Clarity First Newsletter,
June 5, 2020

“We hope. We despair. We hope. We despair. That is what governs us. We have a bipolar system.” – Maira Kalman

Clarity First

A notebook about how we work, and learn, and love and live.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art.” – Toni Morrison

Happy Friday.


“This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.”

“The stories we tell ourselves about our public past shape how we interpret and respond to and show up for the present. The stories we tell ourselves about our private pasts shape how we come to see our personhood and who we ultimately become. The thin line between agency and victimhood is drawn in how we tell those stories.

“The language in which we tell ourselves these stories matters tremendously, too, and no writer has weighed the complexities of sustaining hope in our times of readily available despair more thoughtfully and beautifully, nor with greater nuance, than Rebecca Solnit does in Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.”

Article: Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Dark Times, Resisting the Defeatism of Easy Despair, and What Victory Really Means for Movements of Social Change

Communication, Graphic Design

“The initial idea was to inform, and to enlighten, and to educate, people about the basic issues, in the community, from our own perspective.”

Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, was one of the most influential and renowned political poster artists in the United States. Using archival footage and conversations with Emory, Dress Code shares his story alongside the rise and fall of the Panthers, in a new short film.

“He used his art as a weapon in the Black Panther Party’s struggle for civil rights and today Emory continues to give a voice to the voiceless. His art and what The Panthers fought for are still as relevant as ever.”

Article/Video: Emory Douglas: The Art of The Black Panthers

Change and Transition

“We have been given the grounds and opportunity to do some very basic thinking.”

“Homeless Rough Sleeper” by Deadly Sirius is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Without an acknowledgment of the grief brought into the whole world by the coronavirus, which is very much the effect of sorrows that plagued the world before this crisis came down on us, it might seem like blindness or denial to say that the hiatus prompted by the crisis may offer us an opportunity for a great emancipation, one that would do the whole world good…”.

“Here is the first question that must be asked: What have we done with America? Over the decades we have consented, passively for the most part, to a kind of change that has made this country a disappointment to itself, an imaginary prison with real prisoners in it. Now those imaginary walls have fallen, if we choose to notice. We can consider what kind of habitation, what kind of home, we want this country to be….”

“As a culture we have spent a great deal of time in recent decades naming and deploring the crimes and injustices in our history. This is right and necessary. But the present crises have exposed crimes and injustices deeply embedded in the society we live in now. So we provide our descendants with a weighty burden of guilt to lament. This irony—too mild a word—casts grave doubt on the rigor of our self-examinations.

“All this comes down to the need to recover and sharpen a functioning sense of justice based on a reverent appreciation of humankind, all together and one by one. The authenticity of our understanding must be demonstrated in our attempting to act justly even at steep cost to ourselves. We can do this as individuals and as a nation. Someday we will walk out onto a crowded street and hear that joyful noise we must hope to do nothing to darken or still, having learned so recently that humankind is fragile, and wonderful.”

Article: What Kind of Country Do We Want?

How we work

Changing the conversation about what it means to be ‘feminist’ as a business, an organization, a leader, and a member. 

This week Liz and I were co-writing a manual on collaborative communication practices for a client and we got to a section on ‘how to run a meeting’. She said, “There are some really good ideas here:” pointing to a PDF titled Bringing Feminist Practices into Online Work Sessions. She’s right. There is some clear and inspiring thinking on this website. “We are shifting the conversation from incremental ideas like ‘leaning in’, ‘adding more women’, or ‘being more feminine’ to a conversation about creating more feminist systems and practices.

“We use an updated, expanded definition of feminism, understanding that:

“Feminism is a movement for all people to:

  • End sexism and all forms of oppression
  • Establish political, economic, and social equality, and
  • Create a world in which everyone flourishes.

“We believe that everyone who works has an opportunity to make a positive difference through feminist business practice. ‘Everyone’ means leaders, managers, activists, entrepreneurs, software developers, customer service reps, accountants, parents, literally everyone. There are ways for each of us to build feminism into our work, right away.

“We look at the world of leadership in organizations and see tremendous opportunity for each of us to make small changes with big effects. We see many multiple practical paths towards a more just and equitable future. We take cutting-edge feminist theory and apply it to business, organizational change, and systems change.”

Website: Feminists at Work


Dionte’ Johnson finds love in his community, and then shares it in a message he spray-painted on his boarded-up business.

Photo: Courtesy Subject /Illustration: Grey Thornberry

“Just before 10 p.m. on May 29, Dionte’ Johnson was awakened by the phone call no business owner wants to get. It was his security company, informing him that someone had broken into his store. With protests just a few blocks from Sole Classics, his Columbus, Ohio sneaker shop, Johnson, formerly a pro football player, had been expecting the worst. And it had happened. A large glass window had been smashed, the merchandise looted.

“Somehow, Johnson was able to put aside his anger to send a positive message to his community. After boarding up the store, he spray-painted a note on the plywood. “This is on us,” he wrote. “For generations, we have called the youth stupid, taken funding from their programs, kicked them out of places, and ignored them. What would you expect? Don’t lock your doors tighter, open your hearts wider. Spread love. SC.” This is a beutiful story.

Article: His Store Was Looted, Yet He Turned It Into Something Positive

Civic Engagement, Design Process

Citizen-initiated dialogue can be a vehicle for reducing the disconnect between citizens and government.

DesignFix is a social design program run by Frontend, a UX design firm based in the Republic of Ireland. “It brings student and professional designers together to explore societal issues through the prism of human centered design. DesignFix aims to spark discourse and prompt change on societal issues of international importance.”

In 2017 they focused on the international trends in politics; “the polarization of main-stream views, the growth of extremism spurred on by politicized social media and fake news leading to a growing feeling of alienation among many in society. Our goal was to investigate how design and technology can help address these issues and repair the dialog between citizens and government.”

“Our political systems are structured to be dictated by four and five year election cycles, but the modern world moves much faster. People can order pizza with one tap on their smartphone, and multinational corporations respond to tweets within the hour, but we do not experience the same connectivity or response rate with government bodies or representatives. This lack of responsiveness means citizens have less agency over, and are more disconnected from, their public institutions.”

“While technology has created certain expectations and challenges,
it also harnesses opportunities to engage citizens in ways never before imagined. There is potential to foster direct dialogue between govern- ments and their citizens, augmenting and even circumventing the need for mass media. To date, this dialogue has largely been government initiated and controlled (such as public consultations) and has rarely been effectively used as a platform to connect disenfranchised citizens.

“By inviting citizens to actively participate in the legislative journey we can potentially restore trust in our civic organizations, particularly if the citizens are able to initiate these conversations and view their impact.”

Website: Design Principles for Civic Dialog in a Post-Truth Era

White Paper: Civic Engagement

Diversity, Inclusion

Now every child can accurately color themselves.

“With the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance,” Rich Wuerthele, Crayola CEO, said in a press release. “We want the new Colors of the World crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves.”

“The side panels of the box have color references, so kids can easily find the shade they need. Crayola said that they purposely have realistic color names, such as Light Golden, Deep Almond, and Medium Deep Rose.” (I think that my skin is “very light rose” color.)

Article: Crayola Just Released Colors Of The World Crayons That Include 24 Skin Tone Shades



This week my son, Devan, sent me a short query: “Have you ever ‘gotten’ Derek Trucks?” He included this link, which features John Mayer, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi surrounding B.B. King with love and master musicianship at the Hollywood Bowl in 2012. He said: “The solo that he plays at 3:25… melts John Mayer’s face and lifts BB King’s skirt.”

I replied that I’ve never really done a deep dive into Derek’s work, or Susan’s. And I want to. This is truly amazing guitar work. But Devan, now that we’re talking deep dives, have you ever ‘gotten’ B.B. King? Over a 74 (!) year career he completely renamed what the blues means to our contemporary society. This is a beautiful clip, in part because of the brilliance of the students who sit at his feet. But let’s not lose the role of the master who they are truly pleasing.

I love to see the generosity of spirit that B.B. expresses in this amazing performance. I love the relaxed way he says to Susan: “I see why you married him”. And he does it on the beat.

Video: BB King with John Mayer, Tedeschi Trucks, Finale, Hollywood Bowl 9-5-12 part 1


Image of the Week

The image of the week is of three Chattanooga Police Department officers taking a knee after a crowd of protesters asked them to do it in a show of solidarity as they protested Monday night for an end to police brutality. It was shot by Chattanooga Times Free Press staff photographer Troy Stolt.

Thank you.

Shout outs to my friend and colleague, Pat Arcady, for consoling me with the link to Rebecca Solnit this week, and to my daughter, Mia Anthony, for lifting my spirits with the story about Dionte’ Johnson.


What’s Clarity First?

If you’re new to Clarity First, it’s the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. Learn more.

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