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.

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.

Black in White Spaces: Marcie Alvis-Walker on Racial Intersections

To be Black in America means living at several different intersections. Writer and thinker Marcie Alvis-Walker joins For the Love Podcast to share the inspiration behind her beautiful, thought-provoking space called Black Coffee with White Friends. Marcie shares about her experience having to code switch as she grew up—she’d have to adapt her language, her likes and dislikes based on the group she was with—and what it’s like for her family to navigate the world being members of different races. Marcie leads us to think about what it means to “celebrate” holidays like 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day when your skin isn’t white, and how siblings of different races can use their influence to help their Black siblings.

Recasting Portrayals of Race, with Brit Bennett

Stories come in many forms: in the reports we see in the news, the TV shows and movies that light up our screens, from books to toys and so many other places. New York Times bestselling author Brit Bennett is here to discuss the ways that Black stories are told and the ripple effects they have across American culture. She shares insight into her life as a young author and how she’s used her writing as a way to figure out the way she feels about different topics—like what it means to “perform race,” which she wrote about in her latest book called The Vanishing Half. Brit dives into the stories she’s looking to create in the world—ones that show the human experience of what it means to struggle and the ways we experience hope and joy and love. 

Empowering Black Entrepreneurs: Jessica O. Matthews Turns Adversity into Strength

What does it mean to build the world in a way where every single person, no matter their color, gender, ability or religion has access to security and opportunity? That’s a question inventor and entrepreneur Jessica O. Matthews has spent much of her life asking. Jessica is the CEO of Uncharted Power, a company looking to build sustainable infrastructure in the world—which Jessica launched when she was just twenty-two years old! She shares the legacy of curiosity and hard work her parents passed onto her, and why having countless hmm moments leads to that one a-ha! moment. Jessica and Jen hash out the opportunities the world has left on the table of innovation and why Jessica’s place at several intersections—a Black woman who’s a dual US/Nigerian citizen—helps her recognize developments that are still possible for parts of the world that typically don’t receive investment. Because as Jessica says: “I have the ability to not see the world as it is but to see the world as it should be. That’s something that would not have happened not only if I wasn’t just Nigerian American, but if I wasn’t a woman of color.”

“Education Is Freedom Work”: Dr. Monique Morris on Investing in Black Students

Having access to learning is a portal to opportunity, a key to unlocking your dreams and leaving doors open for those who come after you. That’s what education has been for Dr. Monique Morris, an author, scholar, justice educator and die-hard Prince fan who, in sixth grade, found herself at a fork in the road. She got into a fight with a boy who’d provoked her. And instead of suspending her, expelling her, or arresting her and pushing her away, Dr. Morris’ teachers reconnected her to her learning community—a key moment in the life of a girl who’d been dealing with sexual abuse and violence in her home. This moment of restoration paved the path for Dr. Morris to go on to earn a doctorate in education. Others in Dr. Morris’ situation haven’t been as fortunate, and find their studies interrupted by disciplinary action and a descent down the slippery slope known commonly as the “school to prison pipeline,” where they are pushed out of the education experience and criminalized by administrators. Dr. Morris uses her own education and experience to advocate for Black and brown students, encouraging schools to look at themselves as places of healing and restoration, not punishment, so that more students of color can become the scholars they are meant to be. Because no person is “unrecoverable,” and the important“freedom work of education begins when teachers ultimately see themselves as healers.

Centering Mental Health & Self-Care in Black America, with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes

Cultivating a healthy mind is essential for our entire well-being. Psychologist and theologian Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes joins us For the Love of Black Lives series to help us unpack how the anxiety and trauma carried through generations of Black Americans affects the flourishing of communities of every stripe (and newsflash: the trauma we experience can be passed down through four generations after us). For so long, Black women have been praised as “strong,” and they absolutely are. But when we only view Black women as unshakeable “superwomen,” we take away their right to vulnerability, their right to care for themselves, and their right to be cared for by someone else. And instead, we hand them a standard that’s impossible to achieve—which, as anyone knows who’s tried to achieve something that can’t be attained, causes shame and depression. Dr. Chanequa describes the effects of living in a community where anxiety is normal for everyone. As she says, “I was never taught to think of what I had as anxiety, even though now I realize, on both sides of my family, there’s anxiety.” She explains why it’s vital for Black women and men to have access to Black mental healthcare providers, so clients can feel truly seen and heard, and receive the true care they need. And above all, Dr. Chanequa reminds us that every Black woman, child, and man is worthy of self-care. They are worthy to notice and treat their pain and anxiety, so they can flourish in wholeness.