I am honored that this episode of the podcast is launched in partnership with Valarie Kaur’s People’s Inauguration https://thepeoplesinauguration.org/ Valarie organized this People’s Inauguration out of the recognition that while a renewed functional government is necessary, it will not alone transform our communities into places were all of us are valued and free. Rather all of us have a vital role to play to heal and build a country that is committed to racial and economic justice, physical and emotional well-being, environmental sustainability, and peace. As President Biden and Vice President Harris take office, it is necessary for each of us also to take an oath to do our part to work towards this reimagined future.
To discuss how to do this, in this episode I am joined by my friends and colleagues Kerrian Suarez, Executive Director of Equity in the Center, and Andrew Plumley, Director of Inclusion at the American Alliance of Museums and Board member of Equity in the Center. Our conversation was recorded just a week after the insurrection at the U.S. Capital. We discuss the background and the implications of the rise of more visible and radicalized white nationalist violence, and how to support people, organizations, and social systems at this critical time to move from awake, to woke, to work to put racial equity at the center of transformational progressive change.
Given the tumultuous nature of this political season, I was thrilled to be able to sit down with Nisha Anand, CEO of Dream Corps https://www.thedreamcorps.org, to discuss how to respond to the challenges we face. Specifically, we discussed how to utilize Dream Corps’ core philosophy of finding common ground as a radical concept to bring people together across racial, social, and partisan lines to create a future with dignity for all. We also discussed approaches to respond to, and heal, the deep polarization and divisions that were exposed and exacerbated during the four long years of the Trump administration.
My hope is that by listening to this episode, you will join us in committing to find a way to heal the riffs in our communities so that we can create the future we dream of.
In this episode, I connect with longtime friends and colleagues Antonio Cardona, LaCora Bradford Kesti, and Ernest Comer to celebrate 10 years of Public Allies Twin Cities Public Allies is a social justice organization committed to changing the face and practice of leadership by recruiting and training talented young leaders. It has been my honor to witness the deep organizing across race, class, and sexuality that Public Allies, and the young leaders they have trained, have brought to our movements for justice.
Listen as we discuss the origin of Public Allies Twin Cities, how my involvement with the organization has coincided with key movement moments over the past decade, and the impact that bringing together a BIPOC community of youth leaders has had on us and our communities.
We also discuss how the current movement moment is affecting us, how internalized oppression might impact the pressure we feel to do it all, and the importance of healing and self care as we ride the waves movement building for the long-term
Finally, we talk about what is next for Antonio, Ernest, and LaCora and how the influence of Public Allies continues.
Beth recently gained access to a Storycorp interview she did back in 2013. Read more about it and listen below!
“New friends and colleagues Beth Zemsky, 53, and Kierra Johnson, 36, discuss their advocacy work at the intersection of the LGBT, feminist, racial equality, and body liberation movements.”
Beth started coming out in 1977 as an 18 year old in Ithaca, NY. She saw many gay and lesbian couples holding hands not knowing it related to her. She became very involved in gender/sexuality studies at Cornell University. She moved to St. Louis, MO for graduate school and suddenly her ability to live openly as a lesbian was in question. The paper Gay Community News out of Boston kept her politically involved in LGBT issues (it also formed the basis of the new National Gay and Lesbian Task Force).
Kierra attended the University of Colorado, Boulder. She was studying racial justice when her sister, Amber, became pregnant at 16. She witnessed her sister drop out of school and not receive support for her further education (Amber was sent to a “mommy school”). K realized that whatever women decide [about pregnancy/abortion] they are judged. This catapulted her into the feminist and choice/body liberation movements.
Click here to read the rest of the transcript/listen to the episode!
Here in Minneapolis, around the country, and indeed around the world, we are in the midst of a new heightened level of movement engagement. This uprising for racial justice is possible now because of movement leaders who have been laboring for decades, joined by newly inaugurated activists, all of whom stand on the shoulders and the foundation built by generations of those who came before who believed in freedom, justice, and the power of a loving community to create change. The power of long-term movement building is evident in the energy we see on our streets and in the victory we gained this week reflected in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision finally outlawing employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
I am thrilled that in the midst of this pivotal time my friend, colleague, civil rights attorney, writer, filmmaker, activist, and current world-changer, Valarie Kaur joins me via Zoom from California for this episode of the podcast to talk about the power of Revolutionary Love. Valarie defines revolutionary love as when you are brave enough to see no stranger.
In the context of Valarie’s new book See No Stranger, which is hot off the press today, and the Revolutionary Love Project she founded going viral online, we catch up with Valarie for a unique, intimate chat about her work, her new book, and how it all came to be. Valerie shares with us, in a candid and effortlessly authentic way, about what first called her to activism, how her Sikh faith shaped and influenced her work, and how the concept of Revolutionary Love has seen her through some of the darkest and most transitional moments of her life.
This episode will challenge you in ways that are perfectly timed for the movement moment we are currently moving though. Whether you’re new to movement work, a lifelong activist, or transitioning from one form of movement work to another, Valarie offers us up her deepest wisdom, in a way that will speak directly to yours, no matter where you are in your journey.
I hope you and your loved ones are doing as well as possible during this challenging time.
In addition, to figuring out how to move much of my work onto Zoom, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the nature of crises – particularly about the danger and the opportunities they present regarding making systemic change.
The data is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting black, brown and poor communities. Decades of disinvestment in public health infrastructure and economic and community development, coupled with the warehousing of black and brown bodies in substandard housing, prisons, immigrant detention centers, and close quarter assembly lines (i.e meat packing plants) has resulted in higher infection and death rates. It should be no surprise, if we allow ourselves to see the muck that has the been exposed, that systemic inequities lead to systemic disparities.
One of the lessons I learned when working as a family psychotherapist was never to waste a crisis because opportunities for systemic change emerge in crises that might never come again. In times of crisis, systems are disrupted enough for real change to happen – for people to see and hear things that were invisible to them before, to experiment with new behaviors and ways to show up for each other, and to shift structural aspects of interactions that significantly heal and alter the system. In short, intentionally utilizing the disruptive aspects of a crisis presents an opportunity to accelerate systemic growth and change.
Last week, at the invitation of the Geraldine R Dodge Foundation, I posted a blog that explored this topic, specifically How to Implement Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity during a Pandemic. In addition, Ryan and I recorded a podcast that provided us an opportunity to expand the conversation.
Beth also wrote a blog post on this topic. You can read it here.
In this episode of the podcast, we talk with my longtime friend and colleague Cynthia Zwicky about the ancient tradition and emerging movement field of Restorative Justice. While we talk about Cynthia’s experience primarily within the context of the education system, we also reflect on how the practice of restorative justice can provide a vital foundation for much of the social justice work we do. We also discussed how institutionalized power and privilege in the pursuit of justice often results in prioritizing the peace and comfort of those in power rather then well being of the community as a whole. Finally, Cynthia shares her experience first bringing restorative methodologies to her North Minneapolis school, the challenges she faced in doing so, and the ultimate successes her school achieved as a result.
I also chat about what I’ve been up to so far this year, what I’ve got coming up, and a sneak preview of our next few episodes.
In this episode, I am thrilled to talk about leadership with one of my closest friends and former Executive Director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, David Nicholson.
With the context of impeachment and the 2020 election as backdrop to our conversation, we deconstruct what passes for “leadership” in current political arena versus what we believe our movements need to create a transformed future. We consider questions about power, values, accountability, and integrity. We also discuss how our multiple identities inform and impact how we think about leadership, how we show up as leaders, and some unique challenges POC and LGBTQ leaders face in exercising different leadership styles.
In this episode, I sit down with my longtime friend and colleague, Dave Mann for a chat about the emerging and evolving individual and collective narratives of the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election. First, we reground in why value based narratives are so essential for this political moment. We then reflect on what narratives we hear emerging and gaining traction as some of the candidates potentially pull away from the pack by framing their issue positions in values based narratives. We also examine why leading with an anti-Trump narrative is a problematic not only as an election strategy, but also in the larger scope of movement building. Finally, we suggest some resources to learn more about framing and the construction of political narratives.