How Do You Want To Be Remembered? (Sep 2018)

There are few things more uncomfortable than thinking about or discussing death. While we all know it’s inevitable, we often choose to avoid uttering the words; let alone having an open exchange surrounding it. Late September, HeadSpace NC Founder and Facilitator, Angella Fraser and Hospice & Bereavement expert, Suzette Roach collaborated for the monthly installment of “Courageous Community Conversations.” Together, they approached the topic of death in a fresh new way that allowed attendees to share stories about their personal experiences, discuss legal protections and to leave with tools that would allow them to continue the discussions with their loved ones when they returned home.

The evening started as all H.E.A.D. Talks do; a ritual of guest announcing their arrival by beating, shaking, or twirling a hand instrument as they crossed the threshold of Fraser’s home. Everyone greeted one another with a welcoming smile, quickly becoming acquainted before breaking bread together.

43000461_2117997945119741_8653546708375961600_nAfterward, guest sat in a circle of trust to view Candy Chang’s Ted Talk, Before I die I want to….. In the video, the artist and TED Fellow discussed how the unexpected death of a close friend lead to an experiment in her New Orleans neighborhood that has since been adapted in neighborhoods across the globe. “So with help from old and new friends, I turned the side of this abandoned house into a giant chalkboard, and stenciled it with a fill-in-the-blank sentence: “Before I die, I want to …” So anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their life, and share their personal aspirations in public space.” Following the viewing, everyone clapped in celebration of Chang’s ingenious idea before duplicating the experiment on sheets of paper placed on the wall throughout the room.

Following a brief discussion about everyone’s “Before I Die I Want To….” statements, the group viewed the second Ted Talk titled, Talk About Your Death While You’re Still Healthy” by Michelle Knox. In it, Knox encourages each of us to reflect on our core values surrounding death and to share them with our loved ones.

According to Knox, “Life would be a lot easier to live if we talked about death now. We need to discuss these issues when we are fit and healthy so we can take the emotion out of it — and then we can learn not just what is important, but why it’s important.”

Before long a somber feeling fell over the room as guests participated in a deeper discussion about death while sharing their own experiences:

  • A family members decision not to have a funeral for a loved one and the residual feelings and lack of closure felt without it
  • The struggle of having to put a loved one into a facility although it may be the best decision for all parties
  • Wanting to play a game of cards with a loved one but they refused; only to find out later from old friends that they were a “card shark” when they were younger
  • The burden of having to plan a parents funeral alone
  • Planning your own funeral and writing out your obituary to relieve the family of that task

Following the discussion about past experiences, facilitators prompted everyone to think about how they would do things differently if given a chance.  Not only for the loved ones who had already passed but for the loved ones they’d one day leave behind.

43086337_2117997941786408_4686567239929823232_nThe group went on to discuss the benefits of hospice or palliative care facilities and the legal protections that a living will, power of attorney and traditional will provide. Co-facilitor, Suzette, also shared a few books with the group that discussed different perspectives on death that they could use as resources in the future.

Although the conversation may have been difficult at times, it was a healthy and necessary dialogue that pushed people outside of their comfort zone. After all, that’s the purpose of “Courageous Community Conversations”…to create a safe and inclusive environment for a diverse segment of the community to gather and stretch their way of thinking.

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THE GREAT MIGRATION: The Hidden Story of Immigration in America (AUG 2018)

One rainy Saturday evening in early August, warmth and fellowship welcomed complete strangers, relatives and old friends of Facilitator and Founder of HeadSpace NC, Angella Fraser. She greeted each guest with an energetic embrace as she reminded them of what has come to be a ritual as one enters her home: shake, beat, pluck or twirl one of the available hand instruments to announce their arrival while leaving anything unworthy of entering ‘at the door’. Mothers accompanied by their daughters, sons assembled in support of their mom, professionals, creatives, retirees, college and high school students of different ethnic backgrounds filled the room eager to lend their voices. Before long, strangers became acquaintances and laughter and learning could be heard throughout as everyone gathered to engage in “Courageous Community Conversations.”


Every 4-6 weeks, HeadSpace NC hosts HEAD Talks which is an eclectic community forum that provides a comfortable space to “highlight, embrace and advance diversity”. On August 11th, the conversation centered around TED Talks: The Great Migration and the Power of a Single Decision.  Pulitzer-winning journalist and Author of “The Warmth of Other Suns” Isabel Wilkerson delivered a riveting account of the migration of 6 million African Americans from the Jim Crow South in search of liberation in the North and West between World War I and the 1970s.


“Imagine with me a scene.  It’s a scene that played out in nearly all of our families. It’s a scene in which a young person somewhere in our family tree, somewhere in our lineage had a heartbreaking decision to make…to leave all the people that they had loved and set out for a place far, far away that they had never seen in hopes that life may be better.”


She went on to describe how in some families, the journey began with boarding a ship to cross the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean, others across the Rio Grande by truck and those of The Great Migration, by train across “rivers and mountains out of the Jim Crow South to what they hope will be freedom in the North.”

The group discussion began after an ice-breaker and viewing the TED Talk.  Wilkerson connected them to their own immigrant past while introducing, for some, the fact that African Americans who left the South for the North had the same desires as those migrating from another country. Whether from Mississippi to Chicago, Jamaica to Florida and Brooklyn, South Carolina to Maryland or Cuba to Jamaica, there were several resonant stories:

  • Outside-in and inside-out pressure on first generation immigrants to give up or hold on to customs, dialects, foods.
  • Decades old trauma and secrecy associated with how families separated and re-grouped (or not) that continues to affect family dynamics.
  • Racial tensions between migrants from different places and countries within Black communities (e.g. American South & Caribbean) and between different races

There was also a probing of what gave migrants the strength and stamina to survive and thrive.

The younger group members moved the conversation to challenge the more ‘kumbaya’ comments equating European migration with that of Black & Brown people. One of the most profound voices in the room was an insightful 21-year-old Political Science student. After grabbing everyone’s attention with “…yeah, but when they come to the America, they get to be white”, he continued to explain that the categorizations on Census forms changed over time to allow “whiteness” to become more inclusive.  Italian and Irish immigrants, for example, were eventually simply ‘white’ with the all the social and political privileges of the majority over minority groups.

HEAD Talks are conversations that are safe, respectful, often uncomfortable yet always a place for learning and stretching one’s perspectives. This gathering met its goal for sure!

Join our mailing list, so that you can participate in the next HEAD Talk.