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Rayshauna Gray

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May 31, 8:30am • Moo • part of a series on Preserve

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Today is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday originating from the Toltec people of Mexico. While it has become trendy (albeit problematic) to dress as a sugar skull for Halloween, there’s more to this holiday. It is traditionally about celebrating the dead. It also falls on the same day as All Souls Day in Catholicism. How has this cultural tradition influenced your designs? Check out this link for more inspiration. And the video for what the holiday means for teens currently in prison.

This month’s theme is #CMdeath  How does this theme apply to your design work?


We’ve been nominated for Bostinno’s 2016 50 on Fire, which recognizes the city’s innovators and disruptors. Now in its fifth year, the awards show will be hosted at the Moakley Courthouse on the night of Dec. 7th to celebrate the finalists and winners. Interested in attending? You can buy tickets here (use the promo code CreativeMornings for a 20% off).

Gautam Narula’s Guide to Activism

May’s speaker Gautaum Narula is the award-winning author of Remain Free, a memoir that documents his friendship with death row inmate Troy Davis. He has compiled a list of resources for education and action around the criminal justice system. 


  • Just Mercy by Brian Stevenson gives a great broad overview of the problems in our criminal justice system. ­­Stevenson is a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit that provides legal representation prisoners who may have been wrongfully convicted, given unfair trials, or cannot afford legal representation. The book goes through a series of cases Stevenson worked on in the past three decades that highlight the kind of injustices (particularly against the poor and racial minorities) that continue to occur today. 
  • The first season of the Serial podcast follows the story of Adnan Syed, a high school student questionably convicted of murdering another student and sentenced to life in prison. Not only does it provide a personal look into a potentially wrongful conviction, it also highlights some important problems: the increased power of prosecutors via plea bargaining, the effects of poor legal representation, etc.
  • It would be remiss of me not to shamelessly promote my own book, Remain Free, which follows the Troy Davis case and discusses the death penalty, how race and socioeconomic status affect outcomes in the justice system, and the personal toll our justice system takes on the people and families involved. All the profits from sales will be donated to the Innocence Project (see below), and the book can be read for free online at
  • The Innocence Project is a non-profit that works to free wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing, and has information on their website about what causes wrongful convictions. They also discuss the policy and legislative work they do (in addition to providing legal representation) to prevent innocent people from being convicted in the first place. 
  • For those specifically interested in the death penalty, Amnesty International’s Abolish the Death Penalty campaign is a good starting point. This campaign transformed Troy Davis from an unknown death row inmate in Georgia to the most well-known death row inmate in history. 


  • Donate to the organizations mentioned above. 
  • Volunteer: Amnesty International is particularly good place to volunteer, because at its core AI is a volunteer organization so they’re built around volunteer action. You can start by getting in touch with your local field office (in this case, the one in Boston) and Amnesty Local Group (Amnesty 133 in Cambridge/Somerville). There are lots of friendly people in AI who will be happy to help you get started if you’re new to this. And if you’re into rallies and protests, AI can get you into that too. 
  • Lobby government officials: Massachusetts is definitely ahead of the curve (compared to the rest of the states) on these kinds of issues, but there’s always room for improvement. Stay educated and aware of any bills relating to law enforcement and criminal justice, and make your voice heard if there’s something you don’t like. If you have friends or relatives in other states that aren’t doing quite as well as Massachusetts in regards to criminal justice reform, encourage them to call their elected officials to pressure them to change the laws. Amnesty International, The Innocence Project, etc. will often have petitions you can sign as well.
  • Share the knowledge you’ve gained with as many people as you can. The most enduring change occurs from the bottom up, and that means writing about these issues and talking to people about them. That’s why I wrote Remain Free and speak to awesome groups of people like the folks at CreativeMornings Boston!


You can follow Gautam on Twitter and on his personal blog.

Zombies & Climate Change: a Follow-up from Shawn Hesse

Comparing climate change to a zombie apocalypse is a lot of fun, but can sometimes have unintended consequences of leaving people focused too much on fiction rather than fact. Zombies get the headlines, but they are the Trojan horse for the main content; the point is that there is urgent work to be done that will help to reduce the causes of climate change, and also help us adapt to the changes we are seeing from it.

Sometimes in the fan-fiction world of zombie stories and apocalyptic futures, the reality of what we are truly capable of can be lost. Here’s a recap of some of the climate change and community building solutions that I highlighted in my CreativeMornings presentation:

  • Living on current local income – using only the sun that shines and the water that falls down on us for free to meet our needs. Our firm emersion DESIGN has completed multiple projects that begin to implement these strategies to create buildings, communities, and entire college campuses that generate all of their own energy needs on site from solar panels, and projects that capture rainwater for reuse in irrigation and plumbing.
  • Community gardens, urban farms, and farmers markets all create access to locally grown food that is less dependent on the massive infrastructure of more commercially produced food. There are no shortage of example programs from the Green Bronx Machine, to the Urban Farming Institute of Boston, to organizations like GreenWave in New Haven that are looking at ways to sustainably farm from the sea. All of them provide ways that we can shift our communities towards locally sourced food.
  • Preparing a community for emergency situations is a critical component of much of the planning work being done around Boston, and the world. Thinking about the resiliency of our community and our infrastructure during potential storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and other emergencies, helps to ensure we can bounce back better than we have been in the past. Organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program are providing funding, and comprehensive frameworks to help city leaders and planners study the critical vulnerabilities and opportunities in their community.
  • Building equity is one of the most difficult challenges that we face, in part because it is not as easily quantified and calculated as much as carbon emissions, or sea-levels, and in part because it is an uncomfortable and unfamiliar conversation for many. However, there are many examples of initiatives and programs specific to the built environment that are working to build equity into our communities. The JUST Organizations label from the International Living Future Institute is a transparency label for companies to disclose their policies and performance across multiple social justice and equity indicators, and we are currently engaged in work with the US Green Building Council to integrate social equity indicators into the world’s most widely adopted green building certification program, LEED.
  • The most critical challenge facing us today, and into the future, is how we come together as a community, as a city, state, nation, and world.  The Paris climate agreement is the first time countries around the world have committed to a set of common goals to mitigate climate change, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement marks a key moment in the story of how we have responded to climate change, signifying that the actions we each are taking as individual countries, need to work together with the others to reach a common goal. The same is true even down to individual actions like biking or walking, recycling, using less energy, and eating local food.

The only way we can really solve the problems of climate change is by taking action together… just like surviving the zombie apocalypse.



In March we celebrated our last month at WeWork/General Assembly and listened as our favorite lifestyle coach and man about town Dillan DiGiovanni gave us some much needed motivation. For years Dillan has been spreading a message of self-love and acceptance to help others grow and find clarity. So it was only fitting that he gave the audience a breakdown on change, and how we can stop getting in the way of it. For those of us who hate “the process”, Dillan is the spirit guide/Beyonce we want on our side: who knows when to hand-hold, when to real talk, and when to show his crocus tattoo. 

Dillan’s journey is an inspiration - one that the CreativeMornings community will continue to draw from. And because we love to spoil you, here’s EVEN MORE wisdom from DD, to help you live long and prosper:

What is the one thing you want everyone to know about you?
​That I’m perfectly imperfect. I’ve learned many things about good health habits and how to change your life and how to be a better person but I do them all irregularly and imperfectly. I sometimes say unkind things. I’ve had dark thoughts. I’m insecure and confident in equal amounts. I eat less sugar than I used to but more than I should. I both crave and fear being loved for who I am. Ultimately, I’m just a regular person who has a lot of wisdom and tools and I learn more every day how much work I still have ahead of me. But that’s what life is for! To learn and practice. Rinse and repeat.

What is your advice for someone who feels stuck - in their career, or in their relationship or in their body?
​My advice is to get honest with yourself. People usually feel stuck because they are more worried how other people will respond to a choice they make–whether it’s a job change or coming out or shaving their head. We live within these limits we set based on fear and it’s all unnecessary. Think big. Live outside the lines. Trust your instincts. Make choices that serve you, but with kindness and respect for others. Start with small steps and specific actions that get instant results because you will be more motivated to keep going. Don’t try to fix all the things at once or plan too far out ahead. And the source of all of this is taking impeccable care of yourself with healthy habits because when you feel REALLY GOOD physically and emotionally, you feel like you can do literally anything.

As a lifestyle coach, how do you balance listening and sharing? How can one learn to be a better listener? (Asking for a friend)
​This is a great question. It IS a constant balance and I always need more practice!! What works well is to make listening my default and asking if sharing would actually help the person who’s talking. We interject from habit but it’s not always useful. Asking if someone just wants to be heard or if they actually want or need advice helps you offer something truly useful and they will be much more open to receiving it. ​Listening is a gift you give but you also get SO MUCH from it, because it’s such an intimate experience of real connection. It’s available to all of us if we just get out of our heads and self-preoccupation and really get curious about what other people are dealing with. ​Learning to be a better listener starts with listening to ourselves better. What we need and want, how we feel, what we think. When we learn to create that space for ourselves, it’s easier to make room for other people and truly listen to them.

Is life all green smoothies? Do we need to love kale to find inner peace?
No. Life is all coffee and bacon and donuts. haha. ​I don’t think we
need to love kale but it certainly helps ME find inner peace. Dark, leafy greens of any variety cleanse our blood and our gut and make us look and feel healthier from the inside out: Less bellyaches and headaches, fewer mood swings, clear, shining skin. If that doesn’t create inner peace, I don’t know what does.

Do you have a pump-up playlist? I NEED TO KNOW WHAT’S ON IT!
​Yaaaaaas! This is my current running/biking mix and I listen to it on the regular:


*(1812 Overture is not a joke - the last 3 minutes of this piece KICKS MAJOR ASS! It makes me cry every time I listen to it)​


You can keep up with Dillan on Twitter and Instagram, as well as his website.

Photo courtesy of The Danger Booth