Category: Uncategorized

Spotlight on Haitian youth: 16-year-old Author Neila Montelus

Another teacher introduced me to a young lady who was confident, bright, and a gogetter. Her name is Neila. After speaking to Neila about her two published books of poetry, I knew she would be ideal to interview for the Show and Heal: Haitian segment. There are not too many high school authors I know period so I am proud of Neila for following her passion of writing at such a young age. Neila uses her experiences to connect with readers so they, too, know they are not alone! She is my hero!

~ Xahej

Follow Neila on Instagram: @ PoeticlyPowerful

Her Poem on Prejudice

Prejudice

A post shared by Neila Montelus🌸 (@poeticlypowerful) on

Neila Montelus, Author and Ambitious High School student

IN HER WORDS:

     My name is Neila Montelus, I am sixteen years young and I am an author. I started writing creatively when I was ten and I started writing poetry when I was twelve. I never knew I was into poetry until I had an assignment during the summer of sixth-grade year. Upon completion of the assignment, I realized that I enjoyed it. The more I explored and wrote, my passion grew.
     During my freshman year of high school I received the opportunity to write a book and I took it on. I was fourteen then. I strictly believe in not letting age be the barrier between succeeding. Due to that and abundance of motivation and support, I wrote and published my first collection of poems, Glimpse of the Soul. I wrote Glimpse of the soul to provide individuals with a sense of knowing that whatever they are going through, they are not going through it alone. I wrote it so that readers will find a glimpse of their soul, through mine. I have sold over seventy copies of Glimpse of the Soul and the numbers are still growing.
    On March 29th, 2018 of my junior year in high school my second collection of poems, Crookedly Aligned got published. I wrote Crookedly Aligned to show individuals that it is fine to go through hardships or to be different. We are humans and we contradict ourselves. I wrote the book to show readers that it is okay to be imperfect. It took me two years to write and finalize everything. I had to postpone certain things due to academics or scholarship deadlines, however, I never gave up. That also is something that I strongly believe in. When I  have a goal in mind, I do not stop until I achieve it.
    As I move forward and progress in age, I hope to continue to inspire people and be oblivious to anything that might hinder me from doing so.
Book Links:
Crookedly Aligned-

The Latinos and Their Families You Don’t Hear About

Statistics on Latinos in America

Have you heard of Google, Instagram, Uber, or Amazon? Let me ask you this, have you ever eaten pizza, Chinese food, hummus, or tacos? What do these companies and foods have in common? None of them would exist if it wasn’t for immigrants in the USA.
 
Do you know that the original “founders” of America were immigrants? Or that this country has been built by the strong hands of African slaves and cheap immigrant labor mainly from Europe, Asia, and Latin America?
 
I am Xahej Bajipura of Show And Heal. Over the past four months, I’ve interacted with one specific immigrant community. We’ve interviewed inspiring, beautiful Latino youth in South Florida.
 
1 out of 4 kids is Latino. By 2060, it is estimated that 1/3 of the US population will be Latino. So please open your eyes and hearts to our future presidents, astronauts, entrepreneurs, teachers, artists, and doctors.
I am forever grateful for a young newspaper editor Lulu, an American of Mexican origins, who discovered my journalistic talents. We have so much in common, including loving, hardworking immigrant families. And we are both about empowering the communities we live in.
 
In San Francisco I grew up with Latinos. They have been my friends, classmates, neighbors, teachers, doctors, police officers, and mentors. Now they are my coworkers and students at one of the largest schools in Florida. Out of the 3700 students 67% are “Hispanic” a label invented in the US and is used only here. Every country in Latin America has its own food, music, dance, culture, and even languages.
 
I am ecstatic to share interviews of children who themselves are immigrants or second-generation American. I relate to this population given my family migrated to the US from India. Everyone came for the same reason European settlers came—economic opportunity, safety, and freedom.They risked their lives and persevered against the odds.
 
 Currently, Latinos have the highest purchasing power of any group and employ 2.5 million Americans. It was reaffirmed in the interviews that their values are strong and centered in family, education, and hard work. Many work 2-3 jobs to support their families and save for higher education.
 
Lastly, immigration is nothing new. Our ancestors migrated at some point and we are where we are due to this movement. Please let’s stop living with the same fear and hate that our ancestors experienced trying to better their lives in America. We are all striving for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ourselves and families.

Mission Invisible

Zephre sits alone up on the roof of the tallest tree he could find inside the concrete jungle. Silence wraps around him and his eyes travel over the lights and the small metal animals that speed along the paths. The visible people wander all around the jungle, some in a hurry, others casually, and some don’t move at all, waiting for the big metal caterpillar to pick them up and take them somewhere else. No one sits still in this jungle though. There is always movement. The waiters stand impatiently tapping their foot, the players’ fingers fly over their instruments, the people walk or run down the street. Females in elaborate outfits and face paint walk with silly men on their arms for money. 

does anyone see me?

Zephre is the only one of his kind. He is invisible. No one and nothing can see him. If he attempts to speak, all that comes out is faint whispers only dogs can hear, but no one can understand except for him. He is alone. He always has been, ever since he was little. He was small when he first remembered. He was in his old home where his mother and father stood guard. They both were dead within minutes when the red men came. They had strange tools to see the invisible ones. He thought he heard one man say it was the shift in the wind pattern that stood out. He may be invisible but his kind still bled. His mother and father both were covered in red, more scarlet than the red men’s face paint. Out of shock, he didn’t move. Doing so saved his life. After the red men left so did little Zephre. He wandered and hoped until he reached the concrete jungle. There he found food and shelter. He refused to leave. 

feeling invisible in a world where people are passing you by without notice

The door to the roof slowly creaks open. Zephre turns and looks on curiously as a young woman comes out of the building. Her face is red and wet from tears as she walks slowly to the edge of the building. Zephre stands as a bad feeling invades his body. The girl, not hearing, walks up to the edge and whispers.
“I know you’re there… you were supposed to protect me. You didn’t… you were supposed to keep me safe. You didn’t. Instead, you worked, took the easy way out by staying with my captor. Now my baby sister is dead. You’re dead. What do I do now?” She steps closer to the edge, getting dangerously close. “Do I join You? Do I jump?” Tears well up in her eyes once more. “Tell me what to do daddy… I feel lost and invisible to everyone around me. No one gets it.  They see me but they don’t understand what they see. They hear me but don’t listen. What do I do?” 
Zephre stands in awe next to this strange woman. Following an urge, he gently wraps his arms around her and whispers “you’re not the only invisible one” in her ear. She leans into him and sobs, backing away from the edge with him. She allows him to lead her away from the edge. 

visible to the world

She whispers back to him. “I’m not the only one who’s invisible… I can feel you holding me and your heart against my back. You are like me… you’re invisible too.”
She grabs his hands and pulls them around herself tighter and he allows her. He doesn’t realize he is becoming more and more distinct. More like the visible ones. After a minute, he becomes just like her. Color and vibrancy coat his body. He opens his brilliant blue eyes and looks down at her. She turns to him and smiles. He smiles back as tears begin to form in his eyes.

See what I see in you…the universe

He holds her closer and says in a strong, gentle voice, “now we’re both visible.”
–Donna Jones, an empathic, brilliant high school student who explains, “I wrote this because of the number of people who have told me that they feel invisible. It’s good to remember that you’re not alone in that feeling and when you find someone who feels the same way, you can both help each other become visible.”

 

Showing vulnerability to heal past wounds of child abuse

             Sometimes at dusk, we would see him come out from the hidden interior of his island. For years, we had no idea who he was or what he did until the night I stepped foot into the water I had so often stood or sat in after beatings or nightmares. That was the only time he ever showed himself to me, my dark angelic friend standing or sitting on the shores of his mysterious, forbidden island. No man ever goes there unless he wishes never to return. Now, no one goes, and no one leaves. Especially the timeless man who sits across the calm waters from me. 
           Some nights, like tonight, I would talk to him and pretend he could hear. Wishing he could hear all the pain, the fear, and the need I had for seeing his pitch black hair and beautiful pale skin, contrasting with the black of night and the darkness of the trees. He never wore anything else but black, but always looked clean from where I sat. Some nights, he sings to me in a language I can never identify. He only sings to me on the nights when I want to escape the world forever. The gentle tenor of his voice floats over the waters, the wind carrying it over the small waves to my ears. His voice is comforting and alluring, like a mother’s voice is to an orphan. It calmed me when I was scared, hurt, and lonely.
             Tonight, he was on the wrong shore. Tonight he was next to me. Holding me. He started singing his song, the one I recognize from years of listening. This time I understand the words. They speak of the promise of rest. Of peace. Of eternal escape from the fear and pain. For the first time, I join my voice with his. I sing the song and allow it to fill me, emotion overflowing my body as I feel him stiffen and lean into me, almost as if pulled by an invisible thread. I lean into him as well, and he wraps his arms around my shoulders.
            The feeling of him holding me is so intoxicating that my vision swims, and I see the moon glinting off of the waters, and off of something else out of the corner of my eye. Ignoring it, I turn my face into his chest, letting him save me from the nightmares, the memories, and the lies. As our song finishes, I feel a sharp pain in my back. it passes quickly, and a numbing bliss enters my body. The last thing I see is his eyes and the last thing I feel is his lips on mine.
           I am finally free.
 
     “This story is about a girl who was abused her whole life by her parents until the night she was meant to die, and she symbolizes a piece of my past, from when I was abused. By writing this, I “killed” the control my past has over me. The man symbolizes death, while the water between the two shores symbolizes the division between life and death.”  ~ guest contributor, a superstar high school student who aspires to help others.
      It takes so much courage to show pain, fear, and hurt from those closest to you. In this process, there is healing. I commend this young writer for sharing a deep secret in her life that has scarred her. However, it has not left her immobilized. She strides empowered and strong as ever! Thank you for shedding light on the reality of children’s lives that many do not expect or know. 
~Xahej 

Life-Transforming Experience Volunteering in a South Florida School’s Hurricane Irma Shelter

Humankind’s Fragility Yet Beauty

Xahej “Xi” Bajipura’s firsthand account of the miracles in unity, inclusion, and selfless service during Hurricane Irma in September 2017 was published in Palm Beach Post’s guest column on October 15, 2017.

POINT OF VIEW: Humankind’s fragility yet beauty

What I witnessed in the four days serving in John I. Leonard High School’s shelter stretched my heart to how deep love can swim in times of crisis.

Imagine uprooting yourself from the comforts of your home, bed and safety in the midst of a devastating hurricane not knowing if there would be a home on your return. This cracked open the window into how refugees must feel except there is no chance of returning home.

About 2,100 people of all backgrounds and ages entered the gates of John I. Leonard. There was richness in life experiences and cultures. I met beautiful families and students of mine from Pahokee, Belle Glade, Haiti, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, Iraq, Guatemala and South America. All were united under one roof in Greenacres.

Despite conditions and finite resources, evacuees offered water and food to each other and volunteers. They shared their limited blankets, pillows and air mattresses to those who came with no bedding. They helped lift elderly from the ground. They aided the disabled using the restroom in the dark.

For the first time in some time I felt that Americans were united above politics, religion, nationality and income. I could breathe in the vastness of humanity, its unlimited greatness.

With unconditional care, volunteers built community in the special needs and physically challenged unit. Our 19-hour volunteer shift around the clock helped us become family to our guests. We organized karaoke and Zumba classes with seniors, including a WWII veteran, amputees, and those with special needs, dementia and PTSD. We played checkers on a homemade checkerboard that one evacuee made with cardboard and Sharpie markers. Guests quickly drank so they could offer their caps and pill bottle tops for game pieces. We told stories and listened. We sent positive vibes of prayers and love to all those affected by hurricanes. One evacuee has already started planning activities and games for her next stay at the shelter.

“When I first entered the shelter, I thought that I was making a big mistake. I never had a reason to stay at a shelter before. I thank God for the volunteers who made my experience at the shelter a memorable one of joy and unity during a difficult time. Let’s not forget that a few of the (horror) stories were true, but we all worked together to create an environment where God is welcomed,” said Inger Hogan, a disabled Zumba instructor who shared her passion for dance with seniors.

No matter where you come from, how much money you have, what religion you practice or what you believe in, natural disasters don’t discriminate. As humans we are all connected by natural forces that go beyond the surface. Hurricane Irma reminded us of humankind’s fragility yet beauty. I have so much gratitude for my ability to bond and serve in ways I did not know were possible.

XI BAJIPURA, GREENACRES

Editor’s note: Bajipura is an ESE VE instructor in the Social Sciences at John I Leonard High School.

 

You ARE a Miracle! Your Chance of Being Born: 1 in 400 Quadrillion to 10 to the 2,640,000th power

Happy New Breath, beautiful miracles!

You ARE a miracle.

Yes, really, you are.

You may think “You say that to everyone!”

And that is true too.

We were not born by accident given the odds calculated by scientists showing the odds of you being born are at least 1 in 400 trillion IF NOT 1 in 400 quadrillion and most likely 1 in 102,640,000. That is incredibly unlikely to the point of impossible.

Odds of Being Born Infographic by Designer Sofya Yampolsky

Sofya’s Profile

 

The analogy given by Dr. Ali Binazir on the probability of YOU being born is here:

“It’s the probability of 2.5 million people getting together — about the population of San Diego — each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice — and they all come up the exact same number — say, 550,343,279,001.” Learn more here: Dr. Ali Binazir’s Article on Probability of Being Born

Even with the lowest statistic of 1 in 400 trillion, you would have a better chance of winning over $100 million dollar lottery 9 times over your life again than you would have being born.

Now before you start telling your parents that they could have traded any of your younger siblings for the lottery winnings, your siblings are miracles too! This basically ZERO CHANCE of BEING BORN shows me that WE ALL DESERVE having an EQUAL PLACE on Earth! We were all meant to be here and that we must find our purpose that brought us into creation! Regardless of your skin color, country of origin, body size, religion, gender, or viewpoint, WE ALREADY MADE IT HERE.

Please let’s LEARN to

Be Grateful

Be Humble

Be Loving

Be Kind

Be True to YOU (There is no one else like you. If there was they would have been born and not you…)

“That’s So Gay AND Beautiful!” Honoring the LGBT Community

United States of America, LGBT, equality, human rights

United States of America, LGBT, equality, human rights

“That’s so gay!”

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this statement made in an offensive fashion in my lifetime. Honestly, I have had to forgive myself for sometimes following others and taking part in this commonplace phrase in my adolescent years. Back then I attempted to fit in and act as a parrot at best. At the time I (like I think most people who say homophobic comments) didn’t have any (openly) gay friends. Therefore, I knew nothing about what GAY really meant or WHO they were.

Growing up in the Indian culture in San Francisco was sort of an oxymoron as I learned. Many values clashed, for instance, the freedom to marry who you wish regardless of caste, ethnicity, nationality, religion, and of course, gender. Seeing men publicly kiss and women hold hands was normal, just not to those who immigrated to the United States like my family and the majority of American families.

One Love

One Love

Since then, I have had friends come out to me and family members too. I have been accepted for my quirkiness and loved on by so many people from the LGBT community that I cannot be a happier ally to them!

LGBT Ally

LGBT Ally

Based on my friendships and connections to the passionate LGBT community, “That’s so GAY” actually now means to me:

Beautiful
Being Yourself
Being True to Oneself
Happiness
Believing in Oneself
Courage
Self-Awareness: Knowing oneself better than anyone else
Freedom to Love Oneself
Freedom to Love Others

Orlando Solidarity

Throughout history, there have been brilliant or famous people who have had same sex relationships, openly and not as openly. The list includes Versace, Michelangelo, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marlon Brando to name a few. Learn more about gays in history here:
Famous Gays in History

Thank you queer community for accepting me, making me feel safe, and inspiring me to follow my heart! It was truly an honor to interview 3 young people from your community and the generosity of others in helping make the video possible!

show-and-heal-lgbt-video-interview

My Right to Remain Silent: Empowered Speechless

silence

My Right to Remain Silent:
Empowered Speechless
Xahej Bajipura
February 19, 2017

“Are you sick? Did you lose your voice? Are you ignoring me?”
These are some of the typical comments others—concerned—ask me when I don’t speak on Sundays.

Actually, I feel at my best—physically, mentally and spiritually—when I fast from words. It’s the best “diet” I have ever been on!

rumi

For over a year, I have been practicing maun vrat—vow of silence—for the purpose of slowing down and connecting with my true self. Spiritual leaders like Mahatma Gandhi are known to have done this for extended periods of time as well.

mother-teresa-on-do-it-anyway

I started off being silent for one hour, slowly extending the maun for 5-6 hours and now I can go over 24 hours to 48 hours without speaking. That’s not to say I have not had my fair share of expletives. For example, I couldn’t hold back some four-letter words when slightly burning myself from sparks while moving incense during a self-Abhyanga massage 😉

aka Self-Massage using lightly warmed sesame seed oil

aka Self-Massage

Those who know me as fast-talking and chatty are impressed when they see me speechless. While they believe it must take tremendous willpower for me to be silent, in reality, I prefer being silent for the multitude of benefits and ease I feel.

you-can-feel-the-soul-in-silence-mother-teresa

My day begins with a smile as I wake up in gratitude for a happy new breath, without rush or expectations.

weapons-of-mass-distraction

Digitally detoxing from news, social media, YouTube, advertisements (according to marketing research we are exposed to 4,000-10,000 advertisements a day), environmental messaging, phone calls, text, and emails helps center me by forcing me to look inside.

digital-detox

I pre-write a note if necessary so others are aware of my practice.

A note I wrote before attending Diwali festivities

A note I wrote before attending Diwali festivities

Friends, co-workers, family, and those I encounter on the weekend –cashier or juicer at grocery store, strangers, etc. know or come to learn I do not speak Sundays and respect my practice. We laugh together when they too act silent and mime communication. Many are proud of me, give me blessings and say they would love to attempt it themselves.

enjoy-the-silence

However, communication is not always perfect. In some instances, my attempt at sign language is misinterpreted.

One Sunday afternoon, I was carrying my teacher’s rolling cart—so filled I had stopped using the lid soon after I bought it. I planned to take the elevator. As the couple before me entered the small quarters of the elevator, I was going to wait for the next one. Instead, I was invited to get on the same elevator as the couple.

Gentleman: We’ll fit. Join us.
Me: Not having any pre-written notes (or free hands to carry any), I nodded and smiled to be polite.
Gentleman: Which floor? We are going to the fourth.
Me:I flicked up three fingers equating to the third floor.
Gentleman: {Slightly confused and attempting to clarify my response} Which floor?
Me: I went to the buttons and pointed at “3.”
Gentleman: Oh good! For a minute, I thought you were flipping me off in some other language! You put the fingers up and down quickly.
Me: I nodded “no” but despite the shock and embarrassment I couldn’t hold back my laughter

no-phone

I look forward to my weekly practice; it feels good giving myself a break from a hurried life that cries to reach an ever-moving destination. Instead, I savor the steps of my right-on-time journey as I listen to my inner guidance system and accept where I am. The hardest part of silence is breaking the fast because I am most at peace on this day. It can also be tough for those close to me who want me to make exceptions or start talking before I choose to.

calm

I am truly my ideal self on the days I practice silence. My mind is a blank canvas, less fogged up by worries, doubts and fears. I am more focused on what is important to me, including my health, relationships, spirit and service (Show and Heal). My heart is more open and loving. I have clarity and higher self-esteem as I feel better about myself. Over time I have been able to maintain benefits from maun vrat even when I am not silent.

blank-canvas

One of the greatest lessons I have learned is that words are not always necessary and smiles, laughs and body language can be more effective at times. Other times, trying to prove a point does not make a difference or can make situations worse.

Some Benefits I Have Experienced So Far
1. Happier & relaxed
2. Prioritize Prayer & Meditation
3. Better listener (not interrupting anyone speaking!)
4. Take time for Self-Care with Self-Abhyanga Massage

abhyanga

5. More at ease in physical activities & activities throughout the day
6. Consciously breathe, eat, and observe thoughts
7. More forgiving & less judgmental

yoga

8. Conserve energy (a must as a teacher and human rights advocate!)
9. Slow down
10. I love myself more, thus love others more
11. More compassionate to self and others

cropped-deep-breathing1

12. Have more time in the day (less time on phone/online) to accomplish what needs to get done and rest!
13. Increase Patience
14. Become more Grateful
15. Skill of holding my tongue, filtering thoughts before they come out (not saying everything that pops in my head)

dont-every-mistake-my-silence-2

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