CHECKING IN AND COMMITTING TO ACTION

Hi Friends,

I’d like to take a moment to check in with you all, address recent events and let you know where we stand on the issue. You may have noticed that I’ve recently been laying low on social media. This was to reflect, listen, grow and heal, as I come to grips with the realities of our world.  

This idea of ‘disconnecting to connect’ on a deeper level has been intentional.

I usually steer clear of any graphic videos and images, but I made the mistake of watching the full nine-minute video. I watched in horror as George Floyd weakened and realized that he was nearing death, and cried for his mother. It shook me to the core, to watch a grown man regress into the child that needed the most innate and human of comforts in his darkest moment. It haunted me.

George Floyd’s tragedy resonated with me. It’s not that the unending stream of similar incidents resulting in a black person’s death at the hands of an authoritative white person’s excessive use of force hasn’t affected me before; they have, but this one awoke a painful memory that has crippled me over the past two weeks. 

When I was seven years old, we lived in a neighborhood where kids would play together in the front yard and bounce from house to house. Kids ranging in ages 6 through 12 would play tag, jump rope, play four square in the driveway, etc. On one particular day, we were playing in the front yard and my older brother was playing with a plastic toy gun that came with styrofoam darts. My brother lost all of the darts and instead pretended to shoot imaginary darts at the boys who he was playing with. 

A police officer was patrolling our neighborhood that afternoon, and saw my brother with the toy, and took it upon himself to address what, based off of his subsequent actions, he viewed as a threat. I don’t remember seeing his car or him stopping. 

I remember his voice, “Y’ALL KIDS, GET BACK! YOU, DROP THE GUN. ON YOUR KNEES!” 

He had his weapon drawn as he shouted more commands that my brother was too young to comprehend “FINGERS LACED BEHIND YOUR HEAD!” My eight-year-old brother didn’t understand what that meant so the policeman shouted it over and over. As my brother grew more and more noncompliant the officer shouted louder and stepped closer, gun still drawn. 

I was paralyzed with fear. Confused and unsure what to do, my brother began to cry, “Mama, Mama!” My mother was, of course, at work, he knew she wouldn’t be home for hours. He knew she was nowhere near to hear his calls. I will never, ever forget his cries or the shame that I felt being helpless and unable to help.

 “This too shall pass.” We file this experience away and it shapes our world view. 

 While this entire incident is horrifying, the real tragedy is that life just goes on for all involved. My brother was justifiably traumatized. None of us received counseling to help process what had happened. I assume the officer also did not seek counseling or professional help to process why his first thought, in seeing a group of kids playing was to “neutralize the threat.” Instead, we were all left to continue believing our view of the world, and what that uniform and badge represents.

I don’t tell you this to inflame more outrage or garner sympathy. I tell you this because these are my real life experiences, here in Oklahoma. This didn’t happen in Alabama in the 1950s – no, this happened here in Oklahoma in the 1990s to your neighbor and friend.

 This is why I challenge you right now to extend compassion to your neighbors. 

 It’s easy to sit back and condemn the scenes of unrest and riots in the street: “I don’t understand how destroying property helps anything.” I want to be clear: our series of experiences shapes how we view the world. We cannot judge, shame or hold opinion for the tensions and traumas felt and experienced by others. We may never fully understand the views of those in the streets who have had their own series of experiences – but we can listen, learn and support them. 

 We cannot act as a monolith – we must embrace diversity of people and diversity of thought. The path forward…

 I am really encouraged that change is on the horizon. I am encouraged by the collective calls for justice for George Floyd all those who have been victim to senseless acts of racism, hatred, police brutality and injustice. 

When I launched Poppi’s, it was conceived with the intention that anyone and everyone would be welcome. My mission was to provide a place of refuge and peace, while delivering pure wellness of body and mind. While embracing diversity, our doors have been an open and inviting space for our guests to commune with others, or find solace on their own to fill their tanks and find joy. 

 I want this intention to be prevalent in our larger world – through actions, not just words.

 I want to let you all know what measures we have taken to raise awareness and advocacy for diversity and inclusion, and how we will model the type of corporate leadership required to affect change.

One case in point: Most luxury spas and especially spas in Tulsa, are primarily white (staff and clientele). At  Poppi’s, our staff is 90% diverse. I am proud that the people whom I get to work with every day come from different racial, economic, and  physical ability backgrounds. This not only enriches my life by working alongside people with different viewpoints but it helps us to better serve and understand our community and our clients who also come from diverse backgrounds. When our guests come into our facility no matter who they are, where they come from or what they believe in, they feel welcome, they feel the sentiment that was in my heart when I built Poppi’s: You are welcome, you are valued, you are safe here. 

 

What we are doing at Poppi’s:

  • Actionable change. We will continue to show with our actions how important diversity and inclusion are.
  • Champion awareness & accessibility. We will hold more events focused on mental wellbeing and giving people effective tools for coping and existing in this stressful world. We will also make sure that these events are financially accessible to everyone.
  • Remain inclusive and open to all. We will continue to provide a place of refuge to all in our community and work diligently to make sure that everyone knows they are welcome. 

 

How you can help to create change: 

  • Talk to your family and friends about the work. The most effective opportunity to create change is at home.
  • Financially support the causes and businesses that you care about, buy their goods, services, gift cards, or make donations if you are able to, tell your friends about that business, write reviews and sing their praises if you are not. 
  • Self audit. Take an honest look at the way you invest your time and energy. Take a look at your circle of friends. Look at your biases (we all have them). Are there opportunities for your actions to better align with the views you hold publicly?

 

Finally, we hear and will continue to listen to all voices that are calling for change. We are personally committed to eradicate racism, build equity and create a culture at Poppi’s where everyone can thrive. Together, we will work towards healing, building and growing.

 

Stay safe, positive, and committed. 

TJ