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With no endpoint in sight, Sequieta Whitfield reflects on recovery

By Nicole Golba

Recovery is more than a term—it’s a state of being. It’s more than an absence from mind-altering substances—it’s a conscious, active state of both physical and mental rehabilitation. For Sequieta Whitfield, who has personally experienced the ongoing process of recovery and has seen and helped others experience their own versions of recovery, there comes a time when a point is reached and when certain substances are no longer the answer. 

Whitfield recognizes a defining moment as her starting point in recovery: when she sat down to her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. She has refused to question an end point since, although it’s easy to reflect on the entirety of her journey. 

“Because of my age and how I grew up, it was just what people did. We partied a lot. When I was in my late 20’s, I noticed that the using became extensive,” Whitfield said. 

What started as drinking from a young age gradually escalated, and Whitfield soon saw herself relying on substances daily. With a family history of drinking, Whitfield also noted how it wasn’t difficult to incorporate substance use into the core of her identity. 

“My alcoholism and addiction just became a part of my life,” she said. “I just looked at it and was like, ‘Okay, this is what I do.’ I was one of those functional people, where I can drink and use and go to work.” 

Although the odds were stacked against Whitfield, she accredits a guiding force in her life to her eventual turning point. 

“Somewhere in the middle of all that, in my 20’s, I started to feel like it wasn’t working for me anymore,” she recalls. When she reached the age of 30, the concept of hitting rock bottom emerged, and her history of substance use became real. 

“I was desperate and I was just hurting—it was painful,” Whitfield said. “I was sitting in my in my house and in front of me was some alcohol and some white powder, and I looked at it went, ‘That’s not enough.’” 

Whitfield had found herself on the verge of recovery many a time before, but this instance struck different. From driving herself to recovery centers and sitting in parking lots to reaching out to Alcoholics Anonymous and refusing to return their calls back, there were brief moments of clarity that gradually led Whitfield to her starting point. And despite garnering every excuse not to go, still she eventually found herself seated at a meeting. 

“I was like, ‘This is what this is. This is what I've been looking for.’ And so I stayed, and I never relapsed after that,” she said. 

Desperation led to interest in Whitfield’s life, but that’s not always the case. 

“Every person that can identify as being an addict, will respond differently to various modes of recovery,” she said. Luckily for Whitfield, the first meeting was all it took to become clean. And with over 30 years of clean time under her belt, the future is bright and the end point of recovery is nowhere in sight. 

“The end point for me would be to pick up—that would be horrible,” she said. “Some people make a choice—10 years, five years, 20 years, 25 years— to pick up a glass of wine or pick up a joint. And I consider that their endpoint of recovery.” For more information on recovery, or for resources available to you or someone you may know, please see the resources listed below.  





Johanna Wilson: Presentando arte y arquitectura

Traducido por MirandA Diaz

Para Johanna Victoria Wilson, arquitecta y artista, mostrar el lado sensible del ser humano es de suma importancia. Con sus anhelos y sueños de transformar un espacio ordinario en algo significativo, Wilson es una artista autodidacta que ha cultivado su amor por el arte a lo largo de los años para llegar al lugar donde se encuentra ahora.

 Nacida y criada en la Ciudad de México, Wilson recuerda el comienzo de su carrera como artista de manera muy distinta. 

“Todo comenzó en un momento preciso: Al reemplazar la pared de una casa destruida en una obra de arte única, utilizando materiales como aserrín y pintura vinílica para lograr la textura perfecta”, dijo. "Esto se convirtió en mi inspiración para convertirme en artista". 

Viendo hacia atrás, Wilson ahora piensa en su carrera como en dos etapas. Como arquitecta y pintora, ve la pasión y la ambición como motivadores clave de su éxito. Más aún, su talento le da la libertad de expresar no solo sentimientos, sino también la espiritualidad acumulada a través de cada pieza.   

“Como artista autodidacta, comencé a practicar diferentes técnicas impulsadas por cada una de mis creaciones”, dijo Wilson. “Me considero una artista impulsiva, tomando la influencia de algunos grandes mentores a los que aspiro”. 

Wilson ganó reconocimiento por su trabajo y el resto es historia. 

“Comenzó una nueva era cuando la gente empezó a solicitar arte personalizado”, dijo. "Fue entonces cuando comencé a mostrar mi trabajo en varias exposiciones públicas en San Diego y Arizona". Volviendo a sus raíces, Wilson también colaboró ​​con organizaciones sin fines de lucro en todo México. Y ahora, más que nunca, volver a sus raíces de la creatividad dentro del arte ha sido la clave para mantenerse viva durante la era actual de COVID-19.“Considero el arte como mi terapia”, dijo Wilson. "Y la terapia es necesaria en diferentes momentos de la vida." 

Podría decirse que los últimos meses y el futuro son momentos diferentes, y Wilson (entre otros) ha encontrado consuelo en la creación. Wilson se considera afortunada en muchos aspectos, y ha utilizado su tiempo y sus recursos lo mejor que ha podido durante los últimos meses. 

“En cuarentena, vivo en un pequeño apartamento. Tuvimos que administrar a todos en un lugar pequeño, así que creé algunas almohadas decorativas; podía hacer muchas ”, dijo Wilson. "También complemente otro negocio que tengo, decoraciones de cama pintadas y hechas a mano". 

Wilson, como muchos otros, ha encontrado salidas y otras formas no solo de entretener, sino también de ayudar a otros en momentos difíciles. Para obtener más información sobre Wilson, o para ver más de su trabajo, consulte sus plataformas de Instagram en @Handmadejohco y @Pillowspooch, o contáctela directamente en jvwilsonv@gmail.com.

J. Wilson Art

Johanna Wilson: Showcasing Art and Architecture

Written by Nicole Golba

For Johanna Victoria Wilson, architect and artist, showcasing the sensitive side of the human being is of utmost importance. With longings and dreams to transform an ordinary space into something meaningful, Wilson is a self-taught artist who has cultivated her love for art over the years to get to the place she is now.

Both born and raised in Mexico City, Wilson remembers the start of her career as an artist very distinctly.

“It started in a precise moment: Replacing the wall of a destroyed house into a work of art using materials such as sawdust and vinyl paint to achieve the perfect texture,” she said. “This became my inspiration to become an artist.” 

Looking back, Wilson now thinks of her career in two stages. As both an architect and painter, she sees both passion and ambition as key motivators to her current success. More so, her qualifications give her the freedom to express not just feelings, but spirituality garnered through each piece. 

“As a self-taught artist, I started practicing different techniques driven by each of my creations,” Wilson said. “I consider myself an impulsive artist, taking the influence of some great mentors from whom I aspire.” 

Wilson gained recognition for her work, and the rest is history. 

“A new era began when people started to request personalized art,” she said. “This is when I began showing my work in several public exhibitions in San Diego and Arizona.” 

Going back to her roots, Wilson also collaborated with non-profits across Mexico. And now, more than ever, going back to her roots of creativity within art has been the key to remaining sane during the present era of COVID-19. 

“I consider art my therapy,” Wilson said. “And therapy is necessary in different moments in life.” 

The past few months and moving forward are arguably different moments, and Wilson (among others) have found comfort in creation. Wilson considers herself fortunate and lucky on many fronts, and has utilized her time and resources to the best of her ability over the past few months. 

“In quarantine, I live in a small apartment. We had to manage all of us in a small place, so I created some decorative pillows—I could do a lot of them,” Wilson said. “It also complements another business that I have, handmade, painted bedding clothing.” 

Wilson, like many others, has found outlets and other ways not just to entertain, but help others out during trying times. For more information on Wilson, or to see more of her work, check out her Instagram handles at @Handmadejohco and @Pillowspooch, or contact her directly at jwilsonv@gmail.com.

J. Wilson Art

April Laster crea un cambio duradero con un corazón Abierto


Con más de 18 años de experiencia corporativa en América y con la propiedad en sus manos, no nos sorprende que April Laster sea la directora ejecutiva y fundadora de una conocida organización sin fines de lucro en San Diego: Open Heart Leaders.

La organización que se especializa en ayudar a gente de distintos orígenes y conocer gente donde sea que se encuentren, se esfuerza por mantener una conexión saludable entre el ser físico, espiritual y emocional. Además, Open Hearts tiene como objetivo restaurar las redes rotas dentro de su comunidad. Pero, ¿cómo empezó una misión tan grande y significativa?

“Open Heart Leaders no solo fue una creación si no un regalo” dijo Laster. Realmente, solo soy el barco. Los programas y los servicios ya estaban orquestados en la comunidad en la que crecí, y alguien tenía que regresar y estar a cargo, y esa persona era yo ".

Laster originaria de Jackson, Mississippi ha estado involucrada en su comunidad desde pequeña. Después de criarse en California y titularse en Telecomunicaciones con especialización en administración de empresas, enseguida lanzó su propia marca de medios llamada LADY A. Ha sido anfitriona y fundadora, obtuvo varios títulos y ha adquirido muchas habilidades. —Todo esto llevándola a Open Heart Leaders.

Para Laster, Open Heart Leaders tiene una misión específica que va más allá del concepto de ser abiertos hacia los demás. Para ella, se trata de toda la entidad, no solo de la notable desgracia o sufrimiento que uno padece. 

Para que las personas cambien, crezcan y liberen cualquier tipo de dolor, trauma o sentimiento reprimido, deben estar dispuestas a dejar a un lado sus sentimientos personales y lidiar con los hechos de la vida", dijo Laster. "Tomar los hechos de la vida significa observar todo lo que hace a una persona una persona completa. Ese es su entorno, las gente que los rodean, su educación, el coraje en su mente y las situaciones: todas esas cosas influyen en dónde está parada una persona."

Open Heart Leaders reconoce su misión como una tarea que abarca todo para cada individuo, lo que requiere un nivel especial de habilidad y experiencia. Para Laster, esto significa ir más allá. Es más que una cara amable, una oreja que escucha o un hombro para llorar. También es educación y ser vulnerable en el sentido de honestidad que es crucial para el éxito. 

"Tenemos que ser mártires y defensores que van a denunciar a las personas por sus fallas y su postura hipócrita que destruye colectivamente las comunidades marginadas de personas de raza afroamericana ", dijo Laster. "Alguien tiene que estar dispuesto a pararse en la brecha. Open Heart Leaders está dispuesto a mantenerse en esta brecha y aportar claridad a muchos de los sistemas rotos. Al aportar claridad, aportamos la investigación, los datos y los hechos en los que la mayoría de la gente no quería dedicar tiempo, dinero o esfuerzo." 

Ahora, en medio de una pandemia global, los tiempos han cambiado. Open Heart Leaders se ha ajustado, y se enorgullece de haber hecho la transición parcialmente en línea y parcialmente en persona, dependiendo del servicio. Ver a los clientes cara a cara es un gran aspecto de la declaración de misión y el objetivo general de Open Heart, lo que ha hecho de los últimos meses un desafío, pero no uno que la organización no esté dispuesta a enfrentar. De hecho, un nuevo departamento se lanzó recientemente unos dos años antes como resultado. 

“Uno de los puntos principales de la pandemia fue que tuvimos que lanzar nuestro departamento de asesoramiento interno un poco más rápido de lo normal", dijo Laster. "Eso no estaba programado para lanzarse hasta 2022, pero basado en lo que está pasando en la vida, lo lanzamos en mayo de 2020." 

Además de su nuevo departamento de asesoramiento interno, Laster ha estado utilizando el tiempo para perfeccionar lo que significa Open Heart Leaders. Ser la directora ejecutiva de la organización equivale a que la gran mayoría de su tiempo se dirija a Open Hearts, pero eso no quiere decir que no lo haya disfrutado. "

Ser el CEO de un servicio de salud mental es sintonizar las brechas de mi organización y cerrarlas. Me permitió estar quieta aún un poco más ", dijo. Para obtener más información sobre Open Heart Leaders y April Laster, lea más en https://openheartleaders.org. 

Angelle in action

April Laster Creates Lasting Change With an Open Heart

written by nicole golba

With 18 plus years of experience in corporate America and with ownership under her belt, it’s no surprise that April Laster is the CEO and founder of a well-known nonprofit organization in San Diego: Open Heart Leaders. 

 The organization, which specializes in helping people from diverse backgrounds and meeting people wherever they happen to be, vies to maintain a healthy connection between the physical, spiritual and emotional self. Furthermore, Open Hearts aims to restore broken networks within its community. But how did such a broad and significant mission begin? 

“Open Heart Leaders wasn’t really a creation—it was a gift,” Laster said. “Really, I’m just the vessel. The programs and the services were already orchestrated in the community I grew up in, and somebody had to come back and be in charge, and that person was me.” 

Laster, originally from Jackson, Mississippi, has been involved with her community since she was young. After being raised in California and receiving a degree in Telecommunications with a minor in business management, she soon launched her own media brand called LADY A. Throughout her time as both a host and founder, she has held various titles and attained a number of skills—all leading her to Open Heart Leaders. 

For Laster, Open Heart Leaders has a specific mission statement that goes beyond the concept of merely being open. To her, it’s about the whole entity, not just the obvious misfortune or suffering one endures. 

“In order for people to change, grow and release any type of hurt, trauma or pain, people have to be willing to set their personal feelings aside and deal with the facts of life,” Laster said. “Taking the facts of life means observing everything that makes a person a whole person. That’s their environment, the people around them, their upbringing, their courage in their mind and situations—all those things factor into where a person is.” 

Open Heart Leaders recognizes their mission as an all-encompassing task and journey for each individual, which takes a special level of skill and expertise. To Laster, this means going above and beyond. It’s more than just a kind face, a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. It’s also education and being vulnerable in the sense that complete honesty is crucial to success. 

“We have to be the martyrs and the advocates that’s going to call people out on their faults and hypocritical stance that still collectively destroy marginalized communities of black and brown people,” Laster said. “Someone has to be willing to stand in the gap. Open Heart Leaders is willing to stand in the gap and bring clarity to a lot of the broken systems. By bringing clarity, we bring the research, data and facts that most people didn't want to put the time, money or effort into.” 

Now, amid a global pandemic, times have certainly changed. Open Heart Leaders has adjusted accordingly, and is proud to have made the transition partially online and partially in person, dependent upon the service. Seeing clients face to face is a huge aspect of Open Heart’s mission statement and overarching goal, which has made the recent months a challenge—but not one that the organization isn’t willing to take on. In fact, a new department was recently launched about two years early as a result. 

“One of the major points of the pandemic was that we had to launch our inner counseling department a little faster than normal,” Laster said. “That wasn’t set to launch until 2022, but based on life, we actually released it in May of 2020.” 

Aside from their newest inner counseling department, Laster has specifically been using newfound time to perfect what Open Heart Leaders stands for. Being the CEO of the organization has equated to the vast majority of her time going towards Open Hearts, but that’s not to say she hasn’t enjoyed it. 

“Being the CEO of a mental health service is tuning in on the gaps of my organization and closing in on those gaps. It allowed me to be still a little more,” she said. 

For more information on Open Heart Leaders and April Laster, read more at https://openheartleaders.org.  

Angelle in action


traducido por miranda diaz

Para el género Phluid Collective (GPC), nada hace hincapié en desmantelar un conjunto de narraciones mejor que "Ayudar uno a uno, uno a la vez". No es tarea fácil, pero un esfuerzo comunitario y un trabajo realizado en gran parte por Angelle Maua lo convierten en una realidad plausible. Armado con sus experiencias personales y una multitud de apoyo a través de defensores locales y socios de la comunidad, GPC está redefiniendo las identidades interseccionales de manera realista y agradable.

Habiendo crecido en el sur de California mudándose de Los Ángeles a San Diego en 2018, Maua no tardó mucho en involucrarse en la comunidad local. A partir de su propia experiencia y la relación con su hijo, la autenticidad dentro de un espacio seguro fue algo que ella buscó, pero al principio para encontrarla.

"Mi hijo resultó transgénero, y no había servicios disponibles para POC, o incluso solo para afroamericanos. No pude encontrar ningún recurso o grupo de apoyo ", dijo Maua. "Aunque obtuve información valiosa de esos espacios, no era un espacio seguro para mí y para mi hijo ser su 100% auténtico".

Como resultado, Maua creó sus propios grupos de apoyo durante la segunda mitad del 2018. En un momento lo definió como un "AHA", Maua se dio cuenta de que su experiencia anterior en atención al paciente la había preparado para lo que estaba por venir. Queriendo atender específicamente a la comunidad en el centro y sur de San Diego, Maua trabajó con South Bay Youth Services y más tarde con la Biblioteca Pública de San Diego para un espacio seguro para POC y la comunidad LGBTQ. ¿En cuanto al nombre de la organización? Llegó un poco más tarde.

"Al principio solo se llamaba" Grupo de Apoyo POC Negro ", pero todos decían," ¡Necesitas encontrar un nombre! "Y yo decía:" Bueno, esto se está convirtiendo en algo mucho más grande de lo que esperaba ", dijo Maua.

Tenía mucho sentido hacer algo productivo con mi tiempo y adquirir nuevas habilidades mientras estaba sentada”, dijo Maua. "Probablemente acabe ayudando a conseguir pruebas de COVID-19 con lo que está pasando en este momento".

Apoyando a su comunidad local de distintas maneras, Maua ahora espera un nuevo tipo de relación mientras realiza su siguiente compromiso después de la graduación. Del mismo modo, GPC se ha adaptado a un formato de soporte en línea para satisfacer las necesidades de la comunidad. Para obtener más información sobre participación y alcance, favor de comunicarse con thegpcollective@gmail.com o visite el sitio web de GPC en https://thegpcollective.wixsite.com/thegpcsd.

Angelle in action

Anything But Phluid: Angelle Maua’s Aha Moment


For The Gender Phluid Collective (GPC), nothing stresses dismantling a sizable set of narratives better than their mission statement of helping one on one, one at a time. It’s no easy feat, but a communal effort and work done largely in part by Angelle Maua makes it a plausible reality. Armed with her own personal experiences and a multitude of support through local advocates and community partners, GPC is redefining intersectional identities in realistic, personable ways. Having grown up in Southern California and after relocating from Los Angeles to San Diego in 2018, it didn’t take long for Maua to get involved in the local community. Drawing from her own experience and relationship with her son, authenticity within a safe space was something she sought out but initially had trouble finding. “My son came out as transgender, and there were no services availabe for POC, or even just African Americans. I couldn’t find any resources or support groups,” Maua said. “Even though I got valued information from those spaces, it wasn’t a safe space for me and my son to be 100% authentic.” As a result, Maua created her own support groups during the latter half of 2018. In a moment which she defined as an “AHA” moment, Maua realized her past patient care experience had prepared her for what was to come. Wanting to cater specifically to the community in Central and South San Diego, Maua worked with South Bay Youth Services of San Diego and later the San Diego Public Library to provide a safe space for POC and people on the LGBTQIA spectrum. As for the organization's name? It came a bit later. “At first it was just called ‘Black POC Support Group,’ but everyone was like, ‘You need to find a name!’ And I was like, ‘Well, this is getting bigger than I expected,’” Maua said. So came The Gender Phluid Collective. The ‘Ph,’ which stands for the balance between gender identity and self-expression, correlates well with the group’s mission to help individuals become 100% themselves. During unprecedented times like that brought about by a global pandemic, nothing is more important to GPC than staying true to their roots—even if it’s not as simple as it once was. “That whole human touch component, just basic hugs and checking in, is needed right now. It’s very missed,” Maua said. “I know a lot of people thrive on that, like myself, being around folks.” In the end, however, it gives Maua just that much more to look forward to once restrictions are lifted. Once GPC is able to open its doors to the community in person, festivities will ensue. “Maybe some sort of light event like kickball or a barbeque, or just meeting at the beach and reconnecting,” Maua said of potential post-pandemic activities. For the time being, however, Maua is preparing to connect with another community: those in desperate need of COVID-19 testing. Previously a certified nursing assistant, Maua returned to medical assistant school in April when the quarantine first began. With graduation now a little over a week away, patient care and a yearning to develop and enhance her current skill set was the root of Maua’s motivation. “It just made sense to do something productive with my time and acquire new skills while I was just sitting around,” Maua said. “I’ll probably end up assisting in the COVID-19 testing with what’s going on right now.” Supporting her local community in countless ways, Maua now looks forward to a new type of engagement as she embarks on her nearing externship post-graduation. Likewise, GPC has adapted to an online support format to cater to its community’s needs. For more information on involvement and outreach, reach out to thegpcollective@gmail.com or visit GPC’s website at https://thegpcollective.wixsite.com/thegpcsd.

Angelle in action