Ash Beckham gives a great TED Talk about the often contradictory, dual identities we all have.

There are times in life that we're called out to choose a side, to definitively declare that we are One Thing or The Other, without any room for nuance or discussion. But the world we live in isn't so black and white.

Ash Beckham was accompanying her niece to a special autograph session with Anna and Elsa from "Frozen"...

This is Ash, eloquently describing the decor at the event. GIF via TEDxBoulder.


...when one of the staffers mistakenly referred to Ash as a man — right as they reached the front of line.

GIFs from "Frozen."

In that moment, Ash was faced with a decision.

Should she speak up as an advocate and say, “Hey, man, I'm actually a woman?" at the risk of ruining her niece's special day?

Should she just stay silent, be an aunt, and let her niece meet her animated idols without causing a scene?

Why does it have to be one and not the other?

Why are those the only two options? In her everyday life, she's both an ally and an aunt, among many other things. Why should she be forced to choose only one side of herself?

In this talk from TEDxBoulder, Ash discusses dualism — the idea that people are complicated and often hold contradicting identities.

Dualism is the state of having two parts in simultaneous existence, of seeing more complexity than "with us" or "against us." It's a refreshing perspective for our increasingly polarized world. Humans are multifaceted beings, full of contradictions and complications. But society is constantly telling us that we have to pick a side.

As Ash herself says about five minutes into her talk:

"Are you unequivocally and without question anti-war, pro-choice, anti-death penalty, pro-gun regulation, proponent of open borders, and pro-union? Or are you absolutely and uncompromisingly pro-war, pro-life, pro-death penalty, a believer that the Second Amendment is absolute, anti-immigrant, and pro-business?

a bunc

GIF set via TEDxBoulder.

Of course, owning our own duality also means letting others do the same.

If we accept that we all contain multitudes, then we should be able to approach one another with empathy, understanding, and respect. Someone who holds one belief in opposition to your own is not necessarily evil and doesn't necessarily disagree with you on every single thing. In fact, you might find some surprising common ground.

Just as Ash was able to simultaneously embrace the roles of aunt and advocate, the staffer who mis-gendered her should be allowed his own set of internal complications. Which is more likely: that he was coming from a place of malicious intent or that he was simply mistaken, out of ignorance or accident.

In the end, Ash decided not to speak up because she didn't want to make a scene during her niece's happy moment.

But deciding not to speak up doesn't make her any less of an activist or ally — it just makes her human.

Frozen Olaf melting not right this second

As for the staffer, it didn't take long for him to realize his error, and he even apologized without interrupting the autograph session.

And of course, Ash's niece got to meet Anna and Elsa and make one of the happiest memories of her young life, all thanks to her aunt.

Watch Ash's full TED Talk on duality below:

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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