The folklore feeling of the synopsis; For People of Strength, Soul, and Spirit by Deborah L. Parker initially enticed me to read the book, but it is this interview graciously provided by the author that so stoked me, I’m delighted to share it.
Deborah holds a B.A. in Sociology from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. in Human Resources from George Mason University. Now a retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Reserve, she has also completed the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and authored five books, the most recent published November 2013: Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom From My Grandparents' Garden.
Currently Deborah is Chief Inspirer and Principal Consultant of The DPJ Training Group, a motivational speaking, leadership and personal development company based in the Metropolitan Washington DC area. For over fifteen years she has provided numerous workshops and coaching programs for federal, Department of Defense and private sector clients. Other professional memberships include being a member of Loudoun County Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Metro DC Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development and Military Officers Association of America. And when ‘the cultural buff’ has a moment to relax, she enjoys traveling, reading and taking long walks.
Interviewed by OEBooks/RYCJ December 2013
OEB: I've frequently examined the struggles of early Africans in America, looking to identify the deep meanings beneath their struggles, and sacrifices. Was it to create a unified community consisting of one culture? To participate in communities consisting of 'a mix' of cultures? To merely exist? Or…
DLP: I think the initial meaning beneath the struggles of early Africans in America was the will to survive in the midst of horrid conditions, among strange people of similar and different colors. Then their quest was to create a culture under those conditions whether in how they fixed the scraps of food, formed work and spirit filled songs as they learned the intonations of a new language, put their uniqueness onto the worship experience and shared their longing for freedom.
OEB: "Right ain't changed in all these years," quoted by your grandmother Pearl C. Parker is a message that will stay with me forever. What do you see is the difference between the early African American experience (in terms of the struggle) ...let's say prior to 1970, and that of today?
DLP: In some ways my grandmother’s words resonate in the challenges of today. Many of us remain in survival mode due to economic or spiritual challenges of today, whether it’s in keeping families together, making a living, or dealing with interpersonal issues that are at times laced with racial dynamics. So the right thing to do is to keep pressing forward and continue standing on timeless values of hope, faith, justice and love while creating a safe haven.
OEB: Cultural mapping. This is a delicate area for me, because I believe culture is divided among many constituents; geographic, education, time/age, gender, wealth, race...or color of skin, genetics, family history, and even personal passions and more. The interweaving and overlapping can get deeply involved and lead to confusion, or stereotyping. How do you address this?
DLP: The reality is that we are not one dimensional. One of the activities I use in diversity courses is to have everyone draw a puzzle and fill in the parts of who you are such as those you noted; race, career experiences, religion, age, education, birth order, family background… Then like a puzzle I note that it’s important to identify the corner or core pieces. These are the things that really shape us.
OEB: And Trifecta? I loved this word when I came across it. Please expand on how it applies to strength, struggle and the spirit of the soul.
DLP: Trifecta means three, an order of power, a triple threat of sorts. From our struggles, we have emerged as people of strength, soul and spirit. In our persona this shows up in our music, love, energy, movement with characteristics of perseverance, determination and sheer will to survive. The beat of the drum evokes, a resonant voice in our songs, the spirituals of the ancestors. A physical presence and ability to labor on in difficult times now and as the ancestors did from ‘sun up to sun down.’
OEB: What does the "promised land" look like?
DLP: I surveyed people with this question via email and face to face as part of the research for my latest book, Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom from My Grandparents’’ Garden. Many of the themes from the responses were a place of equality, fairness, opportunity to pursue life and liberty with no restrictions because of race. For my grandparents, poor black folks of their era, the garden they tilled to feed the family was their promised land because they had more control in the plot of land than anywhere else.
OEB: How do you measure your message? (i.e., do you track the performance of those attending your training courses, or reading your books?)
DLP: Most of my tracking is intuitive, sensing people realizing that they have been inspired to take better ownership of their lives and careers through the information I share. And I do get feedback from evaluations in training courses and sometimes an email or note from someone on how the program has helped them. The same happens with my books and some do write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.
OEB: On a diverting note, what's your favorite source of inspiration?
DLP: Nature. I love long walks near the woods or along sources of water or hilly scenery with blue skies and fluffy clouds. I hear God speaking to me during those times. The lessons of my ancestors also become clear to me during those moments. My faith is a source of inspiration as well. I love gospel music, the powerful words ignite my spirit with gratitude and love.
OEB: And what are the titles of some of your favorite books.
DLP: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Before the Mayflower, Success Runs in Our Race, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Servant Leadership
OEB: Deborah, it was a true pleasure and honor to speak with you. Please let us know of ways to connect with you... whether through social media outlets; or in person at conferences and speaker events you have lined up.
DLP: I will be doing author talks and book signings at libraries in Reston, Sterling and Alexandria, VA for Black History Month. The dates and locations can be found on my business website listed below.
Books by Deborah L. Parker
Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom From My Grandparent's Garden
For People of Strength, Soul, and Spirit: Seven Guidelines for Life & Career Success
Hardcore Leadership: 11 Master Lessons from My Airborne Ranger Uncle's "Final Jump"
Navigating Life's Roadways: Stories of Insight from My Odyssey and Inspiration for Your Journey
Life is A Review: Observations and Collections of My Passages Through the Times