I have been a social activist and community organizer all my adult life. Here are some works of which I’m especially proud.
In 2017, Oakland’s mayor proclaimed October 15th “Zorgos Day” in honor of the work done by The Zorgos Project, educating parents and families about the long-term effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences and offering bully-prevention and positive parenting education. On that day we celebrated numerous individuals who had contributed to a new type of thinking around what we call bullying, exposing the strengths of our community in the face of a national helplessness.
Jack London Award
In 2017 I received the California Writers Club Jack London Award for outstanding service to the oldest writing group west of the Mississippi, providing technological and organizational guidance bringing them into the 21st century. Moments later I took the helm for three more years of service as president of the founding branch. During this time I was guided by the club’s motto, “Sail On,” and wore nautical stripes at every meeting. We strengthened the community, solidified our processes and programs, and opened our doors to greater diversity and inclusion. My final event as president was a book launch of over 20 authors, representing 1/5th of our highly creative and productive membership.
“You performed your role as CWC President in exemplary ways. Your were imaginative, your enthusiasm was contagious and you encouraged the writers to do their best. We were privileged to have you as our leader.” —Gurnam Brard, author
In 2000, I volunteered for Child Friendly Initiative, a San Francisco non-profit founded by Michele Mason, a mothering educator with a vision of improving lives of children by providing child friendly spaces in both public and private venues. Her exposure on ABC’s 20/20 and The Phil Donahue Show brought the group’s ideas to the attention of the U.N., who used their guidelines to develop the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative. I worked with the group on their Child-Friendly Seal of Approval program, and when Michele passed away I helped shepherd the non-profit to new leadership. Their programs are now part of Kindred World & Kindred Media. The presence of changing tables, airport nursing rooms, crayons on tables and parental leave is proof that a small group of moms can create a world that honors their work.
I imagined myself, as a parent, showing up and sitting at the back of a crowded PTA meeting. Nope. The year my son hit Kindergarten, the attack on public schools began. I had to become activists for all children. Working with other parents I helped shore up budgets that were constantly being cut, teachers that were drained by the racist narrative of “school choice” and vulnerable kids that were constantly exposed to the stress of high stakes testing and the encroachment of social media on the values of community. I held together a defunded parent center, ran food drives and talent shows, re-framed crises, celebrated milestones. I feel like we lost so many battles but along the way there were some bright spots when parents would come together and build a playground or share cultural foods and stories or help schools find new resources or simply stand together with hope and support. On my to-do list: finish the parent action handbook I started when I was president of the Tech PTSA.
Uplift Press & Programs
Not much interested in being a parent or an addict, I was surprised to find myself helping write and publish parenting and recovery books after college. My mother’s career had taken off and, as a national public speaker, she needed an assistant, and illustrator, a graphic designer, and as it turned out, a co-writer and a “vision department.” She is Dr. Louise Hart, author of The Winning Family and On The Wings of Self-Esteem. When I became a parent I understood her passion for teaching good skills—they don’t always come naturally! LifeSkills Press became Hart to Heart and then Uplift Press and Uplift Programs. I wasn’t interested in bullying but when she was asked by Hazelden Publishing to write a book on it I became a parent educator in my own right, holding conversations about power dynamics in families and communities. Uplift Programs is now growing in new uplifting directions with a focus on Flourishing.
I believe Wellness is Justice. All decisions we make against the wellness of any population is unjust, and justice is about bringing wellness to all populations. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of happiness, resilience and well-being. It was started in 1998 and founded on the work that my mom and her colleagues were doing in self-help, self-esteem and resilience in the 1980s and 1990s. I’ve designed new programs including seminars based on happiness paths and The Writing Well, a space for writers writing to heal and create health.