Q&A with Alexis Dixon
Laura Walcher | April 6, 2015 | www.laurawalcher.blogspot.com
“My Sister’s Voice”
When one talented facilitator describes another in just those terms, you know we’re the ones who’ll benefit by having that level of conflict resolution service in our community. Yet, noted mediator Barbara Filner can say more about Alexis Dixon: “He always takes (disputants’) personalities, needs and interests into account – in dealing with their business and/or personal conflicts.”
Mr. Dixon now shows another dimension of his sensitivity. In his stunning book, “My Sister’s Voice,” he presents forty inter-generationally diverse women, who share their life’s journey and the wisdom they have gained along the way. Pablo Mason’s photographs accompany a “note” from each, with a life lesson important enough to be passed on to the next generation.
Alexis and I had a talk:
LW: Alexis, you’re an experienced, busy mediator. “My Sister’s Voice,” is inspiring, helpful in many ways – all in the, let’s say, “how to live…better lives” category? What was your motivation for producing this book?
AD: I was profoundly disturbed by the shooting of Malaya Yousafzai in October, 2012. A Taliban gunman shot the 15-year old school girl as she rode home on a bus, after taking an exam in Pakistan. She survived, and has relentlessly spoken out on the importance of education. In 2014, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and won, becoming the youngest person to receive the honor.
LW: Each woman in your book – sensitively photographed, gently quoted – is stunning, both in what appears to be her “groundedness,” even her serenity (though that may be my hope and imagination!?) Did you always know these women? How did you choose them for the book?
AD: I initially knew very little about the women. My objective was to present diverse voices – generationally and culturally. Yet, because of Malala’s story, it was critical that the portraits (and stories) embodied, exuded a shared humanity. When we feel and listen from a place of empathy, there’s unity. I’ve learned that it’s only within the sphere of our collective humanity that we can authentically listen to each other. The exhibition is an opportunity to “listen’” to the voices, the wisdom, of women.
LW: Did any of the women surprise you in their opinions?
AD: All of them! They were both compelling and inspiring. Typically when we speak of wisdom we assume it’s acquired over time. Yet, if you closed your eyes and listened to the stories of the women, it would be difficult to discern who is seventy and who is that seventeen.
LW: Did any of their experiences, philosophies change your own?
AD: Yes. It quickly became evident how easy it is to think that a single story of a person, a community or a nation defines our whole story. The texture of a person or a nation is too complex to be defined by any one person’s or nation’s unique experience.
LW: The women range from a 14-year old, to a woman 94 years old. Can you contrast these two, perhaps define any common source of their wisdom?
AD: Interestingly, from Innocente at 19, to Deborah Szekely, at 94, wisdom seems to come, not from having experienced pain, but, rather, from going beyond pain. Essentially, they’ve identified from lessons learned rather than identifying with the pain itself, and moved to forgiveness, which appeared to be the door to compassion and wisdom. All women, irrespective of age, seemed to navigate beyond their anger.
LW: Why women?
AD: Malala’s story moved me to act and to listen to the wisdom of women, my “sister’s voice.”
LW: Has the experience of choosing these women influenced you in your conflict resolution practices?
AD: Mediation suggests that if we go beyond the conflict, to not identify with the pain, but, rather, “listen to understand, ” that we can heal, forgive, unveil our shared humanity.
LW: What have been readers’ – and the women’s – responses to the book?
AD: At first – Intrigue! Then, a deep listening. My dream was realized.
LW: “My Sister’s Voice,” is published as a fund-raiser for The Center for Community Solutions here. What about this organization merits this partnership?
AD: There are causes and there are callings. A cause demands a fight. A calling demands inspiration. Once I met Verna Griffin-Tabor, the executive director of Center for Community Solutions (CCS) I was immediately inspired.
LW: Are you planning your next book project?
AD: Yes; photographing Prime Ministers. My father, the first Prime Minister of Grenada, brought independence to the island forty years ago. Queen Elizabeth eventually knighted him.
LW: Alexis, you have formidable genes, too! xxx
For “My Sister’s Voice” by Alexis Dixon:
“Notes to Our Sons and Daughters” project, ©2012 Alexis Dixon