The Importance of Cultural Immersion

Unlike most of my peers, I grew up in a very diverse environment. Being a Caucasian male, most people would view me as being a part of the “majority”. Alas, in my hometown of Nashville,Tn, I grew up in Inglewood, an area where Caucasians are the minority. My Wushu (Kung Fu) teacher was from Indonesia.  My best friends were from Cambodia and the kids at my lunch table who taught me how to unleash poetic rap verses were mostly African-American.

My mother and aunt were born in Germany. My girlfriend in tech-school was Chinese. My co-workers at my first professional job working with the Dell corporation were mainly Muslim refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. One of my first boxing students was from India who frequently invited me to events at the Hindu temple he attended services at. Needless to say, being around different types of cultures doesn’t bother or make me feel uncomfortable,in fact, I thrive on it! The notion of , “Birds of the same feather, flock together”, isn’t unfounded.

If you grew up in Japan, you probably feel comfortable being around Japanese people. If your skin is white, and your family is white, you probably feel comfortable being around those who look the same as you or share some kind of cultural similarity. It isn’t racist or bigoted to feel comfortable around those who look and believe as you do and it isn’t bigoted to feel uncomfortable around those who look different or believe different as you do…although it does say something about our world-view and experiences. (or lack thereof)

If you are not privileged enough to live a life that allows you to travel the world or take vacations outside of your hometown, do not fret! There is a way to become cultured without having to fork over thousands of dollars for plane tickets, hotels, and passports. You could joint the Army (Pray that you don’t get sent to Iraq), Join the Peace-Corps (Can you commit to two years, do you have a BA degree?), go on a religious mission….. what if none of these appeal to you. There is one last resort.

Live vicariously through other people!

Is there a Mosque in your neighborhood? Go visit! Attend a service! Do you see a foreign co-worker who sits alone and eats his/her lunch? Talk to them, get to know them, perhaps they can teach you their language or invite you to meet their family. Are you a Christian? Well, most Koreans are too! Visit a Korean church service and get to know the Korean community in your neighborhood. But, how do we approach foreigners?

It can sometimes be awkward, but with the power of Google, we can overcome such awkwardness through the power of language! By simply learning a few phrases of another language, you can instantly bridge gaps between yourself and foreigners!

I remember working as an office manager for a huge retail chain whereas we frequently has foreign customers. One time an Egyptian man comes through and is very upset that his product failed him in such a short time. He was irate! I asked him to calm down, (which he did), after he got silent, I said, “Shukran” (which means “Thank you” in Arabic). He began to smile, and he said, “You know my language!?”, I responded, “Only a few words”, and I smiled back. The entire tone of the conversation switched from negative to positive. The customer left the store happy and we resolved the situation. Even if we cannot afford or have the opportunity to travel the world, we can live vicariously through the experiences of our foreign neighbors. My Christian friends often remind me of a Bible verse, “Leviticus 19:34” – which commands us to treat foreigners as if they were our own family.

     
 (Venerable Sokham and I during Khmai New Year)

 

Last month, I was invited to attend a New Years party at a Khmer Buddhist Temple. In the Cambodian tradition, the New Year falls in the month of April, not January, as they operate on a different calendar. During this party, I had some interesting conversations with the head monk who goes by the name, “Mr.Sokham” or “Venerable Sokham”. We discussed Khmer Horoscopes, Karma, and other things related to Cambodian cultural norms. Two weeks later, I found myself attending an ordination ceremony of a newly certified monk at a Thai temple.

(Thai ordination festival)

During these events, I often have those “eureka” moments. I look around and realize, “Hey! I am the only white guy here!” Foreigners often form close knit groups who have insecurities towards native citizens such as myself. They fear they we look down upon them or we secretly want them to be deported. However, I have learned that once you earn their trust and show an interest in their culture, they will quickly adopt you as if you were an unofficial family member. During my time with Muslim refugees, Cambodian monks, Chinese law students, Hindu Clerics, so and so forth, I have never felt out of place but very welcomed because of these principles.

Our relationship with foreigners only becomes awkward when we approach them in fear. Like animals, we humans also pick up on negative vibes. If you come with arms wide-open, and a mind that extends even further, you will enrich your knowledge of how the world works. When you have an interaction with someone who is from another country, think of it as if you get to travel to their country free of charge! If you want to visit Korea, make friends with a Korean. If you want to visit Brazil, make friends with a Brazilian. If you want to smell the foods of Thailand, become friends with a Thai!

Lastly, after spending time with various different cultures, soon you find your own sense of identity began to change. I used to frequently identify myself as a “German”. And I was proud of my heritage. I still am in many ways. “Danke!” (Thank you in German).

However, after making friends with so many people from around the world, I now identify with my Humanity more than I do with my German ancestry or my American citizenship. Although those things are still very important to my character and function in society, I will never let it outshine my humanity and the qualities that are unable to be differentiated from any other person. Qualities such as compassion, a desire for food, shelter, love, and the universal challenges that face every human being, challenges like finding a job, overcoming health issues, and finding that special someone to share your life with.

At 29 years old, I’ve learned that the culture of man supersedes the culture of a nation. Yet, we cannot understand humanity as a whole until we experience the individual parts that make up that whole. Where I go next is anybody’s guess, but you can bet that it will be an adventure worth mentioning!

NALINI GLOBAL – 2017

My time with Edward Snowden’s Attorney, Ben Wizner

(Wizner, Randell Stroud (Founder of Nalini-Global)

It was October of 2015, I got the call from an old colleague  that Ben Wizner was in town  at the Nashville Public Library giving a lecture on cyber-security and how it relates to civil liberties concerns. Mr. Wizner boasts an impressive resume consisting of visits to Guantanamo Bay, handling a plethora of civil rights cases , and most recently the handling of Edward Snowden’s seditious charges of leaking classified information during his tenure working for the National Security Administration which showed that the government was monitoring its citizens’ cell phone conversations and internet usage among other things.  Snowden  currently resides in Russia under assylum status and is still wanted by the US government to stand trial for his actions.

Recent polls show that most Americans have mixed feelings towards him. Alongside his leak of  the NSA’s deemed “Spy Program”,  also known as “PRISM”, document leaks also showed a black budget of $52 million dollars and  revealed the United Kingdom’s similar spy program code-named “Tempora”. Information regarding covert operations  overseas were also revealed.

Because of this, some Americans argue that his actions endangered our nation from a foreign policy military perspective and could have negative blowback consequences towards our national security. On the other hand, civil rights leaders praise him for exposing what is seen as “overarching government intrusion”.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the facts gathered from the leak to pose many interesting questions.  Should Snowden have alerted his superiors and complained through a proper investigative agency? Is the government going too far? Should we have privacy concerns? How should we treat whistleblowers? Should we create more agencies to oversee these programs so that whistleblowers are not needed? What can we do to protect ourselves online from cyber-attacks? Should people really be put on watchlists for visiting a controversial website even by accident?

After the event was over, I pulled Ben aside and decided to pick his brain a bit and engage in a more in-depth conversation.  We both agreed that more oversight into cyber-intelligence gathering and the practice of placing people arbitrarily on “Government watchlists” needs definite reform. The most important take away from our conversation could be made in two points.

  1. How do we balance security and liberty? How can we protect our countrymen while still respecting our people’s right to privacy and their ability to speak freely without fear?
  2. If something appears unconstitutional or inhumane, we as a society need to gather and have discussions about it, especially on the local political levels.

Mr. Wizner believes that our leaders in Washington are making too many decisions on a “whim”, whereas more consideration, transparency, and a shift in our culture of detachment needs to change. My meeting with Mr. Wizner was very thought provoking and certainly does open Pandora’s box.

Is the NSA violating the 4th Amendment? Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky, engaged in a nearly two day long filibuster to explain why he thinks they are, whereas others like Governor Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham, believe that the program is a necessity in the modern cyber age in order to keep us protected from terrorism.

Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars series once said, ” Everyone is right, from a certain point of view. ” Just as in foreign policy, those who participate in war never see themselves as the enemy, but always as the liberator, but perhaps both sides have some sins to share.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I think we can all agree that its time we come together as a nation for a “house meeting” at the roundtable, and start becoming more politically active and engaging in conversation.  Its a good start to an age old argument..

Is it possible to have security while respecting liberty? Does one weaken the other?

Let us know what you think!

Nalini-Global 

2017

Family Law Courts attacked by Nalini-Global

On 3/8/2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva,Switzerland , will receive a 30 page shadow report and an additional 27 pages of semi-classified US federal court documentation (to later be published after rulings are made) displaying the gross abuse of power within the family law courts; not only in the USA but in every country around the globe.

The family law courts around the world have been responsible for mass incarceration of fathers, widespread Parental Alienation Syndrome   epidemics,  abuse of children, racism towards Indigenous native populations, increased suicide risks, and so much. Worst of all, the system that thrives off their famous slogan, “For the best interest of the children”, is profiting from such abuses.

Gender discrimination against men, and mothers who wish to transfer custody to fathers without stigma, are under-documented problems we face in our ill social structure.  Racism, rights of immigrants, women being sexually harassed in the work-place, failing economies…..all very important topics that deserve continued monitoring, yet the plight of children and parents, namely fathers, who get caught in the destructive nature of the modern domestic family law courts is deserving of equal consideration.

Please visit our “shadow report” page here  to read the full 30 page report attached to the complaint filed by myself and other effected persons of the family law courts.   This report sheds light on the thousands of fathers,mothers, and children who have been negatively effected by the family law courts, with a specific focus on fathers. Since the popular phrase “Deadbeat Dad”, became mainstream in the 1990’s, society falsely believes that fathers who are not in their children’s lives, always do so at their own discretion. Yes, some fathers do raise their children for a short time then abandon their children despite cooperation from mothers; which is dissapointing; just as some mothers have also done. But, there are many other factors to consider when trying to understand why some men are deterred and what can be done to encourage their participation in the parenting process.

This report highlights the unique social challenges that men, children, and Indigenous populations face in the family law courts, as well as society as a whole. Genital mutilation, forced military service, majority of homeless populations, majority of suicide cases, majority of bankruptcy filings, all attributed to men! In fact, there is a 2:1 odds in suicide cases showing that most men who commit suicide have either recently gone through a divorce/custody battle, or are in the process of doing so.

Since President Bill Clinton passed various federal mandates throughout his presidency increasing sanctions on unwed fathers and “accused” male spousal abusers, the incarceration rate of men has skyrocketed! Since 1994 to present, more than 70% of black children now grow up in single parent homes because their fathers are incarcerated or face economic hardship. The stats aren’t much better for white fathers. In fact, studies show that children are more likely to grow up with a family pet than they are with their father. After divorces take place, men are likely to end up in poverty or in jail.  In Massachusetts alone, fathers being arrested for getting behind on child support payments make up the bulk of the jail population. Before the 1990’s, the rate of single parent homes in the black and white communities were significantly lower, especially in the lower income areas which often hit the black communities even harder, thus resulting in more incarcerations for the Prison Industrial Complex.

Ironically, Mr.Clinton himself has been dodging paternity test requests from his illegitimate son,  Danney Williams, since the 1990’s. Perhaps the scorned Hillary decided to unleash her fury upon the entire male population through the executive powers of her husband.  Alas, the issue isn’t just with the USA. It is a global epidemic. In fact, recently, A fathers rights union filed suit against the government of Israel through the United Nations, whereas the International courts did condemn the “Tender years law” in Israel that disallows fathers to file for custody of their children until they reach the age of 7 with the arbitrary belief that, “Only mothers can care for children under the age of 7”.

Another group  that loses in family law courts are the Indigenous populations of the United States, who have very little sovereignty in cases of removal of indigenous children by DCS. (Department of Child Services.)

Please read my 30 page report with an open mind and come away with a new understanding of these issues. Nalini-Global is NOT a Women’s rights organization, a Men’s right organization, or a children’s rights organization, but rather a HUMAN right organization.  Unbiased and clear, we discuss topics that the public may not be aware of. After reading this report, you will learn about the Prison Industrial complex, the Military Industrial complex, how the State is profiting from Mothers and Fathers, and most importantly, how the system is dividing the very essence of what it means to be a human being who is entitled to equal protection under the law.

I truly believe that this report will effectively blow the lid off of the family law court conspiracy. I believe that our current situation is caused by the “blowback” effect (A popular CIA term  used to describe the consequences of militaristic foreign policies) .  Marginalized groups of people are discriminated against or harmed, thus, those groups seek more power, then that group becomes the discriminator, and the cycle of hate and war continues. Victims become bullies.

My report exposes the false presumption of “welfare spending is bankrupting countries”, “Illegal immigrants have babies and don’t pay taxes”, “Men who cannot pay child support are deadbeat dads”, “women who lose custody of their children are drugs addicts”, …… all of these are stereotypes that are based on very loose understandings of a major social problem that is linked with bad economics and bad governance.

My report is broad and generalized and covers many topics, it even dissects parts of the Federal Reserve system, yet, when you realize that the family unit is the starting point for any culture or nation of people, all of its other problems can be traced to it. The economy, war, military spending, crime, ….it is all linked to the family law courts in some way.

We live in a time where we are supposed to pledge allegiance to flags and invisible borders, yet we must stay silent in our prayers to our chosen Gods, and we must ask for permission for nearly everything we do. Have you noticed that, in order to maintain your freedom, we are being exposed to an increasing number of laws and mandates in order to remain unincarcerated?  1 in 4 Americans will experience jail time in their lives.  The United States of America has the largest prison population on Earth, with 75% of its inmates being incarcerated for NON-VIOLENT crimes (i.e. legal technicalities) it is a huge money making racket for the elites.

However, I am optimistic. With the publication of my report, among many other efforts and advocacy done on my part and by others, we can work together through the proper channels and get a conversation going! Creating more laws isn’t the answer to creating a moral society. The more laws you  create, the more criminals are created. If wearing black socks became illegal, I would become a criminal in this very moment! It is truly that arbitrary. Simple words on paper, which can transform ordinary men and women into criminals who aren’t allowed to drive a car, leave the country, or obtain employment.  It is a cycle of destruction.

If you or someone who know has been effected by these issues, please read my report, print off as many copies as you can and send them to you legislators, governors, Prime Ministers, NGOS, Governmental bodies, or as a reference to your own research or case-work.

Many are chanting, “Let’s make America great again”…..  I say, “Lets make humanity a family again.”  What effects men effects women, what effects women effects men. We are interlinked in our struggles. It high time we realize such truths.

Nalini-Global

2017 TM

Naliniglobal@yahoo.com

 

From Vietnam to Nashville: Migrant brings awareness to homelessness

SUNDAY OCT 9TH, 2016

When we think of homelessness, images of alcoholism, criminal records, and drug abuse tend to come to mind. However, the causes of homelessness and the factors that keep the homeless from re-entering society are not necessarily interchangeable.  A young woman named, Leah Huynh,26, a migrant from Vietnam who was raised in Tennessee, decided to take it upon herself to understand the plight of the homeless through the lens of her own past struggles.

“Back in Vietnam,  I remember my parents working from dusk till dawn, just to provide a place to stay for us. Often times we had very little to eat, yet my father instilled in me that a little can go a long way, and whatever we had, someone else had less, so we must take it upon ourselves to give and share.” 

Huynh, wanting to be a role-model to her son, had always wanted to give back to the down-trodden and had finally decided to take action! Ms.Huynh reached out to Nalini-Global’s very own, Randell Stroud-Sagara, in order to strategically create an out-reach mission. Sagara himself, having experienced a brief period of homelessness in 2014, due to a series of unfortunate events, was somewhat acquainted with the homeless community through his time spent at the Nashville Rescue mission.

We began our quest at Nashville’s “Tent City”, located in East Nashville, off of a major parkway. The campsite, located adjacent to a railroad system, was fairly well kept. Approximately 15 patrons were held up in the location. Upon entry into the camp, the scene was quiet in the midday. We peaked our heads around for several minutes, noticing tables, laundry lines, and tents scattered inside a bushy yet well groomed forrest that effectively camouflaged their whereabouts from the public.

Eventually a man approached us from his dwelling and nervously asked, “What can I do for you?”. I said, “My name is Randy, I came here the other day and spoke to “Jeff”, we are the one’s who are bringing water.”   He replied, “Oh right! He told me about you!” . Courtesy of Ms.Huynh, over 30 gallons of water was donated to the campsite. While we unloaded the canisters from our car, more camp-dwellers approached us from the bush. A young man and his girlfriend who appeared to be in their early 20’s were the first to do so.

They shared their stories of struggle and explained the cycle of poverty. As one of the dwellers explained to me,

” We are the secret side of America that are routinely forced outta sight. Living as third world refugees in a 1st world country. Most Americans are one paycheck away from being evicted, one car repair from losing their job, one divorce away from losing half your income, one health problem away from going bankrupt, one traffic ticket away from losing your drivers license. With the average rent in Nashville being close to $800 dollars per month, plus electricity, and other costs, including transportation, the advice of “go get a job” isn’t enough. The average entry level job pays between 8-10$ per hour. Good luck trying to keep a damn roof over your head on that! Many of us get so depressed that once we end up on the street, that yes, many of us do turn to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, and that ends up landing us in jail for petty offenses or we lose our licenses for not being able to afford to pay off a simple traffic ticket. It costs over $80 a month for metro transit. Once we lose our transportation and acquire records, we become slaves to our parole officers that we must pay every month, then employers dont want to hire us, and on top of all of it, many of us who end up on the streets suffer from bad credit, therefore no apartment complex even wants to take us in. I truly feel like those who live in poverty are made into criminals, not the other way around.” 

I asked about the dwellers’ view on the Nashville Rescue mission, and they all tended to have similar views and experiences that I too hold even to this day. The Rescue mission panders to donations, shoos away competitors, and has strict admittance rules into their program. Many who enter the mission become dependent and never make it out. The strict rules make it almost impossible to maintain a work schedule unless you are lucky enough to find a traditional 9-5 job working on the weekdays only.

For these reasons, among many others, the dwellers of the “Tent City” elect to brave the elements for the sake of less restrictions and more flexibility in who they trust. Unlike the Rescue mission, which operates more like a prison, the campsites act as a community, where they make newcomers earn their keep and develop trusting relationships. As one of the dwellers told us,

” Many volunteers and other homeless people come through these parts who seem innocent enough, yet they take advantage of us for media gain or in the case of outsiders who wish to join our camp, seek to take advantage of our kindness by selling the food that we gave to them for free in order to profit off of other homeless people. We really have to police ourselves in this community and help eachother rise out of this situation.” 

Most of the dwellers wanted to remain anonymous and expressed fear of those claiming to want to help them. Due to Governor Bill Haslam’s “anti-camping law”, that was passed back in 2013 as a retaliation against “Occupy Nashville Protestors”, the state has the discretion to arrest anyone they see sleeping on so called, “public property”. Luckily, these particular tent dwellers, have the local railroad company backing their plight through their own land deed on the soil they temporarily call home.

During our initial water drop, we noticed a caravan arrive with two men inside. One of the camp-leaders pulled me aside and said, “There is Steve and Eddie”.  Apparently, they were the founders of “Homestreet  Home Ministries”, a local non-profit that spends its days driving around the city feeding the homeless and mentoring at-risk individuals through lectures and seminars. Steven Young, was once homeless himself he states. Upon meeting us he explains,….

” I was homeless for 3 years. I thought it was only going to last about two months but it turned out to be a more difficult situation than I had imagined”.

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(Eddie Sanchez,Steven Young, Stroud, Leah Huynh at a homeless campsite.)

Things turned around when he met Eddie Sanchez. A passerby who walked past Young on a daily basis. Eventually they formed a friendship, Young worked his way off the streets, and the pair formed their non-profit.  Both men have stark contrasts. Steven, a tall heavier set male, who is has a bear-like grip and a non-nonsense attitude, yet speaks with honor and great passion. Whereas Eddie has long hair, very soft-spoken, and has a razor-sharp focus.  The pair have quite the chemistry!

As myself and Ms.Huynh finished passing out the water, we engaged in a two hour long discussion with the pair alongside the camp dwellers. Young shared my sentiments about the Rescue mission and other so called non-profits in the area who had turned “corporate”, (a slang term meaning that the organizations had become recognized and profitable, thus you saw very little of their presence in the field of out-reach, instead you can find their workers on the phone begging for monetary donations.) Young and Sanchez explained that their organization uses about 95% of their donations to directly aide the homeless, whereas the rest was used to cover gas and website expenses.

Young, the more vocal of the two, gave me his straightforward analysis,

” About 30% of the homeless are committed to getting off the street. The rest have given up and succumbed to addiction or depression. We try to give extra resources to those we feel are putting in the extra work to get off the street, yet, regardless of how you live your life, it is our oath under God to feed anyone who is hungry and cloth anyone who doesn’t have a shirt on their back. Everyone has potential, and we want that 30% number to rise, but it’s going to take some tough love,reforms in the economy and justice system. We don’t sugar-coat anything, and we hold these people accountable. I too was once homeless and understand the pit-falls they face. I am not afraid to show tough love to those we help. And by tough-love, I mean, taking away their beer bottles and giving some heart to heart lectures that they don’t want to hear but need to hear!”  

Some may be shocked to hear a non-profit leader who is also a minister to speak in such blunt terms, but you cannot really argue with his logic. While many organizations coax their donors into pity and victimhood in order to seek larger donations, Young and Sanchez obviously believe in a pragmatic and balanced approach! An approach that is noble and quite refreshing, especially after having worked in the non-profit sector where seeking donations tend to take precedent over actually helping those intended to benefit from said donations.

After sharing stories and making friends with Steven and Eddie, Ms.Huynh organized a fleet of her friends and family on sunday Oct.9th to distribute over 50 boxes of pizza, 13 cases of water bottles, and care packages hand-made by Huynh and her friends, which mainly consisted of hygienic products to the homeless population in Nashville.  I decided to meet Ms.Huynh alongside her friends at “Tent city” to start “Operation Pizza”.  Steven and Eddie later met up with us and agreed to aquaint us with other homeless outposts scattered throughout Davidson county.

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What we saw was life-changing and profound. People living alone in tents alongside intricately carved paths in secluded forests,  larger groups living next to river embankments, young people with college degrees sleeping on couches underneath bridges, and the list goes on.  During our journey, as we drove around town with our fleet of cars, passing out supplies, we came across all types. Those who had given up, and those who clearly were working to get out of the situation. One person I came across even had a business-plan written  up and was asking me for advice on how to obtain a business license. He had saved money for lawn-care equipment and a hotdog stand through his work with temp agencies.

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During our journey, we also came across many innovations. One homeless man had an interest in “off the grid” living tactics and managed to build a wind-turbine energy generator and a solar generator that he made himself using spare parts from toys and leftover electronic equipment.  It allowed him to charge his cell-phone, power a small fan, and a radio for entertainment.  He explained the mechanics of how he built it, however, his knowledge was vastly superior to mine on the subject material. I was truly impressed.  The man, who called himself, “Terry”, humorously explains.

” I cant get a job without a phone to answer. And I cant make it to work if I die of a heat-stroke. And I can’t smile without a song to dance to!” 

I also kept hearing the name, “Champ”, being mentioned in the homeless camps that we came across. Apparently he was a bit of a legend. I briefly mentioned my background in boxing, and his name would come up everytime.  “Champ”, was a former state boxing champion who had a promising career in the sport of boxing before he lost his family and ended up on the streets. I asked to arrange a meeting with him, but later learned from another homeless man that he had checked into rehab. I hope to look for him in the future and possibly connect him with the boxing scene in Nashville and allow him to teach some of my students as I myself am a boxing coach. Anyone who has his resume in the sport can surely be an asset to young up and coming fighters. His story and expertise could potentially make him the perfect coach and mentor for other fighters. (Stay tuned for that developing story)

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(Ponce and Stroud: Ponce is a homeless single-father with a heartbreaking tale. )

As our day of outreach came to a close, we shared moments of laughter, encouragement, humbleness, outrage, pity, empathy, and a whole slew of emotions. In fact, we even managed to attract a few hecklers who criticized our efforts stating that we were wasting our time. Nevertheless, as Ms.Huynh put it so eloquently in her own words,

” This isn’t about what they decide to do with the resources we give them. It’s about doing what is right. Standing by those who are going without, and letting society know that we do care. Even if there is only a percentage of homeless who are dedicated to getting off the streets, it doesn’t matter to me. I give because it feels good to give, and I have seen first-hand what it feels like to be hungry. My father instilled this quality of compassion in me. It’s here and I can’t get rid of it, so I’am going to continue my efforts because it feels right! If you have a bed, a roof over your head, and you know where your next meal is coming from, then you’re in a position to help! Because these people don’t have those things. If for nothing else, do it for your karma. Someday, you may find yourself in need of its blessing.”

Re-Painting the Face of Poverty

Over the weekend, Nalini-Global had the opportunity to explore the Nashville Night-Market, a monthly event that takes place in the heart of metro-Nashville. A slew of local vendors and organizations set up shop in an old abandoned warehouse space now used for event spacing popularly known as “The Bridge Below Space” near the Farmers market, which is owned and managed by a kind-hearted man named “AJ Sankari”.

During the event, we met fire-spinners, t-shirt makers, singers, dancers, and a variety of other performers and vendors. However, there was one particular booth that really caught our attention. Nicole Brandt, of “Poverty and The Arts”, a local non-profit organization, had a showcase of handmade jewelry, paintings, and other products. Alas, these were not just any typical flea-market items, these pieces had a story behind them. Each product has a small photo and paragraph attached to the item telling a special story about the artist. The stories were quite shocking and very motivational. (Keep reading!)

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“Poverty and the Arts” was started by Nicole Brandt, a graduate of Belmont university, who became curious of the homeless and the reasons behind their situation. As a student on campus, she began to approach the homeless and have real in-depth conversations with them. What she learned from them forever changed her perspective on the homeless. The common stigma of homelesness soon washed away in her eyes.

Many of the homeless that she became friends with had Bachelors degrees, were extremely talented in art, were former business owners, did not have drug problems, and were not criminals of any sort. They were simply people who got caught in a momentum of bad luck.  One particular homeless woman that Ms.Brandt works with is a master painter, artist, and has a Bachelors Degree in internal medicine and is seeking to complete med school once she finds housing. She has bad credit, no family, and cannot find employment that pays enough to sustain her while attending school, thus the streets have been here home for the last two years. The easy response is to say, “Get a job”, yet when we consider that one would have to work over 80 hours per week working minimum wage just to afford housing in the metro nashville area, the situation becomes more complex. And that doesn’t include transportation costs, groceries, electricity, and the very real prospect of being refused housing if your credit score isn’t high enough. Where do these people go then?

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Crushing debt, divorce, job loss, a criminal record, bad credit, lack of family support, low paying jobs, missed child support payments resulting in a loss of drivers license, medical bills, legal issues, car trouble that results in a job loss…..the struggles of daily living and the cost of living may not seem fathomable to those who come from stable families or who have always been blessed with high paying careers, or who have never suffered a set-back, but for many of us, both young and old, poverty is just right around the corner for many Americans. Numerous statistics estimate that nearly half of Americans only make enough to cover their monthly expenses and are one emergency away from being in debt or losing everything.

Mrs.Brandt decided to take action and approached the homeless here in Nashville and specifically sought out those who have artistic ability. Through her organization, she offers workshops in entrepreneurship and assists the homeless in selling their products. And that is exactly what she did at the Night-Market event. She actively sells the products created by the homeless themselves, whereas the homeless artist gets to keep nearly all of the profit gained from the items being sold, with a small percentage being vested back into the nonprofit’s operational expenses.

 

Since the creation of the project back in 2009, most of the homeless that she has worked with have been able to pay their way through school, make enough money to feed themselves, gain artist sponsorship, start businesses and many other positive consequences as a result. Other local Non-profits such as “Open-Table”, (A non profit specializing in affordable housing) has also joined forces with “Poverty and the Arts.” We at “Nalini-Global”,also had the chance to share our message of international unity, human rights, and universal rights with Ms.Brandt. In the future, we hope to offer seminars on legal rights, contract formations, and host boxing seminars for those interested in learning how to become a coach in the sport and/or as a form of physical fitness to benefit their overall well-being.

For those who have no family to turn to, who have fallen on hard times, or continue to suffer due to life circumstances, we have to become more compassionate and offer better solutions than just yelling out , “Get a job.” For many, simply getting a job is not enough to cure their needs. While there are those who are homeless because of the poor choices they made who also have no desire to better their situation, there are just as many if not more, who are simply victims of a marginalized growing sub-culture of people who are being forced to forego an education due to cost or work multiple jobs to barely make ends meet. Many people in their late 20’s and early 30’s are being forced to return home to live with family, have multiple roommates with strangers or even worse, ….attempting to live off credit cards which ultimately lead to crushing debt, all in the face of trying to survive the daily grind.

Governor Bill Haslam has responded to the issue of homelessness by passing a “no camping” law back in 2010 to combat protestors who slept on the steps of Legislative plaza, which inadvertently made it illegal to be homeless in the state of Tennessee. Despite the mass number of frivolous arrests and blowback from public opinion, the law has yet to be reversed or modified.

For many who have no support from family, they are left to the mercy of the welfare system, cronyism in the marketplace, or exploitation in the workplace. Some say that the answer is “socialism”, while others say we need to remove vendor regulations and allow people to enter the free-market with less red-tape. Regardless of liberal or conservative economic philosophies, I think there is an answer that lies in a separate realm. .EMPATHY

If we invest in our neighbors voluntarily, or take 5 minutes out of our day to point someone in the right direction who may have never had mentorship, it could make all the difference in elevating our city, our state, our nation, our continents, and eventually the entire world with a simple shift in our persepctive. When we remove the arbitrary lines drawn between us on a map, what we have left is human beings who all seek the same things; food, clothing, shelter, and love. And it is through love that we find our passions while also helping others find theirs.

If you are interested in learning more about “Poverty And the Arts”, please check out their website at:

Povertyandthearts.org

phone # 502-600-1221

 

 

Tennessee Immigrants Protest Deportations

 

Last Friday, approximately 15-25 Immigrants and sympathizers, marched alongside the “Tennessee Immigration and Refugee Rights Coalition” to speak out against the practice of deportation.

Our team approached respectfully and courteously holding our “Fight 4 World Peace” signature sign, and was met with smiles,high-fives, and was invited to walk alongside them. Police carefully monitored the event, yet the protesters were respectful and paid no mind. After the event was over, everyone peacefully dispersed, including the police, without incident.

Watch the video above as one of the organizers who went by the name of “Veronica”, came to the logical conclusion that humans are not “Aliens from another planet”, but “Human beings who have the right to move and travel.”   As the birds move to more fertile grounds without violence or regulation during the change of seasons, we must ask ourselves….

Have humans de-humanized themselves? What separates us? Before the invention of maps, borders, countries, citizenry, and other artificial constructs, what did it mean to be “human” and were early humans even conscious of their humanity? Perhaps their unconsciousness was a blessing in disguise as their lack of perception made it difficult to distinguish. Now, with our supposed superior intellect, we distinguish from one another with such harshness and disregard to a human’s will and necessity to not only survive, but thrive.

Tennessee has become a popular immigration destination in recent years to Egyptian, Nepali, and Latino sub-groups.  Put yourself in their shoes. What if the conditions here become what is there? What would you do? When we strip away language, nationality, and religion, what are we left with? Humans who are seeking food, clothing, shelter and most importantly……social bonding with other loving and welcoming humans.

If  we are to live in such a regulated society, can we not atleast make the transition from one place to another more practical, humanizing, and streamlined?

The only thing that separates us from the animals is the belief that we are separate. We think of being as a separate species makes us superior, but in what ways?….in what ways? One reason can no longer be enough. We can do better than this…

 

-Nalini Global

2016

Stuart Gordon: “MMA fighter turned innovator”

Recently, we here at “Nalini”, a non-profit geared towards children, community projects, and the reconstruction of southeast Asia, had the opportunity to interview an MMA fighter who goes by the name, Stuart “Flash” Gordon. Like the comic book character, “Flash Gordon”, this Gordon is just as intelligent and athletic as his superhero counterpart.  He is 36 years old, grew up near Queens, New York, and has had quite a journey thus far which has now landed him in Wichita Falls, Texas, where he fights out of “Fight Science” gym.

Here at Nalini, we seek to cover unique individuals who will serve as inspirational figures for the communities in which we serve. One of our founding members has a martial arts background, thus it seemed like a perfect opportunity to interview a fellow martial artist in order to showcase the character building qualities that the arts give its practitioners.

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(MMA fighter and innovator, Stuart Gordon, 36, 5-1 in MMA competition)

Here is a summarized paraphrased transcript of our interview:

Nalini: How did you get started in martial arts and what was your motivation for getting involved?

Gordon: I was the type of kid who was on the skinny-side and found myself getting into a few fights because of it. You know, people sometimes judge you based on your appearance and think it is ok to treat you a certain way because of it. My mom took notice of these occurrences and encouraged me to seek out martial arts training.

Nalini:  What was your early training experiences like?

Gordon:  I started off training in Wing Chun Kung Fu near Queens. I would rush home everyday after school to meet up with my Sifu (chinese martial art term for “coach”). He only took on a few private students in a converted garage-styled gym. Even though it was a traditional martial art that he was teaching, he allowed us to practice it in a very free-form way. We didn’t rely solely on pre-arranged forms like other styles, he allowed us to freestyle on heavybags and spar with minimal restriction.

Nalini: How long did you train in this style and when did you start to notice that martial arts was changing you for the better?

Gordon:  I trained in Kung Fu for a few years, and during that time I did notice changes within myself. People always got onto me about being skinny and appearing weak, so I began to really indulge in strength training and old-school conditioning methods like banging my forearms and shins against hard objects to harden my bones. I figured I would turn the thing that people made fun of into a weapon, my bones. When my partners would do blocking drills with me they would make comments as to how solid my structure was and how hard my body was even though I wasn’t a large person. These type of comments made me realize that my dedication was beginning to mean something.

Nalini: Where did the transition to MMA competition start to happen?

Gordon: After graduating high school, naturally, your life starts to change. You begin to experiment with romance, working, and generally just experiencing adult life. I never had the luxury of training consistently in one gym early on because martial arts classes can be quite expensive. I gym hopped for quite a while because of it. When I started to attend Purdue University, I found myself being exposed to different types of people and clubs. There I got to cross-train in Judo, Catch-wrestling, and even Kendo which really helped with my range and timing.

Nalini:  What do you think allowed you to be so open to different styles of martial arts? Prior to MMA going mainstream , I remember it being frowned upon to cross-train in different styles, unless it was a JKD affiliated gym. Some viewed it as being disloyal to their teachers or admitting that their singular style wasn’t perfect.

Gordon: Very true! I think it was a combination of things. My first martial arts teacher from my Wing Chun days was traditional yet pragmatic. Like I said earlier, he was traditional and made us do structured drills,learning forms, but allowed us to freestyle as well. Also, growing up where money was sometimes tight, I was always looking to get training wherever I could get it, so it didn’t matter who was teaching or what style it was as long as I got to participate.

Nalini: Obviously you eventually got stable training partners, who were some of your early and current MMA coaches.

Gordon:  I briefly moved back to New York after college, and then I began to seriously consider MMA. It was in the early 2000’s and MMA was slowly starting to become mainstream. I started to train with “Team Mad Dog TKD and D’arce BJJ.” The D’arce family is credited with creating the famous “DARCE” choke, which is actually a mispronunciation of “D’arce”.  (Dee-Are-Say)

Nalini: What was it like training with such a well known family in the Martial arts community?

Gordon: It was great! The family originally had a Taekwondo pedigree before they became famous for their BJJ skills, so I also got to experience different types of kicking techniques and how to deal with them. Most MMA gyms only offer training in striking arts like Boxing and Muay Thai. The kicks in TKD are usually a little weaker but much faster and come from awkward angles. I enjoy learning and retaining little tricks from traditional martial arts to mix up my MMA game so that I do not become a predictable MMA fighter that just relies on the standard jab,cross, roundhouse combination.

Nalini: So how did your first MMA fight come to be?

Gordon: I ended up going back to Indiana and it is there that I met ,Tom Norris, who was training MMA fighters. I began training with him consistently and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to fight presented to me. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be, I was actually quite excited to see the collected years of my training put to the test to see where I measured up.

Nalini: How did it go?

Gordon: I won in the first round via triangle. The triangle choke became my bread and butter for a while and I become known for it in our gym. Just as in life, being able to fight off your back is an important skill. Anybody can be the aggressor, but to be able to secure a victory from a seemingly disadvantageous position is even more impressive in my eyes.

Nalini: What did you feel after your first victory in MMA?

Gordon: I have (5)wins and (1) loss  in MMA right now, but I have to say that my first fight was a positive reinforcement for me. After winning, I looked at Tom, my coach, and I thought to myself, “This is what I’ve been training to do my whole life. My training wasn’t for nothing, it now means something.I can now effectively measure myself.”

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Nalini: Do you have any competition experience prior to MMA?

Gordon: I did a “Leitei” tournament in 1996 and some BJJ tournaments, but the feeling couldn’t compare to winning in the cage.

Nalini: “Leitei”? I used to compete in those myself! Tell me about you experience with that! That was back in the day when “Cung Le” was putting Sanshou on the map.

Gordon: Well, as you know, Leitei competitions are fought under Sanshou rules. Punches, kicks, and throws are allowed but no groundfighting. I truly believe that Sanshou is one of the best ways to transition into MMA. It really gets you used to striking while remaining conscious of takedowns without having to worry about the submission elements.

Nalini: So have you ever had to use your martial art skills in real life scenarios?

Gordon: Yes. I did work security detail in a few bars and nightclubs. I used both the physical and mental benefits of martial arts there. Physically, I mainly relied on Jujitsu and restraining techniques. You always had to be on the lookout for weapons and being able to spot them and restrain the person before they got the chance to use them. Secondly, I used mental or verbal judo to de-escalate situations. After being punched and choked out in practice so many times, being intimidated or trying to act tough wasn’t an issue for me. I stayed calm and confidently showed that I wouldn’t be bullied, and most people would just walk away after venting for whatever reason.

Nalini:  Why did you quit that type of work?

Gordon:The opportunity for people to sue you and other potential liabilities swayed me away from it. I learned alot about myself and people during that time, but it got old.

Nalini: What is one of your weakest traits that martial arts has strengthened?

Gordon: I am naturally a very impatient person. But, martial arts taught me to breakdown my work efforts and gave me a comparative study. In martial arts, we start with basic stances and stretches, and over time we learn individual techniques and slowly learn to string them together. After some time, we look back and say, “Wow, when did I get so good at this?” Life is the same way. It’s like when I studied Calculus in college, at first it was really intimidating but after I realized that it was just a step-by-step process combined with theories and concepts, I realized that it was an identical process to martial arts training.

Nalini: That is very profound! I came to the same conclusions myself. Martial arts truly can be a metaphor for all of life’s challenges! So, where has this new found level of patience brought you now?

Gordon: It has brought me to Texas. I came out here recently for a job installing Solar panels, and discovered that my coach Tom Norris was also moving to the same area. Now I’ve partnered up with “Fight Science” gym here in Wichita Falls and that is where I will be training and representing. Tom is like family to me, great guy, and the Fight Science gym is attracting a lot of local talent.

Nalini: That’s really cool! Sounds like your always on the cutting edge and aren’t afraid to develop yourself. But, let me ask you, you are 36, what happens after martial arts? We all succumb to age, disease, injury, or other issues that eventually force us out of the fight game.

Gordon: I could see myself fighting for an organization like “OneFC” , but this is a topic I have thought about. I enjoy coaching a few of my friends here and there, but I couldn’t see myself coaching on a large-scale, there are already enough talented coaches out here. I want to be an innovator. Just as I am passionate about solar-energy and alternative forms of energy, I also want to change the way we train in the martial arts community.

Nalini: Creating new training tools?

Gordon: Exactly! Martial arts training has had the same motivational rationale for centuries. Competition, health, coaching, or self-defense. I want to create ways that people can enhance their training beyond their mental motivations. Technology is all about individual empowerment. I am interested in robotics, product engineering, and similar avenues that can give practitioners more autonomy in their training so that they can maximize their efforts in solo-practice. Who knows, we could even be training with cyborgs in the future, and I am ok with that!

Nalini: You sound alot like Bruce Lee. Little do people know that he designed training tools in his spare time and was in the process of designing a heavy-bag that could hit back. Sadly, he passed away, but I like your mindset. Think of a trainer like “Freddy Roach”, if someone never invented focus mitts, he could be out of a job today! If not for the product designer, the famed users of said product could have never existed! I’m stretching a bit far of course, but you get the idea!

Gordon: You hit the nail on the head! I would love to be the guy that changes the way people train and coach.

Nalini: I am really excited to see where your journey takes you next. You seem to be a very positive thinker and inspiring person. That is precisely why I wanted to interview you. Who knows, one of our supporters may be reading your story and is becoming inspired to take charge of their life as a result. I hope that you and your associates will continue a relationship with our organization. We plan to hold martial art seminars to inspire locals and raise funds for crumbling schools in southeast Asia.

Gordon: I’m all about building relationships with like minded people. Maybe in the future we can train together and trade knowledge. I think what you guys are doing is great and will definitely get the word out about Nalini.

Nalini: Alright! Sounds like a plan! I’ll be sure to share links for you team and current projects. Any final thoughts for our readers?

Gordon: Whatever you’re doing in life, after you have done it enough times, the skill itself won’t be as important as the effort it took to get there. I’m proud of myself for coming this far, but nobody does it alone. My mother passed away three years ago, and that moment changed my outlook and and made me question what I really wanted in life. Don’t be afraid of those crossroads.  Stay open to experiences. I am an open-book and am always available so long as the experience is emitting positivity.

Nalini: My condolences for your mother, I’m sure she is watching over you with pride and joy. Thank you once again for being so open with us and sharing your story. You have left us with some powerful words to meditate upon. I look forward to seeing what comes next for you in your evolution as a man, a martial artist, and human being.

Gordon: Thank you for reaching out! I look forward to future partnerships with you and your organization, and love what you guys are doing! I’m here anytime you want to collaborate.  I want to say thanks to my team and all of those who have supported me over the years, it’s been great and there is still more to come.

-Team Nalini

#naliniglobal

2016

Want to stay in contact with Stu?

check out Stu Gordon’s sponsors, team, and affiliated projects below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Non-profit Calls out to Martial Artists & Boxers

“Nalini” aka “Nalini Global”, is a non-profit organization based out of Nashville,Tn. Its core goals are to improve the lives of children domestically and abroad with a concentration on southeast Asian countries like Cambodia,Laos, and Thailand, through a variety of methods including donating money to crumbling school districts, hungry families, and taking part in local community works projects like teaching boxing classes, giving seminars on Asian/Buddhist cultures, clean-up projects, and more. In this article, we will focus on how the martial arts and spirituality can give a struggling soul the chance to thrive.  Anyone who has knowledge of Asian culture knows the correlations between martial arts, spirituality, and their focus on self-improvement.

One of Nalini’s founding members has a background in martial arts and decided to pay homage to this revelation by seeking out professional fighters and prominent martial artists to represent “Nalini”, by sporting their apparel during fights or promotional outings.   If one were to travel to Thailand or China, this marriage of spirituality and martial arts are not uncommon. In fact, many Muay Thai kickboxers allow Buddhist monks to tattoo their backs with protection mantras/spells written in Sanskrit alongside other symbolic symbols or famous deities like the powerful “Hanuman”.  In Cambodia, they have a similar tradition through their form of kickboxing known as “Pradal Serey.”

Before Muay Thai or Pradal Serey bouts, fighters often perform a dance like warm-up called the “Wai Kru” in Thailand. It serves as a way to loosen up, pay respect to teachers, and to gain favor from karma. The fighters also wear special arm bands and headbands during their Wai Kru dance that are often soaked in holy water and blessed by Buddhist monks in order to offer the fighter protection from physical harm.

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(Children performing the Wai Kru ritual to pay respects to their teachers and to the ways of Karma.) 

In China, many of their martial art systems also incorporate Buddhist and Taoist forms of meditation and philosophy ingrained into their training routines.  Western martial arts like Boxing and Wrestling also have correlations with adhering to honor codes and creeds as well. While these arts are not as esoteric and mystical as Muay Thai or Kung Fu, the same process of self-realization, discipline, respect, and self-awareness are still quite profound. In fact, a part of what we do here at Nalini incorporates the teaching of martial arts to local children free of charge as a way to give back to the community.

The word “Nalini” literally translates as “Lotus”. In  Buddhist lore, the lotus represents the struggle to become enlightened, as a lotus sprout must rise through muddy waters in order to reach full bloom. Just as a fighter must start out as a weakling before conditioning his/her body to become strong and mind focused.

Considering these things, it makes perfect sense to reach out to fighters and martial artists to represent Nalini. We are looking to sit down with active fighters and coaches, interview them on how martial arts has helped them grow spiritually, and have them wear our apparel during one of their promotions, fights, or media outings. It is a win-win-win situation. Everyone benefits!  One local Cambodian-American fighter by the name of “Kosal Bun”, who has a Muay Thai fight coming up in June, has agreed to be our first spotlighted fighter who we will soon write an article on.

So, if you are a fighter, coach, or well known martial artist and want to support a great cause, please contact us @ NaliniGlobal@yahoo.com  or for a faster response, message us on our facebookpage @ www.facebook.com/Naliniglobal

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(Pick up a Nalini Boxing shirt from our store page! Complete with a Sanskrit protection spell written on the back!) click here  (proceeds from any shirt sales will go towards volunteer efforts)

TEAM NALINI- 2016

A busy week for Cambodia- Students bear heatwave

Cambodia seems to be all the rage this week in the news. UN Human rights workers being accused of bribery in the region (albeit some say it is unfounded and politically motivated), Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s tour through south east Asia that blatantly excluded Cambodia possibly due to political tensions with the aforementioned UN scandal, tourism records being broken (rise from 2.5 million tourists in 2010 to 4.8 million tourists visiting Cambodia (most notably in Siem Reap) in 2015.

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Amongst all of these incidents, the young students of Cambodia are not exempt. A heat wave caused by  “El Nino” (a warming phenomenon stirring in the pacific ocean),  has swept across the country with temperatures as high as 42 degrees Celsius (or 107 degrees Fahrenheit)  being recorded. Cambodia’s education minister, Hang Chuon Naron, signed a rule into effect today that requires schools to release students one hour early until the rainy season begins which will bring cooler temperatures.

Like most government ran public schools in Cambodia, funding is sparse, thus conveniences like A/C or high powered fans are not always available.  School officials have been advised to keep students well hydrated and to monitor everyone for signs of heat-stroke.  Dizziness, lack of sweating, and light headedness are usually the first symptoms to be on the look out for.

Cambodia isn’t the only area effected in the region. Thailand’s governmental authorities seem to be following suit in similar fashion as their students and populace face the wrath of El Nino.

Unlike here in Tennessee or other places in the world that have a winter season that includes snow and ice, south-east Asian countries have a “rainy season” instead. A period that is usually somewhere between late August to October where temperatures cool off anywhere from 10-25 degrees from what the summer season has to offer.

Until then, the tough students of Cambodia and Southeast Asia must hang on. Hopefully, Nalini, and other organizations like ours,  can raise funds to provide an air conditioner for every classroom. As if studying with limited supplies isn’t hard enough without having to deal with boiling hot temperatures. If you thought paying attention in class was challenging, try doing it when you are on the verge of having a heat-stroke!

Our prayers are with the students and people of Cambodia,Southeast Asia , and every determined student around the world fighting to give themselves a certified/verifiable education.

-Team Nalini

2016