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  • Elliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF "Are you with me now? 1.7.2021

Happy, Happy New Year! Coming off “Dead Week,” some lyrics from Mose Allision and a few tinkerings. My brain is always tickin', my brain My brain is always tickin', my brain My brain is always tickin' Long as I'm alive and kickin' My brain, cool little cluster, that's my brain “Your mind is on vacation while your mouth is working overtime.” These Mose Allison riffs precede neuroscience. There’s lots of science that come out of arts. I don’t know a good scientist who is not a good artist first. “Doing something while you are doing nothing” What people now call “Dead Week” is full of life. My take: Choose to do meaningful and interesting things to do while you are doing nothing. Last week I read two of the Nanette Hayes Mystery Series by Charlotte Carter. These stories are not for the faint of heart. They are “Steamy - Black Jazz Experiences” – Red Island Red & Coq Au Vin – NY Times Best Mystery Novel of the year. Charlotte Carter was married to Frankie King. This is the real deal. Charlotte knows jazz and life. Also read, School Talk by the director of CREATE Mica Pollock. We will be meeting once the COVID – ban on meetings is lifted at UCSD. Also, read How to Do Nothing – The BPL read In between lots of articles. Some are highlighted here. ‘We Threw Out Any Plans We Had’: C.E.O.s Are Forced to Embrace Uncertainty’ “Gary Kelly, the chief executive of Southwest Airlines, tested positive this month, just days after testifying before Congress that masks “don’t add much” to the quality of airplane cabin air.” I loved this article because some of us who muddle know that the inevitability of ‘muddling through’ is always the way to go. The one thing that is certain is uncertainty. This article exposes the cult of CEO’s for who they are as almost always looking for a narrow set of variables to provide certainty in a specific market in a world that will always be uncertain. These insurance policies and hedgings are what produced slave ships, sea captains, and the boards that were the economic designs against uncertainty. As long as companies and institutions keep on embracing a narrow set of variables, we will be confronted by the even bigger picture problems that develop from these practices truly affecting us all. And on the other end of the spectrum…. “A person is a person through other persons. You can't be a solitary human being. It's all linked. We have this communal sense, and because of this deep sense of community, the harmony of the group is a prime attribute.” – Reverend Desmond Tutu - Ubuntu


Lots of people have passed since my last TGIF – Reverend Desmond Tutu is one that I strongly connect to because of my visit to Soweto Township where Reverend Tutu and Nelson Mandela lived on Vilakazi Street. Imagine, two Noble Peace Prize winners living on the same street and this is a street in the midst of the bustle of everyday life in a place where there are few conveniences like consistent running water or electricity. To me, this is such a contrast to what we see today where so many famous people live in isolation. To give some perspective, this is also the same street where 12-year-old student Zolile Hector Pieterson was shot by police sparking the Soweto Uprising in 1976 once again, about a civil rights/social justice issue of teaching Zulu in schools and of course, so much more. Twenty-thousand students participated in these demonstrations. Finally, the photo above is of a friend Nadine Hack with Desmond Tutu on his 90th birthday. I went to high school with Nadine. She was an incredible social justice leader starting from the first time I met her when we were 15. We are still in contact. Nadine ran the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and runs a very incredible organization called beCause.


We had a great session yesterday with students who have been engaged in BPLiving over the past year. Coming back we are getting ready for part three of three-part series sponsored by BPLiving and Health Equity Achieved Through Lifestyle Medicine - HEAL (see below). Even though we met virtually, the things these students are doing are emanating from their interests out to their homes, schools, and communities. Whether it be changing our behaviors or supporting people through changes, this is hard work. Changing people and cultures around these lifestyle measures starting with things that have meaning to you is difficult to work but I’m a firm believer in the power of youth to make these changes that matter.

This first episode hosted by Dr. Danique Dolly and Dr. Marsha-Gail Davis was a great way to start the year off. Their guests knew the medicine and the cultural components where the changes must start around eliminating health inequities. There are two more episodes left so, please register.

A new year presents new opportunities for growth. To that end, Big Picture Living - an initiative of Big Picture Learning - and HEAL (Health Equity Achieved through Lifestyle Medicine) - an initiative of American College of Lifestyle Medicine - invite you to attend a critically important, three-part conversation on equity, education, and the well-being of our future generations. Through this series, BPL and HEAL will lead an effort to bridge the gap between different societal sectors; including medicine, education and media; to spur further discussion around the problem of health inequity and the solutions inside and around education designed to address it. Please join us.


These two entrepreneurs Kareem Cooke and Claude Tellis appear on the front cover of COSTCO’s magazine. They would be a great connection for BPLiving students. When this plant-based message appears on the cover of COSTCO’s magazine, you know things are happening out there. I called up our friend Gary Reeves about a connection to them because Claude and Kareem work with Magic Johnson. Finger’s crossed.


Federico Ardila-Mantilla, a professor born in Columbia is my kind of math professor. He teaches math through personal relationships and culture and the results are great. This is a wake-up to those who want to find the golden algorithm for ‘teaching’ math. It is about the human rhythms, not algorithms that develop through relationships around topics. This article appeared in The Atlantic. During what some call Dead Week, I had some great meetings with Tony Smith, Carlos Santini – Director of Mott’s Mizen platform and David Bromley. Every one of these meetings had components connected to the LEGO grant. We received the LEGO grant to address inequities caused by COVID through introducing and developing innovative work we are doing – B-Unbound, BPLiving, and The IBPLC. The LEGO grant is way more than what is written down on paper. Here are a few bigger picture thoughts and questions:

Building something new exposes my own and our possessiveness around the past practices. An example is ImBlaze, now also B-U, and where it is used. Is opening up access to youth in new places in communities other than schools threatening to us internally? Six lifestyle measures (new forms and new measures) and how you come to them around things that matter to you – Rocio and Maria through eyecare, Emma through art and gardening, Angel through communications, Jasmin – Entrepreneurship. The professionals – educators, healthcare, and physicians are once again caught up in their own narrow frames and youth are not. Will we listen?

The external and internal fight and struggle around how students and the adults closest to students assess their work through self-assessment – “this is not good enough;” mistakes you learn from doing work; looking at growth over time, and getting real about what students really know. The IBPLC both exposes and resolves the underbelly of assessment practices that collectively, the Big WE in schools participate in around race, gender, class, and the status quo. Enjoy!


Elliot Washor

Co-Founder of Big Picture Learning

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