I Dreamed a Word

I am so tired of talking about bullying. Aren’t you?

I am so ready to start talking about the opposite! Friendship. Cooperation. Happiness. Positivity. So much, in fact, that I created a whole new word for it.

I am so proud of this book we wrote, my mom and I. And the blog I created to expand on it. And the discussion guide to help people get the grit out of it. And the talks I gave about it!

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I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to give this book, this word, this energy away, to expand into the world in whatever way it will.

Here’s the story of how we wrapped up The Zorgos Project.



ZORGOS is like a suitcase for strengths

On October 15, 2017, about 40 people gathered to enjoy a delicious banquet at Oakland’s beautiful Bellevue Club. The occasion was Zorgos Day,” proclaimed as such by Mayor Libby Schaff. There was music of different eras by Sara Klotz de Aguilar and Daniel Finnamore.




I asked everyone there to take out their phones and find a photo of a child in their lives to share with someone: That’s who we are here for. And then to find a word to describe a strength that kid used to solve a problem. This was the start of our annotated collection of powers, which all went into the Zorgos suitcase.



Haiku poet Amos White

Amos White‘s invocation included a string of haiku written in resistance of our disrespectful bully-in-chief. Watch the poet read “There Are No Bullies & Red Dawn

Then I read my keynote, “A Silly Word for a Serious Problem,” telling the story of Zorgos.

Each nominee was introduced with a stack of words that represent the qualities of Zorgos they embody, and the words were put into the suitcase. They received a certificate and a golden cape of honor! The presenters were all Zorgos heros too!


all these great photos by Richard Luibrand

We gave awards to:

  • LaQuisha Cowan of Oakland Parents Together, the nonprofit who helped bring all those books to Oakland. Her award was presented by Henry Hitz, whose leadership has helped thousands of Oakland parents start conversations about their most important job. (Thanks also to Kwame Nitoto, who helped kick off the project.)
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    This guy.

    Rebecka Langum, who was nominated by one of her students at the back to school event. My husband the amazing Dave accepted the award for her, and gave a speech you should listen to.

  • Genice Jacobs, a true superhero in my eyes. Know those amazing billboards that opened our eyes in 2014 about (ick) sexual slavery and (what!?!) human trafficking in Oakland? Yeah, that’s her. (Doesn’t she look GREAT in a cape?!?) My Zumba class did a tribute to her. Listen to what she said. Get informed & talk to kids.
  • Lamar Hancock from OUSD’s AAMA (African American Male Achievement ) program was next, (introduced by Clidell Franceyez Jackson of the wonderful Oakland Peace Center).
  • Ron Lytle is my musical idol (hey that rhymes!), who creates delicious, delightful musicals for East Bay Children’s Theater. Former school board superintendent Gary Yee talked about how important fantasy is, in helping kids imagine and create better futures.
  • Jeanne Gibbs, the creator of Tribes, has been a friend, a colleague, and a mentor of my mother’s for decades, as well as a force of peace in schools. She just may have invented the term “social emotional learning!”

Please read more about the awardees, nominees and the wonderful ceremony at The Zorgos Reader.

My beautiful, angry, capable amplifier Alice Wertz.

I have so much gratitude for the allies who showed up to energize this project, and this wonderful event. When no one took the silly word seriously, you guys GOT it. You dreamed, activated, and stickered thousands of book with me.  “Team Zorgos,” I could not have done this without you and I love you all to pieces!!!

Nakeyma Randle, Kristen Caven, Dave Caven, Louise Hart, Vicki Luibrand, Sharon Fillion. Not pictured: Laurie Panther

That goes for the dozens of volunteers who schlepped books, made connections, helped write things, and supported this effort in myriad ways. And still more love goes out to the fifty-five people who donated money…so that 3,000 readers could have this book to crack open and find answers to. (Or sell on Amazon to create an inexhaustible community supply of inexpensive, inspiring parenting manuals!)

Zorgos Awards photo share |All Richard Luibrand photosScenes from The Zorgos Project!

So as I was saying. I’m tired of talking about bullying. If you are, too, try talking about the opposite. I dream this word will become real, through the imaginations of others. 

So please spread the WORD…

Anyone can give out Zorgos Awards!!!!

What do you think?