photo by Barbara Butkus

photo by Barbara Butkus

About Katie Macks

When I was four years old, we had a family tradition of going to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Sundays. We would pack a picnic lunch and lay out a blanket in front of the bandstand in preparation for the music to begin. Once we arrived and got situated, I would wander away from my family without saying a word. I went up to people in the park that I thought looked forlorn and sad. 

Katie was always ready to listen to anyone who needed support.

Katie was always ready to listen to anyone who needed support.

They were usually elders sitting on nearby benches. I would climb up on the bench beside them and take their hand in mine. Without saying a word, I would just gaze into their eyes to let them know they were seen and loved. Once I got a smile, and could see a twinkle in their eyes, I would move on to the next person who I perceived to need some love. I was a highly intuitive little girl. And I knew I had a mission to bring light in the midst of darkness. I knew I was a torch bearer, and I knew I had the capacity make a difference in this world of ours. Being so young with such a deep knowing, was a gift:

I didn’t bother to question what I knew. I just responded to my calling. 

After making my rounds from bench to bench, I would return to my family just as they were ready to pack up and head home. On one warm afternoon, I remember my parents wondering aloud what I was up to. They thought my behavior was peculiar.

At that moment, I felt there was something wrong with me. I had the devastating realization that I was different and I no longer fit in. My little soul was crushed. So I packed away my innate knowing and began trying to blend in. I wanted to be accepted and loved and feel like I belonged. 

Fitting in didn’t last long. A couple of years later at the age of six, I began to encounter sexual violence on a consistent basis by a neighbor. This validated my fear that there was something wrong with me. It confirmed that I could never again really belong; I was damaged goods. 

Even though I was facing unfathomable abuse when this photo was taken, I continued to RISE and seek justice for ALL.

Even though I was facing unfathomable abuse when this photo was taken, I continued to RISE and seek justice for ALL.

With my innocent little self shattered, I began to develop a persona, one I wanted you and the rest of the world to see. I acted as though I didn’t need anyone. I was strong and athletic, I was charming and funny, and I was determined to prove that I was a worthwhile human being. Truth is that I felt so lost and immensely alone, but I made sure that no one knew how I really felt inside.

At the age of 11, I found myself one night at home watching TV when Shirley Chisolm came on the screen — the first woman, and the first African-American, to contend for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clearly, this woman was someone special. The next day I called her campaign office on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco and enlisted as a volunteer for her campaign.

My identity as a social activist was born.

Shirley Chisolm inspired my heart and soul. I remember how she talked with a lisp and yet she was willing to be seen and speak about her dreams for a just America where all people, no matter gender, class, culture, color, or religion, were welcome. Despite the racism and misogyny in our country, she stood strong in the face of incredible adversity. 

At age 11, I was blessed to have found my mentor, Shirley Chisholm.

At age 11, I was blessed to have found my mentor, Shirley Chisholm.

Witnessing her courage and fortitude changed my life. She taught me that no matter how alone or damaged I felt inside, I could use my voice to stand up for those who were marginalized and left behind. I had zero tolerance for the power structures that told us who was and wasn’t valuable in our country. She taught me that no matter the circumstances, if you have a vision for humanity, a dream of equality for all our brothers and sisters, it can override your challenges in life. Finally, I felt like I belonged. I belonged with her because she had a dream for humanity, and so did I!

When she lost the race for president in the primaries, I realized that this country wasn’t ready to be united, that our differences outweighed our sameness. My heart was broken, but I was inspired to follow my calling. Like the little girl who gave love so many elders in the park, I still had an aching desire in my soul to bring light to humanity. I became a truth teller and a disrupter who wasn’t afraid to speak up to authorities. I pushed boundaries and I rocked the status quo. The downside of this was that as a badass activist, I didn’t fit in. Truth be told, standing up for what you believe — and thus standing out — is never an easy path. 

Fast forward to my adult life. 

I have continued on the path of seeking for my entire adult life. I seek information, knowledge, and consciousness, and I have stood for social and environmental justice. I know that I am here to liberate myself and others from the self-imposed bondage that comes from our deep-seated beliefs that take shape early on in our lives, along with the blatant and subliminal messaging we have received growing up in our patriarchal culture. Those beliefs about ourselves that develop when we are young are remarkably powerful and continue to drive the choices we make, professionally and personally, as adults. 

One thing I know to be true: I have earned my life PhD which has set me up for this specific time in our history. My experiences have prepared me to accept the role of a Badass Leader in these uncertain, tumultuous times. I believe we have an incredible opportunity to usher in a new paradigm, replacing our broken systems and power structures that are clearly obsolete and only serving a few. The time is NOW to create a New Normal in the way we relate and lead.

Come as you are was always the rule, even back then.

Come as you are was always the rule, even back then.

I understand now that the more I try to fit in, the less I belong.

When I work at fitting in, I am denying who I am. I’m trying to be like others, to blend in and become interchangeable. Imagine a room filled with only red chairs. That’s what fitting in looks like. A blended look that is non-discernable. 

On the other hand, there is belonging. Truly belonging means being welcomed for our differences. Each individual brings their unique gifts to the table. Like puzzle pieces that fit together, our different gifts and abilities harmonize and complement one another.

Giving away your power, backing down, and going it alone does not work. It feeds an old narrative of not being enough, or perhaps being too much. In order to claim your power, to not back down and to not go it alone, it is a necessity to have a community of people who see you, value you and challenge you to be the very best version of you. We cannot create our best version in a vacuum.

Badass Engagement values our differences and creates an environment of belonging. We value and fortify one another with dignity, respect, and love, and through this process we are changing the way business gets done! The old way of trying to fit in is inherent to the old paradigm. The new paradigm of belonging is going to change the way we interrelate in our businesses and in our lives. We are changing the outdated and oppressive power structures in leadership that we’ve become accustomed to, Power = Dominance to an entirely new paradigm of leadership driven by Power = LOVE. As a result, we RISE together, risk together and we courageously live from a place of courage, purpose and truth in our businesses and in our lives!!

It’s not about getting your way, it’s about creating the way!