Finding Our Way with Prentis Hemphill
E13: Year in Review – Sankofa Episode
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Hi, welcome everybody to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast. Hannah and I are so excited for this particular episode because it is a time for us to reflect on the year. We are ending Season 1 with this, what we're calling a “year in review,” and it's a time for us to reflect on what we've learned through this journey and we wanted to take the time to do that because we want to honor our guests. We want to honor you, our listeners for being on this journey with us and given my new self, which is this slow-mo, “slow-mo SooJin” I thought it would be appropriate if we just, took the time to slow down, reflect on the past year before we launched into Season 2, and we're super excited about Season 2. We have such a great lineup already for you all. But again, we wanted to take this moment to spend some time and reflect on the work that, that we have already done – all of us together. So before we get to us reminiscing about our year, we always do our “Accountability Check-in” so that's what we will start off with first. So, Hannah, do you mind reminding our listeners what commitment you made and where you’re at?
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. Thank you. So I had made the commitment to sign up for the PJ Library that Melissa had mentioned last time. And I have signed up, and I have learned that it's about a 12-week waiting period before you'll receive like your first books, or at least that was like through the local chapter that I ultimately was connected with. And so I haven't received any books as of yet, but I have definitely signed up. So that's where that is at.
SooJin: Okay. Okay. Great. Awesome! So the commitment I made was, Melissa had talked about, she had said something to the effect of like, you know, every day is a day to immerse your child in difference and the importance of normalizing difference in our lives and this, and so from that, I made the commitment to normalize, I guess, queerness in my life because I was reflecting back and thinking about like, what are the different communities that I don't know as much about because of my social identity. And, and having more conversations about gender in a non-binary way, having more conversations about sexual identity that is beyond, you know, straight heterosexual – like with my daughter Sxela – and I was really pleasantly surprised at how kind of open and receptive Sxela was to having this conversation with me. I reached out to her and I said, “I'm just curious how have you been like feeling? Your body has been going through a lot of changes this summer since you're 13. I know this is like a big time for you just in terms of evolution and development. And so I just kind of wanted to check in and see how you were doing. Have you been feeling like any desire or anything like that regarding certain people?” And she's like, “Yeah.” So sweet! It was so sweet! I have to be honest, I'm grappling with like how much of this conversation I actually want to share out.
Hannah: Yeah, yeah. Totally understandable.
SooJin: Because, I mean, I've shared a lot about my daughter and the conversations we've had but regarding this, given like sexuality and stuff, I feel like it's probably something that I shouldn't be sharing on her behalf. But what I will say is, I just shared with her just like how lovely it was and that all of the feelings that she's feeling is like completely natural. Like whatever she was feeling was completely natural. And that this is a time for her to learn about herself and to be curious, you know. Like curiosity is a really good thing for you at this point because there's so much to learn about yourself because you’re evolving and changing and developing in so many ways. Another thing - I'm recalling what Lena Francis said (the high schooler from South High on Episode 3) and then also our episode with Kale on Episode 11, um, hearing their stories made me realize like some of the gaps in my own knowledge and perspective simply because I don't have a lot of youth in my life and trans people in my daily life. And so I've been listening to podcasts by queer and trans people of color, and my consciousness has expanded. My heart, I can literally feel my heart growing as I'm listening to their stories. I am learning so much! And I feel like as a parent, it's my responsibility to do this, to be able to hold space for Sxela no matter how she ends up evolving and developing in her sexual identity. But also it's important for me, as a human being, because I am becoming more human. In hearing their stories, I'm like, “Damn, I used to think those things” and these are like disparaging, shaming things about queer and trans folks because they're sharing how they've internalized all that stuff. And it's like, I used to think that or say that about “those people.” And so interrupting my transphobia—I never saw myself as homophobic but hearing some of these stories and the way that homophobia plays out, I'm like, “Damn, I did that, too!” or “I thought that too!” Right, you know? So they're holding a mirror up to myself which I am so appreciative for as a cis person. They're holding a mirror up to myself in them sharing their stories of all the incidents of hatred and negativity coming their way. And so it's helping me to become a better human. It is humanizing me because I'm interrupting transphobia in my life.
SooJin: Yeah, Wow! And here's the thing: all of that would have been hidden, right? If I continued to maintain my network, which is predominantly straight folks, and if I didn't push myself and challenge myself to expand my world, my community, my network, I wouldn't have gotten that kind of mirror reflected back to me. And so it's a mirroring in a different way. Because the way that we've mostly talked about mirrors is affirming and validation, but here for me, it's the queer and trans community holding up a mirror to myself and showing how I am transphobic, how I am homophobic. And I thank them for that. Because I'm learning from that. And that is the only way that I can grow and heal is by looking into the mirror and seeing the ugly parts of myself. And it's not leading me to a place of shame because it's like I was socialized to think these things, and I grew up in a family that didn't interrupt these things. And so there's no blame here, you know? There's no shame here. It's more about, now I'm an adult, and this is who I am. These are the values I have, and I have the power to reject this kind of thinking and replace it with ones that mirror and reflect the goodness and the beauty of the queer and trans folks who I'm listening to.
Hannah: Wow, SooJin. I, first of all, just want to tell you how absolutely lucky and blessed Sxela is to have you as her mama. I mean, I just think of how many kids go through their whole life even without a person, a caring adult who will like help them figure stuff out and be like actually open to wherever that might lead versus saying, “You're either this or this, figure it out,” you know, like that kind of messaging. So I think it's totally awesome.
SooJin: Thank you for that.
Hannah: I'm hoping that we can share some of those resources and podcasts as part of our show notes.
SooJin: Absolutely, yeah.
Hannah: That'd be great.
SooJin: I’m learning so much from these folks! Oh, they're just so brilliant! The humanity and the love, I mean, it's just oozing out of the podcast. And so yeah, I'm more than happy to share for our listeners what I've been listening to.
Hannah: Wow, it's amazing. I mean and also just like speaks to just the transformative nature of the podcast. Yes, I mean, it's just astounding.
SooJin: Yes. This podcast has transformed me. It has transformed my relationship to work. My career is transformed, my relationships with partners and people, my relationship with my daughter, like how I parent— it's been completely transformed when we started this podcast in, um, well, you know, we started having conversations about starting this in June (2020). We recorded in July (2020). We released our first episode in August of 2020. And from that time to where my life is now, my life is unrecognizable. That's how much I have transformed from this podcast and from this journey being with you, with our guests, and with our listeners. I'm curious to hear from you. How have you transformed?
Hannah: Yeah yeah, I totally agree. So I had, in preparing for this year-end review, kind of put together a little bit of a story that kind of follows our first year of recording the podcast. And if you don't mind I'll just kind of share that.
SooJin: Yes, please.
Hannah: So I want to start this story by telling my mom, my brother Reed, and my sister Bridgette that I love you and that I'm grateful for you. Thank you for working to improve our relationships and for taking a risk to engage in difficult conversations. I believe that our story can help other families. So I'm planning to share a little bit about our process today and just, as a disclaimer, that what I share is completely my perspective and experience. So as SooJin was saying, let's drop back to last year. That was when we were getting the podcast up and going. And right around that same time that we started the podcast, one of my family members had commented on how, when we get together as a family, there is just a certain level of tension that seems to always be with us. And I want to give some context because I have a white family and we represent a wide range of political, religious, and economic perspectives. And at this point last year, we were about four months into COVID-19 and about two months into the racial justice protests following George Floyd's murder. So this comment about tension was maybe an understatement but, nonetheless, it was very true. Um, and it was a courageous act to call attention to it because we were prompted to respond in some sort of way. And we decided that the best way to begin would be for my immediate family members – so that includes my mom, my sister and my brother, and me – so the four of us – to meet and share our perspectives and discuss what we'd like to see going forward. So during that first meeting, we realized that, while we care about each other, we have a lot of work to do to build a respectful family culture. Now I just have to pause and mention that while we were sitting outside having this family meeting, a huge and very old turtle came walking along, dodging people and pets on its way over to the golf course nearby.
SooJin: Oh wow.
Hannah: And this turtle walked right past our table. And, so, since then, I have read that turtles symbolize longevity, health, healing, and tranquility. And so seeing this turtle felt like a really positive sign.
SooJin: An omen.
Hannah: Yes, yes totally. Okay, so back to this first meeting. So the four of us agreed to meet quarterly, and we also agreed to meet one-on-one with each other in between the quarterly meetings with the express purpose of building stronger relationships. So our second quarterly meeting took place last November, which was right after my sister's colon cancer had come back. Our third meeting happened in January, and this was right before my sister was about to have liver surgery for the second time. I decided to take a risk and point out the fact that despite the progress we were making with relationship building, there was still a lot of tension and certain topics still felt off limits. In other words, we weren't really talking about race or any other difficult topics in any intentional way. And I can't really, I can't even say the word “intentional” without automatically thinking of Karla because she is like one of the most intentional and deliberate people – and we've commented about this in previous episodes – I just think of her every time I'm like, “I need to be intentional” - I think of Karla.
So I really pushed during that meeting to figure out ways that we could engage in difficult conversations. And together, we developed a framework and decided to use the Indigenous practice of circle process to ensure each person would have the opportunity to share without interruption. We agreed to talk about one current event topic and one mental health topic, in addition to just checking in generally about what was going on in our lives. So that was our January meeting. So fast forward to April 24th, 2021 – so just a few months ago. The four of us engaged intentionally in a conversation around race and other hard topics. We reflected on the death of Daunte Wright and the Derek Chauvin trial. We talked about the language and words we use and how we can respectfully let family members know when we notice disrespectful language being used. We talked about mental health and generally checked in on how each person was doing. And at the end, we talked about planning a barbecue to honor the ten-year anniversary of our own dad's death. Overall, it went really well. We all listened to each other and engaged respectfully. Yeah, I would say it was the first time we actually discussed something hard and ended on a positive note. And I think it made a difference that we were intentionally doing this conversation. We had planned the agenda together. We had laid the framework together. Participation was voluntary, and we used a circle process to eliminate any negative energy that might arise in an open forum or debate style format. And one last observation: we were all sober during this conversation. And I say that because in the past, drinking has led to arguments, tension, and negative energy. So I'm talking a lot about this meeting on April 24th, but it was quite an unusual event in my family. Having this one conversation may seem like a really small thing, but in my world this was a gigantic step.
I also wanted to follow up on my sister Bridgette’s status. So last month, she finished her chemo treatment and is cured now for a second time. We're extremely grateful so now we just wait to see what happens. Our next family meeting will be on August 1st. So I am preparing for that, and I have been documenting along the way, uh, like the agenda items and meeting summaries to keep the process as organized and cohesive as possible. It mostly helps me to keep track of where we've been and areas to follow up on. And we're still meeting one-on-one in between the quarterly meeting. So this is an ongoing process, but I'd say in the last year, our podcast guests have really helped me through this. The stories they share helped me tremendously. For example, Emilia in Episode 4: I left that conversation with such a sense of deep urgency which really helped me to push my family during our January meeting despite the fact that my sister was getting ready for this enormous surgery. And Crixell in Episode 5, giving us the gift of the 35,000 foot view. I totally visualized floating that far away and realizing that part of what holds up this web of oppression is dividing people and dividing families around these political and religious beliefs. So while I work hard to set healthy boundaries and live my values, I also resist the urge to turn away from people who don't agree with me. Honestly, I'm tempted sometimes believing it would be much easier not to deal with certain people; however, I try to find common ground and listen for angles or information I may not have considered before. I say this very cautiously, too, because I do realize that sometimes you have to cut ties with certain relatives or connections for a variety of reasons. It's an ongoing process. And just like that turtle, we saw it's mostly slow going. And like you said SooJin, slow-mo. Yes. So I have a few takeaways that was happening sort of in the background of this last year. And I just feel like our guests and the podcast work has just really helped me to stay with it and to just continue to give me different ways to approach and be with the uncomfortableness, the uncertainty, um, yeah. And know that it's just going to be a really long process. And so that's kind of where I'm at and wanting to share that.
SooJin: And that every little step counts. Like there's no step too small, and there's no step two insignificant. Every little thing helps. Um, so yeah, I'm thinking about the significance of the curated conversation that you're having with your family on a consistent basis. And also that it's deliberately about race. I don't know of a single white family who's doing that. I grew up in white families. All my friends were white growing up. I can't think even historically of anybody I know who's a white person who's doing this with their family. Unfortunately, like it's so profound, right? It's so rare, but you're taking the step and in taking that step, you're providing our white listeners with a model for how you could approach it, you know. And I think the biggest thing was how it was “successful” in the sense that it didn't derail into ill feelings or negatively spiral out in a negative way. And it was because of how deliberate and intentional you were about the process. You took the time to think through, like okay, how do we talk? How do we know when it's our turn to talk? Setting rules like, there is no interruption, you know. Um, the agenda – some might think as kind of miniscule – was co-created. And the framework for like how things are set up and how we approach these topics: that was also co-
created. Like everything about that particular meeting in April. Everybody had a say in how that was going to go and the order and the structure and format and everything! And that's why it was as “successful” as it was, right? So thank you for modeling that for us.
Hannah: Well, and hopefully, what we find out from all this is [that] other people are doing it. But if not, honestly, I'm so happy to talk to anyone who is trying to do this because it is not easy.
SooJin: Yeah, you’re breaking all kinds of unwritten rules.
Hannah: Yes, yes. It’s really hard.
SooJin: You’re breaking all kinds of unwritten rules and dynamics and codes and procedures and practices in your family by doing this. So yeah, yeah.
Hannah: Well, and I mean, the credit goes to everyone – all of us – because I'm so grateful that my family members are willing to try. And we talk openly about like, you know, somebody had asked the question, “So how do we do this? Where's the handbook?” Like there’s no handbook! This is just us figuring out this as we go.
SooJin: Yeah, yeah. Oh, it's so beautiful. Thank you for that.
Hannah: So just reflecting back on the story of our journey with my family: one thing I've definitely learned from the podcast is that it is possible to listen to and better understand people who literally have the exact opposite viewpoints on almost everything that is important in life. And I'll give an example: so one of my family members believes that there are only two genders: man or woman, boy or girl. And due to the fact that I teach my kids a counternarrative that makes room for multiple gender identities, my family member thinks I'm ruining my kids and that I'll burn in hell. And this family member prays that I'll wake up and realize the “right way” and start teaching the dominant narrative around the gender binary. So I listened and I tried to understand how this family member arrived at these rigid views. And through this listening, I have come to learn more about trauma, actually, is where my exploration has taken me. So then I think of Lena and Kate from Episode 3 who talked about trauma and healing. Trauma is definitely a major theme across all of our episodes. Kale, you know, talks about even doing some projects around a healing trauma, in addition to healing our Earth. And the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk along with Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother's Hands: those books helped me to better understand trauma and holistic ways to heal trauma. And this learning is helping me to better understand my family members, as well as myself.
And I also think about this in a broader sense, too. So one of the first things that holistic therapists do is help people build the skills to be able to deal with the emotions that are likely to come up as they go through treatment. And many people wonder why the U.S. has such a difficult time reckoning with our history. And right now, I'm thinking a lot about this. So as a society, we really don't have the skills and tools to deal with really difficult emotions, and, therefore avoid anything that might bring these emotions to the surface. And so I feel like if we become better equipped to understand and relate to our thoughts and emotions, we will become better equipped to understand and relate to our country's history in healthy and constructive ways. And we also need to do this work individually, as well as collectively. And I have personally found meditation helpful. I have been using the Headspace app. I strongly recommend it, but I know there are many out there and many other ways to do mindfulness. And I mentioned in a previous episode that I ask for help from therapists, as often as needed. And yeah, I just right now feel like I'm gaining a lot of new insights into my family's history around trauma. And I'm focused on figuring out what that means in terms of the work I need to be doing. So those are a couple of takeaways. I have more but maybe do you want to share?
SooJin: Yeah, yeah. Wow, that's such good stuff. When I think about how I have transformed, which is how we started off this conversation, I think about like, I'm a new person. They say that every seven years, you are physically a new person because your body has new cells. I feel like this past year has been like seven years where it’s like, I am a new person! So given that and thinking back on “What is it that I've learned?” I've coupled that with, “What is it that I want to take with me into Season 2?” So one of the things I want to take with me is my new self, my new identity, which is “slow-mo me.”
Hannah: At the same time, “the-speeded-up you!”
SooJin: Yeah, I was able to transform as quickly as I did because I was “slow-mo.”
Hannah: So funny!
SooJin: Yeah! And this, of course, came from Karla, Episode 9. And from that, I remember making the commitment that I wanted to be intentional about every decision I make versus going on autopilot. So I began the practice of asking myself, “Does what I say, or is what I'm about to say, is what I'm about to do, aligning with my values? And it is like my compass; it is like my litmus test in how I make decisions moving forward. So because I am asking myself that, it's slowing me down. It's slowing my decision-making process. And so [because of] that, I am living in integrity. I am living in much more integrity than I have ever had in my life. And because of that, I am living in a head space, in a spiritual and emotional space, where there is significantly less cognitive dissonance in my life. And because of less cognitive dissonance in my life, it is leading me. There was a point in my life – and this wasn't even that long ago – I think it was like December of last year. There was a point in my life where a friend of mine was talking about, “Oh, I'm going to retire in 10 years” and looking forward to that and being excited by that. And I'm like, “I can't even imagine myself 10 years from now. I think I'm going to be dead.” I'm not being hyperbolic. I was completely genuine and speaking my truth when I was saying that. I don't see myself living past mid-fifties and that was a huge wake up call for me. Like what am I doing? What kind of decisions am I making in my life that I can't even see myself alive 10 years from now? Now when I think about the future— Girl, I'm going to live until like…minimum 100 at this rate! Like, I can clearly see and envision myself a wrinkly, white-haired lady but still fiery, you know. And I love her. I love her. And I can't wait to be her!
Hannah: Wow, that is like amazing.
SooJin: Yes, and it’s not been that long, right? So that was like, that was December and we're in July. So seven months. It did not take that long for me to make the shifts. And it's because I am literally making different choices in my life that is reaping enormous benefits—that are more important than money. So, for example, like I fired a client. Because of me wanting to be deliberate and intentional and everything being aligned with my values – when a client saw the PowerPoint presentation that I was going to deliver (it was a session on antiracism), and when the client came back to me, gave me feedback, and struck out every single reference to white supremacy and told me that I cannot use the word white supremacy, I'm like, “Thank you, but no thank you.” And I pulled out of the contract. And I also walked away from a grant for a book project that I'm working on because I was at a meeting where the people that I’d be working with were literally throwing each other under the bus. Like, the dynamic was so toxic. And I said to myself, if that's how they treat each other, how in the world are they going to be treating me? Right? And I know the old me— I would have been like, “That is a hell of a lot of money. I'm just going to take it. I'll just deal with it.” But dealing with it means that I'm not going to live, you know, in the next 10 years. That's what dealing with it is. That is the consequence. That is the cost. And I'm not willing to make those kinds of costs anymore. Like I said, there are more things that are important than money like my integrity, my values, my health, my sanity, my self-worth. So I am having higher standards because I have higher standards for myself. I am having higher standards for the people that I work with, which is leading to me to creating this environment, this climate, this world around me, where my self-worth is constantly being lifted, you know, instead of being denigrated all the time – which is where that cognitive dissonance was coming from. Because it's like, I value myself in this way, but you're treating me like this way and deal with it because, like, I got to make money or you're my client or you're my boss or you're my coworker [so] I have to be a “team player.” I've removed all of that out of my life.
Hannah: Good for you, SooJin! Way to go! You’re doing it!
SooJin: I am. I am! Um, it feels empowering! Like I feel fearless these days. I feel limitless these days because nothing scares me. I took the leap by walking away from my client, by losing, you know, losing certain things. And in losing those things, it's not what I thought was going to happen. When you think about losing those things, you think that your life is going to spiral out of control; you're going to be a “failure”; and all the horrible things in life - your biggest fears – are going to come into fruition. But actually, it's the opposite! In losing those things, what I considered pipe dreams are actually reality. I'm making more money than I've ever made in my life. Who knew?!? And I'm doing it in a way where I am actually working less. So thank you, Karla! So this part in Episode 3 where Lena and Kate were talking about generational trauma— prior to that episode, I had been working to root out white supremacy—like how the characteristics of white supremacy show up in my life. But through that commitment
that I made, I realized that I was also imposing standards and expectations that were informed by white supremacy onto my daughter. So in rooting it out in myself, I realized: it's one thing to root it out in yourself, but it's another thing to realize how you're actually imposing white supremacy on the people and the relationships around you. That's a different kind of reflection. So, anyway, I've been catching myself in how I'm imposing white supremacist standards onto my daughter. And I'll just share this, I guess, success story. Standardized tests were coming up. They end with that, actually, at her school. So it was around April, May when, for two weeks, that's all they did was take standardized tests. And the old me—and I know this about myself because this is how I responded the previous year which was: “You need to study as much as you can and brush up on past notes and all that stuff so that you can do as well on these tests as possible.” The new me was, “Sxela, how are you feeling about the upcoming tests that are coming up?” And she's like, “I'm a little bit nervous.” And I'm like, “Sweetie, forget about it. Don't worry about it.” And she’s like, “Why?” And I'm like, “Because they're racist.” I shared the history of standardized testing and how these tests are actually created and how not only are they racist but that they actually don't measure the thing that they say they're measuring. And I told her like, “Your brilliance, your capacity for learning, your creativity cannot be measured by this test. So we're not going to spend one iota of investment in preparing for this test. And not only that, we're not going to put any meaning into the test. So however you do— like it doesn't matter because it is irrelevant to your life.” As I was saying this to her, I was reminded of, like, I really changed! Because this wasn't me last year. And so I'm really proud of the ways in which my relationship to white supremacy has shifted. Prior to the podcast, I would fast from white supremacy. So maybe an hour or two during the week or maybe on this particular day on a weekend, I would fast from white supremacy. Now, I don't want any aspect of white supremacy in my life. So for me, I want it to be like a way of life where, in the spaces that I have control around, white supremacy doesn't belong here. And from that what I learned was that I have the power and agency for myself what kind of work I do, how I parent, the relationships I have, the people that I have in my life, where I put my investments in— like I have so much power. We have so much power, right? And so much agency! We really do. And we don't have to wait for our world to be liberated—to be free from systems of oppression—to curate spaces in our lives that are free from systems of oppression. And so my task, my goal going forward, is to create spaces that are free from systems of oppression and expanding that and broadening out as big as possible given little old me.
Hannah: You got a lot of years to be working on it now.
SooJin: I sure do! I sure do! I've added at least 50 years to my life given this change.
Hannah: And that's just the reality of it and why the myth is the myth.
SooJin: Exactly yup, yup. Another thing – and this came from Episode 10 – I loved how Laura and Daren— We were talking about increasing our knowledge, you know? Right. We talked about like antiracism is about educating yourself and increasing your knowledge and all that stuff. And I believe it was Daren. He said, knowledge is— you’ve got to know your ledge. Right, right? Know-ledge. Know-ledge, right? You have to know your limitations and your boundaries. And knowing your limitations and boundaries requires two things: Honesty. You gotta be honest with yourself. And it requires self-love because our society tells us that boundaries and limitations are proof that were deficient in some way, that we're not good enough, or that we're not measuring up—which leads us to self-loathing and shame, which is why we don't want to know our ledge. We want to think that we can do everything, say yes to everything, but because—and that's why self-love is so important—because now, instead of seeing my limitations as points of failure, I see them as gifts because they help me to know my ledge and my boundaries. I love what Prentis Hemphill— and I'm listening to their podcast. They're one of the new podcasts that I've been listening to. Um, “Finding Our Way.” Oh my gosh, it is such a beautiful gorgeous brilliant podcast. So Prentis Hemphill: I love what they say about boundaries. And this is what they say: that “a boundary is the distance at which you can love yourself and I can love myself.” Isn't that gorgeous? I'm going to say that again. A boundary is the distance at which you, Hannah, can love yourself and I can love myself. So that's what boundaries do: it allows us to respect each other's ledges in such a way that we can both love ourselves simultaneously in that moment. Yes! Oh, yeah! Such a liberating definition of boundary. So in recognizing my own limitations and boundaries, I'm able to recognize the limitations and boundaries in others and receive them with love and generosity and acceptance. And because of that, I'm recognizing my own humanity. I got limits: I only have so much energy in a day. And I'm also recognizing the humanity in others: that they, too, have only so much energy in a day. So, I guess, all of this to say that this season, the way that I've been transformed, is through being humanized. This season has really humanized me. And when I think of the urgency that you talked about, you know, from Emilia in our Episode 4— I, too, felt that sense of urgency. But another thing that I took away from that conversation with her was— Emilia, to me, is like the very essence of what it means to be fully human in the most beautiful and holistic sense. Since that conversation, I've been trying to channel her deep sense of compassion and optimism and ancestral wisdom that she carries with her. Based on her story that she shared with us, she is holding so much trauma. So much! Not only her own personal trauma, but the impending trauma of her children because of the world, the political world, that we're living in that is targeting people like her and her children. She's also holding the trauma of all the generations that came before her: her mother, her grandmother, her grandparents, her great-great grandparents, but you would never know that about her, right? In meeting her and hearing her talk and just like the cadence of her voice— you would never know that because all she exudes is love. And so she carries her trauma in a way that draws you to her rather than repels you away from her. And so she's my model, who I envision when I think about all the heaviness in the world. Like how can I carry all this? Like how would Emilia carry all this? So from Karla, she helped me to live more in integrity, to be more deliberate and intentional. And from Emilia, she has become a model for me, helping me hold trauma in a way with the most love, with the most compassion, with the most kind of humaneness that draws others versus repel others. And that draws me in versus repelling me, you know? Like we repel our own selves, right? That's self-hatred and self-loathing—it’s like the repelling away from ourselves—and I don't want to do that anymore. So healing. I guess I'm a more healed person. I'm a more healed person from last year to this year: that's what this podcast has done, what this journey of antiracist parenting and caretaking has done for me. Yeah.
And can I just share one last thing? Another thing that I want to take with me from this journey into the next season is my accountability partner. I have to say, I know without a doubt that if I did not have an accountability partner in this work, there's no way I would have transformed as quickly and as deeply in the ways that I did over the past year. It's because of your presence in my life, our consistent practice, ritual of making commitments and holding ourselves and each other accountable that I have changed and why my life is not even comparable to how it was last year. My follow-through rate is the highest it's ever been: 100%! So this is what it looks like: my optimal self. This is what it looks like when I'm operating at 100% follow-through. And I'm reaping the benefits because of that. So, thank you, Hannah, my accountability partner for keeping me accountable so that I can transform in this way.
Hannah: Yeah, well thank you. I was definitely reflecting on our relationship over the past year as both working partners and also as friends. And as you talk about living in integrity, that has stuck with me. And I feel like I had been mulling over this decision to go to law school and um, just to give our listeners a little background over this past winter: in addition to the family meetings and the podcasts and the distance learning with the schools, I was in the midst of applying to law school. And so I was studying for the LSATs and getting all my application materials together and had applied. And then in April had found out that I was accepted to the only school that I applied to. And in that moment, I was overjoyed. And then, sort of, as the reality set in and it got closer to the first day of school, I was just really struggling because I had such major doubts about the whole thing. And SooJin, like, you helped me sort of get unstuck and to help me clarify like what is meaningful to me. And I just am so grateful because you saw me—like you had been there before and you had recognized what I was going through. And I'm just so grateful for our partnership and to have you in my life. I love you and thank you.
SooJin: I love you. And I'll share with our listeners what I shared with you in that moment when you had expressed that gratitude—is that I'm invested in you. I'm invested in you in a way that you manifest your optimal, highest self. Because when you are at your optimal, highest self, that's when you can move mountains. So, yeah, I was so happy and honored to share in that process of exploration and examination because going to law school or not going to law school—that was going to be a defining, pivotal moment in your life. It was going to change the trajectory of your life. That's how huge the decision was going to be. So, yeah, we wanted to get that decision right. We don't want to make a mistake there if we can help it.
Hannah: Right. Well, as soon as I withdrew, that feeling of relief was just the ultimate sign that, that was the right path. And I'm just so thankful. And, you know, it leaves somewhat of an uncertain path, but I know that as I learn to trust myself more—that's a new takeaway for me—is as I build confidence and kind of like navigating uncertainty if you will, um, I know, like you have helped me to be able to both see and believe that good things will come when I operate from that essential self.
SooJin: Yes, absolutely. That is a universal truth. Not a myth. You know, I had mentioned earlier how I feel fearless and I feel limitless. The reason for that is because I have become best friends with uncertainty. Uncertainty is humanity's greatest fear. And when we let go of that fear we become fearless. So, yeah, my entire life is uncertain. My career is uncertain because of the decisions I've made. I have chosen uncertainty over stability, “security.” I've chosen uncertainty over certainty.
Hannah: Well, right.
SooJin: Yeah. That is what I have done. And because of that, I know with certainty that I'm going to live way past 55.
Hannah: Yes. Yes, exactly. And the certainty is so seductive and it is comforting.
SooJin: It is, it really is. That's why it's not an easy thing.
SooJin: It's not an easy thing to become best friends with uncertainty. Not at all. But when you get to the other side, everything else, everything becomes easy, so much easier because it's the fear - it's the fear that makes things difficult.
Hannah: Yeah. Yeah.
SooJin: As you're seeing with your family. Those family meetings, right? There’s so much fear around that. Okay. So should we move on to our lightning round?
SooJin: Okay. So we decided that we wanted to answer the lightning round for ourselves because we think it's such a fun part and we never get to have these questions posed to us. And so we thought we would end our year in review with our lightning round to each other. Okay. Ready? Fill in the blank. Anti-racist parenting caretaking is...
Hannah: is love
SooJin: What's the last thing your boys did to make you smile?
Hannah: Well, what I want to say is to my kids is that Tony and Teo, you are my inspiration, joy, and motivation. Your spirits are strong and you experience life with an open heart, a passion for justice, and empathy for all. And as I always say, “Just keep being awesome!” And they bring smiles to me all the time, and I love them so much.
SooJin: Lovely. What are you reading right now?
Hannah: I am reading Conversations with James Baldwin, which is a collection of interviews.
SooJin: Oh, yes! White people, read James Baldwin! Every white person needs to read James Baldwin. Oh, that's fantastic! And then the last question: what are you doing to take care of yourself?
Hannah: Um, I would say learning about trauma. Also, really working with my spouse John on our marriage and our relationship and meditation. The Headspace meditations are so helpful to me right now. And I also run, like I jog regularly which has been an ongoing healthy habit, if you will.
SooJin: Awesome. That is so cool. Okay.
Hannah: So SooJin, anti-racist parenting caretaking is...
Hannah: What is the last thing Sxela did to make you smile?
SooJin: Can I say two things? Already breaking the rules! First thing is, she had a friend over for a sleepover. I got a little glimpse of them on her bed, and they were throwing these little plush animals, just tossing it back and forth and just giggling away! The whole house just was filled with their laughter. Yes, she's a teenager, but I still love that sense of play. I just love that. And then the other thing was that for the 4th of July, she went to her friend’s grandparents’ farm. And on the way there, I get a text message from Sxela saying, “I left a glass with some smoothie in my bedroom. I forgot to put that away. Can you grab that for me?” Thank you for letting me know because that could have been sitting in there getting all moldy and stuff. And she had the wherewithal to actually have some foresight.
Hannah: You might want to clean that up.
SooJin: Exactly! I'm like, “Thank you for being so thoughtful!” was my response.
Hannah: Oh that’s so great! Okay, what are you reading right now?
SooJin: So I am reading a bunch of things right now because I am at the height of this sabbatical time that I've curated for myself. Oh, I'm so excited to tell you what I've been reading! I've been reading Mutual Aid by Dean Spade. It's this little like pocket-size handbook. It is brilliant. You could read it in one sitting—that's how small it is—but I don't recommend it because it is just filled with so much wisdom, just gems that you want to like savor and reflect on and hold. Be with. So Mutual Aid by Dean Spade. Emergent Strategy: this is a book that I've been wanting to read for quite some time, so I'm glad that I'm finally at a time where I have more time by Adrienne Maree Brown. Oh, my gosh. I love her so much. What a fierce warrior and such a beautiful model for us to follow. I'm also reading for my book club, White Tears, Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad. It's really great because it talks about how white feminism has been used as a weapon against women of color. And it's not that old. It recently came out so the case studies she's using are very current, relevant, social media, mass media kind of examples. I just finished this beautiful, gorgeous book I heard Adrienne Maree Brown recommending. This is why I got it. It's called A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler by Lynell George. Oh, my gosh. If you're an artist, if you're a writer, you want to read this book. It's like a handbook, it's like a manual, for how to be a writer, how to be an artist. It's so inspiring because Octavia Butler, she's become a God in many circles and, certainly in my life, she has become a God. So what Lynell George has done is, she went through all of the archival collection—all of her notes and journals and receipts and all kinds of things. Octavia did an incredible job of marking her life by preserving these scraps and, yeah, everything about her life. So Lynell George has gone through all of that and encapsulated into a book a handbook for how to be a writer, how to be an artist based on Octavia's journey. And what I found so refreshing and actually quite liberating was that Octavia was so full of self-doubt but not because this is how she really feels about herself but because of all the messages she was getting from her family, from her friends, from her agents. And she struggled like years and years and years of drought, of not being published. When I think of her, she's so prolific! And I'm thinking she had no trouble getting published. Actually she did! She had a hell of a time getting published. And even after her first book was published, nobody would publish her book for another five years. So anyway, she's so inspiring. And then, let's see. Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love and Liberation by Reverend Angel Kyodo Williams and Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah. I'm one chapter away from completing. Of course, we'll list all these for our listeners…that was a really long answer.
Hannah: Well, no. That's so great! I love it. Well, and I agree, Adrienne Maree Brown is so awesome. And another book was Pleasure Activism, is that right? I have yet to read that one.
SooJin: Yeah, I haven't read that either. But, yeah, I've heard good things.
Hannah: Last question: what are you doing to take care of yourself?
SooJin: So I have been spending time at Bde Maka Ska in the evenings. I go there to reflect, to remind myself of the commitments I've made, and to dream. So the last week I've been taking up this practice. I attended this workshop series called Soul Strategy workshops. The facilitators asked us to do something for 10 minutes a day that is an investment in the movement for social justice 10 years from now. And so I took that assignment and made it my own by thinking about what can I do in this moment that will invest in not only this lifetime but also in lifetimes that come after me. And what I
came up with is for 10 minutes a day, I meditate on my wishes and dreams for the generations that are coming after us. And it's been so life-giving, Hannah, because I literally have a smile on my face for 10 minutes – just like this big cheesy smile on my face – because of the things that I've been meditating on. So the first time I did this, I meditated on laughter. Like I wanted a world where laughter was the primary mode of communication. So I envisioned all these scenes of people just laughing. And you can't help but smile when you're thinking of those things! Um, so I've meditated on play. I meditated on what our world would look like if reparations actually happened for Black and Native folks— like how our world would feel like, what it would look like, and that, too, I am just like beaming for 10 minutes because it is incredible! That world is fucking amazing. So, yeah, that's what I've been doing to take care of myself.
Hannah: Awesome. I love that. So should we talk about our commitments?
Hannah: Okay, first of all, thank you. This was really an amazing conversation. Just to think about where we've been and how far we've come in one year. It's pretty amazing.
SooJin: This episode, this year-end review: I think we should actually retitle it as Sankofa. That we end every season with a Sankofa session. For listeners who aren't familiar with the concept of Sankofa, it is a mythological bird that comes from the Akan. This mythological bird looks like this: the bird’s body is in movement going forward but the head is looking back towards its tail. And so that image represents the adage or the parable or the proverb that you can't know where you're going without understanding where you've been. The way that I've interpreted for myself is that I can't know/understand my present—and I can't know/understand where I'm going in terms of my future—without understanding my past. And so I feel like that is exactly what we've been doing here, right? We're recounting the past and reliving it in some ways to better understand it and to better understand our current moment, our present moment—like how the things that we've done in the past has shaped us to get to where we're at now. And then now this accountability piece is about, “Okay, based on all that we've learned, all that we've reflected on, and who we are now—How are we going to move forward?”
Hannah: Okay. Love it. So I would like to borrow your practice of asking myself before I do or say things, “Does this align with my values?” So I'm going to commit to incorporating that practice.
SooJin: It’s gonna rock your world! It’s gonna change your life for the better!
Hannah: I know, I know! Yes, I'm ready for it. And then the other thing is I would like to order A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky – that book. I'm going to order that book.
SooJin: Actually, Hannah, I am going to gift you that book.
Hannah: Oh, okay.
SooJin: I want to give you that book, from one writer to another. For me, my books are my best friends. For long stretches of time, they were my only best friends so books are sacred to me. And it would be such an honor, if you hold that book in your hands, and 40 years from now, you still have that hardcover book of Octavia’s face right there, looking at you and remembering that my friend, SooJin—
Hannah: Who's still alive!
SooJin: Yes! Who’s still alive, gave me this book! I want that to be a reality so please let me get that book to you.
Hannah: Okay. Wonderful. Thank you! Oh, I'm so excited!
SooJin: Yay! And then we can both gush about it after you're done reading.
Hannah: Okay. Wonderful!
SooJin: Okay. It's not a thick book. That's another book where you could read it in one sitting. It's not a lot of pages, but take your time. Savor it. It's so beautiful. Okay, so the commitment that I want to make for myself going forward – so this will be an ongoing commitment – is that I want to start expanding my space, my spiritual and geographic, physical space, that is “systems of oppression” -free. So right now, systems of oppression don't belong here in this space; it's like a white-supremacist-free space—personally; individually; between me and my daughter; between me, my daughter, and her dad; between me and you. Like this podcast, right? This podcast is totally antithetical to white supremacy. All the decisions we're making about marketing and business and community engagement and the guests—who we have on as our guests—is completely antithetical to white supremacy. So I want to start being more intentional—not thinking so small—and be more intentional about how can I expand this oppression-free world that I'm creating for myself and for the people around me so that it's more expansive— that it's bigger and reaches more people. So that's the commitment I’m gonna make.
Hannah: Awesome. It’s gonna be great.
SooJin: Ohhh it’s so energizing!
Hannah: I know, I know! What else?
SooJin: Well, I think the last thing that is necessary and also the best way to end this Sankofa recording is to just, “Thank you, thank you, thank you to our listeners for being on this journey with us.” When Hannah and I first started, we were like, “We'll be lucky if we get 50 people listening.” And now, we have like almost 3,000 downloaded episodes so thank you so much for tuning in, for spreading the word, and sharing with your networks—your friends, family, whoever you think might benefit and needs to be fed, you know, with the kind of content, with the kind of food and drink that we're offering through our podcast. So thank you for that. And we hope that you'll be tuning in for Season 2. We're so excited. We don't know what it's going to bring. All we know is that the programming: we want it to be relevant to you all, which is why we sent out the survey in our newsletter because we really want to create content, we really want to bring in guests that speak to the questions that you have because this is— it's about Hannah and me, for sure. Yes. But it's also about you. We couldn't do this without you. And we're going to be relying and be more dependent on you because we want to partner and be in collaboration with you all. This is a collective effort as we wage war against racism and white supremacy in our lives and in our world. So, thank you. Thank you for tuning in and sharing.
Hannah: Yes. And as things slowly start to reopen, we are excited because we'll be offering extra opportunities to do some community building. Maybe some in-person things eventually. So we have a lot of ideas and things in the works. And so we just would love to hear from you. Whatever. However. Whether it's feedback, whether it's just a story about how the podcast has changed your life or anything. We just want to hear from you because we want to know that you're out there and that we're not alone and, you know, that we're here. So thank you again.
SooJin: So we'll also include the link to the survey in our show notes as well. We love you all. Hannah, I love you. My partner, my accountability partner, my co-host, my friend: I love you. I thank you for being on this journey with me.
Hannah: Yes. Thank you. It's just life-changing.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.