Sparking Change In America: Joy Reid Calls Out Injustice Everywhere

We’re wrapping up our series featuring Black Trailblazers, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have another guest who has broken barriers and basically created their own space as part of the national conversation, becoming the first black woman to anchor a cable primetime show. You may know her from her seat as a political analyst on MSNBC, or as the host of her own show, The ReidOut.  It’s the amazing Joy Reid, everyone! Joy is a Harvard grad with a degree in visual and environmental studies and a concentration in documentary film. She also worked on the Florida branch of the Obama campaign. Her political writing prowess has landed her columns and articles everywhere; The New York Times, The New Republic, The Guardian, The Daily Beast, and The New Yorker, to name a few. PLUS she has a new book coming out that she gives us a special peek into; it’s the important and moving story of slain Civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers and his wife Myrlie, also an activist. It’s not every day we get to talk to someone who brings the goods about so many profound topics—civil rights, the fight for reproductive rights, immigration issues, the sacrifice for equality—and she and Jen shy away from none of them here. Joy’s passion for calling out injustice and her unwavering belief that we all hold the keys to preserving our rights and our freedoms gives us a reason to believe that we all can be trailblazers toward sparking change in our world.

 

From Small Town To Big Influence: Jerrie Merritt’s Legacy of Giving Back

In this week’s episode in our Black Trailblazer’s series, Jen may have leveraged her connections, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she did. We’re excited to have a wonderful sit down with the amazing Jerrie Merritt (who just happens to be Jen’s boyfriend Tyler’s mother–and a Black trailblazer in every sense of the word). In addition to being Tyler’s mom, Jerrie’s currently the Senior VP of Community Development at the Bank of Nevada in Las Vegas. Her banking career spans 40 plus years, where her job now is discerning funding for community development projects in the city of Las Vegas (as she puts it; “I’m the only person at the bank who’s actually giving money away!”). She’s been the board president of the Rape Crisis Center, The Urban Financial Services Coalition, and the Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas. She even recently got to work with the NFL when the Super Bowl took place in Las Vegas to lead the dispersion of funds they made available to 14 worthy organizations, which she chose. In 2021, Jerrie received an actual Trailblazer Award, presented by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women from the Las Vegas Chapter. Jerrie takes us back to where it all began; in a tiny town called Eutaw, Alabama, where Jerrie didn’t see much modeled to her in the way of dreaming of who she could be, but through generosity of spirit and a willingness to take a chance, she started blazing her trail. It wasn’t without its challenges, coming up during a time where women–especially black women–were often shunned in business and leadership settings. Despite this, Jerrie paved a way, and in turn is paving a way for those coming up behind her. Her infectious courage, intertwined with a humility that hits you right in the feels—will incite a fire with all of us to leave our own indelible mark on this wild, beautiful world.

Inside the Fight for Better Gun Safety with MomsRising’s Gloria Pan

If you’ve listened long enough to our show and also follow Jen, you probably know that the conversations we invite come in many stripes—thoughtful, timely, fun, encouraging, helpful, educational and inclusive—plus, we’re not afraid to veer into some of the deeper stuff. Important stuff that is sometimes hard to wrap our heads around, but if we don’t, no change can occur. Whatever we think about gun rights, there are voices to consider who are doing hard work to create a future where kids can safely attend schools, where people won’t be shot just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, where mass shootings become a thing of the past. Wherever you stand on the spectrum of this issue, at the end of the day, many polls show that roughly 90% of us agree that we should have stricter gun laws. So we’re opening the For the Love Floor to someone who is seeing and hearing first hand from families affected by gun violence, who makes it her priority to educate the public, and puts the issue in front of legislators for increased gun safety. Gloria Pan is the VP of Moms Rising, a group of caring moms who take on the most critical issues facing women, mothers and families. She’s the head of their gun safety initiative and works with their membership to accelerate impact on Capitol Hill and state capitols to affect legislative change. She’s also been a trusted voice who’s spread the message on CNN, with The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and all kinds of media platforms. 

Gloria and Jen have a discussion around: 

+ The origins of the 2nd Amendment and how the narrative of guns rights proponents has been shaped over the last 50 years 

+ Practical steps toward what we all can do if we want to make our voices heard about this issue and take action toward better gun safety

+ Hope toward a new generation of young people who are engaged in creating a better future and are paying attention in ways perhaps previous generations haven’t 

This work is not glamorous and can be full of disappointment, as moving mountains can often be. We’re grateful to people like Gloria who give us a glimpse from inside the fight, and bring us hope that change can really happen.

The Black & White of Feminism with Rachel Cargle

It’s another week of our illuminating For the Love of Being Seen and Heard series. We’re talking to people that are doing the life-changing work of helping each other see and hear each other–to see and hear communities that we are not a part of, to see and hear voices that have been traditionally silenced or marginalized, or even to see and hear ourselves in honest and affirming ways. Our guest this week is a powerful advocate, but with a tender heart who works in so many spaces that matter: feminism, racial justice, the arts, activism, self care and healing. Rachel Cargle is a writer and entrepreneur who has created powerful online learning spaces. She’s a regular contributor to Cultured Magazine, The Cut and Atmos. She’s been featured in the New York Times and Forbes as well. Her work centers around an invitation to pursue healing and growth, as well as re-imagining how systems that no longer serve us can be dismantled or changed to embrace justice and liberation. Her belief is that every one of us has power–the power to unlearn, relearn and reimagine–taking ourselves out of stuck spaces and creating places for understanding for everyone. Her thoughts on feminism are so insightful as she looks at how a well intentioned movement for the progress of women leaves out key communities and how reimagining how to see and hear the needs of every woman toward better conditions for all women. This powerful discussion centers around:

  • An explanation and brief history of the feminist movement and how communities of color often are left behind in this work
  • How the culture, both inside and outside of black communities often stereotype black women as workers, as strong, as able to bear pain differently than their white counterparts; and Rachel’s work to help black women feel cared for–which leads to an amazing ripple effect on families, organizations and communities
  • The Loveland Foundation, which gives black women access to black therapists, to self-care and to other resources that are so often not readily or affordably available 
  • Simple ways that women can get involved in the conversation to become clear about this intersection of feminism and race by hearing and telling truths, and to engage in knowledge, empathy, and action. 

Sometimes the truth can be hard to process, but when there is intentionality in how we exist in our efforts toward benefitting the condition of women, the result is liberation for all women. 

 

From The Church to The Pride Parade: Sara Cunningham with Free Mom Hugs

We’re back for more of our Being Seen and Heard series! In a time where it feels like we are struggling to really see and hear one another, there are some bright lights who make it their mission to help one another understand each other a little better. Our guest today, Sara Cunningham, the founder of FreeMomHugs.org, is one amazing example of what can happen when we really see people for who they are and begin to hear their stories. Sara was on the show right at the beginning of her journey with Free Mom Hugs, and now the org—which started with the simple idea of attending Pride parades and holding up a sign that said “Free Mom Hugs,”—has become a national and world wide phenomenon. She uses her own experience as a guide to how she advocates, and is absolutely passionate about connecting with faith, civic, business, and government leaders in efforts to make the world a kinder safer place for our LGBTQIA+ family.

Sara and Jen touch on these topics:

  • Sara’s roots in conservative evangelicalism and how she found herself moving “from the church to the pride parade” after she reckoned with her son’s admission that he was gay and going to live in his identity
  • The stories of people who, after coming out, lost their families, were kicked out of their churches, and felt completely alone and found solace and comfort in the simple act of a mom extending a hug
  • Sara’s son Parker’s (as well as her own) journey of self-discovery and then coming to live authentically after seeing others, who had come out in faith environments, survive and thrive after loss
  • How we can affect change with our voices as it relates to legislation that targets the LGBTQIA+ community

Seeing and Hearing the Disabled Community: Dr. Amy Kenny

We’re back with our series For The Love of Being Seen and Heard. There is so much right now floating around in culture about what happens to us when we don’t feel like we’re either being seen or heard. For most of us, the longing to be understood by others is a core need. And for some groups or communities, including the disabled community, the task of being seen, heard and understood is more challenging, and we’ll hear why as we talk with disabled scholar-practitioner Dr. Amy Kenny. Dr. Kenny has made it her life’s work to shed light on and help clear up misunderstandings around the abled community’s view of the disabled. Her latest book, My Body Is Not a Prayer Request does a deep dive into one of those communities—places of faith—and the particular biases and unintentional ableism propagated there. Amy compassionately offers insight and solutions toward understanding in a new way.

Jen and Dr. Kenny discuss:

  • Common misunderstandings that abled people have toward disabled people plus words and actions they can learn from disabled people toward connectedness
  • The “invisible qualities of God’s divine nature” and how we might be able to accept imperfections in nature, even considering them beautiful, but are unable to accept or find beauty in the imperfections of our bodies
  • “Inspiration porn” a phrase that relates to the overall view of disabled folks being the poster children for overcoming—putting them in the position of feeling as if they are objects on a pedestal and that their sole purpose in life is to inspire the abled
  • The challenges around access for disabled people and how to think differently about the right of access for all people

There’s hope in this conversation, and Amy guides us to a place where we can unlearn some ableist tendencies and learn more about a community that has much to contribute to our world.

Elephant in the Room Part 8: Planning for Life after Death ft. Abby Schneiderman

As we wrap up our Elephant in the Room series, there will be no awkward topics left in our wake. And this week, we’re putting the nail in that coffin (so to speak) and we’re talking about–yes, you guessed it– Death.  It’s really hard to think about how to plan for your death when you’re too busy living, not to mention that we don’t even want to really contemplate our demise, but alas, none of us will escape it. And we’ve all heard the horror stories of people who leave this earth with no will or last testament, families put under duress because they don’t know how to manage it all, or the provider of the family passes suddenly, and in an instant, there is no income, no insurance and perhaps unexpected expenses for hospital stays and/or funerals. As stark as it seems, it doesn’t have to be. Planning well for the life that you’ve built so that legacy is created for those who are left behind is something we all can bravely face. And to help us through it is someone who has taken this hard topic and turned it on its face so that it’s actually approachable and less scary to contemplate–we’ve got Abby Schneiderman, the founder of Everplans–to hold our hands through the process. Abby has the answers to the questions we need to take care of In Case You Get Hit By A Bus (also the title of her book). Her company Everplans focuses on providing resources to people as they think about what needs to be done to put the right things into place once we pass on. Some of it is just practical stuff we might not be thinking about—like a list of passwords so getting into accounts doesn’t take an act of congress, developing a way to keep track of medical forms, legal files, and so much more.

Elephants in the Room Part 7: Getting Real About Divorce with Jen, Kristen & Jamie

Get ready for some real and raw conversation with Jen and two of her most trusted friends about an experience they’ve all shared [which happens to be this week’s elephant in the room as well]. We’re talking about divorce. We’ve all heard the not so fun stat that at least half of all marriages in our country end up in divorce. No matter how it happens, who makes the choice, or however long the marriage lasted—it’s traumatizing. Like any elephant in the room, there’s a sense of failure, a sense of shame that keeps the pain and loneliness of a marriage that is on the rails shrouded in silence and solitude, and when the marriage finally crumbles––we’re not only grieving over own dreams and expectations dashed, but wondering how we’ll manage all our people’s disappointment and confusion over it all–including our children’s.  And moving forward as a single person after being married has its own challenges as well. How do you tell people in the office your plus one has vacated the position? Who’s your emergency contact now? Do I keep the same last name? How do we even process it all–what we were taught about marriage to begin with, why we stayed when our boundaries were pushed to their limits, and who we can trust as we put our lives back together again? Jen shares more than she ever has before about her own divorce with her good friends Kristen Howerton and Jamie Wright who walked with her through every step of the process. They discuss the trajectory of their marriages, how they each grappled with choosing divorce, and what they are learning in “real time” in the aftermath. And here’s the good news–they all agree that as devastating as it can be, our friends can help us remember who we are in all of it; new dreams can be made, old dreams can change and hope and healing is possible. 

Elephants in the Room Part 6: Accepting The Reality of Mental Health Issues And Their Impact with Jamie Tworkowski

In the tail-end of this series, we really acknowledge some of the bigger elephants in the room we all face each and every day. And this week’s elephant is a big one that likely we’ve all experienced first hand or with those we love. Mental health disorders have been around for as long as we’ve been walking the planet, but bringing them out of the dark has been a fairly recent phenomenon. Even as recently as 3 or 4 decades ago, depression and anxiety were rarely diagnosed as clinical disorders, and in previous generations, people with more profound issues that are now treatable were hidden away from society by their families or locked up in institutions. And while there have been huge strides made in the past  or so regarding treatment of now commonly diagnosed mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, there is still reticence to recognize its impact and shame taken on by those who deal with it.  The time has come to bring these issues out of the dark as we see the growing impact of unchecked mental illness and where it leads for those who don’t know where or how to get help. One of the people that’s leading the charge toward legitimizing mental health conditions in a bigger way is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms, Jamie Tworkowski. Jamie founded TWLOHA after guiding a friend through her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. He saw the need for guidance in this space and created a world-renowned organization that offers resources and help to those who need it most. Jen and Jamie talk about the painful process of loving our people when they are hurting, how to give our own selves grace when we struggle, and why mental health needs to be treated as seriously as physical health.

 

Content Warning: This episode addresses hard topics including anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, so it may not be suitable for young listeners or individuals on the path to healing.

Elephants in the Room Part 5: Undoing the Stigma of Menopause with Cheryl Bridges Johns

Have you ever heard anyone say they are looking forward to menopause? A rare occurrence, to be sure, as our culture seems obsessed with keeping women “young” on all levels. 50 is the new 30, right? And while women inevitably age, the maturation of women has not classically been held in high esteem in our culture. So no wonder we view the onset of menopause with fear and trepidation; a stark reminder that we’re not what we once were. And as most elephants in the room, this natural transition into what should be a wise, peaceful and well-earned season of our lives is met with disdain; something to be hidden and ignored, or “fixed” with surgery, hormones, and a host of anti-aging products. For those of us who haven’t gotten there yet, we’re treated to the negative aspects played up historically by a patriarchal perspective giving us dread of hot flashes, mood swings, body changes, gray hair and overall loss of youth and vitality. Though this transition is unavoidable for all women, we’re here to look at what it all really means–to those who are currently going through it and to those who inevitably will. We hope you’ll be encouraged to find that there is much to lean into that gives us hope for a productive and meaningful second half of life. We’ve got a wonderfully educated and compassionate leader in this space–she’s not only been through it, but her work focuses on de-stigmatizing the whole topic for women and taking to task the historical negativity around a woman’s aging process. Cheryl Bridges Johns is an author, she’s an academic lecturer, she’s a leader. She advocates for women’s full empowerment, care for all God’s creation, and the renewal of the church to boot. She’s written a compelling book about navigating the second half of life as a woman–it’s called Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause, which gets to the heart of this change by helping women find their voice and speak openly about their journey. Cheryl wants women to see their menopausal journey as a time in which we can become more and more of ourselves. She believes if society can embrace this natural occurrence, women can flourish in the second half of their lives, which can only lead to the flourishing of society as a whole.