I met so many people throughout the state. I have grown my leadership at the highest level because of the support I had, leadership training I took, workshops I attended, and certificate-level education I received. Even before I received the Bush Fellowship, I was actively involved in the community. But now, Bush Fellowship accords me a stronger voice and credibility in the community.
Besides those above-mentioned leadership training courses and workshops, the Leadership theory class I am taking from Saint Mary’s EDD program has bolstered and honed my leadership development. What I have known about my leadership was based on servant leadership.
COVID-19 Crisis: I am sure many of you have heard an adage that says, “Crisis does not build character, it reveals it.” Let me start with the upsurge of COVID-19 that has negatively impacted our businesses, organizations, economy, and society. I’d like to reiterate that the global outbreak of Coronavirus has created significant challenges for leaders. Therefore, this current crisis calls for specific types of leadership - leadership that is inclusive, transformational, and servant. As usual, every time a crisis hits us, I get up and try to do all I can with vigor and zeal. This time round, I worked around the clock to set up a committee of business leaders, healthcare practitioners, nurses, faith leaders, and professionals. I was aware that no one could do it all. I had to collaborate with our community members- most of whom were remarkable and values-driven. As I may have mentioned in my previous monthly narratives that I was a part of several groups working together to help businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. To assist those businesses, I helped some businesspeople apply for loans and grants available for them. I also mentioned how COVID-19 has a negative impact on all businesses, particularly to those owned by communities of color in my area. I invited business leaders via Zoom, and we discussed what we could do to stay in business and what it would be like post-pandemic crisis. I realized that none of those business leaders I met were ready or knew what to do to help their businesses survive amid the pandemic. What surprised me is how connected Bush alumni are in the time of the COVID-19. We often exchanged some information, direct resources we need to get our leadership going. Most of the time. I reached out to those in the Twin Cities when my community in the Saint Cloud area needs information related to applying for PPP loans. Beside working with the St. Cloud area task force, I also joined a Minnesota Business Task force based in the Twin Cities.
My Doctoral Program: What surprised me is how fast I have adapted online learning. Being an extrovert, I always liked social interaction, but I learned that I could still interact with people while social distancing at the same time. Anyway, I developed some relationship with my classmates. This type of interaction helped me ease my anxiety over online classes. Besides my education at Saint Mary’s, I am also enrolled at Cornell University. I took several courses including Talent Acquisition certificate and Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace. I learned the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and how to not only invite and bring diverse talent, but also train them, develop, and retain. Building an inclusive environment and welcoming place where people feel welcome, valued, and respected for who they are.
Spirituality: Why did I focus much on my spiritual wellbeing? We are all aware that the pandemic outbreak caused all of us to experience much fear, stress, and anxiety -related to our health and the health of our loved ones during the stay-at-home orders, changed my sleep or eating patterns. After having witnessed the devastating effects of this pandemic, I grasped how life was short and how much I need to build a stronger spirituality. I attended several faith communities’ Zoom meetings aimed to discuss virtual devotion to pray for the world and relief from this natural disaster. Until now, we have a weekly Zoom meeting that helps us understand the meaning of tests and difficulties and get through these trying times. The new spiritual journey taught me not only to pray for myself, but also to pray for everyone regardless of their faith differences. Lastly, all faith-based meditative techniques gave me a combination of relaxation, peace, happiness, and solace in my life. Now I can say loudly that finding inner peace and joy is crucial for all in these challenging times.
Racial Healing: Recent police brutality and the death of George Floyds necessitated the importance of having genuine racial healing conversations. As a leader, I wanted to be the champion for holding series discussions to racial healing. I managed to invite several community members from diverse cultural backgrounds to talk about ways to build stronger communities and establish deep and meaningful relationships. I knew it was not the responsibility of one person, one group, or even one organization to get this work done. Why is it necessary for us to prioritize this racial healing in this challenging time? What we wanted was to help facilitate mutual trust and build genuine relationships that bridge divisions generated by the apparent differences. I believe it is crucial to pursue racial healing among our communities.
Self-care: Leadership growth can’t sustain if the leader does not prioritize self-care. I did all we could to treat my wellbeing. In the past, I did a lot of work and neglected to look after myself. Since I received a Bush Fellowship, I prioritize my self-care. Now I know how important it is for me to say “no” to all board meetings. I focus much on my physical fitness, health and happiness are so essential for us to be successful in today’s world. Over the course of my Fellowship thus far, I maintained work-life balance.
Self-reflection: One of the most successful leadership traits I learned was to have self-reflection in my life. Each week, I sat to contemplate myself about the lessons learned. The reason why I am constantly doing this weekly reflection is that I need to measure my personal growth and the scope of my own strengths, weaknesses, skills, shortcomings, and accomplishments. Until now, I use my weekly self-reflection as an opportunity to gain experience about what went wrong and learn how I can overcome both my personal and work challenges so that I’d grow.
My Weekly Coaching: I still meet my coach over Zoom each week, Monday afternoon. What I like about my coach is that she is realistic and pragmatic when it comes to leadership. She endeavors how I would sustain a strong leadership growth. My coach prioritizes my personal and professional growth mindset.
Committee Nominations: I was chosen to be a member of Central Minnesota Communities of Excellence Steering Committee for a new community Initiative CentraCare. Our main responsibilities are to create diverse and sustainable communities that want to live and work in Central MN. I was nominated to be part of the Minnesota Young American Leaders Program. I attended the inaugural Minnesota Young American Leaders Program at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. During the program, participants from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Fargo-Moorhead, Rochester, and Saint Cloud will gather to share their insights and knowledge regarding the state and the path of our regional and national economic development. During the three day-seminar, I learned the tools of cross-sector collaboration and established a network of new relationships.
School District: I am working with the St. Cloud Area School District 742 in two different projects. (a) I am creating and implementing Diversity & Inclusion projects that will increase cultural expertise among ESL teachers. (b) I am in the process of working closelywith some district teachers to create Somali First Language Literacy Curriculum.
Book Publishing: As an author, part of my leadership is to initiate something crucial for our communities who don’t have diverse books. I realized how important it was to write a children’s book that talked about Hijab. My niece, 8-year old once asked me a question that struck me. “Why can’t I see books that have characters who look like me?” She was right, she never saw any books with characters wearing hijabs, so I chose to write a book for which my niece would be grateful to me. As a bridge builder, I knew writing such a book was important because it would teach other kids about others and promote mutual respect and empathy for all types of people. In my book, a little girl imagines wearing different colored hijabs she has seen women wear, and what it would be like to wear that color.
Networks: Over a year, I have been involved in setting up a committee consisting of parents, schoolteachers, community leaders, and business leaders. I met with business leaders, bankers, academicians and community elders and we discussed ways we could initiate programs and initiatives helpful to the immigrant and refugee communities. I could not get all things done without the support of many people.