Jaton White is a warrior. Even though she may come across very shy, she is very energetic and full of life. When I asked her, “How would you describe yourself?” she smiled, looked up and said, “I am hope. I am life. I am human. I’m a woman. I’m black. I’m a mother. I’ve been able to give life. That encompasses everything. So I am everything.”
Words by Jaton White
At work they allow me to be everything! Here at the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) I wear special hats. I get to help and partner with children and their families to tackle things like trauma, whether that trauma is because they saw something or they experienced something. We address how that trauma effects them in the workplace or in school or how it impacts everyday relationships, with their children, spouses, neighbors, etc. I’m given a special role where I get to facilitate what we call personal empowerment foundations. That allows them to unpack their power and know that they have the power to change their beliefs because your beliefs generate feelings that cause you to behave in a certain way. Not necessarily always having to change their beliefs but just check them. Sometimes your beliefs have been in bedded in you for so long from your childhood or personal experiences, it can be hard to change them. But if you can just see yourself in that belief and own your part in whatever the situation is then it can help you move forward. In some cases that leads you to change beliefs because you realize that some of the beliefs that your parents put on you are beliefs their parents put on them and so on. Those beliefs are not necessarily true to you.
Image via northsideachievement.org
We help people unpack that, expose that, then we empower them so they have this new strong belief system. Then they can say, “I can get my GED. I can be a home owner. I can stay at a job for more than six months. I can have a decent relationship with my child and we can share how we are really feeling with each other.” Those thoughts overflow into education. Kids can be more ready for school and feel more confident. They know that they can count on a support system at home that will empower them as well as their teacher. That then builds the school relationship. Now you have more parent engagement because the parents and teachers are trusting one another. Both sides are getting more of what they need. So it has this trickle effect.
Sometimes people can be so stifled and stuck in that bed and they can’t move. To know you can look out the window and see a peek of the sun rays can be enough and start a process for you to get your foot out of the bed. If you can get your foot out of the bed you can talk yourself to getting your other foot out of the bed, then you’re standing up. And maybe that’s all you can do that day. But knowing that and owning that is enough. It’s the release of those negative thoughts, fighting against them that gives your body permission to relax. It can be that simple but we have to know we have that power inside of us to ignite that. Not everybody knows that you have that kind of power.
It’s difficult when you constantly have challenges, traumas, crises. It’s difficult to hear someone tell you to dream. How can they dream to be a home owner, when they can’t figure out how to pay the water bill. So we’ve got to start somewhere. So we start with, how did we get here? What is the process around it? How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Then let’s deal with the water bill. Then let’s get beyond that and figure out how not to be there again. Because we want you to start dreaming beyond how to pay your water bill. And that’s what we do at NAZ. We stretch people.
The pieces that come together for me outside of NAZ are a video blog and eventually a radio space called “Let’s Unpack.” And we are going to unpack all those juicy discussions that people are afraid to have because of all the political agendas that schools and work have to have, but in their social space they don’t have to have those.
Our first show from “Let’s Unpack” is called “Pushing Through the Funk” which is a conversation about depression. It’s something we don’t like to talk about as people of color, especially woman. We hold a lot in. We feel shamed when we don’t feel well.
What I say to them is, “Hey, that’s ok because there are resources out there for depression and it is treatable in most cases and eventually you can get through it.”
But it’s this scary thing, this depression. We like to separate it from our physical well being. But if we’re not mentally healthy you’ll never get to a point where you’re physically healthy. If a mother and father or whomever the leader of the home is, is not mentally healthy, then nobody is really healthy. The home is so unhealthy. Because the leader isn’t paying enough attention to maintaining kids, the home or themselves. An example can be: Is there mold in the home? Why is little Johnny having an asthma attack every night at 2am? The leaders won’t be capable to find a solution because they’re not healthy. So they move through crisis to crisis to crisis. Which then becomes normal and creates this very unhealthy, unstable home. So then families become mobile. They start to move from home, to home, to home, to home. That’s because of the unhealthy mind set. They will say, “I can’t keep a job and there are too many obstacles in my way.” My grandmother use to say there’s that “Stink’n Think’n.” Just unwrap that belief and say, “I can.”
It makes such a difference when you can get up and say, “I am power, I am life, I am hope.” You’ll start to walk lighter. You’ll be able to say, “I am capable of applying for that job.” You can start to believe you have some options.
That’s the power of the law of attraction. You speak it, you believe it enough, it starts to manifest itself. I know you’re actually doing the work, but it seem’s magical, but you start doing the work towards the things that you’re speaking.
This necklace is a reminder of my power.
My birth mother’s sister is who I call my mother because she raised me. I used to tell this funny story where I said I could fly. I still tell the story. Because she made me feel like I could do and be anything. That’s how energizing she made me feel. She just filled me with amazing energy. Before her I felt like I was nothing. Then she picked me up at the age of six and literally saved me. She is my super hero.
My birth mother and father had some challenges and having a kid just got in the way of those challenges. My birth father has many children. I know them all. My mother just had me. That was too much for her. She was way more infatuated with her challenges and chasing them than caring for a child. My grandmother (my birth mom’s mother) came down and didn’t like what she saw. The next thing I know I’m on an airplane as a six year old moving from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Omaha, Nebraska. From that point on my education was a big deal, being honest with who I am was a big deal. Family was a big deal.
I see family as all these children and kids who deserve somebody to tell them they love them, that they have power and that they are great. These kids I work with deserve so much better then the perception that people want to put on them.
For me personally, it took a long time to feel empowered. I was a traumatized kid inside. Thank God I had someone who wasn’t afraid of taking me in. But it wasn’t just her, I had a village, Aunts and Uncles, I had a therapist, I had a magnet school that gave me amazing opportunities, I could play sports, I got into advanced algebra classes, and I got into pasco. She just really pushed me into being that creative person. Whatever made me tick, she encouraged me to do it. And don’t be afraid to change lanes when that tick stops.
Originally, she encouraged me to be an engineer where I went to school for computer science, which was a big deal coming out of school in the 90’s. I was able to work for MCI where I worked on acquiring data for many years. Then I transferred here at my adult life to work for a company called Agility. There I helped design a data center and what it should look like. It was an incredible opportunity to meet and manage people for the first time.
Then the tick stopped and I was pregnant with my daughter. I almost lost her. I realized with the work I did, I really helped no one. I helped with data processes, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. At that point I started trying to discover myself.
I had my daughter when I was 26. I realized I needed to change lanes. I got another job at United Health Care, but didn’t love the work I was doing. I loved the people I worked with, but never worked with them in person. But knowing their story from beginning to end and being a support for them was good. After that experience I realized I need to do something like this where I could be more helpful, not really for the attention, because I don’t like getting attention but I should be doing something with helping people.
Image via northsideachievement.org of Jaton White
I believe God is very big. He is everything and He is the universe. And the universe would have it where someone called me about working at NAZ. They told me I should apply. I applied, got an interview, cried in my interview, told them the story of my mother and being able to fly. Next thing I knew I had my second interview and then I was hired. When I started I took NAZ’s personal empowerment class called “Foundations.” That class just exploded my mind and my thinking. By this time I was in my thirties. All these years I was working and raising kids, you know the typical mom thing and put your things on the back burner, but in unpacking my personal empowerment I completely changed as a person. My kids now say I NAZ them, but I’m always looking at what’s in your core and being tapped into that and what’s making you make these decisions. And now they’re doing it to me. When I find myself in my weak moments, because we fluctuate and we’re in different power modes, but my daughter will go, “where are you exactly?” So it’s completely changed my mindset and my life to the point where I’m back in school to becoming a social worker. Because that’s where I should be. This role, my personal life, my personal relationships and my educational path all meshed together. It was a journey to be where I know I should be.
Teach your children and the children around you that they can fly. You have a purpose. You have power. Always keep each other safe. What that means is, mentally, physically and spiritually safe. In doing that, that means we are going to be doing and being our best whoever we are that day. Be free. Be free moving so that your mindset and beliefs can be open and can change (not a fixed mindset). When you think that way it can lead you somewhere. Don’t be afraid to be honest and use your voice. Be you and the best you and make it your lifestyle.