Wrestling with America’s Past, Reimagining Its Future, Healing Together
Learn More And Stay In Touch
The initial offering of Stepping Up is now in progress. We anticipate opening new enrollment in the first half of 2022.
Interested to learn more?
Here are two ways to get connected and keep in touch:
- Get a copy of our free e-Book, Reimagining American Identity, here.
- Watch the free recording of our intro evening, Answering the Call, here.
Sign up for either of these, and we'll keep you posted on our upcoming events, new interviews and writings, and the next offering of Stepping Up.
A six-month journey with
Bonus session with Diane Musho Hamilton
Course Starts October 6
Discover how to expand your perspective and express your true voice about our racial reckoning
You feel committed to healing the racial divide. This call to meet the moment reverberates within you as an energetic drive, faint whisper, or longing in the heart.
For many of us, the murder of George Floyd lifted this call to the surface. If you are new to conversations about racism, this event likely was a painful epiphany: How did I not pay more attention to this? If you’ve been exploring this for years, Floyd’s death may have felt more like a reawakening: It’s time to deepen my commitment. If not now, when?
Either way, you feel inspired to take action that draws upon your deepest gifts and stretches you.
However, it isn’t obvious how to put your best foot forward or what more you can do. To complicate matters, it rarely feels like the right time to bring up a different perspective, and it’s tiring to not know what to say and not feel heard when you speak. So you keep getting knocked off balance. It’s tempting to blame yourself, others, or the polarized environment, but you know there’s a more nuanced explanation.
To begin, the question What more can I do? is deeply personal. It is about discovering which dimension of this reckoning (Police violence? Wealth inequality? Health disparities? Organizational inclusion?) calls forth your great longing—and how to bring to it your deepest gifts. This isn’t simple.
Then there is the loss. Meeting the moment demands new capacities for meaning-making that put at risk who you take yourself to be. This change of identity is monumental, calling for resolve, compassion, and patience. No wonder it’s hard.
These conversations are complex. They evoke powerful emotions and can bring up what Resmaa Menakem calls racialized body trauma, an activation of your nervous system with deep yet hidden origins. Navigating these dynamics calls for perspective-taking and the realization that each person generates their own emotions. Even if you’ve developed these self-authoring capacities, it’s tricky to access them in this tense and complex arena.
Another source of difficulty are “partial guides,” thinkers who, though sharp and good-faithed, offer incomplete explanations. The “colorblind” school correctly identifies the arbitrary nature of racial categories yet bypasses the exclusions and violence of American history. Many in the antiracist school rightly document how far we have to go yet deny real progress, get caught in shaming, and reinforce racial essentialism. Meanwhile, anti-antiracists stand for free expression and the story of progress yet often rationalize away past and present injustice.
Finally, there is American history. Studying key events and how they interrelate places today’s challenges into context, and wrestling with history’s contradictions is essential to sizing up a path forward. Yet Americans tend to look forward, and when they do look back, it’s often at either progress or brutality, rarely both.
It doesn’t have to be this way
When you have the opportunity to explore American history, reflect on your own experience, and reimagine the future in a psychologically safe environment, you get rooted. When you practice taking multiple perspectives, your stance expands. And when this happens in community, you feel support on all sides.
That’s why we created Stepping Up: Wrestling With American History, Reimagining Its Future, And Healing Ourselves.
Our promise to you
In this six-month course, we will personally guide you through a journey of regaining your balance, finding your footing and voice. We will explore the call to act, where it comes from, and what it means. We will identify the losses that arise and the collective story they embody. By naming specific conversations that test you, you’ll learn how to practice embodying your noblest intentions with skill, grace, and clarity. This isn’t easy work, so you’ll tap into the improvisational blues/jazz approach that is both American and Black American. You’ll discover how to improvise your way through the thorny briar patch of life, so you can swing and flow with complexity. Grounded in this spirit, you’ll appreciate what’s true and useful about antiracist thinkers and their critics and fill in what they miss with supplemental perspectives.
In the words of our colleagues at the Post-Progressive Post, you’ll help mend the torn social fabric of American culture by embracing the positive values in the traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews. When you step up, it is to this higher ground.
By the end of this course, you will feel secure in your true voice, one rooted in both your life story and the American democratic journey. Now you are ready to speak with confidence, deepen the conversation, and create new levers for change. It’s no longer necessary to choose between ignoring our past or letting it sink you into despair. Your mind and nervous system now can embrace America in its rich complexity: both the beauty and the ugliness, the dignity and the disaster, “the marvelous and the terrible,” as Ralph Ellison put it.
Instead of wondering how to connect with others, you are part of a community and in rhythm with colleagues. Instead of feeling cornered into single points of view, you comprehend a range of perspectives. There is now space within you for appreciating the truth, goodness, and beauty in many worldviews. As confusion and despair subside, you gain access to moods of openness and possibility. An inner desire to do something positive has become a clear picture of how your strengths can meet the moment. By finding your footing, you have found your voice.
I come from a strong Caribbean family--smart, entrepreneurial, and forever carried by faith. My parents didn’t allow obstacles and challenges to sway them from their desired goals. They persevered through ever-present shadows of racism and discrimination in 1950s London, then settled in a predominantly white neighborhood in Toronto, before moving to New York City. The years in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as a young adult, brought something new, different and welcome—an immersion in and connection with Black-American culture.
After college, working for a charter airline, I was able to travel around the world and was exposed to even more amazing cultures. I didn’t know it at the time, but those travels set the foundation for the dozens of cultural villages I was to create in later years as free community events to help people move from “othering” to belonging/welcoming.
The arts were a significant part of my youth—dance classes, choirs, theater productions—for a moment, they were my way of showing up in the world. My love of the arts intersected with social justice as the leader of the theater at the Riverside Church. The history and mission of confronting social ills through the arts became a newfound passion for me. I witnessed how dance, visual arts, drama, and film—that brought people to a place of reflection—prompted queries and the willingness to have difficult conversations. The stories they saw, heard, and felt imparted newfound meaning in their world view and perspective.
I’ve come to believe that people, not just those who identify as artists, have more creative power and ability to make a difference than they may realize. We curate our existence every day—making decisions, shifting perspectives, creating solutions and forging new avenues. The more options we are exposed to, the more expansive our thinking and behavior can become. That is what Stepping Up offers—moments to discern and embrace something beyond what we think or believe we know and how to stand in curiosity for the revelations of how to be more connected human beings.
It’s easy to get disillusioned, hard to trust again, and still harder to transform suffering into action. This is my story, and the story of challenging America to live up to the Founder’s aspirations.
My parents divorced when I was five. It took decades to regain faith in the very notion of commitment. In college, I studied public policy and volunteered in soup kitchens. This taught me how some people fall through cracks and others (like me) fall into benevolent racialized condescension. At a candlelight vigil after the Rodney King beating, I felt both unnerved and proud by how few of us showed up. In my twenties, at low moments, I condemned everything from racial injustice and consumerism to organizational dysfunction and my own life choices. Although these judgments contained truths, I held them with little compassion or curiosity.
Three experiences in my thirties and forties shifted things. First, an investment in personal growth began the long process of healing childhood wounds. Second, as a leadership coach I discovered how to help imperfect people be better, or at least fuller, humans. Finally, after becoming a father at 39, I began embracing the Jewish part of me. Surprisingly, getting rooted in Jewish American culture led me to feel both more Jewish and more American. It also revealed that enjoying Earth Wind & Fire wasn’t “faking black” but being what Albert Murray calls an Omni-American.
After white nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, I recommitted to righting America’s wrongs with candor, gratitude, and imagination. Just as I am responsible not for what happened to me in childhood but instead my choices as an adult, so, too, are we Americans responsible not for the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow but instead the actions we take today to mend and repair. Stepping Up is about taking this journey together.
After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, I said yes to the beckoning call of civic and cultural leadership. My decades of study of jazz and blues, and immersion in the literature and philosophy of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray prepared me for the moment.
Over the previous five years, I'd given public interviews in which the ideas now central to this Omni-American alternative to pre-modern white nationalism to postmodern anti-racist ideology were presented. On such shows as The Daily Evolver, hosted by Jeff Salzman, Psychology Now and Integral Justice Warrior at the Integral Life site, and for public presentations at the Aligned Center in Westchester, I'd discuss culture vs. race, democracy and jazz, and a key philosophical idea: rooted cosmopolitanism. I also wrote feature stories and essays in various publications, but, truth be told, I'd often wonder if my ideas were gaining any traction.
But now that millions of Americans and others the world over are grappling with questions of justice, race, privilege, bias, disparate outcome, and police violence in relation to Black Americans, I'm clear that the time has come for me to step up and step out, to add my voice and perspective as an adherent of cultural intelligence, an advocate for radical moderation in politics, all the while striving to embody the sacred to secular blues idiom wisdom tradition.
Ellison once said that you can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your ancestors. I embrace this ancestral imperative to envision a future where the better angels of our nature overcome the bedeviling human capacity for evil and sociopathic lack of empathy. Such a vision, and ways to enact them, are my focus and intent. The Stepping Up course journey is one of the enactments.
We hope you'll join us for this journey.
"Amiel, Greg, and Jewel offer a nuanced approach to one of the most urgent issues of our time—a refreshing alternative to simplistic blame, guilt and denial. I have passed around Amiel’s papers and am grateful these fine people are leading the way."
Jennifer Garvey Berger,
CEO of Cultivating Leadership,
Author of Simple Habits for Complex Times
"In Reimagining American Identity, Greg Thomas, Amiel Handelsman, and Jewel Kinch-Thomas pay tribute to the genius of Albert Murray and his unique Omni-American vision.Their insightful analysis and optimistic outlook for the future evolution of American culture is inspiring."
Author or Developmental Politics and
President of the Institute for Cultural Evolution
"JLP's use of jazz as an analogy, a metaphor, a technique for working together is broadly applicable to any type of leadership role where the success of the organization is dependent on effective teamwork."
Former Managing Director,
“It was an uplifting experience to learn with and from Amiel, Greg, and Jewel in the group “riff” they facilitated about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The broad and compassionate perspectives they shared went way beyond most common interpretations. While Jewel and Greg are a married couple, they bring distinct voices and complementary perspectives.”
The world’s leading expert in mature ego development and self-actualization
“Amiel created a powerful space for the Sawubona team, which is helping to bring adult development to the Caribbean, to explore how we connect and collaborate with each other. He helped us slow down, take the risk to be seen, and connect authentically across our differences. Amiel provides a wonderful example of using power and gifts for good.”
Founder of Sawubona
Co-facilitator of Leading Inclusively Lab @ Cultivating Leadership
“Greg has the unique ability to weave history, theory and art in a way that provides new insights into culture. He delivered one of the highest-attended workshops at the Rebel Wisdom Festival, as well as a popular talk around race, culture and Black American history. Both as a facilitator and a speaker he embodies a truly Integral perspective, keen insight, and infectious warmth."
Co-Founder, Rebel Wisdom
Here’s What You’ll Learn
The Call: Our Wake Up Moment
In this first module, you will explore what inspired you to accept the call to wrestle with America’s past and reimagine its future so that your intentions provide energy and direction for the journey. You will discover:
- The Call To. What has this called you to contribute to your communities and the world?
- The Call Upon. What has this called upon within you? What unique virtues, strengths, assets, and relationships?
- The Call Through. What has this called you to grow through? What yucky feelings and difficult physical sensations has it evoked that need healing?
- How to accept these calls and cross the first threshold
Early Trials: Naming the Loss, Recognizing the Blues Feeling
In our second module, we’ll name and explore what we are letting go of or differentiating from as we undertake this journey toward higher ground. You will discover:
- The earlier life experiences that your wake up moment evoked and the interpretations you have made of them up until now
- Where you experience yourself as stuck, caught in a double bind, or stretched by competing commitments and how this feels in your heart and body
- Clarity and relief in seeing how your individual struggle reflects larger collective struggles like clashing narratives about the American idea
- The people, assumptions, and stories that this journey is asking you to hold more lightly
Entering the Lair: Grappling with Difficult Conversations and De-energizing Moods
In our third module, we will identify what makes certain conversations difficult, bear witness to each other’s experiences, and explore how to recognize dispiriting moods and shift to a “frame of acceptance.” You will discover
- Why certain racial conversations are difficult and draining
- Conversational moves others use that are most likely to throw you off balance and how to regain your footing
- Six core moods or predispositions for action, why they arise, and what actions they make possible or inhibit
- How to embody your noble intentions by practicing new conversation microhabits
The Ordeal: Facing Challenges by Practicing Antagonistic Cooperation
In our fourth module, we will revisit key events and patterns in American history through multiple lenses, seeing both injustice and brutality and resilience and grace. By employing such antagonistic cooperation you will discover:
- How to decode many antiracist teachings by seeing them as a deconstructive approach to history that captures valuable truths yet leaves out crucial parts of the story
- The “Good News, Bad News” approach to American history that acknowledges injustice and brutality while also appreciating resilience, heroism, and overcoming
- The practical and spiritual value of understanding Black Americans as co-creators of American culture
- How expansive approaches such as Omni-Americanism, rooted cosmopolitanism, and the blues idiom of jazz can reinvigorate your values and deepen your commitments
Metamorphosis: Crossing the Threshold(s) and the Journey Back
In our fifth module, we will use the frameworks and perspectives identified in Module 4 to explore and critique common approaches to combating racism. You will discover:
- How antagonistic cooperation and engagement with polarities can help you heal and grow amidst life’s challenges
- How to use the True-But-Incomplete approach to gain insights from “half-way guides” without getting caught in totalizing ideologies or negative moods
- How to supplement the insights of antiracist authors (such as Ibram X. Kendi, Robin DeAngelo, and Ta-Nehesi Coates), and those from across the political spectrum critical of their excesses, with other perspectives needed to tell the full story of America and reimagine its future
- What it means to grow from a tragic to a post-tragic approach to living, e.g. how to make sense of real living white supremacists without seeing America as irredeemably racist?
The Return: Drinking the Elixir Together
In our final module, we will appreciate what new possibilities, relationships and conversations this journey makes possible as you step up to reimagine America’s future. You will discover:
- How to embody this more expansive approach in existing relationships and use it to initiate new relationships, commitments, and generative declarations about America’s past and future
- New conversation microhabits for inquiring into others’ perspectives and sharing your own perspectives with grace, courage, and flexibility
- The freedom and joy that arises by embracing complexity and nuance in yourself while simultaneously letting other people be who they are
- The advantage of using email and other written conversation as practice fields
Bonus Session With
In this live session, Diane will guide us in facing difficult moments with courage, grace, and skill. We will explore how to discover within conflict our own intelligence and creativity. Because stepping up happens in the microscopic choices we make in day-to-day conversations.
About Diane Musho-Hamilton
Thousands of people around the world have benefitted from the extraordinary depth and skill of Diane’s teachings. Diane is an exceptionally gifted mediator, master facilitator, author, trainer, and consultant. As a mediator, she is well known as an innovator in dialogues, especially conversations about culture, religion, race and gender relations. Diane is the author of three books, including Compassionate Conversations: How to Speak and Listen from the Heart, and is a contributor to Harvard Business Review.
Here’s What You’ll Experience
Stepping Up is a six-month online program. It consists of twelve 90-minute (or two hour) live sessions, spaced out twice a month to allow time between sessions for reflection, short assignments, and practice.
Each session includes a variety of interactive exercises, individual reflection, short talks, and small group discussion. We record the sessions so you can catch up if you need to miss a session or want to review it to deepen your learning.
- Have the option to meet monthly in small groups to jointly reflect on the journey and provide “peer assists” to integrate new insights into day-to-day conversations.
- Receive a series of short supplemental videos, readings, and reflection questions directly related to each module.
All sessions are 4-5:30pm PST, 7-8:30pm EST
Wednesdays from October through March
- October 6
- October 13 and 27
- November 10 (break in schedule due to Thanksgiving)
- December 1 and 15
- January 5 and 19
- February 2 and 16
- March 2 and March 16
Optional small group meetings
Here are suggested dates (same times as above) for small group meetings for those who choose to participate in them. If this schedule doesn't work for you, you'll come up with one that does in your small group.
- October 20
- November 3
- December 8
- January 12
- February 9
People paying "Corporate & Income $150K+" rate subsidize students and people on fixed income.
Save $200 if you enroll by September 29. Use discount code TRUEVOICE at checkout.
If you cancel at least 15 days before the first class, we will fully refund your registration fee, less a 10% processing fee. After this, we will not issue a refund. If the course is under-enrolled, we reserve the right to cancel 10 days prior to the event and refund your registration fee in full.
Organization pays or your annual income is $150,000 or more
Save $200 if you enroll by September 29.
Use discount code TRUEVOICE at checkout.
Do I need any special equipment?
What if I miss a Live Session?
What if the small group times don’t work for me?
What if I miss a small group?
What if I need more support?
What about confidentiality?
Greg Thomas, as CEO of the Jazz Leadership Project, executes the vision and values of jazz into strategic action for clients ranging from Verizon, JPMorgan Chase, and TD Bank to the Center for Policing Equity and the NYPD. He has curated and facilitated humanities programs for Jazz at Lincoln Center and The National Jazz Museum in Harlem. Greg has written on jazz and democratic life for Areo, New Republic, The Root, New York Daily News, Post-Progressive Post and his blog, Tune In To Leadership. He is a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Cultural Evolution and an Advisor to The Consilience Project. As an educator and lecturer, Greg has presented for virtual platforms such as Rebel Wisdom and The Stoa as well as institutions such as Columbia, Hamilton, Ben Gurion University, and Harvard.
Amiel Handelsman is a seasoned executive coach with 20+ years of experience helping organizations navigate complexity. His clients have ranged from Fortune 50 companies to inner city community development organizations. He has coached leaders from multiple cultures around the world. Amiel recently appeared on the Coaches Rising podcast to discuss how to heal America’s racial wounds. He holds a B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and an M.B.A. from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Amiel lives with his wife and two children in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Jewel Kinch-Thomas, COO and Co-Founder of the Jazz Leadership Project, has over 20+ years of experience in executive management. Her work is designed to optimize leadership capacity and accelerate team development for heightened workplace engagement and high-level performance. Jewel is an alum of Columbia University’s Arts Leadership Institute, New York Foundation for the Arts Leadership Circles, and the Women & Power: Leadership for the 21st Century program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.