Stepping Into Truth: Conversations on Race, Gender, and Social Justice
Revealing the Hidden Voices with Lynden Harris

Revealing the Hidden Voices with Lynden Harris

September 14, 2021

harris_playwright_headshot_round.pngLynden Harris 

Season 4   Episode 6

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:

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Connect with Lynden:

www.hiddenvoices.org
https://www.dukeupress.edu/right-here-right-now


Credits:

Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

 

Talking about Joyous Resilience with author Anjuli Sherin

Talking about Joyous Resilience with author Anjuli Sherin

August 31, 2021

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Anjuli Sherin

Season 4   Episode 5

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 Worldthat 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 yourself
2) Bust the myth that you have to do it alone
3) 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.

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Connect with Anjuli:

 

Credits:
Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

 

Against Civility with Alex Zamalin

Against Civility with Alex Zamalin

August 17, 2021

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Alex Zamalin

Season 4   Episode 4

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 policing
2)  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:

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Against Civility: The Hidden Racism in Our Obsession with Civility by Alex Zamalin

Credits:
Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

Lessons for Resurgence from California with Manuel Pastor

Lessons for Resurgence from California with Manuel Pastor

August 3, 2021

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Dr. Manuel Pastor

Season 4   Episode 3

Okay my California peeps, you get to gloat. This fascinating interview with Dr. Manuel Pastor makes it abundantly clear that the rest of us have a lot to learn from the Golden State.

When most of us think of California we probably think of sand, sun, and a reliably blue state. But that's far from the whole story of CA which gave us, among other notable conservatives, Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh.

 

In his book State of Resistance: What California's Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America's Future Dr. Pastor tells the story of California and shows how what that state has been through in the past few decades was the canary in the coal mine for where we find ourselves as a country today.

 

From the battle for immigrant rights, to racial justice, to the climate crisis California has been ahead of the rest of the country and there are lessons that we can take to avoid some of what California has dealt with.

 

This book pulled me in right from the start. Imagine having someone say, hey, this is what's going to happen and here's how you can avoid the worst of it. I would be all over that. Well, that's California for the rest of the U.S.

 

I was especially grateful for Manuel's wisdom on how the most effective organizing is done. 

 

This is a great conversation and one that will leave you with practical steps you can take in your own social justice work.

 

Have a listen, get the book, and then take what you learn and leverage it to help bring your goals to fruition. 

 

About Dr. Pastor:

Dr. Manuel Pastor, director of the Equity Research Institute at USC, weaves together stats about the US's economic inequality, highlighting racial divides and immigrant-influenced demographic changes. His expertise comes from a decades-long career analyzing California's demographic changes and the multi-racial movement organizing that transformed its once anti-immigrant attitude to the inclusive, progressive state we know today. As the rest of the country follows a similar path, Dr. Pastor believes California’s story can serve as a roadmap for the nation.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

Action Steps:

1) Learn and apply the lessons of California to where you live
2) Learn to talk about race and racism every day
3) Continue to listen to Stepping Into Truth for good ideas for your local organizing

Resources:

State of Resistance: What California's Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Mean for America's Future by Manuel Pastor

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Connect with Dr. Pastor:
https://twitter.com/prof_MPastor/
https://twitter.com/ERI_USC
https://dornsife.usc.edu/eri/manuel-pastor/

Credits:
Harmonica music courtesy of a friend

 

The Impact of Incarceration on Loved Ones with Alesha Monteiro

The Impact of Incarceration on Loved Ones with Alesha Monteiro

July 20, 2021

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Alesha Monteiro

Season 4  Episode 2

When someone is incarcerated there are impacts that land far beyond those to the incarcerated person. People without partners, children without parents, communities without those who may fill critical roles, and the elderly without a caregiver to name just a few. 

The truth is that it's rare that we even think about the people left behind. My guest, Alesha Monteiro, knows exactly what it's like to have an incarcerated spouse. She knows the isolation, the shame, and the ripples of impact that are too often ignored.

With all of this Alesha is very fortunate. She found a community of women experiencing what she is, Essie Justice, and in that community found a place of welcome, support, and understanding. 

In this conversation Alesha and I talk about what life is like for those with someone on the inside and what she believes we need to do to address our broken criminal justice system.

The impacts of mass incarceration affect all of us whether we know an incarcerated person or not. At the very least, our tax dollars are going to support this inequitable, flawed system when they could be better spent in many other places.

Have a listen and deepen your understanding of what mass incarceration and the way our justice system works (or doesn't) means for all of us. 

About Alesha:

Alesha Monteiro is a social justice advocate, and a dedicated member of the Essie Justice Group, a black feminist organization that supports and uplifts the experiences and solutions of women with incarcerated loved ones. Alesha is a prison abolitionist who believes that there is a very different, much more humane way to respond to the consequences of actions that hurt people.

Alesha's Action Steps:
1) Learn the message and push the message. Educate yourself on what is happening in these systems and then work to change that.
2) Donate your time, money, or both to local and statewide groups working in this arena.
3) If you know someone with an incarcerated person in their life, check in on them.

For a written transcript of this conversation click here.

Resources:

Essie Justice

Connect with Alesha:

https://www.facebook.com/aleshamonteiro
https://twitter.com/AleshaMonteiro
https://www.linkedin.com/in/alesha-monteiro-avid-advocate/
https://alesha-advocates.org/

Complete Picture with Rebecca Grace and John Gray

Complete Picture with Rebecca Grace and John Gray

July 6, 2021

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Rebecca Grace and John Gray

Welcome to Season 4 of Stepping Into Truth.

I can't believe that I've been doing this podcast since 2018! This season I have some remarkable people as guests on the show. Season 4 starts with Rebecca Grace and John Gray of Complete Picture.

Imagine that someone you love has been convicted of a non-violent felony and is awaiting sentencing. Typically the sentencing judge gets a dry document that talks about what is likely the worst thing this individual has ever done and that's all. That information is what they base their decision on. 

Based on their own experience of John's prison term for a drug felony, they decided that they needed to find a way of showing that those awaiting sentencing were far more than the worst thing they had done, and Complete Picture was born.

Rebecca, John and their crew of formerly incarcerated people go into the homes of those awaiting sentencing and create a film that shows the scope of the individual, the complete picture. Presenting a judge with a full perspective makes all the difference as sentences have been reduced and even commuted.

This conversation brought me to tears. It can be so easy to harshly judge those who have been convicted of a crime. John and Rebecca reconnect us with the humanity of these people and, by extension, our own.

Have a listen.

For a written transcript of this conversation go here.

Action Steps:
1. Listen to peoples’ stories with curiosity rather than judgement.
2. If you are able, make a donation to completepicture.org.
3. If you have skills that would be useful to the work Rebecca and John are doing call them at 323.683.5689.

Connect with Complete Picture:
www.completepicture.org
https://www.instagram.com/completepictureproject/

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

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Tammy Tai & Greg Ball

Season 3   Episode 20

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.

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