Looking back at 2015

What an amazing year it’s been!
So many positive things to note, in no particular order:

  • My son married an wonderful woman and now I have a daughter and a son;
  • Hack the Hood served 8X more youth than in 2013, and will expand into 5-7 other cities beyond Oakland ;
  • We’ve learned so much about what we need to do to really serve our youth, and we’re working hard on being both a tech and social justice organization.

Also:

  • Am 4 pants sizes smaller than I was in Fall 2014. My waist is 15 inches smaller; my hips are 6 inches smaller;
  • My ribcage is 3 inches smaller, and yes, the bra size went down (dunno!);
  • Found #Whole30 and it’s changed how I eat;
  • Lost and kept off 23 lbs;
  • Added muscle;
  • Went to the gym 3-4 times a week regularly;
  • Visited new places I loved: Joshua Tree and Widbey Island, and made two great trips to see friends and family in New York;
  • Had 2 of my nephews each come and stay with me for a week and really hang out; got to see the youngest nephew at son’s wedding;
  • Found long-lost second cousins on 23 and Me from a part of the family I knew nothing about and am going to connect with them;
  • Took my girlfriend to the wedding and everyone loved her and nobody blinked;
  • Started working harder, if imperfectly, to see more of the friends I love whom I stopped seeing when I moved to Oakland, let my workaholic-ism get out of control, or lost myself in start-up land–and that is happening, to my delight.

I feel really blessed with the family, friends and work I am privileged to do.
And I still love Oakland.

And then, on the other hand, there were the stressors:

Gentrification: I live in a city where the cost of real estate is rising so rapidly not only are poor people being pushed out, the middle class can’t afford to be here. Oakland has jumped from a place that was scorned by many to one where rents are 4th highest in the nation. Too many people coming into Oakland now only care we’re on the BART line or their tech bus stops here; they’re not interested in the diversity and rich variety that has always made this city special. And for many, the tradition of black leadership epitomized by the Black Panthers makes them super-uncomfortable.

Police Brutality and the murder of people of color by police: Too many young people across the country have been killed by the people we have hired to protect and serve us. As the POC community has stated, police protection often turns into police persecution in poor POC neighborhoods. And driving while Black remains a crime. Sandra Bland’s killers won’t be charged, and the Blue wall protecting cops from accountability is slow to fall.

Neighborhood violence and retaliation: Young people are also killing each other. In Oakland we all know families who lose youth to shootings—and we know and mourn those youth. How can we step it back so the world is less harsh and shooting isn’t an expression of feeling?

Racism: It’s everywhere. I work in an organization where my colleagues and youth participants experience micro-aggressions literally every day, and get so tired of having to educate others about the wrongness of this. White folks need to learn to listen, stop exceptionalizing their friends and colleagues of color, and, yes, become comfortable with stepping back. And then 100,000 things more we need to support. Like #BlackLivesMatter

Tech elitism: How do we help tech companies balance their appropriate desire to secure top talent with their reluctance to hire anyone who doesn’t either have 2 degrees from top schools or is a prodigy from the hood who has amazing coding prowess, or some other version of the unicorn story? Education and discussion are critical so we can make sure the bright young people who aren’t on a straight college path due to lack of income and family responsibilities have access to apprenticeships and training programs that give them access to good jobs in tech.

Body shaming: I admitted to someone today, for the first time, that fat shaming happened to me, and that was the other reason, besides fear of dying, that in 2015 I went on a wellness kick and totally changed my habits and body shape. Where is the right balance between all the food porn on TV and being a realistic, fit and healthy size?

Scaling and redefining what leadership means: The Hack the Hood team almost doubled in size. That meant some huge shifts in how we operate, work together, and make decisions. I’ve needed to learn how to be more open and consensus-driven internally, more of a “servant leader,” while retaining my drive and aggression out of the office. If you don’t think that’s taken some conscious work, you’ve never led a company. It’s been hard, but it’s been worth the adjustments.

Today, it’s December 24, 2015, the day of Christmas eve, and the start of a 10-day vacation. I’m excited to have more free time, with not a lot of work to do, and a chance to focus on family and friends, and I want to give thanks for this amazing year.

My deepest appreciation goes to the people who help keep me going with their love, smarts and, sometimes, toughness—you know who you are, and to my wonderful work colleagues and the youth we are working to serve.

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