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What does AfricaJack say?

How Many times have you heard this one?

Posted May 23, 2008 | 09:08 AM (EST)
This past January, I started my consulting business to support my passion and help keep the Foundation doors open. One of my current clients referred someone to me and said that she knew it was going to be a great fit. Today I had the fortunate opportunity to meet someone who shares similar passions in life. He started the Anbessa Foundation, an organization that helps the children in Ethiopia who battle with AIDS, while bringing the culture and music of Ethiopia to the youth of America.
Estaban walked into the cafe as I was telling the story of "Africa Jack." I saw his eyes light up as he asked the owner, "How much did you tell him?" She swore she only told me that he would be calling.
As I was walking home, I began to plan on how I was going to drop the news about my new project. I began consulting again to support the Africa Jack Foundation. I knew that realistically it didn't make sense or pay any of the bills, but neither did quitting my great paying job to build learning centers in Africa. I knew that the organizations' similar mission and shared visions and people involved outweighed any realistic explanation or excuse. "I have good news and bad news," I said to my partner. "I have decided to take on my last project that doesn't require a retainer."
It was a tough year. Although I had a pretty good cushion in the bank when I quit my job 17 months ago, I wasn't prepared for the financial struggles I faced this year. I know that I won't change the world or help every child affected by HIV/AIDS. There are way too many children who don't control that their parents die from AIDS. Their parents die because they don't have proper care or nutrition. Worse, they are never educated on preventing an infection because their governments or health institutions don't have the funds to spend.
We had a lot of friends tell us they would donate when the IRS gave us our 501(c)3. The promises were there, but the donations from our friends never came. I learned several things about myself, life and love this year. People (friends and family included) will let you down. After all, we are human. But as in business, how the relationship will recover will be defined by actions they make to rebuild it.
The other lesson was about love. I never thought that I would love someone because I truly didn't know what love meant to me. I can tell you that I know I am fortunate to tell people that I do have a partner who loves and supports me. I have told him on many occasions that he completes me and together we can change the world. He also now believes that changing the world can be an amazing experience because at the end of the day you know that you made a difference in someone's life.
That's what it's all about, right? My challenge to you is do something different - something you normally wouldn't have done that will make an impact on someone's life. I can tell you, it will change your life.

A Cry for Help

Posted October 30, 2007 | 08:00 AM (EST)

I always thought that if people saw me break down, crying, or asking for help, that I was weak. I couldn't let people see how I was truly feeling. When people asked me how I was, my answer was always "GREAT!" Customers asking how my business was going always heard, "WOW! I couldn't have asked for it to be better!"
Many times I've wanted to tell people I was depressed. I was hurting and needed to talk to someone. I couldn't even show my best friend or partner my true feelings. But it was comforting knowing that if I cried - no matter where I was - someone would hear me.
Well, things have changed. I now know that everyone needs help. But who hears the crying?

Jack at work with the children
Jack Miller at work.

I recently went through a really tough time. I was struggling professionally and personally. It just seemed that nothing was going right, and I didn't know what I was going to do. I was one day away from being like the people I avoided on the street and at intersections, the ones carrying signs that read "Will work for food."
I was working hard. How could I tell the children that I couldn't build their school because I couldn't even put food on my own table? I couldn't give up, but how close was I to holding a sign "HELP ME" because I hadn't eaten in two days?
I felt no one heard my cry. I was crying so hard it was difficult to face people. True friends could see it in my eyes, hear it in my voice and read it through my emails. They recognized it because many of them were also crying. They recognized the weight loss, but I told them it was all stress. They would smile, hug me and tell me to stick it out. Help was right around the corner.
Well, I don't know how to describe it, but I turned that corner. I rested and feel as though I've recovered. Life is better. There's food in my refrigerator. Gas in my truck. Life is picking back up.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a new friend. Bronson Gengezha is a Shona sculptor I'd met in Zimbabwe, and he'd come to Oakland. He was hosting a final art show before heading back home. Walking up to the exhibit and seeing him was a wonderful feeling. He looked healthy. Leah, another Oakland resident who had traveled to Zimbabwe at the same time, was standing next to him.
But when I saw Bronson's eyes, I almost cried. I saw it. "HELP ME, JACK." He eyes were screaming, asking me for help. I looked away. I focused on the warm feelings of reunion. I was there to see his sculptures. I was hoping to buy a few. I didn't have much money to spend, but I knew whatever I could afford would be appreciated. He could take it back home that night, and buy the supplies or food needed.
I asked how things were in Zimbabwe. "Hard," he replied. "Jack, it's very difficult. It's not a good situation." I asked if he was excited to get back and see his family. He smiled and said, "Yes, I miss them very much."
He's a very talented Shona stone sculptor. I'm continuously amazed at what that man can create with stone, chisel and file. I spoke with Leah about how we could promote his work on our site. It was the perfect avenue for informing people about the ongoing situation in the country once called "The Breadbasket of Africa."

Bronson Gengezha with his work.

Mike asked Bronson what he was going to do with the funds he received while here, asking him to paint a picture of life in Zimbabwe. What could he buy with the few hundred dollars he brought back with him?
I heard Bronson's answer later in the truck. I'm glad I did. Bronson said he would fly to another country so he could purchase food and other necessities, like wheat and floor, for his family. WHAT? I couldn't believe it.
At that point, I started weeping again. It reinforced in me the fact that sometimes no one hears our cries. Here's a man who came to the United States to sell the stone he sculpts. He travels far to sell his sculptures, and with that money he feeds his family. But he had to buy his provisions in yet another foreign country -- items we buy at the corner store.
When is crying adequate to receive much-needed help? How long can someone go on before they just can't weep anymore? I can't answer those questions. I don't know who can. What I do know is that our eyes have to be open and our vision clear, so when friends or people around us cry or reach out, we can do everything within our means to help.
For more information about the AfricaJack Foundation or to purchase a sculpture from Bronson Gengezha, please visit our website at
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