Priscilla B. Dames-Blake is a nationally Certified Crisis Trainer, Conflict Resolution
Practitioner, Educator, child and community activist with over twenty years of rich and varied experience. She was selected by the Anti-Defamation League to receive training as a Facilitator/Consultant and traveled throughout Florida, the U.S.; Europe and Africa to address issues relative to racism and cultural diversity. The Mediation Training Institute International (MTI) certified her as a “Trainer of Trainers” and the Supreme Court of Florida has certified her in Court Mediation. Additionally, she is founder and President of Wingspan Seminars, which provides seminars on organizational relationships and conflict resolution.
Sister to Sister Town Hall Meeting
The Sister to Sister Town Hall Meeting had a simple purpose, for women to discuss how they can better encourage each other to step away from work, business, home and enjoy life more and to take care of themselves. The end result is to have a more enriched life with and through the support of sister friends.
Standing room only? Not even. It began to pour down rain after banners; screen and equipment were in place. Even being forced to change locations, the ladies and a few gentlemen kept coming. Through marketing, I let the interested know there were rules. Yes, rules: No politics, no pushing business or getting rich quick talk. Wingspan Seminars has hosted women’s events with a lot more flare and dazzle such as recognition programs and ‘Skydiving for Women’s Issues’. The numbers evidenced the need for this type of forum. Simply being able to laugh, talk and hug yourself and each other.
The format of the Sister to Sister Town Hall Meeting was similar to that of a talk show, particularly the Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was chosen because Ellen enters and leads with the idea of having fun through dancing and laughter. There was no keynote, rather multiple featured guests to share how they support women within their roles. The subtopics were Beauti-FULL inside and out, Sustaining Sisterly Relationships, Supporting Women in My Shoes and Tough Topics. Guests included Michelle Hollinger, Publisher of Sisterhood Magazine, Ferial Youakim of By Ferial, an international image consultant and Dr. Linell King. El Portal Mayor Claudia Cubillos, Lourdes Diaz, Jeanpierre Baptiste and Minister Elise Baptiste paneled ‘In My Shoes’, addressing how each supports women from their professional angle. Dr. Carol Clark, Psychologist and sex therapist addressed ‘Tough Topics’. My sister friends of twenty-five years include Jackie Jackson and Carol Brown. We discussed history, activities and explained how we have been able to sustain our relationship overtime.
Lastly, two areas of imminent need for women are self-concept and taking care of our health. Ferial, Director of the Ms. Austrian Beauty Pageant spoke from the heart about being Beauti-FULL inside and out. I initially felt some trepidation concerning inviting a male to be on the program. I asked, “Who better to discuss health and vitality than Dr. Linell King, my own health coach?” Perfect pick. After running to the front, Dr. King shared his personal story of adding years and vitality to his mother’s life by teaching her how to change her habits. Trying to stay close to the talk show format, the commercials were women ‘spotlighted’ to share their businesses. Oshun of Oshun Movement led us into movement that culminated into hugging yourself. This added to the laughter and purpose. By now, I have done most of my follow up. The testimonials and other feedback reinforce my thoughts; we thirst for more simple down time; no strings, just positive down time with sister friends.
The Women’s History Month Town Hall Meeting: Sister to Sister took place Thursday, March 23, at Gulfstream Park & Casino in Champions Plaza, 901 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach Florida 33009. The event began at 4:00-6:00 pm. A complimentary Happy Hour provided by Gulfstream Park will wrapped up the evening.
Men to Men: Synergize!
Wingspan Seminars' (Priscilla Dames, CEO) Men to Men: Synergize! Conference is based on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Effective People which is the foundation of Young Men’s Preparatory Academy, where the initial conference was held in 2010. The speakers infused the theme, synergize into their selected topic discussing how this habit can be applied to the students’ daily lives. Emphasis throughout the conference was on choosing the right team, surrounding themselves with positive influences and how the use that team to reach their goals. This year we added a session entitled, The Conversation. Six men from varying backgrounds discussed impacts and roadblocks encountered and lessons learned through resilience. All the women were asked to leave the sessions during the first conference. The teachers were reluctant. I loved it. This meant the boys were bonding with the men and wanted to discuss sensitive topics. This is evidenced through interviews and written evaluations from the young attendees. We’ve continued to incorporate that format. Wingspan has begun plans to include a sustainability component to the conference.
North Miami Vice-Mayor Alix Desulme sponsored the event and Dr. Steve Gallon III, School Board Member, gave the greetings. Along with our conversation leaders, the Black Affairs Advisory Board, 100 Black Men and Florida Freedom Writers (Precious Symonette, FL Teacher of the Year) were partners.
Check this video: Men to Men: Synergize ! Conference
My first women in business seminar was in Zambia.
I returned to Zambia, Africa to visit a village adopted by my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. The women were building a well to become self sufficient and sustain life for their children. While there, we met the singular chieftainess and bodyguard who took us on tour first on foot and later by boat in small watercraft. We were quite comfortable until we saw the rather large boulders in the water. The boulders we learned were instead huge water buffalo. While under the guidance of Africare, Helen Hill and I provided a workshop for the women of Parliament. That was my first women in business seminar! The minister of education presented us with this carving of a Zambian village which I’ve had replicated by a stain glass artist. We flew from there into Tanzania.
I chose the early spring after seeing Brook Shields and William Holden presenting a documentary on television about the migration of the wildebeest and zebras from Tanzania into Zimbabwe. I was fascinated. I vowed that I would soon trace their steps. When I sat in a van on those same plains watching thousands and thousands of these huge animals with their expansive horns and the largest zebras you can imagine against the most beautiful horizon I’d ever seen. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed anything more magnificent. I am still I awe... I thought how can anyone ever doubt that there is a higher being than us?
I saw broke Shields and Wiliiam Holden’s documentary on the migration of the wildebeest and zebras from Tanzania into Zimbabwe. As I watched and listened to these movie stars that didn’t look me I became jealous and wondered how they could see and touch this part of Africa without me? I vowed that I would soon trace their steps. When I sat in a van on those same plains watching thousands and thousands of these huge magnificent animals with their expansive horns and the largest zebras you can imagine I thought how anyone can ever doubt there is a god with sky 1 this magnificence that I was witnessing… Imagine watching this on the horizon. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything more wonderful. I am still I awe... I thought how can anyone ever doubt that there is a God? That there is a higher being than us?
Sometimes I refer to the Mandigo man. I finally got to see them. I haven’t discussed much conflict, however, there has been conflict riddled in most of the trips I have taken. Whether it was wearing too short shorts or the women and their children needing sustainalitiy to live or on the open plain, there was always conflict.
Entry 3 Deja’vu in Cuba
As I continued my studies in conflict resolution, I obtained permission to include Cuba. This trip was of two fold interest. As an intern studying at Nova Southeastern University, I had selected the Martin Luther King Center for my supervising organization as it has international tentacles. Thus, it was a priority to observe the Martin Luther King Nonviolent Center in Havana. Too, I went seeking any bits of information that could provide me a deeper understanding of Cubans…the ones on the island, but also the Cubans that were my neighbors, friends and colleagues in Miami. I found the Martin Luther King Center. It was surprisingly large, including sleeping quarters and its own Ebenezer Baptist Church. The center hosted international seminars teaching nonviolence. The courtyard of the Martin Luther King Institute graced a mural of Dr. King.
As my travel mates and I traveled Havana’s back roads and passed several types of homes, I experienced a deja’vu moment. I had seen the old grandeur and deteriorating architectural wonders. Now, looking at shanty homes with makeshift roofs flashed me back to Senegal, West Africa. Only one block from downtown Dakar as I wandered and peeked down an alleyway between large cement buildings, it gave that same impression of street facades, hiding homes of the impoverished. Those were the same small structures barely protecting inhabitants, the families, from the natural elements.
A second observation was also personal, with historical connections. Cuba is the most racially integrated country I have visited. As we drove through the streets, entering home s and churches, the faces and arms that greeted me were of mixed hues of very dark skin color like my own to a few very pale white. The men, women, boys and girls, next door neighbors and church members were not there because of home ownership, or employment circumstances. Instead, they were present because these were moms and dads, brothers and sisters, all one in a family and one in Christ.This, evidence of the African Diaspora in Cuba, left a most important impression
I’m having a 30 year affair. I don’t know how it began or remember where I was when I was so swept off my feet by all of her magnificence. She was called the Dark Continent so perhaps it was the unknown… Or perhaps the people she possessed or perhaps the vastness of the stretch of her arms or perhaps the hues and complexity of her people and their conflicts. It’s been an exciting journey; my lover and I-AFRICA!
As I finalized my master’s degree some 30 years ago, I knew my gift from me to me would be a visit to Africa. I didn’t know where or which country-I just knew I had to go; I was going to meet her. In those days Americans were not flocking to Africa or any other continent in the numbers that we are now so it was a great feat to even think in such definite terms… so much so that friends gave a bon voyage party. They were so proud that one of theirs was going to the mother land. As all first; that first time was sooo special. It didn’t matter that I choose Senegal because she was relatively inexpensive as compared to going to many other countries. I just wanted to stroke and hug and kiss the ground when I arrived. Like so many others, though I had done my research and was equipped with a Fodors Travel Guide and a journal, I had the stereotypical images of the trees, vast plains and the jungle. But in Dakar Senegal, my first sight instead was of the sky rises, hotels and Mercedes buzzing through the streets of downtown. Then I realized that the Mercedes were taxis. I recall being so impressed as I walked into the bank …all the faces looked like me! I was wowed by this! Within walking distance of downtown I got my first lesson in respecting another culture while traveling to their land. Popular in the states were wearing short shorts. Not so smart in a city that had Muslim residents. After receiving menacing looks and disapproving gestures, I found my way back to the hotel in a longer garment; but not before finding my chiwara, an African headpiece representing fertility. As you peeped between the buildings, you’d find close communities in homes similar to those in Overtown, Miami’s past where little boys sat on the front door stoop and porches. I also found my cora, an African Harp. When played correctly, it sounds very similar to the American harp. I was so taken with my findings that I was afraid to allow them to be shipped back; instead insisting that the large 4 foot kora be given a seat next to me on the plane. I couldn’t leave Senegal without taking an excursion into the bush where I visited a family whose father gave me the milk container he used while gathering sheep with his son. There, I met the baobab tree in all its wonder. There was a forest of trees with trunks as wide as thirty feet in diameter. Another excursion was fairing to Goree Island where I experienced my first slave house. The eeriness washed over me as I saw where the women where had upstairs in this huge peach colored building while the (other) Africans were chained to the walls in a dungeon- like dark room underneath stairs below. This is where I also saw and felt the Door Of No Return. Through the open passageway, you could see the ocean. Once the kidnapped Africans passed through this door, they were never to return to their homeland. These learnings are still with me. Years later, as Wingspan’s first business cards were made, it was graced with a tree…that same Baobab tree.
During this time I taught elementary school. It became an objective to share my stories,pictures and artifacts. One year, my students and I mapped out the trip president Clinton, Tom Joyner and later Bryant Gumble took as they oohed and awed over the door of no return on Goree Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal.
Wingspan Website blog
Feb. 23, 2015
With this being the last week of Black History Month, I am inclined to initiate my blog with conflict resolution and the affair I am having with Africa.
During the 90s my life began to transition; I and the world around me became more involved with Africa and African American history. Mandates required school systems to infuse our history across curriculums. It became my haven as I engulfed my heritage and infused it with conflict resolution. It took me to such places as being one of thirty educators selected to write national curriculum infusing African and African American History at Howard University, and meeting or working with such notables as Debbie Allen, historian Jonathan Smith, Coretta Scott King and Edward Kennedy. After beginning my doctorate in conflict analysis and resolution, I was granted permission to initiate my internship at the Conflict Resolution Centre in Kenya and finalize it in Cuba. I was able to take my daughter Ebony with me to Nakuru, Kenya where we learned how to do without toilets. We also witnessed how another culture approaches conflict. During this period, I learned that you must work with caution when bringing your values to another culture. As I trained the female staff at Egerton University in Nairobi on the societal harm caused by sexism, displeased men began to enter the training. Though they sat quietly with distain along the back of the room, the female staff members invited me to return. The topic was Whose Music is it Anyway? The Language of Conflict. My daughter, Ebony had been involved with peace initiatives at her high school while being active on a student board at Miami’s Peace Foundation. While I spoke at the university, my daughter spoke at a high school about her activities and experiences with conflict resolution in the states. I was never more proud. Ebony didn’t return home after college, making this trip even more important; one of the highlights of my life.
I invite the reader to respond with a monumental moment you had with your child.