Stepping Into Truth: Conversations on Race, Gender, and Social Justice
Restoring Justice with Drew Willey

Restoring Justice with Drew Willey

May 18, 2021

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Drew Willey

Season 3   Episode 23

Imagine going to law school with the intention of becoming a tax attorney and then doing an internship with the Texas Innocence Project and completely scrapping your previous plan. Meet Drew Willey.

Some time back I was fortunate to be in a group studying Joel Goza's book, America's Unholy Ghosts with Drew Willey. Drew and his wife Jessica founded Restoring Justice to provide needed legal services to the indigent population of Houston. 

How Drew went from studying to be a tax attorney to fighting for the rights of those caught in the legal system and most in need of help is itself fascinating. But even more interesting is what Drew has to share about how the system actually works, what the needs of his clients and so many others, actually are, and ways that we call can be of help.

That our criminal justice system is broken is not news. What most of us don't know are the specific ways in which the rights of individuals are violated every day. Drew and his dedicated team are modeling ways to restore justice that we can replicate and expand upon.

I left this conversation with Drew both angry at the system and encouraged and inspired by the work that the people at Restoring Justice are doing each day.

Have a listen and then pass this conversation along and, if you can, take Drew's action suggestions and let's make the difference we can.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

About Drew:

Alongside his wife, Jessica, Drew Willey founded Restoring Justice. Drew left a career as an accountant to attend law school at the University of Houston Law Center. An internship with the Texas Innocence Network showed him firsthand how the legal system dehumanizes poor people, people of color, and those with mental health conditions. 

Drew became a criminal defense attorney, primarily working on representation of the indigent. This work eventually led Drew to found Restoring Justice to not only provide high-quality, holistic counsel to those who need it the most, but also find ways to expose, disrupt, and fix the systemic racism and discrimination in our criminal justice system. 

Drew’s work as a public defender and as the founder of Restoring Justice has been featured in publications like The New York Times, Texas Monthly, Texas Tribune, and the Houston Chronicle.

Connect with Drew and the Restoring Justice 

Restoring Justice

Making Poverty a Focus of U.S. Policy with Clint Borgen

Making Poverty a Focus of U.S. Policy with Clint Borgen

May 11, 2021

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Clint Borgen
Season 3   Episode 22

When Clint Borgen was a sophomore in college the war in Kosovo broke out. In 3 months the fighting had killed 10,000 people and displaced 800,000. Borgen decided that he needed to do something so he found a group to volunteer with and went to the region. That experience changed the direction of his life.

Being a witness to war and the impacts that it had on the populace made him aware of how little it actually takes to improve the situation of people living as refugees. He also got to see where the US did and didn't step in to help people in these situations. 

He recognized that as the world's global superpower the US has the capacity to direct the conversation about what is happening and from there, funding and support to people and regions in crisis. 

He decided that what he would do was essentially act as a lobbyist for poor people and try to get addressing global poverty on the agenda for members of Congress. He came home and founded the Borgen Project and has been working on behalf of the world's poor ever since. 

I learned a lot from this conversation including how little it can actually take to get an issue on the radar of a member of Congress and how small actions in this arena can have an outsized impact.

If you think that what you do doesn't have make a difference, listen to Clint and find out how much power you actually have. Then, let's go out and change the world.

About Clint:

Clint Borgen is the founder and president of The Borgen Project, an organization working to bring U.S political attention to global poverty. Borgen works nationally with congressional leaders to build support for legislation that improves conditions for people in developing nations. He's widely regarded as one of the leading poverty reduction campaigners in the United States.

For a written transcript of this conversation click here.

Connect with Clint and the Borgen Project:
The Borgen Project
On Twitter

Credits:
Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

Talking with Healer, Therapist, and NY Times Best Selling Author Resmaa Menakem

Talking with Healer, Therapist, and NY Times Best Selling Author Resmaa Menakem

April 27, 2021

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Resmaa Menakem   
Season 3  Episode 21

The week of April 19, 2021 was brutal. People around the world, but especially here in the U.S., were waiting on a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. But then there were other killings that same week of Black bodies by police.

It was almost too much to process. But this conversation with healer, therapist, and NYT best selling author Resmaa Menakem gave me a deeper perspective. 

Resmaa and I spoke a few hours before the verdict in the  trial came down. We talked about George Floyd, we talked about other Black bodies murdered by police. We also spoke about trauma, Black trauma, white trauma, and the trauma that is held in the bodies of those in blue.

We spoke about white body supremacy and what we all need to do to heal that for the sake of all people. We spoke about the role of community in the healing process and how we all need people who not only care for us but hold us to account.

In the context of the trial of the murderer of George Floyd hanging over us, this conversation was especially powerful. After speaking with Resmaa I had a more comprehensive direction for future action and I believe you will too.

For a written transcript of this conversation click here.

Resmaa, Menakem, MSW, LICSW, SEP, is a healer, therapist and NYTimes bestselling author of My Grandmother’s Hands. Resmaa Menakem is a visionary Justice Leadership coach, organizational strategist and master trainer. To help Justice leaders really realize their potential in the areas of Equity & Race, Resmaa created cultural somatics, which utilizes the Body & Resilience as mechanisms for growth.

Resources mentioned in this episode:
My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem, available wherever you buy your books
Resmaa’s Wyser App 

Connect with Resmaa:
Website

Credits:
Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

The Boston Legacy of Martin and Coretta King

The Boston Legacy of Martin and Coretta King

April 13, 2021

 Did you know that Boston played a major role in the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? I didn't. Turns out Boston was where he got his PhD, studied with his mentor Howard Thurman, and met Coretta Scott.

Clearly, Boston was a significant place in both their lives. In 2022 a sculpture will be installed on the Boston Common in honor of them both. But that is just one part of what is happening. 

King Boston, an organization dedicated to uplifting the role that Boston played in their lives, is creating numerous initiatives and programs with the goal of continuing and expanding the work that they were both so dedicated to.

In this conversation I speak with Tammy Tai and Greg Ball of King Boston about Martin and Coretta King as well as about what their vision is for how they can move Boston from being one of the most racist cities in the country to a city that honors and lives out the vision of the Kings.

In this conversation Tammy and Greg also give us insight into Dr. King as he truly was rather than the incomplete, and perhaps more palatable version for some, that most are familiar with. 

I loved talking with them, I love what they are part of, and I think that anyone who holds Dr. and Mrs. King up as models and icons owes it to themselves to hear what King Boston is doing. 

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

Three Action Steps:

  1. Connect with them at KingBoston.org (especially if you live nearby, get involved with their initiatives).

  2. Spread the word about the work they are doing.

  3. Financially support their work if you can.

Supporting the Formerly Incarcerated: A Conversation with Rod Nunn

Supporting the Formerly Incarcerated: A Conversation with Rod Nunn

March 30, 2021

The United States has approximately 5% of the world's population but accounts for about 25% of those incarcerated. The statistics on
re-incarceration are, honestly, awful.

We know what happens when people are released from prison with no structure in place to help them successfully reenter society. How might it be different if instead of just letting people out and leaving them on their own we had systems in place that helped them find their way?

Well, Concordance Academy does exactly that and Rod Nunn, Executive Vice President, Head of Education and Employment, joins me to talk about the ways in which our system is failing the formerly incarcerated and how we can fix this broken system.

The costs of failing in this arena are often hidden from view for many of us but they are real and we all pay the price, if in no other way than financially, when the system fails. 

This conversation inspired me to educate myself and to do my part, as we as a country grapple with our criminal justice system, to recognize that, for former felons, incarceration isn't the end of the story. The decisions that we, as a community make, can dramatically impact how the story plays out.

Rod's 3 Action Steps
1) Share the message in your circles of influence that individuals with criminal records, these justice involved adults that we're talking about, they do in fact, become good high performing employees in the workplace, solid, productive citizens.
2) Stay informed with what's happening in public policy in your state, in your community. I would point you to the prison policy initiative as a great resource for that. 
3) Visit Concordance Academy, to learn more about us. In particular our first chance campaign, which is a national campaign that is allowing us the ability to expand what we do and other places around the country. Our goal is to be in 10 cities by 2025.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

Talking with Filmmaker Kerra Bolton

Talking with Filmmaker Kerra Bolton

March 16, 2021

In this conversation award winning filmmaker Kerra Bolton and I discuss telling Black stories, and the challenges of doing so, including her latest project which will have her diving sunken slave ships. We also talk about her life as an expat and some of the surprising moments that come, like when she realized that she was the oppressor. 

I also learn about restorative practices as they are being used in a Detroit school.

Another rich conversation for you. Enjoy!

To donate to help Kerra get her film made go here.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

 

Leslie Kern

Leslie Kern

March 2, 2021

When I first saw the title of Leslie Kern's book, Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World, I was intrigued. Then I started reading it and I was fascinated. In this book Kern talks about things that are so much a part of the norm that we often don't notice them, until we do. For instance, have you ever thought about the way that public transit is perfectly designed for the way most men work but not at all for the way a lot of women work? 

What about the ways that women engage with the issue of safety, particularly in cities? The words we say to our female friends as we go our separate ways at night, "Text me when you get home", come to mind. Or how about the ways in which suburban living reinforces and perpetuates stereotypical gender roles?

Honestly, this book and talking with Leslie made me look at so many things differently than I had before. Eye-opening doesn't begin to cover it. I loved talking with her so much. Have a listen, read her book, and spread the word.

For a written transcript of this episode click here.

Hari Ziyad

Hari Ziyad

February 16, 2021

In this episode I got to speak with the author of the upcoming memoir Black Boy Out of Time, Hari Ziyad. Hari uses his experience of growing up queer with a Hare Krishna mother and Muslim father to illuminate the experience of being outside. As an outsider, both as a consequence of being queer but also as a Black boy in a world that has little space outside of set roles for Black children Hari dissects some of the impacts that our carceral system has on children of color.

Talking with Hari made me braver about sharing more of my own story. Hari brings rigor to the discussion of our systems with a grace and sensitivity that creates space for all of us to more fully own our stories.

I'm really glad that I got to speak with them and think you're going to find what they had to say fascinating.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

Learn more about Hari at www.hariziyad.com

Tharaka Sriram

Tharaka Sriram

February 2, 2021

In this episode I talk with Tharaka Sriram who has merged her values of the preservation of the oceans with women's justice issues and more. Tharaka and I discuss the overlap between the damage we're doing to our oceans and domestic violence. 

She discusses the necessity for more women, particularly women of color, to be part of the conversation around ocean preservation and the preservation of a way of life for many Indigenous peoples. 

She also challenges some assumptions that many of us have about the relationship that those who live by, and depend on, the ocean have with it. As well as the impact of plastic pollution on women especially.

Whether you're an ocean lover or not, this is an important conversation about the health of our planet. Speaking with Tharaka has given me a lot to think about and will change some of the ways in which I engage with the ocean and the creatures that call it home.

For a written transcript of this conversation click here.

Tharaka mentions a number of things you might want to follow up on. Here are some links.

International Collective for the Support of Fishworkers  (ICSF)

Yemaya is the ICSF newsletter on gender and fisheries

To read more about Tharaka's work as a Marine Ambassador go here.

 

Talking with author and editor Krishan Trotman

Talking with author and editor Krishan Trotman

January 19, 2021

In this conversation editor and author Krishan Trotman and I talk about her book Queens of the Resistance (co-authored with Brenda Jones) in which she profiles Nancy Pelosi, AOC, Maxine Waters, and Elizabeth Warren. We also discuss how important it is for us to have representation in publishing if we're going to have a deeper understanding of our varied experiences. Also, if writing a book is on your bucket list have a listen, Krishan has some great suggestions.

This conversation, talking about badass women and the possibilities before us, gave me hope for the future and inspiration to keep going. I hope it does the same for you.

For a written transcript of this conversation click here.

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