Influencer Gilberto Morishaw
Interview October 2020 – Picture Kito Marugg
Could you share with us some information of your family life? And what role did you parents played as we researched you, and you are very exceptional in your efforts regarding community work?
I am 25 years old, born in Curaçao, single and ready to mingle. I have one little brother. My parents are still alive and were they very supportive in whom I have become as they taught me to be connected to people and care about the community. Both are teachers, my father was involved in the union and my mom in the community via the church, so I grew up in a family that valued community work.
As a student in Public Administration and as you are still a student, you have the ambition to help shape the world and it that sense you are a stand out, where does this drive of you come from?
I think it is so important, that we create the conditions to allow others to become better. As a young person living in the Netherlands definitely being connected in different networks, aiming to have impactful changes around the world is important to me, because injustice anywhere is still injustice and Covid-19 has definitely made it very clear to us, that structural injustices within the global system impacts everybody. Something that is happening in Curaçao isn’t just happening in Curaçao, it is also happening in small communities across the world and understanding that, is key to understanding ourselves. We are connected to others and yeah living in Holland and getting involved in these things has definitely giving me multiple perspectives and being a student is a lifelong journey. I am a student now and I will graduate in the upcoming months, but I will still be a student. I chose Public Administration because the University of Leiden is in the Hague and the Hague is the center of International Peace and Justice. I chose to study here because of the access I would have to different networks and the impactful opportunities it offers. I have always studied in The Hague. I came to the Netherlands in 2014 and got my Bachelor degree within 3 year, and then I did a gap year and then I did another gap year/started with my Masters and working on some projects and now I am finishing my masters.
You were very deliberate at the age of 18 years old, in that sense you are also a stand-out, a lot of people at that age don’t know what they want to study?
I was very deliberate and intentional in my choice at the age of 18 old. After High School in Curaçao, I stayed an extra year in Curaçao, as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So in that year I read 100 books on so many different topics like Philosophy, Economics, Science, Human Rights, Social Justice, self-help. I did some soul-searching. I was intentional in my choice as it was important to me to choose to do the things that I cared about, to know why I wanted to do things and how I wanted to impact the world and know what was my role in it. I was also doing the work, debating, doing the arts, connecting with my past and really finding out whom I wanted to become and connecting with the things I always enjoyed doing. It was funny as most of the time when you look back, it is very clear what you’re supposed to be doing, based on what you were doing as you are looking back. Giving myself the chance to look back to see what I cared about, I clearly saw that I cared about community organization, community service and public service throughout my whole life. Policymaking is very important, especially within our local context in Curaçao. There are a lot of gains to be won in policy, not just about policy, but how can policy become the catalyst so that people can become better as it always about people and their human experiences and to see whom they can be and see the invisible in someone else and so enable them, so it is possible for them to use the power they have within, to make big changes and to make wonderful and beautiful things. But you have to be able to see with your eyes, even when you can’t see it yet.
Mental slavery, do you know what it is?
Of course I do, it is internalized racism combined with lack of love for yourself, your culture and your history understanding the limits that are imposed on you. But at the same time understanding that there is so much untapped strength and potential within yourself. It is always the co-existence of contradiction, which exists in each and every one of us, as individuals. There are many contradictions and the legacy of slavery and the legacy of racial injustice has created such a gigantic heavy load of work and bondage, that especially black and Afro-American people of the Caribbean, carry this with them and this needs to be unlearned, needs to be re-conditioned. It is not easy as “Black Lives Matter” and other movements that call for social justice and those who call for re-imagining of the role of black people have shown. They are necessary and they are a must and it is long overdue and the timing right now is very key, to why the world is like it is right now.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
I think it is to love others and to love yourself, and that justice is love as an act in the public sphere. If I love you, I want what is good for you. If I love you, I want what is best for you, and I will fight for you when there is injustice being done towards you. And to have a just society, that is a society that allows people to fulfill their full potential, to be creative, to be innovative, to be impactful. To be able to continue to grow our society, we need to have a society where we always need to be aware that we need to look to create a more just society.
On LinkedIn you also present yourself as a speaker and leader. Have you always aspired to lead and have you always wanted to have a big impact in the world as part of let us call it “your legacy”? You are like a tarantula involved in so many things, I am so impressed by that!
I am humbled by these comments. I am involved in a lot of things yes, advising, coaching, speaking, lectures.
Basically, we are all leaders and I have always been involved, like since I was at the elementary school 8 or 9 years old, I was discussing with teachers on politics and on corruption on the island and why the name of our school was changing (I attended Peter Stuyvesant College) at the high school, I organized signatures actions advocating air-condition in the barracks of our school, I was in the student council and I have always been involved. It is all about people and leadership is to be able to see that gold in someone else, to encourage them to be able to bring it out and “leadership begets more leaders”.
That I can unleash the leadership skills in other people. And it is not about me. I love what I do, I work hard, but I also know that there are so many people that have so many different skills and so many great things that needs to be released and when they get that platform where they can shine, they will totally make it, so yes leadership and the legacy that I want to create, is very much connected to each other.
Could you share something of your educational background and your experiences?
I have a Bachelor in Public Administration and I am finishing my Master’s in Public Administration with a focus on International and European Governance.
What about your experiences?
Soon after arriving in the Netherlands in 2014, one of my first voluntary gigs was in the Hague World House that helps undocumented immigrants to find their way in the Netherlands. It is very hard for these undocumented people to “not be able to work” and I learned that especially the most vulnerable ones, have something very powerful within themselves, they have stories to tell. I thought that if we in the Netherlands have more than enough, we can also give.
What was your journey till now?
In my 3rd year as part of a Minor in Global Innovation and Co-Creating, I launched a Start Up and organized a project for refugees and Dutch people joining together for making some “pop up” kitchens, we did a lot of work and even won an award authorized by the City Council of The Hague, so that was very cool and it even launched me to have even more social impact.
I became a student fellow for the Center of Innovation at the University where I did some projects and did a lot in the field of human rights, but also social innovation and got more politically. I ran to become a University Council member of my faculty for one year, that was amazing because I got most of the votes.
In September 2017 after finished my Bachelor’s degree, I took the first gap year and became an advisor of the Ministry of Education for the equal opportunity alliance. In January 2018 I became the political leader of the Student Party and we went through a crazy ride with the core consisting of 4 people did all of the work, writing policy documents, debating, organizing events and giving speeches, doing our own design. We didn’t get a seat, we did have an impact though, especially among the youth and foreign students as they could vote and many didn’t know that. We also had a documented impact on the discourse regarding the youth and I was reminded again of my role I had in creating change “being a catalyst” in political movements.
After that within 2 weeks, I did an internship at an NGO Humanity in Action in Amsterdam and we went to a very intense program with many people from the USA, Poland, France and many people from European countries and we visited Strasbourg and as we were a small NGO we were only 4 people organizing the logistical details for about 50 people. In July of that year I went to Portugal attending an Atlantic Youth Conference a program from NATO about the Transantlantic relationships and the impact of NATO on young people, but also on the future of Europe.
After that I went to work for the Ministry of Agriculture as an advisor and I started my Masters in September 2018 in that same year. I needed to launch a Think Tank for food security in the Dutch Caribbean. So I connected with many students from the Dutch Caribbean Islands and I asked them to be member of this and we were focused on all the islands, from Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Martin. We had contacts with the ministry of Agriculture and the ministries on the respective islands and that was another great impactful experience. But then came the “Stikstof” crisis in the Netherlands, which frustrated everything as all the priorities of the Ministry of Agriculture were shifted.
I finished off my presidency of the Student Party and ended up being selected to do a fellowship in Humanity in Action in 2019. I was selected to do that fellowship as I applied and I went to Atlanta one full month, finishing my work as an intern at the Ministry of Agriculture. Atlanta was great as I met the sister of Dr. Martin Luther King and met so many other Civil Rights leaders and it really had a big impact on the way I saw human rights and social justice, because I realized that injustice is everywhere and that there is so much work to be done on a global and local level. Like what are the national myths that we believe and what do we tell ourselves and tell others in order to stop ourselves from facing our truth and truths that are difficult. It taught me many skills on organizing.
I have forgot to say that in 2018 I also became a member of global shapers. This is an initiative of the World Economic Forum. I got selected after applying and I became a member hosting projects on inclusion and equity, on climate and the future of work. When I was in Atlanta there was a conference of global shapers in that city when I was there in Atlanta. So I ended up going and met so many people from the US, Canada, Mexico and great connections and great friends and when the program was done, it was by the end of July I ended up flying to Minneapolis where I did another program called the Climate Reality training and it was given by Al Gore, I even met him. It was great because it connected very well with other programs that I went to from Humanity in Action. It was about Social Justice and connecting Social Justice with the Climate priorities and talk about Climate Justice that is the interconnection of all these things together and how it impacts the world we live in right now.
After that I went to New York and DC and I went to Curaçao for a month and did some projects over here. And in September 2019 I ended up going back to the Netherlands doing my courses and then I was in the London-UK for One Young World Conference. It is a global youth talk from all across the world that are involved and connected. I was an invited guest so I didn’t have to pay because I am also part of an organization in Brussel and it is called APCYPN it stands for African Caribbean Pacific Young Professional Network. I was working for them for almost one and a half year actually and we got through European Development Days, hosted panels, talked with European policy makers and met many interesting people. Like the King of Belgium and the Nobel prize winner Denis Mukwege just before he got the Nobel prize and we actually had a super long conversation and that was super cool. But the most important thing that I learned was that the institutions seem very far away, but actually they are not as far as we think and we can have impact there too.
In mid of January 2020 I started working and I had to do a lot of courses because I needed to catch up and ended up passing most of the courses, there one more course that I have to do then I am done and then the corona crisis came and it was like a bomb. I also started doing more facilitation work and conference hosting work for the University for other NGO’s and for different Ministries so it was very cool, but the corona crisis was like a slap in the face. I needed to re-invent what was urgent and I realized that the crisis really was urgent especially for the islands. So we connected with some people, one of them is on your list of Influencers, Luuk Weber, ended up launching an initiative called “Keda kas” a social media platform which tries to inform people of the island on corona and about the crisis that is going on. In fact it was pretty successful, we connected with different organizations like AMAC (Medical Students from the Antilles) and we connected with ABC Compass (association for technical students from the Antilles) we went to the media and spoke with politicians and we got some articles written about us on line. We hosted some sessions on mental health for example and that was definitely impactful. I also became for secretary for the supervisory board of Stichting OCAN that is “Het overleg orgaan Caraibisch Nederland” a platform basically where Antillean people find representation especially connected to the Dutch government.
We got inspired to interview you after Robert Rosa also a global shaper from Curaçao referred us to you. Is this ambition to influence and shape the world something that is related to your generation? As when I was studying in Holland in the 70-ties, our generation didn’t have a global ambition. Can you explain this, as I believe that it is awesome to have a global perspective in an increasingly interrelated world. What kind of activities are you involved in?
Think global and the future is “glocal”. We need to understand that globalization has not always been beneficial in the world, there are lots of communities that have lost a lot because of the globalization. Interconnectedness is a good thing, but it should be based on the strength in the community, through strong communities we can have strong bonds and that is a good thing. Curaçao has so much to give to others and even if we don’t live in Curaçao, it means that we haven’t forgotten it. We can still contribute, while at the same time be deeper involved in the community right where we live in and that is what I mean with the “glocal’ connection
When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
Success is much more about the energy and intention you show up with. If I can connect with people and be the catalyst for somebody else, then I have been successful. I am not there yet, although I have had some successes, but there is so much more to do. Another way of looking at success is about finding balance and of course things are never completely in balance, but when you’re aware that you need to re-balance, and you do it, that is what I would call “success”.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
This Coronavirus period has been difficult. I live alone and at first almost everything was closed. I am a very social person and I connect with others through my work. Especially as part of my thesis, I needed to contact people and after all these months of adapting, I am understanding that social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. But it is also easy to be swallowed by the breath of everyday-ness. In fact, what happened was, that my life has become more intense and finding that peace has been important to me.
Do you meditate and pray?
Yes, I do meditate and I do pray.
How important is spirituality for you?
It is the BIG WHY for everything and it deals with questions like: “Why I am here? What is my purpose?” But via my spirituality, the reality I see with my faith has become so clearly, that is why I work so hard, because it is my purpose. I like the word “Namaste” which means: “See the God in others as everybody is connected to God”.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I try to ask myself, what is the kind of impact I want to create? I ask myself where does this come from inside myself, sometimes it is hard, not always in harmony with myself and I still do it. To be self aware is important, to be conscious of the choices, like does it serve or doesn’t serve me, is it healing or creating pain? If pain is necessary, I will do it. Asking myself a lot of questions, that is how I deal with it healing or creating pain? If pain is necessary, I will do it. Thus asking myself a lot of questions, that is how I deal with it.
But how do you ultimately choose?
There are no perfect answers, that is why it is called a dilemma, it is a wicked problem. I would ask myself, what do I value the most using my moral compass, to know how to deal with it. I want what is good that is the final criteria, and as I am human, sometimes we do things that are not great. Basically I act out of love, it is important to be loving. I believe in forgiveness and at times your body doesn’t want to forgive, but your values want to forgive deep down and forgiveness is good. I strive to let the consciousness mind be in harmony with the moral values I cherish.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I read a lot, I follow webinars, these days are the webinar season. I speak with different people, I think a lot, I connect with others and implement and try to do things and learn.
What are your strengths?
I am a very social person. I have a high emotional intelligence. I do a lot of networking. I have this thing about new ideas, I love it. I am a critical thinker. I am good at dealing with crises, and I tend to be very joyful. I love to sing out loud.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
I sing and play the piano. I am a poet. I love the performing arts in general.
If you as Gilberto would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Stockholm or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
My name is Gilberto and I love people. I create conditions to allow people to become better. I wouldn’t mention my positions, as “how you are” is much deeper than the positions I hold.
How would you describe Gilberto in one word or one sentence?
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Dr. Martin Luther King and so many people that are great teachers, like Aminata Cairo. A lot of friends that inspire me every day, because of the love and justice we share. My family, all of this is inspiration. I love to have a conversation with authenticity and vulnerability.
What is a trait that is still work in progress?
This period and how to deal with it, because this period brought along with it the challenge with structure, it is difficult to stay “on structure” with 50.000 things to do.
What was a defining moment in your life?
Going to Atlanta and the moment I started my studies in the Netherlands when I left Curaçao in 2014 and it might also be this year’s Covid pandemic, but at this moment it is still a hung for me, that it would also be a defining moment.
Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
More involved in politics in Curaçao or internationally. It is about creating better communities and stronger civil societies. There is where I want to be involved in.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
He is a loving person that did the work and stayed true to what he believed in, unequivocally he was completely himself.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of the islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
It is simple, we have no alternative, we have to. I am not of the opinion that we should paralyze and become inactive because of the challenges we confront in this day and age. What I see is, that young people are standing up for a better society, putting the effort in this, while at the same time staying humble. That is so important, I myself, I am trying to be a little bit more humble, effort in this, while at the same time staying humble. That is so important, I myself, I am trying to be a bit more humble.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Yes, I want to specifically mention the “humility” part. Right now, we are suffering a leadership crisis in the world. Many whom shouldn’t be in a leadership position, are in a leadership position and they lack the willingness to learn and lack efforts to getting the best out of other people. They think that strength means beating, bashing, speaking ugly about others and I am not a purest, but being nice is not the same as kindness. What I want is to bring everybody into civility, so that they can radically be themselves. This doesn’t mean nothing extra nor loud, not being outside yourself, but being inside yourself.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Gilberto Morishaw is a young dynamic, multi-facetted inspirational leader, speaker, coach, catalyst of change who loves the performing arts. His CV up to now at his young age make him stand out. Being deliberate in what he wanted, he chose to study Public Administration after he took a “one year sabbatical” and read over 100 books on different subject matters, did a lot of self-reflection and work. His conclusion was, that community organization, community service and public service is really what he cared about. He was deliberate in choosing to study at the University of Leiden in The Hague, as it’s the Center of International Peace and Justice which would enable him to have access to different networks and impactful opportunities. Living an intense life aimed at acquiring as much experience and knowledge as possible, he is focused on helping to create a society that allows people to fulfill their full potential, to be creative, to be innovative, to be impactful. Describing himself as radically loving, as he wants to love others and love himself, and believes that “Justice” is love as an act in the public sphere that has an obligation to offer it to its citizens.
He had been elected and participated one year in his faculty council, party leader of a political Student Party vying to win a seat in the municipality of The Hague, has done different interns in NGO’s, he has been advisor of Ministries in Holland and the Dutch Antilles, representing Youth in different International fora, is making him a standout as he wants and believes that he can be a catalyst influencing themes that are on the world agenda like climate and social justice to mention a few. He is really living according to the adage: “Leadership begets more Leaders”. For all these reasons we deeply love and respect Gilberto and consider him one of the 250 Influencers in our society, proudly representing the Public Sector.