Clyde Terry’s life story reads like Superhero fiction. Sergeant Terry is a retired 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and former U.S. Marine. In 2003, he took a leave of absence from the Sheriff’s Department to assist the U.S. State Department as an International Police Advisor in their rebuilding efforts in Iraq. The experience was life-changing.
Soon after his return to Los Angeles, Clyde began working directly with ex-prisoners, gang members and homeless youth to transform their outlook and their lives. He started Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) in 2009 – which became a Non-Profit in 2014 – with the aim of being part of the solution to the nationwide incarceration quagmire, out of which there seems to be no way out.
Dedicated to stopping the cycle of despair and violence through empowering words and providing participants with new thought-tools for transformational thinking, Clyde’s Socratic groundbreaking approach has lead to an astounding overall 77% success rate: 7 out of 10 graduates of the program refrain from or no longer have negative interaction or contact with law enforcement. This breaks from recidivism rates nationwide which stand at about 75% (approximately 75% of people released from prison will return to prison within 5 years).
The remarkable success and significance of ELA’s program was not lost on legendary artist Smokey Robinson, whose songs of inner-search and self-reflection have changed the lives of millions. Robinson did not hesitate in saying ‘YES!’ to being Guest of Honor and speaker at ELA graduation on Sept 1st of this year.
Other guest speakers at ELA graduation ceremony included: Former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Rickie Byars Beckwith (Music and Arts Director at Agape International Spiritual Center, where she directs the 200-member Agape International Choir), Leo Stallworth (ABC7 Eyewitness News team in Los Angeles and Southern California), with Invocation by Reverent June Juliet Gatlin.
Other distinguished guest speakers at ELA in the past include: Reverend Michael Beckwith (American New Thought minister, author, and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center), Christine Devine (Fox11 News Anchor), Lisa Nichols (‘The Secret’), Nolan Rollins (CEO of LA Urban League), Preston Alexander Whitmore II (American film director, film producer, and screenwriter).
ELA features a host of notable class speakers who assist with in working with participants to facilitate their inner growth and development.
Emerging Leaders Academy is in partnership with: Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Urban League, Goodwill Southern California, Agape International Spiritual Center.
The teachings of ELA are rooted in language, a conveyor-belt of words which carry the message of self-transformation, rewiring the unconscious brain to unlearn negative ways of thinking. Students enter the program seeing all doors as closed to them, the world darkened by limitations. After participating in ELA’s 6 week program, graduates emerge equipped with empowering thought-tools which enable them perceive all doors as open, a luminous new world of infinite possibilities.
“People say I’m the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I’m blue
So take a good look at my face
You’ll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears.”
– Smokey Robinson, from ‘Tracks of My Tears’
NOTE: The following are my thoughts, interpretations and observations rooted in the based on my experience as a participant in ELA classes and conversations with Clyde Terry. I set out to understand as much as possible about how the program at ELA uses language to facilitate a life-changing process of inner transformation. As a writer, I’ve always considered language as a means as well as an end, as both a tool and a weapon, a container of meaning as well as the meaning that’s contained. In other words, language is a fluid construct, and, like water, it flows through our lives in ways we cannot control or predict. My new album and subject material is in many ways an investigation rooted in my experience of ELA teachings.
We all hide, from ourselves, from each other. What we see in the mirror is a reverse reflection, a small crumb.
Awesome I’ll come
A sum I’ll Crow
Some okra mom
Surreal semantics with Siri auto incorrects!
That is: What we see in the mirror is a reverse reflection, a *simulacrum*.
There was a time when I found auto incorrects frustrating, seeing them as thwarting my meaning and intention. One day, I saw the humor, the invisible connections, the unseen emanations. I began to perceive the Siri mis-reads not as a linguistic morass, but as an opening to new understandings: a new modality into the investigation of language, words and syntax as inherently radical thought-tools — a perfect lead-in into some of ELA’s teachings.
Everything we experience leaves a trace. Some traces are physical, evidencing themselves as scars or abrasions, while others are psychological, invisible and unmeasurable. Physics shows us that it is in the ambiguous, interstitial spaces that hold the most profound secrets of the universe, that no knowledge is absolute: that every perceived and proclaimed certainty is in fact, only an interpretation. What we see in the mirror is not what *is*, but what *seems*.
Each of us is our own universe, an amalgam of Biology, Chemistry, and Alchemy: a constellation of infinite complexity. Each of us interprets, creates, and constructs the world in which we live, building our individual, singular edifice of understanding. But, in order to know one’s ‘self’, as with all the great mysteries, there is no way around the investigation of the deep, dark, forbidding places within.
As infants, lacking language, feeling comes first. We live by touch, tactilely: by sight, sound, and smell, experientially. Eventually, language constructs the conceptual framework in which we live. Language soon becomes the tool which allows us to tap into in-between meanings which would otherwise slip through the fissures of our lives. But words – like the currency we exchange – are defined things, and therefore necessarily limit our experience of understanding. The part of the world and the part of ourselves we *do* get to know are based on the limits of language, The part of the world and the part of ourselves we *do* get to know are only the parts that language allows us access to.
The *world* would say we’re the products of our environment. ELA’s teachings suggest that we’re not the products of our environment, but the products of the *language-ing* of our environment. Terry’s teachings shed light on the fact that it’s only when we choose to use language not only to *understand* our existence, but to *live* inside it, to be attentive to it, that we become attuned to – not the details – but the *nuances* of life. Words cease to be fleeting, ephemeral things – they become the solid building blocks upon which we construct not only meaning, but our life’s purpose: words are building blocks which we can choose to use to box us in or use as a platform to stand on.
As we grow into adulthood, life becomes increasingly about practical matters; our days are filled with decisions and determinations. Dwelling as we do in our minds, we make innumerable decisions based on what we *think* throughout any given day. Immersed as we are in our sight, we make innumerable determinations as a result of what we *see*. ELA’s teachings illuminate the fact that most of the time, we *think* that we’re *thinking*, and *see* what we’re *seeing*, but have us consider that we live in a limiting context, a box, and seldom take the time to challenge our own thinking. There’s seldom time for us to slow our days down and reside in that liminal zone which lies between what is seen and what is thought: what is perceived.
When we *perceive* something, we both think it and see it, the result being something we neither determine nor decide, but rather *discern*. Whereas to decide requires thought (resolution), and to determine requires calculation (judgment), to discern requires *attunement*. To be attuned to our surroundings is to live in a state – not of attention – but of *attenuation*. To be attuned to our surroundings is to *discern* the subtle differences between things: movement and motion, act and action, change and transformation. To live in a state of attunement is to reject the idea of limitations and live within not *definitions*, but *iterations*.
Whereas language roots us in thought, vision roots us in feeling: our first, incipient sensation. For the most part, Philosophers place primacy on thought when grappling with issues of existence, whereas Mystics see no hierarchy or division between thought and feeling. As our lives become more and more immersed, emeshed, and subsumed by virtual reality, there is a need for new paradigms, new, radical ways of thinking such as Terry’s which enable our obsolete past-thought selves to step into a neoteric, present-thought framework.
Perhaps a place to start would be to allow, and indeed, encourage this disjunction, between thought and feeling, to accept that each and both co-exist synergistically and symbiotically, operating separately and discretely, and to allow for the acceptance that there can be no complete knowledge of self, only interpretation, an approximation of understanding. The new-though-paradigm, perhaps, is to live life as a child does, experientially, in *now’s* immediacy, stripped of judgement, ego and agenda.
As our lives become increasingly more about the ‘virtual’ and less about the ‘physical’, the old maxim “you can’t hide from yourself” is, perhaps, no longer applicable. It has become a ubiquitous, tantalizing practice to preen, prune, pretend to be who we ‘imagine’ in front of the mirror, snapping our IG #selfies, believing our fictions, spending our lives running from our true natures. Dwelling on the surface of existence, it seems, is the default contemporary condition. Who dares venture into that lightless void of understanding, and embark on the solitary search for ‘self’, engages in what seems a lost-past practice, and dares to stand alone.
Social Media is – more than anything – a space of *immediacy* a fictive, free space in which one can be whomever one wants place, where thought and feeling, reality and fantasy commingle, converge and collide. While it is often a frivolous space, it is also a powerful tool, rooted in the moment, a living document. In it lies the possibility for profound insight into one’s own mind, soul and spirit: where *Me, Myself, and I* are unified in a new dimension, a new thought-space: fixed in forever, in the ever-unfolding NOW-moment.
What we see in the mirror – our reflection – is merely a reversal of the surface of things. True reflection is never a one-way action, it’s not just the simple action of the mind thinking; it is the intentional act of the mind bending back on it’s self, thinking about the thoughts that it’s thinking. Self-reflection goes one metaphysical step further, it is the mind bending back on itself, while pulling back to gain perspective, as zooming out with a camera does. Self-reflection it is the most probative, acrobatic act the mind can make.
While a mirror is a physical surface, beyond that, it is a metaphor, a stand in, an understudy, a symbol of the the limit/s to our understanding of ‘self’. If we can mindfully plant ourselves in the mindset of metaphor, of association, if we can activate our minds to see the world experientially instead of empirically, perhaps we can then live more in imagination and less in calculation, live more in wonder and less in fear, see the skin-like surface of the water in the glass which is both half full and half empty: become attuned not just to the sound, but the thrum of life itself.
Before there were words, our language-less ancestors lived experientially. As they moved through forests, jungles, prairies, deserts, steppes, they sensed things, intuited them, made connections by association. They lived through and in accordance with their imagination: in other words, they *lived* in metaphor. It has been shown that we learn more efficiently through metaphor than we do when provided with fact. Metaphors stimulate our thinking on a subconscious level, tapping into a primal, vestigial realm which, in eons passed, made sense of the world not through language, but through association. To be a master of metaphor, one must master the imagination.
Perhaps it is because metaphor taps into the farthest reaches of our minds, our subconscious, that in so doing it accesses that numinous universe inside each of us, the deepest reaches of our minds. Here, we begin to see not the shadows, but the shades, not the blue or the green, but the blue in green: see not the tears that fall, but the tracks they leave behind.
— Vanessa Daou, Oct 2016
Emerging Leaders Academy, a 501(c) 3
Emerging Leaders Academy (ELA) is a partnership, between the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Urban League, Goodwill of Southern Los Angeles County and the Agape International Spiritual Center, which creates an educational program for gang members, “at risk” persons, new contributors (ex-offenders) and community members.
The Emerging Leaders Academy provides a path of opportunities empowering participants to take a new direction in life. The program was created to provide a life-skills component to the participant population, as well as provide them with essential career development skills for traditional employment, opportunities behind the scenes in the film/TV industry, entrepreneurship and creative writing as an alternative to criminal behavior and violence.