Stepping Into Truth: Conversations on Social Justice and How We Get Free

Navigating our way through this complex, challenging time requires taking a clear look at the issues we’re confronting. Join Omkari Williams and her guests as they take on some of the most pressing issues of our time.

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For many Black Americans the land itself is the scene of the crime. That legacy of slavery has dramatically impacted the relationship that many Black Americans have with the land.  Food and land justice activist Leah Penniman is working to change that. A founder of Soul Fire Farm and the author of Farming While Black, Leah has made it her mission in life to reconnect Black and Brown people with the land.  In this conversation Leah and I talk about not only how the legacy of slavery is still seen in connection to the land and land ownership but how to heal some of these wounds. From spending time working with the land, to reparations, to political advocacy Leah and I talk about where we are, where we want to be, and how we get there.  About Leah: Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer, author, mother, and food justice activist who has been tending the soil and organizing for an anti-racist food system for25 years. She currently serves as founding co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a Black & Brown led project that works toward food and land justice. Her book is Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. Find out more about Leah’s work at and follow her @soulfirefarm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For a written transcript of this conversation go here. Action Items: Check out the Soul Fire Farm website where you'll find a ton of resources and action guides. Look at the reparations map created by the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust and Soul Fire Farm and find a project that connects with you and needs resources if you are able to make a financial contribution. Pay attention to legislation that is happening around farmers and our food and get in touch with your representatives. As few as 20 contacts from constituents make a difference. Resources: Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman Connect with Leah: Soul Fire Farm Farming While Black, the book  Instagram Twitter Credits: Thank you to the National Liberty Museum for their production support.Harmonica music courtesy of a friend.   

Tuesday Jan 11, 2022

Veronica Chambers For a lot of people Black Lives Matter became part of their lives in a concrete way in the wake of the murder of George Floyd but the story of the organization starts years earlier. In her book, with its gorgeous photographs, NYT editor Veronica Chambers takes us on not only the journey of BLM but also looks to the past and the future to see where we came from and where we might go. In this conversation Veronica and I talk about both the struggle and about how we all get free. Looking at leaders who work outside of the spotlight and what they have to teach us we get a broader picture of how we might do our individual activism.  From Ferguson to the climate conference in Glasgow we look at the intersections and how we can use them to increase our impact.  I loved this conversation because it reminded me of the power of collective action which, I think, we sometimes underestimate. It reminded me of how many remarkable people, that includes you, are out in the world doing their part. We are not alone in doing this work, no matter how isolating it can sometimes feel.  Have a listen and take inspiration from Veronica's words and her perspective. Take inspiration from the stories she shares and let's keep doing the work. About Veronica: Veronica Chambers is an award winning author and the lead editor of Narrative Projects, a team dedicated to telling multi-platform stories at the New York Times. Based in London, her most recent book is Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter. She has taught writing at several colleges and universities, including Bowdoin in Maine, Bard College at Simon's Rock, Massachusetts, and the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences. Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, she writes often about her Afro Latina heritage. For a written transcript of this conversation click here. Action Steps: 1) Take a look at the NY Times series: Black History Continued    This series looks at pivotal moments and transformative figures in Black         history. 2) Girls Write Now:     Helping girls and young women find their voice through the tool of story. 3) Youth Communication:     Two youth run publications, one focusing on economic, gender, and racial         diversity. The other written by kids in the foster care system. Connect with Veronica: Credits: Harmonica music courtesy of a friendProduction support provided by the National Liberty Museum

Tuesday Nov 23, 2021

Varun Nikore 2020 saw the greatest increase in voter turnout by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in history. That turnout powered the vote in key states like Georgia and helped prevent another four years with the former guy. I wish the fight for our democracy was over but it's clearly not and there are some important lessons to take away from what happened in 2020.  My guest today is Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Alliance. Varun and I discuss the history of the AAPI community here and how they have come to play such an important role in determining the outcome of key elections and, consequently, the direction of our country. Though they have been in this country since its inception and here in large numbers since the late 1800's AAPI people are still often seen as "other", and the hateful and harmful rhetoric around Covid hasn't helped.  In this wide ranging conversation Varun and I look at the challenges and some of the solutions to problems confronting AAPI people here, including those recently resettled from Afghanistan. This conversation was so interesting and it gave me things to do to help bring justice to this marginalized group of people.  Listen, learn, and then take action.  Together we can build the world we want to live in. About Varun: My guest today Varun Nikore has for more than 30 years been involved in national state and local politics as a campaign strategist, fundraiser and policy advisor and AAPI leader. In 1998, he was appointed to serve in the Clinton administration. He is the founder and past president of the Indian American Leadership Initiative, which is the largest Indian American network of Democrats in the United States. In 2008, Varun served as a transportation policy adviser for President Obama under Obama for America. He is the current president of AAPI victory fund and executive director of AAPI Victory Alliance. For a written transcript of this conversation click here. Action Items: Get their weekly newsletterIf you can make a financial donation to support their work Follow their weekly calls to action  Credits: Harmonica music courtesy of a friendProduction support provided by the National Liberty Museum

Tuesday Nov 09, 2021

Nicole Hockley In the wake of the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 children (6 and 7 years of age) and six educators were killed on December 14, 2012, some of the grieving parents joined together to do what they could to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again and Sandy Hook Promise (SHP) was born. Nicole Hockley's six year old son, Dylan, was among those killed and now she, and others at Sandy Hook Promise, works to give educators and students the tools they need to recognize the warning signs and prevent violence from occurring.  SHP's Know the Signs program offers both students and educators training in how to be more socially inclusive and connected to one another. Research has shown that social isolation is one of the predictors of violence and teaching both kids and adults to be aware of this and how to combat it, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, is a critical piece of school gun violence prevention. This conversation was one of those that I will never forget. Hearing Nicole's take on the impact of school shootings on kids, whether they've experienced a school shooting or not, was truly sobering. I also found myself uplifted by the reach of this program and the impact of the work that SHP is doing.  Among other things we talk about in this conversation are two Public Service Announcements that SHP has done. Please take a few moments and watch them, they give us insight into the experience too many of our kids are having. Teenage Dream, which is set to the lighthearted lyrics of Katy Perry's song, and Back to School Essentials are hard to watch and it's so important that we do watch and then take action. About Nicole: Nicole Hockley is co-founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise where she oversees organizational strategy, marketing, and development of the acclaimed Know the Signs violence prevention programs. Under her leadership, the Sandy Hook Promise is effectively turning tragedy into transformation, averting multiple school shooting plots, teen suicides, and countless other acts of violence in schools across the country. For a Written Transcript of this conversation click here. Action Steps: 1) Learn the signs of someone in crisis. Go to to download the free brochure with a wide range of signs to look for. Then if you see those signs take them seriously, act on them, get help.2) If you're a parent or involved with schools make sure that mental health supports are a priority.3) Vote for politicians that are running on gun violence prevention platforms. Vote for funding for programs that are going to help reduce gun violence. And use your voice. Those in charge need to hear from you. Connect with Nicole: Website: Instagram: @sandyhookpromise Twitter: @sandyhook   Credits and Acknowledgements: Harmonica music courtesy of a friend Thank you to The National Liberty Museum for production support

Tuesday Oct 26, 2021

Shelby Kretz In the midst of this awakening, in the larger community, to the systemic injustices in our society we've heard a lot about "wokeness". What if instead of people having to get woke in adulthood we raised children who were aware of and sensitive to social justice issues from the beginning? Imagine if, instead of coming to this work as adults, we had all come to it as children. What might the world look like if we didn't have to fight for the rights of people of color, of LGBTQIA+ people, for or a sustainable environment, to mention just a few causes, because we'd been educated early about what the inequities were and learned ways to address them and, most importantly, not perpetuate injustice in our own lives? In this conversation Shelby Kretz and I talked about making social justice an everyday part of the education that our children receive in school and at home. People talk about, "hearts and minds" all the time. What if we could support open hearts and minds from the beginning? Think of how much further along we would be as a society.  Shelby and her team at Little Justice Leaders work to do exactly that. Part of breaking the cycle of racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression is making sure those attitudes never take root.  This conversation gave me so much hope for the future. I think it will do the same for you. About Shelby: Shelby Kretz is an educational researcher at UCLA and creator of Little Justice Leaders subscription box. Little Justice Leaders is a monthly box for parents and teachers of elementary school students, which provides resources each month to learn about a new topic of social justice. For a written transcript of this conversation please click here. Action Steps:1) Start having conversations with the kids in your life about justice issues.2) Do your part to normalize the teaching of social justice in schools.           a) As a parent or educator you could advocate at your kid's school for social         justice education.           b) Lobbying your school board and legislators around this issue.           c) Connect with them on Instagram @littlejusticeleaders where they have free resources that will help you and the kids in your life as you do this work Resources: Little Justice Leaders Blog: Here you will find ideas and guidance for engaging with the children in your life around social justice. Connect: On Instagram: @littlejusticeleadersLittle Justice Leaders website Credits: Harmonica music courtesy of a friend  

Tuesday Oct 12, 2021

Deborah Tuerkheimer In the past couple of years we have watched as, finally, powerful men who are also sexual predators have been brought to some form of justice. Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Charlie Rose, and Matt Lauer among the most prominent. What we learned from watching their downfall is how very hard it is to have these men held to account.  Author Deborah Tuerkheimer and I talk about her book Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers and the systems and beliefs that create this reality.  I've had a lot of meaningful conversations over the years of doing this podcast and I can honestly say that I think this is one of the most important. Increasing the number of abusers held to account and changing the dynamic of how accusers are treated is on all of us. Talking with Deborah showed me some of my own knowledge gaps around sexual assault and put into high relief how pervasive some of our thought patterns about abuse are. I left the conversation feeling energized and more aware of ways to change these patterns. We all know women who have been sexually assaulted, we ourselves may be among them. To change these patterns, in society and ourselves, we have to be aware of them.  Listen to this conversation and then please take action.  About Deborah: Author of the book Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers Deborah Tuerkheimer is a professor at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her law degree from Yale Law School. Tuerkheimer served for five years as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office, where she specialized in domestic violence and child abuse prosecution.  For a written transcript of this conversation please click here.  Action Steps: 1) See that judging credibility is a power, it is a mighty power, and that the ways in which we confer credibility or dismiss people who come to us can impact that person in deep and lasting ways.2) We can rewire ourselves to be more fair when we decide who to believe and who to blame and whether to care.3) There are policies in your schools, in your workplaces, in your states, that are flawed, and that reflect these forces that we've been talking about, the credibility discount in particular. And so there are lots of ways that we can improve those formal rules and those formal policies and procedures to be more just and more fair. Pick one policy and work to make it just and fair, then move on to the next and keep going. Resources: This truly remarkable book is available everywhere so please support your local bookseller. Jeff Bezos has enough money. Connect with Deborah: Credits:Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

Tuesday Sep 28, 2021

Emily Ladau Here's a number for you, 1 billion. One billion people is the estimated number of disabled people in the world. One billion. One in 8 people on the planet. That means that each of us knows someone, likely many someones, with a disability whether visible or hidden. Yet disability is a subject that most of us give little or no thought to. Disability activist Emily Ladau joined me on the podcast to talk about Demystifying Disability, which is also the title of her new book. Emily and I talked about how to normalize disability as simply another part of the human experience. We spoke about the impact of intersecting marginalized identities and how diverse the disability community is. At the end of our talk I knew a lot more than I had before and increased my comfort level in how to talk about disability with members of both the disability and non disabled communities.  One billion people. Maybe we should be paying more attention to this than we typically do. For a written transcript of this conversation click here. About Emily: Emily Ladau is an author and disability rights activist whose career began at the age of 10, when she appeared on several episodes of Sesame Street to educate children about her life with a physical disability. Her writing has been published in outlets including The New York Times, SELF, Salon, Vice, and HuffPost and her first book, Demystifying Disability, was published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in September 2021. Emily's Action Items: 1) Listen to, learn from, and amplify the voices of the disabled2) Know when to pass the mic3) Take the time to get to know and understand the disability experience Resources: Demystifying Disability by Emily Ladau Connect with Emily: WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn Credits:Harmonica music courtesy of a friend  

Tuesday Sep 14, 2021

Lynden Harris  The stories that we don't hear impact us as much as those that we do. We just don't realize that there's something missing. Under the leadership of director Lynden Harris the North Carolina based co-creative collective company, Hidden Voices, brings to light stories that we don't even realize we need to hear.  In this conversation Lynden and I talk about her book RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Life Stories from America's Death Row and the theatre project that grew from those stories. She talks about walking into a maximum security prison and what it was like to co-create this project with men on death row, to give voice to their stories.  We also talk about many of the other hidden stories that she and her company bring to our collective awareness. As importantly Lynden shares the process that she and her company use to find these stories that would otherwise go unheard.  Listening to Lynden made me challenge my assumptions about death row inmates in specific but other people as well. Lynden made me ask questions rather than make assumptions and that was amazing.  This conversation inspired me in so many ways and I think this taste of exploring some of the Hidden Voices of our world will leave you feeling the same. For a written transcript of this episode click here. About Lynden: Lynden Harris is the founder of Hidden Voices, a radically inclusive, participatory and co-creative collective committed to a more just and compassionate world. For 20 years, Lynden has collaborated with underrepresented communities to create award winning works, combining narrative performance mapping, music, digital media, and interactive exhibits. A founding cultural agent for the US Department of Arts and Culture, Lynden is a Blade of Grass fellow, a recipient of the Ann Atwater Theatre Award, and the 2020, North Carolina Playwriting Fellow. She is the editor of RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW: Life Stories from America's Death Row. Lynden's Action Steps:1) If you have 10 minutes send a copy of RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW to your state representative, to a senator, a judge, faith leader, an educator, an attorney, because these men's stories can be used for everything from an organizing tool to conversation starters for book clubs.2) If you have half an hour a month consider writing to a prisoner. You can do a google search for pen pal organizations. Lynden reminds us that you may literally be someone's only contact with the free world. 3) If you have more time  consider sharing your talents and skills with a local facility. There was a study done that estimated that 75% of adult prisoners are illiterate, and 85% of juveniles. So if you have literacy skills that you can share, or cooking, or finance or art, and considering that most people living inside prisons have experienced great trauma in their lives, if you teach yoga, if you teach mindfulness, I've a restorative circle keeper, any of these sorts of things are offerings that a lot of institutions will allow. Resources: Connect with Lynden: Credits: Harmonica music courtesy of a friend  

Tuesday Aug 31, 2021

Anjuli Sherin Most of us are aware of the toll that this pandemic has taken on us in terms of anxiety and fear around illness, physical safety, societal breakdown, and economic security to name but a few things. And while we may understand that we've been, and continue to be, under enormous pressure we may not know how best to navigate these very real challenges. LMFT Anjuli Sherin has written a book, Joyous Resilience: A Path to Individual Healing and Collective Thriving in an Inequitable World, that shows us the way to healing for not only ourselves but our communities as well. Anjuli and I talked about where we find ourselves and how best to navigate this time in which so many of us are experiencing real trauma. We discuss what Anjuli calls the cycle of suffering and how to build the resilience we need to break free from that cycle. Spoiler alert, breaking that cycle has everything to do with thriving. Anjuli argues that even though we live in a very individualistic society that is not how we function when we're actually thriving. Anjuli breaks down what we need to do in order to thrive as individuals and as members of broader communities. I found this conversation to be validating of feelings I've had both during pandemic time and before. It also gave me more tools for dealing with what can feel like an onslaught of tragedies.  Have a listen and find yourself energized and better able to break free of the cycle of suffering so that you can make your contribution to the world.  About Anjuli Sherin: Anjuli Sherin is a Pakistani American Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in trauma recovery, resilience, building and cultivating joy. She has 15 years of practice working with immigrant South Asian, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and LGBTQI plus populations. In addition to awards for academic excellence and community service, Sherin has been featured in O Magazine as a finalist for the O Magazine White House leadership project. Her new book is Joyous Resilience: A Path to Individual Healing and Collective Thriving in an Inequitable World. For a written transcript of this conversation go here. Action Steps:1) Cultivate a profoundly nurturing voice within yourself2) Bust the myth that you have to do it alone3) Tie your pain about something to a larger movement engaged in that work so that you are working with others and can be buoyed by a community Resources: Joyous Resilience: A Path to Individual Healing and Collective Thriving in an Inequitable World. Connect with Anjuli: Website Instagram Facebook    Credits:Harmonica music courtesy of a friend  

Tuesday Aug 17, 2021

Alex Zamalin Most of us are brought up to be polite. We are told, by parents and educators, to mind our manners, to wait our turn, to be civil. Director of the African American Studies Program and Assistant Professor, Political Science at Mercy College Alex Zamalin pushes back against the narrative that what our society needs now is more civil discourse. In his fascinating book, Against Civility: The Hidden Racism in Our Obsession with Civility, Zamalin argues that civility has been, and continues to be, a tool used against those advocating for justice, equity, and liberation. The opposite of civility is not violence, though we would be led to think it is. From Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, to Dr. King and the activists of today Zamalin talks about the ways in which civility has been weaponized against the African American community. This book had me sitting in my apartment cheering as I read about all the ways that Black people have refused to allow the narrative to become about civility rather than rights, rather than justice. This conversation left me energized. We can stand for justice or we can concern ourselves with civility. The fight for justice cannot co-exist with the ways in which civility is understood by those seeking to maintain the current power structure. Listen to this conversation and then think about the ways in which civility has been weaponized and how to get out from under that oppressive system. I think you're going to find yourself nodding in agreement as you listen and maybe even change the way you pursue social justice.  Action Steps:1)  Refrain from tone policing2)  Educate yourself on the perspective of those who face racism on a daily basis.3)  Be unapologetic in your anti-racism work. Find the organizations in your community doing good work that you care about and collaborate with them. For a written transcript of this conversation click here. Resources mentioned in this episode:   Against Civility: The Hidden Racism in Our Obsession with Civility by Alex Zamalin Credits:Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

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