All posts by Tina Starks

About Tina Starks

Hello Everybody! Through my experiences, I've come to believe that if you're fortunate enough to have a career that serves your passion and purpose, you find synergy between your work and your life. I often reflect on my vocational practices as an instructional coach to gain deeper understanding of how we think, learn, cooperate, lead/follow and create. In this way, my work informs and guides me to be a better parent, wife, friend...a better me. Then, it goes full circle, a better me makes a better educator. This kind of synergy allows for connection and meaning to surface in my day to day activities. In this blog site, I hope to share reflections on the lessons initially hidden, or forgotten, in experiences and interactions with others that may inspire new insights in living a meaningful life. I appreciate the opportunity to share this space with you.

Hear My Truth

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

“Your duty is to scream those truths that one should shout but are merely whispered.” –Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Sometimes in the pursuit for lessons from my past, I discover that a single event has been a gradual time-released dose of medicine for my soul. At various points on my life’s journey, I garner just enough truth and nourishment from that experience to guide me forward to yet another morsel of healing and personal growth. As a lover of words, I’m not lost on the miracle that one such experience took place in an unassuming bookstore.

Eso Won Books, a Black owned independent bookstore now located in Leimert Park (4327 Degnan Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90008), opened its doors in 1989. For three decades, co-owners James Fugate and Tom Hamilton have been providing experiences of Black culture and history to their surrounding South Los Angeles communities through books and cultural events. The first time I stepped into this haven of Blackness, the course of my life changed in that instant.

I was a college student needing to purchase the required books for an elective African thought class. The professor informed us that the books would not be available at the campus bookstore so we were sent to Eso Won Books. Upon walking through the entrance, the space enigmatically called for my honor and respect. I obediently surrendered to it by walking slowly, quietly, and attentively while taking in the abundance of books on the shelves. It didn’t take long for me to realize that practically all the books were by and about Black people. In addition, the books represented multiple genres: literature, poetry, mysteries, non-fiction, fiction, etc. Knowing that this place of business was owned by Black men only made this moment that much more powerful. A feeling of pride and belonging filled me. I came to understand that I was responding to the call of Black writers, poets, historians, pioneers and ancestors to whom I indeed owe honor and respect.

However, after making my purchases, I walked away from the bookstore with an undeniable provocation that would smolder for a large part of my life. Why were all the contributions and riches of my cultural and racial history kept a secret from me? By this time, I had been in the American educational system for about 20 years. Year after year, school taught me that Black history was Martin Luther King, Jr. and slavery. I was taught about “the” African-American writer, Langston Hughes. Eso Won Books released a barrier of ignorance that was being covertly inserted into my life. I was now determined to uncover truths about who I am; who Black people are and share these truths with others, like me, who didn’t know what they didn’t know.

In my 20s, uncovering truths led me to frequent visits to Eso Won Books and diving into written words that “wouldn’t be available at the campus bookstore.” I immersed myself in all things connecting me to my African-American identity. I read everything, attended cultural events, joined organizations, and created organizations with a passion. I met and discussed with like-minded thinkers to analyze race, race matters, as well as, historical and political progress. This passion continued to drive me through my 30s and into parenthood. It fueled my purpose in becoming an educator. My drive for informed racial identity became the foundation for nearly all of my behaviors and decisions.

This passion simmered to form a deep seeded belief that in order to feel belonging, it was essential that we all have a deep understanding of our own identity while accepting the identity of others. Honestly, in those early days of uncovering truths, my focus was all about securing racial identity for Black people and lifting us up while informing all others that they need to start accepting our truth. Inviting challenging conversations to open the dialogue was liberating, empowering, and comfortable. However, I was usually the only one feeling comfortable by the end of the conversation. Sadly, it took years for me to understand that though my intention was to liberate and empower ALL with the truth, I was actually missing the mark. I thought truth alone would bring us all to the light of acceptance and connection. Unfortunately, truth alone is not enough.

You see, my good intentions were offered from a seed of indignation planted in my mind all those years before. My thoughts, words, and actions came from a hurt of being denied of the beauty of my family, my people, my ancestors…myself. I didn’t want anyone to feel the pain of hidden secrets that if told would help bring the whole self alive. Regrettably, I shared truths in a way that was received by some but made others annoyed, self-conscious, nervous, or confused. But the point is ensure that the truth is heard and received by all. Today, the essence of my belief remains unchanged. Self-identity and acceptance does bring people together. However, it has blossomed to include not just racial identity but all ways in which we identify ourselves.  Make no mistake that my anger and pain continue to be real. The difference now is that I’m able to share truths from a place of love by filtering my hurt through compassion and forgiveness. When I talk about that moment now, the energy behind it beckons for connection and understanding not shaming. In the past, I cried tears of bitterness and animosity whenever I shared this story. Now, I can offer a warm smile while the listener cries cleansing tears of empathy and relationship. I’m being heard. We all belong and we can own that belonging when we know who we are at the core of our being. We enhance belonging when we recognize the whole being of others and accept their truths. May we all allow our truths to be heard.

Not Me but We

Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

I stood at the checkout stand as the cashier quickly scanned the items I placed on the steadily moving conveyer belt. The next customer in line slowly rolled his shopping cart forward into what was apparently too close for the cashier’s comfort. She looked at him, moved his cart away, and snapped, “Can you move your cart back and stay there until I’m ready for you?” Then she looked at me and with disgust said, “Chinese people are so pushy.”

Whoa! Did she just say that? Not only did she say those words but she was now casually asking me to collude with her in this act of racial bias. The following exchange took place:

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A Spiritual Hot Spot

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

“What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and toward the miraculous. The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has more force…Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory…” –Jeanette Winterson

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you likely know all too well the tourist hot spot called Venice Beach. The popularity of Venice Beach can more specifically be attributed to the 2.5 mile Ocean Front Walk that takes on a carnival like atmosphere with endless sightings of the outlandish, the amazing, and the breath-taking.  According to the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, every year an average of over 10 million visitors come to soak up the sun, some fun, and the spirit of Southern California.

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Karma and Balance

“Fairness is a human concept. Balance is a universal one.” – David James Lees

I grew up in a home with a mother who is deeply committed to Buddhism. She continues to chant regularly in the morning and then again in the evening as she has done since her late teens. I don’t know of day that she has ever missed this daily practice. My own practice wavered as I developed my own beliefs about religion, spirituality, and the deep meanings of life. However, the philosophy of Buddhism remains a foundational influence in my Becoming. One primary concept is karma.

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Legacy of Courage

As we were finishing a late breakfast, a notification goes off on his phone. “Mom, it’s bad news. It’s really bad news.” I struggled to process the words that came out of my son’s mouth as he proceeded to inform me about the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Fragmented details were beginning to be uncovered and released while we sat in silence. Only my unrestrained sobs and tears would disrupt the quiet at our table.

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Proud to be a Military Brat

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Are you familiar with the term “military brat?” This term generally refers to someone who grew up in a family where the parents served in the armed forces.  My father served in the Air Force which makes me a military brat and I say that with pride. Though the word “brat” usually carries a negative connotation in the civilian world, those of us who grew up “on base” know that we belong to a resilient and diverse subculture of individuals bonded by common experience and mutual understanding of what it all means.

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Matters of the Heart

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

HEART (noun)

  1. a hollow muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system by rhythmic contraction and dilation
  2. the emotional or moral nature as distinguished from the intellectual nature
  3. one’s most innermost character, feeling, or inclinations
  4. the essential or most vital part of something

When you look up the word “heart” these are a few of the definitions provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I bring your attention to these specific definitions because they lie at the heart (pun intended) of what I’d like to share in the following post.

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We Are Family

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When we conjure up examples of a strong family, images of a father who provides, a mother who nurtures, and children who obey may emerge because we have been led to believe that this is the standard. However, in our ever-changing world, the limiting definitions of a “traditional” family no longer suffice to fully encapsulate the complexities of familial strength. In fact, it is arguable that we fall short of considering the cultural influences on family structures and dynamics that offer variants on the way family strength manifests in different communities today.

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Feast of Dignity

likesilkto from Pixabay

“We all belong here equally…Just by being born onto the earth we are accepted and the earth supports us. We don’t have to be especially good. We don’t have to accomplish anything. We don’t even have to be healthy.” – Polly Horvath, My One Hundred Adventures

Remember the anticipation of your first day of school? Parents and teachers offered encouragement and reassurance by cheerfully talking about all the opportunities to make new friends. Did you ever move to a different neighborhood or change jobs? I imagine that questions of finding welcoming neighbors or fitting in with your new colleagues crossed your mind during your transition. These thoughts are likely due to the fact that human beings have a psychological need for love and belonging. In humanistic psychology, the human need for belonging aligns with our inclinations as social creatures. Our emotional relationships are driven by our connections among our family, as well as social and community groups. And sometimes, we have the fortune of being a bystander to the fulfillment of this need of belonging and the nurturing of the soul…

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I Can So I Must

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

“Judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.” –Dr. Wayne Dyer

The fall season has arrived and in our house that means football and wrestling. Over the years, countless evenings have been spent watching our sons practice in their individual sport then cheering them on when it’s time to take the field or hit the mat. Our support for them continues despite the fact that one coaches a high school team that’s a 5-hour drive east from here and the other wrestles at a college that’s a 6-hour drive north. For some it may seem excessive but I humbly learned that everything happens for a reason.

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