Marlena Blavin, David Roche, Michael Pritchard, Kala Shah and Toan Lam

Marlena and Kala at their joint 2017 “Rouse the Spirit” event, along with David Roche, Michael Pritchard and Toan Lam.

After conducting an event together in February 2017, Marlena Blavin and Kala Shah recently reconnected in April 2020. In spite of being largely out of touch for three years, the moment we got reacquainted we knew we had more heart-centered work to bring into the world together. Here are our two perspectives on the magic that brought us back to one another and keeps us excited and hopeful during these trying times in our society.

Marlena’s story:

In 2016, Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke wrote to me and Kala: I hope the two of you can find a way to work together to spread the good work that you both do….I am a huge fan of you both.

I was initially inspired by Community Heroes’ “Day of Giving” project because it was a real-life, hands-on experience of giving. I knew what it takes to gather kids to follow through on these projects and find that it is cool to give.

I love those “small hero moments” that define to me what a true hero is. Those times when you take a risk, trust yourself and your heart — moments when you may be filled with uncertainty and yet you trust that ping in your heart that pushes you forward.

These are the small moments when you choose to go toward kindness or to take a second look at someone, when your vulnerability can be turned into power. These are the moments that build heart-centered leadership.

My passion for that heart-centered leadership has inspired me to produce the Love at Second Sight video and the accompanying music video (available free at www.loveatsecondsight.org).

Community Heroes encourages these smaller hero moments, recognizes and acknowledges them as important as the larger heroes we always praise, because they build the kind of heart-centered partnership leadership that our society needs.

This summer, I worked with Kala on a new Community Heroes project that will end up in another film — one in which a group of 15- to 17-year-olds show how that leadership is built. We started with storytelling where small hero moments were revealed: Erik told how friends stood by him when he was vulnerable. Marianna chose not to hate the person who bullied her because she did not really know him. She chose to take a courageous second look.

In live presentations of Love at Second Sight over the years, David Roche and I found many heart-centered heroic moments. A young woman of color on a high school basketball team told us how she was the target of racist taunts from opposing fans and how her teammates simply gathered around her, stood and faced down those taunters.

In such moments, individuals gather strength, community is built, heart-centered leadership is born and nurtured. This is what Community Heroes is all about and why I am proud to be working with Kala Shah, Tracey Erin Smith and the teens who are building their leadership skills

I am committed to helping produce a film that puts this all on display. Many thanks to Mary Jane Burke for her heart-centered leadership in bringing Kala Shah and myself together.

 

Kala’s story:

In October 2016 when Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke (“MJB!” as I affectionately think of her) reached out with an idea and introduced me to David Roche and Marlena Blavin, little did I realize how deep this connection would run.

David and Marlena were releasing their beautiful documentary film, Love at Second Sight, about differences, belonging, judgment and inclusion. We got to know each other planning a “Rouse the Spirit” film benefit event together in early 2017, featuring stories from young Community Heroes.

A music video by the same name followed more recently — a catchy tune about taking a vital second look at other humans, cutting through superficial judgments and understanding more deeply about true beauty. The song goes, “Take another look, what do you see? First impressions always messing with reality. Take a second glance, it’s another chance…. See the person within, not the clothes, not the skin. See the light, look again, look again.”

Marlena and David embody this spirit and continue to walk the talk as storytellers and healers. 

What made MJB! put us together was our mutual desire to create more heart-centered connections in the world, and to build leadership among our youth. We are all passionate about their potential to bring forth a new model of leadership — one that embraces compassion, integrity and a core desire to lift all boats.

When Marlena reached out again this past spring, it was like we hadn’t skipped a beat. We are fellow Taureans who understand each other. She took another glance at me and Community Heroes and saw the potential for more meaningful work we could do together. She said she wanted to re-engage her support and even proposed doing another collaborative project. I said, “YES” without a moment’s hesitation. 

Fast-forward since that reconnection in April and we’re incredibly proud of how far we’ve come after a few years without much contact. After a planning call, we decided to dive in and virtually gather emerging leaders for a storytelling project. It went so fluidly that it reinforced the new direction Community Heroes was already taking — to focus on cultivating teens and embracing storytelling through our new Community Heroes Leadership Academy.


This video trailer captures the flavor of our summertime pandemic project: sharing stories and cultivating young leaders with heart. Personal and vulnerable stories that highlight the values and qualities that we SHOULD require in our leaders of our countries, companies and communities.

Our partnership with Tracey Erin Smith of SOULO Stories has now blossomed into a deep dive project this fall, cultivating and supporting young leaders with heart to share their Community Heroes origin stories that will resonate deeply with all of us and elevate our sense of shared humanity.

Can’t wait to bring those amazing stories to you and continue building our ME to WE movement! Much gratitude to MJB! for playing matchmaker. It worked and our partnership continues to thrive! 🙂