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In the Spring of 2020, we began Community Conversations with Alex and Dydine. They are both straightforward and abstract conversations questioning how can we weave equality into the conversations that we are having daily. As the conversations that we have at home are the key to changing people’s behavior and society’s norms and structures. In the Community Conversations, we get to learn from peoples own experience and embrace our differences and our similarities, accept the unknown and allow mistakes, and vulnerability.
Back in the summer of 2019 we started our first podcast, the Umuco podcast, to share people’s stories and their culture with the goal to showcase how alike we all are. Ultimately we wanted to create a space where anyone can feel seen. We believe that storytelling is incredibly important to self healing and a great way to learn from one another.
 
Almost a year later, we joined forces with Baserange and successfully launched a new program (Community Conversations with Alex and Dydine) that focuses on creating positive change in our world. Society seemed to be reaching a tipping point in regards to the consistent injustices that plagued people of color, and on the heels of yet another tragic event with Mr. George Floyd. Baserange decided to lend it’s voice for change as well. We realize that the conversations that we have at home are the key to changing people’s behavior and soon our society’s norms.
 
Here we are talking about straightforward conversations and abstract conversations. The question we constantly ask ourselves is, how can we weave equality into the conversations we are having daily. Showing up instead of trying to fit in. Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone who walked in it saw themselves positively represented? In the Community Conversations we get to learn how we can embrace our differences. We accept the unknown and allow mistakes, vulnerability, and let hope lead our way.

Okay, so usually what I have noticed in people, they want to tag as a victim, because they want to see what you are. But then I also say that the victim has a “period” sign in front of it. But as a survivor, there’s a “comma” because being a survivor means we keep going. And then people going to say is like, “Oh can you imagine if this didn't happen to you? What would have happened I was like?” I mean, I didn’t imagine right now what will happen next in my future.How can I say what would what would have been? It might have been more normal.

Monica Singh

Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 6

Surviving an acid attack is one thing, surviving after surviving is another thing. How did you do it?

Special guest Monica Singh.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
February 21, 2021

Monica Singh biography

Monica Singh is an Indian-American fashion Philanthrophist business woman. She has been working with renowned fashion designers and influencers to cultivate sustainable and socially impactful fashion model. Educated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, India in Fashion Design with specialization in Trend forecasting & Business and Fashion Marketing from Parsons School of Design, New York U.S. She has been working in Fashion industry for over 12 years in diverse position where she is implementing her skills and knowledge from different part of the world to create products and goods for international consumers.
Monica is a partner of Conscious Fashion Campaign of United Nations Foundation to encourage the brands and designers to create ethical standards and sustainable methods in fashion based on UN goals to eliminate the negative impact of textile industry in the world. She also runs a non-profit organization based in New York to support women with violent experiences and help them to learns skills and get educated to become strong & independent in their lives. Monica has been covered over 1000 publications in Media online as well as offline, Radios and Television like New York Times, BBC and Times of India and CBC radio to name a few & inspired millions of women and men in the world.

Monica is also UN women youth Ambassador and award winning speaker on various topics including gender based violence & sustainable fashion.

Conversation transcript

Alex 0:02
Wellcome back to the Community Conversations with Alex and Dydine. We're happy to once again engage with our Baserange audience, our community here. It's nice to be back.

Alex 0:26
Before we get started though. Yesterday we posted a in a story kind of highlighting this and asking, asking you all to post questions.

Alex 0:38
We got the questions. We saw that there was some engagement, but due to some technical Instagrams able to access them. We're not sure if it was because we're in the US and obviously bass ranges based and we got Monique here.

Alex 0:59
Because based on being based in in Europe we didn't know. Oh that was. We weren't actually able to see your comments so we're gonna ask you a big favor if you are here for us from yesterday, please feel free to post your questions once again, in the comments section.
Last 15 minutes of the conversation like usual, but sorry for the inconvenience but we are happy to be here and happy to engage everybody. Including you, Monica.

Monica 1:38
Hi!

Alex 1:44
Hi, how are you?

Monica 1:49
I'm good, good. I'm excited today. I loved our conversation last time when I was like okay this time we have to talk face to face. So we can actually see our laughs, I'm hoping we could have more laughs today.

Dydine 2:12
I know. It’s so nice to see you. And thank you for saying yes to this, so we can share your story and your wisdom to more people.

Monica 2:26
I will do my best.

Alex 2:31
Injury last time last time we had a conversation yeah yeah no we're excited for you to be here. It’s a great Sunday. And yeah, so are you ready?
Well, if you didn't know, we told the audience but we're going to talk to you for about 30 minutes and then for the last 15 minutes if there are audience questions which there were before. Yeah, we're gonna engage the audience and they'll be able to ask you some of their personal questions.

Alex 3:06
All right, so you were born in India, right? So what was that experience like for you?

Monica 3:11
It's colorful and exciting. I mean, they're always everywhere. It's like you have to follow your tradition and custom but then I know like it's coming from you guys like of course you don't know but it was my home, you know like growing up in your home with the comfort and understanding of everything, and of course a lot of intervening you know like people are always very much interested in everybody's life and what they're doing or not so I always had this idea and then, you know, like how every other country has this pressure where you are like, okay, people are watching society goes on to talk about it so we had also had the same thing. But we had a very, I would say that in today's world very organic and sustainable life, kind of a thing. We grew up in a way where we know that we need to work hard to get better and something like that so you know like working hard getting a good education that was how I've been raised. And I think that's the thing I know, basically you know like using education for the better purposes like being made a wise person and you know like my parents always taught me, “No matter whatever you become you know if you're not a good human being and if you don't have a right mindset, it doesn't really matter”. So I always used to focus on like I want to be a better human being I want to be the best version of myself, and so that was all about. And then, of course the love from my family was always there unconditionally.

Dydine 4:55
Love from a family is everything.

Monica 5:00
Yeah. That's your foundation for everything, you know.

Dydine 5:07
Absolutely. At the age of 19 you experienced a horror, I will call it a horror, because it was, you know, an acid attack that changed your life and you know when you're 19, all your dreams of becoming your own adult, you have all these plans. How did your life change from that incident?

Monica 5:34
It's a whole upside down, you know. Like someone you are living your life the way you want it. You have your dreams, ordinary dreams, extraordinary means whatever you have, and you're minding your own business, and suddenly your dreams and your life get interrupted you know. It's like the story's been written in a certain way but then somebody changed the narrative of it. And then being a woman you know how society sees you. You know, it's all about like, okay, she's a girl and now she's completely deformed and then she's all burned and her life is done you know like she's done and that kind of an angle.
And, but the whole point of when I was. I've been a patient for like, almost like nine years, because I had to come and back and forth to the from the hospital and everything. And like you guys mentioned, like this face is after 46 reconstructive surgery you know and then I've learned my ways to move it around and you know put on a makeup in a way in which I look normal so. Suddenly when you are naturally born in a certain way with the look, and everything and now you are fighting for getting everything back, so that people don't see you differently you know. Because acid attack case is not about like the mental mental and psychological but we also have the visible physical harm, which is visible to anyone and we kind of like you know give people a lot of curiosity and then people are getting inquisitive like “What happened to you? What happened to you?”, you know, that kind of thing. But being the patient I was in a trauma center for many months and where I've been told by many other renowned doctors that she will not survive. But they were very clear about that because the percentage and amount of my body has taken that acid burned was a severe and, but as a patient when people are talking about you and you are lying on your hospital bed, you don't know what what is, they're talking about, you know. All you want to do is like win that battle, we'll just do that. And since I wasn't aware how deep it was from as a patient or as a human being. For me it was like, it's a burn, it'll getting better and then I will go back to my college and continue my education and something like that. So my whole focus was always been like I have to finish what I started. I have to finish my education I did my best to get into those colleges and then I have to finish that thing.
But then, in all like doctors came and then my dad came to me and then they were, they were saying that you know you should tell her or ask her what she wants to do and all like, because things has changed for good, you know forever. And I don't get me two choices, stay home and getting support from him unconditionally, or else. He didn't mention the second part. It was like, “what else do you want to do?” And I said, “Okay, I'm not dying without an education or without a degree” so I have to get back to my education.
So help me to get better soon so that I go back. That was the whole idea was always been and that’s, what my dad says, “that's what I wanted to hear from you”. And then he did his best in his own capacity to get me as normal as possible. Or, at least, you know, the whole process was learning how to speak again, drink again, eat again and started recognizing people again you know. Because I got into trouble where I started losing memory of certain things.
So whatever I did and I joined my college after one year break. And I went on a wheelchair or I had to climb staircase and everything and it was a delicate situation but then you know I always believe there is a light after a long, dark tunnel. So the whole process of nine years was my dark tunnel where I'm going step ahead. I mean, you have no choice you have to move ahead right you can't go back, you can't change the past so I was more dedicated to working on, I have to get better. This is my present and I want to make sure that I am going to get my future at least at some places where I don't lose myself completely, you know.

Alex 10:23
Yeah, yeah. And again, we spoke previously a little bit about this, but the strength that it takes to not only go through what you had, during it in that's as challenging, but to realize that you still have a future, that you're still here and that there's still things to accomplish, you know. I can't imagine wanting to go back to college and still consider education to be one of the top of my priorities.

Monica 10:57
Yes, but then fortunately because I studied in college where people are like creative side you know like we were from the design background and then we kind of get trained and educated to think and have a better perspective toward everything. So I think that helped a lot in many ways. And we see that people are always...we always try to see wrong in people you know, the negative part in people but then I always believed that if I'm a good person if I will be good the other person will be good to me. So, and then at some point in your life when you suffer from something like this, nothing really matters, you know. You don't need that society, you don't need people to, you know, verify your existence in the world. It's all about, “what do I want? Am I answering to these people? Are they going to take care of me forever?” No. So why do I care what they think and even if they are bad mouthing anyone, it doesn't matter as long as it's not coming to my ears do whatever you want. I mean just be who you are because now since as a woman, you lost your physical appearance you lost a deformity and then you became a disabled, you know, medical terms in many ways.
If your mind is working education is what I could get, you know. I studied fashion, you know, then the fashion industry is very much about beauty and appearances and everything so it was a lot of people say, like “oh my god you know maybe fashion industry is not for them.” I was like, “okay you know what I studied hard to know fashion and I think I'm gonna redefine fashion in my own way” and that's who I am because if I've been taught. Well, I can redefine my own structure about the fashion and the silhouettes and the style and everything that's what I did. And the people who hire me because of my resume and my work, rather than rejecting me because of my face I don't want to work with them because I don't need those people around me. Those will make me feel bad because I have enough already on my plate I don't need another person to tell me like no I'm not and I'm like come on like seriously? You want to hire me as an assistant designer? Hire me based on my work, not my face. I mean eventually my hands are working not my face is working. I'm trying to be you know front desk person or face of your company and everything. So basically, there was always a time that I have to choose myself and my mental health over the top of what other people think. So my society became very narrow, and I selected people who are going to relate with and I made my own community. Whereas, if you cannot dwell with my community take yourself out.
Life is too short for me to please everyone you know like I've been up on my head you know the guy and good and not. And I don't need to hear from third person to tell me like okay. So, we have 7 billion people like, go ahead. do that whatever you want it to be the other person. Probably I’m not your person... So I’ve always had this idea to have good people always around.

Alex 14:39
That’s a good thing to keep in mind, you know, just keep things in perspective. And like you said, keep people who love you and appreciate you for you, around you. You don't need a massive circle of people, of enablers or whatever. Keep your people close to you and people's care people need something significant.

Monica 15:06
Definitely. There is a checklist for people now...Welcome to Monica Singh’s club. A very exclusive club!

Dydine 15:25
This is just random wasn't even part of the questions we were planning but in my mind I'm thinking, because a lot of people ask me the same question. But, but for me I went through a genocide at 4. So having formed my reality, yet. But they always asked, “do you think your life would have been differently or would you have been a different person if you have experience genocide?” So for you, if you didn't experience, what you did at 19 years old. Do you think your world and who you are, would have been a little different?

Monica 16:05
Okay, so usually what I have noticed in people, they want to tag as a victim, because they want to see what you are. But then I also say that the victim has a “period” sign in front of it. But as a survivor, there’s a “comma” because being a survivor means we keep going. And then people going to say is like, “Oh can you imagine if this didn't happen to you? What would have happened I was like?” I mean, I didn’t imagine right now what will happen next in my future. And our I'm married but...nevermind, but the whole point.
How can I say what would what would have been? It might have been more normal. At a certain age you get married you get two kids or one kid or whatever you are, you’re nagging, you become a nagging wife and you are like damn you didn't let me fulfill my dreams. Because the whole thing is, these experiences are unfortunate, yes. But then it should not be always something. You're story, your scars should not keep you away from your ultimate goal and design and dreams right? I have a scar all over my body in the face, and then if I wanna get depressed and thinking about all those things all the time like I couldn't get depressed anytime. But then I believe it was more waste of time.
Because it's like every been three, four months I do feel depressed I've been like everyone in my age move ahead, they have someone in their life, or they have kids or something like that. I do feel that sometimes. It’s just natural. If I don't, then something is wrong with me but I do feel those things.
But the whole point is I get a good amount of every situation, every mental state comes in my mind. I've acknowledged that. I don't fight against it because it's unnecessary to fight against what you're feeling right now. So I feel like okay, I'm depressed I'm gonna cry. I'm gonna cry for two hours and then I feel like oh my god I wasted two hours just for crying for nothing because nothing is rectifying anything. You are not getting back your two hours that you are thinking about would have happened and you are thinking about “What if I do this?” and it could be a better future, or I can best makeup my present. So people ask, they all continue to ask and then I chose to tell my story to them... You’re curious? (Points to face) yeah good. Very nice. I don’t care anymore.
Unless I see feel I need to tell this person. I just don't tell it unless until somebody says like go, we were curious so I see that. Okay, these are the curious so they just want to know, and they're gonna get drained and get out so I'm like yeah, nothing happened to me. Important people get to know.

Dydine 19:36
That's amazing. I really love that answer.

Alex 19:40
I do too and it kind of goes into... we talked a lot about victimizing ourselves and sort of that whole process that goes around that. I guess that kind of segues into our next question about forgiveness, about your healing journey and your journey to forgive. Does that play a significant part in the whole victimizing and victimization of yourself?

Monica 20:12
And the thing what happened to me, it wasn't like a terrorist attack or something where I don't know my assailant who did this to me you know. It's like the people who did this to me is like among us. You don't know what goes on in their minds. Our minds are more dangerous have that capacity. You never know that your “no” can make somebody ill minded or evil minded to do something like that. So when it comes to forgiveness like my whole healing process took a while you know. It's not like that I am this chirpy girl right now, I wasn't before.
I mean of course, there's a lot of trust factor I lost in humanity for a long time and slowly slowly came back and I started feeling that not as every human being is a bad human being and everything. But when it comes to forgiveness, usually, when people continue to make you feel victim of something and you're being you're trying to be a survivor, something comes up where you are constantly feeling sorry about yourself. You know, I mean, again, but it's up to you right? You want to feel sorry about this for you want to just keep going. Because honestly in the world how you feel about yourself as you. So I started saying that like okay I forgive myself, I forgive not feeling and getting better a little before. And I forgive myself in a way that if I goof up something right now or in the future, it's a process which I have to go through to learn certain things in life. But then forgiving, that person who did this to me, doesn't bring justification to the people who did to so many other people. Acid attack survivors right now is more than 10,000 all over the world right now. And then if we are constantly saying that we forgive them, what are we trying to do? A martyr, or are we trying to be Gandhi? Mother Teresa? I’m like, “I don't care.”
Man I'm not gonna forgive you, but I definitely want law system to work faster towards violence against the woman so that people get to learn from their mistakes as well. Because as a human being they are prone to get another punishment or a system or a penalty when then they stop doing the bad thing. I think as a human being I believe that law system is the one who's supposed to say sorry to all the survivors who have never been provided any justice, and they have to add more into that. So, yeah, not too much forgiveness inside. I'm just thankful I forgive the situation because I survived. But I feel like there are many acid attack survivors, when they got attacked and they were severe, they couldn't survive. Many died as well. So who are we trying to impress here? And all I say, forgive them. But then, how can I forget about the part that where I was lying in the hospital, skinless, you know, because all the skin got ripped off and then, and the rest of the skin got scraped off by the doctor to put a patch on the body? There was a time I was in a complete mummification zone. It was that bad.
And all the pain, that my parents and family has gone through, why am I forgiving that person? I'm not trying to prove to be person that you know who can take it everything. I think it's a fight, which I am taking on behalf of every violence against woman survivor here. So, that's what my answer would be.

Dydine 24:20
That’s true. And it's also, like you just mentioned, that attack on you was also an attack on your family. How did your family handle it? How are they still handling it?

Monica 24:35
I'm telling you there are certain parts where everyone is still suffering. I mean I am laughing, yes. I'm in a better place before than I am right now. So everybody's still suffers.
Their youngest kid, their daughter who lost her ability and the whole physical and everything and the entire family moved to hospital that time they started staying in my in my room because I needed them constantly. So, you know, like how you say you physically, mentally you when you are in such a situation, your parents, your family started looking 10 years older than what they really are? That's what the situation is. My dad was like, not going to the office he was constantly there because I needed a lot of blood transfusions and you know all those things plasmas and everything. And my parents, they used to keep those blood bags, wrapped in their body so that it's a warm or something as well sometime because each, each surgery used to require so much blood.
That time so everybody was involved, somebody there to feed me water with a spoon and everything. So, and then on top of it, I was physically facing all that, but then they're the ones who are stepping out in the society and then I go from the girl next door to the girl whose illegitimate affair gone bad. And also everybody started question to my family what happened? Why did you do this? And everybody's, suggesting my family to take some action or do something about that and but then my dad says the priorities is to keep my daughter alive. And then simultaneously we started our legal cases and it went for a while. But like I said, I still haven't gotten the Justice. So whatever the file system says that they are done with my case. But as far as my perpetrator is living normal life, it cannot be done, at least not on my side. I have to choose my life, or fighting toward to towards this case, and keep stretching my life for another 10 years. I found that my family gave up a lot. They had to arrange money because you know plastic surgery is not cheap anywhere. In any country it's not cheap. And each surgery used to last for like four to five hours and multiple places and they have to take care of. So, it requires a lot of doctors and money and they need to arrange funds, you know, there was a time when my family has to take a choice. “We have to sell this to collect money so we can you know pay for the next surgery” So it’s practically my second birth.

Alex 27:52
And 46 surgeries. 46. Everything you've been through, you still, even now, you are you are surviving. After surviving. And it seems like you're thriving and you said yourself you weren't always bubbly, you weren't always you know very chipper. But you are, it feels like you're thriving now and it takes so much strength. None of us could feel it but to show it to live it.

Dydine 28:20
And inspire other people. Yeah, it definitely takes a lot of strength to be where you are. What were your tools? How did you do it?

Monica 28:44
Okay, so a lot of people ask me that question. Sometime I don't know, it's in my gene or being positive is when I am. Sometimes its about a choice. You choose to continue to fight, you choose to be positive. You know, it's not a medicine you're taking a day or you know “I’m gonna be positive to this” No. I don't have a choice you know like if I'm continued to not to feel good or not to survive every day, how am I going? And then like I said my parents spent so much money to make me “this”. So I am Million Dollar Baby right now so basically it's my responsibility to be happy all the time. Because I feel sad now, and my mom got to know then her day goes away. Like you know like why she's sad. And I live in this country alone you know and I'm the first generation who came this far and studied here, and living myself here. And then there is a time and moment in everyone's life where you have to choose to continue to go on or keep yourself down. And I think a lot of people suffered from the COVID as well and then they put on masks and covering their faces, I lived like this for nine years.
I covered my face I covered everything that I wear I used to go because my face wasn't done you know like construction was done completely. I wasn't comfortable showing people other half of my face because I am not ready yet. So, I live like like people who are living right now, not meeting anyone not stepping out so that was my life like nine years. I used to go to college and come back and never used to talk to anyone and then if anybody comes to my house I used to go back in my room not to meet anyone because I don't want to encourage them to ask me unnecessary questions, which is going to touch my wounds all the time because everybody wants to ask them what happened. No matter how many time you tell them, they’re gonna ask you again.
So, basically what is the people who are going through right now who've gone through that for nine years and that's why this COVID did affect me because in that mental way I would say that, not the physical way I would say that. Yeah, I've done that I've been there, not meeting anyone not talking to anyone only with family members and close people and not showing my face to anyone somebody's done that as a patient for a long time and then if I've done that for that many years. Honestly, COVID is just surviving another thing as well.
That's what it is. And being a strength is a like I'm saying, you continue to do what you want to do, and it becomes a habit to your mental health that yeah you have to be strong. If you cannot be strong people will bring you down.

Alex 31:40
Yeah, that's that's true it's just came to my mind is not necessarily a question that we have prepared, and correct me if I'm wrong, maybe this is a personal thing but whenever you get, as I like to say lost in the sauce, or when things get really challenging for you, in your life, whatever that may be, I feel like there are moments that it becomes very clear that you have a decision that you can make to maybe take a fork in the road. You can choose to continue spiraling or to maybe feel a bit like a victim, or you could choose to take what is a lot of times the harder path and make the harder decisions to then make your life better, you know. It takes 10 times longer to put yourself back together than it does to actually fall apart. But i don't know I feel like there are times where you, it's very clear. It's clear as day, you have a decision to make and should you have the strength to do it, go for it.

Monica 33:10
Most of the time we are always 24/7 kind of working, not physically, but mentally we are always working. Always thinking and thinking, thinking. So sometimes what happens to me is like I get exhausted over thinking and planning something for my next project or next thing whatever I'm working on or whatever. So when that thing happened I realized like, Okay, my mind is not able to think and I'm unnecessarily taking stress over it so I give myself a break. Okay, you know what, like stop. I need to give my mental a little bit break, not to thinking so much and I take a break for a few days and then I go back and trace back all my pattern, “okay that didn't work, okay maybe this will work or something”.
Because some people are overusing their sensitivity mentality, psychology so much. And then when you continue to use so much what happened? Any product or anything you use so much, it doesn't stay in the same state as it used to be. So I think people should acknowledge their mental health more than anything else, you know. Mental health is a serious issue. You don't have to take mental capability and ability for granted. Every organ needs a break. Why not your brain? Give yourself some credit for that.

Alex 35:00
Yeah, and I'm happy that we talked about mental health, so much more today than perhaps in the past. Yeah, because it's not a tangible thing and a lot of times you know it's not like a scratch that you can just put a bandaid on. But it's kind of hard to understand it, to contextualize it sometimes, but it is it is just as important.

Dydine 36:00
It is super important. I remember back in Rwanda, mental health is... it's a country that that’s just been through a genocide. But still, if you had any, you know, breakdowns or whatever, you were like outcasts and you're going crazy. Nobody thought about it as an important mental health problem you have, they can treat it. You just were treated as a crazy person. And so I'm really grateful that nowadays, we're talking more about mental health. Especially now as you said about COVID. You experienced what we’re experiencing more for nine years. So I wonder if the lockdown it affected you, or it put us you back a little bit in your mind. Almost like PTD? Did something like that happen to you?

Monica
Well, of course, it is still going. It was a long time, and bad 2020, we were all, you know, jailed ourself in our apartment. And I live in a city I live in a small apartment so basically is like a window is my nature you know window thing is like whatever is happening out there is there. And the experience, I heard every sort of noise you know like how suddenly the noises of ambulances and the cop cars. The standard noises is used to terrify you and then I'm like, holy shit yeah, wrong city. Wrong country!
But it did trigger (me). What happened is like it brought more loneliness at some point, you know, because how many TV you watch and then there was a point when you stop listening about the news so because it was awful news coming. And then how much you can talk to your family all the time and friends all the time because at some point you feel like I don't have anything to tell you, I don't have nothing there you know like I woke up and started logging into my computer do my job is like, “What should I tell you what did I cook?” I hate cooking. But then I saw there was a time that I felt like, like people were talking about like how their kids, they spend their time with their kids or so much fighting with their husbands and blah blah. And I was like, I don't have anybody to fight with and I don't have anybody to look at the right now the What should I do so?
That was a couple of times I felt lonely, and nobody can come to my face and I cannot go to anybody's face it was all about phone. But I continue to continue to talk and my give myself a little different experience to talk in different people because everybody's going through some way or another. So, I did that I did a lot of meditation, honestly.
But at least now I'm not covering my face the way I used to cover. Because that time, I was hiding my identity. Now I'm not. And that is the only difference with my nine years of under the cover and now. But I mean I wish things get better, but then you know so many populations are not even listening the rules and regulation or covering their face because everything is a hoax apparently.
So I feel like, because of some people, things are going a little longer than it was supposed to be, you know, it would have been. And then people say no we are done with COVID, we are done with the covering face I was like yeah you're on the list!
What is wrong with you people? If you want to get better just just three months. But, but you know you can't heal everybody's brain right? You just do it in your capacity and let people make their own choices. Everyone is an adult now. Even the teenagers are pretty smart. And so, I'm not being everybody's mother, do whatever you want to do. This is what it is.

Alex
It's a journey for everybody yeah you know. I think back to our 2020 and you know it had its challenges like everybody else, but I'm just happy to be here. I'm happy to wake up every day.

Monica
That's some beauty people forget about. Life is precious. Life is beautiful! If you're still talking walking and even your blast.
You know it takes a minute to change somebody's life or somebody die. For me it was a minute, where everything went away right? So, people don't realize how life is beautiful. There would be no happiness if there is no sadness. If there is no sadness, how will identify what is happy and what is sad? There has to be a balance. And then if this is the sad time, everybody's having or had. I think that means happy time is coming better time is coming. Just prepare for your better future. That's what you have to do. I don't know why people don't understand that. So, this is like okay like okay, now the COVID has happened bad things happen so my life is gonna be bad. No, we don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow.
You never know. If nature and time doesn't stay the same, how is this time we're gonna stay the same?

Dydine
Yeah, you're preaching to the choir.

Monica
You guys are already super smart.

Dydine
No, no! You’re saying it, and I’m like “Preach!” That’s what I’m thinking myself as well. Yeah, I think that's where hope comes in. When you hear the word “hope” what comes in your mind?

Monica
Oh, I'm hopeful. I'm very hopeful. Since, like I said, I'm alive and still working, I think I can create my better future by myself and then I think people are getting more conscious and I think that living your life on a minimalism is back, which is really good. And, like, you know, people found real meaning of happiness during COVID as well because they have done it and survived it. And everybody learned, you know, about the essentials of life. And I think if we learn something like that... I mean it is terrible that nature has to do something this terrible for human beings to understand. But I think it was the right time, it was like “Okay calm down people. I'm gonna come and ruin it.” So basically, I think hope is everything. If you don't hope, you’re a dead person.
If you don't have hope you don't have anything to look forward (to). If you don't have hope you are not visualizing the better future. Hope is everything. I mean, you can always hope right? You can work towards your things. But hoping for the better time better future, better life, better love, better everything. Is that what it is, without hope. There is no life.

Alex
Right. And not just “exist”. But live. It’s an active thing.

Monica
Actively live you don't just think like in a way that you have to make your impression now in this world. Because this is basically human beings Second Act. For me. Since I was born right? This is our Second Act. We had a hurdle for one year. And now things are getting better so now we have to go back in the game as acting like this is my second chance. Whatever I couldn't do I have to do it now. Life is too short. I should not overthink so much. I should not be oversensitive about something. I just have to follow my dream. So this is everybody's second act and probably my third.

Alex
It’s good to remember to continue to strive to recognize that this is most people second act. A lot of people’s third or fourth. Take it. Seize the day.

Monica
I mean yeah, if you don’t do that then what’re you going to do? Be sad? Do you want to cry? Have more burgers?

Alex
Just let it go.

Monica
If there's a time when overthinking is helping you, or not feeling good about helping you in any way... then do that. But then you realize, whatever the time we lose during all this time when we lose you know time doesn't come back.

Dydine
Yeah, so, Monica you have the foundation that you help people. And we would like for our audience to be able to support you. Tell us a bit about it and how people can find it and how they can support your work and your dreams.

Monica
Okay, so I started my nonprofit in 2015, while I was studying at Parsons New School, and I started going and speaking at the United Nations, a lot and then I met so many survivors of rape, of domestic abuse, and child marriages and everything. And I know a lot of survivors of acid attacks in India as well.
A lot of things I've noticed that people don’t have the right information they need to go forward. And then people always, you know, get into the wrong hands like a wrong doctor who will keep trying their plastic surgery skills and everything. All this started coming to me when I see that these woman are very talented but they got interrupted, so I started this nonprofit for becoming as a resource center, where people can come get a support for scholarships and skill training where you don't want to go to college or you are not eligible to go to college, but you can learn a skill.
And then, medical support in terms like having the connection to the right doctor who can really get you the better results so that you don't have to go under the knife for more wrong procedures or something like that. And then supporting them to support themselves, you know. I realized that people need to have skill or something in their hands so that they can feel independent. So I started this foundation after my dad's name called the Mahendra Singh Foundation. Or mahendrasinghfoundation.org People can find through my name or, you know, they can google it or go to my Instagram pages, there. But the whole idea was a lot of women, when they suffered something, they lost their goals and dreams which they had before they suffered.

So I feel like they need to remember that they're meant to do something and they’ve just stopped doing it because they've been in a trauma for a long time. So now I'm working on raising funds for a scholarship program which I'm conducting in 2021, this year. But I can send some girls to college for their programs and skill training. Whatever our girls need. But these programs are only for violence against woman survivors. I'm just making it very specific. So woman with an acid attack, rape and domestic abuse, are eligible to get a support from us and that we will connect them to the right resources. And whatever the money we will raise, we will take care of their fees. And, you know, the whatever the fundings they required to achieve that, to do that.
So my whole idea was like, I've seen many nonprofit doing so many things and they are an incredible organization but then I think like I have been through where I was outside of that place where I needed a support at some point but I couldn't get support or anything. I just want to change that. And then not have girls in acid attack cases, basically their parents abandon them. Because they say, “You are burned. You're never gonna get married.” So you rather leave the house or whatever you, you know. I feel like I want to adopt to those women on a level, dare I say like, learn and get on their feet and go. Because I took education so seriously because for me, more than my face, my brain has to be smart enough for me to keep on fighting. So I think girls have to understand that if somebody can help support you one time, two times get a support which brings you endless resources. Don't look for a small time support or anything like, “give us money now and then we will be happy”. No, think in the long direction, you know?
Get support to learn something so that you get a job, you feel independent because, even during COVID domestic case and rape cases rise in such a terrible number where women were living with their abusers you know like husbands or whatever it is, they couldn't get out because they were financially depending on their spouses right. And I tell them to learn a skill, make your life better. So making these women self reliant and independent is my goal. That's what I'm working on.

Dydine
Thank you so much for the work you’re doing. It’s incredible. Definitely women, especially young women. We all need help.

Monica
They all need it. In one way or another right? They have questions. Sometimes they get an answer by the wrong person. So they go in the wrong direction.

Dydine
They don’t even know what they deserve sometimes.

Monica
Exactly! And there's so much potential everyone has. And then in a world where men are leading so much and women are still fighting to make their place in the same table. I think, because a lot them get interrupted in their life like I did, and then lose their track to keep on going. So I think it's time for making these women as future entrepreneurs, future leaders, so that they can join those table as well. We are so many there. And then I think being a woman is a more beautiful thing because we have the power to produce. So that's something what men cannot do and we can do so who has the power, you know?
But the point is, being able to create something is the most gorgeous and beautiful thing.

Alex
If we can get you to leave one piece of parting wisdom or advice to anybody, whoever you want to specify it to. What would you say? What's one thing that like to share to the world?

Monica
Love yourself. Keep believing in yourself. You have one life one chance to to prove who you are, continue to work in a way that you can leave an impression.
And if something doesn't break you, it makes stronger. And I think we all are stronger because we all survived something which our entire world did and then a lot of people survived is something which is unique in their own way. But having the sanity and clear and conscious to yourself...My way of living is very authentic and myself. I have no filters.
And I keep it very honest with my conversation and I do not try to be someone else. I just try to be Monica Singh. So I think that's what we can do you know? Just don't try to be someone else. Just be yourself. And that's what I would always tell people. There will be no other Monica Singh, so I’m good! So you look in that direction in a way that what you can do, no one else can. So, if anybody's listening this I just want to tell you that you are unique yourself, and nobody else can be you. So, love yourself, because God sent you, for some purpose and reason. And then if you’re still standing on your feet, and for continuing fighting towards it, that means there is a long life and you have a long way to go and show the world what you're meant to be.

Alex
100% I love that, I love that.

Dydine
There is no better version of you, other than being yourself. So, thank you so much for all the wisdom that you gave us today. Your smile, your positivity, everything. Your strength!...Thank you Monica!

Monica
Thank you so much guys. Thank you for having me. Love you!

 


It's just, it clears your mind you know. You might walk in there with the days, heaviness something going on with family or another friend or something at work, you know, just something you can't shake or a conversation that you have that didn't go the way you wanted. And so many times we've gone out there and just, we said we're gonna put it out there and just leave it. Leave it in the ocean. Because the ocean is so vast, it can handle it, you know. And get it off your shoulders and out of your mind. I think the thing that we're finding with these plunges that we're doing right now is with the cold water with the cold wind just leaves your head empty and kind of relieved. I don't know, something like that Nancy has words about that too.

Sharon

Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 8

Do you have a message to young women and girls, looking for something to hold on to, who have not yet found a community or friends?

Special guests Jeannie, Sharon & Nancy.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
June, 2021

Jeannie, Sharon & Nancy biography

Monica Singh is an Indian-American fashion Philanthrophist business woman. She has been working with renowned fashion designers and influencers to cultivate sustainable and socially impactful fashion model. Educated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, India in Fashion Design with specialization in Trend forecasting & Business and Fashion Marketing from Parsons School of Design, New York U.S. She has been working in Fashion industry for over 12 years in diverse position where she is implementing her skills and knowledge from different part of the world to create products and goods for international consumers.
Monica is a partner of Conscious Fashion Campaign of United Nations Foundation to encourage the brands and designers to create ethical standards and sustainable methods in fashion based on UN goals to eliminate the negative impact of textile industry in the world. She also runs a non-profit organization based in New York to support women with violent experiences and help them to learns skills and get educated to become strong & independent in their lives. Monica has been covered over 1000 publications in Media online as well as offline, Radios and Television like New York Times, BBC and Times of India and CBC radio to name a few & inspired millions of women and men in the world.

Monica is also UN women youth Ambassador and award winning speaker on various topics including gender based violence & sustainable fashion.

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:01
Hello again, Baserange Community we are here the third time. Today we're gonna be talking with you wonderful Joanne bland.

Dydine 2:18
How are you, how is the quarantine life? Are you quarantining where you are?

JoAnne 2:26
Well we’re not really quarantined. Our activity is cut way down. I only leave the house when necessary.

Dydine 2:37
Everyone, who doesn’t know Mrs. Bland. She to the civil rights movement hero, and we're very honored today to have her here and learn from her, learn the history and I having someone like you is a blessing. For someone like me who's from Rwanda, it's a rare chance that I meet someone like you. So even though it's virtual at least we’ll a conversation with you.

Alex 3:12
No I agree with those sentiments. I mean growing up in Texas personally I have had the opportunity to kind of learn about the civil rights movement through my own family and, you know, kind of my roots in Tennessee and you know, stuff like in a Deep South, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to talk to you a little bit Joanne and just learn a little bit more about my own path, your path, and kind of what we can all do, in the end to make the world a little bit a better place to the best of our own abilities.

JoAnne 3:55
I look forward to talking to you guys too.

Dydine 4:01
Mrs. JoAnne what what keeps you going? What keeps you fighting for 50 years? You started at 11 years old, which is amazing to me that, you know, like you started activism, when you know when that's in the age where you a kid is staying home is taken care of. Life around you, kind of pushed you to do what you did. What keeps you going?

JoAnne 4:33
Sometimes I wake up thinking this the same time. Because things still not really where they’re supposed to be. So if I stopped struggling, I feel like I would never get there. And I'm thinking, social humans are like jigsaw puzzles everybody has a piece, everybody is a piece. And I think my piece is teaching the path so you young people can use it as a foundation. If you know where we’ve been as a nation, then you take where we need to go without making the same mistakes we made. And yes, we made some mistakes.

Alex 5:23
Right, and I bring up my dad. In our own podcast, we interviewed him about his own experience growing up in Tennessee, in the 50s, and he has his own stories to share as well and he always kind of harps on the lessons that he learned and like he said, passing that down to the younger generation, because he always tells him to listen, to ask the older people. You're not going to learn as much as you could if you just if you don't ask. And they always, like you just said, we all make mistakes, and in this particular situation I think it helps tremendously. Just to be able to open that dialogue.

JoAnne 6:19
I think so too. I think because of the blood of history that runs through your veins. Hearing how we grew up in the things that were happening in the so called free country, when we were growing up, then you can gauge how far we've come. It would be ludicrous to say that we haven’t made gains, but we still have gains to make. And what I like about today is that you guys seem impatient, because you live in this technical time where everything is instant, and I applaud you for that I'm so proud of you guys for being out there, for taking up the torch and realizing that we're not where we need to be. And if there’s any way I can help with telling of the story’s and teaching this history, I'll do it until there’s no breath left for me to do it with.

Alex 7:17
Right.

JoAnne 7:22
I'm not really leaving you guys anywhere to go after I finish right so maybe I can segue into something. Okay. (laughter)

Dydine 7:34
I got me emotional because I'm a genocide survivor and I survived at a very young age. I was four. And I started sharing my story, I believe, when I was like, 23, and it was so hard for me to repeat, to go back and share it to people. And then I think a few years later, I felt really tired and I asked someone like, “Is it going to get better?” It was like, oh you, “you've got to just keep doing what you're doing, because you have to help the world otherwise, the history will keep repeating itself.”

And as hard as it is, knowing that it's important for younger generations for future generations to know to learn on your own mistakes, our past mistakes, not you know not repeat it, so just without also not. When the more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. Otherwise, if the history will be will be gone. So I really appreciate the work you are doing.

One of the questions I have for you is, when growing up. What are those stories you learned from your grandparents, that stayed with you and kept pushing you and also you feel like there's stories that your grandchildren need to learn to know that they keep the history going?

JoAnne 9:12
Well, my grandmother was the reason that we were involved.
My dad was staunchly against it. He used to tell my grandmother, that you're going to get my children killed. Don't send them down there. And he would go out the back door and grandma would push us put the front door and say go get your freedom. And we would go down to the church to participate. But, grandmother was strong and women who had lived in the mid-west and during the period in our history where segregation was the norm. Now I’ve since learned that every urban city had an area where blacks lived, where the Italians lived, where the Jews lived. And it was only when we left that area of love that you encountered craziness. So, grandmother had some sense of freedom that we didn’t have in the south. And then they call Detroit up north —.

(Internet connection lost)

Alex 15:45
I wanted to say that the nonprofit that we're all supporting today is the McCray Learning Center. We meant to put all the information into the Instagram Live Chat, but I'll say right now. And towards the end we'll be able to type it into the chat. So we can all look at it and check it out if he hasn't time. But welcome back, Joanne, again, and sorry for the technical difficulties and for the patient labor showing Oh,

(JoAnne is back. Conversation continues)

JoAnne 14:42
Grandmother didn't like white people. And in some ways, she taught us to fear whites, because she was say you have to stand up to them.

But she would else so tell us those horror stories of Emmett Till and others that didn't become as famous as others we heard growing up here in Alabama. About how people disappeared and we’d never see them again. How people had to be smuggled out of the state, so that they could live and they could never come back so therefore they never saw their families again. Those horror stories. And they stuck with me.

And I don't know I had a fear of whites but I knew that they were different, and she would she would always tell us That when we were in their presence that we were not to talk. She would say whatever had to be said. And it took me a long time to really understand that it wasn't the color of your skin to make people not like you. It was just that they didn’t like you. They didn’t have an understanding of who I was either. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. And as a kid I didn't understand how people who didn't know me could dislike me because of the color of my skin. We didn't really get, I didn't really get any cope(?) until Smith came in 1963 and I was about 10 then.

And I didn’t understand why they kept saying they were trying to get their freedom. And grandmother could always make me understand things. When I was posing I could ask her anything. When I asked her why are we fighting for something we already had it didn't make sense to me, how then getting the right to vote and all this and how it connected. I didn't understand any of that. Until one day, we were in front of a drug store here in Selma. And they're still there, by the way on the corner. On the same corner. Yeah, they had a lunch counter at that time. Carters Drugstore.

I wanted to sit at the counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, colored children couldn’t sit at the counter. That’s what we were called then. She said but one day it’s going to change. It didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter even when I knew I couldn’t. Every time we passed by that store, I’d peep through the window at those white kids wishing it was me.

On this particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I’ll never forget it. I was peeping through the window, looking at the white kids, wishing it was me. My grandmother noticed this and put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over and pointed through the window to the counter and said, “we would get our freedom. You can do that too.” I became a freedom fighter that day.

It was a different freedom that they were talking about. The freedom that would let me sit at the counter. That was my intro to the movement. That's how I started going down to meetings.

Alex 18:28
You understood that magnitude then right? You were 8 years old then. And you understood that, seeing these white kids sit up at the counter. And it must have clicked for you. And you were like, “Oh this is why this is important. Voting rights is important.” I can't even imagine that. I don't even remember why I was at or what I was thinking when I was 8 years old.

JoAnne 18:56
Well, I was arrested the first time when I was 8. Along with my grandmother. And then I was not the youngest, there were toddlers and babies. Or as we called them armed babies, that couldn’t walk. The mothers had to carry them. They put us into cell so I count it as an arrest.

Dydine 19:22
At 8 years old. And that was legal?

JoAnne 19:32
Yeah. You got to remember who made the laws and who enforced the law. According to them, the women who had gone to the courthouse to vote were not there to vote. They were loitering. Because, I remember someone coming to the door and putting the paper on. And when we got closer I saw it said, “Out to lunch”. I remember thinking white people are sure eager. And because grandmother had just given us breakfast. They were already eating lunch. So, it also makes you realize you didn't understand that sounded like... they didn’t eat at the same time. Because its like 9 o’clock and they’ve already gone to lunch. So we were loitering, and according to the law we should have moved. And we needed to wait until they open again. The doors were only locked because we were there. In a public building, by the way.

Dydine 20:43
JoAnne your fight, since you were 10, has made a lot of change because now, a young black person is - there’s still injustices, there’s still work to do. But I think your work did not go unnoticed, because now we can walk in, we can sit in those bars. In some some places at least.
Your fight the fight is not over, but your fight is not just wasted. And that's what I was gonna say, because now as your saying it, I'm thinking myself, you know, we are lucky to be in this generation, you know, like we have more privilege that you didn't grow up for you so we're not going to take them for granted.

JoAnne 21:40
And much, much richer.

Alex 21:47
But I wanted to go back really quickly to voting rights. And most of work is voting relating things. Do you feel like this younger generation Dydine and mine, our generation. Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting? Do you feel like we really get it and capture, once again, the magnitude and importance of voting?

JoAnne 22:19
That's not an easy answer.
Sometimes I think you do. And sometimes... well it depends on who I’m talking to actually. Obviously we're the crowd here that understands them, that understands voting.

But there are others who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

But I understand the children who say that voting hasn’t gotten us anything. We're still poor. We're still treated as second class citizens and the same police brutality that we experienced today we've always experienced as we've been on these new shores, but every generation thinks it's a new thing and they start over. Instead of building on what we have. Again that's why it's important to know where we’ve been as a nation, so you don't make the same mistakes we made and start over. And teaches you to recognize it. And that's what's wrong with some of the young people.

And I'm not accusing them or blaming them. I just wish they would reconsider. Those who feel that way. The only way we’re going to have any systematic change is to elect people who think like we do. If the person we believe was going to do that didn’t do it, vote them out. That’s power. You have the power to do that. And when you don't use that power, you're slapping me all in my face.

Thousands and thousands who fall. And even those who died so you could have the rights you also have. And I am extremely proud of the young people today who are out there
there, who recognize we need to be crying out loud until we are heard. And that's what happened in the 60’s. We didn't stop until we were heard. That's how we got the few gains that we did.

Now, today a black woman is running for vice president What kind of world are we living in now? That a woman, a black woman, a woman, that’s one strike, and then a black woman, that’s two strikes. So, it can even aspire to get in that office. But it also with the sign of the Voting Rights Act that gave Hillary to right the run too. Yes, white women.

That's what not taught. Yeah, that the Voting Rights Act wasn't a black thing, it just benefited us as a whole. But it was a people thing. Poor people of any color couldn't vote. Women didn't vote because society dictated that men took care of us then, remember? Except it wasn’t in the black family. The black woman had to get out there and work just like the black man. And had say so. Always strong black women. I had a conversation the other day, some people say they had TOO much to say. (Black Women)

Alex 26:45
Yeah, I don't think there's so much thing as too much to say!

JoAnne 26:51
Ever! Yeah, yeah. I like you.

Alex 27:00
I like you too!

(Commentary)

JoAnne 27:10
That’s because it’s not taught to us that way. Even the movement that I participated in. When you read the books and see these documentaries and movies that I can’t stand. So don't even ask me about them. It looks like the man is leading all the time. It's like Dr. King was here everyday doing the Voting Rights struggle. Telling you, “you go here, you go there.” No, Dr. King might have been here six times out of that whole period. Selma was already organized and trying to get the right to vote for the citizens of it’s county 30 years before Dr. King came. But that's not taught to you guys. You know, it's just selective history.

I often wonder why we integrated the schools. Not, that it's not a good thing. But we didn't address the educational system. We left that same system in place. I integrated our high school here, junior high along with seven others. I had nothing. I had nothing in there for me. I sat up in school and learned how White America made America. And I didn't find out until much later that people who look like me made America. And you just took credit for it. It was your idea and I implemented. Or it was my idea and perfected it. You just took. So, all these children sit up the school for 12 whole years, and don’t hear anything about people who look like me. Because February (Black History Month) is a joke. Because the states set standards for what you're supposed to learn. And when February comes you may have one program. You may write a one essay. And you had that one or two days you decorate the hallways, in the classrooms. And then you give me three minutes to get from one classroom to another. Where do I read this? When do I learn this?

That's a joke. It’s really a joke. We didn't address that educational system that was a real mistake. And integration is fine, but we also have to integrate us the curriculum.

Alex 30:04
100% agree with that. And it make me think about a book. I'm not sure if you've read it, but it's a People History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

JoAnne 30:15
No, I haven’t.

Alex 30:18
That's one of those books that kind of debunks a whole bunch of notions that had been taught in schools and this and that, and it kind of sheds a lot of light on a lot of the truths that actually happened. Starting from the beginning. From Columbus “discovering” the US and so on and so forth. Through the slave trade... It’s one of those books that, I feel like it would benefit anybody who's interested in true American history to read. Definitely.

JoAnne 30:56
Right! And it is hard for people to get away from what they've heard all their lives. That it's always been that way. And I heard a lady this morning that said...she was voting for somebody that I'm not voting for because all she sees is people who hate America. No, we don't hate America. Because I am hurting and I'm crying out loud? I don't hate America. I just want America to be America for all people who are citizens and given those same rights. So why is that so hard to understand?

Dydine 31:51
Most of us, when we hear about Martin Luther King, and the Civil Right Movements it feels like a long time ago. How does it feel for you? How do you feel when you think about it? Is it too far? Does it feel like a long time for you? And for people who have only heard about Dr. King, you might be the closest thing to tell us a little bit about him. Do you have something you heard when you were marching that made him special? And the following question would be, do you think, in all of us, we have that strength and power to make a difference in the world?

JoAnne 32:43
Let me go to the second part first. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have that same strength that you call “my strength”when I was young.

Whatever the situation warrants, young people just step up to it. You don’t have that fear. You haven't picked up on that baggage. So don’t ever think you can’t, or that you aren't that type of person. Because you are. So you were born a leader, all of you. All over listeners. Because the first thing you learned how to do was to follow. And that's the first criteria of being a leader. That you know how to follow. So I you know can do that, so you are a leader.

Now as a kid, we could get close to Dr. King. I think it was because he missed his children. But we, he would always tell us to come to him. And when Dr. King asked you how your day was, you wanted to tell him EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Minute by minute, okay.

Dydine 33:55
So he was a good listener.

JoAnne 33:57
Yeah. There were so many of us. We’d be (jogging) to get close to him and stuff. He always had a peppermint, and I love peppermints to this day. To this day. You know, the star-like ones. The red and white ones.

Alex 34:09
The little red ones. Yeah.

JoAnne 34:13
When you're in class it crinkles so loud. Everyone hears you opening it. And he had the softest hands I’ve ever felt in my entire life. His hands were so soft. Even my hands today aren’t that soft. As I grew older I realized he had never done any hard labor so... (laughter)

Dydine 34:34
That’s where you were going!

JoAnne 34:39
And ironically enough, I don’t remember his voice like it is today. I know that’s his voice, but I don’t remember it. It was just Dr. King.

Dr. Abernathy was a charismatic person too. He's rarely mentioned. He was more like my my granddaddy. And Dr. King was just a star. You were around someone that’s really famous. Even my daddy talked about Dr. King. So he was a star. But Dr. Abernathy was more like your granddaddy, who dealt out discipline with love. So you didn't feel like it was wrong. He said it was time to go, it was time to go. He’d pat you on the head and you’d go out that door. Dr. Abernathy didn’t play. I loved them both, but Dr. King was special. His voice alone, when I hear it today I want to get up and save the world.

And you asked me earlier, what keeps me going. That's it, that motivation has been instilled in me since I was a child, but I don't know how to get rid of it.

Dydine 35:30
No keep it.

JoAnne 35:34
Let me stay this: you know you (Dydine) talked about telling your story? The horrors that you had to experience. And I’m so sorry, love. But telling my story has been like a cleansing. The more I tell it, the better I feel. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders. Do not hesitate to tell your story. To share your stories. Because it helps the world. And that may be your piece in the puzzle for social change. Making sure nobody else has to go through that. And by telling your story it helps, okay.

Dydine 36:25
Thank you

JoAnne 36:27
You’re welcome, love.

Dydine 36:31
I will take that along with me everywhere I go.

JoAnne 36:35
Because it came from here. (points to her heart)

Alex 36:43
Well Joanne, we wanted to use this time from this point on...for any audience questions. We'll have to scroll back through Instagram to see if the audience had asked anything. But we could definitely keep on talking. I wanted to let the audience know.

What are some of your earliest, happiest memories? Something that you can think back to your childhood and just immediately put a smile on your face?

JoAnne 37:28
My whole childhood. I had no idea that the rest of the United States who didn’t look like me, didn't grow up the same way I did. You know marching, hop scotch. Playing dodgeball, playing jacks going. Going to jail. I had no idea! What did I have to compare it to? When people ask me about that, I had a happy childhood. I was just born at time when this was happening, and if I had known 55 years from then I would be talking to you about it I would had saved visuals. I would’ve saved everything and written down every word. But I felt loved. The only time I didn’t feel loved was when I left my area of love. I thought everyone grew up like that. You mean you didn’t grow up like that? No, I’m teasing.

Alex 38:29
Personally I was blessed to have a very pleasant childhood and you know you saying playing dodgeball. Playing sports with your friends. Yeah, that immediately takes me back to North Dallas where I grew up.

(Commentary)

Alex 40:20
So, God forbid, if this were the last thing that anybody saw from you or heard from you publicly what would you want to share? What is that key message that you want to express to everybody who’s listening?

JoAnne 40:36
Okay. Remember when I said, “Everybody is a piece of the puzzle to social change”? It is you that determines where your piece fits in to complete the picture. And is the picture complete because your piece is not there? No. That means you are the most important piece. And from this moment on, you need to carry yourself like you're the most important piece, because you are. You want more?

Alex 41:12
That was good. That was great! That resonates with me. For young people. And I think I can speak for a lot of people, and feeling like the work that we do, the work that Dydine does, the work that I do, and millions of other younger people across the planet. We want to know our work is validated or we want to know our work means something and it's going to create some sort of change. And it really is nice to hear, it's nice to be acknowledged and to know that we're not so different from what you were doing 55 years ago.

JoAnne 42:00
No, you’re not.

Alex 42:02
We just have cameras and we're talking to microphone.

JoAnne 42:09
I used to use the Memograph machine and now you just hit a button.

Alex 42:11
Right. Right.

JoAnne 42:17
Or you can use that code language on your phone. Because everybody has one and within minutes you can organize. Where we had to work a little hard, but I want you to utilize those tools. That helps to make that pice even bigger doesn’t it? You’re fortunate to be living in these times. And I’m telling you, I say to everybody I talk to: white people have been silent for too long. Too long. They have seen what was wrong. They may not have experienced it, but they’ve seen it they knew it was wrong and they didn't say anything. I'm proud to see the date when I look at a march, I see a rainbow. It makes you feel good that finally my brothers and sisters whose skin tone is different than mine. They're out there. It's a rainbow of people and I’m proud of that fact.

And I thank the young people for realizing that there's a need. You know, some of the ones that don't realize it's a need aren’t doing anything. Those are the people you have to to convince. I'm proud of everybody who's trying to make their piece of the puzzle as large as they can. Thank you.


Dydine 43:55
You just reminded me. I think it was a Holocaust survivor that said that “when you save one life, you save the whole world. But when you kill one life, you kill the whole world”, which means that it doesn't matter what color your skin or religion. If you hurt that person, that means you hurt everybody in the world. So we are really more alike than ewe are different. And when we always come from that place of unity and love and peace, we are helping each other. From my experience, the people who committed genocide in Rwanda really didn't have a beautiful life after genocide either. So when you're hurting somebody, you’re not leaving your soul alone. Your soul has also been hurt along the way. So it's more of like, we have we have to do this together. Otherwise, we're not gonna get anywhere.

JoAnne 45:17
You’re right. You’re exactly right. And I know those are tired words: unity and community all that, but it all depends on how you define community. If you define community as your street, your block, your city, even the United States. If someone's hurting in Japan I need to be trying to help them stop that pain. Before I know it, it could be here with me.

Dydine 45:54
Yeah, that's pretty much it. When you look at what happens around the world how people hurt each other, the Holocaust, slavery, genocides around the world. It all has pretty much the same starting point. And if we get to learn where the conflict comes from, we're able to prevent it from happening to us. So, learning from everyone else and caring for each other. Not just our community.


Alex 46:27
I agree. I want to say thank you so much Joanne for joining us joining the bass race community, sharing your wisdom sharing your love and definitely expressing messages of positivity and progression, and that that's all the work that we do. I think that's all the work that the people who are in the comments and audience the work that they are trying to do so. Yeah, this is this is very special. And I think we can't thank you enough.

JoAnne 46:56
Well, let me selfish for a moment. First let me thank you guys for the work that you do. Around the world, whoever’s listening, whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place. Because I'm just selfish. I have grandchildren who need a better world.

I know I'm tired them walking out and I'm afraid that they may not come back. I'm tired of that and mothers around the world experience the same things. It’s not unique to us. It’s sometimes because it's so personal we think it’s unique.

But we need to get together, come to the table and put all the issues on the table, and start getting rid of them one by one. You guys are impatient. Each generation gets so far with one thing. And then the next generation starts over again. We've got to learn to record our history. And we’ve got to teach our children our history, so that they don't get bogged down, trying to do the same thing that we've already done. And that's the wisdom. Youth can do that and I know you can do that. I have confidence.

Dydine 48:16
We can do it.

JoAnne 48:20
I love my world and everything’s that’s in it. Some of my brothers and sisters are just misguided and it’s up to us to guide them on the right path.

Dydine 49:48
Oh, thank you so much JoAnne.

JoAnne 49:50
You're quite welcome sweetheart.


Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 7

What is community?
What is family?
How and why have
they shaped you?

Special guest Leilany & Aaron. On the meaning of community.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
March 21, 2021

Leilany & Aaron biography

Leilany

Leilany was raised by a single mother in Watts, an underserved community in Los Angeles, CA. As a high school freshman, she joined a college prep program called College Track Watts and graduated from Jordan High school. She is currently a first-generation college student and a small business owner. After graduating from college, she plans to become a physician assistant. Leilany is motivated to pay things forward by helping expose fellow neighbors in Watts and those from other similar communities to the type of perspectives and possibilities that have been.


Aaron

A native New Yorker, Aaron has always been intensely service-oriented and is inspired by the words of the great James Baldwin - “The questions which one asks oneself begin, at last, to illuminate the world, and become one’s key to the experience of others.” He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study abroad in China and immerse himself in a community unlike that where he grew up or went to school. After working for over a decade in the healthcare IT space, Aaron currently works as a People Solutions Leader, cultivating winning organizational cultures. He co-founded OLASTEO with his wife, Ceci, in order to create experiences for underserved students that open their eyes to the larger world beyond their immediate community.

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:01
Hello again, Baserange Community we are here the third time. Today we're gonna be talking with you wonderful Joanne bland.

Dydine 2:18
How are you, how is the quarantine life? Are you quarantining where you are?

JoAnne 2:26
Well we’re not really quarantined. Our activity is cut way down. I only leave the house when necessary.

Dydine 2:37
Everyone, who doesn’t know Mrs. Bland. She to the civil rights movement hero, and we're very honored today to have her here and learn from her, learn the history and I having someone like you is a blessing. For someone like me who's from Rwanda, it's a rare chance that I meet someone like you. So even though it's virtual at least we’ll a conversation with you.

Alex 3:12
No I agree with those sentiments. I mean growing up in Texas personally I have had the opportunity to kind of learn about the civil rights movement through my own family and, you know, kind of my roots in Tennessee and you know, stuff like in a Deep South, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to talk to you a little bit Joanne and just learn a little bit more about my own path, your path, and kind of what we can all do, in the end to make the world a little bit a better place to the best of our own abilities.

JoAnne 3:55
I look forward to talking to you guys too.

Dydine 4:01
Mrs. JoAnne what what keeps you going? What keeps you fighting for 50 years? You started at 11 years old, which is amazing to me that, you know, like you started activism, when you know when that's in the age where you a kid is staying home is taken care of. Life around you, kind of pushed you to do what you did. What keeps you going?

JoAnne 4:33
Sometimes I wake up thinking this the same time. Because things still not really where they’re supposed to be. So if I stopped struggling, I feel like I would never get there. And I'm thinking, social humans are like jigsaw puzzles everybody has a piece, everybody is a piece. And I think my piece is teaching the path so you young people can use it as a foundation. If you know where we’ve been as a nation, then you take where we need to go without making the same mistakes we made. And yes, we made some mistakes.

Alex 5:23
Right, and I bring up my dad. In our own podcast, we interviewed him about his own experience growing up in Tennessee, in the 50s, and he has his own stories to share as well and he always kind of harps on the lessons that he learned and like he said, passing that down to the younger generation, because he always tells him to listen, to ask the older people. You're not going to learn as much as you could if you just if you don't ask. And they always, like you just said, we all make mistakes, and in this particular situation I think it helps tremendously. Just to be able to open that dialogue.

JoAnne 6:19
I think so too. I think because of the blood of history that runs through your veins. Hearing how we grew up in the things that were happening in the so called free country, when we were growing up, then you can gauge how far we've come. It would be ludicrous to say that we haven’t made gains, but we still have gains to make. And what I like about today is that you guys seem impatient, because you live in this technical time where everything is instant, and I applaud you for that I'm so proud of you guys for being out there, for taking up the torch and realizing that we're not where we need to be. And if there’s any way I can help with telling of the story’s and teaching this history, I'll do it until there’s no breath left for me to do it with.

Alex 7:17
Right.

JoAnne 7:22
I'm not really leaving you guys anywhere to go after I finish right so maybe I can segue into something. Okay. (laughter)

Dydine 7:34
I got me emotional because I'm a genocide survivor and I survived at a very young age. I was four. And I started sharing my story, I believe, when I was like, 23, and it was so hard for me to repeat, to go back and share it to people. And then I think a few years later, I felt really tired and I asked someone like, “Is it going to get better?” It was like, oh you, “you've got to just keep doing what you're doing, because you have to help the world otherwise, the history will keep repeating itself.”

And as hard as it is, knowing that it's important for younger generations for future generations to know to learn on your own mistakes, our past mistakes, not you know not repeat it, so just without also not. When the more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. Otherwise, if the history will be will be gone. So I really appreciate the work you are doing.

One of the questions I have for you is, when growing up. What are those stories you learned from your grandparents, that stayed with you and kept pushing you and also you feel like there's stories that your grandchildren need to learn to know that they keep the history going?

JoAnne 9:12
Well, my grandmother was the reason that we were involved.
My dad was staunchly against it. He used to tell my grandmother, that you're going to get my children killed. Don't send them down there. And he would go out the back door and grandma would push us put the front door and say go get your freedom. And we would go down to the church to participate. But, grandmother was strong and women who had lived in the mid-west and during the period in our history where segregation was the norm. Now I’ve since learned that every urban city had an area where blacks lived, where the Italians lived, where the Jews lived. And it was only when we left that area of love that you encountered craziness. So, grandmother had some sense of freedom that we didn’t have in the south. And then they call Detroit up north —.

(Internet connection lost)

Alex 15:45
I wanted to say that the nonprofit that we're all supporting today is the McCray Learning Center. We meant to put all the information into the Instagram Live Chat, but I'll say right now. And towards the end we'll be able to type it into the chat. So we can all look at it and check it out if he hasn't time. But welcome back, Joanne, again, and sorry for the technical difficulties and for the patient labor showing Oh,

(JoAnne is back. Conversation continues)

JoAnne 14:42
Grandmother didn't like white people. And in some ways, she taught us to fear whites, because she was say you have to stand up to them.

But she would else so tell us those horror stories of Emmett Till and others that didn't become as famous as others we heard growing up here in Alabama. About how people disappeared and we’d never see them again. How people had to be smuggled out of the state, so that they could live and they could never come back so therefore they never saw their families again. Those horror stories. And they stuck with me.

And I don't know I had a fear of whites but I knew that they were different, and she would she would always tell us That when we were in their presence that we were not to talk. She would say whatever had to be said. And it took me a long time to really understand that it wasn't the color of your skin to make people not like you. It was just that they didn’t like you. They didn’t have an understanding of who I was either. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. And as a kid I didn't understand how people who didn't know me could dislike me because of the color of my skin. We didn't really get, I didn't really get any cope(?) until Smith came in 1963 and I was about 10 then.

And I didn’t understand why they kept saying they were trying to get their freedom. And grandmother could always make me understand things. When I was posing I could ask her anything. When I asked her why are we fighting for something we already had it didn't make sense to me, how then getting the right to vote and all this and how it connected. I didn't understand any of that. Until one day, we were in front of a drug store here in Selma. And they're still there, by the way on the corner. On the same corner. Yeah, they had a lunch counter at that time. Carters Drugstore.

I wanted to sit at the counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, colored children couldn’t sit at the counter. That’s what we were called then. She said but one day it’s going to change. It didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter even when I knew I couldn’t. Every time we passed by that store, I’d peep through the window at those white kids wishing it was me.

On this particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I’ll never forget it. I was peeping through the window, looking at the white kids, wishing it was me. My grandmother noticed this and put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over and pointed through the window to the counter and said, “we would get our freedom. You can do that too.” I became a freedom fighter that day.

It was a different freedom that they were talking about. The freedom that would let me sit at the counter. That was my intro to the movement. That's how I started going down to meetings.

Alex 18:28
You understood that magnitude then right? You were 8 years old then. And you understood that, seeing these white kids sit up at the counter. And it must have clicked for you. And you were like, “Oh this is why this is important. Voting rights is important.” I can't even imagine that. I don't even remember why I was at or what I was thinking when I was 8 years old.

JoAnne 18:56
Well, I was arrested the first time when I was 8. Along with my grandmother. And then I was not the youngest, there were toddlers and babies. Or as we called them armed babies, that couldn’t walk. The mothers had to carry them. They put us into cell so I count it as an arrest.

Dydine 19:22
At 8 years old. And that was legal?

JoAnne 19:32
Yeah. You got to remember who made the laws and who enforced the law. According to them, the women who had gone to the courthouse to vote were not there to vote. They were loitering. Because, I remember someone coming to the door and putting the paper on. And when we got closer I saw it said, “Out to lunch”. I remember thinking white people are sure eager. And because grandmother had just given us breakfast. They were already eating lunch. So, it also makes you realize you didn't understand that sounded like... they didn’t eat at the same time. Because its like 9 o’clock and they’ve already gone to lunch. So we were loitering, and according to the law we should have moved. And we needed to wait until they open again. The doors were only locked because we were there. In a public building, by the way.

Dydine 20:43
JoAnne your fight, since you were 10, has made a lot of change because now, a young black person is - there’s still injustices, there’s still work to do. But I think your work did not go unnoticed, because now we can walk in, we can sit in those bars. In some some places at least.
Your fight the fight is not over, but your fight is not just wasted. And that's what I was gonna say, because now as your saying it, I'm thinking myself, you know, we are lucky to be in this generation, you know, like we have more privilege that you didn't grow up for you so we're not going to take them for granted.

JoAnne 21:40
And much, much richer.

Alex 21:47
But I wanted to go back really quickly to voting rights. And most of work is voting relating things. Do you feel like this younger generation Dydine and mine, our generation. Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting? Do you feel like we really get it and capture, once again, the magnitude and importance of voting?

JoAnne 22:19
That's not an easy answer.
Sometimes I think you do. And sometimes... well it depends on who I’m talking to actually. Obviously we're the crowd here that understands them, that understands voting.

But there are others who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

But I understand the children who say that voting hasn’t gotten us anything. We're still poor. We're still treated as second class citizens and the same police brutality that we experienced today we've always experienced as we've been on these new shores, but every generation thinks it's a new thing and they start over. Instead of building on what we have. Again that's why it's important to know where we’ve been as a nation, so you don't make the same mistakes we made and start over. And teaches you to recognize it. And that's what's wrong with some of the young people.

And I'm not accusing them or blaming them. I just wish they would reconsider. Those who feel that way. The only way we’re going to have any systematic change is to elect people who think like we do. If the person we believe was going to do that didn’t do it, vote them out. That’s power. You have the power to do that. And when you don't use that power, you're slapping me all in my face.

Thousands and thousands who fall. And even those who died so you could have the rights you also have. And I am extremely proud of the young people today who are out there
there, who recognize we need to be crying out loud until we are heard. And that's what happened in the 60’s. We didn't stop until we were heard. That's how we got the few gains that we did.

Now, today a black woman is running for vice president What kind of world are we living in now? That a woman, a black woman, a woman, that’s one strike, and then a black woman, that’s two strikes. So, it can even aspire to get in that office. But it also with the sign of the Voting Rights Act that gave Hillary to right the run too. Yes, white women.

That's what not taught. Yeah, that the Voting Rights Act wasn't a black thing, it just benefited us as a whole. But it was a people thing. Poor people of any color couldn't vote. Women didn't vote because society dictated that men took care of us then, remember? Except it wasn’t in the black family. The black woman had to get out there and work just like the black man. And had say so. Always strong black women. I had a conversation the other day, some people say they had TOO much to say. (Black Women)

Alex 26:45
Yeah, I don't think there's so much thing as too much to say!

JoAnne 26:51
Ever! Yeah, yeah. I like you.

Alex 27:00
I like you too!

(Commentary)

JoAnne 27:10
That’s because it’s not taught to us that way. Even the movement that I participated in. When you read the books and see these documentaries and movies that I can’t stand. So don't even ask me about them. It looks like the man is leading all the time. It's like Dr. King was here everyday doing the Voting Rights struggle. Telling you, “you go here, you go there.” No, Dr. King might have been here six times out of that whole period. Selma was already organized and trying to get the right to vote for the citizens of it’s county 30 years before Dr. King came. But that's not taught to you guys. You know, it's just selective history.

I often wonder why we integrated the schools. Not, that it's not a good thing. But we didn't address the educational system. We left that same system in place. I integrated our high school here, junior high along with seven others. I had nothing. I had nothing in there for me. I sat up in school and learned how White America made America. And I didn't find out until much later that people who look like me made America. And you just took credit for it. It was your idea and I implemented. Or it was my idea and perfected it. You just took. So, all these children sit up the school for 12 whole years, and don’t hear anything about people who look like me. Because February (Black History Month) is a joke. Because the states set standards for what you're supposed to learn. And when February comes you may have one program. You may write a one essay. And you had that one or two days you decorate the hallways, in the classrooms. And then you give me three minutes to get from one classroom to another. Where do I read this? When do I learn this?

That's a joke. It’s really a joke. We didn't address that educational system that was a real mistake. And integration is fine, but we also have to integrate us the curriculum.

Alex 30:04
100% agree with that. And it make me think about a book. I'm not sure if you've read it, but it's a People History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

JoAnne 30:15
No, I haven’t.

Alex 30:18
That's one of those books that kind of debunks a whole bunch of notions that had been taught in schools and this and that, and it kind of sheds a lot of light on a lot of the truths that actually happened. Starting from the beginning. From Columbus “discovering” the US and so on and so forth. Through the slave trade... It’s one of those books that, I feel like it would benefit anybody who's interested in true American history to read. Definitely.

JoAnne 30:56
Right! And it is hard for people to get away from what they've heard all their lives. That it's always been that way. And I heard a lady this morning that said...she was voting for somebody that I'm not voting for because all she sees is people who hate America. No, we don't hate America. Because I am hurting and I'm crying out loud? I don't hate America. I just want America to be America for all people who are citizens and given those same rights. So why is that so hard to understand?

Dydine 31:51
Most of us, when we hear about Martin Luther King, and the Civil Right Movements it feels like a long time ago. How does it feel for you? How do you feel when you think about it? Is it too far? Does it feel like a long time for you? And for people who have only heard about Dr. King, you might be the closest thing to tell us a little bit about him. Do you have something you heard when you were marching that made him special? And the following question would be, do you think, in all of us, we have that strength and power to make a difference in the world?

JoAnne 32:43
Let me go to the second part first. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have that same strength that you call “my strength”when I was young.

Whatever the situation warrants, young people just step up to it. You don’t have that fear. You haven't picked up on that baggage. So don’t ever think you can’t, or that you aren't that type of person. Because you are. So you were born a leader, all of you. All over listeners. Because the first thing you learned how to do was to follow. And that's the first criteria of being a leader. That you know how to follow. So I you know can do that, so you are a leader.

Now as a kid, we could get close to Dr. King. I think it was because he missed his children. But we, he would always tell us to come to him. And when Dr. King asked you how your day was, you wanted to tell him EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Minute by minute, okay.

Dydine 33:55
So he was a good listener.

JoAnne 33:57
Yeah. There were so many of us. We’d be (jogging) to get close to him and stuff. He always had a peppermint, and I love peppermints to this day. To this day. You know, the star-like ones. The red and white ones.

Alex 34:09
The little red ones. Yeah.

JoAnne 34:13
When you're in class it crinkles so loud. Everyone hears you opening it. And he had the softest hands I’ve ever felt in my entire life. His hands were so soft. Even my hands today aren’t that soft. As I grew older I realized he had never done any hard labor so... (laughter)

Dydine 34:34
That’s where you were going!

JoAnne 34:39
And ironically enough, I don’t remember his voice like it is today. I know that’s his voice, but I don’t remember it. It was just Dr. King.

Dr. Abernathy was a charismatic person too. He's rarely mentioned. He was more like my my granddaddy. And Dr. King was just a star. You were around someone that’s really famous. Even my daddy talked about Dr. King. So he was a star. But Dr. Abernathy was more like your granddaddy, who dealt out discipline with love. So you didn't feel like it was wrong. He said it was time to go, it was time to go. He’d pat you on the head and you’d go out that door. Dr. Abernathy didn’t play. I loved them both, but Dr. King was special. His voice alone, when I hear it today I want to get up and save the world.

And you asked me earlier, what keeps me going. That's it, that motivation has been instilled in me since I was a child, but I don't know how to get rid of it.

Dydine 35:30
No keep it.

JoAnne 35:34
Let me stay this: you know you (Dydine) talked about telling your story? The horrors that you had to experience. And I’m so sorry, love. But telling my story has been like a cleansing. The more I tell it, the better I feel. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders. Do not hesitate to tell your story. To share your stories. Because it helps the world. And that may be your piece in the puzzle for social change. Making sure nobody else has to go through that. And by telling your story it helps, okay.

Dydine 36:25
Thank you

JoAnne 36:27
You’re welcome, love.

Dydine 36:31
I will take that along with me everywhere I go.

JoAnne 36:35
Because it came from here. (points to her heart)

Alex 36:43
Well Joanne, we wanted to use this time from this point on...for any audience questions. We'll have to scroll back through Instagram to see if the audience had asked anything. But we could definitely keep on talking. I wanted to let the audience know.

What are some of your earliest, happiest memories? Something that you can think back to your childhood and just immediately put a smile on your face?

JoAnne 37:28
My whole childhood. I had no idea that the rest of the United States who didn’t look like me, didn't grow up the same way I did. You know marching, hop scotch. Playing dodgeball, playing jacks going. Going to jail. I had no idea! What did I have to compare it to? When people ask me about that, I had a happy childhood. I was just born at time when this was happening, and if I had known 55 years from then I would be talking to you about it I would had saved visuals. I would’ve saved everything and written down every word. But I felt loved. The only time I didn’t feel loved was when I left my area of love. I thought everyone grew up like that. You mean you didn’t grow up like that? No, I’m teasing.

Alex 38:29
Personally I was blessed to have a very pleasant childhood and you know you saying playing dodgeball. Playing sports with your friends. Yeah, that immediately takes me back to North Dallas where I grew up.

(Commentary)

Alex 40:20
So, God forbid, if this were the last thing that anybody saw from you or heard from you publicly what would you want to share? What is that key message that you want to express to everybody who’s listening?

JoAnne 40:36
Okay. Remember when I said, “Everybody is a piece of the puzzle to social change”? It is you that determines where your piece fits in to complete the picture. And is the picture complete because your piece is not there? No. That means you are the most important piece. And from this moment on, you need to carry yourself like you're the most important piece, because you are. You want more?

Alex 41:12
That was good. That was great! That resonates with me. For young people. And I think I can speak for a lot of people, and feeling like the work that we do, the work that Dydine does, the work that I do, and millions of other younger people across the planet. We want to know our work is validated or we want to know our work means something and it's going to create some sort of change. And it really is nice to hear, it's nice to be acknowledged and to know that we're not so different from what you were doing 55 years ago.

JoAnne 42:00
No, you’re not.

Alex 42:02
We just have cameras and we're talking to microphone.

JoAnne 42:09
I used to use the Memograph machine and now you just hit a button.

Alex 42:11
Right. Right.

JoAnne 42:17
Or you can use that code language on your phone. Because everybody has one and within minutes you can organize. Where we had to work a little hard, but I want you to utilize those tools. That helps to make that pice even bigger doesn’t it? You’re fortunate to be living in these times. And I’m telling you, I say to everybody I talk to: white people have been silent for too long. Too long. They have seen what was wrong. They may not have experienced it, but they’ve seen it they knew it was wrong and they didn't say anything. I'm proud to see the date when I look at a march, I see a rainbow. It makes you feel good that finally my brothers and sisters whose skin tone is different than mine. They're out there. It's a rainbow of people and I’m proud of that fact.

And I thank the young people for realizing that there's a need. You know, some of the ones that don't realize it's a need aren’t doing anything. Those are the people you have to to convince. I'm proud of everybody who's trying to make their piece of the puzzle as large as they can. Thank you.


Dydine 43:55
You just reminded me. I think it was a Holocaust survivor that said that “when you save one life, you save the whole world. But when you kill one life, you kill the whole world”, which means that it doesn't matter what color your skin or religion. If you hurt that person, that means you hurt everybody in the world. So we are really more alike than ewe are different. And when we always come from that place of unity and love and peace, we are helping each other. From my experience, the people who committed genocide in Rwanda really didn't have a beautiful life after genocide either. So when you're hurting somebody, you’re not leaving your soul alone. Your soul has also been hurt along the way. So it's more of like, we have we have to do this together. Otherwise, we're not gonna get anywhere.

JoAnne 45:17
You’re right. You’re exactly right. And I know those are tired words: unity and community all that, but it all depends on how you define community. If you define community as your street, your block, your city, even the United States. If someone's hurting in Japan I need to be trying to help them stop that pain. Before I know it, it could be here with me.

Dydine 45:54
Yeah, that's pretty much it. When you look at what happens around the world how people hurt each other, the Holocaust, slavery, genocides around the world. It all has pretty much the same starting point. And if we get to learn where the conflict comes from, we're able to prevent it from happening to us. So, learning from everyone else and caring for each other. Not just our community.


Alex 46:27
I agree. I want to say thank you so much Joanne for joining us joining the bass race community, sharing your wisdom sharing your love and definitely expressing messages of positivity and progression, and that that's all the work that we do. I think that's all the work that the people who are in the comments and audience the work that they are trying to do so. Yeah, this is this is very special. And I think we can't thank you enough.

JoAnne 46:56
Well, let me selfish for a moment. First let me thank you guys for the work that you do. Around the world, whoever’s listening, whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place. Because I'm just selfish. I have grandchildren who need a better world.

I know I'm tired them walking out and I'm afraid that they may not come back. I'm tired of that and mothers around the world experience the same things. It’s not unique to us. It’s sometimes because it's so personal we think it’s unique.

But we need to get together, come to the table and put all the issues on the table, and start getting rid of them one by one. You guys are impatient. Each generation gets so far with one thing. And then the next generation starts over again. We've got to learn to record our history. And we’ve got to teach our children our history, so that they don't get bogged down, trying to do the same thing that we've already done. And that's the wisdom. Youth can do that and I know you can do that. I have confidence.

Dydine 48:16
We can do it.

JoAnne 48:20
I love my world and everything’s that’s in it. Some of my brothers and sisters are just misguided and it’s up to us to guide them on the right path.

Dydine 49:48
Oh, thank you so much JoAnne.

JoAnne 49:50
You're quite welcome sweetheart.

Um, well, you know it's impacted me in our ways because just like how Alex mentioned, I take it personal. Going back to OLASTEO, it stands for Our Lives As Seen Through Each Other. So these things that happen to other people, like you see your life through them, through the things that they go through because you're like “hey like that happened to me too” or something similar happened to me too.

So for the people in my community. When I see teenagers go through (tough) things, I remember when I was in Watts and that was me, you know, and I know that it's forever gonna keep going unless someone steps up and do something about it. That's why I try to you know get involved with my community as much as possible, while still trying to manage you know my own burdens, but it's just because I want to help people like you know that same little girl that's struggling in Watts, that was me once upon a time. I'm in a much better position now because you know I have support from OLASTEO, but there's people still in Watts that don't have any of those resources so that you know, just seeing what they go through it just reminds me of what I went through. I have sympathy and I have to do something for them because if I was little, like I wish somebody would have done something for me when I was small. So yeah, that's really what it is, my community.

Leilany

I think like throughout my life, I've actually realized how important it is to confront and connect with those people that we also feel are different or other or maybe those opinions that we do not share. And I think like something that I learned from this process is to that, we can always learn so much from one another when we actually, like you said Dydine, open ourselves to others when we allow others to come inside. I think it's something that many friends of mine always say that I'm brave for doing certain things and I don't realize that anymore because it became so natural to me, and how always to do the things that I was doing. But somehow for me it's something, looking back also a very important aspect to having opened myself up to situations that I did not feel comfortable or familiar with necessarily at first. And I think through that only can we kind of proceed and grow also and share, kind of open our horizon. I like this idea, basically of our mind, this horizon that is only me becoming more complex, also by understanding so many different opinions.

Monika Dorniak

Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 5

What do you think happens when we allow the “others” in?

Special guest Monika Dorniak. The importance of self-expression.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
January 17, 2021

Monika Dorniak biography

Monika Gabriela Dorniak (*1988).
German-Polish interdisciplinary artist.

“I want to share my research on trauma and its consequences with you by referring to my experiences of working with refugees and migrants on artistic projects. Traumatic events do not only re-shape the life of an individual person through Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but can also be inherited biologically by the future generations, making the experience of trauma an ongoing hassle for the family.

The research that I will share with you, is accompanied by my personal experiences of growing up in a rural part of Germany as a child of a polish migrant. My father had to flee from communist Poland due to his activism in the Solidarnosc as a lawyer. This scenario made me understand what it means to be 'the other' from an early age.

However, I did not let those outside projections impose on me, but decided to analyse the behaviours of the 'normative' and homogenous group from an early age. This lead me to the sociopolitical projects that I am working on nowadays. Besides of sharing my research on trauma, I want to share the experience and potential of having a migration background as an artist working with sociopolitical themes. I will exemplify the possibilities of reclaiming the traumatised body on chosen projects that I have been working on.
My art works are often collaborative and range from performances, workshops, wearable sculptures to videos, and to understand subjects in more depth I am merging disciplines such as dance, psychology, natural and social sciences and philosophy. I use the arts to address the problem of trauma, and explore ways of procesing individual and collective trauma through my collaborative projects. For some years I have worked on projects together with migrants and refugees, and have been commissioned by British artist Marc Quinn to work with refugees in London, Berlin and NYC on his recent project Our Blood that I will introduce to you later.

My work with refugees is going beyond the projects borders and I became friends with many individuals from countries around the world who have experienced wars at first hand. The inherited traumatic experiences of my family members makes me empathise more with the subject.”

Source LECTURE - 06. DECEMBER 2019. THE POTENTIAL OF BEING DIFFERENT Experiencing the Museum Conference - Garage Museum Monika Gabriela Dorniak

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:01
Hello again, Baserange Community we are here the third time. Today we're gonna be talking with you wonderful Joanne bland.

Dydine 2:18
How are you, how is the quarantine life? Are you quarantining where you are?

JoAnne 2:26
Well we’re not really quarantined. Our activity is cut way down. I only leave the house when necessary.

Dydine 2:37
Everyone, who doesn’t know Mrs. Bland. She to the civil rights movement hero, and we're very honored today to have her here and learn from her, learn the history and I having someone like you is a blessing. For someone like me who's from Rwanda, it's a rare chance that I meet someone like you. So even though it's virtual at least we’ll a conversation with you.

Alex 3:12
No I agree with those sentiments. I mean growing up in Texas personally I have had the opportunity to kind of learn about the civil rights movement through my own family and, you know, kind of my roots in Tennessee and you know, stuff like in a Deep South, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to talk to you a little bit Joanne and just learn a little bit more about my own path, your path, and kind of what we can all do, in the end to make the world a little bit a better place to the best of our own abilities.

JoAnne 3:55
I look forward to talking to you guys too.

Dydine 4:01
Mrs. JoAnne what what keeps you going? What keeps you fighting for 50 years? You started at 11 years old, which is amazing to me that, you know, like you started activism, when you know when that's in the age where you a kid is staying home is taken care of. Life around you, kind of pushed you to do what you did. What keeps you going?

JoAnne 4:33
Sometimes I wake up thinking this the same time. Because things still not really where they’re supposed to be. So if I stopped struggling, I feel like I would never get there. And I'm thinking, social humans are like jigsaw puzzles everybody has a piece, everybody is a piece. And I think my piece is teaching the path so you young people can use it as a foundation. If you know where we’ve been as a nation, then you take where we need to go without making the same mistakes we made. And yes, we made some mistakes.

Alex 5:23
Right, and I bring up my dad. In our own podcast, we interviewed him about his own experience growing up in Tennessee, in the 50s, and he has his own stories to share as well and he always kind of harps on the lessons that he learned and like he said, passing that down to the younger generation, because he always tells him to listen, to ask the older people. You're not going to learn as much as you could if you just if you don't ask. And they always, like you just said, we all make mistakes, and in this particular situation I think it helps tremendously. Just to be able to open that dialogue.

JoAnne 6:19
I think so too. I think because of the blood of history that runs through your veins. Hearing how we grew up in the things that were happening in the so called free country, when we were growing up, then you can gauge how far we've come. It would be ludicrous to say that we haven’t made gains, but we still have gains to make. And what I like about today is that you guys seem impatient, because you live in this technical time where everything is instant, and I applaud you for that I'm so proud of you guys for being out there, for taking up the torch and realizing that we're not where we need to be. And if there’s any way I can help with telling of the story’s and teaching this history, I'll do it until there’s no breath left for me to do it with.

Alex 7:17
Right.

JoAnne 7:22
I'm not really leaving you guys anywhere to go after I finish right so maybe I can segue into something. Okay. (laughter)

Dydine 7:34
I got me emotional because I'm a genocide survivor and I survived at a very young age. I was four. And I started sharing my story, I believe, when I was like, 23, and it was so hard for me to repeat, to go back and share it to people. And then I think a few years later, I felt really tired and I asked someone like, “Is it going to get better?” It was like, oh you, “you've got to just keep doing what you're doing, because you have to help the world otherwise, the history will keep repeating itself.”

And as hard as it is, knowing that it's important for younger generations for future generations to know to learn on your own mistakes, our past mistakes, not you know not repeat it, so just without also not. When the more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. Otherwise, if the history will be will be gone. So I really appreciate the work you are doing.

One of the questions I have for you is, when growing up. What are those stories you learned from your grandparents, that stayed with you and kept pushing you and also you feel like there's stories that your grandchildren need to learn to know that they keep the history going?

JoAnne 9:12
Well, my grandmother was the reason that we were involved.
My dad was staunchly against it. He used to tell my grandmother, that you're going to get my children killed. Don't send them down there. And he would go out the back door and grandma would push us put the front door and say go get your freedom. And we would go down to the church to participate. But, grandmother was strong and women who had lived in the mid-west and during the period in our history where segregation was the norm. Now I’ve since learned that every urban city had an area where blacks lived, where the Italians lived, where the Jews lived. And it was only when we left that area of love that you encountered craziness. So, grandmother had some sense of freedom that we didn’t have in the south. And then they call Detroit up north —.

(Internet connection lost)

Alex 15:45
I wanted to say that the nonprofit that we're all supporting today is the McCray Learning Center. We meant to put all the information into the Instagram Live Chat, but I'll say right now. And towards the end we'll be able to type it into the chat. So we can all look at it and check it out if he hasn't time. But welcome back, Joanne, again, and sorry for the technical difficulties and for the patient labor showing Oh,

(JoAnne is back. Conversation continues)

JoAnne 14:42
Grandmother didn't like white people. And in some ways, she taught us to fear whites, because she was say you have to stand up to them.

But she would else so tell us those horror stories of Emmett Till and others that didn't become as famous as others we heard growing up here in Alabama. About how people disappeared and we’d never see them again. How people had to be smuggled out of the state, so that they could live and they could never come back so therefore they never saw their families again. Those horror stories. And they stuck with me.

And I don't know I had a fear of whites but I knew that they were different, and she would she would always tell us That when we were in their presence that we were not to talk. She would say whatever had to be said. And it took me a long time to really understand that it wasn't the color of your skin to make people not like you. It was just that they didn’t like you. They didn’t have an understanding of who I was either. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. And as a kid I didn't understand how people who didn't know me could dislike me because of the color of my skin. We didn't really get, I didn't really get any cope(?) until Smith came in 1963 and I was about 10 then.

And I didn’t understand why they kept saying they were trying to get their freedom. And grandmother could always make me understand things. When I was posing I could ask her anything. When I asked her why are we fighting for something we already had it didn't make sense to me, how then getting the right to vote and all this and how it connected. I didn't understand any of that. Until one day, we were in front of a drug store here in Selma. And they're still there, by the way on the corner. On the same corner. Yeah, they had a lunch counter at that time. Carters Drugstore.

I wanted to sit at the counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, colored children couldn’t sit at the counter. That’s what we were called then. She said but one day it’s going to change. It didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter even when I knew I couldn’t. Every time we passed by that store, I’d peep through the window at those white kids wishing it was me.

On this particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I’ll never forget it. I was peeping through the window, looking at the white kids, wishing it was me. My grandmother noticed this and put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over and pointed through the window to the counter and said, “we would get our freedom. You can do that too.” I became a freedom fighter that day.

It was a different freedom that they were talking about. The freedom that would let me sit at the counter. That was my intro to the movement. That's how I started going down to meetings.

Alex 18:28
You understood that magnitude then right? You were 8 years old then. And you understood that, seeing these white kids sit up at the counter. And it must have clicked for you. And you were like, “Oh this is why this is important. Voting rights is important.” I can't even imagine that. I don't even remember why I was at or what I was thinking when I was 8 years old.

JoAnne 18:56
Well, I was arrested the first time when I was 8. Along with my grandmother. And then I was not the youngest, there were toddlers and babies. Or as we called them armed babies, that couldn’t walk. The mothers had to carry them. They put us into cell so I count it as an arrest.

Dydine 19:22
At 8 years old. And that was legal?

JoAnne 19:32
Yeah. You got to remember who made the laws and who enforced the law. According to them, the women who had gone to the courthouse to vote were not there to vote. They were loitering. Because, I remember someone coming to the door and putting the paper on. And when we got closer I saw it said, “Out to lunch”. I remember thinking white people are sure eager. And because grandmother had just given us breakfast. They were already eating lunch. So, it also makes you realize you didn't understand that sounded like... they didn’t eat at the same time. Because its like 9 o’clock and they’ve already gone to lunch. So we were loitering, and according to the law we should have moved. And we needed to wait until they open again. The doors were only locked because we were there. In a public building, by the way.

Dydine 20:43
JoAnne your fight, since you were 10, has made a lot of change because now, a young black person is - there’s still injustices, there’s still work to do. But I think your work did not go unnoticed, because now we can walk in, we can sit in those bars. In some some places at least.
Your fight the fight is not over, but your fight is not just wasted. And that's what I was gonna say, because now as your saying it, I'm thinking myself, you know, we are lucky to be in this generation, you know, like we have more privilege that you didn't grow up for you so we're not going to take them for granted.

JoAnne 21:40
And much, much richer.

Alex 21:47
But I wanted to go back really quickly to voting rights. And most of work is voting relating things. Do you feel like this younger generation Dydine and mine, our generation. Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting? Do you feel like we really get it and capture, once again, the magnitude and importance of voting?

JoAnne 22:19
That's not an easy answer.
Sometimes I think you do. And sometimes... well it depends on who I’m talking to actually. Obviously we're the crowd here that understands them, that understands voting.

But there are others who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

But I understand the children who say that voting hasn’t gotten us anything. We're still poor. We're still treated as second class citizens and the same police brutality that we experienced today we've always experienced as we've been on these new shores, but every generation thinks it's a new thing and they start over. Instead of building on what we have. Again that's why it's important to know where we’ve been as a nation, so you don't make the same mistakes we made and start over. And teaches you to recognize it. And that's what's wrong with some of the young people.

And I'm not accusing them or blaming them. I just wish they would reconsider. Those who feel that way. The only way we’re going to have any systematic change is to elect people who think like we do. If the person we believe was going to do that didn’t do it, vote them out. That’s power. You have the power to do that. And when you don't use that power, you're slapping me all in my face.

Thousands and thousands who fall. And even those who died so you could have the rights you also have. And I am extremely proud of the young people today who are out there
there, who recognize we need to be crying out loud until we are heard. And that's what happened in the 60’s. We didn't stop until we were heard. That's how we got the few gains that we did.

Now, today a black woman is running for vice president What kind of world are we living in now? That a woman, a black woman, a woman, that’s one strike, and then a black woman, that’s two strikes. So, it can even aspire to get in that office. But it also with the sign of the Voting Rights Act that gave Hillary to right the run too. Yes, white women.

That's what not taught. Yeah, that the Voting Rights Act wasn't a black thing, it just benefited us as a whole. But it was a people thing. Poor people of any color couldn't vote. Women didn't vote because society dictated that men took care of us then, remember? Except it wasn’t in the black family. The black woman had to get out there and work just like the black man. And had say so. Always strong black women. I had a conversation the other day, some people say they had TOO much to say. (Black Women)

Alex 26:45
Yeah, I don't think there's so much thing as too much to say!

JoAnne 26:51
Ever! Yeah, yeah. I like you.

Alex 27:00
I like you too!

(Commentary)

JoAnne 27:10
That’s because it’s not taught to us that way. Even the movement that I participated in. When you read the books and see these documentaries and movies that I can’t stand. So don't even ask me about them. It looks like the man is leading all the time. It's like Dr. King was here everyday doing the Voting Rights struggle. Telling you, “you go here, you go there.” No, Dr. King might have been here six times out of that whole period. Selma was already organized and trying to get the right to vote for the citizens of it’s county 30 years before Dr. King came. But that's not taught to you guys. You know, it's just selective history.

I often wonder why we integrated the schools. Not, that it's not a good thing. But we didn't address the educational system. We left that same system in place. I integrated our high school here, junior high along with seven others. I had nothing. I had nothing in there for me. I sat up in school and learned how White America made America. And I didn't find out until much later that people who look like me made America. And you just took credit for it. It was your idea and I implemented. Or it was my idea and perfected it. You just took. So, all these children sit up the school for 12 whole years, and don’t hear anything about people who look like me. Because February (Black History Month) is a joke. Because the states set standards for what you're supposed to learn. And when February comes you may have one program. You may write a one essay. And you had that one or two days you decorate the hallways, in the classrooms. And then you give me three minutes to get from one classroom to another. Where do I read this? When do I learn this?

That's a joke. It’s really a joke. We didn't address that educational system that was a real mistake. And integration is fine, but we also have to integrate us the curriculum.

Alex 30:04
100% agree with that. And it make me think about a book. I'm not sure if you've read it, but it's a People History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

JoAnne 30:15
No, I haven’t.

Alex 30:18
That's one of those books that kind of debunks a whole bunch of notions that had been taught in schools and this and that, and it kind of sheds a lot of light on a lot of the truths that actually happened. Starting from the beginning. From Columbus “discovering” the US and so on and so forth. Through the slave trade... It’s one of those books that, I feel like it would benefit anybody who's interested in true American history to read. Definitely.

JoAnne 30:56
Right! And it is hard for people to get away from what they've heard all their lives. That it's always been that way. And I heard a lady this morning that said...she was voting for somebody that I'm not voting for because all she sees is people who hate America. No, we don't hate America. Because I am hurting and I'm crying out loud? I don't hate America. I just want America to be America for all people who are citizens and given those same rights. So why is that so hard to understand?

Dydine 31:51
Most of us, when we hear about Martin Luther King, and the Civil Right Movements it feels like a long time ago. How does it feel for you? How do you feel when you think about it? Is it too far? Does it feel like a long time for you? And for people who have only heard about Dr. King, you might be the closest thing to tell us a little bit about him. Do you have something you heard when you were marching that made him special? And the following question would be, do you think, in all of us, we have that strength and power to make a difference in the world?

JoAnne 32:43
Let me go to the second part first. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have that same strength that you call “my strength”when I was young.

Whatever the situation warrants, young people just step up to it. You don’t have that fear. You haven't picked up on that baggage. So don’t ever think you can’t, or that you aren't that type of person. Because you are. So you were born a leader, all of you. All over listeners. Because the first thing you learned how to do was to follow. And that's the first criteria of being a leader. That you know how to follow. So I you know can do that, so you are a leader.

Now as a kid, we could get close to Dr. King. I think it was because he missed his children. But we, he would always tell us to come to him. And when Dr. King asked you how your day was, you wanted to tell him EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Minute by minute, okay.

Dydine 33:55
So he was a good listener.

JoAnne 33:57
Yeah. There were so many of us. We’d be (jogging) to get close to him and stuff. He always had a peppermint, and I love peppermints to this day. To this day. You know, the star-like ones. The red and white ones.

Alex 34:09
The little red ones. Yeah.

JoAnne 34:13
When you're in class it crinkles so loud. Everyone hears you opening it. And he had the softest hands I’ve ever felt in my entire life. His hands were so soft. Even my hands today aren’t that soft. As I grew older I realized he had never done any hard labor so... (laughter)

Dydine 34:34
That’s where you were going!

JoAnne 34:39
And ironically enough, I don’t remember his voice like it is today. I know that’s his voice, but I don’t remember it. It was just Dr. King.

Dr. Abernathy was a charismatic person too. He's rarely mentioned. He was more like my my granddaddy. And Dr. King was just a star. You were around someone that’s really famous. Even my daddy talked about Dr. King. So he was a star. But Dr. Abernathy was more like your granddaddy, who dealt out discipline with love. So you didn't feel like it was wrong. He said it was time to go, it was time to go. He’d pat you on the head and you’d go out that door. Dr. Abernathy didn’t play. I loved them both, but Dr. King was special. His voice alone, when I hear it today I want to get up and save the world.

And you asked me earlier, what keeps me going. That's it, that motivation has been instilled in me since I was a child, but I don't know how to get rid of it.

Dydine 35:30
No keep it.

JoAnne 35:34
Let me stay this: you know you (Dydine) talked about telling your story? The horrors that you had to experience. And I’m so sorry, love. But telling my story has been like a cleansing. The more I tell it, the better I feel. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders. Do not hesitate to tell your story. To share your stories. Because it helps the world. And that may be your piece in the puzzle for social change. Making sure nobody else has to go through that. And by telling your story it helps, okay.

Dydine 36:25
Thank you

JoAnne 36:27
You’re welcome, love.

Dydine 36:31
I will take that along with me everywhere I go.

JoAnne 36:35
Because it came from here. (points to her heart)

Alex 36:43
Well Joanne, we wanted to use this time from this point on...for any audience questions. We'll have to scroll back through Instagram to see if the audience had asked anything. But we could definitely keep on talking. I wanted to let the audience know.

What are some of your earliest, happiest memories? Something that you can think back to your childhood and just immediately put a smile on your face?

JoAnne 37:28
My whole childhood. I had no idea that the rest of the United States who didn’t look like me, didn't grow up the same way I did. You know marching, hop scotch. Playing dodgeball, playing jacks going. Going to jail. I had no idea! What did I have to compare it to? When people ask me about that, I had a happy childhood. I was just born at time when this was happening, and if I had known 55 years from then I would be talking to you about it I would had saved visuals. I would’ve saved everything and written down every word. But I felt loved. The only time I didn’t feel loved was when I left my area of love. I thought everyone grew up like that. You mean you didn’t grow up like that? No, I’m teasing.

Alex 38:29
Personally I was blessed to have a very pleasant childhood and you know you saying playing dodgeball. Playing sports with your friends. Yeah, that immediately takes me back to North Dallas where I grew up.

(Commentary)

Alex 40:20
So, God forbid, if this were the last thing that anybody saw from you or heard from you publicly what would you want to share? What is that key message that you want to express to everybody who’s listening?

JoAnne 40:36
Okay. Remember when I said, “Everybody is a piece of the puzzle to social change”? It is you that determines where your piece fits in to complete the picture. And is the picture complete because your piece is not there? No. That means you are the most important piece. And from this moment on, you need to carry yourself like you're the most important piece, because you are. You want more?

Alex 41:12
That was good. That was great! That resonates with me. For young people. And I think I can speak for a lot of people, and feeling like the work that we do, the work that Dydine does, the work that I do, and millions of other younger people across the planet. We want to know our work is validated or we want to know our work means something and it's going to create some sort of change. And it really is nice to hear, it's nice to be acknowledged and to know that we're not so different from what you were doing 55 years ago.

JoAnne 42:00
No, you’re not.

Alex 42:02
We just have cameras and we're talking to microphone.

JoAnne 42:09
I used to use the Memograph machine and now you just hit a button.

Alex 42:11
Right. Right.

JoAnne 42:17
Or you can use that code language on your phone. Because everybody has one and within minutes you can organize. Where we had to work a little hard, but I want you to utilize those tools. That helps to make that pice even bigger doesn’t it? You’re fortunate to be living in these times. And I’m telling you, I say to everybody I talk to: white people have been silent for too long. Too long. They have seen what was wrong. They may not have experienced it, but they’ve seen it they knew it was wrong and they didn't say anything. I'm proud to see the date when I look at a march, I see a rainbow. It makes you feel good that finally my brothers and sisters whose skin tone is different than mine. They're out there. It's a rainbow of people and I’m proud of that fact.

And I thank the young people for realizing that there's a need. You know, some of the ones that don't realize it's a need aren’t doing anything. Those are the people you have to to convince. I'm proud of everybody who's trying to make their piece of the puzzle as large as they can. Thank you.


Dydine 43:55
You just reminded me. I think it was a Holocaust survivor that said that “when you save one life, you save the whole world. But when you kill one life, you kill the whole world”, which means that it doesn't matter what color your skin or religion. If you hurt that person, that means you hurt everybody in the world. So we are really more alike than ewe are different. And when we always come from that place of unity and love and peace, we are helping each other. From my experience, the people who committed genocide in Rwanda really didn't have a beautiful life after genocide either. So when you're hurting somebody, you’re not leaving your soul alone. Your soul has also been hurt along the way. So it's more of like, we have we have to do this together. Otherwise, we're not gonna get anywhere.

JoAnne 45:17
You’re right. You’re exactly right. And I know those are tired words: unity and community all that, but it all depends on how you define community. If you define community as your street, your block, your city, even the United States. If someone's hurting in Japan I need to be trying to help them stop that pain. Before I know it, it could be here with me.

Dydine 45:54
Yeah, that's pretty much it. When you look at what happens around the world how people hurt each other, the Holocaust, slavery, genocides around the world. It all has pretty much the same starting point. And if we get to learn where the conflict comes from, we're able to prevent it from happening to us. So, learning from everyone else and caring for each other. Not just our community.


Alex 46:27
I agree. I want to say thank you so much Joanne for joining us joining the bass race community, sharing your wisdom sharing your love and definitely expressing messages of positivity and progression, and that that's all the work that we do. I think that's all the work that the people who are in the comments and audience the work that they are trying to do so. Yeah, this is this is very special. And I think we can't thank you enough.

JoAnne 46:56
Well, let me selfish for a moment. First let me thank you guys for the work that you do. Around the world, whoever’s listening, whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place. Because I'm just selfish. I have grandchildren who need a better world.

I know I'm tired them walking out and I'm afraid that they may not come back. I'm tired of that and mothers around the world experience the same things. It’s not unique to us. It’s sometimes because it's so personal we think it’s unique.

But we need to get together, come to the table and put all the issues on the table, and start getting rid of them one by one. You guys are impatient. Each generation gets so far with one thing. And then the next generation starts over again. We've got to learn to record our history. And we’ve got to teach our children our history, so that they don't get bogged down, trying to do the same thing that we've already done. And that's the wisdom. Youth can do that and I know you can do that. I have confidence.

Dydine 48:16
We can do it.

JoAnne 48:20
I love my world and everything’s that’s in it. Some of my brothers and sisters are just misguided and it’s up to us to guide them on the right path.

Dydine 49:48
Oh, thank you so much JoAnne.

JoAnne 49:50
You're quite welcome sweetheart.


Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 4

Did you know that it was going to open doors for your healing journey or were you terrified?

Special guest Consolee Nishimwe. Happiness is a choice.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
Nov 15, 2020

Consolee Nishimwe biography

Consolee Nishimwe is an author, a motivational speaker and a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Today, Consolee is a committed speaker on the genocide, a defender of women’s rights, and an advocate for other genocide survivors. In 2012, Consolee released her memoir Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience and Hope.

Consolee currently lives in New York where she continues her advocacy and work to spread awareness and positivity.

Consolee Nishimwe is a survivor of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda and lived through the horrors of that genocide at age fourteen. Consolee suffered insurmountable physical and emotional torture for three months, hiding from place to place to evade capture and certain death. In the end, she miraculously survived with her mother and younger sister, but her father and three young brothers were savagely murdered. During her period in hiding, her faith was continuously tested, and she struggled to reconcile that faith with the atrocities she was being subjected to. Over time, Consolee succeeded in discarding the burden of carrying vengeful thoughts against those who were persecuting her and instead placed their ultimate fate into God’s hands. Consolee’s miraculous and inspiring story of survival is a grim testament of hope and faith triumphing over tragedy and provides lessons that will help anyone who is grappling with difficulties in their lives. She is a committed speaker on the genocide, a defender of global women’s rights, and an advocate for other genocide survivors.

Conversation transcript

Alex 0:06
Hello everybody,

Alex 0:06
welcome back to another episode of the Baserange community conversations with the Dydine and Alex is here money again, waves from all over the world.

Alex 0:20
Who are we talking to today Dydine ?

Dydine 0:21
So today we have an exciting guest. Her name is Consolee Nishimwe, she's from Rwanda, my birth country. She’s my soul sister and I can’t wait for you guys to experience her joy and her wisdom. She's the author of Tested to the Limit, a wonderful memoir. She will be sharing her story with us and her healing journey. She was a genocide survivor, so she has a lot of wisdom to share with us. So bare with us, as we bring her on and please give her a warm, warm welcome!

Alex 2:01
Well, it’s a joy to have you Consolee! Thank you so much for joining us today!

Consolee 2:04
Thank you so much for having me. It's really a joy to be with you this morning!

Dydine 2:14
Thank you for saying yes, and for, you know, allowing us to share your story here on Baserange Community Conversations. We have an audience from all over the world. Different countries and continents. So,It's always a joy to be here, to be part of this community.

Consolee 2:46
I am so happy to be here really it's truly a pleasure.

Alex 2:53
Consolee the we format it, we generally ask you questions, you know just to kind of get to know you, and for the community to get to know you for about 30 minutes. And then the last 15 minutes, we'll ask audience questions if the audience has any questions. We'll allow them to add to anything that we may not have asked during that segment.

Consolee 3:16
Oh, wonderful. Yeah.

Consolee 3:21
I’m nervous,

Alex 3:26
Oh no, don’t be, you will be alright! Our community is welcoming and they always show support.

Dydine 3:28
You are loved!

Consolee 3:38
Thank you!

Dydine 3:30
So, Consolee, I've known you now for six years. I met you the first time I came to the United States and you become my soul sister and my mentor, I would say. And one of the things I noticed about you the first time we metIis your endless joy, despite all the hardship you've been through.

Consolee: 4:04 That’s so sweet

Dydine 4:06
You still have this smile on your face, you're always trying to make people feel good about themselves. And it's just like, how do you keep that, and what’s the source of your happiness? And how, how did you become the person you are today?

Consolee 4:26
Thank you so much for your your kind words, You are the same, actually. I'm sure everybody has realized how joyful You are! so I'm really great full to have you in my life really you are like my young sister. And I love you so much! Thank you and I'm truly happy to be here. You know to meet everyone! Hi everyone, and thank you so much. It really means a lot and I'm truly grateful, you know, to be alive, every time I get up in the morning. I'm really grateful and I don't take life for granted anymore because of what I've been through, and at the young age.
So for me, I just made a conscious decision to wake up every day, just being grateful and just be happy. I'm sure it can be very hard for some people to be happy. And I understand that. And for me, thankfully I found something in me that keeps telling me that I should never give up, that I should enjoy every little thing in life, every small thing in life. I try myself to never really allow myself to never allow a lot of negative things in my head. But as you know me, I'm trying to enjoy small things and be grateful. I think maybe that's the reason why I find the joy, every day in my life and then wherever I meet people. I try to surround myself with positive people, like the both of you, and they uplift me so they give me something to be grateful for. Life is worth living despite what I'm enduring. And that's what I really wish for everybody, to just wake up and find something small to be grateful for and then you find something to live for.

Alex 6:37
Yeah, there’s strength in that. I mean, in going forward, going through what you have, surviving genocide. What gives you the strength? I mean, you just talked about what makes you happy and what you do to sustain that happiness. But taking that next step and actually sharing your story, whether it's writing the book, or giving talks all around the country. What, what gives you that strength to share your story, and why do you feel so compelled to do so?

Consolee 7:11
Oh, thank you for asking that question. So, in the early times when I began telling my story. You know many people know when you tell the story of the genocide, it's not very easy. It took me a long time to get to a point where I felt really comfortable or even courageous to be able to tell them what I've been through. But when I had the courage to do it, I realized, even though it was hard so of course I have to open the door for that and allow myself to be vulnerable. And I didn't know how I was going to feel, but then I realized, “Wow. It was a load lifted off my shoulders. So, and then I realized how people can live with their pain and their suffering within themselves how it can damage you.
And I realized that it was important for me to tell the story so that somebody else, what they have been through or what ever they are going through their daily life they can learn from maybe how I coped and how I'm able to accept, even though it's very hard, what I've been through but at the same time I'm not giving up on life. And so for the rest of my life I'm trying my best to live a better life that I could for myself. And for me, I didn't want to just to keep that story for myself and I wanted everybody else to learn from my personal experience. We can learn from each other and I know, telling story, always when you hear somebody's story you learn, you learn some things. And I realized, using my story also be also a path to help somebody else, like the same way I learned from other people. So it was a healing journey at the same time for myself and also I know probably could have been helpful for somebody else.

Dydine 9:24
So Consolee, what was the hardest experience that took you a long time to recover from and why?

Consolee 9:35
In my story there are so many painful things I've been through, at the young age. And that's the reason why it actually took me a long time to even be able to share the story, but the hardest thing in in my story is sexual violence I experienced during the genocide. And for me, that was the hardest thing to even talk about. And many people know that when you've been sexually abused or even raped and all that, it's a pain that you cannot find the words to express how you feel. For me it took me a lot of energy to be able to talk about that, and it was really hard. But I'm so grateful that I had the courage to do that because opened the door of my healing journey.

Dydine 10:33
Did you know that it was going to open doors for your healing journey or were you terrified?

Consolee 10:40
I was horrified, I was terrified, I didn’t know how I was going to live afterwords. But of course, I had to trust, just open the door of trusting, even though I didn't know the outcome. And of course, that's really being vulnerable that's really vulnerability again. Even though you don't know the outcome you just open the door for that to see. I didn't know, but at the same time I trusted the process and said let me see what happens. And I know that there are so many people who live with this pain for the rest of their lives. It affects them throughout their lives and some people don't even understand why they are painful, because they don't know how to express that pain. They are carrying it within themselves.
So when I did it, it was really painful, of course going through that journey of talking about it, but at the same time. I started feeling relieved. And, of course, the shame, because I live with the consequences because of what happened to me. Even saying that I live with HIV, which is something also hard. The stigma, especially the stigma of being raped, also stigma of living with HIV was also hard. It was going to be a burden for me. Also I thought about that. And its very tough to this day. You know, I was very young, I'm not even that old yet. Imagine a young person to allow herself to be seen like that inside, it is not very easy, because you have to face a lot in this society. There are people still, looking differently at person living with HIV.
So of course there's been so many changes throughout the years. But there's still a long way to go because they're a lot of people living with HIV in many places around the world who still suffer with the stigma. And because of how they are treated within the their families. It can be really another traumatic experience to live with. And of course, I had to think about that too. How am I going to face all those challenges after I tell my story? I happen to keep telling myself that I'm going to be a voice for somebody else! Because I need to be part of changing the society’s mindset, how we look at a person who live with HIV. So, look at us in the same way. We are like anybody else.

Alex 13:44
Has the perception changed or has the stigma gotten a little bit better. Since you were diagnosed, do you find that people treat you a little bit differently when they find out. Are they more accepting of you or are they still kind of standoffish? How is it improved or how is it changed?

Consolee 14:09
I think there's a lot of change compared to how it was before in the earliest times. I could tell how somebody would treat me if they know my status. But it's now different. The stigma has changed in different ways. So, and I'll give an example, when it comes to dating. there are so many things changing. For instance, if somebody hugs you or just normal things like sharing meals and all those things have changed, but of course in many parts of the world people still think they cannot even sit next to you. But in modern society, sometimes the stigma is different now. So with dating I've heard of some stories where even somebody say “oh I want to know Console, maybe get to know her”. And immediately somebody in our community starts talking amongst themselves, “Oh, do you know she has HIV. Oh my god!” As if I am somebody who is not like you. They make it look like it's terrifying, you know. They don’t even think about it. So, I've heard those stories a lot, you know among people, even people who think they're educated and informed, who think that they know better, but because they just feel like there are certain things they can share with you but when it comes to that they think, “Oh, no, you, you are not deserving to be with somebody.” And it's also part of education. They don't even know that somebody who lives HIV can be with somebody who is HIV negative. So, it's a lot of education people need to learn.

Dydine 16:31
Because of the stigma that was around in the 80s and 90s and even in 2000s, some people are still stuck in that mentality. There's no enough information, there's no enough eduction about where and what the HIV medication and how it works. So what can we do as a society, to engage our children to teach each other? It's like if you had cancer, cancer literally kills more people than HIV does now, it's more of like knowing, knowing where the status of the HIV medication where it is. How can you get informed and treat people with love and respect? And open your ears to listen.

Consolee 17:34
Exactly, you know, people living with HIV can have kids, you know, it’s just being educated about it and treat them like anyone else. So we continue to live our lives as long as you are taking your medication, and you are healthy you can live as long as anybody else. I don't think if I walk on the street with somebody who is HIV negative that anyone would even know that I live with HIV.
Even though society still a long way to go, learning, I have to be to part of educating people instead of being mad at people...I had a conversation recently with somebody who wanted to learn about me, who even didn’t have any idea about, you know about this illness. I said, “don't worry... ask me anything you want to know, I will educate you.” I understand, everybody doesn’t understand what it is to live with HIV. And he really learned a lot. I think also, we should all be educating people and understanding that life continues. And also to help us in our healing journey too. Some people don't know how to take a stigma. Some people commit suicide and it can affect their mental health. A lot of people are really suffering because of what they hear. The power of words too, so it's important. Words can kill or even heal.
Alex 20:01
The words, especially with someone who's going through that, can dictate the path that they go on, whether it’s positive or negative.

Consolee 20:12
Yeah, and I feel like that's why I like to talk about it and also it has helped me to heal. I feel good. And I don’t even walk around thinking, “I live with HIV” anymore. Even if somebody would say something negative, I feel like I need to educate that person. And because for me I already accepted it, I know I feel great. I don't even see myself like that anymore. So I changed my mindset, the way I look at myself.
And I’m sure somebody else that feels the same way because that's what I do. I know that I should be the first person to treat myself better, nobody else. It’s not somebody else's job to treat me well. It should be my job first to treat myself with love and care. And, of course, somebody else can do that, but it's my job to really take care of myself. To look at myself and know that I matter... I’ve changed the way I look at myself.

Alex 21:28
I'm sure that ties into self expression. It's a huge part of you huge part of your personality. The sooner you take ownership over it, the sooner you find strength in that. I'm sure it lends itself to creating better paths and your life.

Consolee 21:50
Yeah, definitely. It helps you to really enjoy life, to want to do more things in life. To want to know that you’re a part of society. And to contribute to the wellbeing of every person who comes around. I and I think it uplifts you and also energizes you to want to be better, to do better. You’re absolutely right. I’m grateful to be alive. And I know there are people who’re suffering. It’s important what are you doing, so far as to reach out to anybody. I’m sure there is someone here who is suffering from something that is similar. Or it could be a different pain, but they don’t know how to approach that pain.
So it’s important to encourage these people to never give up. They probably don't know how to love themselves because they don't know, probably how to take care of themselves. And it's important to encourage these people to reach out to somebody who can help you in that journey. So, for me, that's why I really reach out to people that I know they can uplift me. They can help me in that journey. I didn't even do this on my own, I learned from so many different people. So, with the people who hold me down, I have to just ignore them, and just follow the people who encouraged me moving into me so. And I think it's important for anybody who is suffering from some pain they carry within themselves, find somebody. Find that person. It's important to really reach out so at least that person can lead you to the right way to heal, as part of your healing journey.

Dydine 24:16
When you see the MeToo Movement going around, how do you feel? And just seeing how a lot of young women, young men have to deal with sexual harassment, sexual violence. And what before you were 14 years old (when she experienced sexual violence). And now seeing it in the MeToo Movement, how does it make you feel?

Consolee 24:56
It was very painful but at the same time to see how women... a lot of women are coming forward for their story... collectively. So to me that was a way of like, it takes together, you know people coming together from all walks of life to tell us the painful experience they go through. Because all women around the world go through the same things. So yeah sexual violence or even sexual harassment can happen everywhere around the world. So every woman can tell you a story.
And for me to see that women are coming forward and supporting each other, encouraging each other. I was so happy to see that because I realized that he was afraid of women to come together and thankfully for social media. You know, which allowed women all over the world to come together to just tell a story. To me it's like we accompany each other, holding each other’s hands, even though you're not meeting in person, but you hold each other's hands and say we are we're in this together. We are not allowing suffering, you know. To continue again we are going to tell our story. We are not going to allow anybody to stop us from telling our story. And for me, I was so I was so happy that women came forward. And also with men, for a lot of men are supported. I'm really grateful to see that. The MeToo Movement really has changed a lot of things....I've seen a lot of stories, even in what women have spoken out about from their personal experiences. We come from a culture where we don't necessarily talk about things like that. So to see some women talking, it was really, it showed me that if you all come together, we can definitely change a lot of things.

Alex 27:31
You can create the treatment thing even speak about it because it happened, countless people. And there, there's a stigma within that as well I'm not wanting to speak out because you may be putting yourself in harm's way or whatever the reason. But in my observation, as limited as it is, I guess, you're seeing people feel more empowered to share those stories, to be embraced by people and knowing they're not going to be judged or ridiculed.

Dydine 28:13
In my observation as well, it’s not just for women also for young men who've been through the same thing that women are coming together to support each other. Then you have them give them , “Okay maybe my story (is the same), I'm not alone”. Then some men also started sharing their stories, which is also stigmatized. But at least starting that conversation can help reduce the (number of) perpetrators and knowing that’s not okay.

Consolee 28:47
Even in the society where you write, especially for younger men, or it's, it can be very, very hard to talk about it, in any form. But that really helped to encourage each other, to support each other, and also you’re right for those who are committed those heinous crimes the perpetrators to never feel that they can walk around freely There's always a stigma of victim blaming. Most of the time a victim is blamed what happened. They always find ways to say, “I’m the reason why that happened.” So it can really pain the survivor maybe who's been through that. So, I'm glad we're speaking out, using our voices and fighting all those painful, heavy and bad way of treating survivors. And the thing is that collectively it's helping. Of course there's still a long way, but it's really helping. I'm sure there will be laws out there supporting survivors if you come forward whenever we choose to come, or, because sometimes as you know survivors will say, “Why did you come forward late in your life?” If you go to the judge to seek justice. Sometimes they will say that the the term, the statute of limitations. You waited so and I'm sure a hopefully one day This will end. Hopefully that whenever you choose to go to seek justice, you will be able to get it.

Dydine 31:13
Despite everything you’ve been through, do you believe in hope? And if you do, what does it look like? And do you have hope for humanity as well?

Consolee 31:31
Oh, that's a very good question. So despite all the things I see happening in the world, even what are the you know I've seen myself in my life I feel like hope, really, you should never give up on hope. Hope for me is important to me. I feel like there is always something I like to always tell people... my mantra that I live with, “no matter what horrible circumstances you may face in your life, never lose hope. For losing hope is the beginning of your own self defeat.”

Dydine 32:37
That speaks volumes, you know, because when you're on hold, there's nothing that can shake you because you, you know, you know, you know, you are positive you know what you want. And it’s strength itself.

Alex 33:03
I wanted to ask something and I know you spoke a little bit about it before, but when giving talks or speeches in front of a load of people. Do you ever consider how much of it is getting things off your chest, versus you talking to help people? What's that ratio and how often you think about that?

Consolee 33:45
You know I remember the first time I decided to share my story, it has changed a lot. Every time I meet people or even in my, I mean, audience sharing my story. Because for me, if I share something I want to be able to connect, of course with the audience in a way that I feel like we are all feeling the same way. Heart to heart. And the energy, you know? I feel the energy in the audience. I just want to be able to connect in a way that I feel like we are all learning together from that experience. Even though it's my story I feel like together we can all learn from each other and be able to heal together. We’re empowering each other. Also, I feel like you can also learn something from your own story as well, how to improve yourself from your own experience.

Alex 35:24
I’m sure if you told the same story over and over again, but if someone reacts to it in a particular way that makes you think, “oh yeah I never even thought of what I'm saying, or how how that can affect somebody.” That adds a different layer to your own understanding of it.

Consolee 35:43
Right, right. Yeah, no, I really learned a lot of speakers. And I also feel like talking about it also has helped me to to discover more about myself. And learning from the people I am with. And I feel good when there’s somebody - because I just tell them I just want them to learn something and be able to use it in their own lives along with me.

Dydine 36:25
When people don't know your story, but then they find out about your story, do you find them treating you differently?

Consolee 36:35
I'm sure the first time they see me, they don't even (shakes head)... The first thing they tell me when I say share my story is that they couldn't believe that I carried that within myself. So it's different. Because of how I am, you wouldn't even believe that I have a story. And it's good also to take care of yourself, so whenever you meet people I think it empowers them that even though you have the painful story, life goes on. You can be able to to heal from that experience and live a different life now, then just be able to love life.
And for me it's not about telling them a painful story. It's about also to tell them, “life goes on and I can live a positive life despite all of the things I’ve endured. Of course there’s a reaction but it's always positive. I feel like it's always positive because of the way I approached you it.
so I'm sure I probably, I was the person who never, you know, took the time to work on myself and heal probably the reaction will have been different. So, and most of the time the reaction is positive, because I feel like people approached me more and we, you know, shared people shared so many stories with me.
You know, if somebody can open up to you that means there's something you've done. There’s work you've done for yourself. People can feel, they can sense if you are able to listen. So I know that if somebody has given me the time to listen and work on myself, they did the work. I feel like it's important also to listen to somebody else. But if you're not healed within yourself, I don't think you are able to listen. Listening is a skill. It takes a lot of courage too. Especially the heavy things. If somebody wants to share the heavy, painful experiences in their lives, they need a compassionate ear...They need somebody who is present, who is compassionate. That presence makes them feel safe and comfortable to share what they feel.
If somebody was present for me, I need to keep working on myself so that I can be present for others.

Alex 40:07
I want to add something as well. I tell Dydine this, sometimes. Maybe not as much as I should. But there is something that when you're when you're able to share these stories and you're able to share parts of yourself that are very, very close to you. Things that regular people wouldn’t share in their day to day life. People flock to that. You become like a beacon of light and maybe hope. And people yearn for that human connection to experience the human experience in a way that is uplifting and very true to yourself, very true to who we all are as human. The both of you. But Consolee, we’ll focus on you for now. You do this thing where you have people gravitate towards you, because of your openness and your willingness to tell those stories. So I think there’ definitely something to be said for the strength you show. It's something that I think we all need to do better at.

Consolee 43:16
Happy to be here, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for watching with me.

Alex 43:42
Once again Consolee, thank you so much for joining us. And I'm sure the Baserange community also mirrors those sentiments.

Consolee 43:49
I really appreciate that and I appreciate everybody who has been here, some of my friends, everybody. Thank you so much and I really appreciate everyone and it was really joyful to talk you. You are truly incredible I admire you and all the work you do. Thank you so much for having me.

Alex 44:24
All right, like Dydine said thank you so much Baserange community, once again for joining us on this fabulous Sunday, and we'll be back next month with another guest... before we go, I always say we forget this but, um, you can support the foundation genocide survivors foundation. You can go on their Instagram and go on their website for them. We're all about that, Dydine and Consolee for sure so please be sure to check that out.

Dydine 45:03
Stay healthy. Remember to wear a mask and take care of one another. And we'll see you next month.

Did you know that it was going to open doors for your healing journey or were you terrified?

I was horrified, I was terrified, I didn’t know how I was going to live afterwords. But of course, I had to trust, just open the door of trusting, even though I didn't know the outcome. And of course, that's really being vulnerable that's really vulnerability again. Even though you don't know the outcome you just open the door for that to see. I didn't know, but at the same time I trusted the process and said let me see what happens. And I know that there are so many people who live with this pain for the rest of their lives. It affects them throughout their lives and some people don't even understand why they are painful, because they don't know how to express that pain. They are carrying it within themselves. So when I did it, it was really painful, of course going through that journey of talking about it, but at the same time. I started feeling relieved. And, of course, the shame, because I live with the consequences because of what happened to me. Even saying that I live with HIV, which is something also hard. The stigma, especially the stigma of being raped, also stigma of living with HIV was also hard.

Consolee Nishimwe


There are those who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

Joanne Bland

Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 3

Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting?

Special guest Joanne Bland. Inclusion, voting and meaningful action to move forward in society.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
October 11, 2021

Joanne Bland biography

Joanne Bland (born July 29, 1952 in Selma, Alabama) is the co-founder and former director of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama. Bland was a highly active participant in the Civil Rights Movement from her earliest days, and was the youngest person to have been jailed during any civil rights demonstration during that period. Bland grew up in segregated Selma, Alabama, where she was not allowed to enter certain stores and was only allowed to go in the library and movie theater on days labeled "colored." As a result of growing up in segregation Bland lost her mother, who died in a "white" hospital waiting for a transfusion of "black blood". Her grandmother encouraged Bland and her sister to march and become a freedom fighter to fight for their freedom, even though her father disapproved due to his fear for their lives. It did not stop Bland who became active in the movement when she was eight years old. When she was eight years old, she attended a meeting with the Dallas County Voters League with her grandmother.

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:01
Hello again, Baserange Community we are here the third time. Today we're gonna be talking with you wonderful Joanne bland.

Dydine 2:18
How are you, how is the quarantine life? Are you quarantining where you are?

JoAnne 2:26
Well we’re not really quarantined. Our activity is cut way down. I only leave the house when necessary.

Dydine 2:37
Everyone, who doesn’t know Mrs. Bland. She to the civil rights movement hero, and we're very honored today to have her here and learn from her, learn the history and I having someone like you is a blessing. For someone like me who's from Rwanda, it's a rare chance that I meet someone like you. So even though it's virtual at least we’ll a conversation with you.

Alex 3:12
No I agree with those sentiments. I mean growing up in Texas personally I have had the opportunity to kind of learn about the civil rights movement through my own family and, you know, kind of my roots in Tennessee and you know, stuff like in a Deep South, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to talk to you a little bit Joanne and just learn a little bit more about my own path, your path, and kind of what we can all do, in the end to make the world a little bit a better place to the best of our own abilities.

JoAnne 3:55
I look forward to talking to you guys too.

Dydine 4:01
Mrs. JoAnne what what keeps you going? What keeps you fighting for 50 years? You started at 11 years old, which is amazing to me that, you know, like you started activism, when you know when that's in the age where you a kid is staying home is taken care of. Life around you, kind of pushed you to do what you did. What keeps you going?

JoAnne 4:33
Sometimes I wake up thinking this the same time. Because things still not really where they’re supposed to be. So if I stopped struggling, I feel like I would never get there. And I'm thinking, social humans are like jigsaw puzzles everybody has a piece, everybody is a piece. And I think my piece is teaching the path so you young people can use it as a foundation. If you know where we’ve been as a nation, then you take where we need to go without making the same mistakes we made. And yes, we made some mistakes.

Alex 5:23
Right, and I bring up my dad. In our own podcast, we interviewed him about his own experience growing up in Tennessee, in the 50s, and he has his own stories to share as well and he always kind of harps on the lessons that he learned and like he said, passing that down to the younger generation, because he always tells him to listen, to ask the older people. You're not going to learn as much as you could if you just if you don't ask. And they always, like you just said, we all make mistakes, and in this particular situation I think it helps tremendously. Just to be able to open that dialogue.

JoAnne 6:19
I think so too. I think because of the blood of history that runs through your veins. Hearing how we grew up in the things that were happening in the so called free country, when we were growing up, then you can gauge how far we've come. It would be ludicrous to say that we haven’t made gains, but we still have gains to make. And what I like about today is that you guys seem impatient, because you live in this technical time where everything is instant, and I applaud you for that I'm so proud of you guys for being out there, for taking up the torch and realizing that we're not where we need to be. And if there’s any way I can help with telling of the story’s and teaching this history, I'll do it until there’s no breath left for me to do it with.

Alex 7:17
Right.

JoAnne 7:22
I'm not really leaving you guys anywhere to go after I finish right so maybe I can segue into something. Okay. (laughter)

Dydine 7:34
I got me emotional because I'm a genocide survivor and I survived at a very young age. I was four. And I started sharing my story, I believe, when I was like, 23, and it was so hard for me to repeat, to go back and share it to people. And then I think a few years later, I felt really tired and I asked someone like, “Is it going to get better?” It was like, oh you, “you've got to just keep doing what you're doing, because you have to help the world otherwise, the history will keep repeating itself.”

And as hard as it is, knowing that it's important for younger generations for future generations to know to learn on your own mistakes, our past mistakes, not you know not repeat it, so just without also not. When the more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. Otherwise, if the history will be will be gone. So I really appreciate the work you are doing.

One of the questions I have for you is, when growing up. What are those stories you learned from your grandparents, that stayed with you and kept pushing you and also you feel like there's stories that your grandchildren need to learn to know that they keep the history going?

JoAnne 9:12
Well, my grandmother was the reason that we were involved.
My dad was staunchly against it. He used to tell my grandmother, that you're going to get my children killed. Don't send them down there. And he would go out the back door and grandma would push us put the front door and say go get your freedom. And we would go down to the church to participate. But, grandmother was strong and women who had lived in the mid-west and during the period in our history where segregation was the norm. Now I’ve since learned that every urban city had an area where blacks lived, where the Italians lived, where the Jews lived. And it was only when we left that area of love that you encountered craziness. So, grandmother had some sense of freedom that we didn’t have in the south. And then they call Detroit up north —.

(Internet connection lost)

Alex 15:45
I wanted to say that the nonprofit that we're all supporting today is the McCray Learning Center. We meant to put all the information into the Instagram Live Chat, but I'll say right now. And towards the end we'll be able to type it into the chat. So we can all look at it and check it out if he hasn't time. But welcome back, Joanne, again, and sorry for the technical difficulties and for the patient labor showing Oh,

(JoAnne is back. Conversation continues)

JoAnne 14:42
Grandmother didn't like white people. And in some ways, she taught us to fear whites, because she was say you have to stand up to them.

But she would else so tell us those horror stories of Emmett Till and others that didn't become as famous as others we heard growing up here in Alabama. About how people disappeared and we’d never see them again. How people had to be smuggled out of the state, so that they could live and they could never come back so therefore they never saw their families again. Those horror stories. And they stuck with me.

And I don't know I had a fear of whites but I knew that they were different, and she would she would always tell us That when we were in their presence that we were not to talk. She would say whatever had to be said. And it took me a long time to really understand that it wasn't the color of your skin to make people not like you. It was just that they didn’t like you. They didn’t have an understanding of who I was either. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. And as a kid I didn't understand how people who didn't know me could dislike me because of the color of my skin. We didn't really get, I didn't really get any cope(?) until Smith came in 1963 and I was about 10 then.

And I didn’t understand why they kept saying they were trying to get their freedom. And grandmother could always make me understand things. When I was posing I could ask her anything. When I asked her why are we fighting for something we already had it didn't make sense to me, how then getting the right to vote and all this and how it connected. I didn't understand any of that. Until one day, we were in front of a drug store here in Selma. And they're still there, by the way on the corner. On the same corner. Yeah, they had a lunch counter at that time. Carters Drugstore.

I wanted to sit at the counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, colored children couldn’t sit at the counter. That’s what we were called then. She said but one day it’s going to change. It didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter even when I knew I couldn’t. Every time we passed by that store, I’d peep through the window at those white kids wishing it was me.

On this particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I’ll never forget it. I was peeping through the window, looking at the white kids, wishing it was me. My grandmother noticed this and put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over and pointed through the window to the counter and said, “we would get our freedom. You can do that too.” I became a freedom fighter that day.

It was a different freedom that they were talking about. The freedom that would let me sit at the counter. That was my intro to the movement. That's how I started going down to meetings.

Alex 18:28
You understood that magnitude then right? You were 8 years old then. And you understood that, seeing these white kids sit up at the counter. And it must have clicked for you. And you were like, “Oh this is why this is important. Voting rights is important.” I can't even imagine that. I don't even remember why I was at or what I was thinking when I was 8 years old.

JoAnne 18:56
Well, I was arrested the first time when I was 8. Along with my grandmother. And then I was not the youngest, there were toddlers and babies. Or as we called them armed babies, that couldn’t walk. The mothers had to carry them. They put us into cell so I count it as an arrest.

Dydine 19:22
At 8 years old. And that was legal?

JoAnne 19:32
Yeah. You got to remember who made the laws and who enforced the law. According to them, the women who had gone to the courthouse to vote were not there to vote. They were loitering. Because, I remember someone coming to the door and putting the paper on. And when we got closer I saw it said, “Out to lunch”. I remember thinking white people are sure eager. And because grandmother had just given us breakfast. They were already eating lunch. So, it also makes you realize you didn't understand that sounded like... they didn’t eat at the same time. Because its like 9 o’clock and they’ve already gone to lunch. So we were loitering, and according to the law we should have moved. And we needed to wait until they open again. The doors were only locked because we were there. In a public building, by the way.

Dydine 20:43
JoAnne your fight, since you were 10, has made a lot of change because now, a young black person is - there’s still injustices, there’s still work to do. But I think your work did not go unnoticed, because now we can walk in, we can sit in those bars. In some some places at least.
Your fight the fight is not over, but your fight is not just wasted. And that's what I was gonna say, because now as your saying it, I'm thinking myself, you know, we are lucky to be in this generation, you know, like we have more privilege that you didn't grow up for you so we're not going to take them for granted.

JoAnne 21:40
And much, much richer.

Alex 21:47
But I wanted to go back really quickly to voting rights. And most of work is voting relating things. Do you feel like this younger generation Dydine and mine, our generation. Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting? Do you feel like we really get it and capture, once again, the magnitude and importance of voting?

JoAnne 22:19
That's not an easy answer.
Sometimes I think you do. And sometimes... well it depends on who I’m talking to actually. Obviously we're the crowd here that understands them, that understands voting.

But there are others who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

But I understand the children who say that voting hasn’t gotten us anything. We're still poor. We're still treated as second class citizens and the same police brutality that we experienced today we've always experienced as we've been on these new shores, but every generation thinks it's a new thing and they start over. Instead of building on what we have. Again that's why it's important to know where we’ve been as a nation, so you don't make the same mistakes we made and start over. And teaches you to recognize it. And that's what's wrong with some of the young people.

And I'm not accusing them or blaming them. I just wish they would reconsider. Those who feel that way. The only way we’re going to have any systematic change is to elect people who think like we do. If the person we believe was going to do that didn’t do it, vote them out. That’s power. You have the power to do that. And when you don't use that power, you're slapping me all in my face.

Thousands and thousands who fall. And even those who died so you could have the rights you also have. And I am extremely proud of the young people today who are out there
there, who recognize we need to be crying out loud until we are heard. And that's what happened in the 60’s. We didn't stop until we were heard. That's how we got the few gains that we did.

Now, today a black woman is running for vice president What kind of world are we living in now? That a woman, a black woman, a woman, that’s one strike, and then a black woman, that’s two strikes. So, it can even aspire to get in that office. But it also with the sign of the Voting Rights Act that gave Hillary to right the run too. Yes, white women.

That's what not taught. Yeah, that the Voting Rights Act wasn't a black thing, it just benefited us as a whole. But it was a people thing. Poor people of any color couldn't vote. Women didn't vote because society dictated that men took care of us then, remember? Except it wasn’t in the black family. The black woman had to get out there and work just like the black man. And had say so. Always strong black women. I had a conversation the other day, some people say they had TOO much to say. (Black Women)

Alex 26:45
Yeah, I don't think there's so much thing as too much to say!

JoAnne 26:51
Ever! Yeah, yeah. I like you.

Alex 27:00
I like you too!

(Commentary)

JoAnne 27:10
That’s because it’s not taught to us that way. Even the movement that I participated in. When you read the books and see these documentaries and movies that I can’t stand. So don't even ask me about them. It looks like the man is leading all the time. It's like Dr. King was here everyday doing the Voting Rights struggle. Telling you, “you go here, you go there.” No, Dr. King might have been here six times out of that whole period. Selma was already organized and trying to get the right to vote for the citizens of it’s county 30 years before Dr. King came. But that's not taught to you guys. You know, it's just selective history.

I often wonder why we integrated the schools. Not, that it's not a good thing. But we didn't address the educational system. We left that same system in place. I integrated our high school here, junior high along with seven others. I had nothing. I had nothing in there for me. I sat up in school and learned how White America made America. And I didn't find out until much later that people who look like me made America. And you just took credit for it. It was your idea and I implemented. Or it was my idea and perfected it. You just took. So, all these children sit up the school for 12 whole years, and don’t hear anything about people who look like me. Because February (Black History Month) is a joke. Because the states set standards for what you're supposed to learn. And when February comes you may have one program. You may write a one essay. And you had that one or two days you decorate the hallways, in the classrooms. And then you give me three minutes to get from one classroom to another. Where do I read this? When do I learn this?

That's a joke. It’s really a joke. We didn't address that educational system that was a real mistake. And integration is fine, but we also have to integrate us the curriculum.

Alex 30:04
100% agree with that. And it make me think about a book. I'm not sure if you've read it, but it's a People History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

JoAnne 30:15
No, I haven’t.

Alex 30:18
That's one of those books that kind of debunks a whole bunch of notions that had been taught in schools and this and that, and it kind of sheds a lot of light on a lot of the truths that actually happened. Starting from the beginning. From Columbus “discovering” the US and so on and so forth. Through the slave trade... It’s one of those books that, I feel like it would benefit anybody who's interested in true American history to read. Definitely.

JoAnne 30:56
Right! And it is hard for people to get away from what they've heard all their lives. That it's always been that way. And I heard a lady this morning that said...she was voting for somebody that I'm not voting for because all she sees is people who hate America. No, we don't hate America. Because I am hurting and I'm crying out loud? I don't hate America. I just want America to be America for all people who are citizens and given those same rights. So why is that so hard to understand?

Dydine 31:51
Most of us, when we hear about Martin Luther King, and the Civil Right Movements it feels like a long time ago. How does it feel for you? How do you feel when you think about it? Is it too far? Does it feel like a long time for you? And for people who have only heard about Dr. King, you might be the closest thing to tell us a little bit about him. Do you have something you heard when you were marching that made him special? And the following question would be, do you think, in all of us, we have that strength and power to make a difference in the world?

JoAnne 32:43
Let me go to the second part first. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have that same strength that you call “my strength”when I was young.

Whatever the situation warrants, young people just step up to it. You don’t have that fear. You haven't picked up on that baggage. So don’t ever think you can’t, or that you aren't that type of person. Because you are. So you were born a leader, all of you. All over listeners. Because the first thing you learned how to do was to follow. And that's the first criteria of being a leader. That you know how to follow. So I you know can do that, so you are a leader.

Now as a kid, we could get close to Dr. King. I think it was because he missed his children. But we, he would always tell us to come to him. And when Dr. King asked you how your day was, you wanted to tell him EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Minute by minute, okay.

Dydine 33:55
So he was a good listener.

JoAnne 33:57
Yeah. There were so many of us. We’d be (jogging) to get close to him and stuff. He always had a peppermint, and I love peppermints to this day. To this day. You know, the star-like ones. The red and white ones.

Alex 34:09
The little red ones. Yeah.

JoAnne 34:13
When you're in class it crinkles so loud. Everyone hears you opening it. And he had the softest hands I’ve ever felt in my entire life. His hands were so soft. Even my hands today aren’t that soft. As I grew older I realized he had never done any hard labor so... (laughter)

Dydine 34:34
That’s where you were going!

JoAnne 34:39
And ironically enough, I don’t remember his voice like it is today. I know that’s his voice, but I don’t remember it. It was just Dr. King.

Dr. Abernathy was a charismatic person too. He's rarely mentioned. He was more like my my granddaddy. And Dr. King was just a star. You were around someone that’s really famous. Even my daddy talked about Dr. King. So he was a star. But Dr. Abernathy was more like your granddaddy, who dealt out discipline with love. So you didn't feel like it was wrong. He said it was time to go, it was time to go. He’d pat you on the head and you’d go out that door. Dr. Abernathy didn’t play. I loved them both, but Dr. King was special. His voice alone, when I hear it today I want to get up and save the world.

And you asked me earlier, what keeps me going. That's it, that motivation has been instilled in me since I was a child, but I don't know how to get rid of it.

Dydine 35:30
No keep it.

JoAnne 35:34
Let me stay this: you know you (Dydine) talked about telling your story? The horrors that you had to experience. And I’m so sorry, love. But telling my story has been like a cleansing. The more I tell it, the better I feel. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders. Do not hesitate to tell your story. To share your stories. Because it helps the world. And that may be your piece in the puzzle for social change. Making sure nobody else has to go through that. And by telling your story it helps, okay.

Dydine 36:25
Thank you

JoAnne 36:27
You’re welcome, love.

Dydine 36:31
I will take that along with me everywhere I go.

JoAnne 36:35
Because it came from here. (points to her heart)

Alex 36:43
Well Joanne, we wanted to use this time from this point on...for any audience questions. We'll have to scroll back through Instagram to see if the audience had asked anything. But we could definitely keep on talking. I wanted to let the audience know.

What are some of your earliest, happiest memories? Something that you can think back to your childhood and just immediately put a smile on your face?

JoAnne 37:28
My whole childhood. I had no idea that the rest of the United States who didn’t look like me, didn't grow up the same way I did. You know marching, hop scotch. Playing dodgeball, playing jacks going. Going to jail. I had no idea! What did I have to compare it to? When people ask me about that, I had a happy childhood. I was just born at time when this was happening, and if I had known 55 years from then I would be talking to you about it I would had saved visuals. I would’ve saved everything and written down every word. But I felt loved. The only time I didn’t feel loved was when I left my area of love. I thought everyone grew up like that. You mean you didn’t grow up like that? No, I’m teasing.

Alex 38:29
Personally I was blessed to have a very pleasant childhood and you know you saying playing dodgeball. Playing sports with your friends. Yeah, that immediately takes me back to North Dallas where I grew up.

(Commentary)

Alex 40:20
So, God forbid, if this were the last thing that anybody saw from you or heard from you publicly what would you want to share? What is that key message that you want to express to everybody who’s listening?

JoAnne 40:36
Okay. Remember when I said, “Everybody is a piece of the puzzle to social change”? It is you that determines where your piece fits in to complete the picture. And is the picture complete because your piece is not there? No. That means you are the most important piece. And from this moment on, you need to carry yourself like you're the most important piece, because you are. You want more?

Alex 41:12
That was good. That was great! That resonates with me. For young people. And I think I can speak for a lot of people, and feeling like the work that we do, the work that Dydine does, the work that I do, and millions of other younger people across the planet. We want to know our work is validated or we want to know our work means something and it's going to create some sort of change. And it really is nice to hear, it's nice to be acknowledged and to know that we're not so different from what you were doing 55 years ago.

JoAnne 42:00
No, you’re not.

Alex 42:02
We just have cameras and we're talking to microphone.

JoAnne 42:09
I used to use the Memograph machine and now you just hit a button.

Alex 42:11
Right. Right.

JoAnne 42:17
Or you can use that code language on your phone. Because everybody has one and within minutes you can organize. Where we had to work a little hard, but I want you to utilize those tools. That helps to make that pice even bigger doesn’t it? You’re fortunate to be living in these times. And I’m telling you, I say to everybody I talk to: white people have been silent for too long. Too long. They have seen what was wrong. They may not have experienced it, but they’ve seen it they knew it was wrong and they didn't say anything. I'm proud to see the date when I look at a march, I see a rainbow. It makes you feel good that finally my brothers and sisters whose skin tone is different than mine. They're out there. It's a rainbow of people and I’m proud of that fact.

And I thank the young people for realizing that there's a need. You know, some of the ones that don't realize it's a need aren’t doing anything. Those are the people you have to to convince. I'm proud of everybody who's trying to make their piece of the puzzle as large as they can. Thank you.


Dydine 43:55
You just reminded me. I think it was a Holocaust survivor that said that “when you save one life, you save the whole world. But when you kill one life, you kill the whole world”, which means that it doesn't matter what color your skin or religion. If you hurt that person, that means you hurt everybody in the world. So we are really more alike than ewe are different. And when we always come from that place of unity and love and peace, we are helping each other. From my experience, the people who committed genocide in Rwanda really didn't have a beautiful life after genocide either. So when you're hurting somebody, you’re not leaving your soul alone. Your soul has also been hurt along the way. So it's more of like, we have we have to do this together. Otherwise, we're not gonna get anywhere.

JoAnne 45:17
You’re right. You’re exactly right. And I know those are tired words: unity and community all that, but it all depends on how you define community. If you define community as your street, your block, your city, even the United States. If someone's hurting in Japan I need to be trying to help them stop that pain. Before I know it, it could be here with me.

Dydine 45:54
Yeah, that's pretty much it. When you look at what happens around the world how people hurt each other, the Holocaust, slavery, genocides around the world. It all has pretty much the same starting point. And if we get to learn where the conflict comes from, we're able to prevent it from happening to us. So, learning from everyone else and caring for each other. Not just our community.


Alex 46:27
I agree. I want to say thank you so much Joanne for joining us joining the bass race community, sharing your wisdom sharing your love and definitely expressing messages of positivity and progression, and that that's all the work that we do. I think that's all the work that the people who are in the comments and audience the work that they are trying to do so. Yeah, this is this is very special. And I think we can't thank you enough.

JoAnne 46:56
Well, let me selfish for a moment. First let me thank you guys for the work that you do. Around the world, whoever’s listening, whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place. Because I'm just selfish. I have grandchildren who need a better world.

I know I'm tired them walking out and I'm afraid that they may not come back. I'm tired of that and mothers around the world experience the same things. It’s not unique to us. It’s sometimes because it's so personal we think it’s unique.

But we need to get together, come to the table and put all the issues on the table, and start getting rid of them one by one. You guys are impatient. Each generation gets so far with one thing. And then the next generation starts over again. We've got to learn to record our history. And we’ve got to teach our children our history, so that they don't get bogged down, trying to do the same thing that we've already done. And that's the wisdom. Youth can do that and I know you can do that. I have confidence.

Dydine 48:16
We can do it.

JoAnne 48:20
I love my world and everything’s that’s in it. Some of my brothers and sisters are just misguided and it’s up to us to guide them on the right path.

Dydine 49:48
Oh, thank you so much JoAnne.

JoAnne 49:50
You're quite welcome sweetheart.

I love this question. Yeah, I think hope is useful if action follows, right.

We can evoke or change of anything. But I think what our generation in our society all around the world now is realizing, okay, we can hope and wish and pray and meditate and want to manifest but like there's this real life element of like actually doing the work and taking divine action or just taking action in general to like, build towards what you're hoping for. So yeah, hope is useful. Yeah, I have hope. But I'm so focused right now on intention rather than hope and action, like action based hope.

Arin Degroff

Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 2

Yeah. So, you've been protesting, you've been speaking out you've been active, if not every other day. Do you see change? Do you have hope? How's that look for you?

Special guest Arin Degroff.
Activism Among Youth.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
Sept 13, 2021

Arin DeGroff biography

My story begins about 11 years ago when I asked myself for the first time; ‘what does it mean to love yourself Arin?’ I found myself perpetually frustrated that no one could tell me how to love myself, what it looked like, how they did it or let alone even know how to talk about it. At the time, I was not aware of the weight of my question nor did I know that the Universe would provide me the exact experiences I needed to discover the answers.

In life, I believe the smallest moments are the strings that stitch everything together. What brought me here today was a chain of moments and decisions; ones that I could trace back to childhood, leaving home, graduating college, moving into my first apartment or even a coin toss. All beautiful stories worth sharing and significant turning points in life, but none as potent as the choice I am consistently making to show up for the discovery of myself. By doing so, I find gratitude for life in the present moment which enables me to continue unlocking the gifts within me that have been the catalyst to my life as an artist, activist and energy practitioner.

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:43
Arin, this is your first time and for anybody joining us for the first time, this is our second base Range Community conversation. We were here last month in August. We were looking to talk to Andre LoVelle. Today, we have Arin (DeGroff)... She is very involved with activism these days. She's an artist. And she's also out here with us in Los Angeles. And we're lucky to talk to her about her activism and what she is doing to bring change.

Arin 3:15
I am an artist I tap into different mediums of painting, writing, photography, bodywork, energy work, massage therapy, activism in the last five months, four months. And right now my world, aside from my art consists of being kind of on the front lines here in LA as the revolution unfolds in America so yeah, that's that's a short, very condensed version of my life right now.

Alex Question 3:54
Well, yeah, so you did say five months. So your organization's called we know We The Movement, right? And so how did you get involved? What is that story? And, you know, how's it going now?

Arin 4:08
So, on May 30th, Los Angeles experienced a series of riots and police brutality, and just a very large moment of distress in our community. For those of the people that are on here that are from LA, at Pam Pacific Park, but also just near Fairfax, so that side of town on May 30th, some unfortunate events went down. And that following week, a series of really large protests kind of exploded all around the city. And so that Tuesday, myself and a friend of mine went out to Hollywood to a protest that YG called, and YG did not show up so there was like, 2000 if not more people just
aimlessly wandering the streets. Me and a group of people that I did not know and they did not know me, kind of all just naturally started leading and organizing peacefully by the end of the protests, we got people home safely. There was no arrest. No casualties like nothing that had been happening happened with that group. And so it was kind of beautiful to us. Then by the end of it, we were like, Okay, let's do a protest again, tomorrow and the next day. And then by the end of the week, we had broken the record for the largest protest in LA. Now we hold that second ranking because there's been a lot more protests, which is beautiful. We love it. But yeah, we became a group a week, a week after protesting together consecutively for that first week of meeting one another. And now we're about four months, five months in right now.
Dydine Question 5:58
Within We The Movement, what’s the age group that are you guys in?

Arin 6:03
So our youngest is just turned 21. I think we might still have someone that's 20 years old, which is awesome. And I think our eldest is about 35. We're 17 strong, but we also have people like in terms of our core group, but we also have so many age like, bigger than that of age ranges supporting us. So it's beautiful honestly, to see everyone come together.
Dydine Question 6:35
When you look back before May 30th, before you guys started the small things, do you think your life has changed drastically? How do you see life now?

Arin 6:46
Um, I think I think it's double parted right, like everyone in the world experienced Corona so everyone's lives drastically changed even in the last year. Like, yes, like this change, but it's also a point in my life where I feel everything that I have experienced has given me the tools and has built me to be prepared for what's happening now. So like, maybe in some subconscious part of my mind, I'm like, Yes, I'm here. This is gonna be how it happened. But either way, life has definitely changed.
And it's blows my mind every day.

Alex Question 7:30
Yeah, yeah. But it's good work, though, right? I mean, in five months, I'm sure you feel like you change personally. And I hope that you feel like you've encountered some sort of change from your own efforts from its efforts.

Arin 7:46
Yeah, most definitely. I think all change despite how uncomfortable it is, is great change. Whether you see it in the moment and you see it later. So there's definitely been parts of the movement and not even necessarily in the group just like that's happening right now in general, that have been challenging and emotional and difficult. But it's building this resilience in myself. And I also think in my group, the biggest change that I've seen just in LA and the community within my group, is this idea around unity and being able to like put our differences aside and still unify under one idea, which is, you know, we're looking for equality on all fronts, you know, the simple statement of Black Lives Matter, you know, so being able to unify under that. It's great. And like, I think that's the first step to seeing the bigger changes that we want to see.

Dydine Question 8:49
Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. So when you wake up in the morning, and do you know that you're going to protest today, as a lot of us know For the world to watch them use it looks dangerous thing. And we are just so proud of young people who are there peacefully protesting and knowing also that they might be at risk. Then you're one of those who you're one of those young people, you know, how do you prepare in the morning and we'll come to your mind? Are you? Are you scared? Are you afraid? Are you like, I have to do this? How are your feelings before you go into the streets to peacefully protest?

Arin 9:29
I love that question. Honestly, each show is really different, like weekly, if not daily, things are changing on the front lines in the streets. So, you know, there's been some mornings that I've woken up knowing that I had to protest and I've been nervous, quite frankly, because of different attacks and certain energies and things that we've been seeing from our police force. And so there's been definitely days where nerves hit me. But I like to start every morning with like intentionally breathing, and intentionally like grounding myself and deciding before anything before I interact with anyone before I go out on the streets in this like collective energy of like, hey, things are going wrong here. I ground myself. So like when I'm out on the street, if anything does happen, I'm alert I'm aware. But more than anything, it fills, you know, that feeling that you have when it's something that you're supposed to be doing? And you do it and you're like, oh, wow, this feels good. Because I'm protests are peaceful. That is like what we pride ourselves in in terms of like the community that we've built.
I say that ultimately the feeling ends up being feeling like safe and protected and fairly unified with my with my people. So I don't necessarily like let the fear take over.

If that makes sense.

Alex Comment 11:19
Yes It sounds like you let her drive of what you know needs to be done kind of outweigh the fear and I'm happy to that you know that there is no nervousness there is still fear there because you're still human. Right? Like you're not fearless you know the risks but it's it's um, it's very admirable that you continue to do so anyway.

Arin 11:41
Yeah, honestly, everyone that has been like showing up consistently like, every single day, every single week, like, even when they're, you know, there's been times where I haven't been out and there's been people like 20 deep like facing an army full of police in front of them. You know, So it's definitely one of those things that like, it's not everyone doesn't have that in them. There's so many different ways to show up. But it's definitely not something to just like take lightly either.
It's like take lightly either, you know, we we know what we're getting ourselves into when when we go outside. Yeah, so shout out I commend everyone shout out to everyone doing what they are doing
Dydine Question 12:31
doing their for each other and protecting each other. Yeah, that's, that's, that's beautiful. So Arin, um, it gives a lot of different ability to be able to go out there, which I applaud you as well. And what do you think affordability? What does that mean to?

Arin 12:54
vulnerability facility to me the first word of feeling that comes to mind is that exactly. Smile You're giving me like, but honestly, like, it is probably the greatest gift of life to like step into anything vulnerable. Anything scary, like stepping into truth to me is vulnerability, whether that is your own truth or whether that's a truth that you're seeing outside of you, right? Being able to like engage with that and be have the courage to like step into those things and do the work. vulnerability is not something that is easy or meant to be easy, but it gets easier. I don't know that for a suggestion for really great videos for everybody. Rene brown on a TED talk. It's amazing. You should check it out. The yes brief answer to vulnerability that's it. That's another like can of worms to open.

Alex Question 13:56
So I'm just curious, and maybe you already touched on this, but Why do you feel so inclined to go out in the streets as a young person, we all can show our activism in different ways, why do you feel to go about it the way that you do?

Arin 14:44
Part of it is just feeling my instinct, it is work that has to be done. I feel in my heart, and in my life, and i have the tools and the capacity to show up.So I am, and everyone has been standing with me and beside me, I think feel similar ways. You know, it's just, it's like, no question. It's like, Okay, what else would I be doing right now? Well, I know there's plenty of other things to be doing. But either way, it's, I'm honored to show up and use my voice and encourage other people do the same thing and just share my story, share my tools. I think people are going back to this idea of vulnerability. It's our most vulnerable part of life right now. It's raw. You know, people are scared people don't know what to do. And there's so many lingering questions. So like if we can create a We The Movement can create, if in general, as communities, we can create safe spaces for people to be able to come and be vulnerable and speak and talk about all the
craziness going on. Even just that is like, how I want to keep showing up, you know.

Dydine Question 16:01
When when you talk to mom, do you have Do you remember? Because your mom is a generation before. In the 60s, they have a little different experience than we do. Here. Do you see from her stories? Do you see any relevant things are reoccurring that are happening again and again, like history repeating itself?

Arin 16:25
Yeah, the most plain and simple one concept still killing black people still murdering black people for something as simple as riding their bike in a neighborhood. Deon Kinsey died a couple weeks ago, a week and a half ago 10 minutes from my house riding a bike in his neighborhood. Yeah, you know on arm. So that right there alone still is still happening. I don't think too much has changed. I think it's just taken different shape in a different face. And Where we have the opportunity now to because of social media, but also just like our generation has the power to, to stand up and face it in a different, more unified way. You know, we have allies on our hand now that we did not have back in the 60s and 50s. And our parents function in a different way there was but it's everything is a little bit different now, which is to our benefit, I think. Right?
Alex Questions 17:31
Right. That's beautiful. Yeah, and, and more on allies, meaning your interaction with people may not be friends. So if you not be friends, and they come up to you in these protests, I'm sure. And they are curious about like, what they can do, like how can they help they see the issues as clear as day now you know, like you mentioned, we're in a pandemic, you know, we have our phones in our faces all the time. It's kind of hard to avoid these truths now.

So how do you embrace these allies who may not know exactly what to do? And what advice would you or do you give to them?

Arin 18:11
So a lot of allies are just showing up on their own accord, which is great. There's a family from San Diego that we love that has just been coming up. Like consistently, every protest, we've had every event that we've had. And they're my favorite example, showing up asking how they can help and be a part but really just like simply showing up by I asking, is them doing more than, like we could ask for and then being able to take their experience back to their communities and to their family, and show them and tell them hey, look, I was a part of a peaceful protest. Or, look, I have a community of people of color of black people around me now where we are engaged in their culture and In their events and have been brought around other people in their community and have enjoyed our time just I think showing up and engaging honestly is what I know for me what I encourage allies to keep doing it, personal experience for anyone despite your color is the greatest teacher though Yeah, that's that for me there's there's so many different avenues that I feel are allies and different groups or educating allies to take but really just continued education through personal experience and through showing up is my favorite route.

Dydine Question 19:39
And so when someone comes to you and quit, because I feel like always come from different come to companies they think to be backgrounds or different backgrounds, but also they have somehow less less knowledge about out about Black Lives Matter or get just started, or others have some ideas they think, how do you create space for all of them to feel in grasp and not feel shut down or be scared of people over even approaching? Someone wouldn't? Yeah.

Arin Answer 20:21
Yeah, that's a good question. I think it all comes down to like the language that we use and how we speak to people, right? There's a stark difference and being on a protest, right, and like screaming and yelling at people and like, letting our anger and our rage like come through vibrationally like when we're talking to people on marching. That's a complete different feeling than like going out and marching with people and engaging in conversation with them, showing people you know, hey, look, where we all come from a different place. We all may be feeling different, but like we're unified under one idea right now. Something that I like to do with the crowd. is asking a series of questions, right? to show people our likeness, but also to show our differences. So like, hey, “raise your hand, if in the last two months, you've been feeling sad, raise your hand. If in the last two months, you've been feeling angry, and you don't know how to show up”, I make everyone look around. And usually, everybody's hand is raised doesn't matter what color we Mexican.

Dydine 21:00
We’re all human!

Arin Comment 21:00
Yeah, exactly. They're all. So yeah, I think that alone makes people feel like, Oh, I'm in a safe community right now. Just outside on the streets with these, you know, a couple hundred people, if not less. And I feel then just creating that precedent allows people to feel safe to like, come and approach and share their point of view without feeling like oh, I'm gonna get attacked if I think or express myself differently than this person. Yeah. Yeah.

Dydine Question 21:56
Yeah. So, you've been protesting, you've been speaking out you've been active, like constantly every day, if not every other day. Do you see change? Or do you have hope? How's that look like for you?
I love this question. Yeah, I think hope is useful if action follows, right.
We can evoke or change of anything. But I think what our generation in our society all around the world now is realizing, okay, we can hope and wish and pray and meditate and want to manifest but like there's this real life element of like actually doing the work and taking divine action or just taking action in general to like, build towards what you're hoping for. So yeah, hope is useful. Yeah, I have hope. But I'm so focused right now on intention rather than hope and action, like action based hope.

Alex Comment23:12
Yeah, that's, that's a really good point. Because, yeah, I mean, even with people who want to do stuff, not just allies, but people who are kind of in the thick of it. A lot of times, it can either be scary, or it can be kind of demoralizing. You see all this, all these waves of negativity come through, and you're like, I don't, I don't know what to do. Like, I know this person is doing this, this person's doing that. But maybe if I just hope that something happens, you know, things are eventually gonna blow over. There's a lot of people's mindset. But I’m happy that you brought up action in that, you know, it's one thing that I hope and that's another thing too, you know, to the best of your ability, you
actually go forth and do stuff. You take as much as you can that suits you or your lifestyle, however you want to show up.

Dydine Comment 24:12
Yeah. And then having this conversation, you know, like, yeah, even if it would be public like this be live, but having it with your kids, having it with your parents, you know, it just creates that whole dialogue of like, making more humanity better.

Arin Comment 24:30
Yeah, that's it. I know, everything in the world right now is really uncomfortable, especially like the political climate and racial climate, everything is uncomfortable, but like, digging directly into that discomfort, you know, on the other side of that is true if it's something so beautiful, though, I really encourage people and that type of vulnerability to like, keep digging in. Because for generations, right, we've seen the same thing like “that's not happening. Oh, I don't see that?” That doesn't work anymore. It won't work for us. Old cycles have to be let go.

Alex Question 25:13
What brings you joy in life, through your work? What is fulfilling for you? At the end of the day, you can look back and be like “that was fulfilling. That was joyful”?

Arin 25:33
So, and on a personal outside of like the movement things joy for me looks like dancing, looks like singing, looks like being with my family with my friends, seeing joy in their lives, being able to like see people break through hard times, I think is also something that brings me a lot of joy. I feel like proud older sister. I love love. Love brings me joy. But inside the movement, I think the thing that has brought me the most joy is truly being out on the streets and chanting with people and like sharing this unified like pain and a
longing for like, you know, change and for things to shift to dramatically like, being able to not feel alone in that, you know, like, it's joy, but it's also just like, a sense of like, “Oh, I can breathe”, because I'm not the only one feeling all of these things right now. And I don't know how to like process it. So that alone is like a joyful sight just to see all types of people together, like, “Hey, cool. We're here we're showing up”

Alex Comment 26:57
To cultivate that community. And that’s sense of growth as one.
Dydine Question 27:06
So what what what's your message to young folks who are growing up right now or have already grown up? What's your message to them about, especially in our world today and for them and how they can, you know, make a difference, what steps they can take, things like that?

Arin Answer 27:35
First, we're in the age of information, right? So like educate yourself if you don't know something, you have ample amount of resources to research and find what you resonate with and find what's true for you in your life or in your country or in your state or wherever you are. And also to to look at the how history is cycling. Right. So, educating yourself on the past, finding tools to bring yourself present and know what's happening now and then start building foundations for the future. So that looks, you know, different for everybody and that's completely fine. So even in that, knowing that how I show up or Dydine how you show up, or Alex how you show up, that may look different for all of us, and that's okay. But when we find what works for us, honoring that and being in that and then toward and towards the future, you know, again, our generation both, you know, millennials and Gen Z.

(...) No, but all of us as as a collective right. Knowing that, like what we're doing right now and the work that Doing even if showing up, for example is like you sharing your art sharing your voice, knowing that doing that is encouraging someone else in the future to be able to do so. Like if we did not have the Civil Rights Movement, we wouldn't be encouraged to show up how we're showing up now.

Alex Comment 29:18
Right? Yeah, it's very much like these building blocks, right? And you're talking about passing the torch, passing the torch in spite of the generational thing. If you know the Civil Rights Movement, if MLK didn't do what he did if Malcolm X didn't do what he did, we wouldn't have this platform today. And the same thing goes for today. Like if we're not if we're not doing what we're doing today, and generation 20, 30, 40 years down the line, also won't have that, that thing. So it's a very cyclical thing. And I think hopefully, it's empowering us to, you know, make more change and things will get better, will get stronger voices will get stronger. And hopefully more unified as a result. Yeah,

Arin Comment 30:04
Hope action word. Hope actually.

Dydine 30:15
So for the next few minutes we dedicate our time to our audience so they can ask any questions.

Arin Comment 30:31
There's one that I saw that actually kind of caught my eye when I was talking. kind of got weird for a second but there's one from Black Lives Matter South Pasadena. Shout out to them. They've been holding it down. There's a comment about you know, the police raided black unity downtown LA B and arrested AK with news. I did not know that. That's new information to me as of right now. Black Unity has been protesting in front of City Hall downtown Los Angeles consistently for the last four and a half months sleeping outside and tense, like, straight up there every single day and Act With News follow him he is of phenomenal like phenomenal human, but also just someone who has been there on the grounds with us from like week one, documenting everything. Everything that's happening. So he's like, in and out of all the group's showing real life media and real time. What's actually happening on the streets. So yeah, thank you for letting me know about that.

Dydine Question 32:01
I would just I would just ask you a few questions myself.
Arin you you had an (car) accident a while back. And sometimes I feel like what the more things we go the more hard stuff we go through creates a thick skin in the way for us. Can you share a little bit of how you were doing before the accident and and how the accident changed your life, or your perspective towards life.
I feel like people relate to that.

Arin Answer 32:42
I was fairly young when the accident happened. I was a sophomore in college. So like what 20. The accident itself was an event that caused me to lose feeling on the entire segment body. For two years, so it was a journey of not knowing if I was ever going to like feel or be, you know, normal again. So it put my mind in this place of like, fight or flight, but also like being able to be functional and that like bodily experience. So it taught me a really valuable lesson of empathy, one for people who don't have an answer to their chronic pain, right, that there is no cure or there is
nothing anyone can do to help but also taught me resilience in a way that I hadn't learned it yet. So like, knowing Hey, despite the amount of pain that you're in, if you continue to move forward, right, like that's the best thing that you can do for yourself instead of like, continuing to let like the pain And all the things that come with that, like eat your spirit alive. So yeah, it changed me drastically it opened me and expanded me to further my my journey and my art. It opened me to really just like the divine magical part of life. Pain is, I think, our greatest teacher, if we allow it to be.

Dydine Comment 34:31
You know, I think those moments that are like highlights in our lives and they win their life differently and they're appreciate it even more because it's almost like a second chance you've just been given. So it helps to see life differently and be more graceful, I would think.

Arin Comment 35:00
That’s the biggest thing, grace, for ourselves and for other people.

Dydine Comment 35:09
So, for those of you who have been watching me who's been part of We The Movement, it's, they have an Instagram handle, we can just add it in our (comment section). @Wethemovement.la
You can find their page here. We like to support nonprofits here when we're doing these talks. So if you would like to support them, they have they have the link in their bio on their for their GoFundMe account. If you want to support them, you could just go on their on their bio. Click on that link and support them. So that's also another way of showing up

Arin Comment 36:03
But no it's that's the best part though like the so people know and are aware of the money goes towards us being able to like continue to put on more events so like for example, we did a Juneteenth event, a 4th of July but at some artists come all that showed up and did everything for free but even being able to just like keep you guys safe with like food and water and gas in our car so we can like keep people protected these type of things is what what he would be donating to. Also, if you don't want to support in that way, that is totally fine. I understand. It's a pandemic, like we all have coinage to safe. So we are we had a protest yesterday, in the neighborhood of Liberty Park you can show up that way and mark with us if you're local. If you're not local. Reach out over Instagram, message us, ask us questions. We have a go vote campaign rolling right now. So if you are in America go vote. Please.

Dydine Comment 37:07
That's another way to show up!

Arin 37:14
Yes. So we're, you know, honestly, there's so much that we can tap into, and a lot as a group that we're tapping into. So just follow us if anything at all. And we're going to continue to be a bit more active on social media as well as continuing to show up how we can in the streets.

Dydine Question 37:35
Yeah and there's something you mentioned the other day when we interviewed you for the podcast. And that one of your (organizations’) goals is to build the communities of color around the city, or around the country because they're more marginalized and other communities are That's one of your goals. Can be tap into it a little bit?

Arin Answer 38:06
Yeah, so the idea is wanting to do what we're already doing, in terms of like being able to just gather people within the black community, but allies, everyone gather people under one idea, you know, that were supported black lives. But we also, you know, it’s even further than black lives, I think we're fighting this, like, the powers that be and the people, if anything, so, really, I think the best thing that we as a collective of human beings right can do right now is continue to like build a new foundation. So like, if we can do what we're doing in LA and unify people under this name of like culture, black culture, right, and we can do that in other states as well. And that's really what we want to see recreated. But like, it's, it's not just We The Movements’s responsibilities, not just my responsibility. It's not just you two's responsibility, you know, there’s group's in every single state right now. There's people, individuals, collectives all showing up. And so I think as long as we continue to, like, do the work and make the noise and communicate unification on the scale that we're wanting it, is doable. And, you know, I don't think anyone has has a direct answer right now, but I do think building new foundation, you know, like showing people useful tools, right, like, even something as simple as like, “Okay, this is how you grow food. This is how you can get water and this is how you breathe and meditate and this is how we ground and maybe this is a tool you can use to ground yourself before you go and face the world outside.” So yeah, unify under that. I feel like I've said the word unify a trillion times, but it’s the most important.

Alex Comment 40:13
It’s the core of what you’re. The core of what we’re doing. One was doing, you know, having conversations with our lovely community here. And even just being able to be like to use the word or the phrase holding space, holding space for each other, and embracing ourselves, embracing the community, and particularly for those who aren't local, because I mean, there's a lot of people here who are overseas, not in the States. And for them to be able to be involved or at least just listen to this conversation and see that the only thing that anybody wants is that unity and is to be able to just embrace one another. I think that's that's an important thing. I'm lucky. Dydine I think you feel the same same way. We're all lucky to be in this moment and to share ourselves with everybody.

Arin Comment 41:09
Thank you guys, you you are king and queen of holding space right now.

Dydine Comment 41:22
Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom sharing your story, your work. To the audience, thank everybody who was able to stay on and asking questions and saying hi from France, Paris. All these countries. Denmark, everyone. We’re all human. All we want is happiness. So it's give it to one another and our world will be a better place. So, please go ahead and support We The Movement if you can or reach out to Arin and be part of the peaceful protesters happening.
These discussions happen every month, the second Sunday of every month. So we'll see you again on the second Sunday.

Alex Comment 42:27
Yeah. Well, thanks again for joining us and supporting us and embracing us for a second live stream. Once again, we're lucky to talk to Arin and just gain insight into what you know what different people are working to, to accomplish here. And we're just blessed to be able to, you know, to be here. So thank you. Thank you so much.


Community Conversations
with Alex & Dydine

Episode 1

What do you think needs to happen in our community to keep the current momentum alive in order to effect real change?

Special guest André Lovelle. Cultivating Change in our Society.

The conversation took place on Instagram live
August 8, 2020

André Lovelle biography

André Lovelle is a former educator and writer that hails from Washington DC. In 2005, André launched his writing adventure with a blog called Blaxplanation. He used this blog as a tool to unpack black lives and start a dialogue about the vast and rich cultures the world has to offer. He says that, “we cannot always let fear dictate how we interact with the world or how we live our lives. Because you cannot fully realize yourself if you are constantly operating through fear”.

Conversation transcript

Alex 1:01
Hello again, Baserange Community we are here the third time. Today we're gonna be talking with you wonderful Joanne bland.

Dydine 2:18
How are you, how is the quarantine life? Are you quarantining where you are?

JoAnne 2:26
Well we’re not really quarantined. Our activity is cut way down. I only leave the house when necessary.

Dydine 2:37
Everyone, who doesn’t know Mrs. Bland. She to the civil rights movement hero, and we're very honored today to have her here and learn from her, learn the history and I having someone like you is a blessing. For someone like me who's from Rwanda, it's a rare chance that I meet someone like you. So even though it's virtual at least we’ll a conversation with you.

Alex 3:12
No I agree with those sentiments. I mean growing up in Texas personally I have had the opportunity to kind of learn about the civil rights movement through my own family and, you know, kind of my roots in Tennessee and you know, stuff like in a Deep South, but it is definitely a blessing to be able to talk to you a little bit Joanne and just learn a little bit more about my own path, your path, and kind of what we can all do, in the end to make the world a little bit a better place to the best of our own abilities.

JoAnne 3:55
I look forward to talking to you guys too.

Dydine 4:01
Mrs. JoAnne what what keeps you going? What keeps you fighting for 50 years? You started at 11 years old, which is amazing to me that, you know, like you started activism, when you know when that's in the age where you a kid is staying home is taken care of. Life around you, kind of pushed you to do what you did. What keeps you going?

JoAnne 4:33
Sometimes I wake up thinking this the same time. Because things still not really where they’re supposed to be. So if I stopped struggling, I feel like I would never get there. And I'm thinking, social humans are like jigsaw puzzles everybody has a piece, everybody is a piece. And I think my piece is teaching the path so you young people can use it as a foundation. If you know where we’ve been as a nation, then you take where we need to go without making the same mistakes we made. And yes, we made some mistakes.

Alex 5:23
Right, and I bring up my dad. In our own podcast, we interviewed him about his own experience growing up in Tennessee, in the 50s, and he has his own stories to share as well and he always kind of harps on the lessons that he learned and like he said, passing that down to the younger generation, because he always tells him to listen, to ask the older people. You're not going to learn as much as you could if you just if you don't ask. And they always, like you just said, we all make mistakes, and in this particular situation I think it helps tremendously. Just to be able to open that dialogue.

JoAnne 6:19
I think so too. I think because of the blood of history that runs through your veins. Hearing how we grew up in the things that were happening in the so called free country, when we were growing up, then you can gauge how far we've come. It would be ludicrous to say that we haven’t made gains, but we still have gains to make. And what I like about today is that you guys seem impatient, because you live in this technical time where everything is instant, and I applaud you for that I'm so proud of you guys for being out there, for taking up the torch and realizing that we're not where we need to be. And if there’s any way I can help with telling of the story’s and teaching this history, I'll do it until there’s no breath left for me to do it with.

Alex 7:17
Right.

JoAnne 7:22
I'm not really leaving you guys anywhere to go after I finish right so maybe I can segue into something. Okay. (laughter)

Dydine 7:34
I got me emotional because I'm a genocide survivor and I survived at a very young age. I was four. And I started sharing my story, I believe, when I was like, 23, and it was so hard for me to repeat, to go back and share it to people. And then I think a few years later, I felt really tired and I asked someone like, “Is it going to get better?” It was like, oh you, “you've got to just keep doing what you're doing, because you have to help the world otherwise, the history will keep repeating itself.”

And as hard as it is, knowing that it's important for younger generations for future generations to know to learn on your own mistakes, our past mistakes, not you know not repeat it, so just without also not. When the more we talk about it, the more people learn about it. Otherwise, if the history will be will be gone. So I really appreciate the work you are doing.

One of the questions I have for you is, when growing up. What are those stories you learned from your grandparents, that stayed with you and kept pushing you and also you feel like there's stories that your grandchildren need to learn to know that they keep the history going?

JoAnne 9:12
Well, my grandmother was the reason that we were involved.
My dad was staunchly against it. He used to tell my grandmother, that you're going to get my children killed. Don't send them down there. And he would go out the back door and grandma would push us put the front door and say go get your freedom. And we would go down to the church to participate. But, grandmother was strong and women who had lived in the mid-west and during the period in our history where segregation was the norm. Now I’ve since learned that every urban city had an area where blacks lived, where the Italians lived, where the Jews lived. And it was only when we left that area of love that you encountered craziness. So, grandmother had some sense of freedom that we didn’t have in the south. And then they call Detroit up north —.

(Internet connection lost)

Alex 15:45
I wanted to say that the nonprofit that we're all supporting today is the McCray Learning Center. We meant to put all the information into the Instagram Live Chat, but I'll say right now. And towards the end we'll be able to type it into the chat. So we can all look at it and check it out if he hasn't time. But welcome back, Joanne, again, and sorry for the technical difficulties and for the patient labor showing Oh,

(JoAnne is back. Conversation continues)

JoAnne 14:42
Grandmother didn't like white people. And in some ways, she taught us to fear whites, because she was say you have to stand up to them.

But she would else so tell us those horror stories of Emmett Till and others that didn't become as famous as others we heard growing up here in Alabama. About how people disappeared and we’d never see them again. How people had to be smuggled out of the state, so that they could live and they could never come back so therefore they never saw their families again. Those horror stories. And they stuck with me.

And I don't know I had a fear of whites but I knew that they were different, and she would she would always tell us That when we were in their presence that we were not to talk. She would say whatever had to be said. And it took me a long time to really understand that it wasn't the color of your skin to make people not like you. It was just that they didn’t like you. They didn’t have an understanding of who I was either. I didn’t know them, they didn’t know me. And as a kid I didn't understand how people who didn't know me could dislike me because of the color of my skin. We didn't really get, I didn't really get any cope(?) until Smith came in 1963 and I was about 10 then.

And I didn’t understand why they kept saying they were trying to get their freedom. And grandmother could always make me understand things. When I was posing I could ask her anything. When I asked her why are we fighting for something we already had it didn't make sense to me, how then getting the right to vote and all this and how it connected. I didn't understand any of that. Until one day, we were in front of a drug store here in Selma. And they're still there, by the way on the corner. On the same corner. Yeah, they had a lunch counter at that time. Carters Drugstore.

I wanted to sit at the counter but my grandmother said I couldn’t. She said, colored children couldn’t sit at the counter. That’s what we were called then. She said but one day it’s going to change. It didn’t stop me from wanting to sit at that counter even when I knew I couldn’t. Every time we passed by that store, I’d peep through the window at those white kids wishing it was me.

On this particular day my grandmother was talking to one of her friends, and I’ll never forget it. I was peeping through the window, looking at the white kids, wishing it was me. My grandmother noticed this and put her hand on my shoulder and leaned over and pointed through the window to the counter and said, “we would get our freedom. You can do that too.” I became a freedom fighter that day.

It was a different freedom that they were talking about. The freedom that would let me sit at the counter. That was my intro to the movement. That's how I started going down to meetings.

Alex 18:28
You understood that magnitude then right? You were 8 years old then. And you understood that, seeing these white kids sit up at the counter. And it must have clicked for you. And you were like, “Oh this is why this is important. Voting rights is important.” I can't even imagine that. I don't even remember why I was at or what I was thinking when I was 8 years old.

JoAnne 18:56
Well, I was arrested the first time when I was 8. Along with my grandmother. And then I was not the youngest, there were toddlers and babies. Or as we called them armed babies, that couldn’t walk. The mothers had to carry them. They put us into cell so I count it as an arrest.

Dydine 19:22
At 8 years old. And that was legal?

JoAnne 19:32
Yeah. You got to remember who made the laws and who enforced the law. According to them, the women who had gone to the courthouse to vote were not there to vote. They were loitering. Because, I remember someone coming to the door and putting the paper on. And when we got closer I saw it said, “Out to lunch”. I remember thinking white people are sure eager. And because grandmother had just given us breakfast. They were already eating lunch. So, it also makes you realize you didn't understand that sounded like... they didn’t eat at the same time. Because its like 9 o’clock and they’ve already gone to lunch. So we were loitering, and according to the law we should have moved. And we needed to wait until they open again. The doors were only locked because we were there. In a public building, by the way.

Dydine 20:43
JoAnne your fight, since you were 10, has made a lot of change because now, a young black person is - there’s still injustices, there’s still work to do. But I think your work did not go unnoticed, because now we can walk in, we can sit in those bars. In some some places at least.
Your fight the fight is not over, but your fight is not just wasted. And that's what I was gonna say, because now as your saying it, I'm thinking myself, you know, we are lucky to be in this generation, you know, like we have more privilege that you didn't grow up for you so we're not going to take them for granted.

JoAnne 21:40
And much, much richer.

Alex 21:47
But I wanted to go back really quickly to voting rights. And most of work is voting relating things. Do you feel like this younger generation Dydine and mine, our generation. Do you feel like we understand the importance of voting? Do you feel like we really get it and capture, once again, the magnitude and importance of voting?

JoAnne 22:19
That's not an easy answer.
Sometimes I think you do. And sometimes... well it depends on who I’m talking to actually. Obviously we're the crowd here that understands them, that understands voting.

But there are others who say, “My vote doesn’t matter. What did the vote get us? Where are we now?” Now I understand that too. As I said in the beginning, sometimes I feel like I'm paralleling those times when I was growing up because of all the stuff that has happened. But with young people I think it was deliberate. You were fortunate enough, son, to have your parents, your dad to talk in that generation to talk to you. Not everybody is that fortunate. Most people don't want to talk about the bad things in their life, the bad things that happen that brings up those memories. And I'm the exact opposite. I feel like it’s therapy. It's a cleansing. It makes me go on. And to make sure that this never happens to you again.

But I understand the children who say that voting hasn’t gotten us anything. We're still poor. We're still treated as second class citizens and the same police brutality that we experienced today we've always experienced as we've been on these new shores, but every generation thinks it's a new thing and they start over. Instead of building on what we have. Again that's why it's important to know where we’ve been as a nation, so you don't make the same mistakes we made and start over. And teaches you to recognize it. And that's what's wrong with some of the young people.

And I'm not accusing them or blaming them. I just wish they would reconsider. Those who feel that way. The only way we’re going to have any systematic change is to elect people who think like we do. If the person we believe was going to do that didn’t do it, vote them out. That’s power. You have the power to do that. And when you don't use that power, you're slapping me all in my face.

Thousands and thousands who fall. And even those who died so you could have the rights you also have. And I am extremely proud of the young people today who are out there
there, who recognize we need to be crying out loud until we are heard. And that's what happened in the 60’s. We didn't stop until we were heard. That's how we got the few gains that we did.

Now, today a black woman is running for vice president What kind of world are we living in now? That a woman, a black woman, a woman, that’s one strike, and then a black woman, that’s two strikes. So, it can even aspire to get in that office. But it also with the sign of the Voting Rights Act that gave Hillary to right the run too. Yes, white women.

That's what not taught. Yeah, that the Voting Rights Act wasn't a black thing, it just benefited us as a whole. But it was a people thing. Poor people of any color couldn't vote. Women didn't vote because society dictated that men took care of us then, remember? Except it wasn’t in the black family. The black woman had to get out there and work just like the black man. And had say so. Always strong black women. I had a conversation the other day, some people say they had TOO much to say. (Black Women)

Alex 26:45
Yeah, I don't think there's so much thing as too much to say!

JoAnne 26:51
Ever! Yeah, yeah. I like you.

Alex 27:00
I like you too!

(Commentary)

JoAnne 27:10
That’s because it’s not taught to us that way. Even the movement that I participated in. When you read the books and see these documentaries and movies that I can’t stand. So don't even ask me about them. It looks like the man is leading all the time. It's like Dr. King was here everyday doing the Voting Rights struggle. Telling you, “you go here, you go there.” No, Dr. King might have been here six times out of that whole period. Selma was already organized and trying to get the right to vote for the citizens of it’s county 30 years before Dr. King came. But that's not taught to you guys. You know, it's just selective history.

I often wonder why we integrated the schools. Not, that it's not a good thing. But we didn't address the educational system. We left that same system in place. I integrated our high school here, junior high along with seven others. I had nothing. I had nothing in there for me. I sat up in school and learned how White America made America. And I didn't find out until much later that people who look like me made America. And you just took credit for it. It was your idea and I implemented. Or it was my idea and perfected it. You just took. So, all these children sit up the school for 12 whole years, and don’t hear anything about people who look like me. Because February (Black History Month) is a joke. Because the states set standards for what you're supposed to learn. And when February comes you may have one program. You may write a one essay. And you had that one or two days you decorate the hallways, in the classrooms. And then you give me three minutes to get from one classroom to another. Where do I read this? When do I learn this?

That's a joke. It’s really a joke. We didn't address that educational system that was a real mistake. And integration is fine, but we also have to integrate us the curriculum.

Alex 30:04
100% agree with that. And it make me think about a book. I'm not sure if you've read it, but it's a People History of the United States by Howard Zinn.

JoAnne 30:15
No, I haven’t.

Alex 30:18
That's one of those books that kind of debunks a whole bunch of notions that had been taught in schools and this and that, and it kind of sheds a lot of light on a lot of the truths that actually happened. Starting from the beginning. From Columbus “discovering” the US and so on and so forth. Through the slave trade... It’s one of those books that, I feel like it would benefit anybody who's interested in true American history to read. Definitely.

JoAnne 30:56
Right! And it is hard for people to get away from what they've heard all their lives. That it's always been that way. And I heard a lady this morning that said...she was voting for somebody that I'm not voting for because all she sees is people who hate America. No, we don't hate America. Because I am hurting and I'm crying out loud? I don't hate America. I just want America to be America for all people who are citizens and given those same rights. So why is that so hard to understand?

Dydine 31:51
Most of us, when we hear about Martin Luther King, and the Civil Right Movements it feels like a long time ago. How does it feel for you? How do you feel when you think about it? Is it too far? Does it feel like a long time for you? And for people who have only heard about Dr. King, you might be the closest thing to tell us a little bit about him. Do you have something you heard when you were marching that made him special? And the following question would be, do you think, in all of us, we have that strength and power to make a difference in the world?

JoAnne 32:43
Let me go to the second part first. Don’t ever doubt yourself. You have that same strength that you call “my strength”when I was young.

Whatever the situation warrants, young people just step up to it. You don’t have that fear. You haven't picked up on that baggage. So don’t ever think you can’t, or that you aren't that type of person. Because you are. So you were born a leader, all of you. All over listeners. Because the first thing you learned how to do was to follow. And that's the first criteria of being a leader. That you know how to follow. So I you know can do that, so you are a leader.

Now as a kid, we could get close to Dr. King. I think it was because he missed his children. But we, he would always tell us to come to him. And when Dr. King asked you how your day was, you wanted to tell him EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING. Minute by minute, okay.

Dydine 33:55
So he was a good listener.

JoAnne 33:57
Yeah. There were so many of us. We’d be (jogging) to get close to him and stuff. He always had a peppermint, and I love peppermints to this day. To this day. You know, the star-like ones. The red and white ones.

Alex 34:09
The little red ones. Yeah.

JoAnne 34:13
When you're in class it crinkles so loud. Everyone hears you opening it. And he had the softest hands I’ve ever felt in my entire life. His hands were so soft. Even my hands today aren’t that soft. As I grew older I realized he had never done any hard labor so... (laughter)

Dydine 34:34
That’s where you were going!

JoAnne 34:39
And ironically enough, I don’t remember his voice like it is today. I know that’s his voice, but I don’t remember it. It was just Dr. King.

Dr. Abernathy was a charismatic person too. He's rarely mentioned. He was more like my my granddaddy. And Dr. King was just a star. You were around someone that’s really famous. Even my daddy talked about Dr. King. So he was a star. But Dr. Abernathy was more like your granddaddy, who dealt out discipline with love. So you didn't feel like it was wrong. He said it was time to go, it was time to go. He’d pat you on the head and you’d go out that door. Dr. Abernathy didn’t play. I loved them both, but Dr. King was special. His voice alone, when I hear it today I want to get up and save the world.

And you asked me earlier, what keeps me going. That's it, that motivation has been instilled in me since I was a child, but I don't know how to get rid of it.

Dydine 35:30
No keep it.

JoAnne 35:34
Let me stay this: you know you (Dydine) talked about telling your story? The horrors that you had to experience. And I’m so sorry, love. But telling my story has been like a cleansing. The more I tell it, the better I feel. It’s like a weight lifting from my shoulders. Do not hesitate to tell your story. To share your stories. Because it helps the world. And that may be your piece in the puzzle for social change. Making sure nobody else has to go through that. And by telling your story it helps, okay.

Dydine 36:25
Thank you

JoAnne 36:27
You’re welcome, love.

Dydine 36:31
I will take that along with me everywhere I go.

JoAnne 36:35
Because it came from here. (points to her heart)

Alex 36:43
Well Joanne, we wanted to use this time from this point on...for any audience questions. We'll have to scroll back through Instagram to see if the audience had asked anything. But we could definitely keep on talking. I wanted to let the audience know.

What are some of your earliest, happiest memories? Something that you can think back to your childhood and just immediately put a smile on your face?

JoAnne 37:28
My whole childhood. I had no idea that the rest of the United States who didn’t look like me, didn't grow up the same way I did. You know marching, hop scotch. Playing dodgeball, playing jacks going. Going to jail. I had no idea! What did I have to compare it to? When people ask me about that, I had a happy childhood. I was just born at time when this was happening, and if I had known 55 years from then I would be talking to you about it I would had saved visuals. I would’ve saved everything and written down every word. But I felt loved. The only time I didn’t feel loved was when I left my area of love. I thought everyone grew up like that. You mean you didn’t grow up like that? No, I’m teasing.

Alex 38:29
Personally I was blessed to have a very pleasant childhood and you know you saying playing dodgeball. Playing sports with your friends. Yeah, that immediately takes me back to North Dallas where I grew up.

(Commentary)

Alex 40:20
So, God forbid, if this were the last thing that anybody saw from you or heard from you publicly what would you want to share? What is that key message that you want to express to everybody who’s listening?

JoAnne 40:36
Okay. Remember when I said, “Everybody is a piece of the puzzle to social change”? It is you that determines where your piece fits in to complete the picture. And is the picture complete because your piece is not there? No. That means you are the most important piece. And from this moment on, you need to carry yourself like you're the most important piece, because you are. You want more?

Alex 41:12
That was good. That was great! That resonates with me. For young people. And I think I can speak for a lot of people, and feeling like the work that we do, the work that Dydine does, the work that I do, and millions of other younger people across the planet. We want to know our work is validated or we want to know our work means something and it's going to create some sort of change. And it really is nice to hear, it's nice to be acknowledged and to know that we're not so different from what you were doing 55 years ago.

JoAnne 42:00
No, you’re not.

Alex 42:02
We just have cameras and we're talking to microphone.

JoAnne 42:09
I used to use the Memograph machine and now you just hit a button.

Alex 42:11
Right. Right.

JoAnne 42:17
Or you can use that code language on your phone. Because everybody has one and within minutes you can organize. Where we had to work a little hard, but I want you to utilize those tools. That helps to make that pice even bigger doesn’t it? You’re fortunate to be living in these times. And I’m telling you, I say to everybody I talk to: white people have been silent for too long. Too long. They have seen what was wrong. They may not have experienced it, but they’ve seen it they knew it was wrong and they didn't say anything. I'm proud to see the date when I look at a march, I see a rainbow. It makes you feel good that finally my brothers and sisters whose skin tone is different than mine. They're out there. It's a rainbow of people and I’m proud of that fact.

And I thank the young people for realizing that there's a need. You know, some of the ones that don't realize it's a need aren’t doing anything. Those are the people you have to to convince. I'm proud of everybody who's trying to make their piece of the puzzle as large as they can. Thank you.


Dydine 43:55
You just reminded me. I think it was a Holocaust survivor that said that “when you save one life, you save the whole world. But when you kill one life, you kill the whole world”, which means that it doesn't matter what color your skin or religion. If you hurt that person, that means you hurt everybody in the world. So we are really more alike than ewe are different. And when we always come from that place of unity and love and peace, we are helping each other. From my experience, the people who committed genocide in Rwanda really didn't have a beautiful life after genocide either. So when you're hurting somebody, you’re not leaving your soul alone. Your soul has also been hurt along the way. So it's more of like, we have we have to do this together. Otherwise, we're not gonna get anywhere.

JoAnne 45:17
You’re right. You’re exactly right. And I know those are tired words: unity and community all that, but it all depends on how you define community. If you define community as your street, your block, your city, even the United States. If someone's hurting in Japan I need to be trying to help them stop that pain. Before I know it, it could be here with me.

Dydine 45:54
Yeah, that's pretty much it. When you look at what happens around the world how people hurt each other, the Holocaust, slavery, genocides around the world. It all has pretty much the same starting point. And if we get to learn where the conflict comes from, we're able to prevent it from happening to us. So, learning from everyone else and caring for each other. Not just our community.


Alex 46:27
I agree. I want to say thank you so much Joanne for joining us joining the bass race community, sharing your wisdom sharing your love and definitely expressing messages of positivity and progression, and that that's all the work that we do. I think that's all the work that the people who are in the comments and audience the work that they are trying to do so. Yeah, this is this is very special. And I think we can't thank you enough.

JoAnne 46:56
Well, let me selfish for a moment. First let me thank you guys for the work that you do. Around the world, whoever’s listening, whatever you’re doing to make the world a better place. Because I'm just selfish. I have grandchildren who need a better world.

I know I'm tired them walking out and I'm afraid that they may not come back. I'm tired of that and mothers around the world experience the same things. It’s not unique to us. It’s sometimes because it's so personal we think it’s unique.

But we need to get together, come to the table and put all the issues on the table, and start getting rid of them one by one. You guys are impatient. Each generation gets so far with one thing. And then the next generation starts over again. We've got to learn to record our history. And we’ve got to teach our children our history, so that they don't get bogged down, trying to do the same thing that we've already done. And that's the wisdom. Youth can do that and I know you can do that. I have confidence.

Dydine 48:16
We can do it.

JoAnne 48:20
I love my world and everything’s that’s in it. Some of my brothers and sisters are just misguided and it’s up to us to guide them on the right path.

Dydine 49:48
Oh, thank you so much JoAnne.

JoAnne 49:50
You're quite welcome sweetheart.

I think that’s the question a lot of people are asking. I have a friend. His name is Elijah Roberson, he wrote about this concept of ally fatigue, which unfortunately is already, you know, apparently an issue.

And basically, the article was about how certain pockets of our collection of allies getting tired of, thinking about this all the time. It's not a fun thing to think about, social injustice. So in order for us to keep the momentum going. I was saying that the onus is on us, those who are actually sort of suffering to to lean on the privilege of the folks who are, who consider themselves our allies. So you know when our allies ask us what they can do, which is a question I'm sure both of you have received repeatedly.

I've received it repeatedly. And my answer is: you have access to and connections with people who I don't, who may be holding on to like racist ideas or some anti-human ideals. Educate them, talk to them, work on them, because I think whenever things are out of balance what we're seeing now is that we have sort of a fringe idea of a fringe movement that's moved to the center.

André Lovelle

English
English