Ed Kemmick offered me this column in his Last Best News online newspaper ... an occasional series of conversations with Billings-area leaders who are committed to creating a vibrant community for all. What a fascinating and hope-inducing group of people.
Sitting down with Claudia Stephens, the strategic planning specialist for Ag Worker Health & Services, I feel, immediately, her earnest attention. Listening and being heard were some of the themes of our conversation, as were neighborhoods and the influence of mothers
Contemplative, modest and a self-described introvert … Fitzgerald “Jerry” Clark talked with me about courage, the power of our youth, embracing change and looking at our own frailties.
Gwen Kircher’s life experiences have given her much to share. Our conversation flowed quickly, from being good neighbors to policy making, to history, race and class. All of these topics appertain to her roles as the current chair of the Montana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a past member of the Billings Human Relations Commission.
I caught Marci McLean briefly at home between travels as executive director of Western Native Voice, which promotes Native education, advocacy, leadership and community engagement. Our conversation wandered through our connections to family, the land, the power of words and forgiveness.
Tyson Middle is inspired by art and trains, by the young people he mentors and by his 3-year-old son, Jaxon, who joined us for this conversation.Tyson and his mother co-own Underground Culture Krew, where he sells high-end spray paints to crafters, painters and graffiti artists. He grew up in Billings and Greybull, Wyoming, developed his work ethic on his family’s farm, and earned a psychology degree from MSU Billings.
Patrick Scott-Wilson is currently passionate about three things: how stories told through theater create culture, discovering how to be an ally to those facing injustice, and how these support each other. He started Sacrifice Cliff Theatre with his husband, Shad Scott-Wilson, six years ago. They are currently assessing what it means to be a theater company in Billings in the 21st century.
Abena Lane’s full birth name translates as “pure strength warrior.” This quality is woven into her military service, her faith and the way she talks about representations of black culture, reaching out a hand and Montana Interfaith Network, a group of spiritual leaders that stands up against violence and injustice.
Sonia Davis is a co-founder of Billings SURJ, a chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, and the Senior High School speech and debate coach. She spoke compassionately with me about white people addressing injustice, and about mutual respect, standing up for each other and the wisdom of youth.
As a master’s of education student at MSU Billings, Taylor Tellez’s main message is to be unapologetically yourself. He and I talked about identities and labels and the growing number of circles in Billings that support such discussions.
Mehmet "Mo' Casey
Having lived his whole life in Baghdad, Iraq, Mehmet “Mo” Casey’s path to leaving the deteriorating conditions there came through a Fulbright scholarship to teach Arabic at Rocky Mountain College. He is currently an international admission and advising specialist at MSU Billings and had much to share about the journey of assimilating into a new culture.
A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]